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.
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.
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.
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.
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.