The ultimate guide to Travel Ho Chi Minh city on a budget

Not many travelers have enough money to stay in 5-star hotels, eat at fine-dining restaurants, and book deluxe services on their trip to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). You can find many articles and blogs about How to travel Ho Chi Minh city on a budget. Most of them contain helpful information for you. I am going to share with you my experience of traveling Ho Chi Minh City on the cheap. There is a stall which sells the cheapest steamed broken rice which costs 15,000 VND. However, the food there is not delicious and safe to eat. I have tried my best to give you the best advice from a local. The blog aims to introduce to you cheap but GOOD ways and places to go around, stay, eat, drink, visit attractions, and many more.

1. How to get to the city center from Tan Son Nhat airport on a budget?

Although there are not less than 5 ways to get out of Tan Son Nhat Airport, bus is the cheapest choice. You can wait for the buses at Column 12, International Terminal of Tan Son Nhat Airport or Column 18, Domestic Terminal of Tan Son Nhat Airport. The fare of yellow Bus #109 is 20,000 VND (1 USD), the fare of yellow Bus #49 is 40,000 VND (2 USD). The plus of yellow buses is that the staffs speak English. Bus #49 does not stop at public bus stations but hotels on its way and does not charge for extra luggage. So that Bus #49 is twice expensive than Bus #149. The green Bus #159, which ticket costs only 6,000 VND, also takes you to the center but the staffs speak limited English. Read more details about buses’ routes and some useful tips on taking a bus to the city from Tan Son Nhat.

An ultimate guide to Travel Ho Chi Minh city on a budget

2. Currency

Although they may accept USD cash, paying in Vietnamese Dong (VND) is always cheaper. You can check the currency exchange rate at https://www.xe.com. For example, 2 USD equals to 47,000 VND at the time I write this blog. As mentioned above, Bus #49 charges you 47,000 VND if you pay in USD. It is recommended to pay in VND cash instead of USD cash. Now we start the story about VND cash in Ho Chi Minh City.

An ultimate guide to Travel Ho Chi Minh city on a budget

Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

How to deal with the Dong?

You may have not been familiar with a new currency so that check the money carefully before handing over. Vietnam has no coin, but the notes have many zero on them. The notes sometimes look similar, thus you can take a 200,000 VND note instead of 10,000 VND. Tips: count the number of zeros on the notes before paying, separate small money and big money in different compartments of your wallet. One more thing is that new notes can stick together. So that take the notes one by one.

The smallest note is 200 VND but you may never see it. At supermarkets and convenience stores, they give you a small candy instead of the change of 500 VND. The biggest note is 500,000 VND and it may not be accepted on public buses and street food and drink stalls. For instance, you can buy a Vietnamese bread or a cup of coffee with 20,000 VND (~1 USD).

How much VND cash should I bring?

My recommendation is a few million VND, including big and small money. Too many small notes make your wallet thick. I usually keep 2 or 3 notes of 200,000 VND and 100,000 VND, 4 notes of 50,000 VND, 5 notes of 20,000 VND and 10,000 VND.

Where are the best places to exchange currency in Ho Chi Minh City?

The exchange rates at Tan Son Nhat airport is always higher than that at bank branches. The exchange rates at gold shops and money changers are better than that at bank branches. Below is the list of best places to exchange currency in Ho Chi Minh City. They usually offer the highest rates.

  • Ha Tam Jewelry, 2 Nguyen An Ninh, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; Phone: +84 28 3823 7243; Opening hours: 7:00 – 22:00.
  • Ben Thanh Money Changer, 30-36 Phan Boi Chau, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; Phone:  +84 97 375 67 76; Opening hours: 7:00 – 22:00.
  • Hoang Thu, 178 Le Thanh Ton, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; Phone: +84 90 854 47 44; Opening hours: 9:00 – 18:30.
  • Ben Thanh Jewelry, 166 Le Thanh Ton, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; Phone: +84 28 2210 4929; Opening hours: 9:00 – 18:00.

How about credit cards?

Ask your bank about the fee applied for withdrawing money from your credit cards at ATMs in Vietnam. ATMs can swallow your cards if you incorrectly enter wrong PIN codes for several times. Notice them the time you are abroad for many benefits. Be careful to pay if you pay with credit cards, some places may overcharge.

How to avoid pickpocket and snatch theft?

There are various tips on the Internet and from your friends to avoid these 2 scams on buses and the streets, or at crowded places. I usually use 2 wallets, the first is cheap and for less than 1 million VND, the second wallet is for the remaining VND Cash, USD cash, and credit cards.

Read more information our ultimate guide to Vietnamese Currency in Ho Chi Minh City.

3. Free things to do in Ho Chi Minh City

Good news for you! Most of the must-see tourist attractions in the city are free.

Some of the historic attractions charge for admission fees, which are not too high.

Other free things include pagodas, temples, churches, parks, markets, walking streets. Check out Ho Chi Minh Attractions – Location, Opening hours, Admission Fee to plan the itinerary and your budget better.

4. How to visit tourist attractions Ho Chi Minh on a budget?

You can travel the city by foot, taxi, bus, motorbike, cyclo, bicycle, cruise, or waterbus. Check out How to get around Saigon? for all the information about Ho Chi Minh transportation.

Many of the budget tourists choose to book a city tour which costs from 17 USD, a Cu Chi Tunnels Tour which cost 15 USD. However, visiting the attractions with a big group is not convenient. Check out good but cheap tours, operated by Kim Travel at https://kimtravel.com. If traveling the city yourself is your choice, you can take buses, taxis, motorbike, walk to explore everything easily as below.

Sometimes you would like to catch a taxi when the sun is too strong or you are tired. The taxi fare is around 16,000 VND (~0.75 USD). Check out our Ho Chi Minh Taxi Guide for more detailed information and tips.

Read Ho Chi Minh City Bus Guide before you continue reading the following part.

I would like to divide the attractions into 4 groups:

Group 1:

Notre Dame Cathedral, The Central Post Office, Independence Palace, War Remnants Museum, Ben Thanh Market

Please click HERE for the itinerary on Google Maps. See the itinerary as in the photo:

An ultimate guide to Travel Ho Chi Minh city on a budget

Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

If you stay in Saigon Backpacker Area, you can take Bus #18 to reach the cathedral and the post office from 23/9 Park. Notre Dame Cathedral, The Central Post Office, Independence Palace, War Remnants Museum, Ben Thanh Market are within an area of 1 km2. It takes less than 10 minutes walking from an attraction to the other.

The distance between the museum and the market is about 1 km if you walk. You can walk or catch Bus #93, #109, or 152 to go to the market from Le Quy Don High School Bus Station, which is next to Independence Palace, War Remnants Museum. The route is about 1.4 km long and it takes 12 minutes to reach the market. The fare of Bus #18, #93, #152 is 6,000 VND (~0.25 USD), the fare of Bus #109 is 12,000 VND (~0.5 USD). If you take a taxi to reach the market, the fare is less than 30,000 VND (~1.5 USD)

Group 2:

Saigon China Town, Binh Tay Market, Trang Tu Market are very close together. Thien Hau Temple is about 1.7 km from Binh Tay Market.

You will take Bus #1 from Bus Station at 4 Ham Nghi, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1 near Ben Thanh Market Ben to reach bus station 384 – 386 Tran Hung Dao Street, Ward 11, District 5. If you stay in the Pham Ngu Lao backpacker area, you can catch the bus at 10 or 112 Tran Hung Dao Street, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1. Then walk about 200 m to reach Thien Hau Temple, 710 Nguyen Trai Street, Ward 11, District 5. The bus fare is 5,000 VND, the trip time is 35 minutes.

After visiting the temple, come back to the bus station 384 – 386 Tran Hung Dao, catch Bus #1 to reach Cho Lon Bus Station from where you walk around to see other attractions and hidden places.

Group 3:

Saigon Opera House is 270 m from People’s Committee Building so that you can walk. Nguyen Hue Walking Street is also around these 2 attractions. Nguyen Hue is the best to visit at night when people finish their works.

Group 4: Cu Chi Tunnels

Catch Bus #13 from 23/9 Bus Station to Cu Chi Bus Station. At the Cu Chi Bus Station, catch Bus #79 to Ben Duoc site or Bus #63 to Ben Dinh. Bus #13 also pass Ben Thanh Central Bus Station – one of the most crowded bus station in Saigon. So that if you can not catch the bus from 23/9 Bus Station, you can catch it at Ben Thanh Bus Station.

If you go to Ben Duoc, total bus fare is 16,000 VND which is less than 1 USD. The total trip time is 115 minutes, approximately 2 hours. If you go to Ben Dinh, total bus fare is 18,000 VND which is less than 1 USD. The total trip time is 120 minutes or 2 hours.

Taxi is too expensive to travel Cu Chi Tunnels, you can rent a private car if you do not like to reach there by bus, motorbike, or joining a tour.

By motorbike

If you have a driving license, it will be great. Just rent a bike at one of Top 5 Motorbike Rental in Ho Chi Minh, fill the tank, and start your amazing journey around the city. The prices of gasoline in Vietnam range between 16,000 and 25,000 VND (around 1 USD) per liter. Whether you choose a manual or automatic motorbike, you spend less than 100,000 VND (~4 USD) on gasoline to travel city center or Cu Chi during the day. Parking fees range between 2,000 VND – 15,000 VND (~0.5 USD). Check out the Ultimate Guide to Travel Ho Chi Minh by Motorbike.

An ultimate guide to Travel Ho Chi Minh city on a budget

Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

By Grab

Taxi perhaps is the most expensive mean of transportation in the city. What to do if you would like to sit in a cab but pay less? Simply install Grab App on your smartphone which connects to the Internet, book a Grab car ride at a reasonable price, about 10,000 VND/km. Another advantage of Grab is that the total cost of the ride is fixed so that you will encounter no scam. The fare of Grab bike is around 5,000 VND/km. It is true that Grab bike is more convenient and safer than traditional motorbike taxi in Ho Chi Minh City.

5. How to stay in Ho Chi Minh on a budget?

Hotels around Nguyen Hue Street are luxury and expensive to both locals and travelers on a budget. I would like to recommend you to book your accommodations in Saigon Backpacker Area, which will be mentioned later in this blog. There are many cheap hotels around Bui Thi Xuan Street. Airbnb is a good website where you can book a good place to stay in Saigon. Below is my list of the best cheap hotels in Ho Chi Minh City.

  • Nguyen Shack has accommodations around the country and Nguyen Shack – Saigon is a great choice. The hotel is located at 6/15 Cach Mang Thang 8, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; Website: http://www.nguyenshack.com/saigon; TripAdvisor: Nguyen Shack – Saigon. Prices: 29 – 32 USD.

If you would like to stay in Saigon Backpacker Area, here is a list of 19 Best hotels in Ho Chi Minh Backpacker Area. I hope you can choose a good one from the list. A section of Bui Vien Street has become a pedestrian area, attracted lots of locals and foreigners, and is overwhelmed with street music and cultural programs since July 2017. So that accommodations in Bui Vien Street and its alleys may be affected by the noise on weekends from sunset until midnight.

The following hotels, hostels, and homestays in Ho Chi Minh City are interesting and cheap:

  • Saigon Capsule Hostel, 36 Le Loi Street, Ben Nghe Ward, Ho Chi Minh City; TripAdvisor: Saigon Capsule Hostel; Prices: 8 – 20 USD.
  • Galaxy Capsule Hotel, 269/19 De Tham Street, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, Ho Chi Minh City; TripAdvisor: Galaxy Capsule Hotel; Prices: 14 USD.
  • Hong Kong Kaiteki Hotel, 22 Bui Vien, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; Website: https://kaitekihotel.com; TripAdvisor: Hong Kong Kaiteki Hotel; Prices: 13 – 17 USD.
  • 24H Saigon Hotel, 227 Tran Hung Dao Street, Co Giang Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; TripAdvisor: 24H Saigon Hotel; Prices: 11 USD.
  • Lela Homestay Saigon, 4th Floor, 26 Ly Tu Trong Street, Ben Nghe Ward, Ho Chi Minh City; TripAdvisor: Lela Homestay Saigon; Prices: 9 USD.
  • Sai Gon Bohemian Hostel, 97A Nguyen Cu Trinh, Nguyen Cu Trinh Ward, Ho Chi Minh City; TripAdvisor: Sai Gon Bohemian.

Tips: The accommodations above are only my recommendation, do not forget to check reviews about them on TripAdvisor, Agoda.com, Booking.com, or Airbnb before booking. Do not expect so much from cheap hotels when you read the reviews.

6. How to eat Ho Chi Minh City on a budget?

Whether you would like to eat cheap or expensive foods, Ho Chi Minh City offers you hundreds of choices. An Mc’ Donald hamburger costs 60,000 VND (~2.5 USD) in Ho Chi Minh City. Below is the list of best cheap foods to fill your stomach and best places to eat these foods safely and at reasonable prices in Ho Chi Minh City.

5 Best cheap foods to fill your stomach

A McDonald’s Big Mac costs about 60,000 VND (~2.5 USD) and it is too expensive for lots of Saigon people, including pupils, students, workers, and officers. It is true that budget people eat Big Mac on their trips to some countries. Surprisingly, travelers coming to Ho Chi Minh City have a chance to eat great local foods at cheap prices. However, many restaurants or street food stalls sell cheap but unsafe foods. Eating at wrong places can make you have a bout of food poisoning and ruin your trip. Let me share with you the best cheap Saigon foods and the best places to eat them safe:

Vietnamese Bread (Bánh Mì)

A Vietnamese Bread costs from 12,000 – 40,000 VND (0.5 – 1.75 USD). The bread is not only cheap but also convenient. You can find a place to buy Banh Mi in Saigon easily, the seller will make it in a few minutes, then you pay get your food, and eat while standing or sitting somewhere. The crispy crust, the fillings from pork roll or grilled pork, vegetables, and the sauces blend perfectly and surely satisfy your taste. The followings are the best places to buy cheap, safe, and yummy Vietnamese Bread:

  • Bánh Mì Hồng Hoa, 62 Nguyen Van Trang Street, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 8:00 – 22:00; Prices: 12,000 – 17,000 VND.
  • Bánh Mì Bảy Hổ, 19 Huynh Khuong Ninh Street, Da Kao Ward, Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 13:30 – 18:00; Prices: 15,000 – 20,000 VND. Highlights: 80 years old.
  • Bánh Mì Tuấn Mập, 173 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 7:00 – 23:00; Prices: 12,000 – 30,000 VND.

Plate Rice (Cơm Dĩa, Cơm Bình Dân)

There is no doubt that almost Vietnamese people eat steamed rice than bread. The city is overwhelmed with eateries serving Plate Rice which consists of steamed rice, a main dish (grilled/braised/fried/steamed), a little fresh or stir-fried vegetables, served on a plate, and a small bowl of Vietnamese soup. That is all a Saigon people need to fill their stomach. I would like to recommend a portion of Plate Rice for your lunch. Saigon people do not eat Cơm Dĩa for breakfast and dinner.

Broken Rice (Cơm Tấm)

Broken Rice is a specialty food of Saigon, itis distinguished by the broken rice which is 2 or 3 times smaller than the normal rice. In Saigon, they eat steamed broken rice with grilled pork, steamed pork and egg, pork skin strips, braised pork and egg, stuffed bitter melon, fried/grilled chicken drumstick, etc. Dipping fish sauce, vegetables (cucumber), and pickles could not be missed. A portion of broken rice costs from 20,000 VND (at street food stalls on the street). I would like to introduce to you some of the famous broken rice restaurants which offer the price from 35,0o0 VND (1.5 USD)

  • Com Tam 86, 151 Co Giang Street, Co Giang Ward, Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 6:30 – 23:29; Prices: 35,000 – 55,000 VND.
  • K12 Saigon House, 77 Nguyen Hue Street, Ben Nghe Ward, Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 8:00 – 22:30; Prices: 35,000 – 55,000 VND.

Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

Steamed Sticky Rice (Xôi)

Although Steamed Sticky Rice is not as famous as Vietnamese Bread, it is very popular thanks to the low cost, convenience, fulfillment, and great taste. A portion of Steamed Sticky Rice in the city is quite cheap, it costs from 10,000 VND. The savory versions of Steamed sticky rice is more expensive than the sweet versions. A good place to eat this food is Xôi Chè Bùi Thị Xuân which has been open since 1977.

  • Xoi Che Bui Thi Xuan, 111 Bui Thi Xuan Street, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; Open time: 6:30 AM – 10:00 PM; Prices: 15,000 – 30,000 VND.

The ultimate guide to Travel Ho Chi Minh city on a budget

Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

Pan Fried Scrambled Egg Rice Cake (Bột Chiên)

Pan Fried Scrambled Egg Rice Cake consists of square pieces of boiled rice, fried with egg, topped with shredded green papaya, and eaten with dipping soy sauce. Before eating, you should pour the soy sauce onto the cake and the papaya. A portion of Bột Chiên costs 15,000 – 30,000 VND (~0.75 – 1.25 USD).

  • Bot Chien Dat Thanh, 277 Vo Van Tan Street, Ward 5, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 14:00 – 21:00; Prices:  20,000 – 30,000 VND; Highlights: the oldest Pan-fried scramble egg rice cake in the city.
  • Bot Chien Phung Khac Khoan, 63 Phung Khac Khoan Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 16:00 – 23:00; Prices:  15,000 – 25,000 VND; Highlights: cheap cost.

Noodles with Grilled Pork (Bún Thịt Nướng)

The noodles are toppings include Grilled Pork, Fried Rolls, Grilled Beef in Wild Betel, Grilled Pork Patties, Crushed toasted peanuts, and green onion oil. Vegetables including cucumber, bean sprouts, lettuce, and herbs are also served with the noodles. The sweet and sour dipping sauce – the soul of this food is served separately. To eat, just pour the dipping sauce into the bowl, mix everything and eat with chopsticks. I would like to share some places selling delicious Noodles with Grilled Pork which costs from 30,000 VND (~1.25 USD)

  • Bun Thit Nuong Co Ba, 287/68 Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, Ward 5, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 13:00 – 21:00; Prices:  33,000 – 38,000 VND.
  • Bun Thit Nuong Chi Tuyen, 175 Co Giang Street, Co Giang Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 7:00 – 20:00; Prices:  30,000 – 66,000 VND.
  • Bun Thit Nuong Vi Sai Gon, 87 Nguyen Tri Phuong Street, Ward 8, District 10, Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 5:00 – 22:00; Prices: 38,000 – 52,000 VND.
  • Bun Thit Nuong Ba Them, Alley 88 Nguyen Hue Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 8:00 – 16:00; Prices:  35,000 – 45,000 VND.

Vietnamese Noodles With Fried Roll And Grilled Pork Saigon Food Tour By Motorbike

Noodles with Grilled Pork – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

Best snacks and desserts

Grilled Rice Cake (Bánh Tráng Nướng)

To make Grilled Rice Cake, they grilled a rice paper topped with butter, tomato sauce, quail egg, dried tiny shrimp, sometimes sausage, pork floss. After grilling, the cake is extremely crispy and should be eaten hot with chili sauce and mayonnaise. A Grilled Rice Cake costs from 12,000 VND (~0.5 USD).

  • A street food stall near Notre Dame Cathedral.
  • Street food stalls at Turtle Lake.
  • Góc Đà Lạt, 386/43B Le Van Si, Ward 14, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 17:00 – 22:00; Prices:  13,000 – 28,000 VND.

An ultimate guide to Travel Ho Chi Minh city on a budget

Grilled Rice Cake – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

Beef Jerky and Papaya Salad (Gỏi đu đủ khô bò)

Crunchy papaya strips, beef jerky marinated with lots of secret spices, crushed peanuts, and a perfect sauce blend perfectly. This food can win the heart of any foodie. This salad is amazingly cheap, a portion of this food costs around 20,000 VND (~1 USD). Below is a list of the best places to eat Beef Jerky and Papaya Salad in Saigon:

  • Goi kho bo Cong vien Le Van Tam, 259A Hai Ba Trung, Ward 8, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City (in the opposite of Le Van Tam park); Opening hours: 12:00 – 21:30; Prices:  20,000 VND.
  • Goi kho bo Ong Nam, 76 Nguyen Van Thu Street, Dakao Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 13:30 – 18:30; Prices:  13,000 – 29,000 VND.
  • Goi kho bo Phuong Lien, 12 Nguyen Huy Tu Street, Dakao Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 15:30 – 22:00; Prices:  12,000 VND.
  • Goi kho bo Dinh Tien Hoang, 38 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Dakao Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 14:00 – 19:00; Prices:  20,000 – 30,000 VND.

Rice Paper Salad (Bánh Tráng Trộn)

Rice Paper Salad is distinguished by the main ingredient – rice paper which is cut into strips and mixed with various ingredients such as beef jerky, dried squid, crushed peanuts, quail eggs, julienne green mango. The sauce is the soul of each Rice Paper Salad recipe. In facts, there are many versions of Rice Paper Salad including the simplest recipe consisting of rice paper strips and chili salt. To eat, you mix all well with a pair of chopsticks or have your seller mix them for you. Nguyen Thuong Hien Street is known as the street of Rice Paper Salad. Coming here, you can buy cheap and delicious rice paper salads and rice paper roll. A portion of this salad costs about 20,000 VND (~1 USD) in Saigon.

  • Banh Trang Tron Long, 34 Nguyen Thuong Hien Street, Ward 5, District 1; Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 10:00 – 22:00; Prices: 10,000 – 35,000 VND.
  • Banh Trang Tron Chu Vien, 38 Nguyen Thuong Hien Street, Ward 5, District 1; Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 11:00 – 19:00; Prices: 20,000 – 35,000 VND.
  • Banh Trang Tron Co Thao, 90 Nguyen Thuong Hien Street, Ward 5, District 1; Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 8:30 – 20:00; Prices: 10,000 – 25,000 VND.

Vietnamese Sweet Soup (Chè)

Vietnam has not less than one hundred of sweet soup recipes, each of them is not only healthy but also flavorful. Sweet soups with some ice help you to refresh while Hot sweet soups can warm your body and your stomach on cold days and rainy days. A portion of Chè cost from 10,000 – 35,000 VND (0.5 – 1.5 USD). In Ho Chi Minh City, you can eat this dessert at:

  • Xoi Che Bui Thi Xuan, 111 Bui Thi Xuan Street, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; Open time: 6:30  – 22:00; Prices: 15,000 – 30,000 VND.
  • Che Hien Khanh, 718 Nguyen Đinh Chieu Street, Ward 1, District 1; Open time: 9:00 – 12:30, 14:30 – 22:00; Prices: 15,000 – 33,000 VND.
  •  Che Co Giang, 85 Co Giang Street, Co Giang Ward, District 1; Open time: 17:00 – 22:30; Prices: 13,000 – 15,000 VND.

The ultimate guide to Travel Ho Chi Minh city on a budget

Flan Cake (Bánh Flan)

A great soft, tender, smooth, lightly sweet and sweet tasty cake, covered with some black coffee and shaved ice can win your heart easily. The cake is so delicious that it can be found on menus of many Sweet soup stalls or restaurants. The cake has many flavors, depending on the extras such as coffee, strawberry, tea powder. You can eat the cake at Xôi Chè Bùi Thị Xuân or the following dessert stalls:

  • Banh Flan Chi Muoi, Alley 14 Tran Binh Trong Street, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City; Open time: 12:30 – 19:00; Prices: 5,000 – 10,000 VND.
  • Xoi Mit Si Gon, 187/5/6 Co Giang Street, Co Giang Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; Open time: 9:00 – 21:00; Prices: 35,000 VND/ 4 cakes.

The ultimate guide to Travel Ho Chi Minh city on a budget

Flan cake – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

Spring Roll (Gỏi Cuốn)

Sometimes I wonder what can be cheaper than a Spring Roll, which costs from 8,000 – 15,000 VND (~0.5 USD) in Ho Chi Minh. However, you one spring roll could not fulfill your stomach but a few :). Fresh vegetables, herbs, grilled shrimp, and pork are wrapped in rice paper. Then it is served with a viscous sauce made from soybean paste and crushed peanuts. You can order this food at most of the restaurants serving Vietnamese foods. A good place to eat is Xoi Che Bui Thi Xuan or

Goi Cuon Hanh, 420A Hoa Hao Street, Ward 5, District 10, Ho Chi Minh City; Open time: 10:00 – 21:00; Prices: 6,000 – 10,000 VND.

Bò Pía

While Spring Roll is popular around Vietnam, Bò Pía Roll is a specialty food of Saigon and you can not find it easily in other regions. Bò Pía consists of Chinese sausage, corn, dried shrimp, and jicama wrapped in Bò Pía rice paper. You can eat this food at Bot Chien Dat Thanh (mentioned above) or at:
Goi Cuon – Le Van Sy, 359/1/9A Lê Văn Sỹ, Ward 13, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City; Open time: 14:00 – 18:00; Prices: 6,000 – 10,000 VND. The stall also serves great Spring Roll.

The ultimate guide to Travel Ho Chi Minh city on a budget

Bò Pía Roll – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

Seafood and Snail Dishes

Although Ho Chi Minh is not a coastal city, it is a great place to eat Seafood and Snail dishes. I would like to recommend snail dishes which can maximize your view on Vietnamese cuisine and gastronomy as well as the unique culture “eating snail’ in Saigon. You should learn how to eat each kind of snail with bamboo sticks or by sucking the shells. You can book a Saigon food tour to experience snail eating or go to snail restaurants with your local friends.

Although there are many stalls and restaurants sell cheap snail dishes which costs from 25,000 VND/plate, I would like to recommend to eat at the best snail restaurants in the city as below. The prices are from 50,000 VND/plate, a little bit expensive but it is safe to eat. It requires experience and techniques to clean and remove dirt from the snails and cook it until well-done.

  • Oc Dao, 212/C79 Nguyen Trai Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; Open time: 10:00 AM – 10:30 PM; Prices: 50,000 – 100,000 VND.
  • Oc Khanh, 25/5 Nguyen Binh Khiem Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; Open time: 12:00 AM – 10:00 PM; Prices: 50,000 – 100,000 VND.

The ultimate guide to Travel Ho Chi Minh city on a budget

Vietnamese BBQ

Do not think that there is no reason for eating BBQ in Ho Chi Minh City because BBQ is everywhere in the world including your country. It will be a great experience to grill marinated pork, beef, goat, frog, seafood, vegetables on charcoal yourself, then eat the foods with various dipping sauces. I would like to recommend the best cheap BBQ restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City as below:

Panda BBQ, 1Bis Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; Open time: 16:00 – 22:30; Prices: 5,000 – 290,000 VND.

Lau Nuong Nguyet Hy, 192 – 194 Nguyen Tri Phuong, Ward 4, District 10, Ho Chi Minh City; Open time: 17:00 AM – 22:00; Prices: 30,000 – 55,000 VND.

The ultimate guide to Travel Ho Chi Minh city on a budget

Grilled foods in Saigon – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

7. How to drink Ho Chi Minh City on a budget?

I would like to introduce to you the most popular drinks, including coffee, refreshing drinks, local beers and the best places to have fun and drink in the city. Whether it is sunny or rainy, you need a drink to beat the heat or warm your body.

I am going to list dozens of refreshing drinks in Ho Chi Minh. Centella Asiatica juice, Coconut Water and Kumquat Juice, Corn Milk, Lotus Seed Milk, Soybean Milk, Mung Bean Milk, Peanut Milk, Aloe Vera Drink, Chinese Herb Tea (Sam Lanh, Bong Cuc), Detox Drink, Bubble Tea, Fruit Juice, Smoothie, Yogurt Drink, Iced Tamarind, Iced Tea, Lime Tea, Fresh Coconut Water, Sugarcane Juice are worth trying. When you are at a restaurant, do not forget to order an amazing local drink on the menu. The drinks are sold popularly at supermarkets and convenience stores. The prices are not expensive, from 10,000 VND (~0.5 USD). To learn more about the drinks and places to buy them, check out Top Drinks In Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnamese Iced Milk Coffee (Cà Phê Sữa Đá)

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. A cup of Iced Milk Coffee which consists of condensed milk, Vietnamese coffee brewed traditionally Phin filter and some tea can impress anyone. You can buy the drink easily in convenience stores such as Circle K, B’s Mart.

A cup of coffee at drink stalls on the street is cheap, but I am not sure it is made from dirty coffee, extras, and filters. The prices at famous coffee shops are quite expensive, from 40,000 VND (~2 USD). Highlands Coffee is a famous coffee franchise which offers the best price of Vietnamese coffee. You will pay 29,o00 VND for a perfect Vietnamese Iced Milk Coffee at any shop of Highlands Coffee, which addresses can be found HERE. If you would like to learn more about Saigon coffee, check out An Ultimate Guide to Vietnamese Coffee in Ho Chi Minh City.

An ultimate guide to Travel Ho Chi Minh city on a budget

Local beers

It will be a big miss if you do not sip some local beers in Saigon. We have dozens of names from famous brands such as Saigon Beer, Saigon Beer, Tiger Beer, 333 Beer. Prices are different, range between 12,000 and 50,0o0 VND. For example, a Saigon Beer costs 40,000 VND (~2 USD) at a famous bar but 12,000 VND at a street food stall.

Drinking is popular in Ho Chi Minh City and you can easily see how they eat and drink on the streets. A famous place for drinking beer cheaply is Bui Vien Street in Saigon Backpacker Area. You can enjoy at a pub or sit right on the pavement for some beers, beer foods, and leisurely chat. They hang boards with a fixed price “Beer 12,000 VND/bottle of Red Saigon” on the street so that you can find a place to sit quickly.

Travel Ho Chi Minh city on a budget

Beers are cheap in Bui Vien Street in Saigon Backpacker Area – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

Check out The complete Ho Chi Minh Travel Guide for all of the information you need before you go.

Check out our Ho Chi Minh Day Trips, Mekong Delta Tour, Cu Chi Tunnels Tour, and Saigon Motorbike Tour.

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