After being warned about pickpockets, scam artists, and unfriendly locals, I was slightly apprehensive to visit Ho Chi Minh City. I’ll admit that I was more guarded than usual, but I didn’t have any problems when I visited- infact, I was pleasantly surprised. I found the locals to be friendly and I loved the liveliness and vibrancy of the city. The food is cheap and ridiculously tasty, and I would have loved to stay for a few months eating my way around the city.
Ho Chi Minh is divided into 24 districts, with District 1 and 3 being most popular with visitors. This is where you will find many historic sights, museums, markets, and accommodation options. The more time you have in the city the better, but this itinerary will take you by many popular sites and attractions over a 48 hour period.
I was warned not to accept a ride from a cyclo driver, but after a very convincing speech (they’re good), I obliged. I’m so glad I did because my driver was a lovely man and I learned about his family, life in Vietnam, and had an amazing lunch- thanks to his restaurant recommendation.
This method of transportation is surprisingly relaxing- even as we crossed major intersections and rode beside a sea of motorbikes- and I was able to see many sights in one afternoon.
Make sure to bargain hard as cyclo drivers are notorious for overcharging.
Built between 1886 and 1891, this is one of the oldest buildings in the city. It was designed and constructed by the famous French architect Gustav Eiffel and has a French colonial style. The interior resembles a European railway station, with high ceilings and pattern-tile flooring.
The Post Office is located in the downtown area and is within walking distance of Notre Dame Basilica and is also close to City Hall and the Opera House.
This former Presidential Palace is the site of the end of the Vietnam War. It is open daily and tours are available, but it does close periodically for official meetings and special events.
The museum opened in 1975 shortly after the Vietnam War and is housed in a former American administration building.
The exhibits are informative and portray the horrors and effects of the war. Be prepared to see some disturbing and graphic photos- especially in the Agent Orange exhibit. It is an interesting, eye-opening, and sobering experience.
This large market is popular with locals and tourists alike, and bargaining is a must. You can find anything from souvenirs to local handicrafts, plus clothing, jewellery, and fresh fruit and vegetables.
Jade Emporer Pagoda
Built in 1909 by the city’s Cantonese community, this pagoda is filled with incense, worshippers, and tourists. According to legend, the Jade Emperor decides who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell.
Motorbikes are the preferred method of transportation in Ho Chi Minh, and Food Tours by motorbike are very popular. I highly recommend XO Tours ‘Foodie Tour’ as it was honestly one of the best tours I’ve ever taken.
This four hour tour visits several districts while you ride on the back of a motorbike driven by lovely guides. Getting there really is half the fun- winding and weaving through traffic on a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh is an experience in itself.
The food was beyond outstanding and seemingly never-ending. I am not exaggerating when I say it was the best meal of my life. Tomato crab noodle soup, grilled prawns, stir friend morning glory, chili crab, banh knot, razor clams, lotus salad, scallops with peanuts and scallions, and at least 5 other dishes I (unfortunately) cannot remember the names of.
Watch the sunset and the city come to life at night from high above Ho Chi Minh. There are numerous high-end and swanky options to choose from- like the Alto Helipad Bar and Chill Sky Bar- to name a few. You don’t have to break the bank, though. I found a more laid-back and casual rooftop terrace at Duc Vuong Hotel.
This area is known as the ‘backpacker district’ and is filled with bars, restaurants, cheap clothing stores, and souvenir shops.
Nearby Bui Vien Street is a bustling area and a great place to grab a very cheap (50 cent) local beer. Small plastic chairs cover the sidewalk outside storefronts and practically spill onto the street.
Where to stay: I stayed at The Town House 50 and would highly recommend it.
Have you been to Ho Chi Minh City?