Our comprehensive gay guide to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) includes highlights of the city's gay scene, gay friendly hotels to stay in, the best things to do, where to eat, and more.
“Guys, just follow my lead and slowly cross the road with me: the cars and motorbikes will just weave their way around you…”
…so said our friend Quan who showed us how to navigate the crazy traffic of the streets of Saigon. Honestly, you've not been to Saigon until you've tried to cross over one of the main roads or taken a scooter ride through the busy jungle of moving vehicles; it's something you won't forget in a hurry!
Saigon is a lot of fun. It's busy, frenetic, has super feisty locals, manic traffic, and delicious street food. The gay scene is also pretty good, with a large LGBTQ community of both ex-pats and locals.
This is one place we quickly fell in love with and know you will too! It's definitely a must for LGBTQ travelers visiting South East Asia and we've got you covered in our comprehensive gay travel guide right here.
What's the difference between Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City?
So we hear you asking, what's the actual difference between Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City? Is it the same place?
Short answer – yes! The city has actually gone by many different names in its long and complicated history, reflecting different groups that have controlled it through the years. It was named “Gia Din” until the French conquest of the 1860s, when it was named Sài Gòn – and westernized to be “Saigon”. After the ‘Fall of Saigon‘ at the end of the Vietnam war, the city was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in honor of the late North Vietnamese president, Mr. Ho Chi Minh.
Nowadays the name Saigon is still used to refer to the city center around District 1, while Ho Chi Minh City generally means the entire modern city with all its districts. But don't be surprised to still find places (especially hotels) named after Saigon as people often use the names interchangeably.
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How safe is Ho Chi Minh City for gay travelers?
We found Vietnam as a whole to be quite welcoming towards us as a gay couple. In relation to LGBTQ rights, Vietnam has never had any anti-gay laws and although gay marriage is not yet recognized, the outright ban on it was lifted in 2015.
One thing we would mention is just to take caution with public displays of affection and perhaps avoid them being on the safe side. As gay friendly as Vietnam is towards foreigners, attitudes nonetheless are quite conservative and there are still no anti-discrimination laws in place to protect you should anything happen.
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While Hanoi hosts the main gay events, Ho Chi Minh is where you will find the best gay bars and clubs in all of Vietnam. It's also home to a large and thriving LGBTQ community comprised of both ex-pats and locals. The gay scene of Saigon is constantly changing and evolving; bars/clubs open and close all the time, which we've kept up to date in this guide.
Find out more in our interview with local boy Quan from Saigon about gay life in Vietnam.
The gay neighborhood of Ho Chi Minh City
There isn't an official gay neighborhood in Ho Chi Minh City, but most of the queer hangouts can be found in and around District 1, which is also the most touristic area. District 1 is home to the city's major museums, fine dining, and exciting nightlife, as well as most of the international 5-star hotels.
If you're traveling on a budget, you'll want to check out the area on the fringes of District 1, which has become known as “the backpacker district”. There are plenty of affordable gay friendly accommodation options around Bui Vien and Pham Ngu Lao streets, while still being close to all the major sights.
Gay hotels in Saigon
All the places we stayed in Saigon had no issue with hosting a gay couple. As a rule of thumb, international chain hotels are accustomed to dealing with LGBQ travelers anyway, and there are also a handful of hotels that also cater specifically to queer travelers, which we've set out here:
The Reverie Saigon
Why we love it
- Simply stunning luxury hotel
- Five wonderful on-site dining options
- Spa, fitness center and swimming pool
- Exceptional service from the friendly staff
The Reverie is one of the most incredibly beautiful gay friendly hotels we've ever seen. So much so that it's become the go-to place for gay couples celebrating their honeymoons in Vietnam.
Even the most ‘basic' room at the Reverie is a dream, and the entire hotel is designed with an opulent style showcasing beautiful Italian artistry.
The old Times Square Building was rebuilt to create this luxurious hotel with stunning views over the city.
There's a beautiful outdoor swimming pool on the 6th floor, which looks out over Saigon and features plenty of comfy spots to lounge. The large fitness center also gives you the chance to work up a sweat while looking out over the pool or the city through panoramic windows. For some relaxation and pampering the spa has a huge list of treatments to enjoy, from massages to body wraps, facials, body scrubs, and massages. They also offer a romantic couple's packages.
There are no less than FIVE different places to dine in the Reverie. Romeo and Juliet Restaurant (or R&J as it's often called) serves authentic Italian dishes in a stunning space with Italian mosaics, elaborate candelabras, and a collection of differently styled dining chairs. There's also the Royal Pavilion for exquisite Chinese cuisine (and decor) while Cafe Cardinal has the best French desserts and pastries. If you can manage to roll yourself outside, the rest of the city will be waiting for you!
STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL
Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, voiding any nasty surprises when you check-in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off our first booking.
Park Hyatt Saigon
Why we love it
- Luxurious 5-star hotel in a French-colonial building
- Spa with traditional Vietnamese treatments
- Four restaurants and two bars on-site
- Beautiful swimming pool with bungalows
The Hyatt is one of the most LGBTQ friendly brands in the world and one of our favorite places to stay when we go to Saigon, so you know you'll be welcome here!
The Park Hyatt Saigon is a beautiful and luxurious choice of accommodation in a French-colonial-style building. If you can drag yourself out of the hotel and it is very comfortable, you'll be within walking distance of many of the most famous attractions in the city.
As you can see, the outdoor pool is a haven of relaxation and sophistication. The provided pool service means you can have a drink or snack while lounging in the sun, or perhaps a romantic sunset cocktail. There's also a large fitness center with lots of amenities to keep yourself looking good. The Xuan Spa uses traditional Vietnamese rituals and ingredients, with treatments based on resources from the Mekong Delta – the perfect way to relax after sightseeing.
While you'll be able to easily explore the restaurants and cafes surrounding the hotel, there are also plenty of fine dining options within the building. Opera is the main restaurant, comprising the main dining room, bar, and verandah where you can enjoy Italian cuisine. Square One on the mezzanine floor combines French and Vietnamese dishes for unique flavors as well as a cellar door for wine tasting. And that's not even mentioning the two bars, pastry boutique, and lounge where you can have afternoon tea!
Beautiful Saigon Boutique Hotel
Why we love it
- Excellent mid-range hotel
- Free buffet breakfast for guests
- Swimming pool and spa
- Lovely and helpful staff
If you're traveling on a budget but don't want to stay in a hostel, the Beautiful Saigon Boutique Hotel is the perfect compromise.
The staff is lovely and helpful with organizing things to do, as well as being very welcoming towards gay travelers.
We especially love that groovy swimming pool, which is a real haven from the hustle and bustle outside.
The bedrooms are very clean and cozy. To save money you could book a room without a window, although it's still very affordable to stay in one with a balcony and/or a pool view. Even though the hotel is located in a busy part of town, known for its noisy nightlife, the hotel itself is very quiet. The staff is exceedingly friendly, helpful, and able to assist you in organizing excursions or activities to do in the city.
Guests can enjoy a big (free!) buffet breakfast next to the pool each morning, with many western and Vietnamese dishes to sample, from traditional Vietnamese pho, to good old bacon & eggs. Beautiful Saigon also has its own in-house spa, where you can relax with different types of massages, or treatments such as waxing, pedicures, body scrubs, and body wraps.
Prei Nokor Hostel
Why we love it
- Simply gorgeous hostel
- Private rooms or dorms
- Close to Ben Thanh market and many attractions
- Friendly, chatty, welcoming staff
Prei Nokor has got to be one of the most impressive gay friendly hostels we've ever seen.
Located in a French-colonial building dating back to 1912, the interior space has been cleverly designed to feature interior balconies, garden areas, and even a fish pond by the main staircase.
A lot of amenities are also provided, like shampoo and body wash, making this feel more like a luxury hostel.
The staff is super friendly, helpful, and chatty with everyone. They will tell you all about the history of Saigon as well as give recommendations for things to do, see, and where to eat nearby. The hostel is also right next to the huge Ben Thanh market, which has a food section as well as lots of options for buying souvenirs or gifts to take home with you.
We love how the interior of the hostel looks like an ultra-modern New York loft, with balconies looking down over the courtyard and potted plants everywhere. Even the dorm rooms are beautifully designed with privacy curtains, plenty of storage space, lamps inside your bunk, and gorgeous shared bathrooms. Walking inside Prei Nokor is like stepping into another world!
Gay bars in Ho Chi Minh City
We loved the gay scene in Saigon. There is a large and active LGBTQ community here along with a handful of gay bars to check out. Most of them can be found on the lively De Tham Street, in the heart of the backpacker area:
Located in the Bui Vien backpacker's area, Thi Bar is owned and run by a French-Vietnamese gay couple. It attracts a mixed crowd who come to enjoy the live music. Friday and Saturday are the main gay nights where the local gay lads alternate between The Tipsy Unicorn and here before heading over to Republic later on. Located at 224 De Tham Street, Thi Bar is open every day (except Tuesdays) until late.
Frolic is the hot new gay bar in Ho Chi Minh, with a vibe similar to the old Tipsy Uniform that has since closed down. It attracts a mixed LGBTQ crowd as well as backpackers, giving it a very open and accepting vibe. Their Disco Nights on Saturdays are the most popular. Other themed nights include “Girls Night” on Wednesdays and “Frolic Friday” (oh Matron!)… Frolic is located at 63 De Tham, Q1, and is open daily until around 2am (6am on weekends).
Papa Cafe is more of a restobar that turns into one of the hottest gay hangouts later in the evening, particularly at weekends. We love their karaoke nights – let's just say that Vietnamese gay guys are very passionate about belting out their live Diva tunes! Upstairs is the more uber-cool chill-out lounge area to hang out with friends. Papa Cafe is open every day from 7 am-midnight and is located at Cong Truong Quoc Te, right next to the Turtle Lake traffic roundabout.
Poc Poc is a local pub famous for its beers. It's the best place to come and connect with locals, but the best time to come is on weekends when they host their own themed drag shows. Due to the drag shows, Poc Poc attracts a very mixed LGBTQ crowd on weekends, particularly locals. Poc Poc Beer Garden is located at 79A Nguyễn Đình Chiểu, Phường Võ Thị Sáu and is open daily until around 2am.
Vietnamese Gay Drag Bingo Shows
For a very local LGBTQ experience, we recommend heading to one of the drag gay bingo shows. They're located a bit far out from the center, but well worth the trek. One of the most famous is called Lô tô Hương name, which has a show every day at 6:30 pm – the location is Đầm Sen Nightmarket, kênh Tân Hoá st, ward 3, District 11. Another awesome Vietnamese drag bingo show to check out is Sai Gòn Tân thời, which has a show every week, usually, on a Friday – location is Outdoor stage 141 Bắc hải, 14 Ward, D10.
THE FOLLOWING GAY BARS IN SAIGON HAVE PERMANENTLY CLOSED – updated May 2022
- The Tipsy Unicorn: was one of our favorite gay bars in Saigon. It's a great place to start a night out and it's where all the local gay boys come to watch RuPaul's Drag Race episodes. Look out for their daily 2 for 1 Happy Hour cocktail deals between 4-7 pm. We also love their trivia nights which get can get super camp and quite rowdy! The Tipsy Unicorn is open daily from 4 pm until 2 am and is located at 37 De Tham Street.
- Whiskey & Wares: Owned by two cute American guys that have now opened up the Pride Cafe (see below in the restaurants section). Whiskey & Wares is a bar that attracts a mixed crowd of locals, ex-pats, and LGBTQ travelers. Obviously, they serve some excellent whiskey varieties here, but they also sell craft beers and delicious Vietnamese-inspired cocktails, which were responsible for lots of Seby hangovers… The owners and staff are so friendly they make you feel like you're hanging out at home – that is, if your home was decorated in a cool industrial style! Located at 196 De Tham Street, Whiskey & Wares is open every day from 5 pm until around 1.30 am.
Gay clubs in Ho Chi Minh City
The main gay club in Saigon is Republic. There are also a few gay events that take place every few weeks or months at different locations throughout the city. We've set the main ones out below:
We love the gay scene of Saigon mainly because of Republic. It's a super fun night out where almost every gay in the city eventually ends up at! We suggest heading here around 11 pm or midnight when it starts to get going. On Wednesdays they have “Boys Nights” on Friday evenings they have hilarious drag shows which you have to see at least once! Oh – and did we forget the cocktails? They're pretty damn tasty and super unique, especially the cumquat mojitos! Republic is located at 75 hồ Tùng Mậu d1 and is open only Wednesday to Sunday till late.
Full Disclosure Entertainment organizes super fun gay parties in Saigon every month. Our favorite is ‘Yaaaas' – let's just say that as pop music geeks, we can never get enough of Britney, Beyonce, and Lady Gaga on the dancefloor! Make sure you check their Facebook page to see what's coming up while you're in the city.
Another excellent organization that organizes lesbian and trans-inclusive parties. It was created by the ‘Amazing Race 5' contestants Nic and Lisa Truong-Marchetto. They aim to provide safe spaces for the local LGBTQ community and we totally high-five them for this! Be sure to check out their Facebook page for details of the latest upcoming events.
Another favorite of ours. GenderFuck hosts the best gender-inclusive parties in Saigon with hilarious drag performances. This is a safe space where anyone, regardless of gender or orientation, can express themselves and experience the fun of drag. Check out their Facebook page to find out details of the next party.
Gay events in Saigon
In terms of official gay events in Ho Chi Minh City, there's really only VietPride in August. We've also included some other fun events that are definitely worth checking out if you're there at the right time of year.
VietPride aka Saigon Pride (August)
While VietPride began in Hanoi, it now takes place in cities across the country, including Saigon. A big parade marches down Nguyen Street with thousands of participants waving rainbow flags. There are also lots of gay parties, film screenings, and other activities surrounding the Pride celebrations, so keep an eye on the Facebook page if you want to know all the details for the next one.
Tet – Vietnamese New Year (February)
Tet is the name for Vietnamese New Year, which takes place based on the lunar calendar and is the most important celebration in Vietnamese culture. Celebrating the arrival of spring, Tet usually falls in January or February. During Tet, Vietnamese families make traditional foods and also decorate their homes with beautiful flower displays.
Songkran is the Buddhist New Year, which is most known for being celebrated in Thailand but is also celebrated by the many Buddhists in Vietnam. In Saigon, the entire gay community gets involved to take part in the “Thai water festival Songkran” which is like a huge street-wide water fight organized by Saigon Outcast.
National Day (September)
National Day or Independence Day is a national holiday in Vietnam that celebrates the declaration of independence of Vietnam after WWII as well as commemorating the passing away of Ho Chi Minh. Taking place on the 2nd of September every year, you'll be able to see lots of lit-up signs, flags, flower displays, a parade, and even fireworks at night.
Mid-Autumn Festival (September/October)
The mid-autumn festival, also known as Trung Thu, celebrates the end of the harvest season and is the second most important festival in Vietnam after the Lunar New Year. The best way to celebrate Trung Thu in Saigon is in the Phu Bin lantern-making village, one of the few villages in the city that still make glass paper lanterns for the festival. It's beautiful to see all the lanterns glowing, and don't forget to try some delicious traditional moon cakes.
Gay saunas/spas in Saigon
There are a surprising number of male-only spas and saunas in Saigon, where you can go for some discrete cruising action. Vietnamese guys are usually pretty shy so you might need to make the first move, but these saunas are also a good way to just relax and make some new friends.
NaDam Spa is one of the biggest and most well-known gay saunas in the city, with truly stunning Vietnamese architecture. There are wooden walkways above a pond filled with koi and numerous leafy plants everywhere. Facilities include a steam room, dry sauna, a wet area with rain showers, and two bathing pools, one with Jacuzzi jets and massage fountains. This is a gorgeous spot to relax and maybe have some fun! Located at QL13, Hiep Binh Chanh Ward, NaDam Spa is open every day from midday until 10 pm.
Run by the same people behind De.Soi9 Sauna, The SixtyNine Zone is a popular gay sauna that holds regular themed days for bears, students, etc. Spread out over two floors there's a sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi, and even a private play space called “The Tiger Cage Area” – phwoar!!! The SixtyNine Zone is located at 39/3 Pham Ngoc Thach Street and is open every day from 11 am-11 pm.
De.soi9 is not your typical sauna, but definitely a lot of fun! Down a quiet alley in the heart of Saigon, there's a lush garden that makes the place feel more like a beer garden than a sauna. There's a steam room, sauna, cinema, Jacuzzi, and private cabins, as well as a nice rooftop where you can laze in the sun. De.soi9 Sauna is located at 24 Dinh Tien Hoang Street and is open daily from 1 pm-10 pm.
Located right by the Saigon Zoo & Botanical Garden, this is a newish gay spa that specializes in traditional Vietnamese massages. There's also a sauna, Jacuzzi, and titanium salt bath to enjoy. We like the little included extras like free water, herbal tea, coffee, and fruit. 3 Some Spa is open every day from 11.30 am-11.30 pm and is located at 29/6 Nguyen Binh Khiem St.
Gay restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City has an abundance of excellent restaurants serving cuisine from around the world, particularly French, Chinese and Vietnamese. These are our favorite gay-owned or gay-friendly restaurants and cafes where you can have some delicious food.
We love Pride Cafe! It's the perfect spot for coffee, brunch, or lunch in Ho Chi Minh City. The decor is chill and super-trendy, did you see those swings?! We also love the neon lighting and photos on the walls of gay pride events. Pride Cafe serves scrumptious coffees where you can pick both your beans and your brewing method. Make sure you try one of their signature drinks as well, like the luscious Tiramisu frappe. They do light snacks like pastries as well as delicious smoothies and juices.
Five Oysters (permanently closed – updated August 2022)
Five Oysters is an LGBTQ-friendly restaurant in the middle of the backpacker's district that serves some of the best seafood in the city as well as traditional Vietnamese dishes. Even though the neighborhood is lively, this restaurant is a calm little oasis with lovely staff and a cool rooftop terrace. The seafood is very affordable, fresh, and tasty. We especially liked the grilled salted prawns, fresh oysters, and lemongrass clams. You can also have dishes like pho or pad Thai if you don't want seafood, along with plenty of delicious beers and cocktails. If you're brave enough you can even try an oyster shot!
This place really lives up to its name, since it's hidden down an alley and at the top of a four-story building. Secret Garden serves home-cooked Vietnamese meals in a lovely breezy rooftop patio setting, decorated with pretty lanterns, wooden furniture, and lots of plants. It's welcoming to foreigners but also very popular with locals, due to the delicious and authentic Vietnamese cuisine. The Goi Du Du Tom Thit (yeah, we know, try not to laugh when ordering ‘du du'!) was our favorite – it's a delicious papaya salad with dried shrimp and dried pork that really pops with flavor.
Don't despair vegan and vegetarian readers, there are some excellent options in Saigon, especially the epic Filthy Vegan restaurant! Not only is everything on the menu vegan, but they also try very hard to be zero waste, with biodegradable utensils and packaging for takeaway. Filthy Vegan serves some delicious vegan versions of western home-comfort and junk foods like cottage pie, hot dogs, cheesecake, or doughnuts. The owner Keiron is very friendly and a fountain of knowledge about what to do around the city. Don't miss the cozy bean bag lounge area upstairs.
Journeys Sandwich Cafe
PERMANENTLY CLOSED – updated May 2022
For fresh and delicious sandwiches, head to the gay-owned Journeys Sandwich Cafe. Owned by a gay American ex-pat, this place serves up a huge array of sandwiches and salads using only the freshest ingredients. Now, these aren't just your boring old ham and cheese sandwiches though. At Journeys, you can have mouth-watering pulled pork or sweet chicken teriyaki with perfectly cooked potato wedges and yummy thick smoothies. Nearly everything is made in-house, from the sauces to the buns and eight different types of homemade bread. The staff is super friendly as well!
What to do in Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City has a rich history that begs to be explored, as well as lots of exciting modern sights and activities. These are the best things to do in and around Ho Chi Minh City which we really enjoyed:
Cu Chi Tunnels Daytrip
One of the most famous attractions in Ho Chi Minh City, and deservedly so, are the Cu Chi Tunnels. During the Vietnam War, this immense network of underground tunnels was used extensively by Viet Cong troops. Nowadays the tunnels have been converted into a war memorial park where you can find out what conditions were like, and even squeeze yourself into some of the tunnels. Our tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels was absolutely fascinating, as well as an interesting way to learn more about some of the harsh realities of the Vietnam War.
Learn about Saigon's History
Saigon is home to many beautiful and historic buildings which you definitely need to explore during your time in the city. We discovered that the most fun way to experience all the beautiful spots was via a bicycle tour of the city. We loved seeing the French-colonial buildings throughout Saigon, like the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral, the General Post Office, and the Opera House. Exploring by bike also gives the tour a more authentic feel, since you're right in the heart of the action, plus our local guide took us to all the best street food markets for a delicious lunch.
Eat your way through the city
Vietnam is full of so much delicious food, and Saigon was a veritable smorgasbord for these two greedy boys! We joined a street food tour to find out all the best places to eat delicious local treats like bo cuon mo chai (barbecued beef meatballs) and bo bia (Saigonese spring roll). You also get to find out all about how Chinese cuisine has been integrated into Vietnamese life, while you munch on Cantonese barbecued pork and Chinese dim-sum. Make sure you also visit the amazing Ben Thanh Market, which sells lots of Vietnamese souvenirs, as well as having an incredible street food section.
Ascend Bitexco Financial Tower
With a design based on Vietnam's national flower, the lotus, the Bitexco Financial Tower is the second tallest building in Saigon. You can visit the tower's Skydeck for breathtaking views over the city, especially romantic if you time your trip for sunset. There are information panels about the different parts of the city, as well as the Ao Dai Museum where you can see traditional Vietnamese costumes. There's also a bar, cafe, and restaurant on different floors of the tower if you want a meal with panoramic views. Beer aficionados will particularly love the very fun Heineken experience too!
Visit the Mekong Delta
To the west of Saigon is the beautiful Mekong Delta area, a region where the Mekong River empties into the sea through small tributary channels. We found this area to be the perfect destination for a day trip out of the city, where you can see a more rural way of life as well as keeping an eye out for the 1000s of animal species native to the region. You can visit the Mekong Delta on a ‘non-touristy' day trip which includes exploring an orchid farm, cycling next to rice fields, cruising down the river, and stopping off at a local temple. A traditional Vietnamese lunch is included, plus there are charming country markets to explore.
See a performance at the Saigon Opera House
The Saigon Opera House is a beautiful building in Ho Chi Minh City, built in the French Colonial style in 1897. Sure, you can just visit and look at it from the outside, but what we really recommend is seeing a breathtaking acrobatics show inside! You'll get to see stone-carved statues at the entrance, as well as the crystal chandeliers, and shiny granite floor in the lobby area – all built with materials imported from France. Lune Productions is currently showing two Vietnamese performances at the Opera House that effortlessly mix acrobatics, traditional music, and stunning visuals. Get your tickets online to enjoy a fantastic night out.
Explore the War Remnants Museum
To learn more about the Vietnam War and its effects on the people of Vietnam, we highly recommend a visit to the War Remnants Museum. It's very eye-opening to see how the war is viewed and talked about in Vietnam as opposed to how it's often portrayed in Western media. The moving exhibits and information can be confronting but it's always important to understand the horrors of war so we can try not to repeat past mistakes. You can combine a visit to the War Remnants Museum with a tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels, or just head there by yourself.
Learn to make Vietnamese coffee
We love a good cup of coffee and we especially luuurve the Vietnamese style! You might be surprised to discover that coffee was only brought to Vietnam in the late 19th-century by the French colonists since there are coffee shops everywhere now. There are many coffee plantations in the central highlands of Vietnam, and the country is one of the biggest coffee exporters in the world. We joined a coffee-making class in Saigon to find out more about the history of Vietnamese coffee, also known as Ca Phe Sua Da, and why it's so delicious. Hint: it's not just about the sweetened condensed milk…
Experience a water-puppet show
Water puppetry is a Vietnamese tradition that dates back to the 11th-century and is a pretty amazing thing to see. The puppets are made of lacquered wood and controlled by puppeteers from behind a screen. The puppets are on a piece of wood and the shows are performed over a pool of water, so it looks like the puppets are actually floating. You can see a water puppet show in Saigon while listening to traditional Vietnamese orchestral music and then go on a dinner cruise afterward, We loved this colorful experience, especially seeing a fire-breathing dragon puppet!
See crocodiles, bats, and monkeys (oh my!) in the mangroves
If you want the chance to see some wild animals like monkeys and crocodiles, then we really enjoyed taking a day trip to the Vam Sat Mangrove Forest near Saigon. This biosphere reserve is teeming with wildlife among the mangrove trees, and it was just enchanting to cruise along the tranquil waters. We saw gibbons, monkeys, birds, bats, and crocodiles on our trip, even getting the chance to feed the crocs via a fishing rod! Sometimes Saigon can be very chaotic and loud, so being able to get out into nature is a wonderful, relaxing way to recharge.
Planning your trip to Saigon
We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon. Read on to find out everything the gay traveler should know before they go.
Travel insurance: Sometimes when traveling things can go unexpectedly wrong, whether it's canceled flights, booking mix-ups, illness, or injury. We always use travel insurance to make sure we are protected and Heymondo Travel Insurance is our favorite provider. They offer comprehensive and affordable cover plus it's easy to make a claim online.
How to get there: You can get to Ho Chi Minh City via air, train, bus, and ferry. If you are flying into Ho Chi Minh then you'll be arriving at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport. The airport is very close to the city, but traffic congestion means it can take between 20-30 minutes to get into District 1 of the city. There are buses and taxis to get from the airport to the city center, although we prefer to use a private airport transfer so we don't have to worry about navigating public transport in a new city with piles of luggage.
Visa requirements: Citizens of some countries can visit Vietnam without needing a visa for short stays, although most travelers will need to get an e-visa ahead of time. Check your personal visa requirements and apply for the e-visa here.
Getting around: Getting around in Saigon can be a challenge, as the city is very busy and chaotic. If you're staying in District 1 you'll be able to walk to a lot of attractions, although you can also use the bus or flag down a taxi, motorbike taxi, or cyclo to get around. Check out this guide to transport in Ho Chi Minh City if you prefer to explore independently from tour groups.
Power Plugs: Vietnam uses power plug types A, C, and D. Most of these will be compatible with your devices if you are coming from North America or Europe. If you're traveling from elsewhere we recommend bringing a travel adaptor with you.
Vaccinations: Before traveling to Vietnam you will need to be up to date with routine vaccinations like measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox. The CDC almost recommends that most travelers be vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Depending on what you will be doing while there, you may also need to be vaccinated against rabies, malaria, Hepatitis B, and Japanese Encephalitis, so make sure you check the most up to date vaccination information for Vietnam before you go.
Currency: The currency in Vietnam is called the Vietnamese Dong, which is shortened to VND and often written as just dong. 1 US dollar converts to around 23,190 dong, while €1 is worth about 25,490 dong and £1 makes around 28,569 dong.
Tipping culture: Tipping is not widely practiced in Vietnam, although it is appreciated if you want to reward excellent service. That being said, haggling is a skill you might need to learn, not to mention getting used to carrying around thousands of dong notes! Check out this guide on everything to do with money in Vietnam.
Internet access: You shouldn't have any troubles getting online while in Saigon, as nearly all cafes, restaurants, hotels and guesthouses have free WiFi available. If you want to make sure you will have reliable access wherever you are, you could pre-order a local sim card with a 4G connection to be delivered to your accommodation when you arrive.
Online privacy: Since there aren't any anti-gay laws in Vietnam you won't have any difficulties using gay dating apps like Grindr or Scruff. If you prefer to keep your online activities private then we recommend ExpressVPN, an affordable and reliable virtual private network that we always use when traveling.
Accommodation: There are many different places to stay in Ho Chi Minh City, besides the ones we've mentioned in this post. We always use Booking.com to find accommodation when traveling, because they have so many excellent options. Their online booking system is also easy to use and they provide fantastic 24/7 support as well.
Sightseeing and adventure: For more fun things to do and see in Saigon, we recommend using GetYourGuide. They have lots of fun choices, the best prices, and an easy-to-use booking system. Their 24/7 online support is also wonderful.
When to visit: Saigon is usually a hot and humid destination, particularly during the monsoon season. The driest and coolest time to visit is between December to March and also during the Tet festival in late January/early February.
Gay map of Ho Chi Minh City
We've made this gay map of Saigon with all the gay bars, clubs, hotels, restaurants, and attractions we've talked about here, so you can more easily plan your own visit to Ho Chi Minh City.
For more inspiration:
- While you're in Saigon make sure you try some of these best traditional foods from Vietnam
- You might also be interested to read these surprising facts about Vietnam
- Find out what it was like for us traveling through Asia as a gay couple
- If you're heading that way, we have a gay first-timer's itinerary for visiting Japan
- As well as our full gay city guide to Tokyo
- Check out which are the biggest gay pride events in the world
- Then get inspired by these fabulous outfits for gay pride
- And don't forget to pack these must-have accessories for pride as well
- Find out why we love attending London Pride every year