things to see in ho chi minh

So, you have decided you will be visiting Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam, which means you are bound to have the time of your life!

The city used to be called Saigon, but after the Vietnam war it was decided to change its name to that of their beloved leader, Ho Chi Minh! However, you will see that Saigon is still widely used, even in this article, oops!

A city with more than 7 million motorbikes is not the epitome of relaxation so I hope you are ready for a little bit of chaos and a lot of fun!

Being the big city that it is, it’s no wonder there are plenty of things to do in Saigon! If you are wondering what to do in Ho Chi Minh City, do not worry, I have gathered the best activities, attractions and tours for you to enjoy!

Keep reading to find out the best Ho Chi Minh City attractions!

1. Discover the city on a Ho Chi Minh sightseeing tour

things to do in saigon

There’s no better way to discover this city than by taking one of the many Saigon tours out there! Getting lost among the alleyways and having a chance to experience the distance between the landmarks really is the best way to get to know a place, in my opinion.

As in every city, Ho Chi Minh City has a big array of walking tours available, ranging from free to private tours, so there are endless ways to see this city by foot!

For instance, you can check out this free Ho Chi Minh City tour of the main Ho Chi Minh City landmarks where a guide will be telling you about the best Ho Chi Minh City sightseeing spots! Make sure you bring some sunscreen and a bottle of water; it will be an intense 4 hours.

You can also check this motorbike Ho Chi Minh day tour where you’ll see even more landmarks but won’t get tired walking from one place to the other; quite a smart thing to do! Alternatively, if you like to go at your own pace, check out this 3h private tour where you can have the guide all to yourself, a luxury not found in many other walking tours!

2. Explore the Reunification Palace (Independence Palace)

things to do in ho chi minh city

One of the most popular things to see in Ho Chi Minh City is the Reunification Palace, which played a big role in Vietnamese history.

This palace served as the general’s quarters during the Vietnam war and it even saw the end of a battle when a North Vietnamese tank crashed through its gates in 1975!

The outside might look a bit bland, but the inside is very interesting! You can see many exciting things there, from the bunker full of 70’s paraphernalia and strange spy machines, to the general’s private chambers. I mean, you can even see his wife’s perfumes! It’s perfectly preserved!

PRO TIP: When buying your ticket, ask the seller when and where the next free guided tour is. They will either tell you to join one that has already started or give you details about the next one!

PRICE: VND 40000 (US $1.70)

3. Eat some Pho

what to do in saigon

You haven’t been in Vietnam if you haven’t tried some delicious pho! This delicious soup made of broth, herbs, noodles and rare cooked beef is a specialty in this country and a must-try during your visit!

You can find it anywhere in the city, but the best places in Ho Chi Minh City to try it are:

  • Pho Hoa, an historic establishment serving a secret recipe of pho for generations!
  • Pho 2000, where Bill Clinton tried his first pho in the year 2000, a landmark by itself!
  • Pho Tin Ha Noi, where you’ll be served a northern Vietnamese version of the dish (which is actually where it comes from!)

Check out my list of restaurants in the practical section of this post for more awesome places where you can have delicious, real and affordable Vietnamese food!

4. Check out the Central Post Office

places to visit in ho chi minh

Saigon Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh City is an iconic colonial building that just has to be on your Ho Chi Minh City itinerary!

Designed by the French architect Alfred Foulhoux at the end of the 19th century, it has been a working post office ever since. You will see locals and tourists alike walking through the main hall on a daily basis; the stunning indoor architecture should not be missed!

FUN FACT: Even though if was designed by Alfred Foulhoux, it is often erroneously credited as being the work of Gustave Eiffel, the architect of the Eiffel Tower!

PRO TIP: A favorite thing to do among tourists is to send postcards from this post office which you can purchase on site! If you walk towards the end of the building, you will find a number of desks that are there for you to use. Also, if you ever need a translator, there are many Vietnamese people that hang around there to help you out!

PRICE: Free

5. Shop at Binh Tay Market and Ben Tanh Market

ho chi minh city tour

Located in Chinatown, Binh Tay Market is a perfect example of a Chinese Market in Vietnam! It was actually built by the French at the end of the 19th century and I think this market is the perfect spot for you to do your bulk souvenir shopping.

For instance, my boyfriend and I bought 4 small Vietnamese coffee machines here for VND 100,000 (US $4), which is a steal!

Another great market in Ho Chi Minh City is Ben Thanh Market. This one, unlike Binh Tay Market, is not influenced by the Chinese-Vietnamese culture. This one is pure Vietnamese!

Definitely targeted for tourists and travelers, you can find all types of souvenirs (t-shirts, bags, ornaments for the house, etc) and you can even have a stop over for lunch in one of its many typical Vietnamese food stalls!

PRO TIP: You can find all types of really well made brand imitations at the Ben Thanh Market (if you are into that); however, they are usually quite overpriced and you would need to haggle down the price quite a lot!

PRICE: Free

6. Have a drink at the Bitexco Financial Tower and visit the Saigon Skydeck

what to see in ho chi minh

The Bitexco Financial Tower is a 260m high skyscraper and the second tallest building in the city (after Vincom Landmark 81). If you are wondering what to see in Ho Chi Minh City that will leave you speechless, this is it – visiting it makes for a perfect evening plan!

While you’re there, you can admire the striking architecture of this stunning building (am I the only one that thinks it looks like a beard trimmer?) while you sip a cold beer on the Saigon Skydeck and enjoy the sunset views!

You can also get a drink, a coffee or even a meal at Eon Café, which is located on the 52nd floor. It’s a bit overpriced, like an iced cappuccino costing VND 150,000 (US $6.70), but you can just imagine how good the views are!

You can buy your Skydeck tickets here so you don’t have to wait at the ticket booth!

PRICE: VND 200,000 (US $7.65)

7. Explore the Temples and Pagodas

ho chi minh temple

What is a visit to Vietnam without checking out some beautiful pagodas?

The most popular one is Jade Emperor Pagoda (Ngọc Hoàng Pagoda) also known as the “Tortoise Pagoda.” It is one of the 5 most important shrines in Ho Chi Minh City, so iconic that Barack Obama visited it in 2016!

A perfect example of the blend of cultures and religions in Vietnam, the inside is full of mostly Taoist paraphernalia, although it does have Buddhist icons as well. Don’t forget to check out the turtle pond inside!

Two of my other favorite temples are Thien Hau Temple, a Buddhist and Taoist Chinese-style temple dedicated to Mazu, a Chinese sea goddess, and Giac Lam Pagoda, one of the oldest pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City built in 1744!

PRICE: Free

8. Learn about the Vietnam War at the War Remnants Museum

what to do in ho chi minh city

If you ask me, one of my favorite things to see in Saigon (and probably one of the most shocking ones) would be the War Remnants Museum!

In this museum you can learn about the Vietnamese War, which is actually known by the Vietnamese as the American War. I will spare you the details because I would love you to experience it for yourself. But make sure you don’t miss the last floor; it is very informative and it gives you the number of and details on the victims of this bloody war.

PRICE: VND 40000 (US $1.70)

9. Taste some Vietnamese Coffee

ho chi minh city things to do

If you had a crazy night at Bui Vien, the nightlife hub in Ho Chi Minh City, I have the perfect solution for you!

Coffee was introduced by French colonists and became one of the most exported Vietnamese products as well as a must-have in people’s everyday lives. There are plenty of cafés in Ho Chi Minh City, but check my list below for the best of the best:

My boyfriend and I purchased some Vietnamese coffee dripping machines and even though the Vietnamese technique might seem easy, there are many different ways to master this art! That’s why checking this 2h coffee making class might be a nice activity if you are into this delicious beverage that makes the world go round!

10. Admire the Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon

things to see in saigon

ATTENTION: This church is closed for renovation until 2023

Located next to the Central Post Office is the Cathedral of Notre Dame, a Catholic church established by French colonists. It was built between 1863 and 1880 and it is the main Catholic church of Ho Chi Minh City.

Unlike Hanoi’s Notre Dame, this church is not a twin of the famous Parisian cathedral, so it is a nice example of the Vietnamese-French take on Catholic churches!

NOTE: Even though it is under construction, the outside can be appreciated from different angles! I urge you to have a look, it is right next to the post office anyway so I’m sure you will bump into it!

PRICE: Free

BONUS: Extra things to do in Ho Chi Minh City

ho chi minh travel

For those who just never have enough things to do, I have included a list of extra places to visit in Ho Chi Minh City for you to explore, and a couple of experiences as well! Check my list below:

1. Bonsai River Cruise

saigon attractions

A romantic and lovely activity when traveling to Ho Chi Minh City is to hop on a Bonsai River Cruise through the Saigon river!

It is a great way to see how the city comes alive at night and to experience the scenery from another point of view, all while enjoying some traditional music and the best of Indochina cuisine.

Hop on this 2-hour river cruise in which you can enjoy a buffet dinner (that you can upgrade to include unlimited drinks!) and a live band show while admiring Ho Chi Minh City’s night lights.

2. Take a Vietnamese cooking class

cooking in ho chi minh

Whether you are a cooking expert or you have no clue about cooking, I am sure you will enjoy a Vietnamese cooking class while in Ho Chi Minh!

Suitable for all levels, there is no better reward than eating your own work, and have I mentioned that when you go back home you will be able to show off all of your Vietnamese cooking skills to your friends, leaving them speechless?

On this 4.5h Cooking Class you get to visit the Ben Thanh Market to buy your ingredients from the best suppliers, and then spend the rest of the time learning from a culinary expert in a small group!

3. Enjoy a show at the Ho Chi Minh City Opera House

top things to do in ho chi minh

Ho Chi Minh City was bustling with new construction during the French colonial period, and another example of this is the Ho Chi Minh City Opera House!

Built at the end of the 19th century in the gorgeous colonial Dong Khoi Street, it serves as both a municipal theatre and an opera house. Whether you are an opera fan or not, you have to check it out because this cute little pink building looks like a real-life doll house!

Whether you are into opera shows or you just want to have a different experience, or a romantic date, I recommend you attend an opera performance!

For instance, you can attend the “A O Show” which tells the tale of the Vietnamese countryside life vs the city life through a variety of circus-like performances. Alternately, get tickets for the the “Teh Dar Show”, where you will learn traditional southern Vietnamese tales through music and an acrobatics-filled performance!

PRICE: Tickets range from US $30 to $63, depending on where you would like to be seated.

4. Educate yourself at the Vietnamese History Museum

saigon tours

Does this happen to you: when you travel, you end up learning more about that place than what you actually know about your own country? Me too! That’s why I tend to go to as many museums as possible so I can fit as much info as I can into my very forgetful head!

The Vietnamese History Museum is perfect for learning about the past of this beautiful country you happen to be traveling through! The exhibits cover everything from the Prehistoric era to the final dynasties that reigned over Vietnam, really educational!

PRICE: VND 30,000 (US $1.30)

5. Check out Pham Ngu Lao Street – Nightlife

ho chi minh city tourism

Very close to the Benh Tanh Market you will find Pham Ngu Lao Street. A hub for expats and backpackers, there is no doubt it has become the centre of Ho Chi Minh City’s nightlife!

Full of hostels, cute cafés and affordable food spots and bars, it’s a favorite among travellers from all walks of life that just want to grab a beer in a quite informal yet decent place!

You can also have a drink at one of the rooftop bars in the area. For instance, you can check out Hideout Rooftop Bar, which is the rooftop of a hostel where you can enjoy affordable drinks or The View Rooftop Bar for a more fancy vibe!

No matter what day of the week it is, there is always something going on at Pham Ngu Lao Street!

PRICE: Free

6. Visit Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts

places to visit in ho chi minh city

The Museum of Fine Arts is probably my second favorite museum in Ho Chi Minh City, right after the War Remnants Museum!

Built in 1937, the museum was originally the home of the Hua family, a very wealthy Chinese migrant family, before it was donated and set up as the Fine Arts Museum in the 70s. This museum is home to the very best of Vietnamese paintings and sculptures and it is definitely a beautiful experience!

By the way, there is a legend that says that the only daughter from the Hui family contracted leprosy and was locked into one of the top floor rooms until she died. These stories go on to say that her ghost has been haunting the building ever since! How spooky!

PRICE: VND 10000 (US $0.5)

7. Check out the Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine

medicinal liquor

If you are visiting this part of the world, you must know that traditional medicine is as much a part of their culture as western medicine is. That’s why visiting the Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine is such an interesting and culturally enriching experience!

In this museum you can find examples of more than 3,000 items of Vietnamese medicine and you can learn about techniques that date back to prehistoric times! You can also learn which natural products are used for the most common illnesses and, who knows, maybe you can even use it in your daily life!

PRICE: VND 60,000 (US $2.60)

Day trips from Ho Chi Minh City

best day trips from ho chi minh

For those that have run out of Saigon attractions to see and need to get away from the city, I have selected my favorite Ho Chi Minh Day trips for you to enjoy!

1. Cu Chi tunnels

best things to do in ho chi minh

One of the most popular Ho Chi Minh day trips is visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels. This intricate network of tunnels was used by the civilians and also Southern Vietnamese Army (Viet Cong) as a hiding spot during the Vietnamese War (1955-1975). There are more than 200km of tunnels than include amenities from hospitals to schools, and apart from getting to explore all these, you will be able to learn how life was back then from the locals themselves!

If you are travelling on a budget or if you are feeling adventurous you can try to visit it on your own! I say try, because Vietnam is a place where doing things on your own is a hard task! However, we don’t give up so easily and isn’t adventure what we travel for?

Once there you can then buy an entrance ticket which would be VND 90,000 (US $3.90) and a tour guide will be included in the price!

HOW TO GET THERE BY YOURSELF: To get to the Cu Chi Tunnels, get bus #13 to Cu Chi Bus Terminal from the Pham Ngu Lau Bus Station. These buses depart every 15 min, cost VND 7,000 (US $0.30) and take between 1h to 1.5h to take you to the destination. Once in the Cu Chi Bus Terminal, you would have to get on bus #79, which departs every 15min, costs VND 6,000 (US $0.25) and takes around 30 min to get to Ben Duoc which is the best entrance to Cu Chi Tunnels!

If that sounds like too much of a hassle, travellers usually book a half day tour, with an optional hotel pick up, where a knowledgeable local guide takes you through this underground network and tells you everything you need to know about the Vietnam War!

Alternatively, you can check out this full day tour that takes you to the most important Ho Chi Minh City landmarks and also takes you to the Cu Chi Tunnels which makes for such a perfect and fun filled day out!

2. Cao Dai Temple

things to do in vietnam ho chi minh

Caodaism is a monotheistic religion established in South Vietnam in 1926 and holds the belief that all religions seek the same values so they are among the most tolerant religions in the world!

The Cao Dai Temple was built in the 1950’s after the Japanese occupation of Indochina and is located in Tay Ninh, in the south of Vietnam very close to the Cambodian border. Make sure you attend one of the ceremonies as they’re quite unique and a must-see when you head to the temple! There are two ceremonies a day, one at 12pm and the other one at 6pm.

PRO TIP: If you would like to do the trip on your own, it can take up to 4h one way to get there on public transport. So if you want to attend the 12pm ceremony, make sure you leave at 8am at the latest.

HOW TO GET THERE BY YOURSELF: First, you would need to hop on bus 13 for VND 10,000 (US $0.45) and get off at the last stop. Once there, you would get on bus 70-2 for VND 14,000 (US $0.60) and make sure you tell your driver where you are going so he stops at the Cao Dai Temple!

Alternatively, I recommend this full day Cu Chi Tunnels & Cao Dai Temple Tour, where you get to do two of the most important South Vietnamese activities in one day. It’s really good value!

3. Mekong Delta

ho chi minh travel

Another great day trip from Ho Chi Minh City would be to visit the Mekong Delta, which encompasses more than 40,500 square kilometers of southwestern Vietnam!

The mighty Mekong River travels from China through Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, and ends in South Vietnam! It is very valuable as it provides water to most of SouthEast Asia and it’s home to more than 1,000 different fish species!

PRO TIP: If you’d like to explore the Mekong Delta on your own, the bus trip takes 3h – 4h from Ho Chi Minh City so you might want to stay for a couple of nights.

You could stay in Can Tho, where you can see the Cai Rang and the Phong Dien floating markets, and also the Tran Phu night market. It is a great place to explore what the Mekong Delta has to offer!

HOW TO GET THERE BY YOURSELF: There are many bus providers in HCMC that will sell you this trip. For instance, you can check out Futa, a reliable Vietnamese bus provider. You can purchase the tickets to Can Tho at their offices for VND 110,000 (US $4.75) and once in Can Tho Bus Station, this company provides a free shuttle bus to your hotel.

Alternatively, and to be able to do it in just one day, check out this Full day Mekong Delta tour where you can get on a boat and explore the surroundings of this unique ecosystem that is the Mekong. Enjoy a locally sourced lunch while admiring the beautiful rice fields and small villages that are fed by the Mekong Delta!

If you’d like a more in-depth experience, check out this overnight Mekong Delta tour where apart from wandering around this stunning landscape you practice different activities such as how to make homemade noodles or visit a floating market!

4. Ben Tre

things to see in ho chi minh

For those looking for a little bit of nature, just a day where you can switch off from all the city life and from all the Ho Chi Minh City pollution, head to Ben Tre and Ham Luong River!

This is a lesser known part of the Mekong Delta and it is definitely way less touristy and much more authentic! A big part of the economy revolves around coconut candy, so prepare your stomach and I hope you have a sweet tooth!

Things that you can do in Ben Tre range from visiting coconut candy factories and kayaking on the river to simply eating your way through this South Vietnamese oasis!

HOW TO GET THERE BY YOURSELF: You can get to Ben Tre from Ho Chi Minh City in a couple of hours for around VND 90,000 (US $4). You can buy your tickets here.

Check out this day tour to Ben Tre from Ho Chi Minh City, where you’ll get to kayak and ride your bike through this lush landscape! You will also have lunch at a local’s home and visit a fruit plantation!

Ho Chi Minh City tourism – Practical Information about the city

what to see in ho chi minh

Ho Chi Minh City will probably be a trip of a lifetime; however, your trip won’t be the same if you haven’t organized all the basics beforehand. My advice is that you don’t underestimate the power of a dirty hotel room or a bad meal to ruin your day or even your holidays!

How can you fix that? Reading the guide below on practical information and the best Ho Chi Minh travel tips very carefully and keeping it really close to your heart!

Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City

where to stay ho chi minh

Ho Chi Minh City is a big city, that is clear to all of us, but how do you filter through all the accommodations to find the one that’s meant for you? I have created a little list of the best hotels in different price ranges so you can choose the hotel of your dreams and budget:

Luxury (US $160 and up) 

In Mai House Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll be able to enjoy a 5-star experience in one of the best hotels in the city for a very reasonable price! The service is outstanding and the stunning swimming pool area will leave you speechless! Alternatively, stay at the Reverie Ho Chi Minh City, with an amazing mix of classic and contemporary décor that doesn’t go unnoticed! It’s got three in-house restaurants and a spa where you can unwind after a hectic day out, Queen Elizabeth style!

Middle-priced (from US $55 to $160)

Choose Linda Apartment if you’d like to enjoy the independence of having your own place but with the sophistication of a 5-star hotel; oh and don’t forget the swimming pool and gym! Otherwise, stay at Mia Ho Chi Minh City a boutique hotel with a unique décor, lovely staff and exceptional food!

Budget (up to US $55)

Stay at Chez Mimosa Petite for a home away from home feeling during your trip. Its affordability and amazing location make it the perfect budget choice! Alternatively, Andy’s Studio offers you a modern and contemporary stay with an outdoor pool and gym, for such a good price!

Money and Prices in Ho Chi Minh City

is ho chi minh expensive

Just like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City is quite an affordable city. The perks of big cities are that you can always find alternatives for all types of budgets, from the most expensive to the cheapest options. So whatever your travel style is, Ho Chi Minh City has something for you!

The type of currency used in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong. If you are coming from a different SouthEast Asian country, I would advise you to exchange whatever cash you have left before leaving that country.

Alternatively,  you can safely get money out from an ATM at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City. As a last resort, you can always exchange cash at the airport, but we all know how bad those rates tend to be!

I always bring a little bit of the local currency just so I am not in a rush to exchange or withdraw money. When I do need to exchange, I just google “currency exchange in X city” and check each review. For instance, in Ho Chi Minh City, you can use Hung Long Money Exchange, they have fantastic reviews!

In addition, I have created a list of prices of common items in Ho Chi Minh City so you can have an idea of how much you will be spending and what your budget should be!

  • A meal in an inexpensive restaurant for 1 person – US $2.50
  • Dinner for 2 in a restaurant – US $25
  • A night in a hotel (very approximate) – US $60
  • Taxi – US $0.50 per km + $0.45 initial charge
  • A bottle of water – US $0.80
  • Domestic beer – US $0.50
  • Average price for a museum – US $1 to $3
  • 1 l of gas (1/4 gallon) – US $0.80

TIPPING CULTURE: Even though tipping is not a custom in Vietnam, it is very much appreciated when you do it. You should know that workers’ rights are not very good in the country, so most of the time, employees are overworked and underpaid. If you are lucky enough to be able to spare some change, I encourage you to tip!

How to get from the airport to Ho Chi Minh City city

travel in ho chi minh

Tan Son Nhat Airport (SGN) in Ho Chi Minh City is located just 6 km north of the city center and it is the largest airport in Vietnam! This means that there will be a lot of people that are either arriving in this city through this airport or leaving from there.

That’s why I have created this list of all the means of transportation to and from the terminals of Ho Chi Minh City airport. Keep reading for a safe and uneventful airport transfer to/from Ho Chi Minh City!

By taxi/Grab

Whenever you take a taxi out of the airport in Ho Chi Minh City, you have two choices: you can either pre-book it or get in the taxi queue outside of the terminal.

Pre-booking means that you would have to head to the Mai Linh Taxi counter inside of the terminal and order your taxi from there. Once you make the payment, the staff will accompany you to hop on your prepaid taxi. This should cost between VND 130,000 (US $5.60) and VND 200,000 (US $8.64) depending on your destination.

Otherwise, there’s a taxi queue where you can wait and hop on a taxi that will take you to the city center. Make sure you ask the taxi driver to put the meter on! I personally don’t like this option because taxi scams are very common but it’s good for you to know that this option is out there too!

Grab, otherwise, is very safe and affordable. You can just download the app to your smartphone and you can book a trip from the airport to the city center from VND 70,000 (US $3) to VND 100,000 (US $4.32). No need to put in your card details as you can always pay cash to the driver but you do need to have a Wi-Fi connection!

By public bus

saigon travel

Good news is that if you are on a tight budget, there are public buses that will take you to and from Ho Chi Minh City’s airport. When leaving the airport, head to the bus area and look for bus #147 (Cho Lon Bus Station – Tan Son Nhat) and #152 (Trung Son Resident – Tan Son Nhat) buses.

Bus #147 will take you to Chinatown while bus #152 will take you to Ben Thanh Market right next to Pham Ngu Lao (backpacker’s area), for around VND 7,000 (US $0.30).

By private shuttle

Private shuttles are another way to get in and out of the airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Really comfortable, no waiting in line and straight to your destination.

You can either pre-book them with your accommodation (just send them an email as soon as you make the reservation) or you can hire them online. You can book your private transfer here,  and even more perfect for those travelling as a family or group of friends, you can split the cost!

Transportation inside Ho Chi Minh City

saigon tour

That Vietnamese traffic is hectic is something that we learned in my Hanoi article, but the fact that a little old local lady held my arm while crossing a 4-way road really tells you all you need to know about Ho Chi Minh City’s crazy roads!

You’ll get used to navigating them eventually, but you will learn that walking is not something that locals enjoy. Maybe due to the fact that sidewalks are usually obstructed by hundreds of bikes!

Therefore, getting to know Ho Chi Minh City’s transport is vital for your survival, I mean, for your trip! Here is everything you need to know about getting around in the city:

By public bus

If you’re the adventurous type, get on a Ho Chi Minh City public bus and discover the city through the eyes of a local!

There are hundreds of routes throughout the city and fares get as low as VND 3,000 (US $0.13) depending on the length of the route (no daily passes available). You just buy the ticket from the driver or helper, and you are ready to go! Just hop on the white and green air-conditioned buses and let the adventure begin!

An example of two routes would be:

  • Independence Palace to Museum of Fine Arts: VND 5,000 (US $ 0.20) on Route 04
  • Benh Tay Market to Jade Emperor’s Pagoda: VND 6,000 (US $ 0.25) on Route 03

PRO TIP: Make sure you hail the driver so he stops and picks you up!

IMPORTANT: Do not expect to make any sense of the public transport in Ho Chi Minh City as the buses are usually late. They do the best they can with the traffic they have! Also, it’s not unheard of for tourists to be ripped off by the driver when paying for a ticket so many times you’re better off just getting a Grab!

By Grab/taxi

Grab was my SouthEast Asian best friend during my trip! I must admit, I did have a couple of drivers claiming that they didn’t have spare change on them so they could keep the change, so if you can, make sure you have the exact amount!

It works like this – you download the app and once you select your route, it shows you the price. Once you accept the price you just have to wait a few minutes for your Grab and pay with cash at the end of the ride! It’s very similar to Uber, except that you pay the driver in cash!

I am not a big fan of taxis when travelling through SouthEast Asian countries. You need to haggle, and they will take you on the longest road if they can, among many other scams. That’s why I like to stay away from them, but if you can’t help it, I advise you to stick to legit companies such as Mai Linh Taxis and Vinasun. Fares within District 1 never go higher than VND 80,000 (US $3.45)

By motorbike

ho chi minh tour

If you are brave enough to get on a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City I want to meet you! Sadly, it is a little bit careless to do so because as I mentioned, traffic is crazy and accidents are an everyday occurrence. For those of you that have been driving in places such as Sri Lanka or Thailand – don’t get too confident, Vietnam traffic is a whole different story!

But! You wouldn’t be the first foreigner to try it and survive it! After all, Ho Chi Minh City is a hub for expats, and they have to find their way around this massive city too!

So if you still would like to try it, you can check out many of the motorbike rentals available throughout the city. Starting from as low as VND 240,000 (US $10) you can get on one of these motorbikes. You can check out Ho Chi Minh City Scooter Rental or Ho Chi Minh City Bike Rentals, where you can even rent bikes by the month!

Must-try food in Ho Chi Minh City

eating in ho chi minh

The food that you should be trying in Ho Chi Minh City depends on the length of your trip. If this is the only place in Vietnam that you will be visiting, then you have to broaden your horizons and try all the typical Vietnamese food.

However, if you are visiting other places in Vietnam, such as Hanoi, you can afford to focus on trying southern Vietnamese cuisine instead. Trust me, it is nothing like the northern cuisine!

On my list below I am going to put a little bit of everything so you can try all the essentials before you leave Vietnam!

must try food in vietnam

  1. Banh Beo – little flour pancakes topped with crunchy pork. Yummy!
  2. Banh Cuon – steamed rice rolls filled with minced mushrooms and pork, super smooth!
  3. Banh Xeo – fried crepes filled with many types of savory deliciousness. Try the one with prawns, it’s so good! The best place to try it is at Banh Xeo 46A!
  4. Bun Cha – noodle soup with barbecued pork, fresh veggies and herbs. My favorite Vietnamese dish!
  5. Pho Bo – Vietnamese noodle soup that consists of rice noodles and beef, Ho Chi Minh City’s style is sweeter and with fewer spices!
  6. Vietnamese Coffee – there’s not much to say about this, it’s coffee, it’s Vietnamese, it’s delicious!
  7. Banh Mi – A mix of the French and Vietnamese cuisine, affordable baguette sandwich with veggies, meat and pate! Vegetarian options available everywhere too! Check the ones at Banh Mi Huynh Hao!
  8. Goi Cuon – The classic Vietnamese spring rolls, you have to try them!
  9. Bun Bo Hue – beef and rice vermicelli noodle soup, a spicy central Vietnamese take on Pho!
  10. Bun Mam – yummy fermented Vietnamese soup with fish and seafood.

While there are dozens of different Vietnamese dishes, these are probably my favorite ones and all are a must try while in Vietnam!

An easy way to try most of these is to join a street food tour like this one – it is private and you’ll get around by motorbike! There’s no time to lose when it comes to eating in Saigon!

Great restaurants and cafés in Ho Chi Minh City

saigon tour

© Anthony Bourdain – the more local, the better – even Barack Obama dined in a simple Vietnamese eatery!

I must admit – it can be a bit tricky to recommend places to eat in Vietnam because there are so many family restaurants; you would need an entire lifetime to try them all out!

However, one of my favorite things when I travel is to find great places to eat and I have been known to repeat even three times when I like one place!

Please find below the best places to eat at when in Ho Chi Minh City:

  • The Garlik – Because good food doesn’t always mean tiny plastic chairs in Ho Chi Minh City, you should check out The Garlik! This original place is great to bring your date, business partner or even your friends for a delicious and sophisticated dinner out!
  • Noir. Dining in the Dark – If you have never tried the “dine in the dark” experience, I’d advise you to do it during your visit to Ho Chi Minh City! Because you can’t see your dish, all the flavors explode in your tongue like a little Vietnamese rainbow! They have menus ranging from western to Vietnamese, and even vegetarian!
  • Shamballa Vegetarian – You know it’s a good vegetarian when it makes it to the top of my restaurant list! Shamballa Vegetarian is a place that serves veggie and vegan friendly food in Ho Chi Minh City and a must try too, even for those meat lovers out there!
  • Bun Bo Nam Bo Ba Ba – This place specializes in, you guessed it, Bun Bo! An iconic place in Ho Chi Minh City, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner for those that fall in love with this beef rice noodle salad! So delicious!
  • Soul Ben Thanh – You must be able to tell that I like to eat local when I travel and I advise you to do the same! Get out of your comfort zone, forget that English breakfast and challenge yourself with a Vietnamese delicacy! Less than 1km away from the War Remnants Museum, make it your lunch spot and I assure you, you won’t regret it!
  • Bun Cha 145 – I could not leave this legendary restaurant off the list, and it is because Bun Cha 145 is as much a landmark as Notre Dame! It might seem obvious but I want to insist, try their bun cha, it’s out of this world!
  • Five Oysters – This locally owned seafood restaurant is where you should go if you are craving a little bit of seafood, Vietnamese style. Super affordable and with a wide menu with dishes from all over Vietnam, it’s a favorite among locals and travellers alike!
  • Eon Café – Located on the 50th floor of the Bitexco Building, a great café with a great view! Just a tad overpriced, but it’s worth it for the stunning views!
  • Maison Marou – If you are more of a hot chocolate kind of person, head to Maison Marou! Made from Vietnamese chocolate, you can enjoy it while watching how their chocolate factory works!

Sim cards in Vietnam

what to see in ho chi minh

Whether we are going to Ho Chi Minh City for 15 days, a month or three months, SIM cards come in quite handy to get you out of a prickly situation and I love their convenience!

Public Wi-Fi in Vietnam is quite widespread so it shouldn’t be hard for you to find a hotspot unless you are in the middle of the countryside.

So if you would like to buy a SIM card because you want to be able to book a taxi whenever you want, I found that the best provider is Viettel, one of the most important phone providers in Vietnam! Their prices vary depending on the different offers they come up with throughout the year, but it’s usually around US $8 for the SIM card and a decent amount of data per month.

PRO TIP 1: There is a rumor that cards sold for tourists in unofficial places end up breaking after a while. So if you want to be sure, you can buy a card at one of the official stores in the city. Otherwise, you can always purchase it at the airport.

PRO TIP 2: Don’t forget to unlock your phone before you leave your home country! Otherwise, the new sim card won’t work. 😉

Is Ho Chi Minh City safe?

ho chi minh to do

Ho Chi Minh City is overall a really safe place. Solo travellers and expats wander around the city at all times and there’s not really much to be worried about apart from being run over, so watch out when crossing the street!

However, Vietnam is a country popular for being a little unkind to tourists. Oftentimes, travellers get ripped off with prices in Vietnam, so before you buy something make sure you haggle hard. It is what they’re expecting you to do! And also, if you book some kind of transportation, it doesn’t hurt to do a bit of research beforehand to see how much it should be costing you!

Finally, with all these tips, you are very well informed and I am sure that with them and a little common sense (just like everywhere else in the world) you will be completely fine!

Best time to visit Ho Chi Minh City

ho chi minh city travel

Because Vietnam is such a long country, the best time to visit the north is not necessarily the best time to visit the south, which can cause a little bit of a headache when making a decision!

Ho Chi Minh City is not as touristy as Hanoi, so it won’t be as crowded. However, if you decide to visit during the Vietnamese New Year (late January to early February) keep in mind that the city will be a little empty but transport can get quite hectic!

The best time to visit Ho Chi Minh City is from December to April, during the dry season, which is when the temperatures are milder and the weather is drier. However, the wet season (May to November) in Ho Chi Minh City is really not that big of a deal in my opinion, and sometimes getting caught in the rain makes for the best stories!

Visa for Vietnam

ho chi minh city travel

Most nationalities require a tourist visa when travelling through Vietnam. Upon arrival, you get issued a 15-day free visa that can be extended. However, my advice is that if you are staying in the country for longer you should apply for a 1-month visa or a 3-month visa beforehand since you won’t want to be doing the paperwork in a rush as soon as you enter Vietnam!

For instance, you can apply for your 1-month visa online. It won’t take more than 5 days to be issued and it costs US $25. You would need a copy of your passport and some photos in order to apply correctly.

IMPORTANT: There are many agencies online that look like the government websites but are not, and that charge you extra for doing something that you can do yourself on this website. Be wary, and do not pay more than US $25!

Insurance for Vietnam

ho chi minh city

In such a chaotic city you need travel insurance, full stop! That way you can have some peace of mind while taking a few more risks like, for example, crossing the road!

World Nomads is a very popular insurance company chosen by all types of travelers when travelling to SouthEast Asia. You can choose the country where you will be travelling to and they will provide you with great coverage; it is what my boyfriend and I use and we really love it!


Conclusion

things to see in ho chi minh

Thank you for reading this article. You have really done your homework and I am sure your travel mates will be really impressed!

Above I have talked about the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City (with many tips for foodies included!) in order to have a great time! I have also explained to you my favorite and most popular day trips so you don’t miss out on anything and no other travelers can obnoxiously tell you that you don’t know what you missed!

I have also explained the not-that-interesting-yet-extremely-important essential tips for your Ho Chi Minh City trip (accommodation, transportation, visa, insurance etc.) so you are as ready as it gets!

I sincerely hope that you are a Vietnam PRO by now and that you get even better than me at navigating this crazy city! Let me know if you have any questions or if you want to tell me about your trip in the comments below!

Happy travels,

Arantxa

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top things to do in ho chi minh

Pin it for later!

top things to do in ho chi minh