Saigon Gay Travel
wolfyy’s Saigon gay travel guide to where to stay, things to do, gay bars, & Ho Chi Minh City gay life.
The Gay Travel Experience: Saigon, Vietnam
I had one of the most memorable local experiences my first night in Ho Chi Minh, even while super tired from the day’s air travel. I started my Vietnam gay travel journey by venturing out to find some Pho on the street.
A man sat me at a table along a busy road next to a local. When I tried to order, I realized we couldn’t communicate because he didn’t speak any English and I definitely can’t 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. We had a brief but enthralling conversation about what it’s like living in Saigon.
My Saigon travel experience was undoubtedly amazing. Here in Vietnam’s capital, 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. Gay travelers should absolutely not miss out on a visit to Saigon.
Gay Saigon: Hotels & 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.
Better yet, you won’t have to skimp on luxury with VRBO stays in Saigon. So many apartments are newly renovated and have a clean, modern feel. They’re just perfect for Asia travelers!
Saigon Hotels I Recommend
Here are a few fantastic hotels for gay travelers in Saigon that are highly rated and perfectly located for experiencing the best parts of the city.
Saigon Gay Travel Experiences
Catch the best views of Saigon’s skyline midway across the Thiem Bridge at one of the lookout points. The lights are wondrous at night. Note that to stop here you will need to be riding a motorbike since there is no dedicated parking area.
Saigon Food Markets
The service at Ben Thanh 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.
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
Tours of the Cu Chi Tunnels 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.
Make sure to explore the airplanes and tanks outside first, as you probably won’t be in the mood after seeing the morbid exhibits.
Saigon Gay Bars
Thi Bar is the most popular gay bar in Saigon. It’s truly authentic as well…I did not find any westerners here. The bar is more relaxed with live music on a small stage. The performers here are incredibly talented! Take a listen to the video below.
Thi bar is located in the main nightlife hub along a street called Bui Vien. 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. It’s 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.
Nearby Sahara Club has more of a club vibe with tables throughout the space. 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 it’s 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.
Broma: Not a Bar is another stunning rooftop with amazing service. The ambiance is top-notch on both the roof and the 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.
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Saigon Travel Tips
Traffic & Driving in Saigon
Saigon traffic 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 Taxi application on your smartphone and hop on the back of someone else’s motorbike. It’s so much fun!
For travelers renting motorbikes, it’s worth mentioning that Saigon roadway patterns can be pretty confusing. 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 with Google maps directing me where to go because it’s definitely not intuitive.
Parking Rules in Saigon
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. It’s less than $1 USD at about 20,000 Vietnamese Dong. Make sure they give you the correct change.
Consider Travel Insurance
Getting travel insurance coverage before visiting Vietnam can come in extremely handy. Trip cancellation protection, lost-baggage coverage, travel delay reimbursements and medical coverage abroad are just a few reasons why you should always have some sort of insurance policy.
Travelex Insurance is one of the easiest providers to use. Their website gives you an immediate quote based on your age, trip cost and a few other factors. They then offer plans in several price tiers.
Alternatively, you can shop among the quotes from a whole bunch of different providers using a travel insurance marketplace service like Aardy.
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.
Vietnam Gay Life
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.
Vietnam has seen progress concerning LGBT rights in recent years, 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, a law went into effect allowing transgender individuals to register under the sex with which they identify.
Vietnam Gay Pride Events
Hanoi held the first Vietnam gay pride in 2012. The city has recently held its fifth 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 LGBT people in both the workplace and in general.