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The best places to live in Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam's largest and most populated city. The city is divided into 24 districts: 19 inner districts and five suburban districts. Each of these offers a distinctively unique experience and, when deciding where to live in Ho Chi Minh City, it is important to consider each district's characteristics.
The heart of the city is located within Districts 1 and 3. These are ideal for travellers or short-term expats as they are close to the action and activity. For expats who plan on moving to Ho Chi Minh City for longer, Districts 2 and 7 may be better options.
Make sure to consider commute times, as traffic in and out of the city centre can become very congested during rush hour.
Young and trendy areas of Ho Chi Minh City
Many of the expats living in Ho Chi Minh City are young single professionals or couples who have moved to experience living abroad and are using Vietnam as a base from which to explore Asia. For this demographic, there are several popular areas close to the city centre and its activities.
Considered to be the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, District 1 is the centre for all financial, commercial and administrative activity. Although it is still Vietnamese in character, this district has felt the effects of globalisation and development most heavily. Restaurants and shops offering cuisines and goods from around the world are found alongside expensive, upscale hotels.
For those with an eye for shopping, District 1 has an ever-expanding commercial scene, with high-end shops lining Dong Khoi Street and Nguyen Hue. It's also home to most of the city's museums, tourist attractions and historical sites, including Ben Thanh Market and The Reunification Palace (Independence Palace).
District 1 offers some of the highest living standards in the city with a range of serviced apartment buildings. Rent here is much more expensive than in other districts. On the other hand, District 1 also caters to budget travellers in the backpackers' area of Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien. Cheap hostel or guesthouse accommodation can be found in this area, along with the potential to rent houses tucked away down alleys.
As District 1 is the city centre, it is one of the busiest districts and is where most of the action happens. Traffic within the district itself is not terrible, but the traffic entering and leaving District 1 can be heavy, especially during rush hour.
District 3 is considered by many to be the ideal place to live in Ho Chi Minh City.
The area's proximity to the sights and activity of District 1 allows expats to stay close to the action but also provides an escape for more peaceful, quieter sleep. Many young expats opting to stay close to the bars, restaurants and shops of District 1 choose to live in this area as it still offers a range of recreational activities and parks.
District 3 offers apartments, houses tucked down alleys and old French colonial villas. Prices vary depending on the type of accommodation, but expect them to be cheaper than District 1.
As with many other districts, motorbikes and taxis are the best forms of transport. Be aware, though, that the small streets of this district make it prone to traffic congestion.
Binh Thanh's cheap housing makes it very popular among young English teachers. Sandwiched between District 1 and District 2, it has become an increasingly lucrative spot for property developers. High-rise, high-quality serviced apartment buildings such as The Manor and Saigon Pearl can be found in Binh Thanh.
This area has seen a steady stream of road construction over recent years and is an entry hub for many trucks, so it can be noisy at times.
Family-friendly areas in Ho Chi Minh City
For expats moving to Ho Chi Minh City with children, the main priority will be finding a home close to the city’s many international schools. For families, it is usually best to move further away from the hustle and bustle of the central business district and to more residential areas where properties are larger, with more parks and open spaces.
District 2 is home to many long-term expats who want living standards close to that of their home countries. While this district is close to the city centre, it's still far enough away to be secluded from District 1's endless activity.
District 2 (specifically Thao Dien Ward and An Phu Ward) is an alluring family-friendly area for Western expats and wealthy Vietnamese families, as it provides a high standard of living. These two wards offer less chaotic streets, numerous international schools, and Westernised housing options.
Some of the many international schools in the area include The American School of Vietnam, the Australian International School Saigon, the British International School Ho Chi Minh City, and the European International School Ho Chi Minh City.
Thao Dien and An Phu both have high-quality residential apartments, large houses and villas – some with pools and in walled compounds – at reasonable prices. Numerous restaurants, retail shops, grocery shops and commercial offices can be found lining the streets here.
Similar to District 2, many expats living in Ho Chi Minh City choose to make District 7 their home. The district is filled with wide, tree-lined streets surrounded by excellent-quality apartment buildings and villas for long-term residents. There is little development outside of housing, so it is a perfect spot to enjoy personal space as well as extensive greenery.
Phu My Hung is the most popular area of District 7, catering to expats with international schools, swimming pools, Western grocery shops and an increasing number of restaurants and shops. Schools in this area include Saigon South International School, Canadian International School, and the Korean International School HCMC.
Do not expect much in terms of nightlife activities or street life. The attraction of District 7 is its peaceful, quiet atmosphere. Designed with a wealthy, high-income population in mind, houses here are more expensive than in other areas of the city.
District 7 is quite remote from the city centre, with commute times at around 40 minutes and less convenient public transport options. While it is nowhere close to a true Vietnamese experience, District 7 offers a peaceful lifestyle for families away from the noise and chaos of the city.
►To learn more about the city's property market, read Accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City
Photo credits: Bui Vien Street by Georgios Domouchtsidis; Lanterns by Chris Slupski. All sourced from Unsplash.
"For the most comfortable housing (and likely more expensive), you can live in District 2 or District 7. These districts have many expats and Western conveniences. For the local (and cheaper) experience, you can stay in District 1, District 3 or Phu Nhuan which are all close to the city centre and you can find lots of hidden gems in terms of cafés and food places."
Learn more about living in HCMC in our interview with Australian expat Simone.
Are you an expat living in Ho Chi Minh City?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Ho Chi Minh City. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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