Like a lot of people, I chose to make a long stop in Chiang Mai, Thailand because it’s cheap, easy to get around, and the food is amazing. I spent a month there in two different neighborhoods–first on Loi Kroh Road, and then in an area called Nimman.
During the first week in Chiang Mai, I had a place on Loi Kroh road, on the Southeastern corner of the city square. I chose it because it’s a busy area within walking distance of the night market, where you can gorge on street food and all the coconuts you could ever want, and there are lots of street food vendors, little shops, and restaurants.
I first traveled to Hanoi in 2015 after visiting Phuket and Ho Chi Minh City. After making my way up the coast to Danang and Hoi An, I was excited to be back in a major city. Unfortunately, it turned out that Hanoi became one of my least favorite destinations.
Thinking back on my first trip, I realize now the things that contributed to my negative perception of Hanoi. For one, Airbnb was just taking off, and the listings were less regulated than they are now. I stayed at what was listed as a homestay, expecting another amazing experience like I’d had in Ho Chi Minh; I enjoyed my stay there so much I ended up extending. Upon arrival, though, the place looked nothing like the photos. Instead of a family home, it was like a dirty, former brothel that was run by a slimey hustler who repeatedly tried to pressure me into booking tours or using his friends for rides, despite my explanations that I wasn’t interested–especially after I realized the mistake I made booking a tour through him at the beginning of my stay. Everything about the place seemed in-genuine and made me uncomfortable, but because my phone had a taken a dip in the Andaman Sea earlier that trip in Thailand and I had no secure means of accessing the internet, I decided to stick out the few days I was there.
The one tour I had planned to do was a day trip to Ha Long Bay. Not being the wiser yet, I booked one via my host for about $65 USD on the second day of my stay in Hanoi.
If you visit Ho Chi Minh City, prepare for an adventure in this beautiful, chaotic city full of amazing food and buzzing with millions of motorbikes. My city guide below is a collection of cultural attractions and experiences, nightlife, and–most importantly–local-recommended foods and restaurants I’ve checked out over my three trips to HCMC. I recommend spending at least four days here to really get to know HCMC.
Budgeting & Where to Stay
In my guide I focus mainly on District 1, the tourist area, and District 3, where I usually stay. D3 is just north of D1, so it’s only a quick Uber ride to downtown but you get a much better feel for the local lifestyle. Since it’s a way from the tourist sites, D3 is also much less expensive than D1, so it’s a good spot for those of you who are on a tighter budget, like me.
D3: You can get a comfortable Airbnb from $20-30/night here and easily spend no more than $15 a day on food if you stick mostly to street vendors–more if you plan to drink. My go-to Airbnb is here.
D1: In D1, an Airbnb costs ~$35-50/night, and a decent budget hotel costs around $50/night. Expect to pay $65-90 for a nicer, mid-range hotel. I’ve stayed at and recommend the Bay Hotel (booking.com).
For meals in this district, budget $5-15 USD per person, per meal if you’re keeping it on the casual side (without alcohol).