There are three notable streets in the backpackers’ area of Ho Chi Minh City – Phan Ngu Lao Street, De Tham Street, and Bui Ven Street. All of these streets intersect in an H-shape, and it’s where you’ll find the majority of backpackers and establishments catering to their respective needs, like nightlife, hostels and cheap eats.
Backpacking in Ho Chi Minh City brings a huge array of experiences. Despite Vietnam’s economic progress and booming tourist industry, prices remain low compared to Western countries allowing those on a shoestring budget to enjoy things they perhaps couldn’t afford back home.
Let’s explore each backpacker street in Saigon one by one:
Pham Ngu Lao Street
One of the most famous backpacking streets in Ho Chi Minh City is Pham Ngu Lao. Much like the infamous Bui Ven Street, the area is full of cheap and cheerful eateries, bustling bars, diverse markets. It’s located parallel with Bui Vien, just one block over, so it’s considered the same backpacker district.
You can find a street food meal (complete with a beer) for low prices and scour the local weekend marketplaces for affordable clothes, both legitimate and counterfeit, along with souvenirs, DVDs, and memorabilia. Pham Ngu Lao Street may not be as well known as Bui Ven Street, but it’s still a stellar place to stroll close-by.
You can also visit the serene September 23rd Park if you fancy taking a break from all the action. The lush greenery and abundant trees can provide a fitting antidote to the constant 24/7 action of the backpackers’ area.
De Tham Street
Another, more overlooked, area of Saigon’s backpacker district is the compact De Tham Street, which is located between the streets of Pham Ngu Loa and Bui Ven. It runs perpendicular and connects the two more prominent streets. It represents the middle bar in the H-shaped backpackers’ area.
Despite its small and cramped nature, De Tham Street packs a lot of punch with its tapestry of bars, food stalls, and cafes serving up everything from Vietnamese pho to pizza. It’s easy to find a hearty breakfast for a reasonable price with a coffee.
The beer-loving backpacker will feel right at home on De Tham Street with its eclectic mix of watering holes offering up brews from all over the world. You’ll be able to enjoy beers such as San Miguel, Tiger, Heineken, and Bia Saigon for low prices, typically a dollar or so per beer.
Bui Vien Street
Bui Vien street has a reputation as being the most pulsating, high-octane street in Ho Chi Minh City. It is the central hub for backpackers, attracting both foreigners and locals to this colorful, loud walking street.
With its bright lights, cheap and cheerful bars, and cacophony of chitter-chatter and motorcycle engines, Bui Vien Street is more of an experience than a location. It’s one of the best spots in town for people-watching.
At night, you’ll be entranced by the street performers as they breathe fire, dance, and play musical instruments. It’s possible to have an unforgettable night on Bui Ven Street even on the most frugal of budgets.
Another notable aspect of Bui Vien Street is the massage parlors. Massages only cost a few bucks for a full-body treatment, and women can also get their nails polished for a low price.
It’s virtually impossible to have a dull night in the backpackers’ district as there are bars, cafes, and eateries seemingly everywhere. You’ll find a huge variety here, from chilled rooftop bars to raucous sports bars. You can even visit the so-called ‘girlie bars’ and buy a female companion a few drinks in exchange for some friendly drinking company.
The party atmosphere lasts well into the small hours of the morning with bars reaching their peak times at these hours. As is the case in any busy street, it’s important you follow some safety guidelines.
Pickpockets are a threat, especially at night, so make sure you keep your valuables as hidden as possible. Remember not to carry large amounts of cash with you and do not leave things like your cellphone or wallet exposed on the edge of a table. And
DO NOT over-indulge in alcohol as you never want to be “that guy or girl”, who ends up zombie walking down the street, loses their wallet, flip-flops and throws up all over themselves.
What to Eat
You have plenty of options when it comes to eating in the backpackers’ area. Restaurants range from authentic Vietnamese to Indian, and European. On Bui Vien Street, for example, you’ll notice that the plastic tables and chairs spill out to the sidewalk each and every evening as hungry tourists enjoy some of the local dishes. The weekends get packed!
Drinking is a more common activity, but it’s possible to find delicious food and non-alcoholic drinks like fresh coconuts and juice. No matter what your favorite cuisine is, you’ll find something for your palette. If you’re eager to try some Vietnamese dishes, then you’ll find all the local culinary staples such as pho, banh mi, and goi cuon.
Bui Vien Street is the street with the most eateries, though finding a delicious meal on either of the three streets is relatively simple.
The backpackers’ district of Ho Chi Minh City is located 8.9 km away from Tan Son Nhat International Airport and can be found in the District 1 area of the city.
It’s advisable you take a taxi or use a ride-hailing app (like Grab, Be or GoJek) o the backpackers’ area. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll be close by to several of the city’s most famous attractions. Sites like the Saigon Central Post Office and the Reunification Palace are around 2 km away.
On De Tham Street, you’ll find a bus station that’ll take you to popular destinations in southern Vietnam, such as Nha Trang, Da Lat, and Mui Ne on overnight sleeper journeys. Head here if you fancy taking your adventure outside of the city.
Where to Stay
This section contains referral links. If you click through and take action, we may receive a commission, at no additional cost to you.
While most of the backpackers stay in hostels, another option is to stay in a modest hotel. This would be suitable if you’d prefer more personal space and some better facilities. Hotels in the vicinity include the modest, yet popular, Hotel Duc Vuong (on Bui Vien Street) and the slightly more upmarket Me Gustas Downtown Hotel (on Pham Ngu Lao Street). Both are affordable very options.
Another great option is the Valentine Hotel. It’s on the cheaper end for pricing, but keep in mind that the constant noise from the street may keep you awake.
Some other top-rated hostels include:
- Happy Saigon Hostel (Bui Vien Street)
- Thanh Ha Guesthouse (Pham Ngu Lao Street)
- Long Hostel (Pham Ngu Lao Street)
All in all, the backpackers’ area of Ho Chi Minh City is full of excitement, energy, and enthusiasm. You’ll meet people from all over the world here, and it’s a true highlight of the city. Just be careful to stay safe and try not to consume too much alcohol before you go walking its crowded, narrow streets. For those heading to Vietnam’s capital city in the north, definitely add Ta Hien Beer Street to your Hanoi itinerary.