Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City
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Ho Chi Minh City Travel Guide

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Ho Chi Minh City, known as Saigon before 1975, was renamed to honor the country’s revolutionary leader – Ho Chi Minh. Until now, it is still unofficially called Saigon, especially among the Southern Vietnamese. It is the largest and most populous city in Vietnam, and was once for a long time praised as the “Paris of the Orient”.

As the economic center of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is in many ways in common with the capital Hanoi. It is also rich in museums, ancient temples and pagodas, historical attractions, and colonial buildings. It also provides many culinary delights, with food vendors and eateries scattered on every corner. Motorbikes are the main vehicle on its streets.

While different from the strong traditional atmosphere in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City is more foreign culture influenced and more cosmopolitan. And Ho Chi Minh City offers more late-night options and glitzier shopping malls. Compared with the laid-back capital city, Ho Chi Minh City is often described as a bustling metropolis that is chaotic, fast-paced, and thriving.

Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh

Top Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City

Explore the Cu Chi Tunnels

One of the most-visited attractions in Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi Tunnels is the best-preserved underground tunnel example in the country, showcasing to visitors the wisdom of the Vietnamese people and an insight into their difficult life in the tunnel during wartime.

Some sections of the tunnel have been reconstructed and enlarged to allow visitors to crawl through the tunnel, and discover how the complex tunnel routes are interconnected with each other.

It is said that Vietnamese soldiers excavated this huge underground network just by hand and with some primitive tools. Just go and find out how such an underground city with schools, kitchens, bedrooms, command centers, etc. was built to allow the soldiers to hide underground for long periods.

Cu Chi Tunnels Exit
Cu Chi Tunnels

Learn about Vietnam’s War History at War Remnants Museum

For history buffs and military enthusiasts, War Remnants Museum is the place to go. Exhibited in the museum are over 20,000 pieces of military equipment, documents, films, photos, and artifacts, telling visitors the untold stories and history of the First and Second Indochina Wars.

Most military instruments are displayed in the courtyard outside, including howitzers, bomb parts, the UH-1 “Huey” helicopter, an F-5A fighter, and the M48 Patton tank. Inside the museum are different halls exhibiting photos, videos, and documents, detailing many grisly moments and scenes during wartime. Some of the artifacts are donated by returned US servicemen.

War Remnants Museum
War Remnants Museum - Fighter Plane

See Some Iconic Colonial Architectures

The many existing colonial architecture sites in Ho Chi Minh City are witnesses of Vietnam’s French colonial history from 1884 to 1954, adding some ancient and romantic atmosphere to this modern city. Below is our pick of the most iconic colonial buildings in Ho Chi Minh City.

  • Notre Dame Cathedral (aka Nha Tho Duc Ba in Vietnamese): a typical French design with both Gothic and neo-Roman style; with 6 large copper bells; a large statue of Mary stands in front of the cathedral.
  • Central Post Office: is still in service as a post office; a great example showcasing Gothic and renaissance influence; in 19th-century architectural style with bright yellow appearance, arched windows, and looping arches.
Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh
  • Saigon Opera House (aka Municipal Theater): Still hosts performances nowadays; was built in 1898 and once served as an entertainment place for colonists and the middle class; sits about 2 meters higher than the street surface; looks like an enormous city gate from afar.
  • Reunification Palace (aka ): an example of 1960s architecture; once home to the South Vietnamese president, the palace now serves as a museum offering you a glimpse into former presidents’ life and the war history of the country.

Get a Panoramic View of the City from Bitexco Saigon Skydeck

Standing close to the bank of the Saigon River, the Bitexco Financial Tower became the tallest building in Saigon at its completion in 2010. Visitors can take the city’s fastest elevator to reach its sky-deck and enjoy a fantastic panoramic view of the city. Th view is especially impressive at sunset and at night when the city is dyed glittering golden color by the sunset or lit up by the luminous brilliance of the skyscrapers. Don’t forget to catch your camera to catch the stunning views.

Bitexco Financial Tower in Ho Chi Minh City
Bitexco Financial Tower in Ho Chi Minh City

Shop at Ben Thanh Markets

Whether you want a great shopping experience, authentic local life exploration, a food hunt, some amazing bargains, or just enjoy people-watching, Ben Thanh Market will not disappoint you. As the largest as well as the most authentic market in Ho Chi Minh City, it offers access to about 1,500 stalls selling clothes, shoes, souvenirs, food, bags, fresh produce, grocery, glassware, etc. The market usually opens from 7:00 am to the late evening.

Enjoy a Street Food Adventure

Ho Chi Minh City is proud of some of the best street food in Vietnam. The most local way to seek nice food is by wandering around the streets on foot or on a motorbike. In this way, you can explore at your own pace and stop at any time when you meet some food that stimulates your appetite.

Top places to grab a bite in Ho Chi Minh City: Vĩnh Khánh Street (features nice seafood), Bến Thành Market, Phan Văn Hân Street, Co Giang Street, Nguyen Thuong Hien Street.

 

Street food in Ho Chi Minh City
Street food in Ho Chi Minh City

Top-recommended street food in Ho Chi Minh City: Banh xeo (crepes filled with pork and bean sprouts), goi cuon (spring roll filled with pork, prawn and vegetables), bun mam (soup with fermented fish and vermicelli), banh mi (a French baguette filled with roasted pork, rice paste, chillies, pickles and aromatic coriander), com tam (sticky rice served with fried egg, meat patties, or prawn).

Ho Chi Minh City Weather: Best Time to Visit Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is mainly influenced by a hot and humid climate, with two distinctive seasons: the dry season (December to April) and the rainy season (May to November). The annual average temperature ranges from 26-29°C. There are about 150 rainy days each year, but most are short rains and won’t ruin your trip.

The best time to visit Ho Chi Minh City is its dry season, from December to April, which is also the peak season in the city. The Average temperature hovers around 33 °C during this period.

Ho Chi Minh City Transportation: How to Get to and Get around

How to Get to Ho Chi Minh City

As the largest metropolis in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is easily accessible by air, train, and bus.

By Air

The Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City works as both the country’s aviation hub and main international gateway. Any city in Vietnam with an airport can reach Ho Chi Ming City by a direct domestic flight. The international flights include those from Southeast Asia, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia.

The airport is just 7km from the city center, it’s easy to take a taxi at the airport which will cost about 6.5-8 USD. We recommend hailing taxis from reputable companies (Mai Linh, Vinasun Taxi) that use meters, or order through Grab or Uber. If you don’t have heavy luggage, it is also okay to take a motorbike or bus.

By Train/Bus

The country’s Reunification Express HCMC-Hanoi line stops in most major cities, making it convenient to get to Ho Chi Minh City by train from domestic cities.

There are two main bus stations in Saigon: Saigon Bus Station, and Mien Dong bus station. Both of them are located on the outskirts of the city, and you can also ride a bus served by major bus companies which will stop at Pham Ngu Lao.

How to Get around Ho Chi Minh City

By bus

There are over 100 bus routes in Ho Chi Minh City to take you to major attractions of the city. The ticket usually costs about 0.15-0.5 USD per person. Due to the city’s traffic congestion, a bus ride is more recommended for a long distance.

By bicycle

Recommended for experienced cyclists, with more flexibility. The price for a bike rental is about 7 USD per day, or a cheaper price if you rent for many days.

By Taxi

The most convenient way. The start fare is about 0.52 USD and about 0.43 USD for every subsequent kilometer.

On foot

Walking is a manageable way to travel through Saigon’s tourist and commercial center, allowing you to explore the Ben Thanh Market, War Remnants Museum, Reunification Palace, the Post Office, and Notre Dame Cathedral at your own pace.

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