Ho Chi Minh Travel Guide
Ho Chi Minh city is the busiest city in Vietnam, formerly known as Saigon, is the economic heart of Vietnam and the main hub of the southern region. A freewheeling, cosmopolitan metropolis, HCMC's dynamic cityscape draws together old and new Vietnam in the most compact of spaces, representing the city’s past as well as its future.
Saigon of the modern times attracts people not for the spectacular natural landscapes but for its dynamic lifestyle – were endless options of activities are going to tie your heart. You can see this through the cutting-edge buildings and the exciting nightlife on offer here. If you want to sample some of the local delights, then the street food scene in the city is also one of the best in the country, and you can happily spend your days eating your way around Ho Chi Minh City.
Yes, this City is absolutely a must-visit city for your journey of exploring Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City has two distinctive seasons, which are the rainy and dry seasons.
The rainy season usually starts in May and ends in late November. During this period, although it will rain heavily almost every afternoon, the rain is short and clears quickly. Sometimes, you can experience sunshine and rain at the same time while the sky is still blue.
The dry season lasts from December to April and is hotter than the rainy season and nearly has no rain. Although traveling in this period is more convenient, travelers need to be careful with heatstroke by avoiding going out at noon.
The most enjoyable time to travel to Ho Chi Minh City is from December to April. The temperate is quite pleasant during this period as well, ranging from 22°C to 34°C.
Travelers can arrive in Ho Chi Minh City by bus, train, or plane. The traffic could leave you overwhelmed for the first time due to the massive quantity of motorbikes and crazy. However, that is one of Saigon’s “specialties” and what you are going to miss it for.
Tan Son Nhat international airport welcomes foreign and domestic arrivals daily if you chose the plane. Taxis are everywhere. You can use apps such as Grab for booking a short trip. Local buses cover a good portion of the city but it's not comfortable although saving.
Top things to do in Ho Chi Minh City
1. Ben Thanh Market ( super popular place)
The local market is where to discover the culture, history và lifestyle of local people. Ben Thanh Market is somewhere you absolutely have to visit in Ho Chi Minh City. See locals buying their produce for the week, stall vendors enthusiastically selling you anything and everything, and tourists shopping up a storm because it's very cheap. If you’re short on time, consider checking out this local market and food tour around here. You’ll get an authentic view of the market.
2. the Notre Dame Cathedral
Vietnam is a largely Buddhist country, so this Cathedral is interesting for many foreigners. The Notre Dame Basilica was built between 1863 and 1880 during the French colonization of Vietnam. The cathedral is designed in the neo-Romanesque style and you can check out the towers here which soar to a height of 40 meters and are topped with impressive iron spires. A tour guide is on hand during the week to explain all the history of the cathedral to visitors.
3. Central Post Office
A visit to the post office may not sound very exciting in Ho Chi Minh City, but trust us, it is well worth visiting thanks to its beautiful colonial design. It was designed by Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame. The building is designed in the Gothic style and dates from 1886 and is still one of the most famous monuments in the city. You will find a huge domed roof and grand walls adorned with maps from the colonial period and a requisite portrait of Ho Chi Minh, the founding father of modern Vietnam when going inside.
4. The Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City
The Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City is aptly named, as it symbolizes the reunification of North and South Vietnam and the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Not only is the palace famous for its historical significance, but it is also well-known for its special architecture.
You can buy tickets to explore the grounds at the main gate. Visitors can now rely on audio guides, which can give them a lot of useful information about the Reunification Palace. It’s not the most exciting activity, but it’s one of those things you have to do in Ho Chi Minh City.
5. Mekong Delta
There are some destinations around Ho Chi Minh that are very rich, beautiful, and lush areas that bring more exciting experiences. Mekong Delta is the place we want to talk about it. The drive takes a few hours from District 1 (mostly spent in traffic), but it’s a good way to see what life looks like outside the tourist areas.
Take a tour of the Mekong Delta, you will get the opportunity to take a boat down the interconnecting canals of the river. There are floating markets selling everything from fruit and vegetables to conical hats and raincoats. The main means of transport for most of the families in the Mekong Delta provinces is a small wooden boat (Xuong). You may burst out laugh¬ing at seeing the way some boys use their feet to row the boats.
Highly recommend spending a night here to make the drive worth it. You won’t find 5-star accommodation, but enjoy life more like the locals anyway.
6. The Cu Chi Tunnels
The Cu Chi Tunnels are quite a drive from the popular tourist spots in District 1, but it is a truly unique experience in Ho Chi Minh City that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. That is a 200-km underground system of tunnels, that served as the headquarters of the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. The tunnels are roughly 0.5 m wide and 0.3 m high, they are just enough for one person to go through by bending or crawling.
When you get here, you will have the opportunity to look around and envision what it was like to be a Vietnamese (or even American) soldier during the Vietnam War. You will be allowed to crawl through tunnels originally used by Vietnamese soldiers (or at least, you can try to – you might get stuck!) to hide from the Americans. The entrances are usually hidden in mounds disguised as molehills.
The network of underground tunnels also provides hospitals, sleeping quarters, meeting rooms, kitchens, stores, working rooms, dining rooms, schools, dormitories...A large number of doors connected different routes and many traps were set and once the fear of many American soldiers.
Today, some parts of the tunnels have been modified to be 0.8 – 1 m wide in order to accommodate visitors. Many of the tunnels are expanded replicas, to avoid any claustrophobia they would induce in tourists.
7. Check in the Cafe Apartment in Saigon’s District 1
There is a place that we call the cafe apartment because this is a somewhat collection of shops per giant squares with signs plastered all over it. The Cafe Apartment wasn’t designed for shops, so on each floor, there is just a row of doors and signs. You will find cute fashion boutiques, cafes, restaurants, book shops, and more. Well worth a visit one time!
There is a small alleyway at the base of the building. Down the alleyway, there are some stairs and a lift. You can pay 3,000 - 5000 VND to use the elevator, which is perfectly reasonable, but we’d recommend taking the stairs. This way you can easily explore every level.
8. The Cao Dai Temple
It takes 2 hours to take a driver about 90 km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City to Tay Ninh, you will find one of the most special temples in Vietnam. The Cao Dai temple is one of the most unique in the world, thanks mainly to the fact that it contains statues and decorations typical of various other religions. A highlight here is watching the devotees pray. People dress according to their rank within the religion, resulting in robes ranging from white to brightly colored blues, reds, and yellows.
The temple is well worth visiting as one of the most unusual things to do in Ho Chi Minh City, but it is located quite far from District 1. Your best bet is to combine it with a trip out to the Cu Chi Tunnels.
Ho Chi Minh City Food Guide
The cuisine is a part of the trip. Let's eat like a local in Ho Chi Minh City. Sometimes that will bring travelers wonderful flavors.
This is clearly a city filled to the brim with good food.
As your read through my Ho Chi Minh City Food Guide, you’ll discover that there is a lot more to Vietnamese food than just Pho and Banh Mi, and discover the complexity of flavors that can come from the use of fresh, simple ingredients.
Now, we review some dishes that should try one time when traveling to Ho Chi Minh City
Broken rice (Com Tam)
Yes, this food is the first one should try. It equals a wholesome breakfast but It is very cheap. Com Tam can often be seen in combination plates made of grilled pork chops, egg, meatloaf, salad, and pickles.
A plate of Cơm Tấm generally consists of grilled pork chop (“sườn nướng”), shredded pork skin, steamed egg cake, and a sunny-side-up fried egg. On the side, it has Nuoc Chan (a dipping sauce made from fermented fish sauce) and a small bowl of Canh which is a clear broth with garlic chives to cleanse the throat.
Everyone in Ho Chi Minh City has his or her favorite cơm tấm e, but don’t be afraid to try out the one closest to you. It will likely be just as good (tip: let’s pour a generous amount of sweet fish sauce on top of everything on your plate, and dig in). we believe you finish up everything on the plate.
if "Pho" is the typical dish of the North, "Hu Tieu" is the typical dish of Southern Vietnam. Hu Tieu is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, a few herbs, meat, eggs, and shrimp. It's typically served with lots of greens, vegetables, and various other accompaniments such as chili peppers, lemon, and bean sprouts. You can use chili sauce and soy sauce.
An alternative you don’t want to miss is hủ tiếu Sa Đéc, which originated from the former Sa Đéc province in the Mekong Delta. This flavourful noodle dish comes with a special sweet sauce, a taste signature to the Delta region. As you bite into the rice noodle strings, you will notice the difference in their chewy texture. A plate of mung bean sprouts and lettuce adds a cheerful crunch to every bite.
let's visit a local restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City to order spring rolls in the freshest form possible: as a wrap for a series of herbs and gently-grilled meats, for you to wrap yourself! To make a spring roll, Banh Trang is lightly dipped in water to soften, then laden with the ingredients you want: standard selections include Chinese chives, mint, coriander, shrimp, pork, beef, and rice vermicelli noodles. Once wrapped, dip one end into a saucer of fish sauce or hoisin sauce, then bite into the dipped end, and enjoy your taste.