Similar to Khao San Road in Bangkok or Pub Street in Siem Reap, Bui Vien and a few nearby streets (Pham Ngu Lao, De Tham, Do Quang Dau) are called the backpackers’ district because this area is filled with many foreign visitors, especially backpackers. There are many inexpensive restaurants with various cuisines from around the world, convenience stores, as well as numerous souvenir shops. In terms of accommodations, there is an abundance of places to stay. Importantly, it is an ideal place to let your hair down, hang out or make new friends. Are you ready? Your journey to the backpackers’ district in Ho Chi Minh City starts here.
Where is the Backpackers’ District in Ho Chi Minh City
Backpackers’ district is located right in the center of District 1, surrounded by the four streets: Bui Vien, Pham Ngu Lao, Do Quang Dau, and De Tham. This area is the destination of foreign tourists when visiting the most crowded city in Vietnam. The area called Pho Tay in Vietnamese or the backpackers’ district is named by the locals because this place gathers many visitors from foreign countries, and most of them are backpackers or traveling on a shoestring budget.
A corner of Bui Vien at night
How to get to Bui Vien:
The backpackers’ district in Ho Chi Minh City is extremely easy to access. You can take the shuttle bus route 109, which will take you from Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) to Ho Chi Minh City center at 23/9 (pronounced September 23rd) Park. Get off the bus at its stop on Pham Ngu Lao Street, take a few steps to cross the road and you are in the backpackers’ district. The bus fare is around VND 20,000.
The History of the Backpackers’ District in Ho Chi Minh City
Before 1975, the area formed by four streets (current names): Bui Vien, Do Quang Dau, Tran Hung Dao, and Pham Ngu Lao was called Nga Tu Quoc Te (International crossroad in English). At the time, many print shops, cafes, and a theatre appeared, where journalists and reformed artists met and talked about domestic news stories as well as the daily international news. Consequently, the journalists used the phrase “International Crossroads” as a symbol to indicate the location where they met each other.
Since 1975, in order to meet the demand of foreign visitors, this area gradually developed various activities ranging from casual pavement cafes to bustling lively bars. The streets were also renamed; in particular, it is interesting to note that Bui Vien was the name of the first Vietnamese official to emigrate to the United States to establish diplomatic relations. And thanks to being published in the Lonely Planet travel book in 1993, this area received more attention and has become the stopover of most foreign visitors.
Find out more about other Ho Chi Minh City Attractions and Activities.
Since 20 August 2017, The People’s Committee of Pham Ngu Lao Ward (District 1) officially informed that motorcycles and cars are not allowed to navigate on Bui Vien Street (from De Tham to Do Quang Dau) from 7 PM to 2 AM on weekends by making it a pedestrian-only street. In addition, visitors to this pedestrian street can enjoy free wifi.
Comes with catering services, there are motels, hotels or travel agencies that are ready to cater to all your requirements from home or abroad. However, most of the visitors here use the bus as a means of transportation as it is cheap and convenient.
What you can Find in the Backpackers’ District in Ho Chi Minh City
Not only is it one of the most lively streets in Saigon, but Bui Vien also attracts many locals with various delicious snacks. They sell tropical fruits, fried corn, grilled sweet potato, BBQ on skewers, and local beers.
You can find almost all kinds of seafood, beef, pork, wings, and grilled chicken are available. They go great with the green pepper dipping sauce. The food here is affordable with the combination of low plastic tables and small chairs in an open space creating an intimate feeling. It is quite fun when you eat here and enjoy the view of people passing by.
One of the most famous barbecue stalls in the walking street is the small village called Ba Sau or BBQ Saigon Night at 135 Bui Vien. Seafood on skewers look appetizing, making any dish difficult to resist.
BBQ Saigon Night
Another place for barbecue enthusiasts is Quan Nha La located at 214 Bui Vien. It is easy to find and do not forget to try the BBQ shrimp.
Enjoying food and beers on low plastic chairs
When it comes to sweet tofu, people will definitely remember the small vendors selling this dessert, located next to the address No. 169. It has existed for many years and is always crowded. Tofu from the silky smooth, soothing smell of soybeans and the melted sugar with ginger make it very tempting. The thick and creamy coconut milk and tapioca pearls can be optional toppings. The price is very reasonable, around VND 6,000-7,000.
Street vendor selling sweet tofu
The backpackers’ district has almost any unique cuisines in the world, including Indian, Thailand, Korean, Mexican, Spanish, Italy, and American.
If you love Indian cuisine, you can visit Baba’s kitchen at 164 Bui Vien; the owner is also Indian. There are about 3 Indian restaurants along Bui Vien Street which are always busy with customers.
If you are into Vietnamese dishes, Five Oysters located at 234 Bui Vien specializes in serving seafood and local dishes.
Other suggested addresses:
Pepperonis: specialized in Italian food. Address: 111 Bui Vien
Mumtaz: Indian food Address: 226 Bui Vien
La Casa: Mexican, Spanish, Italian or Thai food. Address: 40A/1 Bui Vien
Vietnamese coffee and tea
Although the backpackers’ district seems to be familiar with crowded bars and music all night long, it also has many coffee shops nestled in the small alleyways in Ho Chi Minh City. These coffee shops can offer you a small corner to silently listen to the quiet sound of the bustling street outside, read books, write a postcard or take some Instagram photos.
Goc Ha Noi Coffee (Ha Noi Corner Coffee shop) is a place like this. Walking through such a super small alley, you will enter a completely different place with slow music and vintage design. In addition, you can try a very unique kind of coffee – egg coffee, accompanied by Vietnamese specialties such as apricot, peanut, or green peanut cake.
Inside Goc Ha Noi Coffee
If viewed from above, the four main streets of Bui Vien, De Tham, Do Quang Dau, and Pham Ngu Lao have a series of small alleys running across, connecting the main road in the shape of the chessboard. And spend time to venture into these small coffee shop to give you the most authentic view of inhabitants making up the city’s culture.
Besides small coffee shops, you can also visit bigger coffee chains like Cong Coffee and Trung Nguyen Coffee. Cong Coffee has the typical decoration of the northern war-time period. Locating next to De Tham Street is the Starbucks with three spacious floors. And Trung Nguyen Coffee seems like the most popular coffee brand in Vietnam.
If Hanoi is famous for beer in Ta Hien, Bui Vien beer is famous in Ho Chi Minh City. Cheap local Vietnamese beers available all over the streets, with grilled octopus, sausages, and many other soft drinks that are priced at only from around VND 20,000 per bottle.
Although these smoothies vendors are just a food stall on the sidewalk, the quality of the drinks here receives positive feedback. The fruits are fresh due to a large number of fruits consumed every day, and then, less leftover. More topping is a slice of freshly cut fruit on top of a glass of freshly squeezed grapefruit, which makes it easy to tell what kind of fruit the fruit is made of. The most popular choices are mango, avocado, bananas, strawberry, and carrots.
Smoothies stalls on Bui Vien Street
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Hostel and accommodations
There are many cheap addresses that are favorited by guests. Clean rooms, attentive service, safe when lockers are available. Finding a hostel on Bui Vien Street can be an ideal option and convenient for travel because it is near the 23rd September Park, near the bus station, close to many restaurants, bars, and cafes. Laundry service is also available.
However, be warned that if you’re looking for a quiet night’s sleep because bars play head-pounding music until the morning. So, ideally, you should find a place a block or two blocks away. Prices vary from VND 300,000 to VND 1,500,000 per person.
Hostel Phoenix 74
Find a hotel in the Bui Vien area below:
Bars and pubs
Although there are many services to meet the diverse needs of visitors from dining, leisure to entertainment, it is a must to experience bar hopping in the backpackers’ district. There are a few bars that stand out from others like Sahara Beer Club, Thi Bar, and Boheme Pub, etc
The backpackers’ district in Ho Chi Minh City has it all, from small cozy pubs to wide grand bars, the Vietnamese and international music of all genres. There are occasional live music events in the area.
A restaurant combines with a beer club
Spa and massages
There are many types of services available within a spa in Vietnam. Prices are ranging from VND 100,000 to 350,000 for body massages and just about VND 20,000 for nail polishing.
Spas on Bui Vien Street
The list goes on with many other services for travelers with car and motorbike rentals also available. But before you choose any services, especially renting a motorbike, read our precautions below.
Precautions when in Backpackers’ District in Ho Chi Minh City
- As the street is always crowded and there are occasional pickpockets, especially at nights, so it is advisable not to bring valuable things when you walk around.
- If you go for any type of service in the area, keep an eye on your belongings. Do your research for the price and reviews first.
- Apply the general rules for food safety and water safety while in Vietnam by checking if the making process is proper and clean and if the ingredients are well-cooked.
- Make sure you have a valid license (required by law) and check the motorbike’s condition before renting a motorbike. You will need to leave your passport as collateral.
Read more on scams in Vietnam and how to avoid them.
Summary on Bui Vien and Backpackers’ District in Ho Chi Minh City
Bui Vien of the backpackers’ district is now the familiar place of the youth of Ho Chi Minh every weekend. When night comes, the road is packed with people from all over the world. In addition, another reason that attracts people to this place every night is that of the food and the night scenes.