Ho Chi Minh City has an extremely complicated and checkered past. Its days of French colonialism gave way to the ravages of the Vietnam War. As such, Ho Chi Minh (fka Saigon), has always had a rough go. However, that’s left it deeply imbued with a rich and complicated history and culture, plainly evident for all who visit.
In its present state, Ho Chi Minh can come off as a hot mess of a city. It’s chaotic, loud, and full of SO MANY bikes!
Furthermore, there are street food stalls lining every single pathway and alley. It’s always busy, as most densely populated cosmopolitan cities are, I suppose. But that also means there’s a lot of things to do in Ho Chi Minh.
In this article, I dish about the top 5 things to do in Ho Chi Minh City.
If you’re concerned about Visa, you can use the services of Vietnam-Visa to apply for Vietnam Visa on Arrival. With this, you’ll be able to enter the city without much of a hitch.
Table of Contents
One of the most important things to do in Ho Chi Minh, and in Vietnam in general, is to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels.
The Cu Chi tunnels are located on the outskirts of the city. You’ll have to go there by a mini-bus. As such, it’s ideal if you book a tour from your hostel or hotel.
I don’t usually go for tours and I prefer solitary travels. However, in this case, having a tour guide is valuable. The tunnels, in and of themselves, are meaningless. They only derive meaning and value from their history, which you should learn about.
Our tour guide was a historian who was a teenager during the Vietnam War. Following that, he spent all his life learning everything about the war.
The Cu Chi Tunnels are a series of underground tunnels connected all across the country. They were created by the Viet Cong for a number of reasons:
Tourists are allowed to go through the tunnels if they so choose. They have exits set up after every 10 to 20 meters so you can come out whenever it gets to be too much. Most people can’t really get beyond the first exit. It’s too suffocating.
Besides that, tourists are also taken through an exhibition of booby traps that were set up in the forests. There’s a firing range present as well, so you can take your time firing some guns. I chose not to.
You can take up the Cu Chi Tunnel Halfday Tour with Vi, which costs $35.40.
This isn’t, strictly speaking, an activity to engage in within Ho Chi Minh City. However, Ho Chi Minh is a popular base from which to explore the Mekong Delta Floating Markets.
There are five Floating Markets in Mekong Delta, however, the most popular ones are around the city of Can Tho. As such, you can take a day trip to the Cai Tho Floating Market from Ho Chi Minh.
These floating markets feature boats that trade in vegetables, fruits, and wholesale produce. You can ride amongst them on your very own sampans. It’s an interesting thing to observe.
However, in my opinion, checking them out for a day is enough. And then you can return.
Some people choose to travel all the way to Mekong Delta, stay there, and check out all the floating markets. That isn’t really necessary since there are a lot of great things to do in Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam. Unless, of course, you really love watching people exchange pineapples on boats.
There are a lot of sights to see and things to do in Ho Chi Minh City. As such, you should set off one day from your schedule just to walk around the whole city.
You can use Google Maps to visit all the important landmarks. However, if you like a guided tour, check out the Ho Chi Minh Discovery Small Group Adventure Tour. The tour will take you through all the important landmarks over 8 hours, regaling you with trivia all along.
If you want to truly understand Ho Chi Minh’s complex history, you can start sightseeing from the Museum. It’s located in the Gia Long Palace, which, in itself, is a sight worth seeing.
If you’d like to continue on your educational streak, you can check out the War Remnants Museum. It helps you gain a more focused understanding of the Vietnam War from the perspective of, well, Vietnam.
This is considered to be the most beautiful and stunning pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City. It was constructed in the early 20th century and hosts various intricate carvings and ornaments. The prime attraction here is the large statue of the Jade Emperor which sits atop the altar.
The Notre Dame Cathedral is the prime standing symbol of Ho Chi Minh’s French colonial past. It’s a formidable and beautiful cathedral built in the late 1800s. It’s still actively used for Mass every Sunday.
One of the most romantic parts of Ho Chi Minh, you might want to skip it if you’re traveling solo. It features a colorful display of lights illuminating the waterfall as it hits the river below.
If you’re a backpacker, then you have to stay and party at Bui Vien Street. This is the center of the backpacking universe in Vietnam. As such, it’s also a great place to meet fellow backpackers who might join your travels.
Bui Vien street is quite loud and relentless and I’d recommend against staying here long for fear of a migraine. It’s comparable to Bangkok’s Khao San Road and Siem Reap’s Pub Street. However, in my opinion, it’s even more chaotic.
The street never sleeps, ever. Even at 5 in the morning, you can see drunk backpackers dancing and partying to the music in their heads. All the hostels in the area offer pub crawling experiences. Basically, you go from pub to pub, dancing and drinking all along.
Furthermore, the food here is really cheap as well. They’re also found abundantly in all the roadside stalls, and they’re available till late at nights.
You also see the craziest things here. When I was there, one of the bars had “ladies night.” To avail of the free drinks, all the guys started wearing dresses and bikinis, and it worked! They all got free drinks!
Even if you don’t drink yourself, like me, there’s plenty of sights to amuse yourself with here. If nothing else, you can simply observe the drunken antics of the other backpackers.
Cho Ben Thanh is a massive local market located in District 1. Everything in the market (mostly food) is really cheap and open to bargaining. A lot of tourists go to the markets, not to buy stuff, but rather just to bargain for sport. Imma’ leave it up to you to determine the ethicality of doing that.
Bui Vien Hostel was my favorite hostel in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s located smack right in the middle of Bui Vien, the backpacker street. As such, there are plenty of cheap restaurants and cafes around and it’s a great place to meet other people.
The hostel itself is quite clean and they have curtains in the dorm beds, affording you some privacy. The hosts are also really gracious and kind. They also make you a meal of eggs, juice, etc, for breakfast.
A bed in a dorm room for a night costs approx. ₫ 150,000 ($6.50 | ₹420). However, you can check out the latest rates at the Bui Vien Hostel Booking Page.
The Reverie Saigon is considered to be the best luxury hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. I haven’t been there, and as such I’m only adding this through reputation and research. They have 224 rooms, and most of them feature a sweeping view of the city skyline through glass walls. It’s definitely the highest hotel in Ho Chi Minh, located between the 27th and 39th floors of the Times Square Building. They’re also equipped with spas, pools, rooftop bars, and all other luxury amenities.
You can check out the latest prices at The Reverie Saigon Booking Page.
You can also find other suitable Ho Chi Minh hotels and accommodations using booking.com.
I hope this article has helped you figure out what are the necessary things to do in Ho Chi Minh City.
If you think I’ve left out something crucial, feel free to holler at me down in the comments section!
I can be quite socially awkward occasionally. Sometimes, during these intermittent periods of social waywardness…