Ho Chi Minh City Itinerary 3 Days

by | Nov 13, 2020 | Itinerary, Travel, Vietnam

Planning a trip and looking for the perfect 3 days in Ho Chi Minh City itinerary? This jam-packed itinerary guide details how to find the best of this vibrant and cosmopolitan city’s food, history, and culture. I’ve also included practical tips on how to save on time and money, where to stay, how much things will cost as well as how to get around.

This Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) guide is part of my Vietnam itinerary. In that itinerary, I broke up my 3 days in Ho Chi Minh City into 2 parts. When I first flew into the country, I spent 2 days in HCMC, and then when I flew out at the end of my trip, I spent 1 whole day in the city. If you only have a total of 2 days to spend in Ho Chi Minh City, just cut the last day off from your itinerary.

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Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City?

Before we dive into the details of this itinerary, let’s clear up a few things about the city’s name. Which one is it, Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City?

Reflecting Ho Chi Minh City’s ever-changing list of conquerors, the city has gone through many name changes over the centuries. Originally, it was part of the powerful Khmer Kingdom (the rulers of Angkor Wat in Cambodia—yes, southern Vietnam used to be part of Cambodia), and it was called Prey Nokor.

The Vietnamese eventually conquered the area and changed the city’s name to Gia Dinh.

And then along came the French in the mid-1800s, and the city became knowns as Saigon.

Finally, when the country was unified in 1975, the name changed once again. Officially, the entire metropolitan area (19 urban and 5 rural districts) is referred to as Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), while the central district, District 1, still retains the name, Saigon.

But don’t tell the communist government in Hanoi: locals still refer to the whole city as Saigon.

Districts of Ho Chi Minh City

HCMC is a large city with 24 Districts and a population of 9 million. But as travelers, you can just focus on 3 Districts (quan in Vietnamese):

  • District 1 is the central district, where you’ll find the best attractions and accommodations. In this District, the neighborhood of Pham Ngu Lao (PNL) is best for those seeking budget accommodations, while Dong Khoi has swankier places to choose from.
  • District 3 is where you’ll find remnants of French colonial architecture along with loads of shops, cafes, and restaurants.
  • Cholon is the Chinatown of HCMC. It’s located in District 5 as well as parts of District 6 and 11. Here is where you’ll find the city’s largest market and some atmospheric temples.

RELATED POST: 25 of the Best Books on Vietnam: Read Before You Go!

colonial building in Ho Chi Minh City

3 Reasons to Visit Ho Chi Minh City

During the war years, Ho Chi Minh City was a bustling metropolis of Chinese merchants, Northern refugees, Viet Cong spies, Buddhist monks, and American soldiers. Once the South lost the Second Indochina War in 1975 and started the third one with China, the Northerners moved in and forced the Chinese merchants out of the country, taking away the city’s independent and entrepreneurial spirit. After failed policies of collectivization, the Vietnamese came to their senses and joined the rest of the world in embracing capitalism. The innate character of the locals easily slid back into place and today the city is the most vibrant and cosmopolitan in all of Vietnam.

1. Food

Ho Chi Minh City is known as the culinary capital of Vietnam. I recommend going all out and immerse yourself completely in the cuisine here. The pho in HCMC is supposed to be the best in the country. And don’t leave HCMC without trying banh mi from one of the many street vendors.

The best cafes and restaurants are found in the Dong Khoi area and the cheapest eats in the Pham Ngu Lao neighborhood. You can get the inside scoop on the food in this gastronomic destination in Graham Holliday’s Eating Vietnam.

2. History

As the capital of South Vietnam, HCMC is a gold mine in historical attractions from the Vietnam War. The first place you should visit to get the low down on the war years is the War Remnants Museum. Then get a sense of what it must have been like in the halls of power during the war by visiting Independence Palace. To understand what took place in the trenches, visit the Cu Chi Tunnels. Finally, don’t leave HCMC without experiencing the French colonial era by exploring the neighborhoods of District 3.

3. Temple Hopping

Vietnam is not a religious country. In fact, 85% of the population identify as having no religious affiliation at all. Yet Ho Chi Minh City has a fascinating religious history and culture. The region of southern Vietnam is home to a number of indigenous religions such as the Cao Dai and Hoa Hao. You can visit the Cao Dai’s colorful main temple on a day trip from the city. Buddhism and Taoism are also well-represented in the city with some the most atmospheric temples in the country: the Jade Emperor Pagoda and the many small but photogenic temples in Cholon. Finally, don’t leave HCMC without a peak at the grandest Catholic church in the country: Notre Dame of Saigon.

PRO TIP: Americans refer to “the war” as the Vietnam War, while the Vietnamese call it the American War. But historians who study the region refer to it as the Second Indochina War. This is fitting since at the time the United States was bombing Cambodia and Laos as well. The war of independence between the French and the Vietnamese is the First Indochina War and the war that Vietnam fought against China and Cambodia is the Third Indochina War. From now on, I’ll refer to the wars as the First, Second, and Third Indochina Wars.

Ho Chi Minh City Itinerary – Day 1

Day 1 of your Ho Chi Minh itinerary is going to delight those who are passionate about history and architecture.

And of course, food!

The other great thing about today’s itinerary is that you can do it all on foot.

Stop #1: War Remnants Museum

  • OPEN: 7:30 am – 4:30 pm (open daily)
  • COST: 40,000 VND (US$1.72 | 1.30 pounds | 1.47 Euros)
  • WEBSITE: War Remnants Museum
  • LOCATION: Google Maps
  • HOW TO GET TO THE WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM: Take a Grab or taxi to the museum; I walked from the Pham Ngu Lao (PNL) area to the museum.  
helicopter at War Remnants Museum in Vietnam itinerary

This fascinating museum is all about the First and Second Indochina War (a.k.a. Vietnam War) from the point of view of the Vietnamese. Yes, it’s going to be pretty much one-sided. But interestingly, most of the photos and info come from American journalists.

chart on number of soldiers during the Vietnam War

The museum is low tech, but it’s so effective at depicting the horrors of the war that no matter how digitally-addicted you are, you’ll be riveted by everything here.

Here are some of the not-to-miss exhibits:

  • Weapons, helicopters, tanks, jeeps, and bombs of the Americans
  • A replica of the French and South Vietnam prisons on Phu Quoc and Con Dao Islands, including the infamous “tiger cages”
  • Exhibits on chemical weapons like Agent Orange that was used by the Americans on the Vietnamese
  • photos by famous photojournalists on the horrors of the war—My Lai Massacre
  • An exhibit of the journalists who were killed during the war

Stop #2: Independence Palace

  • OPEN: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm (open daily)
  • COST: 40,000 VND (US$1.72 | 1.30 pounds | 1.47 Euros)
  • WEBSITE: Independence Palace
  • LOCATION: Google Maps
  • HOW TO GET TO INDEPENDENCE PALACE: It’s a 10-minute walk to from the War Remnants Museum.
Independence Palace in Vietnam itinerary

Previously called Reunification Palace, Independence Palace was the headquarters of the South Vietnam government during the Second Indochina War. It was originally designed for the government of the widely disliked President Ngo Dinh Diem. Unfortunately for him, he was killed in a coup before the building was finished in 1966.

The exterior of Independence Palace is so 1960s! Just looking at it, it’s easy to imagine it’s still 1968 and the corrupt government of South Vietnam is still in power.

a meeting room at Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Then when you enter the building, it REALLY does feel like time has stopped. The rooms, décor, and furniture are exactly as it was when South Vietnam surrendered to the North in 1975.

You can walk down the halls and peer into the rooms on your own. Meeting rooms are on the first floor and reception rooms on the second.

machines in the basement of the Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh City

 The real highlight was wandering around the narrow corridors in the basement and visiting the Republic of Vietnam’s telecommunications center, command center, map room, and kitchen.

PRO TIP – How to cross the street in Ho Chi Minh City – Traffic in HCMC is chaotic! There are few crosswalks and stop signs and what traffic rules! Does anyone follow them? Every time I cross a street in Asia’s busy cities, I feel like I’m gambling with my life. Over the last 25 years, I’ve developed a trick to surviving these city streets. First, find a stranger who is waiting to cross a street (you don’t have to talk to them; just follow what they do). When they begin crossing, you do as well. As you are both crossing the street, walk so that their body is between you and the oncoming cars. EXTRA TIP:  If you and a driver make eye contact, then you know they’ve seen you and they’re not going to run you over. If no eye contact, be careful!

STOP #3: Lunch – Quan An Ngon

pho noodles

Quan An Ngon Saigon Restaurant is a short walk from the Palace. Frequented by both locals and foreign tourists, it makes for an easy first meal in Vietnam. It’s got good food along with an extensive English menu of typical Vietnamese dishes and patient servers. Dishes are at a decent price of around US$3.

It’s also got a nice comfortable atmosphere with seating outside in a garden or inside on the second floor.

Stop #4: Notre Dame Cathedral

  • OPEN: mass in Vietnamese and English on Sundays at 9:30 am; may be closed to tourists due to renovations; if open to tourists, times are from 6:00 am – 8:00 pm
  • COST: Free to enter
  • WEBSITE: TripAdvisor
  • LOCATION: Google Maps
  • HOW TO GET TO NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL: It’s around 2 blocks away from Quan An Ngon Restaurant
Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon

Notre Dame Cathedral is only a couple of blocks from Quan An Ngon Restaurant.

Constructed between 1877 and 1883, the cathedral was originally called the Church of Saigon. Today its official name is the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception. But because the two bell towers resembling the ones on Notre Dame in Paris, people refer to it as Notre Dame of Saigon.

It was closed when I was there, so I never got to see the interior.

Catholics have an interesting history in Vietnam. Catholic missionaries were proselytizing a couple hundred years before the French added Vietnam to its empire.

By the late 1600s, Catholics managed to convert around 100,000 Vietnamese, most of whom were in the North, to Catholicism. In 1945, 1.6 million out of a population of 30 million were Catholics. Today Catholicism is the second largest religion in Vietnam with 7 million followers out of a population of 95.9 million.

I assumed that the French government and the Catholic Church collaborated as both must have had the same aim: control the Vietnamese population. Actually, according to Christopher Goscha in Vietnam: A New History, the relationship between the two sides were often rocky. By the 1900s, the French colonial government had become anti-clerical and considered many French priests and missionaries to not patriotic or loyal enough.

The French also didn’t trust the Vietnamese Catholics as they were some of the most nationalistic in the country.

Then in the 1920s, in response to the growth in power and influence of communism, the Vatican announced that control over the Church in Asia would be turned over to the local clergy. This indigenization of the Catholic Church did not please the French authorities.

Stop #5: Saigon Central Post Office

  • OPEN: 8:00 am – 5:30 pm
  • COST: free to enter;
  • LOCATION: Google Maps
  • HOW TO GET TO THE CENTRAL POST OFFICE: It’s across the street from the Cathedral
Central post office in Saigon, Vietnam

I absolutely loved the yellow French colonial Central Post Office, and so did many other travelers as the place was packed with tourists.

Built between 1886 and 1891, this gorgeous post office is a must-visit for architecture buffs.

Sorry to disappoint but Gustav Eiffel did NOT design the post office. Instead, it was a man named Alfred Foulhoux.

vaulted ceiling at the Saigon Post Office in Ho Chi Minh City

You can find both French and Vietnamese features in the post office. On the French side, there’s an ornate and spacious vaulted ceiling, a patterned tile floor, thin ornate columns, and wooden telephone boxes from a bygone era.

The Vietnamese features like the gigantic maps of the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City as well as the portrait of Ho Chi Minh at the far end of the post office.

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Ho Chi Minh City Itinerary – Day 2

On Day 2 you’re going to escape the city of Saigon and take a day trip to Tay Ninh and Cu Chi. Tay Ninh has this really cool temple, the Cao Dai Holy See, that belongs to Vietnam’s own indigenous religion–Caodaism.

After that you’ll make your way to one of the most important locations of the Second Indochina War, the Cu Chi Tunnels.

Getting out to both sights will take you at least 2 – 4 hours, then you’ll need 30 to 60 minutes to travel between the tunnels and the temple, and another 3 – 4 hours to come back to Ho Chi Minh City. That’s 5.5 to 8 hours that you’re losing right there.

Luckily, I found a great way to do it by going on a tour that combines a visit to both the temple and the tunnels at only around US$25 – $35 (lunch included).

Another reason to take a tour is that you’ll have a guide with you who can explain the symbolism and rituals of the temple and the history of the tunnels.

When looking for a tour, shop around. I got my tour through a travel agency near my hotel, and I didn’t like my tour guide. Instead, ask your hotel for recommendations or go online to the booking agency sites like Klook, Get Your Guide, and Viator.

Here are some tour options for both the Cao Dai Temple and the Cu Chi Tunnels

  • Klook – This is a full-day tour of Cao Dai Temple and Cu Chi Tunnels; they are currently not running tours due to COVID19.
  • Get Your Guide – Here is another full-day tour of the temple and tunnels.
  • TripAdvisor – This tour is still running; visit the temple first and then visit the tunnels at Ben Dinh.

Stop #1: Cao Dai Temple

  • OPEN: services are at 6:00 am, 12:00 pm, 6:00 pm, and 12:00 am
  • COST: free but it’s best to join a tour that’s combined with a visit to Cu Chi Tunnels; tour prices are between US$25 – US$35
  • WEBSITE: a video of the Cao Dai Temple
  • LOCATION: Google Maps
  • HOW TO GET TO CAO DAI TEMPLE: The temple is located in the city of Tay Ninh. I didn’t do this on my own, but from my research, you could try taking bus #13 from the Saigon Operator Bus Station to the Cu Chi Bus Station, where you’ll transfer to a bus going to Tay Ninh.
Noontime Prayer and Ceremony at Cao Dai Temple.

I’ve been fascinated by the Cao Dai religion ever since I first saw photos of its colorful temple with its followers all dressed in white.

And then I became even more interested in the religion when I learned about its beliefs and its history. Caodaism is a blend of Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Confucianism, and Islam. It takes a bit of something from each of those religions. It has a hierarchical structure like that of Catholicism with a pope, cardinals, bishops, and priests. It believes in reincarnation like Buddhism does. It also borrows a lot of symbolism from Buddhism and Taoism.

Caodaism has anywhere from 2 to 6 million followers (2% of the population).

Your tour should coincide with one of the temple’s daily masses. These occur every six hours: 6:00 am, 12:00 pm, and 6:00 pm. I’m not sure if there is one at 12:00 am or not. The followers wear white robes, while the priests wear yellow, blue, and red robes.

You can usually take photos of the interior, but you’re not supposed to take photos of the worshipers without their permission.

According to Christopher Goscha (Vietnam: a New History) the religion was first founded in 1926 in the Mekong Delta region by Pham Cong Tac, a civil servant in the French colonial government.

The Delta used to be infamous for its extreme inequality. Most of the land in the area was in the hands of a few wealthy landowners, leaving most of the farmers landless and impoverished. This led to a great deal of social unrest and upheaval, which eventually led to people joining fringe religious groups that could give them answers to their problems. One of those just happened to be Caodaism. But there have been lots of others throughout Vietnam’s history.

Pham Cong Tac tried to create an independent religious state and militia. This led the French to imprison him in Madagascar for 5 years.

During World War II, the Cao Dai collaborated with the Japanese and then during the First Indochina War, they sided with the French against the northern communists.

When the French left, the Cao Dai were so powerful that they were in charge of their own territory with their own militia and economy.

After the North won the war and united the country, the Cao Dai were outlawed. It wasn’t until the 1990s that they were allowed to practice again but only as long as they agreed not to hold their secretive practices like seances.

Stop #2: Cu Chi Tunnels

  • OPEN: 7:00 am – 5:00 pm (every day)
  • COST: 90,000 VND to go on your own
  • LOCATION: Ben Dinh Location | Ben Duoc Location
  • HOW TO GET TO THE CU CHI TUNNELS AT BEN DUOC: Take Bus 13 from the Saigon Operator Bus Station to Cu Chi where you’ll transfer to Bus #79.  (3 – 4 hours)
  • HOW TO GET TO THE CU CHI TUNNELS AT BEN DINH: Take Bus 13 to Bui Mon 3 intersection, transfer to bus #122 to Tan Quy Bus Station where you’ll transfer to Bus #70 to Ben Dinh Tunnels. (3 – 4 hours)
Cu Chi Tunnels

After lunch, your tour guide will take you to the Cu Chi Tunnels.

The Cu Chi area of Vietnam is one of the most important areas in the history of the First and Second Indochina Wars.

During the war of independence against the French, the Viet Minh (the communists from the North) built an extensive network of tunnels stretching from the Cambodian border to Saigon.

Then when the French left and the communists (Viet Cong) began fighting the government of South Vietnam and the United States, they expanded the tunnels.

The communist guerillas lived and worked in the tunnels. They used them as storage facilities, hospitals, command centers, and living quarters. The tunnels were also used to mount surprise attacks against the French, American, and South Vietnamese soldiers.

Two of the tunnels are open to the public:

  1. Ben Dinh – (Google Maps) 50 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City; more touristy; tunnels here have been reconstructed and  expanded to accommodate tourists
  2. Ben Duoc – (Google Maps) 70 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City; part of the original tunnel system; more authentic.

Most tour companies go to Ben Dinh. But if you’re doing it on your own, Ben Duoc might be easier to get to by bus.

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Ho Chi Minh City Itinerary – Day 3

On my Vietnam itinerary of 4 weeks, I broke up my time in Ho Chi Minh City into 2 parts. I spent 2 days in Ho Chi Minh City at the beginning of my Vietnam trip and then 1.5 days at the end of my trip.

On this day I did a cooking class in the morning and a visit to this really atmospheric temple in Vietnam along with a great museum on Vietnam’s history.

Stop #1: Vietnamese Cooking Class

When you’re in Vietnam, you should do as many food-related activities as possible. The food is what I most remember about the country. Having grown up in a city with loads of Vietnamese restaurants, I thought I knew Vietnamese food. Traveling to Vietnam proved me so wrong.

Vietnam food in Vietnam is so special! It’s so much better than anything you can eat in the U.S. and I bet it’s true in other places outside of Vietnam. In Vietnam, you’ll get more diversity of dishes and fresher ingredients. You’ll find that fresh herbs are essential ingredients in Vietnamese cooking.

I believe the best way to really get to know the food of a country is by taking a cooking class. In Vietnam I took 1 class in Hoi An, a short spring roll class on Halong Bay, and another in Ho Chi Minh City.


Vietnam makes for a great place to do a cooking class as the prices are much cheaper than any other country that I’ve been to. Singapore and Japan charge over $100 and Cambodia charges at least US$60. You can often find cooking classes in Vietnam for around US$35.

There are several cooking classes offered throughout the city. I took a class with the Vietnam Cookery School. It started with a morning market tour before we got down to cooking several dishes and then the best part, eating those dishes. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if the courses are still running. I’ve included some alternatives below.

chef at cooking class in Ho Chi Minh City

Here are some Cooking Classes in Ho Chi Minh City. After the pandemic is over, I’m not sure which ones will be still around.

  • Saigon Cooking Class by Hoa Tuc – Headed by a famous restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City called Hoa Tuc, this class says that they have a market tour along with their cooking class.
  • Vietnam Cookery School – This is the one I did. It has a market tour and cooking class.
  • HCM Cooking Class – This school advertises their class as a healthy cooking class where you will learn about food as medicine and learn about Vietnamese food culture.
a dish with shrimp and pork

Stop #2: Jade Emperor Pagoda (Ngoc Hoang Pagoda)

Jade Emperor Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City

Built by the Chinese community of Vietnam in 1909, this Taoist temple is really atmospheric. It’s dark and cramped and filled with these gruesome statues of Taoist gods and generals. Incense and candles are everywhere. You can feel the history and the power in this temple. If I had to choose a temple to pray in and that actually made me think that my prayers would be answered, I’d go here.

The coolest part is a little room filled with these twelve statues of midwives. Couples go to this room to pray for a child.

Jade EmperorThe Jade Emperor is considered the most important God in Chinese culture. It is especially important in the Taoist religion. Every Chinese New Year (occurs in January or February), the Jade Emperor sits in judgment of each individual human being and decides on future rewards and punishments based on an individual’s deeds over the past year. The Jade Emperor is usually portrayed as a middle-aged man with a thin mustache and goatee and wearing long flowing robes. You’ll find home alters and temples all over Southeast Asia that x the Jade Emperor.

Stop #3: Vietnam History Museum

  • OPEN: 8:00 – 11:30 am; 1:30 – 5:00 pm Tu – Su
  • LOCATION: Google Maps
  • HOW TO GET TO THE VIETNAM HISTORY MUSEUM: It’s about a 15-minute walk from the Jade Emperor Pagoda

Finally, you’ll end your 3 days by visiting the Vietnam History Museum and learning a bit about Vietnam’s ancient history. One thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that for much of history, the southern part of Vietnam was never really ruled by the Vietnamese. It was part of the Khmer Empire or the Cham Empire until 1802.

There are artifacts from the different eras throughout the history of Vietnam (Bronze Age Dong Son period through the Cham Empire, the Khmer Empire, and the Vietnamese).

More Attractions in Ho Chi Minh City

If you have another day, you can add one or more of these attractions in the Cholon area (Chinatown) of HCMC:

1. Binh Tay Market

This is a 2-story maze-like monstrosity of a wholesale market in Cholon. I don’t remember seeing any souvenirs here. The highlight is the food market with its fresh fruit and vegetables and meat and seafood.

2. Buddhist and Taoist Temples of Cholon

There are loads of atmospheric temples in Cholon. I did a walking tour of the area visiting everyone of them listed here. I’ve highlighted my favorites. Lonely Planet lists them all.

Thien Hau Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City itinerary
  • Thian Hua Pagoda – the most unforgettable Taoist temple in HCMC. Nothing beats the image of the rows and rows of coiled incense hanging from wires in the temple courtyard.
  • Phouc An Hoi Quan Pagoda – A beautifully decorated Taoist temple filled with beautiful wood carvings, statues, figurines, and incense.
  • Quan Am Pagoda – A colorful Buddhist temple that should not be missed.
  • Ong Bon Pagoda – A Taoist temple built by immigrants from Fujian province. The only thing I can recall of this temple was the noise of the school children.

3. Fine Arts Museum

The museum has both ancient, traditional, and contemporary works of art; I didn’t make it to this museum

4. Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh is a huge market in District 1. This is where I did my last minute souvenir shopping

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What to do in the Evenings in Ho Chi Minh City

1. Food Tour

Someone told me that Ho Chi Minh City started the food tour trend. I tried taking one when I was in Ho Chi Minh City, but they’re so popular that they were sold out for months in advance. Make sure to book your tour before you leave for Vietnam.

Here are some of the street food tours:

2. Rooftop Bars

Rooftop Bars seem to be a thing in Ho Chi Minh City. Here are some bars that I recommend that have either got some history, cheap drinks, great music, or great views.

  • Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar (Google Maps) goes all the way back to the Vietnam War. It’s here where foreign correspondents hung out while not covering the war.
  • The View Rooftop Bar at Duc Vuong Hotel (Google Maps) is the bar that I visited a few times because I stayed in the hotel; it’s known for its cheap drinks and convenient location.
  • Broma Not a Bar (Google Maps) is a small bar known for its live music.
  • Alto Heli Bar (Google Maps) is on the 52nd floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower.

3. Bitexco Financial Tower

(Google Maps) Going to the Skydeck at Bitexco Financial Tower is a great way to see the city at sunset. This 68-story skyscraper is the tallest building in Ho Chi Minh City.

4. Water Puppet Theater

Make sure to attend a water puppet performance at least once in Vietnam. You can see a show at the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater (Google Maps). You can buy tickets through your hotel, directly from the theater, or online. Tickets are around US$15. 

Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City

There are lots of great places to stay in Vietnam. Here are the two places that I stayed at. I recommend both of them for those traveling on a midrange budget.

Duc Vuong Hotel – (Booking.com | Agoda) – This is where I stayed during my first time in Vietnam | a convenient location, great service, and a great price. There’s a popular bar on the hotel’s rooftop.

Ma Maison Boutique Hotel – (Booking.com) – This absolutely gorgeous boutique French-style hotel is located on a quiet side street halfway between the airport and central Ho Chi Minh City. I stayed here at the end of my trip and had some trouble getting in and out of the neighborhood due to the traffic. But the ambiance and décor make it worthwhile.

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Where to Eat in Ho Chi Minh City

Beside the great food, the other great thing about eating in Vietnam is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money for a great meal. A small hole-in-the-wall restaurant is just as good if not better than the poshest restaurants in the city (my experience at least).

  • Quan An Ngon – (Google Maps | Reviews) A great restaurant near Independence Palace; very convenient.
  • Quan Bui – (Google Maps | Reviews) Great This is such a fabulous restaurant! Do not leave Ho Chi Minh City without eating here!
  • Propaganda Bistro– (Google Maps | Reviews) A friend of mine ate here and absolutely loved it.
  • Ngon Villa Saigon – (Google Maps | Reviews) A beautiful stylish restaurant serving decent food. I ate here on my last night in Vietnam.

How to Get from the Airport to Your Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City

Taxis – You can take a taxi for between 150,000 and 200,000 VND (US$6.50 – $8.64) to downtown Ho Chi Minh City. Make sure the taxis are the green Mai Linh or the white Vinasun taxis. Turn left as you exit the airport. Make sure you don’t take one of the touts that try to get you to go somewhere else.

Grab – I take Grab (rideshare service like Uber) whenever I travel in Southeast Asia because I know I’m not going to get cheated. Download their app when you get to Vietnam. You can book your trip via the app and pay for the taxi with cash at the end of your trip.

Airport Buses – There are a few downtown buses. These include bus #109, 49, and 152. It costs between 20,000 – 40,000 VND ($0.86 – $1.73).

For detailed information on getting to and from the airport, check out The Travel Brief website.

Grab app

How to Get Around Ho Chi Minh City

Taxis – Make sure to take Mai Linh or Vinasun taxis.

Grab – I usually take Grab when I’m trying to get around cities in Southeast Asia because I know I’m not going to get cheated. Download their app when you get to Vietnam. You can book your trip via the app and pay for the taxi with cash at the end of your trip.

By Foot – I stayed in the Pham Ngu Lao Area and walked from there to District 1 and District 3 where a lot of the main attractions are.

Currency and ATMs in Vietnam

You can get cash from ATM machines. This is the best way to get money. Make sure to tell your bank where you’ll be traveling to so you don’t get your bank card canceled.

For Americans, I highly recommend getting a Charles Schwab card and carrying more than one credit card because it’s common for cards to not work in Southeast Asia.

WiFi in Vietnam

Vietnam has decent WiFi. Get a SIM card when you arrive at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Most popular SIM cards are Viettel, Mobifone, and Vinaphone. Viettel is the best.

Traveling Solo in Vietnam

Vietnam is the perfect country for solo travelers, including female travelers.

For one thing, it’s easy to meet other travelers because there are loads of solo travelers who are backpacking through Southeast Asia.

Second, for women, harassment is rare.

Third, Vietnam is one of the least expensive countries in Asia and it’s possible for a solo traveler to afford a hotel room.

SAFETY TIPS: Don’t travel anywhere without bringing these essential items with you to keep you safe and secure:

Combination lock – You MUST bring a combination lock with you if you’re staying in hostels. Hostels provide lockers and you provide the lock.

Money belt – Even though these are not the most comfortable things to wear, a money belt is essential. I’ve tried both these traditional travel belts and ones that runners use.

Anti-Theft Purse –  Travel-on Anti-theft purses are great because they’re made of a material that’s difficult for thieves to slash. They’ve got lots of pockets as well and a way to lock the zippers.

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Ho Chi Minh City itinerary


  1. Thank you for this article, we are planning our Vietnam trip at the moment and flying into ho chi min city. After reading this we will focus our accommodation search on the district one area for the first part of our stay and save money. How long would you reccomend as a minimum?

  2. I think this is somehow the most interesting 3-day itinerary of anywhere I’ve ever read. Went to HCMC a long time ago, before the advent of travel blogs. I think that was the time when I went during Tet and saw them literally recreate a mini rice field complete with bridge over a ‘stream’ on the main boulevard. Didn’t realise it had so much more to see.

  3. This is a most helpful post! We were looking at Vietnam pre-pandemic. So, when we can travel again, we will reference this post. I had no idea HCMC had so much diversity. The things you featured here are all things I would like to see!

  4. We were sad we never made it to Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh city when we were in SE Asia. Our son visited and said it was his favourite spot to visit. I would definitely want to temple hop. Good thing the city is known for its culinary options to fuel up between visits. I love the idea of taking a cooking class to learn more about the food and traditions. I have noted your suggestion to attend a water puppet performance.

  5. Very informative post! I have never been to Vietnam, but is certainly in my bucket list. I love the many food options and idea of taking a cooking class. Cao Dai Temple image is simply stunning. I have never heard of Caodaism – interesting to learn about it. 🙂

  6. Fantastic post & really wish I’d had this when I visited many years ago. Pleased ou included a tip on how to cross the road as I found it one of the scariest things in Vietnam! Stepping off the pavement for the first time into the traffic was petrifying! I remember the museum was really interesting & definitely a must-do to understand the Vietnamese perspective on the war. I didn’t make it to the Cu Chi tunnels unfortunately but I also love the idea of taking a cookery course. Great guide – thank you & will definitely save for when I next visit Vietnam.

  7. Although I was hardly able to breathe in the afternoon, HCMC was a bustling city that I really enjoyed. I visited a couple of museums and got a massage. Since I was there before Christmas, I did all my gift shopping there. I truly enjoyed this modern city – and your guide is just perfect for a short stay. Also, it brings back wonderful memories.


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Welcome to The Bamboo Traveler, a travel blog dedicated to helping those travelers who want to dig deeply into the history, heritage, and culture of a place. Whether it’s through the pages of your passport or the pages of a book, I’ll help you travel the world and uncover the history, culture, food, architecture, and natural beauty of some of the world’s most fascinating places.

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