Saigon vs. Hanoi – From a Tourist Point of View

If it’s your first trip to Vietnam, you may be wondering which of the 2 cities, is the best and how they differ. You are on the right page :

Note :

  1. Xin Chào, in Vietnamese means : Hello.
  2. The official name of Saigon is Ho Chi Minh city (see explanation).

Size and Population

Saigon and Hanoi are the 2 biggest cities of Vietnam. See them on the Map :

They both have a population of about 8,000,000 people (If we include all the suburbs, then Saigon is more populated than Hanoi, it may arrive to 12,000,000 people). You will feel that both cities are very crowded with people and motorcycles.

As a tourist, you don’t care about the size of the suburbs (Hanoi 3,324 km2,, Saigon 2,095 km2), but about the city center, so in both cities the city center is compact and you can walk. It is not like a big city in Europe, like Paris for example, where there are several “city centres” and where you need to use the underground in order to move from one centre to another. In Hanoi, the distance to some tourist attractions is bigger than in Saigon and you may need to use some transport.


Both cities don’t have an underground transit system (Metro). Both cities have a lot of Taxis at cheap price. In both cities there is the Grab company (like Uber), that allows to call a Taxi or a Motorcycle Taxi via a smartphone application. See the pages about the Transport in Saigon and the Transport in Hanoi.

Tourist Interest

Hanoi is more interesting to tourists. There are more museums and the city is more “crazy”, old and special. Saigon is more modern.

See the pages about the tourist attractions in Saigon and the tourist attractions in Hanoi.


Compared to Europe, they are both warm cities, but Hanoi is cooler than Saigon. In the evenings, in Hanoi sometimes you need a sweatshirt instead of a T-Shirt. In both cities there is a rainy season from May to August (more or less). Most people prefer hot weather and so Saigon wins on that point.

See the pages about the climate in Saigon and the climate in Hanoi.

Main Title

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, it has government institutions. Saigon is the main economic center of Vietnam (banks, stock exchange, corporates…)


My advice is to do shopping in Bangkok, Thailand instead of in Vietnam but between Hanoi and Saigon it is Saigon that has more modern shopping centers in the heart of the city. Hanoi may have more art shops.

See the page about the shopping in Saigon.


Saigon has more international food. If you go to the backpackers quarter of Saigon “Pham Ngu Lao”, you will find a lot of Italian, mexican, Indian and American food.

It exists also in the old quarter of Hanoi, but less. If you are Vegetarian (like me), there are more options in Saigon.

There are more international chains in Saigon like McDonald’s, Starbucks and Coffee Bean.
See the page about the Vegetarian food in Saigon.


Both cities have a very animated nightlife. They are on top in worldwide comparison. The old quarter of Hanoi is very special.


Locals will tell you that Vietnamese from the north are different from Vietnamese from the south (then you will remember that they even had a war, in the past). As a tourist, you may not spot a difference, just maybe a few customs like for example eating sunflower seeds in every café in Hanoi but not in Saigon (people are also spitting on the ground in Hanoi, but not in Saigon).

There is a certain influence from China, in north Vietnam. Unfortunately, it is more common to find people eating dogs in Hanoi compared to Saigon.
Saigon has a more international spirit. A foreigner will feel more comfortable in Saigon.


Both cities have a lot of Hotels, but there are more tourists in Hanoi and so there is more competition on the good ones in Hanoi.

See the potential zones to Stay in Hanoi and see the potential zones to Stay in Saigon.


Do you like to sit in a café ?
There are extremely many cafés in Vietnam, everywhere.
In Hanoi and Saigon there are hundreds of cafeterias of any kind. Between the 2 cities, it is Saigon who wins. In Saigon there are more branches belonging to the major chains of cafés and some of them are very big, with several floors.
I have prepared a special page about the cafés in Vietnam, take a look.

More on Vietnam :

  On Thailand :

Other Stuff :

If you find incorrect data on this page, like a restaurant that has closed or a big river that has moved or you want to tell me something, please write me to contact.