Vietnamese (English widely spoken)
Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon) is a city for the senses, attracting visitors with an intoxicating concoction of sights, sounds and smells. From the throngs of motorbikes and commuters, to the street vendors selling Vietnamese delicacies, this urban metropolis is bustling with noise, traffic and energy. Etched with memories of the Vietnam War, travellers can divide their time between the colourful markets, swanky stores, peaceful pagodas and city museums – the War Remnants Museum is a favourite with history buffs, full of military aircraft, as well as harrowing yet informative photographic exhibitions.
Combine your excursions with fabulous culinary experiences and cookery classes available at your hotel. Still influenced by the effects of French-Colonialism, fresh baguettes from sweet-smelling bakeries can easily be found, or visit Ben Thanh market for stall-upon-stall of meats, seafood, pulses, spices and grains.
Rub shoulders with locals in HCMC’s atmospheric street markets, bulging with goodies from premium quality silks and handmade ceramics to war memorabilia, Vietnamese coffee beans and heaps of exotic produce – ones to note include Ben Thanh, Cholon and An Dong. They’re also great places to sample amazing street food. For popular brands and high-end labels, shopping centres include Vincom Center, Saigon Square and Diamond Plaza.
The War Remnants Museum is a place many tourists feel compelled to visit, offering a truly moving look at the brutal effects of war on innocent citizens, including the notorious My Lai Massacre. The dazzling exterior and interior of the Fine Arts Museum is a breath of fresh air in comparison, a colonial yellow and white building overflowing with magnificent works of art, both period and contemporary, not to mention a striking décor of exquisite tiling and stained glass. Equally splendid is the collection of artefacts in the History Museum, portraying the various cultures of Vietnam from 2,000 BC to the present day.
Palaces and Post Offices
Reunification Palace is a restored, five-floor tribute to the 1960s, a building where time seems to have stood still since the first Communist tanks arrived in 1975. The basement is filled with vintage phones, radios and office equipment, while outside there’s a replica of tank #843, the one that ploughed through the gates when the war ended. Opposite Notre Dame, Central Post Office is a period classic by Gustav Eiffel, with a grand hall decked with historic maps and a stunning tiled floor, a mosaic of Ho Chi Minh and plentiful wrought iron painted in a trademark shade of green.
Places of Worship
Reflect awhile in one of the city’s many temples. Giac Lam Pagoda is considered the oldest (1744) and sits in serene gardens featuring a sacred Bodhi (fig) tree. Much younger (1909) is the Jade Emperor Pagoda, especially atmospheric with a heady smell of incense and all kinds of elaborate statues and carvings. From a similar period, the Phuoc An Hoi Quan Pagoda is adorned with brass knick-knacks, woodcarvings and shades of ochre, red, green and gold. In contrast and located in the Government Quarter, Notre Dame is a neo-Romanesque Catholic cathedral built of brick dating back to the 1880s – Mass is held here every Sunday morning.
Don’t miss a trip to the tunnel network of Cu Chi, an incredible underground labyrinth filled with numerous trapdoors. Over 250km of passages were dug out beneath the district of Cu Chi alone, to be used as a secret military city in the 1960s – they contained living quarters, field hospitals, weapon factories, kitchens and command centres. Most famously, the tunnels were used as hideouts by Vietcong Guerrillas during combat. Today, certain sections have been made bigger to accommodate western visitors.
Our Travel Consultants can advise on, arrange and pre-book many things to enhance your holiday. This includes everything from spa reservations and dinner reservations, to a range of special experiences available in our featured resorts that you may not know about.
The difference in rainfall between the two seasons - dry season, which traditionally runs from November to May and the wet season, June to October - is more obvious here than anywhere elsewhere in Vietnam. The rain in the wet season is often limited to heavy showers which fall at the end of the afternoon, with temperatures remaining relatively constant – on average between 25°C and 35°C throughout the season.
The climate in the Mekong Delta is sub-equatorial with two main seasons. During the wet season - May to October - short downpours occurr almost every day, whilst during the dry season - November to April - the last three months are the hottest and most humid. It is only at the peak of summer that heavy downpours and tropical storms are frequent. There is no 'best' time to visit the Mekong Delta - if you want to avoid excessive heat, the rainy season would be a better choice when the air is cooler and it is not as dusty as in the dry season. Try and plan your holiday so that you travel at the beginning of this season, because the Delta being an area of very low relief, often suffers from flooding, caused by massive volumes of water coming down from the mountains of Cambodia, Thailand and Laos after heavy rainfall here.
These figures show monthly average maximum temperatures and monthly average rainfall for Ho Chi Minh City.
Direct flights to Ho Chi Minh with Vietnam Airlines from London Gatwick. British Airways from London Heathrow to Bangkok and Hong Kong. Thai Airways from London Heathrow to Bangkok. Virgin Atlantic, Air New Zealand and Cathay Pacific from London Heathrow to Hong Kong. Emirates to Ho Chi Minh, (via Dubai) from London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow.
Air France to Ho Chi Minh, (via Paris) from London Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh. Onward connecting flights to Ho Chi Minh with: Thai Airways from Bangkok. Vietnam Airlines from Bangkok and Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong.
From London Heathrow to Ho Chi Minh: 12 hours, 35 minutes. London Heathrow to Bangkok: 11 hours, 40 minutes. From London Heathrow to Hong Kong: 11 hours, 55 minutes. London Heathrow to Dubai: 6 hours, 50 minutes. From London Heathrow to Paris: 1 hour 20 minutes.
Onward connecting flights from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
From Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh: 2 hours, 40 minutes.
From Dubai to Ho Chi Minh: 7 hours, 30 minutes.
Onward long haul flight from Paris to Ho Chi Minh: 12 hours, 10 minutes.
Travelling With Children or Without an Adult
Children travelling without both parents should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. Please contact the relevant Embassy for the county you are travelling to for further information.
Visa and Advance Passenger Information
All passengers must ensure they have a valid, acceptable passport, any required visa and any other documentation for both the final destination and any stop-off points en route. Please make sure that Advance Passenger Information is submitted in advance to travel for all destinations. Failure to hold correct documentation or submitting incorrect details with Advance Passenger Information or Visa applications may result in refusal of carriage or entry into a country. Please check with the relevant Embassy regarding visa requirements well in advance of your travel date. Charges may apply for some visas.
Passengers not travelling on a British Passport are advised to contact their relevant Foreign & Commonwealth office for individual Visa requirements.
For up-to-date resort information, visit www.fco.gov.uk
Health facilities, hygiene and disease risks vary worldwide and you should take health advice about your specific needs from your general practitioner or a specialist clinic as early as possible before travel. Those planning to become pregnant should discuss their travel plans with their healthcare provider to assess their risk of infection with Zika. For information about Zika, other mosquito-borne diseases (such as Dengue fever and Chikungunya), Lyme Disease (caused by tick bites), and to receive advice on mosquito bite avoidance measures, please visit http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/insect-tick-bite-avoidance/
In addition, we highly recommend that you seek specialist advice from your doctor and, where recommended, obtain vaccinations or tablets for protection against, for example: Malaria, Hepatitis A, Polio and Typhoid. In some cases, treatments for Malaria should begin well in advance of travel. Travellers may also be required to show Yellow Fever Certificates on arrival in certain destinations ie, some African countries. Please note that you are strongly advised against scuba-diving for 24 hours before travelling by air. We would also like to draw your attention to the risk of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and recommend that you consult with your doctor before travelling.
Visit the FCO website and select your destination country for the very latest travel advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Additional sources of information include: www.hpa.org.uk, http://nathnac.net,
www.fco.gov.uk, www.hpa.org.uk and www.nathnac.org, your General Practitioner or a specialised clinic.