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5 Things to do on a Ho Chi Minh City Layover

5-Things-to-do-on-Ho-Chi-Minh-layover

The Tan Son Nhat International Airport (airport code: SGN) is the biggest in Vietnam, located 8 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City’s center - District 1 making many tourist attractions shopping centers and restaurants accessible for those stuck on short or long layovers.

Related Article: Tan Son Nhat Airport Guide

Things to do on Ho Chi Minh City Layover

1. Visit historical sites:

  • Cu Chi Tunnels

Cu Chi Tunnels is about an hour and a half driving from Tan Son Nhat Airport, so it will take you around three hours for both-way transfers, and we recommend spending an hour to fully explore the tunnels and dugouts. This place is highly recommended since the underground system here is very unique, which also portrays the living conditions of Vietnamese soldiers during the resistant war and explains the victory of Vietnam.

layover in hcm cu chi

During 20 years of operation, Cu Chi Tunnels has received more than 20 million domestic and foreign visitors

If you have a half-day for Ho Chi Minh city layover activities (from 8 AM to 2 PM), you can check out our Cu Chi private tour here.

  • Independence Palace

Entrance fee: VND 40,000/adult
Opening hours:
Morning: 7:30 AM - 11 AM
Afternoon: 1 PM - 4 PM

Independence Palace (known as Reunification Palace or Thong Nhat Hall) is a historical building in Ho Chi Minh City. It was the residence and workplace of the presidents of the Republic of Vietnam. Currently, it is considered by the Vietnamese government as a special national monument.

layover in hcm independence palace

Besides its historical significance, the Independence Palace also represents the typical architecture of Vietnam in the 1960s

It can take 30 minutes by cab or by bus for one way from Tan Son Nhat Airport to Independence Palace. From here, you are able to walk to other famous attractions such as Saigon Central Office or Notre Dame Cathedral, which are located just 500 meters away. 

  • Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral is a unique architecture (a combination of Roman and Gothic style) from the French colonial empire and designed by architect B. J. Bourard. All construction materials, from cement, steel to screws, are all imported from France.

layover in hcm notre dame cathedral

The outside of the church was built from raw Marseille bricks; therefore, there is no need for plaster and able to preserve its pink color over time

You can also try some coffee at numerous coffee shops located nearby and watch people's daily life. The estimated transfer time is about 30 minutes for a taxi or a bus.

Please keep in mind that since July 2017, Notre Dame Cathedral has gone under renovation, and it is expected to be finished by the end of 2019 or June 2020. Therefore, the Cathedral closes its door to tourists but still welcomes if you want to attend service or say a prayer.

In terms of historical sites, there are plenty of worth-visiting museums besides the locations mentioned above. 

To have fun trips in Ho Chi Minh City, check out our authentic motorbike tours with professional local guides!

 

2. Eat at an Authentic Vietnamese Restaurant

There are numerous restaurants in and around Tan Son Nhat Airport. You can easily bump into familiar brands with tons of international franchise restaurants here. However, in case you want to go out of the airport and try some traditional dishes of Vietnam cuisine. Below is the list for you.

 Name  Address  Distance from Tan Son Nhat Airport (unit: km)
Com Tam Ba Ghien 84 Dang Van Ngu, Ward 10, Phu Nhuan District  3
Pho Phu Vuong 339 Le Van Sy, Ward 1, Tan Binh District  3
Bun Dau Homemade 6 Hong Ha, Ward 2, Tan Binh District  0.45
Hoang Ty Restaurant 74 Truong Quoc Dung, Ward 10, Phu Nhuan District  3
Con Ga Trong Restaurant 1 Tien Giang Street, Ward 2, Tan Binh District  1.5

 

layover in hcm pho

Pho is a famous dish that attracts many Vietnamese and foreign travelers

Additionally, make sure to try Ca phe sua da, which is a combination of strong coffee and condensed milk. This is very popular and a signature drink in Vietnam and would make a nice introduction to Vietnam.

3. Get a Massage

Stopping by a spa would be a nice choice for you to have some rest and recuperation, especially when you are tired from jet lag after a long flight.

There are a foot spa on the 3rd floor and a relaxing lounge located on the 2nd floor in the international terminal as well as a Vietnamese spa in the domestic terminal.

Read more about Vietnam Massage Techniques

4. Do Some Shopping

There is a duty-free shop inside the airport, which offers limited goods but you can buy products from luxury brands such as Dior, Chanel, and Cartier. There is also a shopping mall named Parkson CT Plaza, which is just about 5 minutes walk outside of the airport. This mall has a food court in the basement with plenty of choices, including international brands like Lotteria or KFC and traditional dishes as well. The quality of food is rated as accepted and it is clean.

layover in hcm shopping

Takashimaya at Saigon Centre

In case you have more time, Ben Thanh Market is a good place for both shopping and eating. You could find almost anything that you need here at lower prices than the shops above.

5. Have a Lookout at the City

When it comes to the aerial view of the city, the Bitexco Financial Tower, currently the second tallest building in the city, is the place to go. You can go to a cafe or restaurant, take a sip of coffee, look out the window, and see the Saigon River. Or you can spend VND 200,000 (including water, wifi, and binoculars) to visit its Skydeck and watch the city from above. These binoculars can rotate up to 50 degrees and 360 degrees, ensuring that visitors from the height of the observation can clearly see the streetscape and people on the street.

layover in hcm bitexco

This building is a symbol of the dynamics of Ho Chi Minh City

Before You Go on Ho Chi Minh City Layover Trips

There are several things that should be taken into account to determine your time frame:

Make sure you've signed up for travel insurance:

 

Measure the time for transferring from the airport to your destinations. Please carefully consider the length of your layover time because, with international flights, you are requested to arrive 2 hours before the flights and depend on how busy the airport might be, the process of international departure, therefore, can be lengthy.

Store your luggage. If you don't want to bring the luggage with you, you can leave them at two locker rooms in the international terminal. The price for luggage storage services is about VND 27,500 per hour (US$ 1.4).

Exchange money. You can use dollars in the shops at the airport but outside of the airport, you may have to use Vietnamese currency.

Check your visa. There are certain nationalities that can enter Vietnam without a visa, but the visa regulation is often changed, so do a double-check.

 

Summary of 5 Things to Do on Ho Chi Minh City Layover

Ho Chi Minh City is boasted with many beautiful attractions and flavourful cuisine. So if you have a chance to visit, make sure to spend the time to explore this city.

If you are short on time and would like to see as much as possible, we offer city tours on the back of a bike with our private half-day tours. Airport pick-up and drop-off can be arranged.

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Comments

Guest - Rachel Martinez on Thursday, 30 January 2020 11:29

Hello, I sent you an email about a half-day tour. My name is Rachel Martinez and we are a family of 6.

Hello, I sent you an email about a half-day tour. My name is Rachel Martinez and we are a family of 6.
Guest - Katie C on Wednesday, 29 January 2020 11:40

My partner and I had an 8 hour layover in Ho Chi Minh and contacted this company for a half-day tour of the city. From the point of contact to the picking up and dropping off at the airport, all communications and arrangements were superb! Anh is a very great tour guide and I highly recommend this private tour.

My partner and I had an 8 hour layover in Ho Chi Minh and contacted this company for a half-day tour of the city. From the point of contact to the picking up and dropping off at the airport, all communications and arrangements were superb! Anh is a very great tour guide and I highly recommend this private tour.
Guest - Darcie on Saturday, 26 October 2019 14:25

Our family had a 6 hours layover and contacted this company for a half-day tour. They arranged and picked us up at the airport, and we had a blast! There is a locker storage (for a fee) at the exit terminal to the right, and they kept our bags when we did the tour. If you have time, you must do this. Highly recommend!

Our family had a 6 hours layover and contacted this company for a half-day tour. They arranged and picked us up at the airport, and we had a blast! There is a locker storage (for a fee) at the exit terminal to the right, and they kept our bags when we did the tour. If you have time, you must do this. Highly recommend!
Guest - Bronte Reed on Friday, 11 October 2019 22:56

I'm flying to Vietnam soon, I'm so excited

I'm flying to Vietnam soon, I'm so excited
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