Location dictates the prices of hotels. In HCMC most of the hotels concentrate in District 1. In HCMC the city is divided into districts. District 1 is the city center (Click here for city map). Stay here.
Don’t stay at places near the airport or other districts. The prices are not that much different most of the time, and the daily taxi fare will make it worth staying in District 1. In addition, most taxi drivers are familiar with every street and hotels. If you stay outside district 1 half the time your taxi will have difficulties understanding which street you are heading to. Furthermore, legit taxi are hard to come by outside of district 1.
In District 1, the most convenient place to stay will be the immediate area around Ben Thanh Market. The next best area will be Pham Ngu Lao (backpacker) area. These two locations have the most concentrated amount of convenient stores, money changer, shops, restaurants, etc.
Others may convince you to stay across the river in district 2, 4, or in district 3 or 5. Just say no. Maybe on your second or third trip you can try those after you get an idea how the city is like and get your orientation right. For now, just stick with the above two areas.
Vietnamese lesson: Ben Thanh (sounds like Burn Ton in English). The local calls it Chợ Bến Thành, Chợ meaning market. Phạm Ngũ Lão (sounds like Farm Ngoo Lao) is the backpacker's zone with plenty of budget hotels, bars, pubs, restaurants, etc. Phạm Ngũ Lão is the name of a general from the Tran Dynasty
5/4 Stars Hotels
hmm… nothing to say about them. Great locations, English speaking staffs, comfy beds. They are all the same everywhere. Where’s the adventure? However, it can also be daunting for a first timer to Asia to stay in smaller hotels. And a well established international hotel can offer a great get away from the dust and chaotic traffic noises of HCMC.
I will only recommend two hotels here (for now). The first is New World Saigon which is absolutely value for money and fabulous location, the other is the Park Hyatt which is the most expensive and luxurious but also the best (and relatively cheap for a Hyatt).
New World Saigon Hotel – 5 Star
When my folks were there to visit me, they always like to stay in New World Saigon Hotel, located within walking distant to Ben Thanh Market along 76 Le Lai Street in District 1.
To the north east are rows of restaurants, shops. To the west is a big park and there is a very popular bar – 17 Saloon that offers 2 floors of live music playing rock on the ground floor and pop music on the third.
Just beside the New World Saigon is the AB Tower. At the very roof top of this building is an awesome bar called Chill SkyBar. It offers a breathtaking view of HCMC night view.
The hotel is one of the older established hotels in HCMC, but its room recently got renovated and it is a huge improvement from what it used to be. And typical for a 4 star hotel is it has got a swimming pool!
Sometimes I managed to book a room for my folks at US$120! For a (old) 5-Star hotel, that’s a bargain! And it is also the nearest decent 4/5-star hotel in the Ben Thanh Market area.
For your information, former US President – Bill Clinton used to stay in this hotel when he visited Saigon!
You can get a huge discount from Agoda here.
Park Hyatt Saigon – 5 Star
The Park Hyatt Saigon is the best hotel to stay in HCMC, period.
When some of my more affluent friends pay me a visit, they always choose this hotel. It is glittering and shiny inside out. It has everything that spells expensive. And it is expensive, and of course it is a Hyatt. Costing you no less than US$200.
Location wise, it is near ‘High Street’ of Saigon – Dong Coi. It is surrounded by high end shops and restaurants, but there are still affordable restaurants just across the street.
To the north east along Hai Ba Trung Street, hidden away in a alley are some fine restaurants and bars. To the south east just across the parking space is the Lion Restaurants which has a micro brewery facility serving freshly brewed beer and sausages.
There is also a good Chinese restaurant Hoàng Long that serves traditional Cantonese food and tim sum up till 3 am in the morning! A favourite hang out for people after going to the clubs. You can find really attractive ladies here late in the night!
The only gripe I have is that the area is dominated by Saigon Tourist taxi (operated by thuggish drivers).
Actually there are no 2/3 stars hotels. The only ones that are close to 3 stars are the Liberty Group of hotels littered around HCMC district 1.
But do not get discouraged by the 2/3 Star hotels. They are the main stream hotels and are extremely competitive in pricing and services. Every staff will be eager to please you. This should be your first choice of accommodation. It will give you a real experience and not burn a hole in your wallet.
If you have the budget I would recommend Liberty Central Hotel (Liberty 6 or Que Huong 6). It is along the main street of Le Thanh Ton and just beside the landmark Ben Thanh Market. Lots of cheap and great food around, clean and decent massages, manicure and pedicure. The Liberty group of hotels are really run properly and decent. I feel safe and CLEAN staying in their hotels. No I am not related to them. Every time my wife (a Vietnamese) will INSIST that we stay in Liberty Hotels.
Liberty Saigon Greenview
Another great hotel with good location will be Liberty Saigon Greenview. Located in the backpacker district in Pham Ngu Lao.
The reason it is call Greenview is because you can see the huge park just across the street.
This is my choice of stay every single trip. Why it is great?
First of all, for me, it is just beside Phuong Trang (Foong Chang) bus terminal. Our family always take their coach back to my wife’s home town in Ben Tre City. When I wrote beside, I mean really mean BESIDE! Not walk 50 meters turn right walk another 50 meters…. Phuong Trang bus goes to all parts of Vietnam. Air conditioned coach with great safety records. No sleepy bus drivers. No ego speeding drivers. Just good and safe.
Second, the rooms are slowly getting renovated and they are clean and spacious. Clean sheets are very important for my wife as she inspect them and make sure they are clean and new. We used to stay in local budget hotels and ever since she discovered the sheets were not changed from the previous guests, that was the end of our stay in local budget hotels.
Third, the staffs are really friendly. My wife likes the staffs. You can request them to buy you a bowl of hot Pho from around the corner and delivers to your room on a rainy Tuesday MIDNIGHT! Of course you need to tip them. I will talk more about how tipping will double your joy in Vietnam later on.
Fourth, the Pham Ngu Lao area is always busy with activities, noisy bars, music bars, English speaking shops and Xe OM, food, tour agents, pharmacies, art alley, convenient stores, rent a bike, SIM cards, photocopying, my… I live in this area for a while before returning home. I KNOW this place.
Again you can get fabulous discount from Agoda, most of the time I paid just US$30-40 per room!!! Some how I realised that Agoda also give superb discount for Liberty Group of Hotels. Most of the time it is 30-40% off.
Another great local hotel group will be A&EM hotels (Ah Em). Their locations are not too bad, quite comfy rooms, but some times the receptionists are not as friendly, or you may get a receptionist who cannot converse well in English.
Another problem is some times if you return late at night the receptionist and the “concierge” or bell boy are sleeping in the hallway. You will need to knock on the door to wake them up to open the main door for you. Now don’t you laugh, a lot of the local hotels are runned this way.
Vietnamese Lesson Hotel written in Vietnamese is khách sạn ("karc sunk"). Ben Thanh Market is written as Chợ Bến Thành ("jer burn ton").
I have not tried Airbnb stay, yet, and the reason is that their prices are way more expensive that staying in a hotel and a lot of their locations are just lousy. In addition, having been lived in Vietnam’s residential estates, my number one concern is security.
You cannot sleep in peace without double checking all your windows are closed and secured, doors locked, double locked, latched, and the balcony’s drainage cleared of debris or otherwise you will wake up in a pool during rainy nights.
The trouble with booking a hotel in Vietnam is the language barrier or they practice price discrimination against western tourists. Even as an Asian tourist you will also face similar fate. Even for someone like me who speaks fluent Vietnamese I still prefer to book via Agoda. Not only their rate is always BETTER than walk in rates, the information provided on Agoda website is extremely helpful for making a right decision, especially the MAP! If a hotel is not listed on Agoda, then don't bother at all. Please help me by clicking on the banner below if you are seriously looking for a hotel, as I can get a referral fee which helps me fund my yearly hosting and domain name fee. TIA!