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Ho Chi Minh City Shore Excursions: Know-Before-You-Go Tips

ho-chi-minh-city-shore-excursions-nha-rong-port Insignia Cruise at Nha Rong Port

Each year, roughly 15 million visitors are coming to Vietnam by plane, car, or cruises. And without a doubt, Ho Chi Minh (HCM) City, formerly known as Saigon, is one of the most popular destinations for a port of call. Whether you are on a 1-week cruise discovering Southeast Asia or you are on a 3-month journey exploring the world - this city discovery is not to be missed.

To help you make the most of your trip before you visit, we are writing this blog to give you, hopefully, some know-before-you-go useful insights about Ho Chi Minh’s port of calls.

Important Notes to Know before your Ho Chi Minh City Shore Excursions

  • Where your ship will dock: There are currently 3 active ports serving international cruise ships in Ho Chi Minh City: Nha Rong Port (10-minute-drive from the city center), Saigon Premier Container Terminal (SPCT) (50-minute-drive from the city center), Phu My Port (roughly 2-hour-drive from the city center).
  • Where to go from your port: If the ship arrives at Nha Rong Port, a Ho Chi Minh City Day Tour is the most popular choice. Other than that, Vung Tau is another go-to option from Phu My or SPCT Port.
  • How to get out of you docks: Taxis can be convenient if your ship docks in either Nha Rong or SPCT Port, but only use trusted brands such as Mai Linh or Vinasun to avoid scams (more details to be covered in the blog below); above all, the safest and most favorite way is to book a private tour operator a few days ahead of your arrival.
  • Contact your ship for a free shuttle service from the ship’s side to the front gate of the port.

ho chi minh city shore excursions norweigian jade

ho chi minh city shore excursions thi vai port

The Norwegian Jade Cruise at the Thi Vai Port (Phu My)

Port of Calls for Ho Chi Minh City Excursions: Nha Rong, Phu My, and SPCT

There are currently 3 active ports serving cruise ships in Ho Chi Minh City: Nha Rong Port, SPCT, and Phu My’s Tan Cang Cai Mep Port.

Depending on the size of your cruise ship, the port of call varies. Smaller ships can navigate up the Saigon River and dock adjacent to the city center at Nha Rong or SPCT, but bigger cruise ships must dock at Phu My’s Tan Cang Cai Mep Port and Tan Cang Cai Mep Thi Vai Port. (If you need help finding out your port of call, you can email the arrival date and name of your ship using our Contact page). 

-Nha Rong Port – You are in for convenience. Nha Rong Port is located right next to the main city center. This is a 5-minute taxi ride or a 15-minute walk from your port to the city.

ho chi minh city shore excursions nha rong port

Nha Rong Port

-Hiep Phuoc Port – also known as the Saigon Premier Container Terminal - this is located about 1 hour by car from the city center. There is no worthy attraction nearby as this port is located in the Hiep Phuoc industrial park. To get out of the port, contact your ship for a shuttle service or pre-book a transfer through tour operators.

Hiep phuoc excursion 2 Hiep phuoc excursion 3

Hiep Phuoc's port with cruise ship docking behind the immigration checkpoint gate

-Phu My’s Tan Cang Cai Mep Port and Tan Cang Cai Mep Thi Vai Port-

ho chi minh city excursion tan cang cai mep 1 ho chi minh city excursion cai mep thi vai

Tan Cang Cai Mep Port (left) and Tan Cang Cai Mep Thi Vai Port (right)

If your ship docks at Phu My, it is a containers terminal with no worthy attractions nearby. Your closest 2 cities are Vung Tau and Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), which are respectively 45 km and 60 km from the port.

Getting out of Your Port by Taxi

There are limited taxis parked outside of the port’s gate, and these are first come first served. It is recommended to take these taxis with caution.

Standard taxi meter fees for your reference

4 seater car: VND 15,000/km or USD 0.75/km
7 seater van: VND 17,000/km or USD 0.85/km

Note: Tolls to Ho Chi Minh is USD 5 (one-way); if transportations based in Ho Chi Minh City need to arrange a Phu My tour, they will need to pay 4 times (USD 20) for the toll for pick-up and drop-off services at the port. So, make sure your transportation fares are discussed ahead of time.
There are no tolls to Vung Tau.

Other fees that may occur: waiting time fees, parking fees, etc.

Pros

  • Quick and easy, especially with the popularity of ride-hailing apps in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Personalized service - suitable for solo or small group experiences for Ho Chi Minh City shore excursions

However, this is only applied when your ship arrives at Nha Rong or SPCT Port.

Cons

  • High prices for long distances (one-way taxi fare from Phu My Port can cost from USD 50 - 60).
  • Risks of scams: fake taxis are common in the pick-up areas of the port, and they can be quite aggressive if you don’t want to use their service or accept their price. Read more in our blog How to Avoid Taxi Scams.
  • Most taxis can only accommodate 7 passengers at most, so taxi transportation for a big group can be a hassle.
  • It is required that you have a working SIM card to call a taxi or to use 3G/4G services.

More about SIM Card and Mobile Data in Vietnam

Our Tips for Taking a Taxi for Your Ho Chi Minh City Excursions

  • Only use trusted taxi brands: Mai Linh (the green ones) and VinaSun (the white ones) taxis.

Mai Linh’s hotline (HCM): 028 3838 3838
VinaSun’s hotline (HCM): 028 3827 2727

taxi ho chi minh shore excursions

  • Make good use of the apps: Grab is a famous ride-hailing app in Ho Chi Minh. Both of the mentioned taxi brands also have their apps. You can check for the prices, distances, routes on the app. Make sure to check the license plate carefully before hopping on the car.
  • Do negotiate the price (which should include the additional fees like tolls or waiting time fees)

Getting out of Your Port by the Ship’s Shuttle Transport Service

Depending on your ship carrier, some offer complimentary shuttle services from the port to the city and back. Some will charge you a very high fee for this transfer service (USD 60 - 80 just for transportation). These have their specific timetable and stop locations. Depending on your nationality, a visiting visa is required, and this can be arranged on your cruise ship. You will need to check with your cruise on this offer. 

ho chi minh city shore excursions boarding pass

A passenger landing card is required

Tip: For pricing and itinerary comparisons, check with your cruise liner for their tour packages and make a comparison with the tour operators offering private tours. There usually are more options compared to a standard cookie-cutter tour.

ho chi minh city shore excursions tour bus

Getting out of Your Port in a Private Tour

If you wish to see and understand the city and get away from the traditional group tour, your best chance is to pre-book your private transport or pre-arrange a city tour with a travel agency in Ho Chi Minh.

Pros

  • Pick-up and drop-off at the port’s gate: all vehicles are modern and air-conditioned, which can range from a 4-seater car, 7-seater van, to a 45-seater bus depending on the group size.

ho chi minh city shore excursions mini vans

  • Personalized service and customizable tours: you can design an itinerary for yourself according to your interests and the time you can spend on a tour. It can revolve around Ho Chi Minh’s iconic attractions or a food-centric trip with delicious Vietnamese dishes.
  • Professional tour guides with profound local knowledge: the highly-trained local tour guides can not only lead you on a fun and well-rounded tour, but also assist you with your personal needs and requirements (i.e. finding a money exchange spot with the best exchange rate in the city)

ho chi minh city shore excursions city tour 2

ho chi minh city shore excursions city tour

Authentic local experiences are what set a top-rated private tour apart from other touristy programs

Cons: Most tour operators are located in Ho Chi Minh City, 1.5 - 2 hours (one-way), depending on traffic, from Phu My’s port.

Our Tips for Joining a Private Tour on Your Ho Chi Minh City Shore Excursions

  • Prior arrangement is strongly recommended to ensure you have sufficient time to tour the city and back to the harbor.
  • Plan your pick-up time by taking the ship arrival time and adding 1 hour of immigration procedure.
  • Do your research and read the reviews carefully before booking a tour.
  • One of the ways to save on transport costs is to gather up a few cruise mates, pre-book a private tour and share the costs.
To have fun trips in Ho Chi Minh City, check out our authentic motorbike tours with professional local guides!

 

Getting out of Your Port by a Random Tour Operator

Some "self-proclaimed tour guides" will introduce you to joining their tour in case you haven’t booked your tour for a Ho Chi Minh City Excursion before-hand. The price for a tour in a 45-seater bus (with, or without transportation fee) is generally from USD 120/pax.

Pros: may only work if you haven’t had an itinerary planned for yourself.

Cons

  • Quality of the service is not guaranteed: you will most likely be squeezed in with dozens of other tourists, and the time spent in each city’s attraction may only be enough for taking a selfie.
  • Price is not guaranteed: it is unsure whether you will be charged will other random fees.

ho chi minh city shore excursions random tour guides

Many "tour guides" will take advantage of the crowded situation at the gate to try to lure you in joining their tour

Our Takes on Ho Chi Minh City Shore Excursions

Good planning is the key here to have a pleasant and fun-filling trip in Ho Chi Minh in just a limited amount of time. In a city full of wonders and hidden stories, make sure you make a wise decision to get the most out of your travel.

Vietnam Travel Information: Ho Chi Minh Travel Guide and Hanoi Travel Guide

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© Written by Linh Nguyen and Kim Hoang for itourvn.com

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Comments

Guest - roy on Monday, 11 December 2017 13:24

Is it possible to book an uber or use the grab app from the port? If not, any reputable but cost effective private transport services you recommend? I read on various forums that there is a taxi mafia outside the port gates and the prices are fixed at around a certain level. Any advice greatly appreciated. thank you

Is it possible to book an uber or use the grab app from the port? If not, any reputable but cost effective private transport services you recommend? I read on various forums that there is a taxi mafia outside the port gates and the prices are fixed at around a certain level. Any advice greatly appreciated. thank you
Linh Nguyen on Monday, 11 December 2017 21:13

Hi Roy, it depends on the port of call. If your ship will dock at Nha Rong's port then it's easy to book an Uber or Grab (this is also very close to Ho Chi Minh's city center) but at Phu My, limited services are available, and I highly recommend pre-booking your transportations to avoid scams.

Hi Roy, it depends on the port of call. If your ship will dock at Nha Rong's port then it's easy to book an Uber or Grab (this is also very close to Ho Chi Minh's city center) but at Phu My, limited services are available, and I highly recommend pre-booking your transportations to avoid scams.
Guest - John on Sunday, 14 October 2018 02:00

Hi Linh, at Phu My Port, what are your recommended companies to call for pre-booking the transportation into HCMC? Is Kiwitaxi reliable? Does Vinasun or Mailinh offer pre-booking transportation that I can arrange before arriving at Phu My? Thank you.

Hi Linh, at Phu My Port, what are your recommended companies to call for pre-booking the transportation into HCMC? Is Kiwitaxi reliable? Does Vinasun or Mailinh offer pre-booking transportation that I can arrange before arriving at Phu My? Thank you.
Linh Nguyen on Sunday, 14 October 2018 17:18

Hi John, for transports from Phu My - HCMC center, it's best to book through tour operators or agencies from the city as there is nothing nearby the port. I've not heard of the Kiwitaxi routes from the port to the city, mostly just between airports and main cities. Vinasun and Mai Linh offer to pre-book through their mobile apps, but only up to a limited number of hours before it expires.

Our team offers transports and pricing depends on the size of the vehicle. You can email us your group size, the name of the ship, and arrival date for a quotation. More info: https://www.itourvn.com/tours/customize-my-adventure or contact: https://www.itourvn.com/contact

Hi John, for transports from Phu My - HCMC center, it's best to book through tour operators or agencies from the city as there is nothing nearby the port. I've not heard of the Kiwitaxi routes from the port to the city, mostly just between airports and main cities. Vinasun and Mai Linh offer to pre-book through their mobile apps, but only up to a limited number of hours before it expires. Our team offers transports and pricing depends on the size of the vehicle. You can email us your group size, the name of the ship, and arrival date for a quotation. More info: https://www.itourvn.com/tours/customize-my-adventure or contact: https://www.itourvn.com/contact
Guest - Michael P on Wednesday, 02 August 2017 11:05

Great tips, thanks!

Great tips, thanks!
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