Ho Chi Minh City (named Saigon until 1975) is the largest city and the economic heart of Vietnam. What tourists like most about Ho Chi Minh City is the dynamism of the young people of the city.
Ho Chi Minh City is also access to the Mekong Delta and beautiful islands such as Phu Quoc and Con Dao in southern Vietnam.
- 1 Ho Chi Minh City travel guide
- 1.1 A few lines on the history of Ho Chi Minh City
- 1.2 When to visit?
- 1.3 How to get there?
- 1.4 Top 24 Things to See and Do in Ho Chi Minh City
- 1.4.1 Walking in Dong Khoi Street and the surrounding areas
- 1.4.2 Participating in the AO show
- 1.4.3 Walking in Nguyen Hue Pedestrian Street
- 1.4.4 Visiting the Reunification Palace
- 1.4.5 Visiting to the War Remnants Museum
- 1.4.6 Discovery of China Town in Cholon and the Pagoda of the Lady Thien Hau
- 1.4.7 Visiting the Fito Museum of Vietnamese Medicinal Plants
- 1.4.8 Walking to Ben Thanh Market
- 1.4.9 Visiting the Jade Emperor Pagoda
- 1.4.10 Tasting typical HCMC dishes
- 188.8.131.52 Banh Xeo: 46a Đinh Công Tráng Street, District 1
- 184.108.40.206 Pho – Noodle Soup: Pho Phuong 25, 25 Hoàng Sa Street, District 1
- 220.127.116.11 Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich: Banh Mi Huynh Hoa, 26 Lê Thị Riêng Street, District 1
- 18.104.22.168 Hu Tieu Nam Vang – Saigonese soup: 381 Vo Van Tan Street, Ward 5, District 3
- 22.214.171.124 Bun Thit Nuong: Chi Tuyen, 195 Co Giang Street, District 1
- 1.4.11 Dam Sen Water Park for children
- 1.4.12 Other things to do if you have more time in Ho Chi Minh City:
- 126.96.36.199 Tasting a cocktail on a rooftop
- 188.8.131.52 Dinner cruise on the Saigon River
- 184.108.40.206 Shopping at HCMC
- 220.127.116.11 Visiting the Museum of Fine Arts
- 18.104.22.168 Visiting the Turtle Lake at night and tasting “banh trang nuong”
- 22.214.171.124 Climbing the Bitexco Tower and admiring the city from top
- 126.96.36.199 Vietnam startup tour and Vietnam Tea tasting tour
- 188.8.131.52 Visiting Phu My Hung District and Anh Sao Bridge (the Bridge of Starlight Lights)
- 184.108.40.206 Discovering Cu Chi Tunnels
- 220.127.116.11 Visiting the Caodai religion headquarters in Tay Ninh
- 18.104.22.168 Mekong Delta River Cruise
- 22.214.171.124 Relaxing on Con Dao Island and Phu Quoc Island
- 126.96.36.199 Visiting Cat Tien National Park
- 1.5 Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City? The best hotels in Ho Chi Minh City
- 1.6 Getting to HCMC?
- 1.7 Travel Tips in Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City travel guide
A few lines on the history of Ho Chi Minh City
Before the seventeenth century, Ho Chi Minh City was originally a Khmer fishing village called “Prey Nokor” (the forest town). It became a Vietnamese settlement town under the impetus of the Nguyen imperial court in Hue.
During the French colonial, it was the capital of Cochinchina and that of French Indochina.
At the end of the Indochina war, Saigon (HCMC) became the capital of the Republic of Vietnam.
After the liberation of Saigon by the communists in 1975, the city was officially named Ho Chi Minh City. Nevertheless, many Vietnamese continue to call it “Saigon”.
When to visit?
The rainy season at HCMC, which lasts from May until the beginning of September, is less favorable for traveling. There are often rains that last 1-2 hours in the late afternoon every day.
It is hot in HCMC during all the remaining months, especially in April when the temperatures vary between 25 and 35 degrees C. It is necessary always to bring the hat, the sunglasses, the sun cream.
How to get there?
We can go to HCMC by any means of transport.
HCMC flights from northern Vietnam:
Flights to HCMC from Central Vietnam:
- Dong Hoi – HCMC
- Hue – HCMC
- Da Nang – HCMC
- Nha Trang – HCMC
- Buon Me Thuot – HCMC
- Chu Lai – HCMC
HCMC flights from South Vietnam:
- Phu Quoc – HCMC
- Con Dao – HCMC
International flights to HCMC:
Now, there are more than 40 foreign airlines serving flights connecting HCMC to a foreign city.
Reunification Express Train connect Hanoi with HCMC through several tourist destinations such as Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang and Quy Nhon.
Reunification train schedules:
By the way, from HCMC we can take the train to Phan Thiet and then go to Mui Ne where there are beautiful beaches of South Vietnam.
There are thousands of buses that connect HCMC to other destinations in the south, center and north. The Sinh Tourist and Phuong Trang are the two most famous companies.
Mekong Express is the best company with buses going from HCMC to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.
The adventurers would love to go on a motorcycle trip for about 2 weeks from north to south Vietnam or vice versa.
In Hanoi, you can rent or buy motorcycles in Luong Ngoc Quyen Street, in the old quarters area of Hanoi. The rental costs ~ 7 usd/day.
In HCMC, in the streets Pham Ngu Lao, Bui Vien … we can find used motorbikes with price ~ 250USD.
Crossing the border from Vietnam to Cambodia with a motorcycle with a Vietnamese guide is possible.
Top 24 Things to See and Do in Ho Chi Minh City
Walking in Dong Khoi Street and the surrounding areas
Ho Chi Minh city corner Dong Khoi street (formerly Catinat) is the heart of the French Quarter in HCMC. It is also the most prestigious and expensive street with 5-star hotels and luxury boutiques. The cost of one square meter of land in this street can reach $8000/m2.
A walk in the street under the shade of the big trees is very pleasant.
Saigon Times Square is located in Dong Khoi Street. It is the third tallest building in HCMC where the 6-star hotel The Reverie Saigon, the shops of Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Bottega Veneta etc and restaurants are located.
If you like to walk, it is very easy to go to other attractions of the city such as:
- Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon : built in the 19th century on the model of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris but of smaller dimensions.
- The Saigon Central Post Office is right next to Notre-Dame Cathedral. It was designed by Gustave Eiffel in the nineteenth century and became the pride of the city.
- The Saigon Opera: is also a building inspired by French architecture, the Opera Garnier of Paris. It was designed in 1900 by the architect Félix Olivier.
- Other places: The Reunification Palace, the War Museum, the Ben Thanh Market, the Museum of Fine Arts etc.
Participating in the AO show
It’s an interesting show, not to be missed.
The AO shows (À Ố Show) take place in the Saigon Opera.
It’s an acrobatic and musical performance in a splendid setting. They use acrobatics, dances and music to tell the daily life of Vietnam.
Tickets cost from 20 to 46 €.
Walking in Nguyen Hue Pedestrian Street
This is a well-known pedestrian street of HCMC. To see the city from top, you can enjoy a coffee drink at “Thinker and Dreamer Coffee” on the 4th floor of building 42 Nguyen Hue Street.
Visitng Nguyen Hue Pedestrian Street in the late afternoon seems more pleasant, because you can sometimes catch shows organized by young people.
Nguyen Hue Street is parallel to Dong Khoi Street. It begins at City Hall up to the Saigon River and is one of HCMC’s most famous streets.
Before Tet, which falls in late January or early February, Nguyen Hue Street is very beautiful with thousands of colorful flowers.
Visiting the Reunification Palace
In the Reunification Palace, you will see the tools used in the daily life of the President of the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
Entry fees: 40,000VND
Opening hours: from 07.30 to 11.00 and from 13.00 to 16.00 every day
Address: 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street
Visiting to the War Remnants Museum
About 700m from the Reunification Palace is the War Remnants Museum. It is a place to remember the violent and horrible consequences of war.
The museum is composed of two parts: one outside where you can see planes, tanks, cannons, American helicopters that were recovered on the battlefields; the other inside has many pictures denouncing the atrocities of the war and the abuses committed by the US Army.
The photos are hard for young children. Parents can leave them in a playroom during their visit.
Entry fees: 15,000VND
Opening hours: from 07.30 to 06.00pm every day
Address: Vo Van Tan Street 28, District 3
Discovery of China Town in Cholon and the Pagoda of the Lady Thien Hau
Visiting the colorful China Town where business activities are lively and good food can be enjoyed is really exciting. Cholon is a neighborhood of the Vietnamese community of Chinese origin and occupies an important page in the history of Vietnam.
Cholon was once a separate city from Saigon. The two cities were merged on April 27, 1931 under the name Saigon-Cholon. This name was reduced in Saigon in 1956.
It is a very special place in HCMC where there are opium dens, brothels, shady and smoky shops.
Once in Cholon, one can not miss the visit to the Thien Hau Temple, who plays an important role in the cultural and religious life of the Hoa people (Vietnamese of Chinese origin). It is one of the oldest temples in HCMC. It is dedicated to Thien Hau, protector of the sailors. The incense hanging in the temple brings us a particular atmosphere.
Address: 710 Nguyen Trai, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City
Previously, travelers could visit the Binh Tay wholesale market in the heart of Cholon. But this 88-year-old market is now closed for catering.
You will be able to stroll along Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street to watch the bustling commercial activities, enjoy a Chinese dish or visit a colorful communal house.
Visiting the Fito Museum of Vietnamese Medicinal Plants
5km from Dong Khoi street is the Fito museum. It includes a ground floor and 5 floors with the decor made mostly of wood in pure Vietnamese style.
Through the 3,000 collectibles of the establishment, visitors can imagine the methods of examination of the patient, diagnosis, establishment of the prescription, composition of a remedy … made by the doctors of the past.
The museum is the work of Fito pharmaceutical company whose director is Le Khac Tam. He spent billions of Dong and ten years in search of objects and documents related to traditional medicine.
The visit of this museum is quite interesting.
Opening hours: Everyday from 8:30AM till 5:00PM.
Adults: 120,000 VND.
Children (less than 1.2 m): 60,000 VND.
Walking to Ben Thanh Market
If you do not need to buy souvenirs, do not go there.
Ben Thanh is the well-known tourist market. It is over 100 years old and is an architectural symbol of the southern megacity.
You can find everything: souvenirs, clothes, shoes, food, etc. It is also a good place to practice the art of bargaining.
Visiting the Jade Emperor Pagoda
It is a hundred-year-old pagoda at HCMC. The US President Barack Obama came here in 2016.
In 1994, this pagoda was named “the national heritage of Vietnam”.
The visit to the pagoda is pleasant. It is not big but its decorations are beautiful with wooden statues.
The Jade Emperor and the most imposing statue of the pagoda. Moreover, the latter is also worshiped the Mother-God Kim Hoa Thanh Mau, the Goddess of Childbirth, 12 midwives and nannies. For this, the pagoda attracts many infertile couples or pregnant women who come to pray for their future children.
If your time is limited, we advise you to visit the Temple of the Heavenly Lady in China Town without coming here.
Tasting typical HCMC dishes
You can not miss good food while traveling to HCMC. You will soon see that almost all dishes are sweet. Sincerely, Hanoi cuisine is better.
Anyway, here is the list of the 5 specialties of HCMC with the best places to eat:
Banh Xeo: 46a Đinh Công Tráng Street, District 1
Banh xeo is the yellow Vietnamese crepe stuffed with minced pork, onions and soy sprouts. Banh xeo is nice.
Pho – Noodle Soup: Pho Phuong 25, 25 Hoàng Sa Street, District 1
The restaurant is open from 6am to 9pm daily. Soup costs 40,000VND.
Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich: Banh Mi Huynh Hoa, 26 Lê Thị Riêng Street, District 1
It is open from 14.30 to 23.00 every day. A sandwich costs 35,000VND.
Hu Tieu Nam Vang – Saigonese soup: 381 Vo Van Tan Street, Ward 5, District 3
This is another soup with broth made with pork bones, much lighter in taste than pho. This soup is served with sliced pork, pork liver, shrimp.
Bun Thit Nuong: Chi Tuyen, 195 Co Giang Street, District 1
“Bun thit nuong”: rice vermicelli is topped with pieces of grilled pork shoulder, minced salad leaves and cucumber, soya beans, basil, radish white and pickled carrots, peanuts and mint leaves.
You can also add egg broths or nem nuong (grilled pork meatballs). The nước chấm (sauce) is served separately, but pouring it all over the bowl is the rule.
It is open from 07.00 to 20.00. A “bun thit nuong” bowl costs 45,000 VND.
Dam Sen Water Park for children
If you travel with family, Dam Sen Water Park is a good choice for your children. Dam Sen is a kind of local mini-Disneyland, located in District 11, far enough away from the city center.
There are 31 attractions (giant toboggans, artificial beach, zip lines, spas …) for more than 1.40m but much less for the youngest children.
Other things to do if you have more time in Ho Chi Minh City:
Tasting a cocktail on a rooftop
Saigon Rooftop Bar is a place frequented by Vietnamese and foreigners since 1959. It is located on the 9th floor of the Hotel Caravelle. It is a very nice bar with breathtaking views of the city.
Its rates are a little expensive. You can take advantage of the discount at half price between 16.00 and 19.00.
Address: Saigon rooftop bar, 9th floor, 19 – 23 Công trường Lam Sơn Street, District 1
Here’s the list of the best bars and clubs in HCMC:
- Saigon Rooftop Bar
- Saigon Soul Pool Party
- Chill Skybar
- Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar
- TNR Saigon
Dinner cruise on the Saigon River
You can savor a romantic dinner on an original cruise on the Saigon River. It will be a beautiful experience!
The company Indochina Junk is the most recommended. It’s not the same Indochina Junk company that offers less touristic cruises in Halong Bay.
The Indochina Junk boat welcomed their clients at 10B Ton Thong Street, District 1 at 18.30. We can have dinner while participating in the show of folk music. The boat sails on the Saigon River and the cruise ends at the pier at 21.15.
Shopping at HCMC
HCMC is full of places to go shopping, from local markets to modern shopping centers.
The markets for shopping in HCMC:
- Ben Thanh Market: 30 Phan Boi Chau Street, District 1. This is the pilgrimage place for tourists in search of traditional souvenirs. Ao dai, jade jewels, chopsticks and rice bowls are haggling in this great French colonial structure. In the evening, the two parallel streets turn into a night market.
- Ba Chieu Market: 40 Hong Bang Street, Binh Thanh District. Located away from the city center, this large market is very popular with locals. You can find everything: fan brooms with multicolored basins, the “food” space with a wide choice of coffee, spices of all kinds and dried shrimps etc.
- An Dong Market: 34 An Duong Vuong Street, District 9, District 5. The first floor of the market is dedicated to textiles, the upper floors offer a selection almost identical to that of Ben Thanh. Prices are more easily negotiable.
Shopping centers for shopping in HCMC
- Vincom center: 171 Dong Khoi, District 1 and 72 Thanh Ton, District 1. Good location, convenient for tourists. There is a multitude of clothing shops, bags, shoes … luxury and restaurants offering local and international dishes.
- Diamond Plaza: 34 The Duan, District 1. It’s also a luxury shopping center.
- Duy Tan – Saigon Artisan: 76A-76B The Law, District 1. This is a shop known for its quality, one of the best souvenir shops in the city. It specializes in lacquer, ceramics and porcelain.
- The House of Saigon: 16 Thu Khoa, District 1. This is a 3-storey shop that offers lots of home-made products: baskets, shoes, jewelery.
Visiting the Museum of Fine Arts
The museum presents Vietnamese and Cham art with its ancient, historical and contemporary works. It is close to Ben Thanh Market. The main building of the museum is a harmonious combination of Western and Eastern architecture.
It is a good address for those who love art.
Opening hours: from 09.00 to 16.45 every day
Visiting the Turtle Lake at night and tasting “banh trang nuong”
The Turtle Lake is a beautiful place, located near the Cathedral Notre-Dame of Saigon. A stroll around this small lake in the late afternoon or evening is nice to witness the meetings and daily life of young Saigonese people.
By the way, you can try the “banh trang nuong” – the Vietnamese pizza, a delicious dish at street vendors around the lake.
Climbing the Bitexco Tower and admiring the city from top
The financial tower Bitexco was the highest skyscraper in Vietnam before 2011. Climb to Bitexco, we have the 360 ° view of the city. The entrance to the tower is free if you come for a drink in Saigon skydeck on the 49th floor or Eon cafe on the 50th floor.
Opening hours: 09:30 – 21:30 every day
Address: 36 Ho Tung Mau Street, District 1
Vietnam startup tour and Vietnam Tea tasting tour
If you can speak English and you want to discover the stratup world of Vietnam and the spirit of business in Vietnam, it is essential to participate in this tour, organized by a young Saigonese.
Besides, here is another well appreciated visit to discover different kinds of tea, tea culture and tea making in Vietnam. The guide speaks English.
Visiting Phu My Hung District and Anh Sao Bridge (the Bridge of Starlight Lights)
You can visit Phu My Hung District in District 7. Phu My Hung is famous for being a chic and modern district, where rich Vietnamese and high-income expatriates live.
A walk to the pedestrian Anh Sao Bridge – in the light of the stars in the evening at Phu My Hung is nice.
Discovering Cu Chi Tunnels
The visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels is interesting. It may take half a day.
It is a huge system of underground tunnels created first by the Viet Minh when Vietnam was part of a French colony. Cu Chi Tunnels was then developed during the Vietnam War to reach 250km.
The tunnels is about 40km from the city center. The tunnel tour is often combined with that of the Caodai religion headquarters at Tay Ninh.
A group tour to visit the tunnels costs only 10-15usd/person. It’s best to book it at your hotel or The Sinh Tourist office. There is a departure in the morning and a departure around 13h.
Visiting the Caodai religion headquarters in Tay Ninh
Codaism is a syncretistic religion founded in 1921 by an indigenous Vietnamese. It brings together all the others: Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity into one universal religion.
The Holy Caodai headquarters is about 100km from HCMC. It is a beautiful complex surrounded by a fence with 12 doors. It takes a full day to visit the Caodai religion headquarters and the Cu Chi tunnels.
The Cao Dai and Cu Chi Tunnels Day Tour is also offered by The Sinh Tourist.
Mekong Delta River Cruise
The Mekong is one of the longest rivers in the world and it crosses southern Vietnam. The Mekong Delta is an exceptional region where almost all the activities of the inhabitants depend on the river.
The city of Cai Be is the access ponit to the Mekong Delta, which is a 2-hour drive from HCMC. The Mekong Delta day tour are very touristy. The 2-day or 3-day tours are better.
Cai Rang is the most buoyant floating market in the Mekong Delta, located in the province of Can Tho, a 4-hour drive from HCMC.
Relaxing on Con Dao Island and Phu Quoc Island
From HCMC, you can take airplanes to Con Dao Island or Phu Quoc Island. These two islands offer beautiful beaches for a seaside holiday in South Vietnam.
Moreover, you can also take a hydrofoil after visiting Mekong Delta to the Rach Gia pier to go to Phu Quoc Island.
Visiting Cat Tien National Park
Located a 3.5-hour drive from HCMC on Dalat Road, Cat Tien National Park is an ideal getaway for a few days.
You can see monkeys, wild peacocks, deer, bears … and other animals in wildlife rehabilitation centers.
Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City? The best hotels in Ho Chi Minh City
Hotels in Dong Khoi Area – Ancient Colonial District
Dong Khoi Street, formerly Catina Street, is the place where gathers many French colonial houses in which there is the Continental Hotel and the Hotel Majestic.
Continental Saigon is the oldest hotel in Vietnam, which was built in 1878 by Pierre Cazeau.
The Majestic Hotel was designed by the Chinese businessman Hui Bon Hoa in 1925 in the style of the hotels in French Riviera.
Besides these two hotels, there are only luxury hotels in this area. Travelers appreciate the comforts and especially the services of these hotels:
- The Myst Dong Khoi Hotel: 9.2 / 10 on booking.com
- The Reverie Hotel Saigon: 9.6 / 10 on booking.com – an extraordinary hotel
- Park Hyatt Saigon Hotel: 9.2 / 10 on booking.com
Hotels around Ben Thanh Market
For easy access to HCMC’s attractions, most travelers choose hotels that are not far from Ben Thanh Market. Hotel prices in this area are much more affordable than the Dong Khoi area.
- Della Boutique Hotel: is located 700m from Ben Thanh Market, well appreciated by travelers (9.2 / 10 on booking.com). One room costs from 45 €.
- Nguyen Shack Saigon Hotel: is located 600m from Ben Thanh Market. You will also find the other Nguyen Shack hotels in Ninh Binh, Can Tho and Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. Its services are very good (9.4 / 10 on booking.com) but its rooms are less beautiful than the Della Boutique Hotel. One room costs from 44 €.
- Chez Mimosa – Boutique Hotel: is located 1.2km from Ben Thanh Market, well appreciated by travelers (9.3 / 10 on booking.com). One room costs from 40 €.
- Liberty Central Hotel Saigon Citypoint: 450m from Ben Thanh Market. A beautiful rooftop pool is available. One room costs 102 €.
Hotels in Pham Ngu Lao area: 900m from Ben Thanh Market
It is easy to find a bed of $5 in a dormitory, in a hostel in Pham Ngu Lao street.
In this street, there are also travel agencies, offices of bus companies … There is a night market on the weekend in the street, where they sell clothes, souvenirs, Vietnamese dishes etc.
- T & T hostel: it’s a new hostel in an alley in Pham Ngu Lao street, in front of the bus station 23/9. It is located in the center, its room are clean and the staff are friendly. You can buy “backpacker” tours, for example a tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels costs less than $10.
- The Cozi House: 9.4 / 10 on booking.com. This is a new hostel, located at 131 Le Thi Rieng street. The rooms are nice and clean. A bed in a dormitory costs 8 € and a room for 3 people costs 35 €.
- Sakura hostel is terrible.
Villa Song Saigon is a luxury hotel and very much liked by travelers. It has few rooms and is often full. It is located outside District 1, on the bank of the Saigon River.
Getting to HCMC?
One kilometer by taxi to HCMC costs about 13,000VND. Mai Linh’s green taxis and Vinasun’s white taxis are popular and appreciated. It’s easy to find a Vinasun taxi at any location in a minute. Most drivers just speak a few words in English.
We pay what the taxi meter displays. You can use the google maps application to locate yourself.
Moreover, you can also download Grab and Uber mobile applications to call Grabcar or Ubertaxi.
By motorcycle taxi
If you are traveling alone, Grabbike is a very good way to get around HCMC. It is an application on IOS and Android to order motorcycle taxi races. It’s easy to recognize Grabbike drivers wearing a green T-shirt and a green helmet. We pay around 6000 VND for one kilometer in Grabbike.
Waiting for a bus under the great heat of HCMC is not a good idea. Most travelers choose the motorcycle taxi or taxi instead.
If you have time and want to try the public bus, download the busmap.vn mobile app to see bus schedules and routes.
Bus hop on hop off
Like the other tourist cities in the world, Ho Chi Minh City now has a bus system that makes 2 circuits, one of which allows you to see the main monuments of the city. to discover China Town. A bus goes to the different stops every 30 minutes. You can go up and down as many times as you want. The ticket costs 330,000VND.
You can arrive at the bus station at 23/9 Pham Ngu Lao Park and buy tickets from the driver.
Go from HCMC Airport to the city center
By public bus yellow 109 – recommended
It is open from 5.30 am to 1.30 am, with buses every 20 minutes or so. The bus is clean and comfortable.
When you leave the airport you will see immediately the sign indicating “bus station”. The staff can speak English and will be ready to help you. Give the staff the name and address of your hotel and the driver will drop you off at the nearest station.
Journey time from airport to city center: 45 minutes.
The taxi fare from HCMC Airport to the city center costs about 7USD. Mai Linh green taxis or Vinasun whites are popular.
Travel Tips in Ho Chi Minh City
- Bring water to drink during the visits.
- Bring sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat before going out on the streets.
- Be careful with your camera and your smartphone. Robberies often occur in HCMC.
- If you get lost, do not hesitate to ask a local inhabitant the way. Most of the locals are nice and friendly.