Saigon travel facts

Saigon’s stunning Hotel de Ville

Saigon facts: Although Ho Chi Minh is Vietnam’s all-time national hero, the inhabitants of Saigon never took to the renaming of their city in his honour after re-unification in 1976, and still refer to it simply as Saigon. This can lead to some confusion, but as long as you’re clear that it’s referred to as Ho Chi Minh City for official purposes and Saigon for others, you should get used to this city with two names.

Saigon facts: When Vietnam was divided into North and South by the Geneva Convention in 1954, Saigon became the capital of the South. The city’s name is so well known to Westerners because it was the main base for American troops during their involvement in the North-South war, and was the last city to fall to communist troops in April 1975.

Saigon facts: The first inhabitants of this region were the Khmers, but the Nguyen lords took charge in the 17th century and called it Gia Dinh. When the French captured the city in 1862, they chose this location for the capital of their protectorate of Cochinchina and re-named it Saigon.

Saigon facts: Saigon is situated at latitude 10°N and 106°E in the south of Vietnam. It sits on the west bank of the Saigon River and lies just north of the Mekong Delta. It’s just a short plane hop west to Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, and Bangkok, capital of Thailand.

Saigon facts: The city covers an enormous area of over 2,000 square kilometres (over 800 square miles) and is constantly growing as developers keep casting their nets ever farther afield. Though Hanoi is Vietnam’s administrative capital, Saigon is the country’s biggest and busiest city by far, and its seven million plus inhabitants form the spine of the Vietnamese economy.

Saigon facts: The city is divided into 16 districts for administrative purposes, which may sound daunting, but visitors will be pleased to know that most sights, as well as the city’s best hotels, shops and restaurants, are all located downtown in District 1. The Dong Khoi area is where well-heeled visitors choose to stay, while budget travellers make a bee line for the streets around Pham Ngu Lao, which are stacked with cheap rooms and dorms, as well as inexpensive eateries.

Saigon facts: Most visitors to Saigon arrive at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, which is well connected with other Asian cities and also with the USA and Europe. However, many people arrive overland from Cambodia to the West or Hanoi to the north, and there are several  long-distance bus stations in the city.

Saigon facts: As the city has no subway or overhead railway, visitors are left with a choice of bus, taxi, motorbike taxi (xe om), cyclo or walking when it comes to getting around. This means there’s no escaping the city’s crazy traffic, but once you get used to it, it can almost be fun walking across four lanes of slowly moving traffic without being flattened.