Vietnam is a great place for any backpacker or person wanting a cheap holiday with lots of activities and wonderful landscapes to see. Today I am going to tell you things to do in ho chi minh city.
Ho Chi Minh City was once called Saigon and changed the name to Ho Chi Minh as part of a unified Vietnam following the end of the Vietnam War. It was once the capital of Vietnam before the Vietnam War and It is the biggest city in the country and because of this you would think it’s the capital, but it is not.
It is home to a rich history and is one of the most dynamic places in Vietnam, and you can see this through the cutting edge architecture and the exciting nightlife on offer.
Ho Chi Minh City has one of the best street food scenes in Vietnam, there are so many things to do. I have correlated the best things for you to do and see in Ho Chi Minh city, so you don’t get overwhelmed with the number of things it has to offer and don’t miss any of the best attractions.
A Few Safety Tips for Ho Chi Minh
I have made a post on 15 things to know before visiting Vietnam and I will just tell you what you need to know before you visit Ho Chi Minh.
One of the main safety concerns to watch out while being in a big city, are those thieves swiftly swinging by on motorbikes and grabbing bags or mobile phones or cameras, right out of your hand.
In more recent years the safety has improved but you still have to be careful anywhere you go. The majority of muggings happen in touristy shopping areas. But still, Vietnam has the nicest and friendliest people. Forbes lists it as one of the top 10 most friendly countries, ranking it at 9.
How to get around Saigon/Ho Chi Minh
There are many different ways to get around Saigon.
Ho Chi Minh Train
You can’t get a metro or subway in Ho Chi Minh yet. The first metro line, Line 1, started construction in 2012 and should be completed by 2021. The only train you can get is to other parts of Vietnam.
Most people fly into Hoi An or Ho Chi Minh. If you go to Ho Chi Minh will you arrive at Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport?
The best way to get to your hotel is by getting a taxi or Uber. You can get them if you walk outside the airport. Look for Vinasun as they are a good brand of taxies to use. It will cost you about £5.40 or lower depending on how long the journey to your hotel/ hostel is.
You can get the bus marked by the arrows the street outside the airport; you can get for 0.17pounds or even less depending on how long it takes. Bus #152 take you to Ben Thanh Market.
One great way of transport that I always recommend, anywhere I visit, is walking. You get to explore the city at your own pace, going wherever you want to go. You can’t do this in a car or bus and, it is costing you nothing!
One of the most popular ways to get around is by moped. Everyone that lives in Ho Chi Minh City uses them. There are two ways you can join the mass moped users.
The first way is to rent a moped in Ho Chi Minh City, but you will need to be very confident. If you do not feel brave enough to ride here, then maybe try to learn later on when you’re in a smaller town. You can rent one for about £7 for the day.
The second way is using Motorbike taxis in Ho Chi Minh City. There is one in most streets. They are men just lying around on their motorbikes and for a price, you can go anywhere in the city. Just be careful at night as some may try to rob you. A small journey can start from £0.65 to £1.35.
Bus in Ho Chi Minh City
The bus systems are easy to understand and can be found around the main streets. It is very cheap and safe to use. You will need to plan the bus ride before. For one ride it will be around £0.17.
Things are going around on the web saying how bad the taxis are. Yes, there can be fake ones but you will need to find the best ones.
I had no problems taking taxis when I was in Vietnam. One way to get the best ones is to get the hotel/hostel to get one for you. The most reliable taxis are Vinasum, Mai linh, and Uber.
Best time to visit Ho Chi Minh
Vietnam is a very hot country and does not get that cold. You can read all about my post on the best time to visit Vietnam in more detail. As for visiting Ho Chi Minh, I suggest you go In our winter months and early spring. From December to March temperatures range between 21°C and 34°C and it is hot. These are the months where there are less rain and fewer tourists
Where to stay in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh
Due to the vast size of Ho Chi Minh finding out where to stay can be hard. I provide you with some of the best hotels and hostels to stay in.
There are a few areas in Ho Chi Minh you need to know about before booking a hotel/ hostel.
(Nguyen Hue/Dong Khoi)- This is where you’ll find Ho Chi Minh City’s newest shopping malls, luxury boutiques, and high-end restaurants
Expensive hotel- The Reverie Saigon that is £226 a night
Mid-range hotel- Hotel Continental Saigon from £77 a night
Cheap Hostel- The Common Room Project – Hostel is from £6 a night but they also offer single rooms for more if you don’t want dorms.
Pham Ngu Lao- is this backwater area where you find very cheap accommodation.
Expensive hotel- Grand Silverland Hotel & Spa that is £67 a night.
Cheap hotel- Nest Hotel that is about £14 a night.
Cheap Hostel –The Hideout and Cultural Trip website says this is one of the best hostels to go to in Pham Ngu Lao and it is around £11 a night. You can find out other Hostels in Ho Chi Min from the Cultural trip.
Find out the 15 best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City:
1. Travel to the Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta is a massive river in southern Vietnam that contains swamps and islands. It is home to floating markets and villages. It flows to the South China Sea. The Mekong Delta is the 12 longest river in the world.
You can get a tour of the region that starts in Ho Chi Minh City, or Can Tho, a town in the Delta.
The tours take you along the river and show you how the villages are still making money. They take you to a carpet and brick factory. Also, you get a nice home-cooked meal that is fish and chicken. The best chicken I have ever had! Then you get a bike ride around the villages and rice fields. The tours are around £50 and well worth it.
2. Crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels
The Cu Chi Tunnels were made in the Vietnam War in 1968 and used by the Viet Cong Soldiers, as hiding spots during combat. This is one of the best things you can see in Vietnam. The tunnels are made up of a chain of underground chambers that stretch for 30 kilometers basically from the south to the North of Vietnam Outside of Ho Chi Minh City. Truly amazing!
The tunnels were used also to hide some Vietnamese people and held supplies for hospitals and schools all in the very small tunnels.
You get to see the traps they made and crawl through a replica tunnel as the actual Vietnam tunnels are too small for most Westerners to fit into. (Vietnamese people tend to be small). But if you want you can go down a real one. For a small group tour from Ho Chi Minh to Cu Chi Tunnels is £9.42 per person for half a day.
Opening times: 7am to 5pm Monday to Sunday
3. Try a bowl of Pho
You can’t come to Vietnam and not try pho (pronounced Foo). It is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup. The soup is made with meat stock and then rice noodles are added to it with herbs and meat. The meats they normally use are beef or pork but sometimes you can get chicken.
You can try Pho at the many street food stalls around the city or try it at the popular chains like Pho 24 and Pho 2000 in the city.
4. Tour the War Remnants Museum
Vietnam has a rich history. This museum opened up shortly after the Vietnamese war ended. It is dedicated to educating visitors about the outrages of the Vietnam War.
This is one of the most popular museums in Vietnam bringing in around half a million visitors a year. The museum offers stories from Vietnamese people about the war.
As well as this, there are old military vehicles, attack bombers, and tanks on display. There are also photographs from the war. It is just only £1.35 for the entry fee and you have no time limit. I recommend you go.
Opening times: 7:30am to 6pm Monday to Sunday
5. Pick up a Vietnamese coffee
Vietnam coffee is one of the best in the world, a little known fact! Vietnam is the second-largest producer of coffee in the word as they produce about 3,637,627,000 pounds of coffee a year says the World Atlas. So no wonder you need to try coffee while you are in Vietnam. Just a cup of coffee will be from £0.50 to £1 depending on the one you chose.
There is a wide range of coffees to try in Vietnam such as Kopi Luwak that is the most expensive in the world, as it is made from the feces from the small animals called palm civets that are fed the coffee bean. For a cup of this special blend, it will set you back around £8.42 but in the Western world, it will be well over hundreds of pounds.
I recommend you also try egg coffee. It is made with egg yolks, sugar condensed milk, and robusta coffee. You can find Vietnamese coffee in Ho Chi Minh in any café or restaurant.
6. Have a drink in Pham Ngu Lao Street
If you want some nightlife in Ho Chi Minh City then you need to head for Pham Ngu Lao Street. This is the center where most of the backpackers go and stay and where there is a vast majority of bars.
There are some hotels there such as the Rex and the Caravelle that have rooftop bars with stunning views of the city. A pint of beer in Vietnam is around £0.67. The most known bar there is Angkor Wat.
7. Have breakfast at Binh Tay Market
Binh Tay Market was made by the French in the 1880s. It is located in Vietnam’s largest Chinatown district of Cholon. This market provides locals with fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry, meats, and seafood. In Cholon you will also find the largest clock tower and the central courtyard.
There are lots of food stalls there to try and they include local noodle soups. The best time to go is early in the morning so you get to see the bustling atmosphere, but be careful of pickpockets.
Opening times: 06:00 AM – to 07:00 PM Monday to Sunday
8. Eat at Banh Xeo 46A
You need to try Banh Xeo, but what is it you may ask. Banh Xeo is also called the sizzling pancake as it makes a loud sizzling sound when the rice batter is poured into the hot pan. It is made of rice flour, water, and turmeric powder; the common things you add inside include pork, shrimp, diced green onions and beans.
The best place to try Banh Xeo in Ho Chi Minh City is Banh Xeo 46A restaurant that got famous because of the celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.
Opening times: 10am to 2pm and 4pm to 9pm Monday to Sunday
9. Browse in Ben Thanh Market
BenThanh Market is located in the center of the city in District 1. The market was built in 1912 and is about 108 years old and one of the earliest structures still surviving in Saigon.
It is a great place to go shopping and eat. When you visit it you will find a range of street food vendors that are selling snacks, as well as places to get some souvenirs. Don’t forget to haggle to get the best prices.
Opening times: 7am to 7pm Monday to Sunday
10. Cao Dai Temple
Cao Dai Temple was built in 1955 when the Coa Dai Army was formed during the Japanese occupation of Indochina. It is a religion that has taken bits of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, and Confucianism.
You can visit the temple and learn more about the religion. It is practiced by a few dedicated followers. The temple is very bright and colorful with dragons flying up the banisters. You will need to book a tour if you want to see it and they start at £20. It is one of the best Temples in Vietnam.
Opening times: 24 hours Monday to Friday
11. Water puppetry/ wooden puppet show
The water puppetry show is literally about making puppets dance on water. It is a tradition that dates back as far as the 11th century when it originated in northern Vietnam.
The best place to see a water puppet show in Ho Chi Minh City is at the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre. This form of Vietnamese entertainment includes narration and musical accompaniment from musicians and singers seated at either side of the stage while the puppets dance on the water.
12. Go high Tower, otherwise known as the Saigon Skydeck
If you’re like me and want that epic shot of the city views then you will likely be looking for a rooftop or place that allows you on their rooftop. Then head to Bitexco Financial Tower, otherwise known as the Saigon Skydeck located in District 1.
It is the second tallest building in Ho Chi Minh about 258m tall but the bar is on the 50th floor about 230m and you get a 360-degree view of the city. The entry fee is £6.75 and the drinks are around the same price.
Opening time: Monday- Sunday 9am to 9:30pm
13. Turtle Lake at Night
If you are looking for something that all the locals do at night, then you need to head to the Cathedral of Notre Dame or the roundabout of Turtle Lake. It is a roundabout with a lake in the middle
They are located in the center of Saigon. At night the street vendors set up shop and make snacks. This is where the young Vietnamese people come and hang out at night.
14. Giac Lam Pagoda
Giac Lam Pagoda is said to be the oldest temple in Ho Chi Minh City, made in 1744. It is a Buddhist Temple and has Chinese influence and this is what gives its name (覚林寺)and that means ‘Feel the Woods Temple’. There is a Bodhi tree (a native fig tree, sacred to Buddhists) in the front garden that was a gift from a Sri Lankan monk in 1953.
People go to pray at selected times of the day, from 4am to 5am, 11am to noon, from 4pm to 5pm and 7pm to 9pm. It is officially listed as a historical site by the Vietnamese Department of Culture. The best thing about it is the entrance is free.
Opening times: 5am to 12pm and 2pm to 8pm Monday to Sunday
15. Walk around the street to see the many mopeds and just take in Vietnam madness.
The best thing to do in any city is just going exploring. When you go exploring Ho Chi Minh City you get to take in the hustle and bustle of the city. As well as this, you get to see their obsession with mopeds. There is about one moped for every 2 people in Vietnam.
As the city has a vast amount of motorbikes/Mopeds, crossing the roads can be dangerous. You need to always cross at a crossing and still watch out for motorbikes/Mopeds, as they don’t listen to the lights and, even if it is red, they still go.
You can wander anywhere you want, so if you see a place you want to stop at, you can. Most people’s first stop in Vietnam is Ho Chi Minh City, so I say the best way to get to see the culture is just going wandering the streets to see it.
Check out my Full in-depth Vietnam Itinerary, so that you don’t miss out on any of the best things to do in Vietnam.