There are many destinations within Vietnam that are worth visiting. However, time constraints and travel budgets often prevent visitors from reaching these places. There are a few spots in Vietnam that simply must be visited though, and Ho Chi Minh City is one of these.
Most holidays to Vietnam will either start or finish in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), as Tan Son Nhat International Airport is one of the country’s main travel hubs. Whether it is your first few days or the tail end of your trip, you should try and spend at least two days inside the old Southern capital.
Getting into the city from the airport is an easy enough process, with a taxi ride into District 1 (the main tourist area) taking only 15 minutes or so… depending on traffic. Before you even reach the final destination, you’ve already discovered one of Saigon’s famous attractions: the traffic! Tight lanes filled with cars, trucks, bicycles, motorbikes, pedestrian traffic, all swarming and overtaking each other in a chaotic, yet fluid motion… Saigon Traffic is every traveler’s rite of passage into the city.
Once you’ve overcome (or simply accepted) the buzzing streets, checked into your accommodation and taken a much-needed breather, you are finally ready to see the sites. Either grab a taxi or put on your walking shoes and head towards Le Duan Street. Check out the Reunification Palace, walk down the beautiful green park lining the road, take a right to check out the Saigon Post Office & Notre Dame Cathedral, and head a few streets over to visit the infamous War Remnants Museum. After you’ve exhausted your morning, grab some local street food, enjoy a Vietnamese coffee and taxi over to the Ben Thanh Market.
Get your bargaining shoes on in Ben Thanh, where local vendors sell everything from t-shirts and handbags to candies and snake wine; it’s impossible to leave here empty handed! If you’re looking to continue on with your shopping tour, head down the street from Ben Thanh to Saigon Square, where you can find more clothes, handbags, sunglasses, hats, jackets, shoes, phone covers (etc. etc.) in a quieter, less bargaining atmosphere. With your bags in hand, head over to City Hall for a stroll through Saigon’s business district. Here you can find all the top, name-brand stores, the Opera House and the famous Ho Chi Minh Square.
If the day is still young, head over to the Bitexco Financial Tower Skydeck where you can soak in the best panoramic views of the city and retrace your day of touring. Head back to the hotel, drop off your new bags of goodies and head across town to Saigon’s next top attraction: Pham Ngu Lao.
Even if you aren’t interested in the “backpacker scene”, a stroll around Pham Ngu Lao/Bui Vien Street is all part of the experience. Grab a bite to eat at one of the dozens of street food vendors/restaurants, walk through the buzzing neon haze and grab a cheap, cold beer on the side of the road. The main attraction here? You’re in it! Just sit back, rest your feet and watch the crazy Saigon scene unfold before you.
The best way to experience this itinerary is over a couple days. Take your time, slowly tour all the best areas of the city, and make sure not to burn yourself out! Saigon is a hectic, bustling city, but with the right attitude and a few days time, it can be a memorable and enjoyable place to visit.