Saigon


Saigon CathedralSaigon is the largest city in Vietnam. Tourists generally flock to the central part of city, where most of the city’s landmarks are located.

Current city name

In 1975 after the fall of South Vietnam, the communist government renamed the city after the communist leader. The official name is Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, which in English is translated to Ho Chi Minh City. However the old name Saigon (Sài Gòn) is still used by Vietnamese and tourists alike. The Vietnamese living abroad prefer to call the city Saigon, as a protest against the communist rule.

Location

Saigon is located in the southeastern part of Vietnam, near Mekong Delta. The city center is located on Saigon River and stands at 60 km / 37 miles from the South China Sea.

How to get to Saigon

Tan Son Nhat (SGN) is Vietnam’s largest airport. The new international terminal opened in September 2007. The cheapest way into the city center is No. 152 airport bus. You can also get a taxi but make sure to buy a “Taxi coupon” near the exit of the airport terminal in order to avoid the bargain stage. You can exchange money at the airport but the rates are better in the city.

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Weather

Saigon has a tropical climate, with an average humidity of 75%. The rainy season begins in May and ends in November, while the dry season extends from December to April. The hottest month is April and the coldest is December, although temperature doesn’t vary much during the year.

Temperatures

Dec: avg high 30 C/87 F; avg low 22 C/72 F

Apr: avg high 33 C/93 F; avg low 26 C/79 F

Things to do

The most important landmarks in the city center are the Reunification Palace, which has been untouched from the day Saigon fell to the North, the City Hall, the Post Office, Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica and Hotel Majestic, the oldest hotel dating from the French colonial era.

There are several Chinese temples in Cholon, the Chinatown district of old Saigon. Among them, don’t miss visiting: Thien Hau Pagoda — dedicated to Lady Thien Hau, the sea goddess -, Quan Am Pagoda – the oldest pagoda in town – and Phung Son Tu Pagoda.

There are also several museums but unfortunately the descriptions in English aren’t exactly accurate and can be pretty frustrating to navigate your way within exhibits. But if you have some free time, you can check out War Remnants Museum, Museum of Vietnamese History or Ho-Chi-Minh Museum (housed in a beautiful French colonial era building).

If you fancy playing in the water, don’t miss a visit to Dam Sen Water Park. The park offers some unique water slide experiences.

Saigon marketBen Thanh Market is the largest old-style market in the central district. It’s very popular among tourists and you can find anything here, from clothes to veggies and fruits. If you fancy an evening snack head to the Night Market, located just outside Ben Thanh Market (but opens at 5 PM).

>>more information on Saigon Markets

Tips

The Tourist Information Center is located on the northeast corner of the roundabout at the intersection of Le Loi and Nguyen Hue, right in the city center. It’s the best place to pick up a free map and ask for advice on how to best spend your vacation in the city.

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