The range of options for housing in Saigon can be quite overwhelming. You’ve got luxurious, shared flats, serviced apartments, cute little studios. The list goes on, and will most probably need it’s own write-up, but at any rate, all of these will have pretty good “stock” at the moment. So, the next thing you should pin down is where. With that in mind, we’re making this short introduction to help you find where to live in Saigon (that’s NOT Thao Dien).
Most newbies will naturally gravitate towards Thao Dien (the center of the known universe for some!). It’s got it’s own pros and cons. The pros mostly in the form of being foreigner-friendly, with a high concentration of expats and English speaking locals. You’ve also got all the amenities you could want on your doorstep – malls, restaurants, bars etc. Plus! The new metro will make it even more connected to other parts of town.
On the flip side, it can be quite expensive to live there and it’s not as “Saigon” as some of the other neighborhoods. More importantly, it’s built on marshland, and it’s quite literally sinking. Just a few inches per year, but it’s sinking. Flooding can be a pretty big issue.
For those of you who are looking for good places to live in Saigon, here’s a quick rundown of where to live in Saigon. These are the great areas to consider, which are NOT Thao Dien:
Phu Nhuan District: “It’s literally just across the bridge!”
There are a couple of very livable areas in this district, and the area is quite dense with amenities such as malls and banks that will probably be good for your daily needs. Plus it’s closer to the city center than Thao Dien, so you can get around easier.
The area around Phan Dang Luu and Phan Xich Long is jumping. You’ll have your choice of bars and restaurants which wont break the bank. Housing options are relatively good quality for the asking price. The “near” side of Phu Nhuan is just across the river from District 1, making things extremely convenient for your daily commute.
Traffic can get pretty bad in the “deep” areas, and it’s not as foreigner-friendly as Thao Dien. Most shops and restaurants will probably not have English speaking service staff.
District 11: “I don’t like expat bubbles, and this is a nice, local area close to where I work.”
If you’re looking for a more local experience, then District 11 is your place. It’s not as centrally located as Phu Nhuan district, but it makes up for that with cheaper rent prices and a much quieter atmosphere. This district has been on the rise for a while now, with new bars and restaurants popping up all over the place. It’s also home to a few large malls which could be handy if you don’t want to go
Quiet and relaxed. It’s quite a big district, so you’ve got plenty of room to move around. Rent prices are very good for the area – if your budget is tight this might be where you want to look first. There’s not as much traffic compared with some other places in Saigon.
If you’re looking for nightlife, you wont find it here (well, not in comparison to Districts like Phu Nhuan and Binh Thanh). The district is also a little far from the city center – not necessarily by physical distance but rather from the overwhelming traffic.
Binh Thanh District: “10 minutes to D1, 10 minutes to Thao Dien! Best of both worlds!”
Binh Thanh is probably one of my favorite districts in Saigon at the moment. It’s centrally located, has a bunch of amenities around it like malls and bars. It’s got some very affordable accommodation options that are in good condition. The area itself is also safe – I’ve walked home alone at night plenty of times after work without any problems.
You’re probably going to get the most “bang for your buck” here. Housing and rent prices are very cheap in comparison to other districts, but you’re still close enough to all the action. It’s also a relatively safe district with not too much traffic. For those looking for nightlife, this is the place to be. The whole strip along Pham Viet Chan is buzzing.
It’s not the most foreigner-friendly district, so you may have some communication issues with service staff. Outside of the immediate area surrounding City Garden and Pham Viet Chan, things can get pretty wild pretty quickly.
District 1: “You know I like my nightlife right?”
District 1 is the “original” Saigon. It has a lot to offer in terms of things to do and places to eat. You’ll be right in the thick of things, and have your pick of bars, restaurants and cultural activities right outside your doorstep if you live here – but it comes at the price of rent prices which can be pretty steep compared with other districts.
If you’re looking for that “international” feel, this is your place. The area around Ben Thanh market is probably the most foreigner-friendly part of District One – even if you’re not interested in shopping for souvenirs there are plenty of nice places to eat and drink nearby. Due to Covid, it might be a bit dead as of the time of writing (2022), but it will definitely bounce back. Plus getting across town wont be an issue, as it’s well connected with several bridges going to various districts. Nightlife will be one of the key benefits of living in this area.
Traffic can be a bit of a nightmare, especially during rush hour. I’d recommend getting a motorbike if you want to live in this district. The area is also prone (as far as Saigon goes) to petty theft – tourist areas are prime spots for pick pockets, so keep an eye out.
District 7: “It’s not that far if you take the bridge.”
District 7 is a bit of an odd district – it doesn’t quite have the same type of hustle and bustle of District One or the same expat-friendly vibe of District 2. It’s still got loads of energy, is very convenient to live as a foreigner, but it’s also got it’s own unique flavour. You can find some really affordable places to live here, as well as good international schools if you have kids.
It’s a relatively new district, so the infrastructure is all up to date. Lots of expats (both Western and Korean) live in the Phu My Hung area. Rent prices are more affordable than in Districts One or Two. The area is also well-connected to other parts of Saigon – there’s a metro stop (or at least, the promise of one), as well as several key bridges to other parts of the city. There’s a lot of space, and it can be quiet at night. Traffic is also not too bad if you live near the main roads
It might feel isolated from other parts of Saigon due to distance and traffic – especially during rush hour. To get to D1, you’ll have to (gasp!) go through District 4. The area will probably feel pretty unfamiliar even to those who have been living in Saigon for a while. Similar to Thao Dien, this area can also be quite a bubble.
Hope this quick introduction gave you more insight into the pros and cons of each district! Should be helpful for your search on a nice place to live outside of the Thao Dien bubble. Careful though! There are a bunch of Facebook groups out there which are dedicated to real estate, but be careful. Agents can be quite aggressive, and many won’t listen to your requirements, and will just try to upsell. Would suggest reaching out to agents who have previously posted, and handpick who you want to touch base with, rather than making the mistake of posting and then receiving messages from 43 different strangers.
Would suggest using online directories with clear listings on properties and prices. The most modern one that I’ve come across so far is My Saigon City. Might be useful to have a look at that site for direct comparison. The staff are quite professional as well.
As always, feel free to reach out if you have any other questions.