The bustling city center, despite being in a constant rush at all times, is a fine place to settle down. Every modern convenience is close by: 24-hour convenience stores, ATMs, banks, food stalls at every corner, markets, shopping malls, parks, dining and drinking options, gyms, public pools, cinemas, hospitals, and even schools. There are also major tourist attractions within the vicinity. From Nguyen Hue, to Ben Thanh Market and all that is in between, you can walk for hours every day and still find a new alleyway to explore or coffee shop to work at. If walking is not your thing, you can easily hail yourself a GrabBike. Within District 1, you won’t have to pay more than about 1 USD to get from one spot to the other.
Visitors from all over the world can be found here, so the chance of making new friends is likely higher than in other districts, especially around Bui Vien and Pham Ngu Lao. The high concentration of foreigners also means that getting by using English is easy, as every local knows more than a word or two.
Sadly, these features make District 1 the most expensive district to live in. Despite still being cheaper than most Western cities, to get a nice one-bedroom apartment, you’ll have to pay upwards of 1,000 USD per month on average. Food or movie prices, as well as ATM fees, are also higher than in other districts. But if you’re willing to pay a premium for all these conveniences and don’t mind the rush, then District 1 is where you should look.
District 2 is a little out of the city center, across the majestic Saigon River, but it’s only six miles (10 kilometers) away. Thanks to the Thu Thiem Tunnel, commuting between the city center and District 2 will only take about 15 minutes.
This district is less crowded and expensive to live in, so you’ll find swarms of expats that have homes here. Villas and high-class apartments are available for leasing at more affordable prices—a two-bedroom apartment here costs the same as a one-bedroom apartment in District 1. These upscale apartments are in residential compounds that also offer pools, gyms, saunas, barbecue gardens, and even the occasional tennis court. You can live like royalty.
The number of dining and drinking options in District 2, especially in the An Phu region, is growing, with various riverside bars, cafes, and restaurants. So if you’re not feeling like a 15-minute commute to District 1, just cycle over here. There are also several major international schools and nurseries in the area, making District 2 perfect for families.
Overall, you won’t miss out on the conveniences District 1 has to offer. In addition, families can relish the peace, quiet, fresh air, and safety District 2 provides for their children.
Like District 2, District 7 is a popular residential area. The massive Phu My Hung Development was conceived as a satellite city for Ho Chi Minh City and was designed by scratch with wide, tree-lined roads, towering apartment blocks and villas, dining and drinking options, shopping malls, and parks. The opening of The Crescent—the city’s first international standard multi-complex—in late 2011 helped further enhance this developed town’s status. There are also a number of international schools and universities in the area.
District 7 is popular among Korean and Japanese expats. Yet, compared to other districts, your options for nightlife are limited. The lack of nightlife, coupled with the 40-minute drive to District 1, may be a downside to selecting District 7 to settle down. However, if you don’t enjoy dining out much and prefer a calmer, more upscale and livable area, with plenty of green space to sit on while enjoying a hot day, then District 7 is a fantastic choice. There’s still some fantastic restaurants and cafes to choose from, and you’ll find yourself being a return customer.
Phu Nhuan borders District 1 and District 3, and it’s great for families looking for an area with a lot of locals. This spot has become an enclave for expats wanting to stay away from the expat zones. This is the geographical center of Ho Chi Minh City, meaning many main roads run through Phu Nhuan, leading to quickly congested streets. It’s also one of the more heavily populated districts, but this also means that it has plenty of restaurants, cafes, and bars lined up along the streets. If these elements are not enough to sway you, the nightlife hot spot of District 1 is just a 50,000 VND (about 2.20 USD) xe om (motorbike taxi) ride away.
Phu Nhuan is a great option for those working close to the airport but who also want to remain close to the buzz and the social life of the city center. You can easily find yourself an affordable apartment or a big alley house that will cost you much less than what you will pay in other districts. You get the best for less here, if you want to save money. Living local is a great option in Ho Chi Minh City, and this way, you can experience Vietnam like you are supposed to.