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Neighborhoods in Ho Chi Minh City: Where to Stay

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Living in or even just visiting Ho Chi Minh City is absolute chaos.

And I mean that in the best way possible.

I lived in Ho Chi Minh City, previously Saigon, for 1 year as an English teacher. We chose it as our home base after traveling around Vietnam and Thailand and spending a year as a teacher in South Korea.

Although we only stayed for 1 year and ended up moving to Da Nang, we went back to visit Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) often.

There's a certain energy that the city has that's really contagious. It's pure chaos and caffeine and I just love it. But, whether you're moving here like I did or are just visiting for a few days, the area you choose to stay will make a big difference.

Most people underestimate just how big Ho Chi Minh is. It has about 10 million residents and sprawls across 24 districts, or quậns. So, the area you choose to base yourself can make or break your time here.

Don't worry, I got you. Let's dive right into my 6 best neighborhoods in Ho Chi Minh City for you to stay.

A crude but helpful quick glance at the areas recommended in the article

Short on time? Here's the cheat sheet:

💭Ho Chi Minh City is vibrant and full of life. You won't lack fun things to do, great places to eat, and unique attractions whether you move here or just pass through.

🏮The city is divided up into 24 districts, all with their own vibe, amenities, and costs.

🏠If you want to be in the heart of all the action, stay in District 1. If you prefer somewhere more international, head to Thao Dien in District 2.

🛏️Looking to stay in a central location? Stay at the bright and spacious Unforgettable Saigon Experience in D1.

📚While it’s not mandatory to know Vietnamese to travel or live here, you might feel more comfortable at least knowing basic words and phrases. Mondly is a great app for that!

🏥Accidents happen so come prepared with nomad insurance, just in case!

District 1 (D1)

Nyugen Hue Walking Street is a must in D1

Best for those that want to be in the heart of the action.

District 1 is the city center and the heart of Saigon and boasts the most things to do.

If you're just in town for a few days and want to easily see places like the War Remnants Museum, Ben Thanh Market, and the Notre Dame Cathedral, District 1 is for you.

This area is also teeming with upscale restaurants, fantastic coffee shops, international brands, and rooftop bars. Just like the city center of nearly every city in the world, District 1 has pretty much everything you could ask for as a visitor.

D1 is also home to some of the best nightlife in the city. Most tourists run to spend their late night at Bui Vien Walking Street but personally, I prefer some of the chiller bars that dot the city.

Although a super vibrant part of the city, most expats don't choose to live in District 1. I'll go more into their stomping grounds in the next section.

Where to Stay in D1

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in District 1 is a good choice for you.

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District 2 (D2)

The view from our apartment in Thao Dien

Best for those that want to be in the expat neighborhood.

District 2 is across the Saigon River in a slightly calmer part of town. This is by far the most popular area for expats to live in.

D2 is pretty big but most choose to live in either An Phu or Thao Dien (divided by the highway). For those that want to lower their cost of living but still be close to Thao Dien, An Phu is a great choice. It's also popular among families.

The real heart of District 2 though is Thao Dien.

Thao Dien

Thao Dien is the main expat neighborhood in Ho Chi Minh City. It acts and feels like an island, divided on all sides by either the Saigon River or the highway. Note, islands do tend to flood during the rainy season!

This neighborhood is filled with tree-lined streets and has become a mix of all of the nationalities that call it home. Here you'll find the most assortment of international food and grocery stores that sell international products.

You'll also find the most businesses that are catered to English speakers.

We decided to live in Thao Dien for our year in HCMC because honestly, we needed a break. We had been living in Asia in local neighborhoods for a few years and wanted to put the culture shock aside for a bit. I don't regret that decision one bit but by the end of the year, when we moved to Da Nang, we wanted out of the expat bubble and back into the local life.

Where to Stay in District 2

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in Thao Dien is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: Notre Maison 5 Saigon: Situated a few blocks from the main street of Thao Dien, you'll be within walking distance to plenty of things to do but nestled on a quiet street.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: ambiHOME 2BR 2WC in Masteri: This isn't our old apartment but this is the building we used to live in. Enjoy great amenities, about a 10 minute walk to the center of Thao Dien.
  • Luxury Stay: Mia Saigon – Luxury Boutique Hotel: Farther down from the center of the neighborhood, enjoy the life of luxury with scenic river views at this boutique hotel.

District 7 (D7)

You can expect some great international brunch spots in D7

Best for those that are looking for something quieter.

District 7 is another of the popular neighborhoods for expats. This one started to gain traction a few years ago as people wanted more space than they could get in crowded Thao Dien.

If you're only in Saigon as a traveler for a few days, I wouldn't recommend staying in D7 because it's pretty far from the much of what you'll want to do in the city.

For expats though, D7 is an appealing neighborhood because most of the homes and buildings are new, the streets are wider, and it's a lot quieter than the rest of the bustling city.

Want the city at your fingertips but don't necessarily want to live among the madness? You'll love D7.

Where to Stay in District 7

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in District 7 is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: Golden Tree Hotel & Apartment: Trust me, you won't feel as though you're in a budget accommodation when you book your stay to scope out D7 here.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: RichLane Residences: This pet-friendly spot offers a fitness center, basketball court, swimming pool, and a restaurant.
  • Luxury Stay: LAKEVIEW Park Villa: Certainly not your typical place to stay in the middle of such a big city but this private villa is absolutely stunning and big enough to accommodate up to 15 people.

District 4 (D4)

The looks of a traditional housefront in HCMC

Best for those that want to embrace Vietnamese culture (and a low cost of living).

If you're seeking a life in Ho Chi Minh City that's all about the locals, District 4 is your spot. Not only will you better embrace Vietnamese culture, your cost of living will be a lot cheaper, unless of course you still choose to rent a luxury apartment.

Another cool thing about living in District 4 is the location. Here you'll be sandwiched between District 1 and District 7. Meaning, if you want a wild night out, D1 is right next door but if you want a relaxing Sunday morning with a calm brunch, D7 has you covered.

For your day-to-day, you'll have local markets, street food, and shops outside your door to keep your expenses even lower.

It's pretty common for expats who live in D4 to rent a large house and split it among friends or strangers. If you're really looking out for reasonable prices only, this could be a really great option for you. Most of these opportunities are for long-term stays though, rather than for tourists.

Where to Stay in District 4

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in District 4 is a good choice for you.

District 3 (D3)

A typical alleyway in D3

Best for those that want easy access to the center at a better price.

District 3 is another of the neighborhoods in Ho Chi Minh City that neighbors District 1. The most iconic spot in D3 that you've probably seen on your social media feed is the hot pink Tan Dinh Church.

Outside of that, District 3 is vibrant, busy, and super central but lacks the tourist attractions that D1 has, giving it a more local feel to it.

The school I worked for was located in D3, giving me the unique opportunity to explore this area that many expats and tourists overlook. This is a good area for those that, like in D4, want to be close to the city center but prefer to not have it right outside their door.

If you'll be working in the center, it's the perfect spot to get to work and avoid a lot of the rush hour traffic you'll have to traverse if you choose to live in D2 or D7.

Where to Stay in District 3

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in District 3 is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: Maison Royale: This hotel offers studios that are small but have everything you need to settle in while you go apartment hunting in D3.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Sai Gon Pavillon Bà Huyện Thanh Quan: Here you'll have an entire apartment to yourself with a pool and city views.
  • Luxury Stay: Mai House Saigon Hotel: Want to spoil yourself? Do it here. Although you'll have to forego the kitchen, you'll have luxury amenities and a staff waiting on you at this boutique hotel.

Binh Thanh District

Th view from the park back when Landmark 81 was still under construction, photo courtesy of depositphotos.com

Best for those that are seeking luxury living.

I'm sure you were expecting another numbered district but not all of the best neighborhoods in Ho Chi Minh City follow that pattern.

In reality, this district is absolutely massive, stretching from the Saigon River all the way to the airport.

For simplicity purposes (and my own recommendations), I'm referring to the area of Binh Thanh that leads up the bridge to cross into District 2, particularly right around Landmark 81 and Vinhomes, as I've highlighted in the map above.

Although there are loads of luxurious hotels mainly in District 1, this is where the nicest apartments in the city can be found. This part of Binh Thanh also has a lot of green space with Vinhomes Central Park as one of the nicest parks in Saigon.

Plus, this specific part has its own international schools, making it a super convenient area for families to live. You wouldn't need to drive your kids to school, it would just be a block or two away depending on which building you choose.

Where to Stay in Binh Thanh District

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in Binh Thanh is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: The Soulmate Studio: Ideal for 1-2 people, this apartment comes with a shared swimming pool. It's small but has everything you need for a comfortable stay.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Luxury Smart Apartment at Landmark 81: Stay in fancy Landmark 81 and get access to all building amenities like a pool, gym, and great city views.
  • Luxury Stay: Amavi Luxury Vinhomes Apt: Moving to Saigon with your family? This 4 bedroom apartment has plenty of room and high-end finishes.

Is Ho Chi Minh City a Good Place to Live Abroad?

One of the many cafes hidden inside apartment buildings

Ho Chi Minh City is either a dream come true or a nightmare, based on your viewpoint.

Personally, I think too many people judge the city too quickly and instantly decide they don't like it before giving it a fair chance.

The cool thing about Saigon is that, if you're into it, you'll find it there. There are so many clubs, communities, events, bars, endless street food vendors, and restaurants that it really just takes you making a slight effort to figure out where your people are.

Even after a year of exploring the city from my baby blue Honda Cub, I was constantly finding vibrant alleys, trendy bars, cute cafes, and delicious restaurants I had never noticed before.

If you stick with just the typical tourist to-dos, you might bore quickly but if you allow yourself the freedom to simply explore, you'll be blown away by how much is hiding in plain sight.

Plus, if you want to teach English like I did or work at one of the many international schools, Ho Chi Minh City has loads of opportunities for you.

Things to Know Before You Go

Be sure to take advantage of all the street food treats

Now that you’re gearing up for your trip and planning the specifics of where and when you’ll go, there are a few things you don’t need to overlook.

  • Make sure you have travel insurance. A good travel insurance, like SafetyWing, will ensure you’re covered in case of emergencies. While you will have to pay upfront for your doctor or hospital costs, unless it’s for a pre-existing condition, you can file a claim and should be reimbursed. For any Americans reading this, fear not, healthcare in pretty much every other country is far more affordable than ours, even if you’re paying out of pocket.
  • Do your best to learn a few local phrases in their language. No, I’m not expecting you to be able to have a fluid conversation with locals at the bus stop if you’re just visiting their country for a week but knowing your numbers (for prices), how to order something (“I would like…”), and basic greetings really will take you a long way. Mondly is a great app for phrases and vocabulary.
  • Book any popular tours you want to do in advance. I’m really not a great planner and I’ve made this mistake more times than I can count. I plan a trip to a destination knowing that I want to do a sailboat trip or food tour and wait until the day before to book only to realize it’s not available the day I’m in town. Don’t make that mistake - if there is something you know you want to do - book your tour in advance. GetYourGuide, Viator, and Klook are all reliable platforms.
  • Last tip certainly isn’t mandatory but it is helpful. Before you start booking your flights, hotels, and tours, consider opening up a travel credit card. Thanks to our Capital One Venture card, my husband and I have gotten countless free flights just by gaining points on everyday expenses.

Which Neighborhood Will You Choose?

Ho Chi Minh City is teeming with people, things to do, food to try, and unique experiences. While it might not be everyone's cup of tea, I highly recommend you give it an honest shot before judging it too harshly.

And choosing where in the city to base yourself will play a huge role on your experience here.

So, between these best neighborhoods in Ho Chi Minh City, which one will you choose?

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