Ho Chi Minh City Travel Guide

Discover the best things to do, places to eat and stay, hiking and biking routes, and tips for traveling safely and culturally respectfully in Ho Chi Minh City.

Introduction to Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is a bustling metropolis located in Southern Vietnam. With a population of over 8 million people, it is the largest city in Vietnam and the economic centre of the country. Ho Chi Minh City is known for its rich history, French colonial architecture, and vibrant street life. The city is home to a diverse population of Vietnamese, Chinese, Khmer, and other ethnic groups, which makes it a melting pot of cultures and traditions.

List of Places to Visit in Ho Chi Minh City

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

Ho Chi Minh City is steeped in history and culture, and there are many museums and historical sites to explore. Some of the must-visit attractions include:

  • War Remnants Museum: This museum offers a sobering insight into the Vietnam War from the perspective of the Vietnamese people. It displays photographs, artifacts, and documents that tell the story of the war and its impact on the country and its people.
  • Independence Palace: This building was the former residence of the president of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It is now a museum that showcases the palace’s history and architecture.
  • Cu Chi Tunnels: Located about 40 km from the city, these underground tunnels served as a base for the Viet Cong during the war. Visitors can explore the tunnels and learn about the guerrilla warfare tactics used by the Viet Cong.

Natural Attractions of Ho Chi Minh City: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

If you’re a nature lover, Ho Chi Minh City has plenty to offer. Some of the best natural attractions include:

  • Saigon River: Take a boat tour down the river to see Ho Chi Minh City from a different perspective. You can also enjoy a sunset cruise or dine on a floating restaurant.
  • Can Gio Mangrove Forest: Located about 40 km from the city, this protected wetland area is home to a diverse ecosystem of mangroves, monkeys, and birds. Visitors can explore the forest by boat or foot.
  • Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens: This sprawling park covers over 100 acres and is home to a wide variety of animals and plants, including elephants, tigers, and rare orchids.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Ho Chi Minh City

If you want to get some exercise and explore the city at the same time, there are several hiking and biking routes to try:

  • Phu My Bridge: This bridge connects District 2 and District 7 and offers some of the best views of the city skyline. You can walk or bike across the bridge and enjoy the scenery.
  • Tan Phu Canal: This canal runs through the heart of the city and is a popular spot for jogging and biking. The canal is surrounded by parks and green spaces, making it a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.
  • Saigon River Trail: This trail runs along the banks of the Saigon River and offers scenic views of the water and the city skyline. You can walk or bike along the trail and stop at cafes and restaurants along the way.

Best Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City: Activities and Tours

Ho Chi Minh City has a wide range of activities and tours to suit all interests. Some popular things to do include:

  • Food Tours: Explore the local cuisine and street food with a guided food tour. You’ll get to try a variety of Vietnamese dishes and learn about the ingredients and cooking techniques used.
  • Cu Chi Tunnels Tour: Take a guided tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels to learn about the history of the Vietnam War and the guerrilla tactics used by the Viet Cong.
  • Saigon River Dinner Cruise: Enjoy a romantic dinner cruise down the Saigon River while taking in the stunning views of the city skyline.

Week-Long Itinerary for Ho Chi Minh City

If you’re planning on spending a week in Ho Chi Minh City, here’s a suggested itinerary:

  • Day 1: Visit the War Remnants Museum and Independence Palace
  • Day 2: Explore the Cu Chi Tunnels and Can Gio Mangrove Forest
  • Day 3: Take a food tour and try some local cuisine
  • Day 4: Visit the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens
  • Day 5: Take a day trip to the Mekong Delta and visit local markets and villages
  • Day 6: Take a bike tour of the city and visit landmarks such as the Notre Dame Cathedral and Reunification Palace
  • Day 7: Relax with a spa treatment and enjoy a sunset dinner cruise down the Saigon River.

Food and Drink Scene of Ho Chi Minh City

Must-Try Dishes

Ho Chi Minh City is known for its delicious and diverse cuisine. Some must-try dishes include:

  • Pho: This is a Vietnamese noodle soup that usually contains beef or chicken, rice noodles, herbs, and vegetables.
  • Banh Mi: This is a sandwich made with a French baguette and filled with pate, meat, pickled vegetables, and chili sauce.
  • Cha gio: These are Vietnamese spring rolls that are filled with pork, vegetables, and noodles and then deep-fried.

Local Beverages

Vietnam has a rich coffee culture, and Ho Chi Minh City is no exception. Some popular local beverages include:

  • Ca phe sua da: This is a Vietnamese iced coffee that is sweetened with condensed milk.
  • Bia hoi: This is a light and refreshing Vietnamese beer that is brewed daily and served fresh.

Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

Ho Chi Minh City has a wide variety of accommodations to suit all budgets. Some popular options include:

  • Rex Hotel: This historic hotel is located in the heart of the city and offers luxurious rooms and amenities.
  • Saigon Backpackers Hostel: This hostel offers affordable dorm rooms and private rooms for budget travelers.
  • The Common Room Project: This guesthouse offers stylish and comfortable rooms in a peaceful and relaxing setting.

What to Buy in Ho Chi Minh City: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

Ho Chi Minh City is known for its handicrafts and locally made products. Some popular souvenirs and gifts to bring home include:

  • Ao dai: This is a traditional Vietnamese dress that is elegant and flattering. You can have one custom made or buy one off the rack.
  • Lacquerware: This is a decorative craft that involves applying layers of lacquer to a surface to create a glossy and durable finish.
  • Coffee: Vietnamese coffee is considered some of the best in the world, and you can buy beans or pre-packaged coffee to take home with you.

Local Culture and Customs of Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnamese culture is heavily influenced by Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Some customs and traditions to be aware of include:

  • Respect for elders: Vietnamese culture places a high value on respect for older people. It is common to address them with honorific titles such as “uncle” or “aunt.”
  • Social status: Vietnamese society is hierarchical, and social status is important. It is important to address people by their proper title and show respect to authority figures.
  • Face-saving: Vietnamese people value “face,” which refers to one’s reputation and social standing. It is important to avoid causing someone to lose face or feel embarrassed.

Best Time to Visit Ho Chi Minh City

The best time to visit Ho Chi Minh City is from December to April, as this is the dry season with cooler temperatures and less humidity. May to November is the rainy season, with high temperatures and frequent rainstorms.

Do’s and Don’ts of Ho Chi Minh City


  • Dress appropriately: Vietnam is a conservative country, and it is important to dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites.
  • Carry cash: Some small shops and restaurants may not accept credit cards, so it’s important to have cash on hand.
  • Learn some basic Vietnamese: Even a few words of Vietnamese can go a long way in showing respect and making connections with locals.


  • Don’t use your feet: In Vietnamese culture, the feet are considered dirty and should not be pointed at anyone.
  • Don’t drink tap water: It is not safe to drink tap water in Vietnam, so stick to bottled water.
  • Don’t discuss politics: Vietnamese people are generally reserved when it comes to political discussions, and it’s best to avoid the topic altogether.

Safety and Health

Safety in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is relatively safe, but it’s important to take the usual precautions when traveling in a foreign city. Some tips for staying safe include:

  • Beware of pickpockets: Petty theft can be a problem in Ho Chi Minh City, especially in crowded areas like markets.
  • Use caution when crossing the street: Traffic can be chaotic in Ho Chi Minh City, and it’s important to look both ways and cross slowly and steadily.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or valuables: Keep your wallet and phone in a secure place and don’t flash large amounts of cash in public.

Health in Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam is a developing country, and the healthcare system may not meet Western standards. Some tips for staying healthy include:

  • Drink bottled water: Tap water is not safe to drink in Vietnam.
  • Wash your hands regularly: Use hand sanitizer or soap and water to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Get vaccinated: Consult with your doctor before traveling to Vietnam to ensure you have all the necessary vaccinations.

Getting to Ho Chi Minh City: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Ho Chi Minh City

The main airport serving Ho Chi Minh City is Tan Son Nhat International Airport, which is located about 8 km from the city centre. There are also several other airports in the surrounding area.

Bus Stations Near Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City has several bus stations that connect to other parts of Vietnam and neighboring countries. Some popular bus stations include:

  • Mien Dong Bus Station: This station serves destinations in the north and central parts of Vietnam.
  • Mien Tay Bus Station: This station serves destinations in the Mekong Delta and Cambodia.

Other Options

Ho Chi Minh City is also accessible by train, private car, and motorbike.

How to Get Around in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City has a variety of transportation options to choose from, including:

  • Taxis: There are many taxi companies in Ho Chi Minh City, but it’s important to use reputable companies to avoid scams.
  • Motorbikes: Motorbikes are a popular way to get around the city, but it’s important to wear a helmet and use caution when driving.
  • Public Transportation: Ho Chi Minh City has a network of buses and a modern metro system that is currently under construction.

Where to Go Next from Ho Chi Minh City: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

Ho Chi Minh City is a great jumping-off point for exploring other parts of Southern Vietnam. Some popular nearby destinations include:

  • Mekong Delta: This fertile region is home to floating markets, rice paddies, and small villages.
  • Phu Quoc Island: This island paradise is located off the coast of Cambodia and is known for its pristine beaches and coral reefs.
  • Dalat: This mountain town is located in the Central Highlands of Vietnam and is known for its cool climate and tranquil atmosphere.


Ho Chi Minh City is a vibrant and lively city that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, nature, or food, you’re sure to find plenty to explore in this dynamic city. With its friendly and welcoming people, rich history, and delicious cuisine, Ho Chi Minh City is a must-visit destination in Southeast Asia.