Embarking on a journey to Vietnam is like stepping into a vibrant mosaic of rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and warm hospitality. This sentiment is echoed in its largest city – Ho Chi Minh. Ho Chi Minh is a bustling metropolis located in the southern part of the country, characterized by its vibrant atmosphere, modern skyscrapers, historical landmarks, and bustling streets. It offers a unique blend of traditional Vietnamese culture and rapid urban development, providing a captivating experience for its visitors.
Best Time to Visit Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City has a tropical climate with high humidity and consistent temperatures throughout the year. The best time to visit is during the dry season from December to April, when there’s lower humidity and less rainfall. However, December and January attract heavy tourist crowds to the city, resulting in higher prices. The temperatures start to rise in March and April, thus February is the best month to visit Ho Chi Minh, when the weather is at its best and the tourist crowds typically disperse.
Few Facts About Ho Chi Minh City
- Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam, both in terms of population and economic significance. It serves as the economic and financial hub of the country.
- Ho Chi Minh City was previously known as Saigon until it was renamed in 1976 after the Vietnamese communist revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh.
- The city is often referred to as the “Motorbike Capital of the World” due to the massive number of motorbikes on its streets. It’s estimated that there are over 8 million motorbikes in the city, outnumbering the population.
- Ho Chi Minh City showcases its French colonial heritage through its architecture. Landmarks like the Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office were built during the French colonial era and are popular places to visit.
- The city is famous for its bustling markets, offering a vibrant shopping experience. Ben Thanh Market is one of the most well-known markets that offers a wide range of goods, including clothing, food, handicrafts, and souvenirs.
- Ho Chi Minh City is a haven for food lovers with its vibrant street food scene. From delicious pho and banh mi to fresh seafood and tropical fruits, you can explore a wide array of flavourful dishes on the city’s streets.
- Renowned for its vibrant and dynamic nightlife, the city boasts a plethora of rooftop bars, nightclubs, and live music venues, offering an electrifying after-dark scene, typically seen in Bui Vien Street in the backpacker district and the upscale bars in District 1.
One Day in Ho Chi Minh Itinerary:
Here’s how to make the best of one day in the beautiful Ho Chi Minh City.
War Remnants Museum
Start your day with a visit to the War Remnants Museum. This museum provides a historical context, explaining the causes and events leading up to the Vietnam War. It presents the perspectives of the Vietnamese people and highlights their struggle for independence and reunification. It features a wide range of exhibits, including photographs, documents, artifacts, and preserved military equipment. These exhibits aim to showcase the harsh realities and consequences of the war.
In the museum’s outdoor area, you’ll find a collection of military vehicles, weaponry, and aircraft that were used during the Vietnam War. You can see iconic machines like tanks, helicopters, and fighter planes up close. The museum provides a thought-provoking and sombre experience, offering you a deeper understanding of the Vietnam War and its lasting effects on the country and its people.
Head to the Reunification Palace, a historic landmark that played a significant role in Vietnam’s history. The Reunification Palace offers you a chance to step back in time and experience a significant chapter in Vietnam’s history. With its distinctive architecture and historical significance, it’s a must-visit attraction in Ho Chi Minh City.
Originally built as the French governor’s residence in the early 1870s, it later became the presidential palace of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The palace is a striking example of 1960s architecture, combining modernist and traditional Vietnamese design elements. Explore the palace through guided tours, which provide insights into its history and architecture.
Adjacent to the Reunification Palace, visit the Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office, two architectural gems that reflect the city’s French colonial past.
Ben Thanh Market
For lunch, head to Ben Thanh Market, one of the city’s most famous markets. Explore the bustling stalls offering a wide variety of local dishes, street food, and Vietnamese delicacies. Don’t miss the opportunity to try traditional dishes like pho, banh mi, and fresh spring rolls. It’s a great place to sample authentic Vietnamese cuisine.
Ben Thanh Market is one of the most famous and bustling markets in Ho Chi Minh City, offering a vibrant and diverse shopping experience. The market’s prominent feature is its iconic clock tower, which serves as the main entrance. The market offers a wide range of goods, including clothing, textiles, jewelry, handicrafts, souvenirs, spices, dried fruits, and local street food. It’s a great place to shop for traditional Vietnamese items such as ao dai (traditional Vietnamese dress), lacquerware, and silk products.
Close to Ben Thanh Market is Saigon Square, another popular shopping destination in Ho Chi Minh. Saigon Square is air-conditioned, providing a more comfortable shopping environment, especially during the hot and humid weather. The market offers a wide selection of clothing, shoes, bags, accessories, and textiles. You can find both local and international fashion brands, as well as knock-offs and imitations of popular brands.
Nguyen Hue Walking Street
After lunch and shopping, head over to Nguyen Hue Walking Street. This is a vibrant pedestrian-only boulevard located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City – District 1. It is a car-free zone, dedicated solely to pedestrians. The street is lined with trees, benches, and flower beds, providing a pleasant and relaxing environment for casual strolling. The boulevard boasts a modern and urban design, featuring a wide promenade with spacious sidewalks.
Nguyen Hue Walking Street is flanked by several iconic landmarks. At one end of the street, you’ll find the striking People’s Committee Building (formerly known as the Ho Chi Minh City Hall). At the other end, you can enjoy scenic views of the Saigon River. You can find street performers, musicians, and artists showcasing their talents on this street. It often hosts events, festivals, and exhibitions, adding to the lively atmosphere.
You must visit The Café Apartment on Nguyen Hue Walking Street. It has numerous cafes, art galleries, boutique shops, and handicraft stores located on its multiple floors. The architecture is a blend of Vietnamese and French colonial styles, featuring high ceilings, wrought-iron balconies, and colourful facades. The building’s vintage charm and nostalgic atmosphere make it an eye-catching and interesting place to visit that offers a great vibe. You can grab a coffee at one of the cafes here.
Bitexco Financial Tower
As the sun sets, head to the Bitexco Financial Tower, an iconic skyscraper in District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City. Standing tall at 262 meters (861 feet) with 68 floors, the Bitexco Financial Tower is a remarkable feat of architecture and engineering. It is designed to resemble a lotus flower, a significant symbol in Vietnamese culture.
The tower’s height and distinctive design make it a prominent feature in the Ho Chi Minh City skyline. It offers panoramic views of the city, providing you with a breathtaking vista of the bustling streets, the Saigon River, and the surrounding landscape. Take the elevator to the Saigon Skydeck on the 49th floor for a panoramic view of the city’s skyline at dusk.
End your day with a drink at any of the rooftop bars in the building. Relax, and admire the stunning views of the city at night.
Best Places to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City
District 1, also known as Saigon’s central business district, is the bustling epicentre of Ho Chi Minh City. It is home to numerous iconic landmarks, including the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral, the historic Reunification Palace, and the vibrant Ben Thanh Market. Staying in District 1 will immensely ease your sight-seeing in Ho Chi Minh owing to its close proximity to all major attractions.
New World Saigon Hotel
76 Le Lai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
New World Saigon Hotel is an excellent choice to stay in Ho Chi Minh City. It is situated in a great location where you can explore nearby landmarks within walking distance. It has all the modern amenities you could possibly need. It offers an amazing breakfast spread and top-notch hospitality.
SaiGon Gạo Hostel
373/20 Phạm Ngũ Lão, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
If you’re a budget-conscious traveller, Pham Ngu Lao is the perfect place for you to stay. This backpacker hub is situated in District 1 and offers an array of affordable guesthouses, hostels and hotels. SaiGon Gạo Hostel in Pham Ngu Lao offers all the basic amenities at reasonable rates. Here you are offered air-conditioned rooms, free WiFi, a private bathroom and shower. The staff at this hostel have received great reviews for their hospitality and service.
Day trips from Ho Chi Minh City
While the city centre of Ho Chi Minh City is lively and exciting, exploring the surrounding areas is a must. Take day trips to the Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta to truly experience the diversity of the region.
Cu Chi Tunnels
The Cu Chi Tunnels are a vast underground network of tunnels located in the Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City. These tunnels hold great historical significance as they were a crucial part of the Vietnamese resistance during the Vietnam War. The tunnels were an intricate and extensive network, stretching over 250 kilometres. They were used for various purposes, including communication, supply routes, living quarters, and even as hideouts during combat. The tunnels were dug by hand and were incredibly narrow, often just enough to accommodate a single person crawling through them. You get to crawl through the tunnels and experience the resourcefulness of the Vietnamese people. Don’t miss this experience in Ho Chi Minh.
The Mekong Delta is a vast and fertile region located in southern Vietnam, where the Mekong River empties into the South China Sea. It is often referred to as the “rice bowl” of Vietnam due to its agricultural productivity.
It is home to a network of rivers, canals, and swamps. The region is known for its lush green landscapes, rich biodiversity, and a unique way of life deeply intertwined with the waterways. You can experience a sampan boat ride here, enjoy the floating markets and some beautiful sunset views by the Mekong River. You also get to witness live local music performance performed by the villagers.
Extra Tips for Visiting Ho Chi Minh City
Here are some tips to make your visit to Ho Chi Minh City more enjoyable:
- The local currency in Ho Chi Minh is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). Keep large amounts of cash with you at all times as cards may not be accepted at all places. The best ATMs to use are, Vietcombank, BIDV, Agribank, Techcom Bank and Sacombank. Withdraw large amounts at a time as there will be a transaction fee deducted each time you withdraw cash.
- Bargaining is a common practice in markets and smaller shops in Ho Chi Minh City. Feel free to negotiate the price when shopping. A good practice would be to start at 50% of the quoted price and land somewhere between 50 to 70%.
- Download the Grab app on your phone for the best transportation experience. Taxis are easily available in Ho Chi Minh, Mai Linh and Vinasun being the most reputable cab operators. Ensure the meter is running or agree on a fare if you use any other operator.
- Vietnamese is the official language in Ho Chi Minh. English is spoken in most places, but many locals do not speak English. Download the Vietnamese language on Google Translate on your phone before you leave.
- The traffic in Ho Chi Minh City can be overwhelming, especially for first-time visitors. Take caution when crossing the streets, as the traffic may not stop for pedestrians. Observe the locals and try to cross alongside them for a safer experience.
- Plugs type A (two flat vertical pins), type C and type F (two round pins) fit electrical outlets in Ho Chi Minh. Carry a universal travel adaptor to avoid any hassles.
- Ho Chi Minh City offers a fantastic street food scene, but it’s important to be mindful of food safety. Choose busy food stalls with high turnover, ensuring the ingredients are fresh and properly cooked. Drink bottled water and avoid consuming ice from unknown sources. Ho Chi Minh City can get hot and humid, so it’s essential to stay hydrated.
- Vietnamese coffee is decadent and a must-try on your visit to Ho Chi Minh. It is typically made with 100% Robusta coffee and thick condensed milk. This coffee is strong and can get quite addictive, so remember to consume it in moderate amounts to avoid withdrawal symptoms later on.
- Respecting local customs and traditions is important when visiting any destination. Dress modestly, particularly when visiting religious sites, and remove your shoes when entering temples or someone’s home.
Ready for a great holiday to Vietnam? Check the ultimate 10 Day Vietnam Itinerary for a detailed guide to all the must-visit places in the country.
Make sure you have everything you need
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Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
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Shreya Kejriwal is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Wander Smartly. She has visited over 25 countries in the world while maintaining a regular career and life back home. Her passion for traveling the world and seeking new experiences has led her to share her stories and experiences which others can draw from. Shreya is an avid writer and a published author. She has high attention to detail and a drive to help others around her.