Ho Chi Minh Overview

At the very first glance of Saigon - or Ho Chi Minh as its official name, you can realize a major hub of Vietnam and especially the Southern region. Drawing on Asian and Western traditions to create its own unique culture, tourists see Ho Chi Minh City as the biggest melting pot of Southeast Asia that collects many residents from all over to come here to travel or even settle.

The process of establishment and development, not to mention the favorable condition, make it a center of economy and transport convergence of many cultural flows.

Then what is special about Ho Chi Minh City? Well, though Hanoi is the official capital of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh is known as the nightlife capital and a vibrant city that always looks busy. Hanoi is rich in history, while Ho Chi Minh is known for its unique culture. If you want to entertain yourself either through socializing or shopping, Ho Chi Minh is the place to be.

Ho Chi Minh overview at night

Ho Chi Minh overview at night

The dynamic atmosphere and bright and vivid streets last over midnight; some areas are literally “no sleep”. You would never struggle to find a place of interest in this city.

But it doesn’t mean this city is nothing more than an entertaining hub. The architecture and culture of Ho Chi Minh City are unique and worth exploring for tourists. The ancient architectural works, historical monuments, the ancient church, and pagodas create a harmonious combination of Western architecture and indigenous factors.

Here you can visit highlighted constructions like Ben Thanh Market, Reunification Palace, and Reunification Palace and enjoy the rich cuisine and fascinating lifestyle of local people during the journey. Many other attractions are waiting for you but don’t be too rushed!

You might want to sit down and read this blog to explore the off-beaten tracks and some cautions before coming to this hectic and bustling city, all to ensure a carefree and memorable journey!

Culture of Ho Chi Minh people

Human of Ho Chi Minh

Saigon people’s culture is fascinating and even surprises many tourists in certain aspects.

Not like Hanoi - the base and homeland of Viet origins - which was relatively close to Western influences both economically and culturally, Saigon was the seat of a capitalist society that was more aligned with the West. Due to the long history of international capitalism, Ho Chi Minh seems to be friendlier to foreigners and more relaxed in attitude to traditional culture. An example is to regard the way people dress in Ho Chi Minh.

Many regions in Vietnam tend to dress conservatively, and people are supposed to pay attention to what others think about their clothes - but definitely not Ho Chi Minh! You can pick any outfit you want when spending a Ho Chi Minh tour - as long as it is comfortable and suit the weather.

Have a sip in Ho Chi Minh

Have a sip in Ho Chi Minh

Another thing you should know is that not everyone in Vietnamese can speaks English, so knowing some basic Vietnamese expressions would help you a lot. Google Translate, understandable, and conducted lessons are on Youtube for you to start learning now.

Usually, the basic expressions such as “Xin Chào” (pronounced “sin jow”, which means “hello”) and “cảm ơn” (pronounced “Kam On”, which means “Thank You”) are quite simple yet very common in daily life. Learn a few words to communicate with staff at hotels or restaurants and get around the city - your tour in Ho Chi Minh would be much more interesting!

Historical and religious sites

Reunification Palace is regarded as the most important site related to the war in Ho Chi Minh and in Vietnam generally. It is the symbol of victory and peace, marking the win of Vietnam in the Revolution (the war officially drew to a close when North Vietnamese soldiers drove a tank through its front gate.)

Besides the historical value, the Reunification Palace also features the typical architectural characteristics of Vietnam in the 60s. Visiting here, you will be welcomed with a vast square surrounded by greenery and a fountain at the center. Inside the huge building, the exhibition areas preserve valuable objects and reappear the setting of various function rooms in the past.

Reunification Palace

Reunification Palace

There are even audio headphones for you to understand more about all the historical highlights and features of the building, but what will it include? An experience by yourself!

Ho Chi Minh City owns many museums, and War Remnants Museum deserves to be a must-go. Holding more than 20 thousand documents, exhibits, and movies, the museum focuses on the Vietnam War (In Vietnamese, they call it the “American War”), which killed between 1,500,000 VNĐ - 3,500,000 VNĐ people. Some of the best exhibits here are the collection of bombs, tanks, planes, and war machinery, each equipped with a clear description and guide audio available in English.

To understand more about the art and historical values of this city, you can include the Ho Chi Minh City Museum and Ho Chi Minh Museum of Fine Art in your Ho Chi Minh City trip.

War Remnants Museum

War Remnants Museum

Those are all thoughtfully designed for you to gradually absorb the city’s contribution and artworks through generations.

Pop-culture creatives

Ho Chi Minh is the favorite spot of numerous white-collar designers, architects, marketers, and animators who populate the offices and studios of pop-culture production companies and marketing agencies.

For entrepreneurial tourists, it can be a great place to find talent, and for others, Ho Chi Minh is the center of entertainment and technology to explore.


Tips for you when shopping in Ho Chi Minh is not to deal with dollars. Making payment in VND will be much more convenient and might avoid uneven rates, so make sure you bring enough cash. It is quite simple to exchange currency at the Ho Chi Minh airport or go to any city center bank to ask for assistance.

So where can you get the authentic goods and foods of Ho Chi Minh City? Definitely Ben Thanh Market and Tan Dinh Market, but you need to know how to bargain! These markets are the historical witnesses to the incredible development of the city.

Shopping in the Ben Thanh market

Shopping in the Ben Thanh market

Selling handicrafts, clothing, tourist-friendly souvenir stalls, fabric merchants, and haberdasheries, the markets make it irresistible for customers to get all these pieces of stuff home.

So as tourists, be prepared to negotiate the price which is a common custom in Vietnam.

Travel around (walk, motorbike/bike, shortcut)

Many tourists choose to walk in their journey in Ho Chi Minh City, and most of them are frightened by road-crossing in Ho Chi Minh! A tip is that you should let the motorbikes avoid you. Not that you avoid the vehicles!

Just walk steadily with confidence because the locals can quickly react to prevent anything directly ahead of them, whether it is another motorbike, an obstacle, or you.

If you want a local experience while sightseeing around the city, hire a motorbike or bike. Ho Chi Minh City has a rental bike system that functions well. The spots are sprinkled around the center, and it is also convenient to rent and make payments for the bikes.

In a small market

In a small market

An exciting feature of Ho Chi Minh City is that it has a lot of shortcut alleyways called “hem”. Cutting through a “hem”, you can have a quick shortcut to your destination; sometimes, there are even shops and vendors sitting alongside.

Get lost in off-beaten alleyways, which are not as bustling as the main road but still the liveliest Saigon.

Blend culture - Foreigners everywhere

As I mentioned, the dynamic atmosphere and the open mind of Ho Chi Minh people, the land welcomes a huge number of foreigners each year. I bet that you can not see that many foreigners in any city else in Vietnam. Districts 1 and 2 and surrounding areas have the most visible number of foreign tourists.

That means it will be easy to find services in Ho Chi Minh City that are provided in English and/or dedicated to foreigners and more late-night/early-morning expat-raging parties on Pham Ngu Lao street.

Ho Chi Minh (Tan San Nhat) Airport

Only 7 km from the city center, Ho Chi Minh International Airport is known as the biggest airport in Vietnam. From here, you can travel to the city center and surrounding area, as well as Vietnam tours from Ho Chi Minh City.

Traveling to the city center is quite easy as you can choose between a bus, private car service taxi,… The private car is the most common transport for its convenience, absolute privacy, and flexible options of seats and luggage storage. Vietnam Airport Car offers professional service; there are even drivers who hold a board of your name to pick you up in the arrival hall.

Vietnam Airport Car

Vietnam Airport Car

We already have a post to include all the things you need to know about Ho Chi Minh Airpot, so check out for the further guide in the blog.

Then, which next stop you can visit after spending tours in Ho Chi Minh City? Cu Chi tunnels - a top adventurous destination in Southeast Asia, will be a great choice for you to travel back to wartime. 70 km away from the city center, the aged tunnel resembled a sophisticated hidden maze, connecting tunnels among the hamlets and communes during the war.

Without these tunnels, the supply process, medical treatments, and shelter from aerial bombardments would have been impossible. Are you ready to unearth the historical truth of Cu Chi tunnels?

Another nearby destination that can easily reach from Ho Chi Minh airport is Mekong Delta. Spending day trips or 2-day trips in this vast and nutritious delta, you will get lost in the greenery orchards, endless waterways, and floating markets.

All the unique features make this delta one of the most common tours that depart from Ho Chi Minh City.

Ho Chi Minh Foods

Street food in Ho Chi Minh is unmissable! Most of them are inexpensive and delicious eateries.

Of course, there is a diversity of restaurants ranging from Vietnamese local to foreign cuisine, but many tourists agree that the real cuisine of Ho Chi Minh lies in street food cuisine. You’ll find nothing fancy, but you can find small tables laid out on the footpath or in front of the shop, which consists of a small kitchen.

You’ll find a lot of locals dining like Bun Thit Nuong, Banh Mi, … and the most common one: Com Tam (Saigon broken rice) with the special sweet fish sauce and egg rolls. As the locals say, when in doubt, just go for Com Tam!

Rice paper mix

Rice paper mix

Besides, tourists should enjoy the experience of drinking beer and iced coffee on a building site and buying Banh Trang Tron (rice paper of all kinds) and Ca Vien Chien (fried fish balls) in the old-school food carts.

Ho Chi Minh cuisine is also special for its creative fusions. One of the most interesting is Pho Poutine. It might be confusing for some people to see a dish named “Pho” that looks barely like it. Actually, this is a fascinating combination of Poutine (fries, beef, and way) with the unique flavor of Pho.

The crispy fries and the Pho-flavored braised beef, covered with the Pho-inspired wavy and herbs, have received excellent feedback from tourists who have tried it (even locals love it!!)

Enjoy street food in Ho Chi Minh City

Enjoy street food in Ho Chi Minh City.

Your culinary will be much more fulfilled if you go on a food tour or street food tour around Ho Chi Minh City. Sample delicious dishes, including rice vermicelli with BBQ pork coconut juice and Vietnamese coffee, not to mention the numerous snacks sold at the vendors - You will be impressed by the diversity of the cuisine, and your tour guide will also inform you with interesting culinary facts.

There are vegan and vegetarian food tours as well, and most of the tours are done via motorbike, although there are also available walking tours.

Ho Chi Minh by Night

If you spend more than a day in Ho Chi Minh City, you will get to enjoy the most lively time in this city when the sun is down. The scenery after the sunset will entertain you with a busy and exciting atmosphere.

Compared to the capital of Hanoi, which is more tranquil and ancient, Ho Chi Minh City is a no-sleep city indeed! The restaurants and coffee shops are open till late. Some cafes are even open 24/24. The streets are still noisy and bustling even when it is midnight.

Ho Chi Minh at night along the river

Ho Chi Minh at night along the river

For young tourists, Ho Chi Minh has some areas that feature vibrant bars and pubs. Joining this pop-up atmosphere, you can enjoy tasty cocktails and meet up with many new friends.

Ho Chi Minh Tours

Usually, you will need to make up your mind whether to stay in Ho Chi Minh for one day or multi days, visit just the highlights or off the beaten tracks, which transportation to use,... To help you make more suitable decisions, we suggest some kinds of Ho Chi Minh City tours that guarantee comfort and enjoyment.

In case you have only one day to explore the city and might spend time to travel other destinations in the Southern region, a quick highlight city tour in 1 day is the best choice for you. Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, and Ben Thanh Market are some suggestions for you to have a gaze of a busy city while also maintaining historical values.

Rooftop cafe in Ho Chi Minh City

Rooftop cafe in Ho Chi Minh City

However, it doesn’t really suit walkingcisions as the city is very large, so you might want to travel by motorbike or private car. Contact Vietnam Airport Car to pre-book private car services to have a private and convenient trip around Ho Chi Minh City.

With more days in Ho Chi Minh City, you can explore the city at night and travel to the surrounding areas for a more enjoyable journey on a private tour. You can even rent a night place in the city center, then book a day tour to Cu Chi tunnels or Mekong Delta.

Regarding transport, there are many options to choose from. One of the most common ones is the motorbike tour: the best way to get around as the vehicle is synonymous with Vietnamese; moreover, tour guides skillfully take you to attractions while telling you about the history.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

That is absolutely a fun and thrilling way, but if you aren’t interested, go for a hop-on-and-off tour. this way of traveling will give you a relaxing experience; the sightseeing also is upgraded as you are up on the roof of the bus - so no obstacles!

Ho Chi Minh and vicinity tours

As the center of Southern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh connects the transport systems of most major cities and surrounding provinces. That advantage makes it so much easier to take a day trip to surround attractions departing from Ho Chi Minh.

Cu Chi Tunnels

A tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels is the most popular day tour you can make from Ho Chi Minh City. Traveling 70 km from Saigon, it will take you through the Cu Chi jungle to show you what subterranean life was like for the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War before you reach the underground defense systems in the Cu Chi district.

Cu Chi Tunnel

Cu Chi Tunnel

During 250 km of the tunnels, you will get to know the exact experience of the soldiers back in the Indochina War and the Vietnam War. Understand the hardship they faced and the lack of basic facilities; you might even be impressed by the creative construction of the tunnels.

Though the Cu Chi tunnels tour from Ho Chi Minh for one day is more common, you can stay for longer to explore the landscape and culture of this area. From Cu Chi, you can travel to Can Gio Monkey Island - a coastal suburban district of Saigon.

It is known for the diversity of mangrove-associated plants and fish of all varieties,... which is considered the city’s green lung and nature escape from Saigon.

Mekong Delta

Many tourists think that a day trip to Mekong Delta is enough to explore this delta, but the huge area with a distinctive culture requires more than that to admire. Considered Vietnam’s “rice bowl”, the delta is a fertile agricultural area that produces more than a third of the country’s annual food crop.

Boating on Mekong Delta

Rice is the main crop, but coconut palms, fruit orchards, and sugar cane groves also thrive in the region’s nutrient-rich soil. The delta is home to thousands of animal species, making it one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world.

It is no doubt to say that Mekong Delta is the ideal place for you to experience ecosystem tourism, especially if you take a cruise tour.

Some of the highlighted areas of the Mekong Delta are Ben Tre, Sa Dec, and Can Tho. Check out our blog  Mekong Delta tours, for more suggestions to travel to Mekong Delta.

Da Lat

Summer in Ho Chi Minh can be really hot and if you want to experience a totally contrasting vibe from Ho Chi Minh, do as the locals do and head to mountainous Da Lat, located 4,900 feet above sea level.

Dalat Vietnam

Dalat Vietnam

Only taking a 50-minute flight from Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport (SGN) to Lien Khuong Airport (DLI), a trip to Da Lat is wonderful for whom enjoy the mist air and the chill temperature. Here you can admire a lot of pine forests and cozy cafe shops.

There are many other excursions that can be departed from Ho Chi Minh. Ho Chi Minh to Halong Bay, Hanoi tours, and Phu Quoc tours are some highly recommended tours by many tourists from their vacations in Vietnam.

That’s it! So these are the things to know before going to Ho Chi Minh City. Each region of Vietnam has some notes to be aware of, and preparing well will avoid culture shock and clumsy mistakes and make your journey smooth and memorable.

Hope you find this guide useful for your journey in Ho Chi Minh city!