Ha Noi vs Ho Chi Minh City: First impressions
A modern capital of Vietnam dotted with historical traces – Ha Noi
Searching for information related to the fascinating capital of Vietnam, you might find many ancient places to visit; however, it is the country’s second-largest city.
There must be a reason that Ha Noi is called “The Capital of Thousand Years of Civilization”. Upon my first step in this beautiful city, I was thoroughly impressed by the ancient traces that are still preserved, especially the central part of the capital – Hoan Kiem and Ba Dinh Districts.
I found the city’s modernity, the busy and exciting pace of living mixed with the peaceful and tranquil ambiance brought by those hundred-year-old temples, pagodas and historical sites. I have to say, that was my most memorable trip to charming Ha Noi.
Photo: Vietnam Travel Guide
I’ve been to Ha Noi several times, managing to travel every year to this place, and I’ve always wanted to come again, again and again. The mysterious ambiance and appeal of Ha Noi still leave a profound impression on every traveler, I guess.
The hustle and bustle of a metropolis – Ho Chi Minh City
Photo: Vietnam Times
Before named after the first president of Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh, the city was unofficially called “Saigon” still currently used by many people living in this city.
I was totally stressed in advance of my trip to this city because of its total area covering 19 districts in total with nearly 9 billion people. What would I do in a big city like that? And how much should I bring with me? How about the people and the accommodation fees?
I thought in my mind that it would be similar to Ha Noi since it is the largest city located in Southern Vietnam. However, it was over my expectations.
Photo: Smarter Travel
Streets were so full of people that I couldn’t hesitate if I would like to cross. Compared to Ha Noi, Saigon gave me a more vibrant and dynamic vibe, which is why it’s also nicknamed “Never-Sleep City”. People go to work in the morning and the evening. Some start their job at midnight with street food and drinks for those finishing work late at night.
Let’s find out more details about the two cities Ha Noi and Saigon in the next parts.
Ha Noi vs Ho Chi Minh City: Cost of Living
In general, a holiday to Vietnam has been reviewed to be a cost-effective choice by millions of travelers worldwide. Weighing the capital Ha Noi against the metropolis Ho Chi Minh, I would say the living standards in both cities are quite similar.
Having been open to integrating into the international market and relations, both cities welcome many global businesses and travelers from every corner of the globe. The cost of living, therefore, is also adjusted and balanced to accommodate domestic and international visitors.
Ho Chi Minh City gave you a considerable number of diverse choices of everything from restaurants, accommodations to entertainment centers in many districts, whereas there are fewer choices in specific districts in Ha Noi. That’s why sometimes, for the same amount of money, you can spend on more of the same types in Ho Chi Minh than Ha Noi.
Where should I go?
What is my advice? How you spend your wallet will decide it all, but remember that Vietnam is commonly inexpensive, so make sure that you research the city before and have Plan B in case of emergency.
Ha Noi vs Ho Chi Minh City: Accommodations
There are a range of choices of accommodations from bunk beds, hotel rooms, or suites. Since travelers’ demands have evolved year after year, you can easily find a place to stay in those two cities.
If you are planning to settle in Vietnam, private apartments are also available. The longer you stay, the lower the monthly price is.
Accommodations in Ha Noi
The most popular choice of visitors upon traveling to Ha Noi is in the Old Quarter. However, the choice is quite limited, and the price is also higher because the area’s preferred by a lot of people and close to different tourist destinations.
Instead, I’ve found that there are also amazing offers in other parts of Hoan Kiem District. Besides, Tay Ho District is also an ideal choice with easy access to beautiful West Lake.
In Ha Noi, you can find rooms, suites, or private beds following different concepts, managed by the locals or international brands, which suit your needs when you travel solo, with your partner, or in a group.
Accommodations in Ho Chi Minh City
Similar to Ha Noi, the choice of accommodations in the central districts like District 1 is more expensive than others. The further away from the center, the lower price.
By the way, there are 2 popular districts for expats, which are District 2 and District 7. So, the price in those areas is quite affordable, and the property facilities are also modern and suitable for a foreigner.
Thanks to the rising demands of accommodations from not only Vietnamese migrants but also international travelers, it seems easier to find your preferred place in Ho Chi Minh City than Ha Noi.
The two recommended sites that you can refer to are booking.com and Tripadvisor. You can find your preferred property type depending on the expected number of people, the period of stay, and your budget.
Ha Noi vs Ho Chi Minh City: Cuisine
Ha Noi – The quintessence of Vietnamese cuisine
Looking for information about the capital of Vietnam, you might find many traditional dishes originating from this city. A large number of food shops and restaurants in Ha Noi have existed for a very long time, from generation to generation. You can sometimes find those women selling their food for breakfast in a traditional shoulder carrier on the pavements or in small alleys.
Traditional cooking in Ha Noi is not just about the recipe, but it is also about passion. Ordering something to eat in this city, you will surely be in love because of how the sellers welcome you and prepare your dishes.
The first specialty that I’d like to mention is “pho”, the iconic Vietnamese specialty that most people will mention upon talking about Vietnam. Those well-known “pho” restaurants like “Thin” or “Ly Quoc Su” have welcomed thousands of travelers annually, and the taste at every restaurant is distinct thanks to its secret traditional recipe and spices. Also, “pho” rolls are a favorite variant of many eaters.
Pho Thin: 61 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hoan Kiem District, Ha Noi.
Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su: 10 Ly Quoc Su Street, Hoan Kiem District, Ha Noi.
Pho Cuon Huong Mai: 25 Ngu Xa Street, Ba Dinh District, Ha Noi.
Photo: RecipeTin Eats
Another specialty that I am in love with is “bun cha” – rice vermicelli with grilled Vietnamese meatballs. The grilled meat’s fragrance spread 100 m before I reached my favorite restaurant at Bun Cha Quynh Nga – 1 Pho Hue Street, Hai Ba Trung District, Ha Noi. The next one is “bun dau mam tom” – vermicelli noodles served with fried tofu, pork paste, pork slices, pork organs, aromatic herbs, and shrimp paste. Yummy! You will surely love it at the first moment it’s brought to your table.
Photo: Halo Travel
Indeed, Ha Noi’s got its own delicious particular street food that you shouldn’t miss out on, like boiled snail served with ginger fish sauce, pork rib porridge, or fried fermented pork sausages. Especially youngsters always seek those dishes during their travels as it’s only light for the stomach but also extremely tasty.
Regarding drinks, a cup of the signature egg coffee is undoubtedly worth trying.
Because of all those reasons, those specialties have been spread along Vietnam; however, believe me, the original version is always the best. Besides those traditional dishes mentioned above, international restaurants are also available in Ha Noi, specifically in Tay Ho District, if you would like to find your homeland cuisine.
Ho Chi Minh City – A mosaic of different regions
Why do I say this large city is a mosaic of different regions? Because of the migration flow to Ho Chi Minh City, I can find almost any type of food, from regions in Vietnam and countries in the world. It’s not difficult to find a restaurant for my meal in a day due to the broad distribution of food shops in this city.
Regarding local ones, the particular taste that most travelers can have is sweetness. The food processed by the locals tends to be more sweetened compared to other regions.
What I love the most in Ho Chi Minh City is the signature “Com tam Saigon” – broken rice served with grilled pork chops, shredded pork skin, sunny-side-up fried eggs, and sour-sweet fish sauce. A bowl of soup is provided to cool and balance your taste. I’m not exaggerating to say that I can have this kind of rice all day because of the combination of appealing marinated chops, chewiness of pork skin, and sweet taste of the sauce.
What’s next? Nam Vang clear rice noodle soup is chosen as a night treat in the late evening, usually because of the low price and sweet taste of boiled vegetables. You can choose different toppings such as chicken, beef, pork, or even pork bones.
Besides those, Ho Chi Minh City is claimed to be the paradise of crispy and satisfying Chinese cuisine where you can find the best Beijing roasted duck and dumplings in Vietnam. Additionally, some popular street food choices are rice paper salad, dry beef salad, or boiling offal stew.
Where should I go
In short, to weigh those two cities on a scale regarding the cuisine, Ho Chi Minh City’s got a diverse choice of food from local to international. In contrast, Ha Noi brings you the cuisine’s authenticity of Vietnam besides the international options.
Ha Noi vs Ho Chi Minh: Weather condition
Due to the location at the two ends – Northern and Southern Vietnam, there are considerable differences between Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Ha Noi – The Land of 12 Flower Seasons
There are four typical seasons in a year in Ha Noi. During the boiling summer, it might reach up to 38-400C, which might get you sweaty and sticky, so would like to spend all day indoor at an air-conditioning coffee or office; however, it might get down to under 100C during the winter when it’s ideal for sipping a hot cup of cacao or wrapping yourself up in a blanket like a burrito.
It’s easy to identify the differences among the seasons based on the temperature, sunrise, sunset time or precipitation.
Photo: City Pass Guide
By the way, Ha Noi is famous for different flowers blooming during the 12 months of a year. Spring might be a beautiful time to visit Ha Noi with delicate petals of peach blossoms in all large and small streets. Ha Noi people have the tradition of decorating their home with this beautiful pinky flower during the Lunar New Year period.
Photo: VnExpress International
Other flowers that can be expected throughout the year are purple orchid trees in February, passionate blackboard trees dotted with little bunches of white flowers in March or September, simple and gorgeous lotuses in June, or the most favorite of all people in Vietnam – tiny pure white daisy in October.
So, you might consider which period is proper for your travel. I would recommend March and April during the Spring when it’s warm with little sunlight and cold breeze during the day, or September and October during the Autumn – the signature daisy season of Ha Noi when it starts to cool down with a flurry of rain.
Ho Chi Minh City – Sudden and Unforeseen
The weather in Saigon is quite different from Ha Noi. There are only two seasons – dry and rainy seasons. From December to April, you might find it really hot and even hotter on some days, burning your skin even though a jacket is put on. In other months, the rain unpredictably falls at any time of the day, so a raincoat should always be available by your side.
If you want my advice, I would prefer the beginning of the rainy season in May and June. The rain may be unexpected during a sunny day, but trust me, it’s an interesting experience to have. The weather, thanks to that fact, is also cooler and fresher compared to the other season.
Where should I go
To choose where to visit, I would love Ha Noi as the weather is more moderate and comfortable for me. Those months during Spring and Autumn in Ha Noi are beautiful and ideal to take a break and grab my bag for a trip.
Even so, I like Ho Chi Minh after my first-time visit, but I think it’s not quite a good idea for those sensitive to sudden weather change.
Ha Noi vs Ho Chi Minh City: Traffic
Vietnam’s traffic condition is one of the impressive things that many travelers would like to mention, I think. With the rising population day by day, the traffic in Ha Noi is pretty heavy, especially during rush hours, which requires you to be calm and keep a steady speed while riding. Just continue your riding and pass if you have the chance. If you know any shortcuts like little alleys, you can save quite an amount of time.
In case you walk across the road, and it’s crowded with cars and motorbikes, go straight and don’t stop when the moment comes. The locals are used to this situation and they will let you pass fast, and furiously.
Photo: Saigon Kiss Tours
Turning to Ho Chi Minh City, it’s a bigger problem. Roads are bigger and broader with traffic lights and police officers directing the situations, but the only thing you can do is be patient and move bit by bit, sticking with the one in front. Don’t panic, focus, and keep moving.
If you are walking, riders might misuse sidewalks or pedestrian streets, so be careful. The crosswalk might be very long, making you feel like it never ends, but continue, and you will get accustomed to the situation soon. We always need a specific amount of time to adapt ourselves to the new environment, don’t we?
Ha Noi vs Ho Chi Minh City: Shopping Opportunities
Ha Noi – Specialized Streets and Markets
Photo: Old Quarter Travel
The first recommended shopping area in Ha Noi is The Old Quarter, famous for 36 hundred-year-old specialized streets dotted with ancient houses. Street names are based on the products sold in that area, and there are a variety of product models of the same type. Those streets were originally where artisans from villages in Thang Long Citadel had gathered to selling their goods in groups during Ly-Tran Dynasty.
This fact brings you the convenience as you know where you can find what you want upon reading the map. For example, if you would like some dried plums, raisins, honey, or jam, “Hang Duong” – The street of sugary products is your destination. You can find different styles of product preparation in the different price ranges. Hong Lam is now said to be the most popular because of quality products, beautiful packing, and amazing deals. Or “Hang Ga” – the street of chicken is where you can find assorted poultry from chickens, ducks, or geese to pigeons or turkey.
Photo: Hanoi Local Tour
Moreover, there are large shopping streets comprising low-price like Cau Giay or Chua Boc to high-end branded products like Kim Ma or Hang Bong in addition to handicraft and local product markets. For instance, Van Phuc Silk Village is full of silk scarves, dresses, or clothes, or there’s a flea market in West Lake where you can find authentic stone and gemstone jewelry.
Ho Chi Minh City – Shopping Malls and Markets
Compared to Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh brings you a wider selection of quality products. You can find almost anything you need in this developed metropolis. Shopping centers like Vincom, Takashimaya Vietnam, or Parkson Plaza Department Store are worth your visit. Every district’s also got a lot of local and flea markets.
As Ho Chi Minh is a modern city chosen by fashion designers and artists as their permanent base for exhibitions and fashion shows, you can have a look at unique and stylish fashion boutiques or artworks at galleries.
Photo: Vietnam Discovery Travel
Photo: VnExpress International
What’s more, Ben Thanh Market in District 1, one of Saigon’s largest markets, is where you can find all types of goods from clothes, fabrics, shoes, handicraft products to fresh food and fruits. Moreover, there are also large specialized areas like painting tools and accessories nearby Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture, or fabric markets like Soai Kinh Lam and Kim Bien in District 5.
Ha Noi vs Ho Chi Minh City: Job Opportunities
Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City offer you similar job opportunities, with only a little difference in the salary offers. What you can choose to do in Vietnam is a position in the embassy or consulate, which is quite competitive, but I guess it will be worth it. While the country embassies like U.S, Britain, Thailand, or Australia are in the administrative capital – Ha Noi, the consulates of countries like France, Canada, U.S, or Japan are based in Ho Chi Minh City.
Moreover, English teaching is quite a popular choice of foreigners upon their stay in Vietnam as foreigners, especially native language speakers with official degrees in the major, are highly appreciated with a good job offer. Some famous English centers like British Council and Language Link are based in both Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Some choose to work at those international-branded hotels or resorts managed by the Ascott, IHG, or Accor groups. If you’ve got what it takes and are interested, those are also good choices for your career in Vietnam.
Moreover, startups in Vietnam are also a trend when coffee shops, bakeries or restaurants specialized in international cuisine are established, not only attracting foreign travelers but also bringing new experiences to the locals. It is a good idea to start your business in this Asian country because of the living cost, the rental fee, and other related factors.
Ha Noi vs Ho Chi Minh City: Points of interest
Ha Noi – The City of History, Culture, and Religion
Being the capital of Vietnam for a hundred years and having played a crucial role during Vietnam War, Ha Noi is the city where I can learn more about the history and culture of this Asian country besides religious aspects. Following is the list of travel destinations that you can note down.
Hoan Kiem District
- Buy a ticket and indulge in the traditional water puppet show at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre.
- Have a spectacular view of the sunset at historical Long Bien Bridge.
- Put your alarm at 5.30 a.m and go running around peaceful and quiet Hoan Kiem Lake.
- Blend in the ancient ambiance and go shopping in the Old Quarter.
- Drink beer and enjoy street food with your companions on Ta Hien street.
Photo: Vietnam Tours
- Visit Ngoc Son Temple exhibiting the Hoan Kiem turtle’s body specimen.
- Snap a fashionista shot at St.Joseph’s Cathedral described as resembling Notre Dame de Paris.
- Explore the busy Dong Xuan Market.
- Join folklore games and watch some street performances in walking streets around Hoan Kiem Lake at weekends.
Photo: Vietnam International Review
Tay Ho District
- Pray at the oldest temple in Vietnam – Tran Quoc Pagoda.
- Visit Quan Thanh Temple, one of the Four Sacred Temples of Ha Noi.
- Cycle along poetic West Lake – the largest freshwater lake in Ha Noi.
- Kayaking or paddling at West Lake.
Ba Dinh District
- Marvel at the Stelae of Doctors in the iconic Temple of Literature.
- Discover the historical traces of Vietnam at the UNESCO World Heritage Site – The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long.
Photo: Vietnam Travel Guide
- Attend groups of visitors at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where the embalmed remains of President Ho Chi Minh are preserved and protected.
- Admire the unique structure of One Pillar Pagoda resembling the shape of a lotus.
- Have a profound understanding of President Ho Chi Minh’s life at Ho Chi Minh Museum.
- Skywalk at Lotte Observation Deck on the 65th floor.
Photo: Vietnam Travel Guide
- Have a rest with your friends at Ba Dinh Square.
- Tour the exhibitions of paintings, sculptures, and artifacts from the Ancient until the Modern time at Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts.
In addition to those activities and sites to visit above, there is more to discover in those districts of Ha Noi. So, take your time and feel the touch of the charming capital of Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City – Historical museums and colonial architecture
Ever being colonized by the French during the period from 1859 until 1945, Ho Chi Minh City now features French-styled monuments that are still appealing to travelers besides those entertainment centers and popular tourist sites.
Check out the list of what you can explore in this crowded and busy Saigon below.
- Watch a musical performance at Municipal Theatre shaped like Opera Garnier in Paris.
Photo: The Independent
- Visit the magnificent work of arts – Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, built in 1880.
- Take a vintage-styled picture at Saigon Central Post Office featuring the mixture of elegant European and classic Asian styles.
Photo: Vietnam Journey
- Have some quiet moments at the Reunification Palace that was made use of from the French colonial period, World War II until the Vietnam War, witnessing a range of incidents and events in Vietnam history.
- Play the role of a soldier in the adventure of Cu Chi Tunnels, a network of tunnels used as hiding spots and other functional stations.
Photo: WinSuites Saigon
- Tour around The War Remnants Museum and look back on those past moments in Vietnam history through artifacts and photographic display.
- Visit Dragon Wharf, where Ho Chi Minh set off his journey for gaining Vietnam’s independence.
- Blend in the crowd in busy Nguyen Hue walking street with occasional musical performances and entertainment programs. Also, there are a lot of restaurants and coffee shops in this area.
- Fall in love with nature at the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens housing a hundred species of animals and plants.
- Tour around the central market Ben Thanh, and buy some local souvenirs for your relatives and friends.
- In addition to Ben Thanh, Cho Lon in China Town is a popular source market attracting many tourists to Ho Chi Minh City.
- Go shopping at those well-known shopping centers like Vincom or Parkson Plaza.
- Savor Cantonese cuisine at China Town of Saigon.
- Enjoy the nightlife at those expat streets, especially Bui Vien.
- Have a walk along rainbow-lit Starlight Bridge in the evening.
- Get away from the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City and join a boat tour along Saigon River.
- Pray at peaceful Thailand-styled pagoda in the outskirts of Saigon – Buu Long Pagoda.
Where should I go
There are not as many tourist destinations in Ho Chi Minh City as Ha Noi; however, each city’s got its own appeal that will definitely add beautiful colors to your travel. Ha Noi’s got you attracted with the historical atmosphere and elegant lifestyle of a thousand-year capital, whereas you will find the dynamic and young vibe in Ho Chi Minh City.
Ha Noi vs Ho Chi Minh City: Neighboring Travel Destinations
Where to visit from Ha Noi – the capital of Vietnam
Choosing Ha Noi as your first destination in Vietnam, you can easily access those neighboring natural landscapes like mountainous towns, limestone mountains or terraced rice fields.
- Take a boat tour along the river with surrounding rice fields in Trang An Complex.
Photo: KCT Travel
- Join the discovery of the largest cave in the world at Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park – Son Doong Cave, which has held many world records and embraces a diversity of fauna and flora to explore.
Photo: VnExpress International
Photo: iTour Vietnam
- Ha Giang Province is located at the border of Vietnam and China, featuring the UNESCO Global Geopark, Dong Van Karst Plateau, with high mountains and deep canyons, leaving valuable evidence of Earth’s crust.
- Ha Long Bay is inclusive of more than 1,600 islands and islets with spectacular karst in different shapes and sizes.
Photo: World Nomads
- Conquer the hike to Fansipan Peak, so-called “The Roof of Indochina” – a challenge you wish not to miss when visiting Sapa.
Photo: smile travel
Where to visit from Ho Chi Minh City
Located at the Southern end of Vietnam, Saigon is not far from Mekong Delta, passing through 12 provinces. Yes, I would like to mention that Mekong River is famous for fresh fruit gardens that can only be reached by boats or impressive floating markets where you can have your meal or grab bunches of fruits during a boat trip.
Moreover, you can book a flight to Phu Quoc Island, including 28 islands in total with a tranquil atmosphere that brings you a relaxing feeling. A highly recommended activity on the island is to admire the magical sunset – the natural game of blending different shades of colors – red, orange, blue, and purple. Besides, you can go swimming, diving or snorkeling in the crystal blue water.
Also, many backpackers would love to take a trip to Dalat that’s around 300 km from Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a true escape from the summer heat, taking you to a paradise with spring-like weather during the day.
If you would like to enjoy seafood and beautiful beaches, Vung Tau is a choice when you stay in Saigon. You can choose fresh seafood and get the seller to prepare it in your preferred way.
It’s not difficult to find travel agents that provide you with private or group tours in Ha Noi or Ho Chi Minh City to those destinations listed. Still, you’d better read the reviews, come to different agents to compare the price, and decide later on.
Also, if you know a local, don’t hesitate to ask him/her for some support as he/she knows what a good price is in Vietnam.
In case you are an adventurous and courageous person who loves road trips and riding a long way, rent a motorbike and devise a plan for your traveling. Local advice is also highly recommended.
Ha Noi vs Ho Chi Minh City: Where should I go?
I hope, based on the comparison and contrast of the two large cities of Vietnam – Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City, you could have some useful information that can enable an easier decision.
All in all, what’s important is your preference. As you may see, the living style, weather as well as tourist sites in the cities are quite different from one another. Therefore, consider carefully and make the right decision.
If you would love to travel along Vietnam, those two cities are a good start because they are big cities with higher living standards than other cities and provinces in Vietnam. The supply, touring services, and facilities in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City are perfect enough for you to continue discovering other neighboring destinations.
1. Which one is more expensive, Ha Noi or Ho Chi Minh City?
The living standards in the two cities are not much different. However, everything seems to be more diverse in Ho Chi Minh City than in Ha Noi, so the price range is also wider, and you can opt for the reasonable ones.
2. Which one is better for shopping, Ha Noi or Ho Chi Minh City?
There are mainly local markets, traditional specialized streets, and fashion streets in Ha Noi, whereas there are more shopping centers and large markets that will get you addicted in Ho Chi Minh City if you’re a shopaholic. So, for this point, Ho Chi Minh City outweighs Ha Noi.
3. Is the weather in Ha Noi similar to Ho Chi Minh?
The weather is totally different between the two cities. It is because Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City are at the both ends of Vietnam. There are four seasons in Ha Noi, from warm spring, hot summer to cool autumn and freezing winter. On the other hand, there are only two seasons in Ho Chi Minh City – dry and wet. Even in the wet season, you rarely feel cold as the temperature seems not to get very low.
4. Where can I travel when staying in Ho Chi Minh City?
From Ho Chi Minh City, you can choose to travel to Vung Tau for seafood and beautiful beaches, quiet Phu Quoc Island for the discovery of nature, Dalat for fresh air, natural landscapes and flowers, and last but not least, Mekong Delta, also called Western Region, which flows through 12 provinces.
5.Where can I travel when staying in Ha Noi?
There are several places that can be reached by bus, train, or motorbike from Ha Noi. You can travel to Trang An Scenic Complex for beautiful rice paddy fields, temples, and pagodas, join the discovery of Son Doong Cave, the largest natural cave in the world, explore Dong Van Karst Plateau, cruise in Ha Long Bay, or challenge yourself in Sapa to go hiking to Fansipan Peak.