Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon can be a confusing place, especially when looking for an apartment.
I’ve written before about finding accommodation in Vietnam but wanted to share my knowledge on the best places to live in Ho Chi Minh City.
District 1 (centre)
When people first get here whether tourist or hoping to stay long term they tend to stick around district one (quan mot.) This is the main tourist/backpacker area where you will find Pham Ngu Lao street and Bui Vien. These streets are full of cheap hotels, bars and nightlife and attract a pretty diverse crowd of people.
You will easily find a hotel for $15 a night here, there are plenty of girls around (both pro and ‘normal’) and it can be kinda fun.
You’ll also find some fairly decent restaurants both Western and Vietnamese.
As this is the centre it’s one of the most expensive areas and also the busiest. Expect traffic jams in the morning and evenings and a hot, busy and frenetic atmosphere.
A decent one bedroom studio or apartment can be had for around $400, but prices are rising rapidly due to the influx of Koreans and Japanese, so it’s getting hard to find cheaper places that are good quality.
Lots of fun can be had in D1, but most expats tend to move out to another district after 6 months or so of living there.
Binh Thanh District
Binh Thanh district lies to the North East of District one and is popular with expats as it’s still fairly cheap for a place here but you’re reasonably close to the centre. (Bennys Hot Toc is in this area too, i’ll let you find out where 😉 )
A room in a shared house will set you back around $250 plus $30 for bills. A studio room or small apartment will be $350-400 but of better quality than D1.
I found a brand new serviced place here for $400 that included full maid service 7 days a week so not a bad deal.
Binh Thanh District is a little ‘rougher’ around the edges compared to some of the other districts in Ho Chi Minh but it’s great if you want a more authentic Vietnamese experience.
You have modern shopping centres next to traditional wet markets and the prices are a little cheaper than D1.
Time to get from Binh Thanh to D1 on a scooter would be around 15 mins during the day and perhaps 40 mins at rush hour if you live in one of the outer edges of Binh Thanh.
District 3 butts up against D1 but is quite different.
D3 is very urban and crowded and a lot of Vietnamese live here as it’s cheaper than D1 but still close. D3 gets really snarled up with traffic during rush hour so is best avoided during this time.
Decent accommodation can be had for around $350 per month, but you’ll probably be near a busy road and it’ll be noisy.
My friends tell me there’s some quiet spots here but i’m yet to find them, although quiet and Vietnam are two words i don’t usually use in the same sentence.
Places i’d recommend checking out are Nguyen Dinh Chieu street and Cach Mang Thang, the former being more quiet with some decent apartments.
District 2 is a large area that has become quite developed in recent years. The main area is Thao Dien and this is home to a lot of foreigners especially those with families.
There’s a saying in Saigon, ‘District 2 gets you in the end’ and i can see why.
It’s fairly quiet and very modern by Vietnamese standards. There are plenty of apartments with pools and gyms that are almost up to Western standards. There’s a lot of great restaurants in the area and all cuisines are catered for.
You pay for this convenience however and prices are higher for things like accommodation. You’ll be looking at around $600 for an apartment per month but this may have a pool and gym.
Unfortunately Saigon is really lacking in decent accommodation compared to neighbours such as Bangkok. $600 would get you a sweet condo in Bangkok but not so much here.
One of the main drawbacks of Thao Dien and district 2 is it’s quite far out from the centre. It would take around 25 mins by bike or Grab car; more than double this during rush hour.
There’s plenty to do in Thao Dien however so most people find they tend to stay close to home and don’t venture into town so much.
District 7 is another large district quite far south of the centre. It is dissected by a huge road, Nguyen Van Linh, that runs along the south of the city. This area is home to the famous Phu My Hung area which contains a lot of nice apartments and houses.
District 7 is often called ‘Korea Town’ as it seems to attract a lot of Koreans. The area is very different to most of Saigon in that the roads are wide, there’s a lot more cars and it’s actually quite peaceful.
In this area you have a lot of rich Vietnamese families and there’s some fairly impressive villas and apartments dotted about the area. Phu My Hung has some great modern apartments but you’ll have to pay upwards of $1000 for these.
There’s quite a few teachers living here as there are a number of international schools in D7. The food is mainly Korean but there’s a few decent Western choices with more options opening up all the time.
I really liked living here but many expats find it a little too quiet for their tastes.
It’ll take about 40 mins to get to D1 in traffic and perhaps 25 mins during the day when it’s quieter.
I’d probably choose Thao Dien in district 2 over district 7 now due to the better food options, however it’s a close call.
There are of course plenty of other districts in Ho Chi Minh that you could choose to live in. The five above however in my opinion offer the best options for long or short term expats in Saigon.
So which district should i choose to live in?
It depends whether you want modern or more Vietnamese style. Busy and lively or more quiet. If you work in the centre or are location independent…
District 1 for nightlife, action and busy vibe.
District 2, Thao Dien or District 7 for longer term luxury, more peaceful environment and better food options for foreigners.
District 3 or Binh Thanh District for cheaper local food, reasonable accommodation prices and a more authentic Vietnamese living experience (which may or may not include cockerels and karaoke at 4am on a Monday morning..)