l Ho Chi Minh City ESSENTIAL Travel Guide 2024 | Bonzer Tour

Ho Chi Minh City ESSENTIAL Travel Guide 2024

Cập nhật: 01-01-1970 12:00:00 | Blogs about Vietnam | Lượt xem: 1083

Still widely referred to by its old name – Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is the economic heart of Vietnam and an ideal destination for those who love the hustle and bustle of major cities. Highlighted by a variety of soaring skyscrapers, lovely French colonial structures and graceful Buddhist pagodas, this is an attractive place with a perfect blend of tradition and modernity. In this city, you will find the past and the future strangely harmonized together

If you are planning to visit Ho Chi Minh City and other Vietnam highlights, our Ho Chi Minh City travel guide can give you a closer look at this dynamic and vibrant cosmopolitan metropolis. Let’s check it out! 

When to visit Ho Chi Minh City

Like other places in the sub-equatorial tropical monsoon region, Ho Chi Minh City’s climate is characterized by year-round warm weather and two distinct seasons: the rainy season that runs from May to November, and the dry season that runs from December to April next year. It has an average annual temperature of 27°C, with a peak of 40°C during July – August.

The best times for tours in Ho Chi Minh City are March – April and November – December, when the climate is dry and the temperatures are pleasantly mild.

Transportation and accommodation in Saigon

Transportations

Ho Chi Minh City can be reached easily by bus, train or plane. Most foreign tourists choose to fly there since it’s the quickest way, and Tan Son Nhat International Airport lies only 8 km away from the city center. However, many bus companies also offer direct shuttles from other destinations of the country, and the scenic North-South Railway is quite amazing to experience too. Once you get to the city, you can simply catch cabs and local buses, or rent a scooter with the price of 4 – 8 dollars per day. If you have a Vietnamese SIM card, ride-hailing apps like Grab, Be or Gojek are cheap and convenient too.

Where to stay in Saigon

This city offers an almost infinite variety of accommodation options that satisfy every type of traveler, and you can easily find one that suits your needs on any booking site. For those who stay here short-term, District 1 is the best area to discover the most well-known Ho Chi Minh tourist attractions, even though there are not many spacious facilities and the average price is quite high. District 2 and Binh Thanh District are also good choices to take in the vibrancy of the city, while District 3 will be more fitting if you prefer a relaxing atmosphere. 

The best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City

Hop on a waterbus

Put into operation in 2017 after 6 years of preparation, Saigon Waterbus is a new means of transportation in Ho Chi Minh City and a great way to admire it from another perspective, which is more tranquil and poetic. The waterbus’ round-trip ticket costs only 30,000 VND (about 1.2 dollars), and the journey often lasts 2 hours. You can also get a one-way ticket with 15,000 VND and catch bus no. 93 back to the city center.

This Waterbus departs from Bach Dang Station in District 1, passes a few stops along the way until it finally reaches Linh Dong Station in Thu Duc District, and then heads back. You can buy tickets directly at Bach Dang Station, but it’s better to check the timetable and purchase one on Saigon Waterbus’ official website beforehand.

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Soak up a 360-degree view from above

Landmark 81’s SkyView Observatory in Binh Thanh District is where you can get a spectacular view of Ho Chi Minh City from high above. Located on the 3 highest floors of the building, this place offers a jaw-dropping panorama view at an altitude of 461.3 m, not to mention a cool VR Game that allows you to “parachute” to the ground. It opens from 8:30 am – 10:00 pm daily, and the entrance ticket costs 810,000 VND (about 33.3 dollars) per adult.

Another great option with much more affordable prices is Saigon Skydeck on the 49th floor of Bitexco Financial Tower, which lies right in District 1. Standing 262 m with a total of 68 floors, the lotus-shaped Bitexco used to be the highest skyscraper in the city until Landmark 81 was built in 2018. Its Skydeck Observatory opens from 9:30 am – 9:30 pm daily and costs only 200,000 VND (about 8.2 dollars) per adult.

Immerse in the fantastic nightlife

After sundown, you will be thrilled with the energy of this sleepless city. The most famous destination that reflects Ho Chi Minh City’s bustling nightlife is Bui Vien, a walking street often referred to as the “backpacker street” of Saigon. Brimmed with restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and hotels/motels, this place is where you can shop, dine and party at the same time, from dusk to dawn.

Another pedestrian street to vibe with is Nguyen Hue Walking Street, which is also a real buzz, but less noisy and chaotic. In the evening, the street is filled with many interesting activities, from music performances, sports challenges, to themed public events. A high-spirited spot to blend in with the locals.

If you are in the mood for something more quiescent instead, there are also other ways to spend the night like sipping a bac siu (Vietnamese white coffee) in a rustic 24-hour cáfe, chilling at a rooftop bar with a mellow and tangy cocktail, or strolling along Saigon River while enjoying a fresh evening breeze…

Shop at a local markets

Ho Chi Minh City has countless markets of all sizes, but the best-known among tourists is probably Ben Thanh. Opened in 1914 and located right at the heart of Saigon, Ben Thanh Market is not only a trading hub but also a historical witness, a significant symbol of the city. With an area of 13,000 m2 and a total of over 1,500 stalls, this marketplace has everything you need, from household items, traditional souvenirs to fresh fruits and local dishes.  

Other timeless markets you can stop by are Tan Dinh – another French colonial structure built in 1926, and Binh Tay – a huge marketplace built in 1928. Also situated in District 1, Tan Dinh Market is smaller and less touristy compared to Ben Thanh, but the food there was more highly evaluated among locals. Meanwhile, Binh Tay Market in District 6 is a wholesale market that covers an area of 25,000 m2 and contains tons of good stuff at reasonable prices.

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Binge on tasty street food

No traveler could resist the appeal of local street food, and Vietnam’s most dynamic city happens to be an ideal destination for food enthusiasts from all over the world. You can easily treat yourself to a roadside feast wherever you go, because good yet cheap food appears on every street here. Try as many as you can, but our top picks are:

Banh mi

Did you know that the renowned Vietnamese banh mi has different twists in different regions? In Saigon, a typical banh mi comes with traditional lean pork paste, char siu, ham, paté, butter, pickled carrot and papaya, coriander, and homemade chili sauce.

Com tam

Com tam, or broken rice, is a special dish originated in Saigon and much loved all over Vietnam. An authentic com tam is broken rice served with grilled pork ribs, shredded pork skin mixed with roasted rice powder, steamed egg rolls, pickles, and a small bowl of sweet and sour sauce.

Banh xeo

Banh xeo (which literally means “sizzling cake” in Vietnamese) is a crispy and savory fried pancake made of rice flour, turmeric powder, coconut milk and other ingredients. Its most common stuffings include pork belly, prawns, diced green onion and bean sprouts.

Hu tieu

As one of the highlights of Vietnam and Cambodia cuisine, hu tieu is a flavorful noodle soup that was originally created by Chinese immigrants in Cambodia, but then gradually became popular in Southern Vietnam with brand new adaptations. Its main ingredients include rice noodles, clear broth made of pork bones, and diverse kinds of meat and herbs. There’s also a dry version that contains no broth.

Places to visit in Ho Chi Minh City

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1. Independence Palace

The Independence Palace, also known as the Reunification Palace or Reunification Convention Hall, offers a fascinating insight into the lifestyle of privileged heads of state of Saigon in the past. Initially named Norodom Palace, it was built between 1868 – 1871 and first used by the French Governors-General as both a residence and a working place. In 1954 when the US occupied the South of Vietnam, the palace was handed over to Ngo Dinh Diem – the Republic of Vietnam’s founding leader. In 1962, it was bombed by fighter planes in an attack attempt against Ngo Dinh Diem’s government, and then reconstructed in 1966.

In 1975, the Republic of Vietnam government surrendered unconditionally to the raid of the Vietnamese Liberation Army. The flag of the National Liberation Front was erected on the roof of the palace, ending decades of war in Vietnam. After the fall of Saigon, this palace was then renamed the Independence Palace.

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2. War Remnants Museum

War Remnants Museum is a vivid picture of Vietnam’s 20th-century wars. Opened in 1975, this three-story museum specializes in researching, collecting and preserving documents, photographs and artifacts relating to the France and American invasions in the last century, as well as the consequences that these horrible wars have caused to the country.

Storing over 20,000 documents, exhibits and films, all come with descriptions in both Vietnamese and English, this place is a must for anyone hoping to understand the Vietnamese perspective of the world-famous Vietnam War.

3. History Museum of Ho Chi Minh City

Inaugurated in 1929, the History Museum of Ho Chi Minh City is a perfect blend of French and Asian architectural styles. As the very first museum in South Vietnam, it reveals Vietnam’s cultural development from the Bronze Age to the early 20th century with over 40,000 items on display, including many valuable collections from various countries and ethnic groups.

This museum is a great place to learn more about Vietnam’s history, from the prehistory and feudal dynasties to the related ancient cultures like Oc Eo, Champa, or Khmer... Especially, you will have the opportunity to participate in a water puppet show in the museum’s small theater for a little additional cost.

4. Museum of Ho Chi Minh City

The Museum of Ho Chi Minh City occupies a neoclassical building formerly known as Gia Long Palace, which was built between 1885 – 1890 and used as the residence of Cochinchina’s governors. This building lies on a 2-hectare block and stands out with impressive architecture, which is classical Baroque mixed with Eastern and European flourishes.

It was not until 1978 that the Museum of Ho Chi Minh City was established to display photos and objects that tell the story of Vietnam’s hard past. In addition to the struggle for independence, its exhibits also relate to Saigon’s nature, archaeology, trade, crafts, currency and culture. Interestingly, this 2-floor building sits on a network of tunnels and bunkers that once served as escape routes for past dignitaries, but they are now closed to the public.

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5. Saigon Opera House 

Also known as Municipal Theater, Saigon Opera House with a seating capacity of 500 was built in 1898 based on French architect Eugène Ferret’s design. It was first created as an entertainment place for French colonists, with stunning architecture modeled on the Petit Palais in Paris.

Today, this opera house still regularly hosts government events as well as lovely concerts and mesmerizing shows. Buying tickets to such shows is also the only way to get inside it, and the price for each performance often ranges from 700,000 – 1,600,000 VND (about 28.6 – 65.6 dollars). You can purchase tickets directly at the box office, or via local travel agents. 

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6. Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

Inspired by the same-name cathedral in Paris, Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral features enthralling architecture with red Marseille bricks, 60-meter-high Romanesque bell towers, a Switzerland clock, and a statue of the Virgin Mary made of granite in Rome. From the inside, you can see 56 square stained-glass windows made in Chartres (a French town famous for its medieval stained glass), 12 pillars representing the 12 apostles, and one of the oldest organs in Vietnam.

This cathedral was first built between 1877 – 1880 as a worship place for colonial missions and a symbol of the French colony’s power. It was initially called State Cathedral, and only renamed Notre Dame Cathedral after the statue of the Virgin Mary was moved to Saigon in 1959.

7. Saigon Central Post Office

The Central Post Office of the former Saigon still functions, but now it also serves as one of the city’s main attractions. Located right next to the Notre Dame Cathedral, this charming post office was built between 1886 – 1891 with eclectic style and combines both Western and Eastern influences.

Since the post office is still in service, sending a postcard home will be a fun experience you should try here. This place is also a heaven for philatelic enthusiasts as it contains plenty of beautiful stamps, both new and used.

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8. Cu Chi Tunnels

Fed up with wandering around District 1 all day? You can also embark on a few day tours from Ho Chi Minh City, for example a half-day excursion to Cu Chi Tunnels. Located 70km from the city center, the Cu Chi Tunnels opened for the public today is a section of a giant underground network used by Vietnamese soldiers to survive bombings and launch offensive sorties during the Vietnam War. They hand-dug all those tunnels and used them as hideouts, hospitals, communications bases, supply routes and even homes.

During the trip, visitors will be able to crawl through a 100-meter tunnel, learn about the ingenious traps that Vietnamese fighters used to deal with the US army, and more. Even if you’re not a fan of modern military history, these tunnels still offer a powerful insight into the conditions Viet Cong soldiers faced during the conflict, as well as the strategies they came up with to fight against enemies.

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9. Embark on trips to Mekong Delta from Saigon

Take a getaway to the countryside region in Mekong Delta is one of the most incredible things to do in Ho Chi Minh City. There are choices of destinations for you to make your trip to Mekong. Depending on your traveling dates in Saigon, you can go with one day tour Mekong to My Tho, Ben Tre, two-day trip to Cai Be, Can Tho or three-day program in Mekong Delta for further immerse in the tranquil and luxuriant green orchards.

 

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