It’s a huge it, even the biggest in the country. With so many things to do, we get it, Ho Chi Minh City can be overwhelming. Especially for those who may temporary suffer jet lag.
With more than 8 million motorbikes and a minimum humidity tax of 60%, you might feel it difficult to go out of your hostel.
Yet, it’s worth it.
We recommend you to go and explore the city and the surroundings.
When traveling to Vietnam, it is easy that Ho Chi Minh City will be your departure or ending point.
If you want some inspiration about things to do in Saigon during these days, keep scrolling. And if you are traveling around Vietnam, you hit the jackpot cause we get plenty of information for the rest of your trip too!
- best hostels in Ho Chi Minh City – compared with map
- ultimate list of 33 best things to do in Vietnam – including Visa Tips
- All the best hostels in Vietnam (including map and itinerary)
- 99 travel photos from Vietnam
- 41 things to do in Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital
First things first: Ho Chi Minh City vs Saigon??
Ho Chi Minh City is the same as Saigon.
Ho Chi Minh is the current official name, Saigon was the official name before the American War ended. However, both names are perfectly okay to use, everybody knows which city you are talking about.
If you still have got doubts, go to our 5 Star Hostel in Ho Chi Minh review.
We have a quick explanation there about the different names.
Now that we have covered this, let’s move one what to see in Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City.
List of Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
We list here things to do in Ho Chi Minh so you can get inspired.
Before we start, two things: 1st: do you have your Visa for Vietnam sorted it? If not, then we recommend using iVisa.com, to see if you actually need a visa. Second, think about this:
Ho Chi Minh City has many hidden places that still need to be discovered by travelers (and locals).
A building that looks like a simple working place can hide the best speakeasy in the city.
We have an example about that in our list. Keep reading to discover it.
1. Ben Thanh Market ( super popular place)
Ben Thanh Market is the most popular market in Saigon.
There you will find everything you want to buy:
- Vietnamese Coffee
- everything actually!
Going to a local market is one of the most popular things to do in Vietnam in general.
Remember to bargain any price, even if you are happy with the price.
It is part of the game!
Read: the 27 best things to do in Vietnam with itinerary
2. Local Market: Cho Vuon Chuoi
A local market that Laura, from The Common Room Project team, recommended us.
Here, you can see the real Vietnam.
Food, clothes, and bustle daily life, mixed with, of course, motorbikes.
Pay attention, the motorbikes won’t stop and the streets are narrow.
We only walked into very few tourists here that obviously got this hidden gem tip as well. A fun place!
While the street with the market stalls on the left and right was quite narrow, motorbikes still passed through. This, my dear fellow traveler, is Vietnam.
I recommend walking through this Cho Vuon Chuoi Market, take photos, and move on. You can also find food here.
3. Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine
Housed in a traditional building, the Museum of traditional Vietnamese Medicine offers an in-deep look to the Vietnamese Medicine.
Did you know Vietnamese Medicine is heavily influenced by Chinese philosophy? It is really interesting.
Find more information like schedule and entrance fee on the official website www.fitomuseum.com.vn
4. Food, Vietnamese food
We must admit, we love Vietnamese food!
In Ho Chi Minh, you can find food everywhere: street food Stalls, restaurants, Banh Mi stalls, markets, vegetarian restaurants (Com Chay), cafés…
If you don’t want to miss any local specialty, we recommend you to join a Saigon street food tour.
A local guide will take you around by motorbike to taste great food!
We are sure you will gain weight during your Vietnam trip. Enjoy your meal!
But actually, the Vietnamese cuisine is quite light…
5. Refreshing dip at a swimming pool
With the humidity in the city, a swimming pool sounds so refreshing!
Trust me, we spent more than 2 weeks here. A pool is something amazingly refreshing.
Well, some Hotels have a swimming pool, and it is not necessary to sleep and stay at the hotels to use the swimming pool.
Normally, there is an entrance fee.
So make sure you ask in advance what does this fee include to avoid any surprise.
Some Hotels pools where you can go:
- Silverland Yen Hotel
Just a 6-minute walk to Ben Thanh Market, Silverland Yen Hotel features an infinity swimming Pool and Sauna.
- Intercontinental Asiana Saigon
Located in District 1, Intercontinental Asiana Saigon is a luxurious accommodation with leisure facilities, including a swimming pool.
Good to know: expect a high fee to be able to use the swimming pool. We think, it’s worth it.
Located in District 5, China town area in Ho Chi Minh City is quite interesting to see.
You will find many markets, shops, temples, and pagodas.
Good to know: If you are in Ho Chi Minh during the Chinese New Year, Chinatown is a must. This is where most celebrations are taking place.
7. Touch the sky
Ho Chi Minh City rooftop bar’s are a must while you are in the city.
Actually, they are famous.
Enjoy the views from one of the Skybars the city has to offer with a drink on your hand.
- Chill: this was our favorite, as you can still see the traffic from the rooftop bar. We recommend going for sunset and see how the colors in the city change. After 12, it turns to a dancing club.
- Glow: offering drinks in in a beach club atmosphere, this Skybar attracts well-dressed expats and locals looking to dance.
- EON Heli Bar: Located in the Bixteco Financial Tower, it is the highest Skybar in Ho Chi Minh city.
- The View Rooftop bar: located in the backpacker’s street, Bui Vien Street. This rooftop bar is located in the 9th floor of Duc Vuong Hotel. It is known for being one of the cheapest skybar in the city.
8. Locals watching
Watch the locals at the Ho Chi Minh State Garden, one of the main streets where many venues are held.
We had a coffee and Sushi at Sushi 79 in a building overlooking the promenade.
This brings us to…
9. Nguyen Hue Boulevard
Street artists perform here, small musicians play their music. It’s really street full of the joys of life.
There is also a cinema nearby, showing movies in Original Versions.
Along this boulevard, there are some colour fountains, as well as many shops, restaurants and cafés.
If there is an event in the city, it’s likely that it will happen here.
We recommend going to 42, Nguyen Hue Boulevard, pick a restaurant or café in the upper floors with street view, and sit with a drink.
Take your time to admire the fountains, the people walking around, and the vendors who play hide and seek with the policemen.
10. Cinema Time
Yes movie lovers, it is possible to watch a movie in English in the city!
And the cinema has air conditioning, a plus to consider in this warm city.
Actually, bring warm clothes because it is going to be cold inside. Pay attention if the cinema shows the movies in Original Language.
11. East meets West
The Saigon Opera House is located in a French Colonial building in the heart of Saigon.
Many people say, this is the place where East meets West.
You can simply visit it or buy a ticket for one of the cultural shows.
12. Notre Dame Basilica
Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the few remaining strongholds of Catholicism in Vietnam.
Vietnam being a largely Buddhist country, this Cathedral is interesting for many foreigners.
It can only be seen from the outside.
13. Saigon Central Post Office
Located in the heart of the city, this building is one of the absolute HCMC points of interest.
You can see why, right?!
It is really photogenic, one of the most beautiful post offices we have ever seen.
You find a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and French influences.
It is also one of the oldest buildings in the city.
This post office, yes, it’s still one, is directly across the street from the Notre Dam Basilica. You can tick both sights in Saigon off at once.
14. Vietnamese Coffee
If you are a Coffee lover, Vietnam will be your paradise. Even if you are not, you will love Vietnamese coffee!
Matt loves coffee, so during our travels we do always find design Cafés with tasty coffee.
To find these nice Cafés can be tricky, as many places are hidden in buildings which do look like as an office, or even abandoned.
Hereby our favorite coffee places in Saigon:
We are sure the city has many, many more. Feel free to add your favorite on the comments below.
15. Saigon Botanical Gardens
Near the history museum, the Botanical Gardens are the place to stroll with giant tropical trees.
There is also the Saigon Zoo, but it is not in good conditions. There you can find elephants, white tigers, hippopotamus, monkeys, even a lion.
We do not recommend to visit the Zoo though.
The animals seem not be taken care of really well.
The entrance to the Botanical garden and Zoo are the same, so you pay one entrance fee and you are in.
We had no idea and were surprised when we suddenly walked-by an elephant.
We were expecting the Botanical garden. 🙂
This is actually also one of the cool things to do in Ho Chi Minh for families.
In the botanical garden you find a couple of games for kids….or, well, for us!
We are sure, there are many speakeasy in Ho Chi Minh City, but we do have a favorite: Snuffbox.
Hidden on a residential block, you can find an unique space which offers:s
- sophisticated vibes,
- tasty cocktails,
- great design,
- live music
17. War Remnants Museum
The most visited museum in town and one of the most famous war museums worldwide.
If you only want to visit one Museum, make it the War Remnants Museum!
The war remnants museum contains exhibitions from the war period. Original helicopters and tanks, and a lot of stories behind.
Bear in mind, the War Museum do close from 12 to 13:30. Make sure you check always the official schedule.
If you happen to be in the area, there are restaurants and cafés to make your waiting time much more enjoyable.
Great Tip: ask for the prices before ordering your coffee and food.
You can also visit a War Remnant Museum in Da Nang and Hue. See my guide on 34 best things to do in Da Nang.
18. Jade Emperor Pagoda
Built in the 20th Century by a community of Cantonese, Jade Emperor Pagoda is one of the 5 most important pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City.
19. Live Music
In Ho Chi Minh City, you will find many live music events.
Whatever your music taste is, you will find it, we are sure of that. Our recommendation?
Go to Indika, known as the House of curiosity.
It is a place to chill, work, create, eat, and drink. The vibes are simply amazing.
You can check their events in Indika Facebook site.
20. Backpacker’s Street in Ho Chin Minh City
Just a s many other big cities, for instance Bangkok, many things happen around the Backpacker street.
In Saigon, the backpacker street is Bui Vien Street, it is very central.
If you are curious, go and see. Personally, we found it totally overrated and busy, very busy.
We found many other streets around Saigon more interesting, like
There’s many backpackers hostels dotted around the Bui Vien Street.
21. Lady Pink
The pink Cathedral is known as Lady Pink for many people, Tan Dinh Church is a church built during the french colonial period.
It is the second largest church in Ho Chi Minh City, after Saigon Notre Dame Basilica.
22. Party and Nightlife in Saigon
For those looking for party, HCMC won’t let you down.
There are many bars and discos around the city.
Go to a skybar like Chill or party like a Local, meaning… KARAOKE!
Our best recommendation would be: Stay at The Common Room Project and join the fun times with the team and fellow hostel mates.
The hostel runs several events. For instance, if the crowd feels like, the hostel crowd moves to a disco to party all night long.
23. Cu Chi tunnels
This is a MUST-Do.
Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels is a must thing to do in Ho Chi Minh City. Together with the War Remnant Museum, these two things have to be off your list before you leave.
Having a guide, will help you get many details and facts about the tunnels.
You can contact The Common Room Project or book in advance a Cu Chi Tunnels tour here.
The Cu Chin Tunnels are located around 1 to 1.5 hours outside the City. I recommend getting an organized tour.
The guide will take you around the area where the Cu Chi Tunnels can be visited.
You can actually enter in one of the tiny holes in the ground. The guide will show you the traps.
One highlight for – mostly male – guests is the opportunity to shoot an actual Kalashnikov machine gun. There is an area you can fire those guns.
They make a hell of noise.
Fire an actual Kalashnikov!
While you are walking around the area with your group and guide, you can always hear people firing these guns in the background.
Actually: It added some authentic flavor to the whole sightseeing. The whole visit was terrifying, eye-opening and super curious!
Last but not least, before leaving, you have the chance to try the food the soldiers ate sometimes for years. You can also purchase at the end of the tour some alcohol with scorpions in it.
I do not support this practice, but up to you.
(We always recommend booking your tours with Get Your Guide)
24. A Motorbike ride
We could not finish this list of things to do without a Motorbike ride.
Traffic is crazy, and it can be fun to experience! Yet can it also be scary.
With more than 8 million bikes, the fastest way to move around the city is with Motorbike-taxis, called Xe-Om.
We would recommend you to take a deep breath and give it a try.
Think about it: how often are you able to do ride along HCMC?
And these guys certainly have the experience to ride in such a crazy city.
But how to get a taxi without getting ripped off?
Here our trick, which is also valid for ordering car taxis.
Get the app called Grab on your smart phone and ask for a Motorbike Grab to get a ride.
The app is free.
With Grab, you won’t have to discuss starting and finishing point, as you will mark it on the map.
Neither the price, they indicate an approximate price, so you will know beforehand how much your ride will cost.
You can avoid district 1 if you feel overwhelmed by the city traffic.
But we encourage you, a motor ride is a real experience!
Ho Chi Minh City Nightlife
We mentioned above some things to do at night in Ho Chi Minh/ Saigon.
But you might be wondering: Is there any party area in Ho Chi Minh City?
Many people go to the Backpacker’s street, Bui Vien Street. There, you will find many bars with music and food.
In my opinion, this street is not fun at all, but only full with drank tourists and annoying PR’s.
If you wanna have fun, go to a Skybar. At Chill Skybar you can have the first drink and extend the night, as it turns to a Dance Club.
There are more sky bars in the city, we collected the best ones at point 7
Note: if you want to sleep, do not stay at the backpacker’s street. It is very loud.
Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh?
While we were in Saigon, we tried different accommodations.
Read: 3 best hostels in Ho Chi Minh City – compared with map
We did not stop until we found the only 5 Star Hostel in HCMC.
- TCRP (Short for The Common Room Project)
Our 5 Star Hostel The Common Room Project is a real oasis in a bustling city.
Cool vibes, great design, and helpful staff that will help you enjoy HCMC at the fullest.
TCRP is a memorable starting and finishing pint for your trip around Vietnam.
- Best Hotels in Ho Chi Minh City
Not a hostel person?
No worries at all, you find many types of accommodation in Saigon.
I do recommend you to read the reviews before booking any hotel. The quality does not depend only on the hotel category, so make sure you have an idea about what kind of hotel you are booking.
- Homestay experience in Ho Chi Minh City
Another great option in Vietnam in general is staying with locals.
That way, you can get to know the culture better, and they can provide you some information.
You will find many homestays at Airbnb.
Here’s our guide on how to use Airbnb first time.
The best hostels in Vietnam
Talking about budget accommodation in Vietnam, there is a wide range of super cool hostels.
When we traveled around the country, we stayed at shipping container hostels, hostels with roof top terraces, beach hostels, and so on!
Here is a list:
- Ho Chi Minh City: The Common Room Project
- Best Hostels in Hanoi – compared
- Da Nang: Memory Hostel – full guide to best hostels in Da Nang
- best hostels in Hoi An – and what area to avoid
- Tam Coc: Tam Coc Bungalows and Hostels
Find all the best hostels in Vietnam + Map here.
Summary Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City
As you could see, Ho Chi Minh City offers many different things to do.
Many people do skip Saigon, or they just stay one night.
I must say, if you only stay one night it is very probable that you won’t like HCMC as to know the city you need more time.
I would recommend to stay at least 2 days in Ho Chi Minh City if you want to enjoy it.
And again, there are two absolute muse-dos when visiting Saigon:
- War Remnant Museum
- Cu Chi Tunnels
Also good to know: be prepared for the weather, it is going to be hot and maybe rainy.
Make sure you check the seasons weather for your travel, it can change a lot in this area!
Another item you need to prepare is your Visa!
Remember you NEED a visa to enter Vietnam. You already need your invitation letter when checking in at the Airport.
Most countries need a visa for Vietnam. I love to use ivisa.com to check if I need a Visa. And if so, how much it will be and what it requires.
It is by far the easiest way to get your visa situation sorted out.
Guides to Ho Chi Minh City
There are many printed guides about Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Vietnam in general.
If I were you: I pick the Lonely Planet for whole Vietnam.
It covers more of the country obviously and shares as well some background information on the bigger picture.
Another popular guide is the Lonely Planet for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
More information for Vietnam
Traveling to Vietnam? Don’t forget to check our articles:
- travel tips and 33 BEST Things to do in Vietnam
- 41 cool things to do in Hanoi
- 109 travel photos from Vietnam
- All the Best Hostels in Vietnam + Map and Itinerary
- best hostels in Hoi An
- best hostels in Hanoi
- best hostels in Da Nang, Central Vietnam
- Guide to Sa Pa, near Hanoi
Over to you
Do you have any questions?
Anything not clear?
Then please please bother me and leave me a comment.
I would love to have this article as informative and useful as possible. Your question actually helps me, yourself and all our fellow travelers.
This way I understand what I have missed, not covered or maybe described poorly.
Safe travels and enjoy Vietnam
Anna&Matt and the team
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Smart and Simple Packing List
It is time to see what you should pack in your backpack or suitcase. Make sure you always pick a quality accommodation, it totally reduces the things you need to pack. Here is our ultimate packing list. It features 23 items you should really throw in your backpack.The most important things to pack are:
- eye mask
- key chain flashlight
- the right backpack, the Nomatic (our review of Nomatic here) or Lowe Alpine Lightflite 45 Pack
- packing cubes
- generic padlock (fitting all locker types)
- quick-dry travel towel
- universal power adapter
- travel-sized toiletries