Ho Chi Minh City, previously known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam. It combines modern skyscrapers with classic French architecture. Many of the best attractions in HCMC center around Vietnam’s war-torn history. As sombre as it is, HCMC also offers fascinating historical activities.
What to do in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam?
1.War Remnants Museum
Vietnam’s history is plagued by war, most notably the “Vietnamese War” (or “the American War”). Ho Chi Minh City was at the epicenter of the war. The War Remnants Museum holds a collection of informative exhibitions detailing Vietnams’s bloody history through photographs and memorabilia. There are also numerous planes and tanks left behind after the “American War” that are in remarkable shape.
Note: While the museum IS informative, please be advised that some of the photographs are not suitable for children. Much of the photographic documentation shows graphic images.
Opening Hours: Daily from 07.30am – 12.00 and 1:30 – 5:00 pm
2. Reunification Palace (or Independence Palace)
The Reunification Palace, otherwise known as Independence Palace, is compared to the likes of the “White House” in Washington D.C. The palace once served as the home and residence of the South Vietnamese president, but is best known for its association with the fall of Saigon in 1975. While the rooms are exquisite, perhaps the most interesting part of the Reunification Palace is its bunker and expansive telecomunications center.
Opening Hours: 7.30-11am & 1-4pm
Prices: adult 30,000 and child 5,000VND ($1.50USD)
3. Cu Chi Tunnels
Cu Chi Tunnels offer visitors a unique experience of how the Vietnamese lived in tunnels. The tunnels were built as living spaces underground. The tunnels were built following the occupation of the French and were later expanded on and utilized during the Vietnamese War (“American War”) as a means of surviving the carpet bombing by the Americans.
This Cu Chi Tunnels are about 70 km from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Tickets can be purchased for as little as $10USD at any of the travel agencies in town. (Tip: you’ll need to shop around a bit for a good price as agencies charge different prices for the same tour). The tour includes pickup from your hotel (as long as your accomodation is nearby), transportation, and entrance into the tunnels.
Upon arrival, you will see a short video about the construction of the tunnels and crawl into the tunnels. You can even shoot an M16 rifle on site! (You will need to pay extra for this at a cost of 35,000 VND for 10 bullets).
Opening Hours: Daily
Prices: half-day tour is 100,000 VND or about $5USD + the tunnel entrance fee of 90,000 dong ($4.50 USD).
4. (Cho) Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market is where you can shop for exotic gifts. It is centrally located in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City. Here, you can purchase Vietnamese handicrafts, clothes, shoes, knock-offs and even kopi luwak (aka “poo”) coffee. Feel free negotiate with the sellers as they are in direct competition with each other. Rule of thumb is to offer 1/4 of the price offered and then meet 1/3 of the way. Never pay full price.
Note: Ben Thanh is also night market.
5. Sample street food
Street food is widely available throughout Ho Chi Minh City. While shopping in Ben Thanh Market, walk just a few blocks to sample the best of international cuisine at Ben Thanh Street Food Market.
6. Try Pho
Pho is a popular Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, and meat, primarily made with either beef or chicken.
7. Enjoy a coffee
Vietnam is the biggest coffee exporter in the world! Vietnamese coffee is excellent and cheap! Black coffee with ice (ca phe da) is strong with chocolate undertones. Condensed milk is often added to make an “iced milk coffee’, or “ca phe sua da.” Trung Nguyen is the most popular local brand.
7. Party or people watch on Pham Ngu Lao Street
Similar to Bangkok’s infamous Khao San Road, Pham Ngu Lao Street is HCMC’s backpacker hangout. Visitors can purchase cheap beers, party into the night, or simply people watch from roof-top bars.
9. Cao Dai Temple
Located approximately 100 km of Ho Chi Minh City, Cao Dai Temple is a unique mixture of both eastern and western influences. The temple is part-cathedral, part-pagoda, and part-mosque. Prayers take place four times a day. When entering temples, dressing modestly is a must! Hence, short shorts and sleeveless shirts are not permitted. Tours leave daily from HCMC.
10. Cruise on the Mekong Delta
While traveling through Southeast Asia, the Mekong Delta is a must-do while. The best (and easiest) way to experience the Mekong Delta is by tour. One day to five day tours are available. Alternatively, you can also travel to Cambodia on the Mekong Delta.
- Choose accommodations in District 1, as the district is centrally-located.
- If choosing a tour, shop around for the best prices at tour agencies.
- Money exchanges are rare and hard to find in HCMC. Most tour agencies will not exchange money as they will in other SE Asian cities. However, gold shops are the widely available and will offer to make exchanges, but at inflated exchanges rates.