Saigon Gay Travel
Stunning rooftop bars, a giant nightlife scene and delicious street food markets are just a few reasons why Saigon gay travel is awesome. Welcome to gay Ho Chi Minh City.
The Gay Travel Experience: Saigon, Vietnam
I had one of the most memorable local experiences my first night in Ho Chi Minh, even being beat from all the air travel . I ventured out to find some Pho on the street to fill up for the night as soon as I got to my Airbnb.
A man sat me at a table along a busy road next to a local. When I tried to order, I realized we could not communicate given he spoke no English and I cannot speak Vietnamese.
The man across from me helped me get my Pho and some iced tea. We then started talking for the next half hour and it turns out that he frequents the US for work; his Hospital in Ho Chi Minh works with a local university in Alabama.
He told me his name is Mỹ, which means “America” in Vietnamese! As you may be able to guess given the history of the Vietnam War, his father loved America.
Rush hour traffic spills onto the sidewalks and building facades glimmer with multicolored lights. The nightlife district thumps with bass while hundreds of locals sing karaoke in the streets. The gay traveler should absolutely not miss out on visiting Saigon.
Gay Saigon: Where to Stay
Saigon is all about local alley life! Locals tuck themselves away in narrow alleys all throughout the city. Staying in an alley will be a bit quieter and it’s fun to observe the local activity going on outside.
Quan 1 is the main central district of Saigon. Quan 3 is just to the west of Quan 1. Both these areas are great for accommodation locations. If you prefer to be right in the center of the busiest action, then Quan 1 is for you. If you like things a bit less intense, then check out Quan 3
Saigon Experiences for the Gay Traveler
The area west of Thu Thiem Bridge is certainly the most authentic local area in Saigon. If you want to be in an area where there are no tourists around, spend some time in this neighborhood. It is a haven for street food, so come hungry!
You will likely ride over the Thu Thiem Bridge if you are headed to this area. There are stellar views of the Saigon skyline if you pull over midway across the bridge at one of the lookout points.
The lights are wondrous at night. Note however that to stop here you will need to be riding a motorbike since there is no dedicated parking space.
Finding Food in Saigon
Ben Thanh Street Food Market is the best in the city. Dozens of food stalls with both savory and sweet Vietnamese foods are clustered in a covered area with bench tables. Service here is excellent and the locals are very welcoming. You must try the sweet rice pudding with fried banana and peanuts! My absolute favorite.
Head over to Uncle Park’s for delicious Korean food. I absolutely loved everything, including the pork belly wraps. The interior is not too fancy, so it is best for a casual lunch.
For Italian food lovers, Propaganda is a very popular Italian restaurant in Saigon. It is quite expensive but the ambiance is stellar. They are located on a quiet street in front of a park, so the outdoor seating is quite relaxing.
Lastly, don’t miss out on some classic Vietnamese Pho (pronounced “fuh”). Cheapest and still delicious right on the street, just walk up to a food vendor and point to this delicious soup. They will know what you want.
The Vietnam War: Cu Chi Tunnels & Remnants Museum
The Cu Chi Tunnels are a tourist favorite for exploring the physical realities of the Vietnam War. The drive to the tunnels is about two hours from central Saigon. I highly recommend booking a tour.
The tours are quite cheap and the tour will take care of all the logistics of getting there. I would not attempt to get there on a motorbike since it can be treacherous and not the safest.
The War Remnants Museum in Quan 3 is another absolute must. A somber experience, the museum displays the harsh realities of the Vietnamese suffering. Make sure to explore the airplanes and tanks outside first, as you probably won’t be in the mood after seeing the morbid exhibits.
Gay Bars in Saigon
Thi Bar is the most popular gay bar in Saigon. Truly authentic as well, as I did not find any westerners here. The bar is more relaxed with live music on a small stage. Thi bar is located in the main nightlife hub of Bui Vien Walking Street. It was packed! If you’re looking for gay bars in Saigon, this is it.
The Tipsy Unicorn is another noteworthy official Saigon gay bar. Its a very small lounge tucked away in an area away from other Saigon gay bars and nightlife. This part of town is filled primarily with local restaurants.
I passed by The Tipsy Unicorn on my motorbike to check out the Tipsy Unicorn. Since it seemed quite empty, I skipped this spot.
If you prefer a clubbier vibe, then try nearby Sahara Club. Sahara is sort of like a club, except they have tables. The DJ plays loud music, but there is no dancing. The cocktails are high quality and you will have to buy one to enter. Sahara Club is not specifically a gay bar, but its a club where gay travelers would certainly fit in.
Saigon Rooftop Bars
OMG Rooftop has stellar views of Saigon and absolutely delicious drinks, so don’t skip this bar! For the quality, it’s not expensive at all. If you can, try to stick to their dress code by avoiding sandals or tank tops, but they won’t deny you entry.
Another stunning rooftop with amazing service is “Broma Not a Bar.” The ambiance is top notch on both the roof and indoor bar on the upper level.
Note that Broma Not a Bar is located in a pedestrian-only area, so you can park in the alley near the Saigon Skydeck entrance and step past the barriers to the bar.
Saigon LGBT Travel Tips
Traffic in Saigon is extremely hectic. With many millions of people riding around on motorbikes, driving is intense. If you have never rented a motorbike, then I would not try your luck for the first time in Saigon. Download the Grab application on your smartphone and hop on the back of someone else’s motorbike. It’s so fun!
I think it is also worth mentioning that Saigon roadway patterns are quite strange. While riding around, it was never easy to get where I wanted to go because of turning restrictions, one-way roads, construction barriers etc. I had to use my headphones to listen to Google maps direct me where to go because it’s not intuitive at all.
When parking in Saigon, it is very common for an attendant to move your motorbike. There were a few times where I got a little worried because I couldn’t find my bike. They try to keep things organized, even though sometimes it is annoying. The attendant will give you a little ticket to keep track of your bike.
In the nightlife district, you will be charged to park your bike. Its less than $1 USD at about 20,000 Vietnamese Dong. Make sure they give you correct change.
How to Get a Vietnam Visa
Obtaining the Vietnam tourist visa was the most difficult process I have experienced of any country I have visited. The process is extremely disorganized, so make sure you follow these tips.
Of course, you must apply for the visa in advance, which is simple and easy. However, when they send you the stamped form back via email, this is only the first step of the process. The rest must be done upon arrival in the airport.
When you enter passport control, go directly to the left where you will need the printed visa application form, two printed passport photos and $30 USD cash. Here you will need to pay a second time for them to actually give you the Visa.
I don’t understand why, but they are not privy to answering any questions there. Worst case, if you forget your photos, they will take some there for you, but you will wait.
Once they put the visa sticker in your passport, then you must wait in the normal passport control line. All in all, I spent more than an hour and 30 minutes before getting through passport control.
Gay Life in Vietnam
In Vietnam, same-sex sexual activity is not illegal, and has never been specifically criminalized in the country’s history. However, LGBT people in Vietnam are not afforded the same legal rights and protections as the straight community.
In recent years, Vietnam has seen progress concerning LGBT rights, with the abolishment of laws banning gay marriage. At the present time, gay marriage is legal in Vietnam, however gay couples still cannot obtain the typical rights afforded to married couples.
Transgender individuals also received more rights in the past five years. Gender reassignment surgery is now legal in Vietnam. In 2017, law went into effect allowing transgender individuals to register under the sex with which they identify.
Hanoi has recently held the 5th consecutive gay pride event, a great channel of visibility for LGBT Vietnamese people. Although the country has gained significant traction in the past decade, there is still much to be done in protecting the LGBT people in both the workplace and in general.
If you enjoyed this Saigon gay travel guide, share with a friend!