Ho Chi Minh City Travel Guide
Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it it is still sometimes called, is Vietnam’s largest and most chaotic city. I love the chaos here, though you need to be careful when walking across the street! Motorbikes, cars, and rickshaws go where and whenever they please. It’s a city with a billion things happening at once. There is a lot of information here about the war, from the War Remnants Museum to the Cu Chi Tunnels. There’s a great historical museum here, though the English translation leaves a lot to be desired. The city has a lot to offer, great shops, fantastic nightlife, and delicious food. After Hoi An, it is my next favorite city in Vietnam.
Hostel Prices – Dorms cost around $7-10 USD, while private rooms are around $20 for a double room.
Budget Hotel Prices – A night in a budget hotels starts at $7.50 USD, but $14-30 is the norm.
Average Cost of Food – Eat the local food and you can get a meal for around $1 USD. Sit down restaurants are also inexpensive at around $3.50 USD. A western burger might cost around $1.50 USD.
Transportation Costs – Public buses around the city cost $.15 USD. Taxis are more expensive at $.50 USD for the first kilometer and $.50 USD per kilometer thereafter.
Money Saving Tips
Taxis – Taxi drivers will rip you off so agree to a price ahead of time. Or better yet, skip them and walk. Or rent a bike and try to navigate the chaos of the city.
Markets – When shopping in any of the city’s markets you may feel like a wallet on legs as the traders call out to you. Be firm and be ready to walk away.
Eat Street Food – Street food in Ho Chi Minh City is inexpensive and delicious. Be sure to try a banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich popular in the south.
Enjoy Happy Hour – The bars in the Pham Ngu Lao area have plenty of Happy Hour drink specials, from half-price drinks to dollar cocktails.
Top Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh
Crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels – Crawl through the extensive network of nearly 500 km of tunnels utilized by the Viet Cong in the 1960s to fight American soldiers. Tours involve a description and tour of the tunnels.
Get Lost in Chinatown – Chinatown is a hive of activity; it is a maze of temples, restaurants, jade ornaments, and medicine shops. Aside from the sprawling Binh Tay market, you’ll find some fascinating temples in the area including the Chinese Chua Quan Am Temple and Cha Tam, which is a Catholic cathedral.
Visit the Museum of Ho Chi Minh City – Not to be confused with the “Ho Chi Minh Museum”, at one point or another, the city museum has been a Governor’s Palace, committee building and Revolutionary Museum. Nowadays, its picturesque grounds attract newlyweds posing for photographs. You’ll find a collection of weaponry and memorabilia from the country’s revolutionary struggle as well as captured U.S fighter planes and tanks.
Check out the Vietnam History Museum – The History Museum is a great place to learn about the colorful events of Vietnam’s past. The museum houses a fantastic collection of ceramics, weaponry and cannons. There are photographs, clothes and household objects dating back as far as the 1700s. The English translations leave a lot to be desired though.
See the Emperor Jade Pagoda – Emperor Jade is one of the most impressive pagodas in Vietnam. The intricate carvings and depictions of deities including the Emperor Jade himself.
Admire the Notre Dame Cathedral – The Notre Dame Cathedral is an imposing red brick building built between 1877 and 1883. The two towers that front the cathedral tower over visitors at nearly 200 feet tall while the neon-lit statue of the Virgin Mary is also an arresting site.
Visit the War Remnants Museum – The War Remnants Museum is a must-see for anyone with an interest in Vietnam’s history of combat with both the French and the Americans. Inside you’ll find informative exhibits focusing on biological warfare, weaponry and in-depth statistics of Vietnam’s armies during the conflicts. The museum’s best exhibit is the collection of bombs, tanks, planes and war machinery which can be found in the courtyard. The museum has a very pro-communist, down with the capitalist pigs bent to it and it’s interesting to see. It’s as much propaganda as it is history.
See the Cao Dai Holy See Temple – The Cao Dai religion is relatively new at less than 100 years old. The temples are distinguished by the “all-seeing eye” which dominates the architecture. This Cao Dai temple is the main temple for the religion and is hugely ornate and impressive. Most people combine a trip to the temple with the Cu Chi Tunnels excursion.
Shop at the Ben Thanh Market – Though the market is crowded and rife with pickpockets, it is the ideal place to pick up a bargain or try some traditional (and inexpensive) Vietnamese food. It’s an ideal shopping place.
Escape to Can Gio Island – The Can Gio island is popular with tourists and Ho Chi Minh locals as a way to escape the chaos of the city. The beaches here aren’t mind blowing like they are in Thailand but it’s a great place to relax and one of Vietnam’s better islands. The island’s monkey sanctuary and mangroves are great for wildlife fans.
Ascend the Saigon Skydeck – For a 360 degree panorama of the city, you can head to the Saigon Skydeck tower. The observation deck is on the 49th floor and entrance costs $9.50 USD.
Unwind in the Twenty-Three September Park – In the hours just preceding and just after the working day, this park is packed with people exercising and playing games. Watch a Tai Chi class, play a badminton game, or chat with one of the many students who hang out in the area.