Are there any attractions, events or shows without admission fee?
Most attractions, events and shows in Ho Chi Minh City charge an entrance or participation fee.
What can you do in Ho Chi Minh City for free (or close to)?
When you are in Ho Chi Minh City you can’t miss Nguyen Hue street, the broad boulevard where the young people of Ho Chi Minh City gather and have fun.
On weekends you will be able to catch spontaneous acoustic performances and music shows with free access, or if you are not into that, then just grab a cup of coffee at a street-side cafe, relax, and do some people watching.
In celebration of the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, Nguyen Hue street transforms into a flower street for a week. There is a countdown to the start of the Lunar New Year marked by firework displays which attracts thousands of citizens.
Another must-visit attraction in Ho Chi Minh City is Saigon Outcast – an event venue/bar for art and street sports lovers that hosts food and beer festivals, alternative conferences, live concerts, flea markets and festivals. Best of all, there is no entrance fee. Address: Thao Dien, District 2.
The Ngoc Hoang (Jade Emperor) pagoda on Nguyen Thi Luu Street is also worth checking out. This is a haven of peace away from the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City where you can enjoy the unique architecture of ancient Vietnam. Former U.S. President Barack Obama also paid a visit here during his stay in Vietnam.
Tao Dan park in District 1 is an attractive destination for the people of Saigon (the old name of Ho Chi Minh City) because of its location along the beautiful Saigon River.
In this peaceful 10-hectare green space with artificial lakes and big fountains you can enjoy a romantic walk with your significant other and take in the cool breeze from the river.
Here you will find people engaged in all sorts of activities, as it attracts exercise fans, team building enthusiasts, campers, and picnic lovers, as well as people who are looking for peace.
Are there any known scams I should be aware of?
The more careful you are, the safer you will be. Below are some tips for your awareness when traveling in Ho Chi Minh City (although they could be applied anywhere):
- Be careful of your pockets – especially if they contain a wallet or valuable items – when you get into crowded areas (e.g. events, sight-seeing attractions or markets). Always keep your valuables where you can see them, and if possible leave them in your hotel room’s safe. If there is no safe, then keep them at the bottom of your backpack and check on them sporadically.
- Try to not use your mobile phone (especially if it’s an expensive one) to take pictures or call people when riding a motorbike or walking in the street. You might be targeted by people who will steal it from you and perhaps even cause you harm. If you must use it, make sure you keep it as close to you as possible, and be aware of it at all times.
- Get familiar with the local currency (both with the amount, and how the denominations look) and check twice before you pay for anything.
Where can I go shopping on a budget in Ho Chi Minh City?
Ben Thanh Market and Saigon Square are the places to go for budget shopping in Ho Chi Minh City, and they’re so famous that they are included in a daily tour.
Ben Thanh Market is also considered an iconic landmark of Ho Chi Minh City. The sellers will normally double the price of everything, so make sure when you’re bargaining you start at half the stated price. The practice of bargaining has become a very interesting activity over time, and the sellers can speak English very well.
Besides those, local markets such as Tan Binh, Tan Dinh, An Dong, and Ba Chieu open every day, and they all sell local products and quality food at very cheap prices.
Are there any group tours I can join that are worth the price?
If you know local people, follow them on a trip to the Ben Thanh market or a city tour to the famous traditional landmarks of Saigon.
Alternatively, you can go camping with friends in Tao Dan Park to see local people do exercise or play sport – you could even ask to join in with them!
One absolute must-do in Saigon is the drive to Reunification Conference Hall (the former Presidential Palace), which was built on the site of the former Norodom Palace. This place was designed by the architect Ngo Viet Thu, and was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
You can also see the French buildings including Notre Dame Cathedral, General Post Office and Opera House.
After that, you can visit Cho Lon (Saigon’s Chinatown), an interesting place of great historical and cultural importance where you can see classical Chinese architecture reminiscent of years gone by, mixed in with plenty of Chinese restaurants.
Finally, visit Thien Hau, the most beautiful Chinese Temple, with its ceramic statues dating back over 100 years.
You can see a glimpse of Saigon with its hide-away characters, a part of Vietnamese culture that is not normally seen on classic tourist route by Vespa or Scooter.
Start with a visit to the famous and thought provoking Burning Monk Memorial Statue. Then take a quick stop firstly to the Flower Market and then to a bright and vibrant fabric market. Then mix up your trip a little by visiting a Chinese medicine street market, briefly learning about “Thuốc Bắc” and the Chinese pagoda, which are both there to help enhance your knowledge.
Finally, enjoy a gourmet Chinese dim sum lunch and a cup of coffee or chocolate before ending the tour.
Any recommended day trips from the city?
The Cu Chi Tunnels are located about 25 miles from Ho Chi Minh City in an area that was once controlled by the Vietcong through its now legendary system of tunnels.
In the Cu Chi District alone there were tunnels that stretched for over 155 miles, and some of them were several stories deep.
You will get to go inside an underground house and, after a 30-minute documentary about Cu Chi, you will have a chance to walk through a section of the tunnels.
Here you will be shown several traps (where you can see how they were used during the war), the “Hoang Cam” kitchen invention, a rice cake making show, and you can even enjoy a typical local food – “khoai mi” with pandan leaf tea.
Climb aboard a Bonsai Cruise or an Elisa Cruise for a trip along the heart of Ho Chi Minh City to see a different perspective of the city.
The Mekong Delta trips (at least two days and one night) are also highly recommended. With them, you can enjoy the fresh, peaceful atmosphere of the southern Vietnamese countryside.
You can go via cruise or by motorbikes to see the normal daily life of local people there with your own eyes, including the craft villages, the floating market every early morning and if you’re lucky you can even try local tropical fruit in the local people’s garden.