Top Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City for First Timers

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly called Saigon, is one of the busiest cities in Vietnam. It is located at the southern part of Vietnam. Many tourists come to this city due to its richness in history and culture.

Tip: Not all Vietnamese can speak and understand English. What I did was download Google Translate. Through the app, we were able to communicate effectively with the locals.

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During our stay in HCMC, we stayed at LeLe Hotel. It is good already for budget travelers. It cost around VND500,000 a night which is a room good for two people. Also, it is conveniently at the center of the city, just a walking distance from Ben Thanh Market. The room is okay however, if you are claustrophobic, I do not recommend riding the elevator. The elevator is too small, in which 3 people would be standing side by side already.

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Free buffet breakfast is included but with limited choices. You can order pho noodles and they’ll prepare it for you. Or you can prepare your own banh mi sandwich. Other choices are hams, eggs, salads.

As for the transportation, we opted to take taxi all the time because it is cheap and we are 4 people. You’re also sure that you’re going to your destination. Unless you already know the transportation system, you can take other options such as bus, motorbikes, etc. But taxi is a good choice especially if you’re a group like 3 or 4 people.

In this post, I’m going to suggest some of the best things you can do while you’re in the city.

1. Go bargaining in Ben Thanh Market

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Ben Thanh Market is conveniently located at the center of the city. You can buy different brands of clothes here for a low cost, probably because the factories are located in Vietnam. You can even bargain with the sellers until you both agree for a final price, which is usually much lower than the original price. Just be cautious on your belongings from pickpocketers because the place becomes crowded especially at night. Enjoy shopping!

Address: Đường Lê Lợi, Cửa Nam Chợ Bến Thành, Bến Thành, Quận 1
Open hours: 6:00am – 6:00pm daily for the indoor market, and about 6:00pm – midnight daily for the night market
Entrance price: free

2. Visit the War Remnants Museum

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The War Remnants Museum was once known as the Museum of American War Crimes. It first opened to the public in 1975. It displays shocking photos and exhibits about the Vietnam War. You can also see military equipment, and weapons displayed in the museum. Visit the museum to have an in-depth learning about the horror and brutality that happened during the Vietnam War. There are instances that the exhibits might be disturbing to some people and may not be suitable to children, although children are still allowed to go inside.

Address: 28 Võ Văn Tần, Phường 6, Quận 3
Open hours: 7:30am – 12:00nn and 1:30pm – 5:00pm daily
Entrance price: VND10,000 per person

3. Visit the Reunification Palace

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The Reunification Palace, also known as the Independence Palace, is built on the site of the former Norodom Palace. It served as the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Today, it is one of the famous landmarks in Ho Chi Minh City as many tourists go and take pictures or selfies with it. You can also go inside the palace to see all the meeting rooms, dining rooms, and lounges.

Address: 135 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Bến Thành, Quận 1
Open hours: 7:30am – 11:00am and 1:00pm – 4:00pm daily. However, there are times when the palace is closed whenever there are events.
Entrance price: VND15,000 per person

4. Go inside the Saigon Central Post Office

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This is one of the best post offices I’ve seen. The architectural design of the building is influenced by the French and was built between 1886 and 1891. Inside the post office, there are souvenir shops and lots of post cards with different designs. The location is just right across Notre Dame Cathedral.

Address: 2 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1
Open hours: 7:00am – 5:00pm daily
Entrance price: free

5. Cruise along the Mekong Delta

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Riding a boat along the Mekong River is one of a kind experience for us in our stay in Vietnam. We had fun as we felt like we’re in the movie of Indiana Jones while in the boat. First, the tour guide brought us to a bahay-kubo where they served us tropical fruits and organic honey tea. There’s also a cultural show. Then, they showed us how they harvest honey from bees. After the show, we had our boat ride again on our way to the lunch area. The special lunch served was the elephant fish. They said that the fish was captured from the Mekong River (Okay, amazing. But we ate it anyway.). It turned out good and nobody had diarrhea or anything. After lunch, we went to see their local delicacies which they sell. There are local candies, wines infused with cobras and scorpions. They had us try it. It tasted like tequila. Don’t worry it’s optional. After that, we cruised along the Mekong River on our way back to our bus going back to HCMC. When you go to this tour, make sure that you bring bottles of water and mosquito-repellant lotion. It’s humid out there and there are mosquitoes. For bookings, there are many tour agencies around the city who offer Mekong Delta tours. Usually, there are travel agencies in the hotel lobbies. It won’t be a problem for you to find them.

Address: South Western area of Vietnam
Time of tour: 7:30am – 12:00nn
Tour price: It cost us around US$30 or VND680,000.

6. Learn more about history in Cu Chi Tunnels

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The Cu Chi Tunnels is a must-visit when you go to Ho Chi Minh City. It takes around one and a half hours to go to the tunnels from HCMC by bus. It’s interesting how the Vietnamese survived the war by living inside these narrow tunnels. And yes, you can go inside the tunnels to experience it yourself and discover how it feels living inside. I do not recommend going inside the tunnels for people who are claustrophobic and who have medical conditions such as asthma or heart disease. Bring lots of water when you go on this tour.

There are lots of travel agencies around the city who offer the Cu Chi Tunnels tour. There’s an agency in the hotel who organized everything. It was really a great experience for us.

Address: Ấp Phú Hiệp, Phú Hiệp, Xã Phú Mỹ Hưng, Củ Chi, Bến Tre 733800
Open hours: 7:00am – 5:00pm daily
Entrance price: The entrance fee is VND110,000 per person. For the booked tour, it cost us around US$20 or VND460,000. The entrance fee is already included.

7. Visit the Ho Chi Minh Fine Arts Museum

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Vietnam is very rich in culture as well as in arts. We appreciate art very much so we decided to visit the Ho Chi Minh Fine Arts Museum, which is located near our hotel. Surprisingly, the museum is large and displays so many art works such as paintings, sculptures, caricatures, and a lot more expressing the different eras of Vietnam history. Also, they feature certain artists and has a special exhibit at the ground floor. We came to know the featured artist at that time, named Nguyen Khac Chinh, who is based in Hanoi. His art works are simple yet give a sense of elegance. If you love art, I’m sure you’ll be able enjoy this attraction.

Address: 97 Phó Đức Chính, Nguyễn Thái Bình, Quận 1
Open hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm Tuesday to Sunday
Entrance price: VND10,000 per person

8. Relax and socialize in parks

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We were amazed that there are many beautiful parks in Ho Chi Minh City. I would like to commend the government for doing a great job in preserving and taking good care of their parks. One of the best parks we’ve seen was Công Viên 30/4. It is located just between the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Reunification Palace. The park is wide with lots of trees. Many people also exercise in the park every morning, either having zumba-like sessions or using the fitness equipment for free. It’s best to visit the parks early in the morning.

Address of Công Viên 30/4: Pasteur, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh, Bến Nghé Quận 1. Just right across Notre Dame Cathedral or Reunification Palace
Open hours: 24 hours open daily
Entrance price: free

9. Go to Saigon Cathedral of Notre Dame

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The Notre Dame Cathedral was built between 1877 and 1883. It is a neo-Romanesque church with 40m-high square towers tipped with iron spires, which makes it attractive to tourists due to its European-inspired architecture. There are English-speaking staff who assist tourists from 9:00am to 11:00am on Monday to Saturday. There is a mass at 9:30am every Sunday. There are instances when the front gates are locked. Try the door on the side facing the Reunification Palace if the gates are locked. The church is conveniently located right across the Reunification Palace and the Saigon Central Post Office.

Address: 1, Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1
Open hours: Weekday mass in Vietnamese at 5:30am and 5:00pm. Sunday masses in Vietnamese scheduled hourly from 5:30am – 8:30am and 10:30am. For the English mass, it’s at 9:30am. There’s also a mass in Vietnamese at 5:15pm.
Entrance price: free

10. Take a stroll at Nguyen Hue Street

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This is my favorite place in Ho Chi Minh City. I love walking along the street especially at night where you will see street shows, lots of people walking or taking pictures with the statue of Ho Chi Minh. This is the first pedestrian-only street in Ho Chi Minh City that has been opened to the public. However, it gets hot especially in the afternoon and there’s no shade at all so it would be best to bring an umbrella. Or just go there at night.

Address: Nguyễn Huệ, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh, Hiệp Phú Quận 9
Open hours: 24 hours open daily
Entrance price: free
Aside from these activities, you can visit temples, party at night, get a massage, food trips, and a lot more. Whatever your plans are, I’m sure Ho Chi Minh City will give you a great experience especially on your first trip here. Have fun!
For other travel guides in Vietnam, visit

 

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17 Comments

  1. Beth Jarrett says:

    I’ve got less than 2 months until my trip to Vietnam. Our first stop is Ho Chi Minh, and then we are heading to Da Nang. I’m super excited and many of the places in my itinerary were in your post! 🙂

    1. escapadition says:

      That’s great! Have fun in Ho Chi Minh City! 🙂

  2. Kasia says:

    Wow I would love to visit Vietnam. I love vietnamese food and people living there are so nice. This is a beautiful country and definitely a place to visit during a trip around Asia 🙂
    Next year I will visit Vietnam and I can’t wait to discover Ho Chi Minh 😀
    Best,
    Kasia

    1. escapadition says:

      yeah! surely you’ll have fun on your vietnam trip!

  3. Umberta says:

    I definitely wanna visit Vietnam. Nguyen street looks cool and I obviously would love to take a boat on the Mekong delta!!!

    1. escapadition says:

      yeah that’s a good idea! i loved nguyen hue street.

  4. I loved exploring the Mekong delta, you described it so well! An interesting post I look forward to reading more.

  5. Mamta says:

    Cruise along the Mekong Delta is my favorite followed by the post office.

  6. The Ben Thanh Market would definitely be an interesting experience, thank you for the tip about pickpocketers!!!

  7. Saumyata says:

    Great inputs. Heard and read alot abput it. Its in our visiting list too.

  8. Lyf&Spice says:

    I just got back from Vietnam, but didn’t visit Ho Chi Minh City. Thanks for the virtual tour. Cheers!!

  9. Maša says:

    Mmm that pho noodles looks delicious! Not use to eat them for breakfast but I would give it a try 🙂

  10. Rosalie says:

    This is such a great itenerary! I’ve never been to Vietnam before, but you’ve inspired me to have a look 🙂

  11. Sandy Dobbs says:

    I used to teach about this city when I taught high school World Geography. This post is a great virtual tour! Love the architecture and that post office.

  12. I have never been to Vietnam and this is a good start for my Vietnam itinerary. Thank you for the virtual tour of beautiful Vietnam.

  13. Xander says:

    Ive been in vietnam a year go and i was amazed by the beauty and simplicity of that place.

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