HO CHI MINH VIETNAM | As one of the many countries to visit in South East Asia, Vietnam should definitely be on that list. After months of planning, booking tickets, and writing down the things to do, tourist attractions to visit in Vietnam, we finally completed a very comprehensive itinerary.
Located in the Southern part of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, commonly known as Saigon (or simply HCMC), is considered one of the most famous places for tourists to visit in Vietnam. In the Philippines, Saigon is famous because Lea Salonga played a role in the well-known musical “Miss Saigon.” In addition, nobody will forget the sad events of the Vietnam War.
Leaving the bad patch of their history behind, let us now look at the present and how the people work together and make their country one of the best places to visit not only in South East Asia but even in the world!
Things to remember before arriving in Vietnam
1. Change your USD to VND at the airport
2. Download XE exchange for easy conversion
3. WIFI is fast and free almost everywhere
4. Utilize Google walk and maps. Very helpful!
5. Ask the hotel to look for a Grab Taxi on your behalf rather than calling regular taxis.[ Cheaper and Fixed price]
6.Organize your tours with the hotel rather than the online operators. It’s way cheaper!
7. Coffee from Vietnam is the best pasalubong!
8. Be patient and polite when dealing with locals because of the difficulty of understanding English.
9. Tipping is expected but not excessive.
10. Arrive in Vietnam without expecting you will be scammed or ripped off. That happens everywhere to the unwary traveler!
11. If you are staying long term, renting an apartment will be cheaper than staying in a hotel.
And for those concerned about scamming, and the many comments found on the internet about scamming in Vietnam, in the 9 days that we spent touring the country, we never once experienced anyone, from taxi drivers to hotel service people, who in any way attempted to scam us. In fact, we found that all those we came into contact with were helpful and honest. But as the basic rule, we are responsible for our own stuff and always do the necessary research before going to unfamiliar places.
Where is the best place to stay in Ho Chi Minh?
If you are going to ask me the best place to stay is around District 1 because it is centrally located in Saigon’s tourist attractions. We chose to stay at the …
While searching, we found a nice hotel centrally located to all the places we wanted to visit, and that is the AVANTI BOUTIQUE HOTEL. Besides its location, we had a nice comfortable bed, a nice balcony with an awesome view of the city, a really nice breakfast, and amazing staff. We really had a lovely time here!
1. War Remnant Museum (40k VND)
The first thing to do is to immerse yourself in the culture and the history of the place. Aside from checking the other tourist spots in Ho Chi Minh, I felt like I must start our tour by learning the history and what the people and the place went through, especially during the Vietnam War.
I love history, and the moment we entered the museum, the full horror of the war hit me. Looking at the photos, reading the narratives, and just walking around really was a big learning experience for me and a great reminder that our knowledge of history should mean that we never repeat the past mistakes. In war, whichever side may call itself the victor, there are no winners, but all are losers” – Neville Chamberlain
2. Notre Dame Cathedral
Coming from the War Memorial, it’s only a few meters away from one of the most beautiful churches in Ho Chi Minh. That is the Notre Dame Cathedral, which is also the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception. During our visit, the church was undergoing renovation, but visitors can have photos taken in front of the church because of its impressive architectural structure. The flowers were all in bloom during our visit, and it looked so beautiful even at night.
3. Post Office Saigon
Located right next to Notre Dame Cathedral, you will find the Post Office, a great reminder of when Vietnam was still colonized by France. This was probably one of the most beautiful post offices I’ve seen, and up to this day, many locals, even tourists, used this post office. You will also find souvenir shops inside the post office where some buy a postcard and send it straight to their loved ones at home.
4. Propaganda Saigon – Lunch
En route to Independence Palace, we found out that the place was still closed and will resume at 1:00 pm. So walking around, we saw this restaurant that we found so intriguing because there are so many people and it was busy. Because we were curious, we decided to give it a try. It was packed when we entered. I like the uniqueness of the restaurant and the graffiti on the wall. The food was also amazing. We had fresh spring rolls and my first taste of their local Vietnamese bread called, Banh. You must also try their local draught beers, which I am sure you are going to love.
5. Independence Palace – (65k VND)
It was past lunchtime, and people started queuing in front of what is also called the Reunification Palace. What makes this palace so important and so significant was that it also commemorates the end of the Vietnam War. When two tanks from the Northern Vietnamese ran into the main gates of the palace. Inside, you will find what it was like back during the war. The bunker was also quite an interesting place to visit.
6. Ben Thanh Market for Souvenirs
If you wonder where the best place is to shop for souvenir items while in Ho Chi Minh, then Ben Thanh Market is the best place to go. You will find almost everything here. From food, shirts, and so much more. Ben Thanh is a huge market and really offers a lot to tourists. Also, there are always many activities going around Ben Than Market like restaurants, coffee shops, spas, and so much more. You will never run out of things to do around here. We were just fortunate that Avanti Boutique Hotel is just a few meters away from this market.
7. Saigon Skydeck – Bitexco Financial Tower – 200K VND
One of the many highlights during our trip in Ho Chi Minh was to go all the way up the 49th-floor Observation Deck, offering a spectacular view of the city. We arrived late afternoon and stayed there for over an hour. There is a restaurant on the Observation Deck, which is also a nice place to taste Vietnamese Coffee while watching the sunset. It was also beautiful to see the city at night with all the city lights. So, in the end, we felt that we arrived at the right time seeing the city both day and night. It was worth it!
8. Saigon Center Shopping
Right after you visit Saigon Skydeck, you can have a stroll around or have a quick snack at the Saigon Center Shopping center. It’s actually a very nice mall with so many shops and discounts too. They also have a lot of restaurants offering Asian to European cuisine.
9. Tan Lap Restaurant – Dinner
If you are walking around Ben Thanh Market in District 1, I am sure you will pass by the Tan lap Restaurant. Located on the corner street, they have a coffee shop where tables are placed outside, just like Vietnamese drink and enjoy their coffee. And aside from that, they also have a restaurant serving local and other Asian cuisines. It’s a nice restaurant, and the prices were quite reasonable too!
10. Ho Chi Minh City Hall and Park Square
Built in the early 1900s, this French colonial-style building, formerly known as Hotel De Ville De Saigon, is now used as the City Hall. From our hotel (District 1), it was only a few minutes’ walk to the City Hall and Park Square. It was so easy to get to this place, and the City Hall is beautiful. No wonder this is one of the most visited attractions in Ho Chi Minh.
Since we were there early morning, the place was not too busy still. And right across the City Hall, you have Park Square. A famous place for locals to hang out and relax; they also use this park as a backdrop for their graduation photos. It seems to be a local tradition here in Vietnam. This park gives a great view of the City Hall and a great place to get to know the people and learn about their culture.
11. Opera House
Another famous tourist destination to visit in Ho Chi Minh within walking distance of other tourist spots is the Opera House. This place is also a few meters away from City Hall and Park Square. This is another example of beautiful French colonial-style architecture found in the city. Like Park Square, many students visit this place and use this monumental structure as a backdrop for their class photos.
12. Lobster Pho – Dao Place – Vietnamese Cuisine [500K VND]
Now that you’ve seen the most interesting places to visit around Ho Chi Minh City, it’s time to check on the best food that the city can offer. The first place to visit is the DAO PLACE to try the Lobster Pho. Also located in District 1, a few steps away from Avanti Boutique Hotel and the Ben Than Market, people visit the Dao Place to try this massive bowl of Lobster Pho. The serving was good enough for two, and I must admit that it was delicious, and you will remember this place every time you think of the best food you’ve tried in Ho Chi Minh.
13 Dinner at Pizza 4P’s
If you are craving some delicious pizza, this is the place that is right for you. It’s Pizza 4P’s! Oh my goodness, we just found this place by accident because we arrived late from an event and were dying for something western then we saw this very interesting looking place. We decided to give it a try and oh my word, one of the best pizza we’ve tasted! Not just in Ho Chi Minh, but we also found one during our visit to Da Nang and also in Ha Noi.
14. Thrung Nguyen Coffee
Upon arriving, I never thought about how good Vietnamese coffee really is. One place to have a real good coffee experience is the Thrung Nguyen Coffee. They are also found all over Vietnam, and their coffee really tastes really good, especially the drip coffees. If you are also looking for coffee to bring home as gifts or souvenirs, this brand is well trusted by many!
15. Beef Pho at Pho 2000. Phan Chu Trinh Street [85k VND]
Aside from the Vietnamese coffee, if there is one Vietnamese food that you must try before leaving, their Pho noodles! One place to try is also located next to Ben Than Market in District 1 called the Pho 2000. A famous restaurant for travel and tours, you will normally find people queuing up here to get a taste of their best tasting phos. This also became famous when President Clinton had a bowl of pho here during his visit to Vietnam.
Our Ho Chi Minh Itinerary
✔Day 0 – Arrived early morning at Ho Chi Minh from Manila
Php 100 = 45 000 VND
✔DAY 1 – Ho Chi Minh
Checked in at Avanti Boutique Hotel [60USD/night]
Everything is done on foot from our hotel using Google Walk.
Warm Remnant Museum P(40k VND)
Notre Dame Cathedral
Post Office Saigon
Propaganda Saigon – Lunch
Independence Palace – (65k VND) Close at lunchtime
Ben Tham Market for Souvenirs
Saigon Skydeck – Bitexco Financial Tower – 200K VND
Saigon Central Shopping
Tan Lap Restaurant – Dinner
✔DAY 2 – Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh City Hall
Lobster Pho – Dao Place – Vietnamese Cuisine [500K VND]
Ben Tham Market – Souvenirs
Dinner at Pizza 4P’s
✔DAY 3 – Ho Chi Minh to Hue via VietJet – 8 USD one way.
Ben Tham Market
Thrung Nguyen Coffee
Beef Pho at Pho 2000. Phan Chu Trinh Street [85k VND]
Arrived at Hue at night due to delays.
Checked in at Nam Phuong Riverside Villa [270k VND/night]
Still, looking for more things to do in Saigon? Check out this video from Mark Wiens.