Where to stay in Saigon? The best areas for travellers - review by Rusty Compass
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Where to stay in Saigon? The best areas for travellers

| 03 Jul 2017
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Where to stay in Saigon? The best areas for travellers

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03 Jul 2017

A guide to the best areas to stay in Saigon, including District 1, the backpacker district, and the expat area of District 2.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service

Staying in District 1, Saigon

Saigon’s downtown District 1 is where most travellers choose to stay. It’s right by the city’s major museums and attractions, dining and nightlife. There’s a good selection of International 5 star names - Park Hyatt, InterContinental, Renaissance, Le Meridien and others. There’s also a good selection of 3 star traveller options.

The city’s famous colonial hotels are all located along Dong Khoi St in the heart of town too - starting with the Majestic on the riverfront, the Grand Hotel a block up and then The Continental on Lam Son Square.

The Caravelle, inaugurated right after independence in 1959, is right opposite the Continental as well.

Saigon's historic heart - Continental Hotel, Opera House and Caravelle Hotel
Photo: Mark Bowyer Saigon's historic heart - Continental Hotel, Opera House and Caravelle Hotel

 

The District 1 area is currently facing major upheaval with metro construction in full swing. There's some serious commercial tower construction under way as well. Major streets are blocked to traffic and walking around the city centre can be pretty unpleasant.

District 1 is probably still the best place for most travellers, but the construction work makes other locations, either a little out of town or in the District 2 expat area, also worth considering until 2020.

If you're only in town a short while, don't stray too far from District 1. Traffic snarls mean that getting into town, even small distances, can take forever. You don't want to spend your time in traffic.

 

Staying in Saigon’s backpacker district

On the fringe of District 1, the area around Bui Vien and Pham Ngo Lao streets has become a fully fledged backpacker ghetto - with all the seediness you might expect. This is the best area to meet other travellers, book cheap tours and eat and drink at backpacker style restaurants and bars. But this is a pale imitation of the real Saigon - with a heavy layer of sleaze and petty crime.

Bui Vien St - Saigon's bacpacker district
Photo: Mark Bowyer Bui Vien St - Saigon's bacpacker district
 

The backpacker area is where most budget and mid-priced accommodation is located so the area does attract a broad mix of travellers. A surprising number of young Vietnamese also hang out here at night too.


Staying in Saigon's expat area - District 2

Once a stuffy enclave of overpaid expats, District 2 has been transformed. There’s now excellent eating, some nightlife, shopping, galleries - around 20 minutes from downtown across the Saigon River.

Cool cafes, District 2 Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer Cool cafes, District 2 Saigon

 

District 2 is a mellow experience compared to the intensity of downtown Saigon. The river setting is pleasant too. It can hardly be called authentic Vietnam, but we're not sure downtown Saigon is either.

The argument for basing yourself in District 2 is getting stronger as the downtown area becomes more congested and polluted. A boat service to District 1 is set to commence operating late in 2017 as well.

 

Staying in Cholon and everywhere else

Saigon’s Chinatown district, Cholon, is even more frenetic than the city centre. It has its own set of interesting attractions and dining options, and an old world feel that is increasingly disappearing downtown. Depending on traffic, it will take around 15 - 20 minutes to get from Cholon to downtown Saigon.

 

Check out our handpicked and independent list of the best places to stay in Saigon.

 

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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