There are two main walking streets in Ho Chi Minh City. As we were preparing for our trip to Vietnam, we got really curious about which one would be the better fit for us. Here’s all the information you need before deciding to visit one of them (or both!).
There are two walking streets in Ho Chi Minh City.
Bui Vien is the smaller, less safe street. It is popular with tourists and backpackers.
Nguyen Hue is a broad, paved street. It is the main street where locals spend their evenings. Both streets are located in District 1.
Both streets are worth visiting during your stay in Ho Chi Minh City. We will have a look at what to do in both streets, and which one is likely to suit you better.
Ho Chi Minh Walking Streets
The walking streets of Saigon are a great way to experience the culture of the city. You get a lot of the taste of the city condensed down to a single street, and you don’t even have to watch out for scooters hitting you? Perfect.
While these streets will only give you a tiny taste of what Vietnam has to offer, we think both Bui Vien and Nguyen Hue are both great places to vet your feet.
Both walking streets offer a large selection of food, drink, and entertainment. Ho Chi Minh Citys walking streets has something for everybody, whether you are a backpacker on a tight budget, an adventurous family on vacation, or a retired couple that finally has the time to see the world.
Let’s discuss both streets individually for a moment so you can get a sense of what they are before we compare them.
Bui Vien, the Infamous Walking Street
Bui Vien can be a great way to experience Ho Chi Minh City – if you are a little bit careful.
The street is full of Vietnamese street food, massage parlors, bars, cafes, and everything else you could possibly need (or not need).
The walking portion of the street is rather long and narrow. At 850 meters in length, and only 6 meters vide.
It can be quite intense walking down the packed street at night. The staff at the various bars and restaurants (even pharmacies!) will yell at you in an attempt to get your business. It is not rude to just ignore them.
But enough of that, now for what a lot of you all have been waiting for, the bars.
Bui Vien Streets Bars
As Bui Vien is considered the party street in District 1, you can have fun here far into the night. There are a variety of bars and discos to choose from. A few favorites we got recommended by ex-pats and locals are:
Ong Cao, Craft Beer is a great open-air bar a little outside the main action of Bui Vien. It is quiet enough that you can have a chat here, or do some people watching from the terrace on the second floor. What draws most people here is the excellent local craft beers that are on tap.
Beer 102 Bui Vien is a typical “sit down on the plastic chair in the middle of the madness and enjoy a cheap beer” type of place. It is quite packed and noisy at night, but a great way to experience Bui Vien. The staff here can be a bit pushy here though.
TNR Saigon is popular with ex-pats. Particularly young westerners living in Ho Chi Minh to teach English. This bar is nothing special, but has good prices and stays open long into the night.
Bui Vien is often considered Saigon’s version of Khao San Road in Bangkok.
Is Bui Vien Safe?
But while Khao San Road has been cleaned up and made a lot safer in recent years, the same can not be said for Bui Vien Street.
For many adventurers and locals alike, this street can be a thrilling experience. But there are a few things to watch out for before visiting the infamous walking street.
Before 2017 the street was quite difficult and dangerous to walk on. Thankfully, for the past three years, motor traffic to Bui Vien has been closed. So walking down the narrow street is now a lot safer than it used to be.
Pickpockets, drunks, women working there, as well as shady men trying to sell you illegal things, is still a presence though.
It is important to watch out for pickpockets in Bui Vien. And since the street always gets PACKED at night, it can be difficult to notice a pickpocket before it is too late. Bringing a backpack and keeping it on your stomach instead of back is a great way to avoid losing your valuables.
Like we mentioned, you will probably see drunks, dealers, and ladies working in Bui Vien. As it is a pretty seedy place, you can end up meeting some people with bad intentions if you don’t try to be a little careful.
If you are concerned about your safety it is best to not drink more than you can handle. As always, ignoring touts and ladies yelling at you is also a very effective way to stay out of trouble.
The old saying, “give them a finger, and they will take the hand” rings true in Vietnam as well.
Food Options in Bui Vien
There is a large variety of both street food, bar food, and regular restaurants in Bui Vien. You certainly won’t go hungry.
We found the street food here to be significantly more expensive than just 5 minutes away from the street. A bowl of pho or sandwich can often run upwards of 70-10k VND. Regularly street food versions of these meals will only set you back 30-50k VND.
If you are going for a drink at one of the bars, many of them will offer food as well. This is mostly the same kind of “street food” you will find all over the street. Often they serve spring rolls, soups, sandwiches, and some western junk food.
If you are hungry, you are better off eating by a street stall or in a restaurant, as the serving time in the busy bars can be quite long at times.
There are also a bunch of different international restaurants along Bui Vien. You can find everything from Indian food, to seafood and Hamburgers.
Here are a few of the highlights:
Baba’s Kitchen Restaurant is a surprisingly tasty Indian restaurant at the end of Bui Vien street. The ambiance is relaxed, the staff is friendly, and most importantly, the restaurant is very clean.
Five Oysters is located in the middle of the street. Here you can get quite good seafood for a great price. The staff here is not as friendly as in the Indian restaurant, but the prices are hard to beat. A beer here will only set you back 15k VND.
The Garlik is a cozy restaurant that serves authentic Vietnamese Cusine. It is a little bit more pricy than the previous two recommendations, but if you have a million extra laying around, this place comes highly recommended by many. Both the service and food are said to be excellent.
If neither of these three interests you, there are tons more to choose from once you get there.
Nguyen Hue Walking Street
Nguyen Hue is Bui Vien’s slightly shorter and much broader counterpart.
Nguyen Hue is a very popular hangout spot for the younger Saigonese generation. By the end of the working day, you will see the youth of Ho Chi Minh City flock to this location.
The walkway is a lot broader and more comfortable to navigate through here. And while theft is an everpresent threat, you don’t need to be nearly as vigilant here as you do in Bui Vien.
Nguyen Hue is a lot cleaner and safer than Bui Vien. And the street is decorated with flowers and a few statues here and there.
This street is often very popular during public events. If there is a big football match, you can expect the street to be full of locals cheering their team on while watching on a large projector. Lunar New Year is also known to fill the walking street to full capacity.
If you are looking to strike up a conversation with the locals of Ho Chi Minh City, this is a great place to start. The young generation of Vietnam is a lot more Westernized than their parents and grandparents. Many of them will be interested in practicing their English on you and the other foreigners walking on the street.
Nguyen Hue Walking Street Food and Bars
You will find street food vendors along Nguyen Hue. Prices here are also significantly higher than the rest of Saigon.
However, this walking street is more of a restaurant kind of place. Across the road, on boat sides of the walking street, you will find a lot of apartments that have been converted into restaurants and bars.
Here are a few good places to get some food:
Vo Roof Garden is a kind of a hidden rooftop restaurant. Here you can get some surprisingly cheap meals while overlooking the walking street over a bunch of pot plants. I can strongly recommend checking this place out for some delicious local food!
The Cafe Apartment on Saigon’s Walking Street is a great example of an apartment turned into a place to eat. From this cafe, you can have some a bowl of something good and a drink while overlooking Nguyen Hue walking street from the 6th floor. Use of the elevator will cost you extra though!
Măng’s Mania Vegetarian Restaurant is an excellent vegetarian restaurant on the second floor across the road from the walking street. Here you can find a selection of healthy (and unhealthy!) vegetarian food for as little as 80k VND per meal.
I’m going to recommend a few bars here as well, as that seems to what a lot of people are looking for.
Broma Not A Bar is one of the nicer rooftop bars in the walking street. They serve delicious cocktails and play live music. The prices here are very reasonable considering it is a rooftop bar with live music.
Below Whisky Den is a great option if you are tired of the rooftop bars, and would rather have a drink directly under an aquarium. I believe no more needs to be said about the place.
Is Nguyen Hue Safe?
Nguyen Hue is a lot safer than Bui Vien. This is a cleaner and more upscale part of District 1. You are surrounded by luxury hotels and businesses.
But anywhere there are tourists, there is always a chance that there are pickpockets. But if safety is one of your main concerns I think you are much better off coming to Nguyen Hue than you would be if you go to Bui Vien.
So Bui Vien or Nguyen Hue then?
Both walking streets offer something different. Bui Vien is more of a raw and chaotic place where you need to be a bit careful.
If you are a backpacker looking to mingle with other likeminded people you will probably prefer Bui Vien. But I think regular tourists will also enjoy the craziness of Bui Vien as long as you can handle the intense yelling and masses of people.
If you are looking for a cleaner, more upscale area then go to Nguyen Hue.
You will pay more for most things, but it is a much more pleasant experience than the other walking street. There are plenty of other backpackers checking out this area as well, so you won’t be alone if that is your traveling style.
Honestly, if you have the time I recommend checking out both areas.
The Best Place to Stay
If you want to stay near Bui Vien I recommend staying a little outside the actual street. Since this is the main party area for many, you can expect a lot of noise into the night.
There are plenty of budget hostels and hotels right outside the street. Gia Vien Hotel is in a good location, and will only set you back around USD 20 per night.
For around USD 30 you can get a great place right outside Bui Vien with a rooftop pool. For those who prefer hostels, there are quite a few to choose between as well.
As for Nguyen Hue there are tons of hotels in the area. Not many directly on the street itself, but there are endless options on all ends.
For around USD 90 you can get a luxurious hotel room really close to the walking street. But if you are like us, you probably don’t mind walking an extra 10 minutes to save a bit of your hard-earned coin.
We recommend Sanouva Saigon Hotel if you are looking for an excellent place to stay on a budget. The hotel is clean, and not far from the action. The best part? It often costs less than USD 25 per night.
We hope you have a great time in HCMC’s walking streets!
Have a quick look at this article on how to get around in Ho Chi Minh City to learn about the different transport options to get around in the city.
And if this article was helpful, please consider sharing it so it can help others as well! 🙂