Experience The Best Of Ho Chi Minh City In 48 Hours

Detailed below, we've included a brief history of Ho Chi Minh City, a handful of the most popular tourist sites you can't miss, a couple delicious food and restaurant recommendations, tips on finding accommodation, a quick breakdown of how much this city will cost you, a 48-hour example itinerary, and information on how to get around the city - including how to get to and from the airport.

The Central Post Office

The Central Post Office

With more than 10 million tourists visiting annually, Vietnam is quickly becoming one of the most travelled to countries in Southeast Asia. From the endless rice fields in northern Sapa, the ever famous limestone islands of Ha Long Bay, and the french quarter in Hanoi, to the center of the country where you will meet Da Nang - the fastest growing city in Southeast Asia, which is surrounded by multiple UNESCO World Heritage Cities like Hue, Hoi An, and My Son. Take a trip further south through the mountains of Da Lat, the beach town of Nha Trang and make your way to the biggest, fastest and most populated city of Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City. HCM City is a metropolis of towering skyscrapers, day and evening markets, more bars and clubs than you could visit in one year, fantastic food, incredible history, and endless options to keep any tourist busy from sunrise to sunset. 


Getting To & From The Airport

There are 4 ways to get into the city from Tan Son Nhat International Airport.

1. Take bus 109.  This bus can be found at both international and domestic terminals in the airport. The bus runs every 30 minutes and takes about 45 minutes to get to the 23rd of September Park in the city center which is the main backpacker area. The bus is in both Vietnamese and English. The cost is $0.90 USD --> 20,000 VND one way

2. Take bus 49.  Just like bus 109, this bus can be found at both international and domestic terminals in the airport. The bus runs every 30 minutes and takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour as this bus will drop you off directly at your hotel or hostel. The bus is in both Vietnamese and English. The cost is $1.75 USD --> 40,000 VND one way.

3. Take bus 152 (This is the cheapest option). Just like bus 109 and 49, this bus can be found at both international and domestic terminals in the airport. The bus runs every 30 minutes and takes about 45 minutes to get to the 23rd of September Park in the city center which is the main backpacker area. The bus is in both Vietnamese and English. The cost is $0.23 USD --> 5,000 VND one way. However this bus will charge you 5,000 VND extra for each piece of large luggage you have with you.

4. Take a Grab (This is the fastest option). One of the best ways to get around in Vietnam by using the Vietnamese answer to Uber which is called Grab. Download the App and pay with cash or card. The drivers are very good about knowing where everything is and also have a map on their phone to get you directly to your hotel or hostel. Tipping is not required and there is no extra fee for having a backpack or suitcase. The cost is around $5.00 USD --> 100,000 VND one way*Note - you may have to pay 15,000 VND ($.066 USD) extra due to the 'airport exit' fee for private vehicles.

DSC_0448_Fotor-2.jpg

First Things First - What To Eat?

Ho Chi Minh City is famous for many reasons, but near the top of that list is food. HCM City is the origin city of the now world famous noodle dish, Pho, the ever popular street sandwich called the Banh Mi, and the markets that offer locals and tourists alike the opportunity to try unusual local delicacies like dried squid, fish balls, the smelliest fruit in the world called Durian, or famous Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk called Cà Phê Dá (pronounced cafe da). This city is home to more than 1,000 street cart vendors, located on nearly every street corner of the city, selling every item already mentioned and about 2 dozen other unfamiliar, yet delicious food items. You can spend anywhere from $1 to $20 on a meal depending on your tastes. Maybe you fancy fine dining in a 5 star hotel, or a dinner on a roof-top with a city view. Maybe you prefer drinking a beer on the street spending your time people watching, or maybe you just want Pho for every meal. HCM City offers any and every kind of dining to reach the expectations and desires of short term backpackers or long term expats alike.

Pho -   Cost $2 - $4 -    Phở or pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, rice noodles called bánh phở, a few herbs, and meat, primarily made with either beef or chicken.

Pho - Cost $2 - $4 - Phở or pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, rice noodles called bánh phở, a few herbs, and meat, primarily made with either beef or chicken.

Bia Hoi   -   Cost $0.20 -  This is local fresh beer. It is brewed every day and tastes very similar to regular beer, only a little less carbonated. It is usually only around 3% ABV but because the cost is so low, you can drink like a champion all day.

Bia Hoi - Cost $0.20 - This is local fresh beer. It is brewed every day and tastes very similar to regular beer, only a little less carbonated. It is usually only around 3% ABV but because the cost is so low, you can drink like a champion all day.

Banh Mi -   Cost $1.00 -  Bánh mì is the Vietnamese word for bread. Bread, or more specifically the baguette, was introduced by the French during the colonial period in Vietnam. These baguettes are usually stuffed with a local Pâté (a mixture of cooked ground meat and fat minced into a spreadable paste), vegetables and an egg.

Banh Mi - Cost $1.00 - Bánh mì is the Vietnamese word for bread. Bread, or more specifically the baguette, was introduced by the French during the colonial period in Vietnam. These baguettes are usually stuffed with a local Pâté (a mixture of cooked ground meat and fat minced into a spreadable paste), vegetables and an egg.

Cà Phê Dá -   Cost $1.00 -    Iced coffee with condensed milk. The coffee grounds are placed into the tin filter and hot water is poured over top until full. After about 5 minutes your strong coffee will be completely filtered into your mug or glass. Make sure you mix the milk in your coffee first before adding the ice. Enjoy.

Cà Phê Dá - Cost $1.00 - Iced coffee with condensed milk. The coffee grounds are placed into the tin filter and hot water is poured over top until full. After about 5 minutes your strong coffee will be completely filtered into your mug or glass. Make sure you mix the milk in your coffee first before adding the ice. Enjoy.


Must-See's Of Ho Chi Minh City

HCM City is a thriving metropolis, but with the right plan, the city can be explored and mastered in 48 hours. There are eight must see attractions in the city that have come to define the city's wide spread popularity, from iconic architecture, mesmerizing museums, historical war remnants, to the hidden urban side streets filled with surprise markets, restaurants and history - it's all broken down below. 

The Central Post Office (District 1) -     Free to visit -  The Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh is a beautifully preserved remnant of French colonial times and perhaps the grandest post office in all of Southeast Asia. Located next door to Notre Dame Cathedral, the two cultural sites can be visited together and offers visitors a chance to imagine life in Vietnam during the times of the Indochinese Empire. The building features a huge picture of Ho Chi Minh on the back wall that overlooks every visitor. It also features beautiful arched windows and wooden shutters from the late 19th Century.

The Central Post Office (District 1) - Free to visit - The Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh is a beautifully preserved remnant of French colonial times and perhaps the grandest post office in all of Southeast Asia. Located next door to Notre Dame Cathedral, the two cultural sites can be visited together and offers visitors a chance to imagine life in Vietnam during the times of the Indochinese Empire. The building features a huge picture of Ho Chi Minh on the back wall that overlooks every visitor. It also features beautiful arched windows and wooden shutters from the late 19th Century.

War Remnants Museum (District 1) -  Cost $0.75 -   The museum comprises a series of themed rooms in several buildings, with period military equipment placed within a walled yard. One building reproduces the "tiger cages" in which the South Vietnamese government kept political prisoners. Other exhibits include graphic photography, covering the effects of Agent Orange and other chemical defoliant sprays, the use of napalm and bombs, and war atrocities such as the My Lai massacre. Curiosities include a guillotine and three jars of preserved human fetuses deformed by exposure to Agent Orange.

War Remnants Museum (District 1) - Cost $0.75 - The museum comprises a series of themed rooms in several buildings, with period military equipment placed within a walled yard. One building reproduces the "tiger cages" in which the South Vietnamese government kept political prisoners. Other exhibits include graphic photography, covering the effects of Agent Orange and other chemical defoliant sprays, the use of napalm and bombs, and war atrocities such as the My Lai massacre. Curiosities include a guillotine and three jars of preserved human fetuses deformed by exposure to Agent Orange.

Cu Chi Tunnels -   Cost $20.00 -  The tunnels are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels and were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War. The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, and helped to counter the growing American military effort.

Cu Chi Tunnels - Cost $20.00 - The tunnels are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels and were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War. The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, and helped to counter the growing American military effort.

Ben Thanh Market   (District 1) -   Free to visit -  The market is one of the earliest surviving structures in Saigon and an important symbol of Hồ Chí Minh City, popular with tourists seeking local handicrafts, textiles, and souvenirs, as well as local cuisine. The market developed from informal markets created by early 17th century street vendors gathering together near the Saigon River. This market was destroyed by fire in 1870 and rebuilt to become Saigon's largest market.

Ben Thanh Market (District 1) - Free to visit - The market is one of the earliest surviving structures in Saigon and an important symbol of Hồ Chí Minh City, popular with tourists seeking local handicrafts, textiles, and souvenirs, as well as local cuisine. The market developed from informal markets created by early 17th century street vendors gathering together near the Saigon River. This market was destroyed by fire in 1870 and rebuilt to become Saigon's largest market.

Notre Dame Cathedral (District 1) -   Free to visit -  Established by French colonists who initially named it  Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Saïgon , the cathedral was constructed between 1863 and 1880. It has two bell towers, reaching a height of 58 meters. During October 2005, the Virgin Mary statue was reported to have shed tears, attracting thousands of people and forcing authorities to stop traffic around the Cathedral.

Notre Dame Cathedral (District 1) - Free to visit - Established by French colonists who initially named it Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Saïgon, the cathedral was constructed between 1863 and 1880. It has two bell towers, reaching a height of 58 meters. During October 2005, the Virgin Mary statue was reported to have shed tears, attracting thousands of people and forcing authorities to stop traffic around the Cathedral.

Book Street   (District 1) -   Free to visit -  Located in the central of the city next to the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Post Office, Nguyen Van Binh street has become "Book Street". With over 20 bookstores run by Vietnamese publishing companies and about half a dozen coffee shops, you could easily spend most of the day rummaging through old books, drinking coffee and relaxing under the tamarind trees, reading.

Book Street (District 1) - Free to visit - Located in the central of the city next to the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Post Office, Nguyen Van Binh street has become "Book Street". With over 20 bookstores run by Vietnamese publishing companies and about half a dozen coffee shops, you could easily spend most of the day rummaging through old books, drinking coffee and relaxing under the tamarind trees, reading.

Artinus 3D Art Museum -  This 3D Art Museum is an interactive art gallery, which gives it visitors a truly wonderful experience in the magic of 3D. This museum has more than 100 different 3D paintings, created by Korean artists. The artworks are created in a way that the visitors can step inside them and be part of some stunning 3D scenes.

Artinus 3D Art Museum - This 3D Art Museum is an interactive art gallery, which gives it visitors a truly wonderful experience in the magic of 3D. This museum has more than 100 different 3D paintings, created by Korean artists. The artworks are created in a way that the visitors can step inside them and be part of some stunning 3D scenes.

Independence Palace -   Free to visit - A lso known as  Reunification Palace,  was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates.

Independence Palace - Free to visit - Also known as Reunification Palace, was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates.


Exploring Ho Chi Minh City On Public Transportation

Though there are city buses, they are very crowded, take a long time, and more than likely will not take you directly to where you need to go. Renting a moped in any Vietnam city is easy, cheap and super fun and is honestly your best best for betting around the city.

Cost:  You can rent mopeds from almost anywhere (hostels, coffee shops, random dudes sitting on the corner - everyone seems to have one to rent tourists).  Renting a moped will cost you    $4 to $6 a day.

Cost: You can rent mopeds from almost anywhere (hostels, coffee shops, random dudes sitting on the corner - everyone seems to have one to rent tourists). Renting a moped will cost you $4 to $6 a day.

Safety Tips: 1) Make sure you rent from someone (or a company) that looks trustworthy. 2) Sign a contract with them that details what happens in the case of a wreck, breakdown, or flat tire. 3) Carry your passport with you when you drive - you never know if you will get into a wreck or pulled over by the police (which honestly never happens) 4) Go SLOW...traffic in HCM City is crazy and the driving in Vietnam is almost lawless - people driving the wrong way, no headlights at night, family of 5 to a scooter, running red lights, and cutting people off 5) Follow your instincts and use your blinker, brakes, and headlights.
 

Bus  - The bus system in HCM City covers most tourism destinations within and nearby the city with 152 routes. The distances between the bus stops and tourist destinations are pretty far and the buses are often named by the beginning and end points, so check your bus number carefully before getting on it. The price for bus ticket fluctuates between 3,000 and 10,000 VND, depending on the distance.

Bus - The bus system in HCM City covers most tourism destinations within and nearby the city with 152 routes. The distances between the bus stops and tourist destinations are pretty far and the buses are often named by the beginning and end points, so check your bus number carefully before getting on it. The price for bus ticket fluctuates between 3,000 and 10,000 VND, depending on the distance.

Grab:  One of the best ways to get around in Vietnam by using the Vietnamese answer to Uber which is called Grab. Download the App and pay with cash or card. The drivers are very good about knowing where everything is and also have a map on their phone to get you directly to your hotel or hostel. Tipping is not required and there is no extra fee for having a backpack or suitcase.

Grab: One of the best ways to get around in Vietnam by using the Vietnamese answer to Uber which is called Grab. Download the App and pay with cash or card. The drivers are very good about knowing where everything is and also have a map on their phone to get you directly to your hotel or hostel. Tipping is not required and there is no extra fee for having a backpack or suitcase.


Ho Chi Minh City Is A Party City

HCM City is the Bangkok of Vietnam. The ever famous Bui Vien Street is where most backpackers and tourists young and old flock to during the evening. Whether you're looking to suck down a couple nitrous balloons, drink a bucket of beers, rave until the sun comes up, take shots until you can't move, play "find the hooker", or you just want to watch other people do these things, Bui Vien Street is definitely the place to go. If this seems like too much for you, there are dozens of surrounding rooftop bars with a view of the city, complete with better sounding music, cocktails instead of shots, waiters instead of an overcrowded bar, and bathrooms that you won't mind using. Of course the price changes with the new scenery as well. Whatever your fancy, nightlife in HCM City is an ever present part of what makes this city so fun and memorable.

7q.jpg
8q.jpg

Where We Stay

There are tons of accommodation options in HCM City, from hostels, Airbnb, bed & breakfasts, or many five-star hotels.

We choose to stay at Vy Da Backpackers Hostel in District 1.  "Vy Da Backpackers Hostel is a hub for travelers who wish to meet new people and share stories of their journey around the world. We are located in the heart of Saigon, only a 3-minute walk from Ben Thanh Market and Reunification Palace, the most happening area in the city. Staying at our hostel, you will have full experience of the local perspective as you will get to explore around easily." 
($9/night for a 10 bed mixed dorm or $47/night for a private twin room).

1s.jpeg
Screen Shot 2017-12-16 at 18.38.38.png
2s.jpeg

Travel Tips & Helpful Hints

Do I need a visa? Apply for an E-Visa before your visit. At the beginning of 2017, Vietnam started their E-Visa program (for 25 countries) where you apply for your visa online from anywhere in the world. Before that you would have to go to a Vietnamese embassy somewhere to apply for your journey. It will cost around $25 and only needs 3-5 days for processing. After 3-5 days you can log back into the website and find your approved letter from the government. Print this out and bring it with you upon your arrival into the country. 

What is the power voltage? Vietnam uses the same power plug as in the United States and Europe. I.e. any plug from the US or Europe will work in Vietnam. The voltage is 220v whereas the US is 110V - so your devices may get a little warm while charging.

What about smoking weed or drinking in the streets? Though people may smoke it, weed is illegal. As far as drinking goes, it is permissible to drink in public but make sure you pace yourself.

Can you really get clothes hand-made for you in a day/Is it really as cheap as everyone says? Oh yeah! Vietnam is the place to get literally anything you want hand made. Clothes, suits, shoes, belts, purses, robes...literally anything. Any of the major markets will have stands advertising their services for this. There are 3 easy rules to follow to guarantee you don't get ripped off: 1) Make sure your barter your price as they will start high 2) Come back at least once for a fitting 3) Make sure the material they made your clothes out of is the same material you picked at the begining of the process. 

What is the currency and its value? The currency used in Vietnam is called the Dong (VND). The current value (at the time writing) is 23,000 VND = $1 USD.

DSC_0566_Fotor-1.jpg

48 hours in Ho Chi Minh City Example Itinerary:

Day Two:

Wake up hungover from your crazy night bar-hopping around Bui Vien Street.

Grab breakfast and some local coffee at any of the coffee shops located in the city. *We recommend the famous local Avocado Smoothie for hangovers.

Head back to your hostel and shower and wait to be picked up for your trip to Cu Chi Tunnels. (This is a tour you need to book during day 1. It is a bit far out of town and not possible to do without a tour)

Spend the next few hours exploring the tunnels.

Grab dinner at any of the many Pho restaurant near the Ben Thanh Market.

Head back to your hotel or hostel.

Day One:

Grab some breakfast.

Take a walk around District 1 and check out the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Post Office, Independance Palace, and nearby Book Street.

Grab lunch from the Post Office Restaurant, located right next to the Post Office. It is a charming outside French restaurant where you can people watch and enjoy a nice meal for relatively cheap. 

Visit the War Remnants Museum. Give yourself about 2-3 hours for this. It is within walking distance from where you just grabbed lunch. Use Maps.Me App for directions.

Head to The Ben Thanh Market after sundown to check out the shops, maybe get a suit made for cheap and grab some local dinner.

Head back to your hotel or hostel and get ready for a crazy night in Bui Vien Street.

DSC_0463_Fotor-1.jpg

So What's It Going To Cost?

Here is how much we spent, and what we spent it on, in 48 hours. 

Food: Breakfast: We spent an average of $5 USD each morning as we went to the Post Office restaurant and a nice restaurant in the mall near book street. 
Lunch: We spent $3 USD each day at local Pho restaurants. 
Dinner: We spent an average of $5 USD each evening. On the first night we went to a local restaurant (which is super cheap) and feasted on 4 different dishes and on the second night we had street Pho which cost $2 each.
Total for Food = $20 USD each/per day.

Beer: Beer is super cheap anywhere you go. $0.20 Bia Hoi on the street, $0.70 beer from a convenience store, or $2.00 beer at a bar on Bui Vien Street.
Total for Beer = $5 USD each/per day.

Accommodation: Vy Da Backpackers Hostel is one of the best in town.
For 2 people to stay 2 nights, we spent $36 total.

Transportation (Including getting to and from the airport): We stayed in District 1, which is where most of the sights are. We walked pretty much everywhere, only taking a Grab to and from the airport, and to get to the 3D Art Museum.
Total for Transportation = $5 USD each.

Activities: Admission ticket for the 3D Art Museum cost $10 USD, and the War Remnants Museum was $0.75. We also spent time in Bui Vien Street, watching the madness of the crowd, but this cost is included above in the Beer section. Besides that, we walked around a bunch and found the free activities to do: like exploring the local markets, checking out the Post Office, Book Street, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the walking around the city, exploring the side streets and French architecture. Unfortunately we were not able to visit the Cu Chi tunnels as we had to spend time getting some documents notarized from the US embassy - time we would have spent at the tunnels. (If you are going to the Cu Chi tunnels, make sure you book your trip with a tour company or your hostel 1 day ahead of time to make sure you get a spot and can plan the rest of your itinerary accordingly). 
Total for Activities = $10.75 USD each.

So, What Did We Spend In 48 Hours?

$167.50 USD for 2 people. That's about $41.50 USD per person, per day.

Where's Your Money Going?


A Few More Pics From The Lens Of SMP

DSC_0587_Fotor-1.jpg
DSC_0574_Fotor-1.jpg

Enjoy Your Trip!


Itching For More Information About Asia?

Comment