Our Complete Ho Chi Minh 3 Day Itinerary for an Epic Stay
In need of the perfect Ho Chi Minh 3 Day Itinerary? Keep reading to find out all the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
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 rivers, 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 in Saigon for 3 days, what to see, and where to eat and stay to make your trip as memorable and fun as it can be.
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Best Time to Visit Ho Chi Minh City
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 to April, but this is also the hottest time to visit where temperatures can hit anything from 25°C/77°F upwards.
Many travellers also like to visit for Tet or Vietnamese New Year which happens in late January-early February but make sure to book accommodation ahead of your trip at this time.
Getting to Ho Chi Minh City
From the Airport
You might start your Saigon itinerary at Ho Chi Minh International Airport (Tan Son Nhat) which is located 30-45 minutes outside of the city centre. The best way to get from Ho Chi Minh Airport to District 1 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 are 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. For this is work you’ll need a local SIM or e-SIM.
At the airport, you can buy a local SIM card, or get an e-sim through Airalo before your trip and switch it on when you land.
If you’re traveling around South East Asia you can also get a regional SIM through Airalo which means you’ll need just the one SIM for all countries in South East Asia.
If you’re arriving to Ho Chi Minh City from elsewhere in Vietnam, it’s best to use Grab to take a taxi from the bus or train station to your hotel.
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 motorbike taxis.
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.
Note that in Ho Chi Minh City, due to the sheer volume of motorbikes, taking a motorbike taxi, even via the Grab app is much faster than taking a car taxi. Of course, if you have luggage you’ll need to get a car taxi.
The Perfect Ho Chi Minh 3 Day Itinerary
So, what to do in Ho Chi Minh City in 3 days? There’s plenty to keep you busy. Want the quick Ho Chi Minh Itinerary 3 days? Find the quick version below.
DAY 1– Independence Palace / Tao Dan Park / 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.
The Independence Palace is open daily from 8 am- 3.30 pm. Entry costs 40,000 dong.
Tao Dan Park
Just a few blocks from the Independence Palace you’ll find Tao Dan Park, a lovely local park to go for a walk, people watch and experience local life.
It’s a lovely green spot to go for a walk, take a rest under a shaded bench and watch the locals go about their exercise routines, dance and martial arts.
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 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 country’s 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 to do it.
One of the best Saigon travel tips to give you is to visit the Saigon Central Post Office early, especially if you want to photograph it well. It does get extremely busy and it’s fairly small inside.
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 fleeing 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.
Bitexco Financial Tower
One of the best things to do on any Ho Chi Minh City itinerary is to see the city from above. This rather interesting addition to the Ho Chi Minh City skyline is the 68-floor Bitexco Tower.
Owned by the Bitexco Group, this elegant glass skyscraper dominates the Saigon skyline. Near the top of the tower on the south side, you’ll notice a helipad that resembles a lotus leaf and inside the building boasts floors of office space, The World of Heineken and the Saigon Skydeck.
The best time to come up here is during golden hour, or just before sunset to see the 360-degree panoramic views of the whole city from above and the sun go down beyond the horizon to end another day.
It can be really nice to come up here, especially on your first day as it can help you get your bearings and notice places of interest from above.
Ben Thanh Market
On day 2 of this Ho Chi Minh 3 day itinerary, head straight to Ben Thanh Market for a truly local experience.
This market is the symbol of the city, a hub of local commerce, and a meeting point for locals. Here, you’ll be able to find just about anything you can think of from local fabrics and textiles to accessories, shoes and food and drink.
It’s the perfect place to buy some souvenirs or accessories to take home or some local snacks for your onward journey. For me personally, I loved checking out all the amazingly fresh local fruit and we even managed to try and buy some delicious new fruit we’d never seen before.
Ben Thanh Market really is a must-visit when in Saigon. The market is also open in the evening where it converts into a food-focused night market- a great place for people watching and trying new delicacies.
Ho Chi Minh City Museum
A few blocks north of Ben Thanh Market you’ll find the Ho Chi Minh City Museum, a vast, impressive Neo-classical building in which you’ll find exhibits relating to the history of Vietnam and Saigon, the war, as well as more recent art by local artists and even a fairly creepy war bunker.
While the exhibits themselves could be a little more informative the building is worth going in for-It’s a great place for photos.
Ho Chi Minh City Opera House
Another two blocks away is the Ho Chi Minh City Opera House, a beautiful building that you simply have to at least walk past. This is another great example of French Colonial architecture in Vietnam.
The pastel pink facade with classical half-columns and caryatids holding up the entranceway makes for a really interesting stop.
If you are an opera fan you might want to look into what’s on during your stay and even come back in the evening to enjoy the interior and performance.
The Cafe Apartments
One of the most interesting architectural marvels along Nguyen Hue Walking Street is the Cafe Apartments building.
This unusual building was built in the 1960s and served as housing for government and military personnel during the Vietnam War.
It was later abandoned and converted into what you see today, each apartment into its own cafe or business. Inside you can take the stairs or the elevator to each floor and check out the residential building layout that’s rather strangely used for commerce today.
One of the best things to do here is to walk around, visit and support some local businesses and of course, have a local Vietnamese coffee.
Binh Quoi Village
In the afternoon, take a Grab taxi to Binh Quoi Tourist Village, a little way outside central Ho Chi Minh City.
Situated right along the Saigon River, this is an elegant miniature of what life was like on the Mekong Delta in a bygone era.
You’ll stroll past lush green gardens, coconut palms, lakes full of giant water lilies and signs of village life pre-industrial revolution. There are many things to do in this area including simply walking around, eating traditional southern Vietnamese food, and several other sports and cultural activities.
The area is split into three parts, 1,2 and 3 with 1 being the most popular and affordable, 2 more for sports fans due to the tennis courts and swimming pools available and 3 has a more laid-back rustic feel, perfect for those who want to just have a drink or meal by the river.
One of the best things to do here is to try the evening buffet so make sure to be here at around 6 pm when it all kicks off and before it gets too busy.
Cu Chi Tunnels
One of the most popular places to see on any Ho Chi Minh itinerary are the Cu Chi Tunnels.
The tunnels are quite a little while outside of the city itself (60km) so to get there you have a few options.
Most travellers opt for a half-day tour which will take you to the tunnels and back and you’ll have a guide who will explain the history of the tunnels, how they were used as well as many interesting stories and facts. You can find the tour we did here.
Alternatively, you can visit by taking a Grab Taxi and exploring the tunnels yourself, without a guide. This gives you more freedom, but less information about the actual tunnels and how they were used. For visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels, I highly recommend a guided tour.
The Cu Chi Tunnels, are a famous underground tunnel complex used during the war by Vietnamese soldiers. They would live in the tunnels, leaving only at night to forage for food, tend to crops or fight in battle.
Conditions inside the tunnels were rancid; there was very little air and they were full of rodents, scorpions, poisonous centipedes and mosquitoes. You’ll notice that the tunnels are also extremely narrow and very difficult for an average caucasian to fit through.
While visiting you can also walk or shall I say crawl through the tunnel to experience them from the inside- not suitable for the claustrophobic, however.
You learn about some other war tricks the Vietnamese used and generally how cunning and smart they were in regard to their tactics during the war. Nearby you’ll also find a shooting range where for quite a large fee you can shoot a number of assault rifles and machine guns.
To see more of the Mekong Delta, after the Cu Chi Tunnels tour, check out this brilliant small group Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta Tour that combines both together.
Giác Lâm Pagoda
Back in Ho Chi Minh City, make your way to the Giac Lam Pagoda, one of the finest pagodas and Buddhist temples in Ho Chi Minh City.
It’s the city’s oldest pagoda with almost three hundred years of history instilled in its walls.
Walking around the temple grounds you’ll find the seven-storey pagoda, the Buddhist garden with sacred bodhi tree and the main buildings of the pagoda with large statues and altars devoted to different bodhisattvas.
Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine
For those interested in wellness and traditional medicine, you’ll definitely want to stop at the Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine on your way back to the centre of the city.
It’s an extremely informative insight into the history of non-western medicine in Vietnam and the variety of different plants and herbs people used and still use today to cure a variety of illnesses and ailments.
You’ll also learn about the very early origins of medicines and the instruments and tools used to administer them.
The best part is the modern pharmacy and shop where you can buy a variety of teas and other herbal mixes to help you on your holistic or wellness journey.
Nhà thờ Tân Định (Pink Church)
If you haven’t already noticed, Saigon is pretty fond of pink buildings and this rather bright pink church is another testament to that.
The French colonial Catholic Church is the second-largest in Ho Chi Minh, after the Notre Dame Cathedral.
It’s definitely worth a look inside where it’s also painted pastel pink. This is hands down, one of my favourite places to take pictures during this Ho Chi Minh trip.
Ngoc Hoang Pagoda/ Jade Emperor Pagoda
On the final stop of the Ho Chi Minh 3 day itinerary head to the Jade Emperor Pagoda, another beautiful temple in Ho Chi Minh City.
There are no surprises when it comes to the colour of this temple, the bright pink colour catching your eye and leading you inside.
It’s a Chinese Taoist Temple, famous for 100 statues made of cardboard which depict genies meeting with the Jade Emperor.
Inside you’ll find many statues made from a variety of materials as well as paintings and incense-burning worshipers.
End your Ho Chi Minh City 3 day itinerary with drinks at some of the most iconic rooftop bars in the city.
Order your favourite cocktail and take it the views and the energy of the city.
Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh
There are so many great places to stay in Ho Chi Minh City for all budgets, however, Ho Chi Minh is one of the best places in the world for affordable luxury. Here are our top picks for where to stay during your Ho Chi Minh City 3 days itinerary.
Cityhouse – CityOasis – A modern, minimal and affordable apart hotel with all the amenities for modern travellers. Rooms are large and bright with kitchens and desks and there’s also a small pool to cool off in too. A great option in District 1. Book your stay here.
Fusion Original Saigon Center – 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 you like minimalistic design and earthy tones this might just be your dream place to stay. Find the best rates here.
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. Book with the best rates.
Hotel Des Arts Saigon Mgallery Collection – One of the top design-focused luxury hotels in Ho Chi Minh, a stay here is a real treat. With beautiful and modern east meets west design, fantastic service and amenities, don’t miss this fantastic stay for your Saigon itinerary for 3 days. Book your stay here.
Sofitel Saigon Plaza – A classic and much-loved luxury option in Ho Chi Minh City. Great location, brilliant breakfast and service and classic, comfortable rooms and suites. Book your stay here.
Where to Eat
Saigon is king when it comes to the most delicious food in all of Vietnam and 3 days in Ho Chi Minh City is a good amount of time to sample it.
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 great-tasting food. There are also plenty of options for vegetarians and plant-based eaters.
Here are some of my favourites around central Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnam House – Local restaurant of Vietnamese- Australian celebrity chef Luke Nguyen, this charming spot, in a French colonial building serves high-end, modern Vietnamese food. Make sure to make a reservation in advance. Address: 93-97 Dong Khoi, Phu Thuan Ward, District 1
Hoa Tuc Saigon– Brilliant traditional Vietnamese dishes, served aesthetically in a building that once was an opium refinery. Address: 74/7 Hai Ba Trung, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1
Propaganda Vietnamese Bistro – A very cool, Vietnamese take on a French bistro, serving premium local dishes not to be missed. Address: 21 Hàn Thuyên, Bến Nghé, District 1
Secret Garden – A romantic, casual rooftop restaurant serving Vietnamese classics. Another super popular, yet worth-it option in Ho Chi Minh City. Address: 158 Pasteur, Bến Nghé, District 1
Veggie Saigon – One of the best options in Saigon, this modern restaurant serves 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. Address: 35 Nguyễn Văn Tráng 1st upper floor
Have More than 3 Days in Ho Chi Minh City?
If you have more than 3 days in Ho Chi Minh City, I’d highly recommend taking a day trip or even an overnight trip to the Mekong Delta.
Here you can experience what life is really like in rural Vietnam. Stay in a homestay and learn about local life, take long slow boat trips on the river as well as see the gorgeous scenery and ecosystem of the Mekong Delta.
Check out some other great things to do below
Is 3 days enough for Ho Chi Minh?
Ho Chi Minh City is a large and bustling city in Southern Vietnam. So, how many days are needed in Ho Chi Minh City to experience the city well? 3 days is enough to experience the main highlights of Ho Chi Minh City. The city doesn’t have that many huge tourist attractions but all the main attractions can be visited in 3 days.
However, if you want to dive into more of Vietnam’s culture, dining scene and shopping, you might need a little more time.
Is Hanoi better than Ho Chi Minh?
Many travelers prefer Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh and many others prefer Ho Chi Minh. The cities are quite different. Which one is better will depend on your travel style and interests. I recommend visiting them both to see which one you prefer.
I personally preferred Hanoi as I thought there was more to see. It’s also the more traditional and historic city of the two. However, I thought the food in Ho Chi Minh was better.
Do you have any questions or comments about your Ho Chi Minh 3 day itinerary? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.
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