Formerly known as Pearl of the Far East, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) has long been a cultural, economic, and political center of Vietnam. Traveling to Saigon, you can see the high-rise buildings located close to the sanctuary, amusement parks, and crowded shopping centers, but also without the lack of ancient villas, traditional markets or museums that have existed for hundreds of years. This cosmopolitan city has no shortage of "specialties," and there are various things for your choice. Below is the selected list of the essential tours in Saigon, which will give you a clear overview of this city and help you pick out the one that suits you the most.
Saigon is considered a big city and there are numerous tourist attractions when it comes to traveling. However, each place has its own unique feature, and below is the list of selected highlights within the city.
In the list of essential tours in Saigon, District 1 is the first thing that comes to our mind. This is because District 1 is the central district of Ho Chi Minh City. Many government agencies, consulates, and tall buildings are concentrated in this district. District 1 is considered crowded with one of the highest living costs in the city. And thus, many excellent iconic attraction spots gather here such as Nguyen Hue pedestrian street, modern shopping malls, museums, parks as well as the Backpackers' District, where foreigners gather.
Since the construction of the Nguyen Hue pedestrian street, Saigon youths have predicted it will be a very hot spot in the near future, and indeed it is. Walking Street in Nguyen Hue is a large square in the heart of Saigon, where people have the pleasure to roam in the bustle and joy.
Nguyen Hue Pedestrian Street
Pho Tay, or Backpacker District, is a combination of three streets, namely, Bui Vien, Pham Ngu Lao, and De Tham. Situated in the heart of the city and famous for attracting many foreign travelers, this area gathers hundreds of hotels, motels, food shops, coffee shops, grocery stores, and fashion shops. Walking around this area, you can find many famous street foods in Saigon like rice noodles, bread, pho, or even western dishes and fast foods. When nightfall, Pho Tay is the best place for bars and clubs. Drinking local beers while sitting on a small stool on the pavement is another feature of this place. It is also easy to make friends or watching the lively nightlife of the city.
Bui Vien Street
Look for top-rated hotels in Bui Vien here:
Chinatown is one of the busiest shopping areas in District 5. It is also home to a large concentration of Chinese in the South. Here you can enjoy a very rich cuisine; there are dishes in Chinese style but also the dishes have been changed a bit to suit the Vietnamese.
Here you will feel like you are in a residential area of Hong Kong in the previous century. Most of the houses in this area were built in the late 19th century, with the architecture of bold Chinese identity.
Lantern Street in Chinatown
Another special feature of Chinatown is lantern street on Luong Nhi Hoc Street. This is one of the best places to enjoy the cultural quintessence that has been absorbed in the heart of modern Saigon. Colorful lanterns make this neighborhood a very special, colorful, and spiritual atmosphere.
Saigon is not only known for its friendly, hospitable people but is also dubbed the culinary paradise with "divine" snacks and street foods. You will find very delicious snacks in Saigon are on the streets, alleys, and busy markets. See Street foods in Saigon to continue your culinary journey or give yourself a treat by indulging yourself with tasty food tours on a motorbike.
Foods in Saigon
For those who are into culture and history, visiting Vietnam museums definitely sits on the top list. Fortunately, Saigon has various museums. Most of them are about history and the Vietnam war. However, art museums are still available. Here are the top 10 museums in Saigon.
A helicopter at the War Remnants Museum
Moreover, if the information is not enough for your demand, you can also experience historical artifacts such as aircraft and guns yourself by contacting a private tour in Saigon.
Saigon has many trade centers and high-rise buildings, but old markets still exist somewhere in the corner of Saigon. Visiting these places will give you another view of Saigon and then, truly understand this dynamic city.
If you are new to Saigon, Ben Thanh Market is a place to come because this market is a symbol of Saigon and the vendors here speak some foreign languages to an extent. This market offers almost everything including food, clothes, souvenir, etc. Moreover, you can visit Soai Kinh Lam Market for textiles or Dai Quang Minh Market for jewelry materials. These markets are more authentic and less touristy. And thus, you have a chance to experience the life of the locals truly. However, the vendors here are less fluent in English.
Dried foods sold at Ben Thanh Market
Local markets can be crowded and chaotic, so be careful with your belongings that could make you a target of pickpocketers.
If you have already fully explored Saigon and still have a few extra days left, short days trips will be an ideal choice. Many destinations are just a few hours' drive from Saigon center with a wonderful natural environment. Below are three of them: the Mekong Delta, the coastal cities such as Vung Tau and Phan Thiet, and Cu Chi Tunnels.
Mekong Delta is always one of the ideal essential tours in Saigon with the mellow beauty and tranquility of the fruit gardens, the rice fields, and the hospitality of the people here. Coming to this region, you have the opportunity to blend into nature, and to relax after busy working days.
Weather is mild and sunny throughout the year, so you can visit the Mekong Delta in any season. In detail, the summer (June, July, and August) is the season of fruits so you can visit the fruit garden while trying various delicious tropical fruits. December to February is the time for the biggest holiday in Vietnam with the traditional holidays to the Lunar New Year that you can visit the famous flower villages such as Vi Thanh and Sa Dec.
A boat full of tropical fruits at the floating market
If you visit the Mekong Delta, make a note to visit the floating market because it is a unique culture of this place. The Mekong Delta is a tropical region with many fruits and vegetables. The system of rivers, canals, and ditches creates conditions for the boat transport of goods necessary. Because boats and canoes can freely circulate in the delta, traders can go to every corner to buy the fruits and vegetables that farmers sell.
If you are into beaches, Vung Tau and Mui Ne closest to Saigon. In terms of location, Vung Tau Beach is much nearer than Mui Ne Beach. It is about 125 kilometers from Saigon. As long as you reach this place, either by car or speedboat, it will instantly make you feel calm, giving you a different feel from the crowded Saigon.
Vung Tau Beach
The annual average temperature in Vung Tau is 27 degrees, the lowest is 24 degrees and the highest is 30 degrees. Thanks to this tropical weather, Vung Tau can be visited all year round, but avoid stormy days to ensure safety. In addition, on weekends and holidays, Vung Tau attracts many local tourists, and thus, the prices of services may be higher.
Find discounted tickets to travel from Ho Chi Minh to Vung Tau below:
Mui Ne is famous for its wide stretch of sand dunes, blue sea, and numerous coconut trees. Coming to Mui Ne, you not only have sightseeing but also can enjoy countless delicious dishes made from seafood.
White sand beach in Mui Ne
Mui Ne has relatively stable weather and less affected by the storm. However, the temperature here will be much higher in April and May, so if you do not want to walk under the scorching sun here, avoid this period. The time from September to November has a higher chance of sudden rain, so the most suitable time for traveling is from December to April and from June to August.
See our guide for your First Time in Mui Ne
The Cu Chi Tunnels are about 70 kilometers to the northwest of Saigon, which were used as hideouts for 30 years in the battles at Cu Chi. This system is admired it consists of different bunkers for fighting, hospital, weapons storage, meeting, and even a kitchen with a total length of more than 250 kilometers.
Entering a bunker at the Cu Chi Tunnels
The tunnel system includes 3 levels. The first level is 3 meters underground, it can stand against the shells and the weight of tanks, armored vehicles. In level 2, 6 meters underground, you could be protected from small bombs; the third level is 10 meters below the ground where large bombs could not destroy.
The most suitable time to visit Cu Chi Tunnels is in the dry season. However, the rainy season, which lasts from April - October, shouldn't hinder your trip with its daily short showers.
Saigon is recognized as a beautiful city and offers the most exciting tours. The tourist spots within the city embodied a richly unique culture of Vietnam. In addition, from the charming vibrancy of Saigon to the peaceful and dazzling white beaches of Mui Ne, you will be fascinated and delighted by a journey full of interesting experiences.
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