Travelers booking flights to Ho Chi Minh City are usually shocked when they land here -- Ho Chi Minh City is bursting at the seams. The city center is filled with street vendors, cafes and family-owned souvenir shops all eager to make a living and stay afloat. But stay alert or you'll wind up flat on the street; Ho Chi Minh City's chaos is fueled by the 3 million motorbikes that run the streets on a daily basis. Located on the Saigon River, Ho Chi Minh City is home to more than 8 million people and is Vietnam's commercial and industrial center.

Before it was the cultural hotspot of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City was known by many other names, most famously Saigon. While no one in Ho Chi Minh City has forgotten the turbulent past, today the city embraces its vibrant and modern future.

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Ho Chi Minh City climate

Ho Chi Minh City is in the tropics and close to the ocean, making the city hot and humid year-round. November through January are the coolest months with temperatures reaching the low to mid-80s (F). February through April the temperature rises to 90 degrees. Then it goes down to the low to mid-80s during the rainy season.December to March is the dry season with the least amount of rain and humidity. The rain starts in May and is heavy from June to August with sudden but short showers. The typhoon season is July to November.

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Best Time to Fly to Ho Chi Minh City

Peak Season:

Many travelers book flights to Ho Chi Minh City for Tet, the lunar New Year, but plans must be made far advance. Most businesses close for the holiday, including museums and shops. The holiday lasts for a week and depending on the calendar, the time to travel is usually between January 19 and February 20.

Other than Tet, the best time to book flights to Ho Chi Minh City is during the dry season, December through March. The crowds start arriving in November and stay until April.

Off Season:

The wet season is humid and hot, but the showers tend to be short. Late fall is a particularly nice time to visit southern Vietnam. The end of the high season, March to April, can also be somewhat less crowded and cheap flights to Ho Chi Minh City are likely to be found.

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Getting downtown Ho Chi Minh City

Minibuses and metered taxis are available for transport to the city center. Make sure the driver is wearing an official name badge and that the meter is on. Most hotels can arrange transport for arriving passengers, but visitors should organize this in advance.

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Getting around Ho Chi Minh City

Formerly Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is considered to have the world’s worst traffic. Deal with the traffic as little as possible by taking a taxi. Just make sure the meter is running. Agree to a fare ahead of time if the meter is nowhere to be found. Motorcycle taxis can also be hailed. They run off of an hourly rate which you can negotiate. Tour operators or travel agents can help you arrange for a car and driver to take you around for the day. If you’re taking a short trip, a cyclo (pedicab) is a good way to get around. There are no meters though, so negotiate a fare before you board. Many drivers speak English and are available for hire as tour guides as well. They will wait for you at your destination and can pick you up the next day, too. If you’re really feeling brave, you can rent bikes, mopeds or motorcycles, but you’ll be on your own with the chaotic traffic. A nice way to slow down and escape from the chaos is to hire a boat and view Ho Chi Minh City from the river.

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Ho Chi Minh City Travel Information

  • One of the first things most travelers mention about Ho Chi Minh City is the fantastic food. From street vendors to gourmet restaurants, the choices are endless. Buying food from street stalls can be intimidating at first, as it’s so different from the food experience in the West. Take a stroll round the area, have a look to see what food looks fresh and well cooked, follow your nose to the best smells and – as a fail-safe option – see where the locals are eating. Then order, sit down on a small plastic chair and enjoy. Pho – a thin soup – is one of the most popular dishes.
  • The Chu Chi tunnels are a short trip from Ho Chi Minh City and certainly worth visiting. The series of tunnels were used in the Vietnam War to make surprise attacks and to hide. The tunnels stretch out over more than 150 miles.
  • The Ben Than market is the biggest in the city and has everything under the sun for sale. It is distinguished by its clock tower, with clocks facing in four directions, which has become a symbol of the city. Come early in the morning to browse or buy food, clothes, jewelry, cooking utensils, arts and crafts or pretty much anything else you can think of. The busiest days at the market are Friday and Saturday when the crowds can become intense and the prices you’re charged may be higher than the rest of the week. Whenever you visit, though, make sure you haggle hard for your purchases.
  • Ho Chi Minh City is a city on wheels. It can seem as if everyone is on a motorbike or cyclo (a sort of pedal rickshaw). Crossing the road may seem terrifying – make sure to keep walking and don’t suddenly stop and the traffic should avoid you. For the brave, hiring a motorcycle and joining the fray is a surefire way to feel like a local.

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Ho Chi Minh City airports

Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN). The airport is situated 4 miles from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

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Melisse Hinkle
A New England native but explorer at heart, Melisse has lived in four U.S. cities, spent a summer in Hawaii, made her way through wine-producing regions in Australia and New Zealand, and traveled around Europe while studying abroad in London. She is the Content Manager for the U.S. and Canada at Cheapflights.
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    In-flight reading

    The Unwanted: A Memoir of Childhood

    Kien NguyenThe author was “unwanted” in Saigon after the city fell to the Viet Cong in 1975 as he was Amerasian – half American, half Vietnamese. This is the story of his childhood.

    After the War Was Over: Hanoi and Saigon

    Neil SheehanA look at the effects of the war on the two major cities of Vietnam.


    Anastasia EdwardsThe story of the city, and its evolution from a small village in the middle of a forest to the bustling metropolis it is today.

    Saigon Tea

    Graham ReillyDanny Canyon comes from Glasgow’s East End, but finds himself in the bar trade in Saigon, caught up with Vietnamese mafia…

    Vietnam, A Traveler’s Literary Companion

    Edited by John Balaban and Nguyen Qui DucA collection of stories from Vietnamese authors.

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