Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is the largest city in Vietnam and should not be missed during a tour of the country. British and Irish citizens need a visa to visit Ho Chi Minh City. For some years now, the Vietnam visa can easily be applied for online.
In Ho Chi Minh City, the history of Vietnam - such as the French colonisation and the Vietnam War - is clearly visible. Although many of the French colonial buildings were destroyed in the war, the French influences are still clearly visible in Ho Chi Minh City’s Town Hall Square. Here stands the Basilica of Notre-Dame of Saigon, a cathedral with two bell towers built by French colonists between 1877 and 1880. A service is held there every Sunday, but the rest of the week the church is not in use. Next to the basilica are two other buildings from the French colonial era: a post office and the town hall.
An eventful history
Those interested in the Vietnam War should visit the War Remnants Museum, where the war between the USA and Vietnam is documented. Apart from photos of bombings and other horrors from the Vietnam War, the museum also exhibits other war attributes, for example from the time of French rule. In the courtyard, American military equipment from the war, such as tanks, helicopters and fighter planes, can be seen.
Another historical site worth visiting is the Reunification Palace, which was built between 1962 and 1967. This was the presidential palace of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, where the North Vietnamese Army invaded on 30 April 1975, thus ending the Vietnam War. Today, the palace serves as a museum, where the rooms with the original interior and the bunker located under the palace can be visited.
Just outside the city is the Cu Chi tunnel complex, a network of tunnels used by the Viet Cong guerrillas during the Vietnam War. The tunnels served as hiding places as well as storage places for weapons and food and played an important role in the resistance against the American forces. The tunnels are open to the public at two locations, Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc.
Ho Chi Minh City is known for its history, but at the same time it is a modern city with many western influences. From the River Saigon, one has a view of a skyline with skyscrapers. The city is the economic centre of Vietnam, which is reflected in the business district of Ho Chi Minh City. There are also numerous shops, restaurants, clubs and sky bars. The city is popular among backpackers because of the active nightlife. The district Pham Ngu Lao, which is filled with hostels, guest houses and entertainment venues, is also called the backpacker quarter of Ho Chi Minh City.
The skyline of Ho Chi Minh City
The city centre of Ho Chi Minh City is only a few kilometres from the airport. From the airport, you can travel by bus directly to Pham Ngu Lao. With an e-visa for Vietnam, you are allowed to arrive at Ho Chi Minh City Airport (Tan Son Nhat International Airport). There are direct flights to Ho Chi Minh City from London and Paris, among other places. With an e-visa, you can also arrive at the port of Ho Chi Minh City.
Beautiful temples and pagodas
Although Ho Chi Minh City has been modernised a lot in recent years, the original Vietnamese culture is still present in the city. There are various magnificent temples and pagodas that are worth visiting. For example, the Jade Emperor Pagoda, one of the most important shrines of the city, which is dedicated to the Taoist Jade Emperor. Another frequently visited temple is the Hindu temple of Mariamman. Just outside the city is the colourful Cao Dai temple of a religious movement inspired by Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and Christianity.
Ho Chi Minh City is also a good base for a visit to the Mekong Delta, an area covering 39,000 km² to the south-west of the city, where the branches of the Mekong River flow into the South China Sea. If you want to escape the hectic city life, you can travel from Ho Chi Minh City to My Tho in about half an hour. In My Tho, you can take the boat to visit the rice fields, islands and floating villages and markets on the Mekong Delta.
Applying for a Vietnam visa
British travellers planning to stay in Vietnam for more than 15 days need a visa to visit Ho Chi Minh City. Tourists and business travellers are generally eligible for an e-visa Vietnam. This electronic visa type can easily be applied for online, so no appointment at the Vietnamese embassy has to be made. Applications for the Vietnam visa are approved in one week on average.
To apply for an e-visa, some requirements must be met. For example, the passport must still be valid for at least 30 more days after the expiry date of the visa and at least one accommodation must have already been arranged in Vietnam. The arrival and departure locations that are listed on the form cannot be changed after the application has been processed. Before applying for your visa, decide whether you will fly directly to Ho Chi Minh City or whether you will arrive in another city in Vietnam and then travel on to Ho Chi Minh City.