Updated May 6, 2019

Districts of Ho Chi Minh City – District 2: The Expat Neighborhood

Find out why people like to live in District 2 and if it’s the right place in Saigon for you.

Living there

Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it is still commonly referred to, is split about into many named and numbered districts. When people talk about District 2 or Quan 2, they will usually describe it as the expat district. And indeed while walking around, it’s easy to see that it’s heavily catered towards American, European and Russian residents.

However, the district still holds a Vietnamese charm. By which, of course, I mean noise, traffic and chaos. This is all especially true around Thao Dien, a neighborhood in District 2. This popular street is the definitive bar and restaurant locale in the district, and perhaps the city.

All of this is just 10 mins drive from the heart of District 1. So it’s still easy to travel into the city center when you want something more local. However, if you’d like to retain all the comforts that you might expect back home and more, District 2 is the one for you.

The cost of having the best of both worlds is literal. Accommodation is more expensive here than in neighboring districts. Landlords know that it’s mainly expats who live here and they will commonly try to negotiate their prices accordingly.  

When choosing where to live in District 2, you have two real options; serviced apartments and apartment complexes. Serviced apartments are less common, but there are plenty of options around Thao Dien. Here you will be living in a Vietnamese style home, usually with a daily/weekly cleaner, for a modest price.

The second option is living in an apartment complex. These are plentiful in District 2. More are popping up all the time as development tries to catch up with expat demand for luxury apartments. These complexes are like castles. All of them have swimming pools and shops, most have gyms, and some even have saunas and libraries. If you’re wanting to move to District 2 the best bet is through Facebook groups or trusted agents like Move in Saigon.

Shopping Mall District 2

What is there to do?

The main things to do in District 2 are eating and shopping. The entire district has an abundance of restaurants and luxury shopping malls.

Every mall is packed with a variety of shops and things to do. On top of that, almost every mall has a food court and/or cinema on the top floor. A personal favorite of mine is Lotta cinema at the Estrella Mall. It’s very new, so it’s still relatively quiet but also comfortable, plus it’s cheap as well.

Right in the middle of Thao Dien is the Vincom Mega-Mall. This huge shoppers paradise is difficult to miss from the street. Inside are all number of clothing, homeware, cafes, and grocery stores. Plus a massive food court on the top levels with choices for every palate.

If you’re into fitness, lifting or fighting both of these malls have decked out gyms full of equipment, fighting arenas, and fitness machines. Anyone can join or sign-up for one of their classes at the reception desks. This is of course if your complex doesn’t already have a free gym for you to use.

Making friends in District 2 is easy. While there aren’t clubs, there are a few bars and karaoke clubs where you can meet new people from all over the world. The best thing to do if you want to meet new people is to join expat Facebook groups like; this one, this one, or even this one. These groups host lots of meetups and events where you can mingle with people from your home country.

Moving away from shopping. You can also find a few premium western style hairdressers around Thao Dien. Places like Concept Coiffure are popular but can be a little expensive for the city. However, if you don’t trust the local hairdressers that you find cutting hair in the street, then it’s your best bet.

A couple of things to note about District 2…

There aren’t many parks to sit down in. However, most of the complexes have shared BBQ gardens and green lounging areas. Like most places in the city any spare space is used for as a road so it can be challenging to get around on foot.

If you’re new to Ho Chi Minh, then you should definitely know about the Grab taxi app to get around. The problem is that District 2 is such a western heavy area that local drivers typically don’t know their way around. So be prepared to give directions once you get off the main highways.

Boat Cruise District 2

What is there to eat?

There are more luxury restaurants here than in the city center. However, don’t let the thought of price worry you too much. I’ve found that a quality meal for two here is usually the price of a regular dinner for one in the West. Definitely lower than what most people are used to back home.

As mentioned above Thao Dien is a subdistrict, or ward, of District 2 is the undeniable heart of District 2. Most of your food options seem to spread outwards from there.

All along the principal Thao Dien street, you have a near endless stream of restaurants from across the globe. You could go to a different restaurant every day and still be spoilt on choice for a long time.

Here are a few personal favorites…

The Boat House is the perfect place for a relaxed breakfast or lunch by the water. To get to this riverside restaurant, you have to walk through the gated Villa neighborhood. This suburb feels surreal as the noise of the city fades away, and you look around to realize you could be on any street in America or Europe.

For lunch, there is Dtwo sports pub. A restaurant/bar that feels like an English pub with excellent roast dinners. Plus if you’re here for the holidays, they hold Christmas events as well.

Mekong Merchant is a little pricey but has a warm and comfortable atmosphere and a range of different food options.

Alternatively, you can try BLOQ – A food court made out built out of shipping containers. There’s a bunch of different lunch options available there.

A final note for food lovers to District 2. The restaurants all over the city know that expats are big business. This means that most places in the city will deliver to District 2 for very cheap, or even better – free. The most popular app for food delivery is Vietnammm.com.

Eating in District 2

What’s So Great about District 2?

So District 2 might be the only place where you will see more Western people than Vietnamese people.

If you want restaurants and shopping to be within walking distance, then you definitely want to be around Thao Dien. Most expats live in or around there. But with massive development more and more apartments are appearing all over the District.

There are definitely lots of opportunities to make friends and places to relax in and around the apartment complexes.

With lots less traffic and multiple highways into the city, you’re just minutes away from Ben Thanh or District 1.

District 2 is for expats who want a piece of home away from home.

By Tyler Wood