Ho Chi Minh City Travel Guide
Ho Chi Minh City is steeped in history and culture with its markets and ancient temples to new hotels and restaurants. It is Vietnam’s most high-octane and dizzying city that helps to push the country forward with its lively energy.
This city has the ability to breathe life and vitality to all those that visit and a great place to discover the lifestyle of the locals. Wander the streets to admire the incense-infused temples and timeless alleys before reaching the modern and sleek skyscrapers. All can be done on the Vietnam tour packages.
• Ho Chi Minh City highlights
• Explore the Cao Dai Temple in the local town of Tay Ninh
• Visit the War Remnants Museum
• Dine out at the finest restaurants, such as the Nha Hang Ngon
• Enjoy a day-trip to the Jade Emperor Pagoda
• Learn more about the Cu Chi underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong throughout the Vietnam War
A visit to Ho Chi Minh City gives a perfect gateway to what to expect on the Vietnam private holidays with its combination of modern and traditional influences that live side-by-side. This city is well balanced with the modern skyscrapers and shopping malls and the ancient incense-filled pagodas. It is a very forward-looking city with one of the most poignant sights being the Reunification Palace, which is where the Vietnam War played out its last few days.
The preferred time to make a visit to Ho Chi Minh City on the Vietnam family vacation is from December to April when the temperature is dry and warm. However, in the run-up to the rainy season the temperature starts to significantly climb with a range of 28° C to 39° C – although the average is at the low end of the scale. For those that like to travel outside the busy season, it may be practical to go through the rainy season (May to November), but it can be quite wet throughout this time. Ho Chi Minh City can experience up to 70 inches of rainfall annually.
How to get there
As a major city, there are plenty of routes to arrive at Ho Chi Minh City including flight, road and rail.
There are plenty flights to Ho Chi Minh City from major cities throughout the world, including Sydney, Toronto, Los Angeles, New York and London; a lot of the flights have a stopover. A great time to visit is during the dry season (December-March), but for those travellers interested in the cheaper deal it may pay off to travel at other times of the year.
Road travel is a practical option to get into Ho Chi Minh City. The road quality throughout the country is of an acceptable standard, although there are still those areas with quite appalling road conditions. Because it isn’t possible to hire a car, the tourist will have to go with a taxi or car with a local driver.
A train journey to Ho Chi Minh City is a quite picturesque experience, but this mode of transport is slow and not the most comfortable. Most of the trains have a choice of hard class (six-berth wooden berths and wooden seats) and soft class (four-berth cabins and a thin mattress with seats with padding).
Where to stay
The style and quality of guesthouses and hotels in Ho Chi Minh City is quite impressive with the tourist easily able to find a place to stay on the Vietnam holiday packages that matches the budget. There are hotels practical for the traveller on a shoestring to the international hotel chains.
Ho Chi Minh City has a proper public transport network to help combat the rise in traffic congestion. The city has 150 plus bus routes which makes it quite easy to reach most local and distant location. Tourists can buy tickets on the bus for the single journeys. Visit Ben Thanh bus station to buy a route map for greater ease in getting around.
There are plenty of metered taxis throughout the city which are easy to flag down. A few of the reputable companies include Vinataxi and Mai Linh Taxi.
Other options include the xe om (motorbike taxis) which are constantly trying to get the tourist to use their form of transport. Make sure to negotiate a price before starting the journey and only use the taxi that provides you with a helmet. Also, there is the chance to use the cyclo for a more relaxed tour of the city.
Bicycle hire is a further popular option to get around the city with a great place to find a reliable bike including the Pham Ngu Lao area. Most bicycles are available to hire on a day, week, or longer basis.
Eat and drink
The eateries in vibrant Ho Chi Minh City are wide-ranging and consist of the street side stalls to the high-end establishments.
A visit to the award-winning Mandarine restaurant is perfect for the tourist interesting in tasting the finest Vietnamese dishes in the city. This restaurant has an exquisite interior with a menu that consists of dishes that use the freshest of ingredients which can include a bamboo tube with spicy sautéed beef. It gets really busy, so it is necessary to make a reservation.
La Villa is located in a delightful villa that has an outside space for dining in the fresh air. The major dishes on this menu have a French influence with the menu changing on a near daily basis.
The Deck makes it possible to experience the riverside restaurant which is great for those tourists wishing to get a break from the noise of the city which is just 10-15 minutes away. This is a modern eatery with a choice to dine on international fusion or Asian cuisine. The outside deck area is great for not only an evening meal with family, but also a long lazy lunch or a leisurely breakfast.
Ho Chi Minh City is certain to appeal to the shopaholics and souvenir hunters on the Vietnam travel packages with its wide range of traditional shops and markets. Plus, there are the designer boutiques that are perfect for those with the money to splurge.
A great market to visit is Busy Ben Thanh Market, which is filled with low-cost, but quality souvenirs and clothes. Located on Le Loi, there is also a night market that opens nearby and includes a few food stalls. A further option is the Binh Tay Market, which opens early in the morning until late evening and packed with exotic fruits and consumer items.
There are a few smart shopping malls in Ho Chi Minh City which are located on Le Thanh Ton (Parkson Saigontourist Plaza) and on Le Duan (Diamond Plaza). Most of the shops in the malls are open 7 days per week and open early until about 8-10 pm.
For the tourists interested in souvenirs, there are plenty of choices with clothing made by the hill tribes, woven bags, lacquerware, hand-embroidered items, accessories, and silk clothes, which are always popular.
Things to see and do
War Remnants Museum
A visit to the War Remnants Museum can be an unforgettable and sobering experience where it is possible to learn more about the war between Vietnam and America that spanned a period of 30 years. On the outside, there are several pieces of well-preserved war machines such as planes and tanks. Most of the hard-hitting information is inside the museum with its extensive collection of written documentation, exhibits, and photograph that clearly show the horrors of this war.
Cu Chi Tunnels
The Cu Chi Tunnels give a real insight into how the Viet Cong used a network of tunnel to stay undetected throughout the Vietnam War. There is plenty to see with a chance to crawl through a small section of the tunnel which has been especially supported and widened for tourists. Plus, there are other attractions to experience with Vietnam travel like a guided tour and an informative movie to watch.
Cao Dai Temple
Cao Dai Temple is open and welcomes the tourist that wishes to learn about the religion practiced at this temple. It is based on the Cao Dai faith and follows a religion that is made up of parts of Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism. Every practitioner that enters the temple wears a special robe that also includes a sash to help indicate their previous religion. The actual temple is quite impressive with ceiling mural and dragons flying up banisters while also being very colourful and bright.
Jade Emperor Pagoda
One of the most sacred temples in the city, the Jade Emperor Pagoda was first built by Chinese immigrants in 1909. It is now a place of Buddhist worship and is amazingly atmospheric with plenty of heavy hanging incense smoke in the air. The timeless and exotic look is achieved with the help of Chinese characters, statues of Gods and Goddesses, carvings, and intricate architecture.