The heart of South Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon is the energy and drive of this tropical region. With a turbulent past and colonial history, natural parks, green spaces and river, endless shopping for any budget and enough delicious local food and coffee Ho Chi Minh City sure is a great place to base yourself for a few days on your Vietnam itinerary. There’s no shortage of wonderful things to do, see, learn and discover in this lively, exciting city. If you’ve already spent a few days in Hanoi you’ll already be used to the vibrance and movement and Saigon is no exception. In this Ho Chi Minh 3 Day itinerary find out exactly what to do, see, where to eat and stay to make your trip as memorable and fun as it can be.
WHEN TO GO
Ho Chi Minh is located in tropical southern Vietnam, meaning that unlike the north it has only two seasons wet and dry. Given that, the best time to visit is during the dry season which runs from December-April but this is also the hottest time to visit where temperatures can hit anything from 25-degrees upwards. Many travellers also like to visit for Tet or Vietnamese New Year which happens late January-early February but make sure to book accommodation ahead of your trip at this time.
Ho Chi Minh International Airport (Tan Son Nhat) is located 30-45 minutes outside of the city centre. The best way to get from the airport into the city centre is by airport bus or taxi.
Airport bus– Yellow Airport Bus #109, Airport Bus #49 and public bus #152 all bring you to the centre of Ho Chi Minh city for the equivalent of $1-2. The buses are as fast as traffic allows, clean and spacious and they run almost all day long. They each have slightly different stops, so check the itineraries of each to see which stops closest to your accommodation.
Taxi– Another, albeit more expensive option to get to the centre of Ho Chi Minh City is by taxi or Grab. Taxis cost from $4.50 but often drivers will try to charge you more so be wary of this. Another option is ordering a Grab taxi using the ride-hailing app if you have a local SIM and internet on your phone. If you plan to take a Grab and don’t have a local SIM, then try to buy one inside the terminal building.
Most points of interest to travellers are located in and around the city centre, which is pretty walkable. However, if you do need to get somewhere a little further the best way to get around is by xe om (local motorbike taxis) or by using the Grab App. Xe oms can be flagged down anywhere and local drivers will take you to your destination for a small fee. Remember that if you’re a small group it will be cheaper to take a Grab taxi than a few xe oms.
The Grab app is also a great way to get around Ho Chi Minh City, especially to some more out-of-the-way sights. Rides are extremely affordable and safe and you’re less likely to be ripped off than when hailing a ride off the street. Even if you take a local taxi it’s always a good idea to check the fare via the Grab app first so you have some idea what the fee is if you’re faced with the situation of your driver asking you for four times the fare.
WHERE TO STAY
Budget– Au Lac Legend Hotel – A lovely little budget property with clean simple rooms in the heart of the city centre. The decor is modern Vietnamese with traditional touches and each room is airy, light and clean. There’s also a beautiful terrace with a pool and all the jungle feels as well as a great view of the city. The breakfast buffet is great and the staff are helpful and extremely friendly.
Mid-Range– Fusion Suites Saigon – A beautiful, boutique, design hotel with spacious and affordable rooms right in the heart of District 1. Wood is used throughout the design giving it a natural, zen-feel. It’s been designed with comfort and simplicity in mind and if your like minimalistic design and earthy tones this might just be your dream place to stay. There’s everything you could need offered in your room as well as a fitness centre and on-site restaurant downstairs. Breakfast is good too.
Splurge – Caravelle Saigon – For some old-world luxury, check right into the Caravelle. This 5-star hotel features luxurious French and Vietnamese architecture and design and is spacious and elegant in its rooms and common areas. You’ll find a beautifully lavish roof-terrace and bar, the famous Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar, perfect for sundowners as well as an outdoor pool, gym and spa. The breakfast buffet has everything you could imagine from Vietnamese classics to International breakfast dishes with plenty of healthy options.
There are also many great Airbnbs in Ho Chi Minh City. If you haven’t yet signed up for Airbnb, do so here and get up to $63 off on your first stay.
WHERE TO EAT
Saigon is king when it comes to the most delicious food in all Vietnam. From traditional pho to banh mi sandwiches, bun cha noodles, summer rolls, noodle salads and delicious stir-fries, Vietnamese food is really hard to beat when it comes to freshness, quality and flavour. There are so many delicious restaurants to choose from in Ho Chi Minh City when it comes to local, healthy and plant-based food. Here are some of my favourites around central Ho Chi Minh City.
Veggie Saigon – One of the best options in Saigon, this modern restaurant serves the plant-based versions of so many traditional Vietnamese classics such as spring rolls, rice and noodle dishes, banh mi and hot pots. Delicious food with a large selection of dishes
The Organik House– With influence from both Vietnam and Italy, this little cafe/restaurant serves a great variety of both international and local dishes, all with a focus on healthy and fresh ingredients. They have a range of soups, pancakes, stir-fries, smoothies, salads and sandwiches, all of which were absolutely delicious. They also do a great Sunday brunch.
Pho Chay Nhu– If you’re on the hunt for a steaming bowl of flavoursome yet plant-based pho then this is the place to come. Pho is their speciality and honestly, it’s what you simply have to order. The broth is flavoursome but light and it comes with all the sides of herbs, lime and chilli. A real lovely local experience.
A Di Da Phat – Another great local option, this place which is open just for breakfast and lunch, serves a variety of delicious plant-based soups, tofu and fake meat dishes. Really delicious and filling!
Dieu Phap Chay– Delicious, cheap and extremely local. This little, often hard-to-find restaurant serves noodle and tofu dishes as well as spring rolls and banh canh. It’s totally worth the extra effort when in District 3.
HO CHI MINH 3 DAY ITINERARY
DAY 1– Independence Palace / Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon / Saigon Central Post Office / People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City / War Remnants Museum / Sunset at Bitexco Financial Tower
DAY 2 – Ben Thanh Market / Ho Chi Minh City Museum / Ho Chi Minh City Opera House / The Cafe Apartments / Binh Quoi Village
DAY 3 – Cu Chi Tunnels / Giac Lam Pagoda / Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine / Nhà thờ Tân Định (Pink Church) / Ngoc Hoang Pagoda
Start your Ho Chi Minh 3 day itinerary in the heart of the centre of the city, both physically and politically by paying a visit to the vast Independence Palace. Also known as the Reunification Palace this building was the home and office of the South Vietnamese President during the war and before that, the seat of the French Colonial Government. Inside the rather communist looking building, you can learn about the building’s rather turbulent past and the events that make this palace so significant today. You’ll be able to walk around the rooms admiring the stuccoed meeting rooms as well as the working rooms such as the kitchen and communication rooms. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of particularly South Vietnam the Independence Palace is a must.
Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon
Located just a few blocks behind the Independence Palace, this Catholic Cathedral was built in the 19th century as a place of worship for French colonialists. All the original building materials used in the cathedral were all imported from France including the beautiful stained glass windows. Walking down the central nave you’ll see the ribbed vault ceilings, columns and arches present in Neo-gothic architecture. It’s the largest and one of the most beautiful Cathedrals in Vietnam.
Saigon Central Post Office
Normally you might not consider a post office to be on your list of top places to visit when travelling but Ho Chi Minh is a little different. The Saigon Central Post Office has over the years become one of the most iconic buildings in Vietnam, a memory of the countries turbulence past and bygone eras. Architecturally it’s a mix of French colonial, Renaissance and Gothic styles, all coming together to form a truly unique building, a tribute to the past. Inside you’ll find typically European elements and decor from the 19th Century such as phone booths and oil paintings. At the end of the hall, there’s a giant portrait of Ho Chi Minh, a small reminder of where you actually are. The building still functions as a fully working post office so if you need to buy stamps or mail a postcard then I couldn’t think of a better place do it, could you?
People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City
A short walk away from the Saigon Central Post Office, you’ll find the rather remarkable People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City or Ho Chi Minh City Hall. This French Colonial building is beautiful and quite Baroque in style-something you don’t often see in South East Asia. It’s a popular stop for photos with locals and visitors alike and as it’s not open to the public, spend just a few minutes here admiring the facade and snapping your own great Instagram shots.
War Remnants Museum
It’s not quite a Ho Chi Minh City itinerary without coming face to face with its past and while visiting this museum is raw and quite frankly horrifying and depressing, it’s still a must. Upon arrival, you’ll notice large American military equipment- the result of the southern army and American soldiers fleeting as they were pushed south leaving behind countless fighter jets, tanks and helicopters. Inside you’ll find displays of horrific photographs of death, destruction and the effects of war, highlighting how important peace really is. If you’re squeamish you might want to be careful with looking at the photos inside as almost nothing here is censored.