Ho Chi Minh City, previously known as Saigon, is Vietnam‘s busiest city. There’s so much to see and do here, whether you’re staying for just a few days or planning to visit for a month.
If you’re planning to spend time in Ho Chi Minh City, here is a list of the top 6 things to do around Saigon’s region.
The Mekong Delta, is an incredibly beautiful and exotic place with its great floating markets, where locals sit on boats to sell their wares, small villages along the canals and spectacular rice paddies.
It’s possible to visit the Mekong Delta without a tour and is actually quite easy. You just need to ask around and combine different ways of transport, bus, ferry or rent a motorbike. Save at least 3 days to explore the Mekong.
If you are looking for a more comfortable experience there are many cruise routes along the Mekong Delta.
Củ Chi Tunnels
Deep under the ground, you’ll find a network of connecting tunnels, called the Củ Chi Tunnels.
To get here from Ho Chi Minh on your own you can choose from one of these options: motorbike, car, bus or speedboat.
To get there by public bus first, take the bus nº 13 from 23-9 park (nearby Pham Ngu Lao, backpacker area) to Cu Chi bus station. Then transfer to Bus nº 79 headed to Ben Duoc. This is by far the cheapest option but the total travelling time is around two and a half hours. To return to HCMC get the bus nº79.
Tip: download the BusMap app beforehand to make travelling by bus in and around Ho Chi Minh City a breeze.
These tunnels were once in use by the military and acted as hiding places, living quarters, hospitals and supply routes, all safely hidden from view. This gives a fascinating insight into life in Saigon through the Vietnam War.
There are two entrances: Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc that for some reason have different entrance fees.
Ben Dinh or Ben Duoc?
The truth is, Ben Duoc is the best example of the original tunnels and is cheaper. Ben Dinh is closer to Ho Chi Minh City therefor more touristy.
Delicious vegan food
Saigon is a paradise for vegan food lovers, there is an abundance of choice, quality and great prices everywhere you look.
Find incredible temples
Ho Chi Minh City is filled with magnificent temples, to be discovered all over the city.
The famous Thien Hau Temple, located in District 5 in the Chinatown has great small details and decoration.
Standing out amidst Vietnamese architecture, Notre Dame Cathedral is distinctly European. Created by French colonists, Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon has two bell towers and some incredibly impressive stained glass windows.
Phuoc Hai Temple, also known as the Jade Emperor Pagoda. located in District 1 – the downtown of Saigon displays many statues of saints in Chinese culture.
Don’t miss Ho Chi Minh City’s vibrant and bustling street markets. These are an incredible sight, and a chance to sample local foods and flavours.
The most famous market in Vietnam is the hugely varied Ben Thanh Market, but if you go to Binh Tay Market you will find better prices and have a more “local” experience.
Binh Tay Market is located in the Cholon area of Ho Chi Minh City, which is Chinatown.
For something more unusual, find military memorabilia at Dan Sinh Market, or go to incredibly colourful Ho Thi Ky for the largest wholesale flower market.
Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre
Often described as one of the best things to see in Ho Chi Minh City, the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre is an attraction that’s not to be missed. Here you can enjoy Vietnamese culture amongst the locals and other tourists. Often the shows are presented entirely in Vietnamese, but can still be enjoyed if you don’t speak the language.
Staff will explain the premise of the story before the colourful puppet show begins. Water puppetry is a Vietnamese tradition, so this attraction is an experience that you won’t find anywhere else.
How to get around Saigon
If you fly to Ho Chi Minh city, you can take a taxi or bus from the Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport to the city. To take the bus look for bus nº152, it will take you all the way to Ben Thanh Market.
HCMC is not the most pleasant place to walk around because of the crazy amount of motorbikes but its still the best option especially in the central areas of town. Walking is always one of the best ways to explore any city.
To get somewhere outside Ho Chi Minh, renting a motorbike is the best option, there are plenty of rentals agencies, and the fare for the day is quite cheap.
You can also use the local bus system that is a cheap and safe way to get around town.
Using a taxi can be challenging, and to be fair I avoid using them when possible. If you go with this option make sure you take a reliable company and confirm the taxi is legit.
You’ll have to spend quite a few days in the area to see everything this region has to offer. Have you ever been to Saigon? What are the things to do in Saigon that you enjoyed the most?
photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha