Gay Ho Chi Minh City: guide to the best bars of Saigon, clubs, hotels and more

Stefan Arestis

“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 expats and locals.

This is one place we quickly fell in love with and know you will too! It's definitely a must for LGBTQ travellers visiting South East Asia and we've got you covered in our comprehensive gay travel guide right here.

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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 honour of the late North Vietnamese president, Mr Ho Chi Minh.

Nowadays the name Saigon is still used to refer to the city centre 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.

Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City soon?

The last thing you want to worry about when arriving in a new destination is how to get you and all your luggage from the airport to your accommodation. Book a direct transfer from the airport to your hotel so you can relax and let your English-speaking driver get you there without any hassle so you're ready to explore!

Difference between Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City
Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City? We'll just go with what the beer says…!

How safe is Ho Chi Minh City for gay travellers?

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 recognised, 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 to be 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.

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 expats 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 neighbourhood of Ho Chi Minh City

There isn't an official gay neighbourhood 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 travelling 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 pool party in Saigon is always popular
Pool party gay fun in Saigon!

Gay hotels in Saigon

All the places we stayed at in Saigon had no issue about hosting us a gay couple. As a rule of thumb, international chain hotels are accustomed to dealing with LGBQ travellers anyway, and there are also a handful of hotels that also cater specifically to queer travellers, which we've set out here:

01

The Reverie Saigon

District 1

One of the most beautiful and luxurious hotels in Ho Chi Minh City is the opulent, gay friendly Reverie Saigon

Why we love it


  • Simply stunning luxury hotel
  • Five wonderful on-site dining options
  • Spa, fitness centre and swimming pool
  • Exceptional service from the friendly staff

The Reverie is one of the most incredibly beautiful gay frienldy 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 centre 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!

02

Park Hyatt Saigon

District 1

For fine dining and luxury in a gay friendly hotel, stay at the French-colonial style 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 favourite place 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 its 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 centre 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 flavours 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!

03

Beautiful Saigon Boutique Hotel

District 1

The Beautiful Saigon Boutique Hotel is a lovely mid range hotel that is very welcoming to LGBT guests

Why we love it


  • Excellent mid-range hotel
  • Free buffet breakfast for guests
  • Swimming pool and spa
  • Lovely and helpful staff

If you're travelling on a budget but don't want to stay in a hostel, the Beautiful Saigon Boutique Hotel is the perfect compromise.

The staff are lovely and helpful with organising things to do, as well as being very welcoming towards gay travellers.

We especially love that groovy swimming pool, which is a real haven from the hustle and bustle outside.

The bedrooms are very clean and cosy. 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 are exceedingly friendly, helpful and able to assist you in organising 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.

04

Prei Nokor Hostel

District 1

For gorgeous decor and design on a budget, we loved the gay friendly Prei Nokor Hostel in Ho Chi Minh City

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 are super friendly, helpful and chatty with everyone. They will tell you all about the history of Saigon as well as giving 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 of 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:

The Tipsy Unicorn

The Tipsy Unicorn is one of our favourite 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 4-7pm. We also love their trivia nights which get can get super camp and quite rowdy! The Tipsy Unicorn is open daily from 4pm until 2am and is located at 37 De Tham Street.

Thi Bar

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 from 5pm until 1-2.30am.

Papa Cafe

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 – lets 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 7am-midnight and is located at Cong Truong Quoc Te, right next to the Turtle Lake traffic roundabout.

Whiskey & Wares

Owned by two cute American guys, Whiskey & Wares is a bar that attracts a mixed crowd of locals, expats and LGBTQ travellers. 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 5pm until around 1.30am.

Tipsy Unicorn gay bar in Saigon
The Tipsy Unicorn guys are certainly on point with their branding!

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:

Republic Lounge

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 11pm or midnight when it starts to get going. On Thursday and 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 274 De Tham Street and is open every day from 7pm-3am and until 5am on Friday and Saturday nights.

Full Disclosure Entertainment

Full Disclosure Entertainment organises super fun gay parties in Saigon every month. Our favourite is ‘Yaaaas' – lets 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.

Les Come Out

Another excellent organisation that organises 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.

GenderFunk

Another favourite 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.

Republic one of the best gay clubs in Saigon
Cocktails with our buddy Quan at Republic

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 (April)

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 and organised by Saigon Outcast.

National Day (September)

National Day or Independence Day is a national holiday in Vietnam which celebrates the declaration of independence of Vietnam after WWII as well as commemorating the death 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

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 10pm.

De.soi9 Sauna

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 1pm-10pm.

The SixtyNine Zone

Run by the same people behind De.Soi9 Sauna, The SixtyNine Zone is a popular gay sauna which 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 11am-11pm.

3 Some Spa

Located right by the Saigon Zoo & Botanical Garden, this is a newish gay spa that specialises 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 11.30am-11.30pm and is located at 29/6 Nguyen Binh Khiem St.

Sexy guy posing in Nadam gay sauna in Saigon
Who said Vietnamese boys are shy??!

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 favourite gay owned or gay friendly restaurants and cafes where you can have some delicious food.

Journeys Sandwich Cafe

The gay owned Journeys Sandwich Cafe in Saigon serves huge delicious sandwiches, yummy fries and milkshakes!

For fresh and delicious sandwiches, head to the gay owned Journeys Sandwich Cafe. Owned by a gay American expat, 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 are super friendly as well!


Five Oysters

For some of the best seafood in Saigon, make sure you visit the Five Oysters gay friendly restaurant

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 neighbourhood 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!


Secret Garden

Dine in a pretty rooftop garden on authentic Vietnamese food at Secret Garden restaurant

This place really lives up to its name, since it's hidden down an alley and at the top of a four-storey 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 favourite – it's a delicious papaya salad with dried shrimp and dried pork that really pops with flavour.


Thai Cong Interior Design & Restaurant

Thai Cong restaurant is a gorgeous part of the Thai Cong design studio

Thai Cong Interior Design & Restaurant is owned by gay German-Vietnamese interior designer Thai Cong and his partner. This is a very innovative mix of design showroom and restaurant, where you can dine on European and Asian-fusion dishes in a beautiful environment. Everything is so elegant, with marble and leather everywhere, perfect for a romantic meal on a special occasion. The service is impeccable, while the food is absolutely heavenly. We loved the grilled French duck breast and the homemade spring rolls. The restaurant is a little bit out of the centre of the city, but definitely worth the trip!


Filthy Vegan

Filthy Vegan serves some of the best vegan food in Saigon, including a lot of delicious vegan junk and comfort food!

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 of what to do around the city. Don't miss the cosy bean bag lounge area upstairs.


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

The Cu Chi Tunnels in Saigon are a fascinating and sobering way to learn more about the Vietnam War

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

Join a bike tour of Saigon to see the most beautiful sights in the city

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

Join a street food tour or head to the Ben Thanh markets to taste the best local food in Saigon

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

For incredible views over Saigon, head up to the Skydeck of the 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

A day trip to the Mekong Delta is a refreshing and fun activity when visiting Saigon

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

For a night of elegance and wonder, see the AO Show 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 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, head to the sobering and informative War Remnants Museum in Saigon

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

Learn how to make Vietnamese coffee in a fun and informative class

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 an ancient Vietnamese tradition and a highlight of our trip to Saigon

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 afterwards, We loved this colourful experience, especially seeing a fire-breathing dragon puppet!


See crocodiles, bats and monkeys (oh my!) in the mangroves

If you want to get out of the city and see wild animals, take a day trip to Vam Sat Mangrove Forest from Saigon

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 traveller should know before they go.

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 centre, 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 travellers 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 Europe, North America, China, Japan and parts of Africa. If you're travelling from elsewhere we recommend bringing a travel adaptor with you.


Travel insurance: Sometimes when travelling things can go unexpectedly wrong, whether it's cancelled flights, booking mix-ups, illness or injury. We always use travel insurance to make sure we are protected and WorldNomads Travel Insurance is our favourite provider. They offer comprehensive and affordable cover plus it's easy to make a claim online.


Safety and Security: Even with the security of travel insurance, travel can also be dangerous. We like to use CloseCircle's “virtual bodyguard” app to keep apprised of situations or to request help at the touch of a button. With a service covering everything from weather alerts to evacuation, it's an excellent way to stay safe while travelling. Read more about this app and other ways we stay safe while travelling as a gay couple.


Vaccinations: Before travelling 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 travellers 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 practised 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 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 travelling.


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 travelling, because they have so many excellent options. Their online booking system is also easy to use while 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 monsoon season. The driest and coolest time to visit is between December – March, plus the Tet festival in late January/early February is also a very fun time to be in the city.


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.

Use our gay map of Saigon to find out all the best gay friendly hotels, gay bars, clubs and restaurants

For more inspiration:

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Our complete guide to Saigon's best gay bars, clubs, hotels and things to do
Stefan Arestis

Stefan is the co-founder, editor and author the gay travel blog nomadicboys.com. As a travel nerd, he has explored more than 80 countries across 5 continents. What he loves the most about travelling is discovering the local gay scene, making new friends and learning new cultures. His advice about LGBTQ travel has been featured in Gay Times, Gaycities, Pink News, Gay Star News, Attitude and Towleroad. He has also written about gay travel for other non-gay specific publications including Lonely Planet, The New York Times, The Guardian and The Huffington Post. Stefan is also a qualified lawyer, having practised as a commercial property litigator in London for over 10 years. He left his lawyer days behind to work full time on Nomadic Boys with his husband Sebastien. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.

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