Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City First Time: Best areas & districts

In today’s article, I will help you to find out Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City first time, best areas/districts to stay in Ho Chi Minh for first-timers (with a map), best hotels for all budgets (including the hotel where I stayed), and safest places.

Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City has its current name from 1975, when the North of Vietnam won the war and changed the name of Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City, in honor Uncle Ho.

Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh for the first time?

The best areas to stay in Ho Chi Minh City for tourists are District 1, District 3, District 5, and District 2 because these are the city’s most popular and safest districts for visitors. Each district offers a unique experience, so consider your priorities and choose the one that suits you best.

District 1 is the best location for travelers seeking a stay in the heart of the city’s attractions, District 3 is the best area for a local experience, District 5 is the best base for exploring Chinatown, and District 2 is the best neighborhood for a modern and upscale environment.

Generally speaking, District 1 is the overall best area to stay in Ho Chi City for first-time visitors due to its highest concentration of the city’s major attractions and accommodations. District 1 is the city center of Saigon and it can be divided into many areas, including:

  • Nguyen Hue and Dong Khoi, luxurious areas, located within walking distance to the main sights and the beautiful Saigon river.
  • Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien streets, backpacker areas with lively nightlife.
  • Ben Thanh area, located between Nguyen Hue and Bui Vien, offering wider range of both luxury and budget options.

Ho Chi Minh city offers all kind of accommodation options including luxury 5-star hotels and budget backpacker hostels. Please keep in mind the minium prices for a basic room with a private bathroom in the city center is around 50 USD per night.

Many visitors spend a couple of days in Ho Chi City (HCM) to see famous attractions such as the Ben Thanh Market, Reunification Palace, City Hall, and War Remnants Museum. If you have more time, take day trips to the Cu Chi tunnels and Mekong Delta.

A tip: I recommend installing the Grab App on your phone. It is similar to Uber which will help you to order food, motorbike rides, or car rides without bargaining the prices. You can use it to book a car from the Tan Son Nhat International airport to the city center.

Where did I stay in Ho Chi Minh City?

When I first visited HCMC, I stayed for 4 nights at the mid-range Orchids Saigon Hotel. It has a central location in district 3, easy distance from major sights such as the War Remnants Museum and Ho Chi Minh City Museum. Breakfast was lovely with a variety of options to choose from.

💖 Best Area for first-timers:District 1
💎 Best luxury hotel:The Myst Dong Khoi
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:Silverland Yen Hotel
💰 Best budget hotel:The Akoya Saigon Hotel

Map of areas and districts in HCMC:

Map of Best areas & districts to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City
Map of Best areas & districts to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City

6 Best areas to stay in Ho Chi Minh City for first-timers and tourists are:

1. Nguyen Hue & Dong Khoi (District 1)

Nguyen Hue & Dong Khoi

District 1, in particular, Nguyen Hue & Dong Khoi Street, is the best overall area to stay in Ho Chi Minh city for first-timers due to close proximity to the city’s famous attractions such as Saigon River, Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office, and Reunification Palace.

If you stay here, you will be located in the middle of action, within walking distance to the top sights, as well as many restaurants, bars, and shops.

Nguyen Hue is one of the most popular and beautiful streets in District 1, stretching from the People’s Committee Building to the bank of Saigon river at Bach Dang Wharf.  

Running parallel with Nguyen Hue Street is Dong Khoi Street, connecting the Notre Dame Cathedral to the Saigon River.

Nguyen Hue street is lined with Nguyen Hue high-rise buildings, luxurious  hotels, as well as  restaurants, cafes, fashion and flower shops. There is the historic Rex Hotel, Bitexco Financial Centre, which is Saigon’s tallest building.

Nguyen Hue St is busy at night, especially on weekends where the street is closed to traffic. It is packed with street performances.

There are numerous attractions along the strip worth visiting. At the intersection of Nguyen Hue and Le Thanh Ton street is the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee. It was converted from the Hôtel de Ville of the French colonial period. The building is not open to the public but you can admire the renaissance-style city hall from the outside.

Within walking distance from Ho Chi Minh City Hall is Ho Chi Minh City Museum. This is a great place to learn about the history of HCM city and Vietnam.

In front of the People’s Committee is the Ho Chi Minh Statue. HCM city built this statue in 2015 to commemorate the 125th birthday of Uncle Ho.

Head to Dong Khoi street, you can see the French-built Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral or Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception in English. Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the famous attractions of HCM city, located in the beautiful Paris Square. 

Next to the cathedral, you can visit Saigon Central Post Office, which was built in French Indochina in the late 19th century. If you don’t plan to post an email, you can enjoy its unique architecture, or buy souvenirs such as postcards, stamps, and pictures.

If you want to buy a book, head to Ho Chi Minh City Book Street, or visit the Diamond Plaza luxurious shopping center in downtown District 1 for shopping.

If you head to the Independence Palace from Notre Dame Cathedral, you can visit the 30/4 Park. This is a small park, named after Vietnam’s Reunification Day,  30 April 1975. The park is a popular meeting place for local Saigonese alike. There are also plenty of vendors that sell street food.

Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden, or Thao Cam Vien Park is also easily reachable from district 1. It is one of the largest zoos in the world, home to a zoo, the Museum of Vietnamese History, and a Hung Kings temple. 

Back to Dong Khoi street, there is Ho Chi Minh City Opera House and Continental Hotel worth noting. They both have well-preserved French architecture.

There are plenty of thighs to do and see at the Saigon river side. Bach Dang Wharf Park is a popular attraction for both locals and tourists for gathering, exercising, and enjoying river views. You can go for a dinner cruise or take a dinner at one of the Riverside restaurants.

Located on Ton Duc Thang Street, the Monument of General Tran Hung Dao is dedicated to a well-known Vietnamese 13th-century military leader. He led the Vietnamese to victory in 1288 on the Bach Dang River against the Yuanmeng invaders.

If you want to take a speed boat to Ba Ria – Vung Tau, Ho Chi Minh City Passenger Ferry Port is the departure point of HCM city. There are also boat tours to famous areas such as Cu Chi Tunnels and Can Gio Mangrove Forest.

Apart from attractions,  Nguyen Hue & Dong Khoi areas have great nightlife, with many restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. You must try several delicious street foods such as pho, banh mi, banh xeo, bun mam, and banh canh cua.

Best places to stay in Nguyen Hue & Dong Khoi for first-timers:

Luxury ($$$): The Myst Dong Khoi, 5-star hotel, one of the best places to stay in HCMC for first-time visitors, located in the heart of District 1, easy distance from Opera House and City Hall. It has the rooftop pool with views of the Saigon River and spacious air-conditioned rooms for couples, singles, and families.

Mid-range ($$): Icon Saigon – LifeStyle Design Hotel, 4-star hotel, located in district 1, short distance from the Opera House, Union Square Saigon Shopping Mall and Ho Chi Minh City Hall.

Budget ($): Huong Sen Hotel, 3-star family-friendly hotel, located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, within walking distance from major landmarks such as the Opera House, Ho Chi Minh City Hall, General Post Office, Ben Thanh Market and Notre Dame Church.

2. Ben Thanh Market (District 1)

Ben Thanh Market (District 1

Ben Thanh Market is a popular attraction in District 1, located between the famous Nguyen Hue Street and Bui Vien Walking Street. The Ben Thanh area also offers easy access to famous attractions such as Independence Palace, War Remnants Museum, and Tao Dan Park.

Ben Thanh Market is a Central Market in HCM city selling fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as  dry goods, clothes, and souvenirs. If you have good bargain skills, you can buy items with reasonable prices. At night, the area around the market is bustling with restaurants, eateries, and cafes nearby. 

Ben Thanh Market was built in the early 17th century to exchange goods on Ben Nghe River near Gia Dinh Citadel. Under French colonial rule, the  government relocated the market, and built it in two years from 1912 to 1914.

A trip to HCM city is not complete without visiting the Reunification Palace, or Dinh Độc Lập in Vietnamese. Formerly known as Independence Palace, the palace was first used as the French Governor’s Palace and then was home to Ngo Dinh Diem, South Vietnamese president. 

The palace was named after the event on 30 April 1975 when the tanks of North Vietnamese crashed down the walls of the Independence Palace, the end of the Vietnam War, and the reunification of the country. 

To learn more about Vietnamese war history, take a look at the War Remnants Museum, or the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes. You can view US Army’s weapons such as helicopters, aircraft, and tanks in the front gate.

Other places of interest are Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts, and Nha Rong Wharf, where President Ho Chi Minh departed in 1911 to find a path to Vietnam salvation.

If you are tired of sightseeing, visit the nearby Tao Dan Park. You can also experience local daily life here with activities such as badminton and chess. Grab food or coffee to eat in the park.

Ben Thanh Market is easily reachable from Tan Son Nhat airport. There are buses, taxis, motorbike taxis (xe om). Public buses are the cheapest and safe way to get to the market.

Ben Thanh has a central location in District 1, and it offers a wide range of accommodations for all budget travelers including solo travelers, couples, and families.

Best places to stay in Ben Thanh for first-time visitors:

Luxury ($$$): New World Saigon Hotel, 5-star family-friendly hotel, ideally set in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City District 1, close to many restaurants and entertainment venues. It is also within walking distance from markets, museums and places of cultural interest. Easy access to the central bus station, offering easy access to other parts of the city.

Mid-range ($$): Winsuites Saigon, 4-star hotel, conveniently located in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City, within a short distance from the famous Ben Thanh Street Food Market. Also close to Tao Dan Park, Ho Chi Minh City Museum and Fine Arts Museum.

Budget ($): Calista Sai Gon Hotel, 3-star budget-friendly accommodation near Ben Thanh Market. Great base for backpackers and budget travelers due to its a central location in Ben Thanh Ward, a 10-minute walk from Notre Dame Cathedral.

3. Pham Ngu Lao & Bui Vien (District 1)

 Pham Ngu Lao

Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien is the best place to stay in Ho Chi Minh city for backpackers and budget travelers because it is the backpacker center of the city, similar to Hanoi’s Old Quarter.

Pack with hostels, bars, restaurants, cafes, and clubs, along the main road, as well as lanes and back alleys. Bui Vien and Pham Ngu Lao are also the best places for nightlife in the city.

Many visitors come to enjoy local street food, cheap Bia Hoi, or people-watching. Located in district 1, Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien also has central location, within easy access to major landmarks such as Ben Thanh Market and Reunification Palace.

There are plenty of food options from local food such as pho or banh mi, to western food like pizza, Italian food, Thai, Middle East restaurants, as well as snacks, fresh fruits, and groceries such as Cirkle K and Family Mart.

Pham Ngu Lao street is also packed with tour agencies where you can book bus ticket to Cambodia, or other cities nearby such as Dalat and Vungtau.

Along the street, you can find Central Market Shopping Mall, which is underground mall where you can find all kind of goods like clothes, souvenirs, shoes, bags, as well as an Asiana Food Town..

Bui Vien walking street attracts a lot of young Saigonese who come to garther, and to enjoy street art performances, and music shows.

Bui Vien is a safe area for tourists, but due to its popularity, you should look up scams, and thieves. Always practice common sense, and be aware of your surroundings, as you travel to any big city.

Accommodation here is budget-friendly with plenty of affordable backpacker hostels and guesthouses. You can find cheaper hotels off the main roads. Within walking from busy Pham Ngu Lao Street, you can find great quiet air bnb on Ton That Tung street around 20USD/night.

Best places to stay in Pham Ngu Lao & Bui Vien for first-timers:

Luxury ($$$): Pullman Saigon Centre, 5-star hotel, in the heart of Saigon, short distance from major landmarks such as the Saigon River, Reunification Palace, Opera House and Notre Dame Cathedral. It has a rooftop restaurant and bar offering city views and an outdoor pool.

Mid-range ($$): Fusion Suites Saigon, 4-star contemporary hotel, short distance from Pham Ngu Lao and Tao Dan Park, featuring family rooms, 24-hour front desk, and an on-site restaurant

Budget ($): Long Hostel, one of the best places to stay in Ho Chi Minh for backpackers and budget travelers, located at Pham Ngu Lao, District 1. It has daily breakfast, and dormitory rooms with free towels, shared bathroom and shared toilet.

Budget ($): Full House Hostel, great hostel, well located in Ho Chi Minh City, close to Fine Arts Museum, Takashimaya Vietnam and Ben Thanh Street Food Market.

See more: 27 Best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

4. District 3

District 3

District 3 is located next to district 1, making it still a central location and only 20 minutes driving from Tan Son Nhat airport. District 3 is quieter, less tourists than district 1, ideal to experience local life.

Saigond is known as “Eat in District 5, live in District 3, and play in District 1”. District 3 is considered the best place to live in the city by locals.

There are several cultural attractions in district 3. Tan Dinh Church is a 19th-century, beautiful pink catholic church with ancient French architecture. Great for sightseeing, taking a photo, and exploring the delicious street food.

Vinh Nghiem Pagoda is a famous Mahayana Buddhist pagoda, well worth a visit, as well as the  Chantarangsay Pagoda to see  typical Khmer architecture and the Southern Women’s Museum to see documents and artifacts honoring Vietnamese women.

Turtle Lake is a famous spot for young people and students because it is located next to University of Economics Ho Chi Minh and University of Architecture Ho Chi Minh. There are many street food vendors around, so you can try various local street foods.

Another place for foodies in district 3, is in Nguyen Thuong Hien street. There are plenty of  street stalls and vendors selling various street foods.

District 3 has great nightlife and shopping, there are many local markets, as well as shopping centers. There are couples of luxury hotels here but mostly mid-range and budget.

Best places to stay in HCM City in District 3 for first-time visitors:

Luxury ($$$): La Vela Saigon Hotel, 5-star hotel, located in district 3 HCMC, within walking distance from Tan Dinh Market. It has an outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, 24-hour front desk, an ATM and currency exchange.

Mid-range ($$): Au Lac Legend Hotel, 4-star hotel (Named after Vietnam’s historical kingdom), located on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street in central Ho Chi Minh. Short distance from famous sites like Notre Dame Cathedral, Ben Thanh Market and Con Rua Pond.

Budget ($): Emerald Central, great 3-star hotel in district 3 of Ho Chi Minh, close to Sai Gon Square 3 – Hai Ba Trung. It has rooms with rooms with a flat-screen TV, private bathroom, and some balcony.

5. Cholon (District 5)

(District 5

Cholon is Vietnam’s largest Chinatown with many traditional shops, markets, and food stalls. There are many houses that date back to the 19th century with Chinese-style architecture. 

Hao Si Phuong Alley is where Chinese people lived for over one hundred years, packed with ancient houses. The alley can be accessed from Tran Hung Dao Street, and exits from Ngo Quyen Street.

There are several Chinese temples in the neighborhood including Lady Thien Hau Pagoda, Quan Am Pagoda (On Lang Pagoda), Nhi Phu Temple, and Ha Chuong Assembly Hall. 

There are many shops selling Chinese medicine in the Tran Hung Dao and Hai Thuong Lan Ong area. The central market of Cholon is Binh Tay.

If you are visiting the Cholon area during the Mid-Autumn Festival, you must check out Lantern Street, on Luong Nhu Hoc Street.

If you love Chinese food, cholon is the place to be. You can try dumplings, satay beef noodle soup, wonton, or duck egg noodle soup. The menus are both in Vietnamese and Chinese.

Being away from the city center of district 1, accommodation here tends to be cheaper. There are numerous budget guest houses and hotels here. The bus from ChoLon Bus Station will take you to Ben Thanh Market in less than an hour.

Best places to stay in Cholon for first-time tourists:

  • Luxury ($$$): Windsor Plaza Hotel, 5-star hotel, set above Cholon District (Chinatown) in central Ho Chi Minh City, right beside to An Dong Shopping Centre.
  • Mid-range ($$): Zazz Urban Ho Chi Minh, 4-star hotel, featuring an on-site restaurant, room service and a 24-hour front desk, along with free WiFi.
  • Budget ($): Lam Kinh Hotel, 3-star hotel, offering rooms with a shared lounge, private parking, a terrace and a bar.

6. Thao Dien (District 2)

Sagon river

District 2 is located on the other side of the Saigon River opposite the city center. Thao Dien is an area in district 2, that is bounded by Hanoi Highway on one side and Saigon river on three other sides.

Thao Dien was used to be a rural village, offen flooded in the rainy season, but it has developed into a modern area that attracts lots of foreign expats.

Thao Dien is a quiet area with many green places, river areas, as well as cafes, bars, foreign shops. There are a wide range of western restaurants here serving Itlaians, Mexican, and American dishes.

Vincom Mega Mall is a great place for shopping and dining. There is a furniture market, and many restaurants and cafes in this shopping, entertainment, and culinary complex. You can even go ice skating here.

Apart from Thao Dien, other popular places in District 2 are Thu Thiem and An Phu. Thao Dien area and district 2 has many houses, villas, apartments and condos, as well as hotels, and guesthouses.

Best places to stay in District 2 for first-time visitors:

See more:

In conclusion, District 1, District 3, District 5, and District 2 are some of the best and safest districts to stay in Ho Chi Minh city for tourists. They offer central locations, easy access to major attractions, and wide range of accommodation options for all budget travelers.

Personally, I recommend District 1 as the best area to stay in Ho Chi Minh city for first-timers. It is the heart of the city that is close proximity to popular sights such as Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office, and Reunification Palace, as well as many restaurants, bars, and shops.

Nguyen Hue & Dong Khoi for a luxury holiday, Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien for budget backpackers and nightlife. Ben Thanh offers a wide range of both budget and luxury accommodations.

About Author: Linda Smith

I'm Linda Smith, the Hotel Expert, an experienced travel blogger who passionate about traveling. I'm here to share with you all my travel experiences and tips. I cover a wide range of travel topics, specializing in sharing information about the best areas, neighborhoods, and hotels in each city. I hope all these things will make your travel easier.

Leave a Comment