Ho Chi Minh City is a must-see on your visit to Vietnam. The most populous region in the country is known for its organised chaos, hustle and bustle, and great food. It is also the centre for education and culture in Vietnam. There are countless things to do in Ho Chi Minh City to keep you occupied.
Many visitors either begin or end their journey through Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City. What many people don’t know, however, is Ho Chi Minh City is a great hub to station yourself in, as you take day trips out to the lesser-known attractions in the southern region of Vietnam.
Read on for a guide on the best day trips from Ho Chi Minh City.
Visiting the Mekong Delta was definitely a highlight during my first trip to Vietnam. I opted to stay at a rural guesthouse, watched the locals perform folk dancing, was taught how to make local treats and drifted down the Mekong Delta in a sampan.
The Mekong Delta offers such a peaceful escape from the hectic Ho Chi Minh City. The green network of rivers paired with lush jungle and serenity filling the air makes for such a unique experience.
How to Get to the Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta technically can be done as a day trip, but since the drive is 4-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City, visitors prefer to stay one or two nights.
If you’re short on time and can only fit a day trip into your schedule, leave early in the morning so you can maximise your time there.
The easiest way to travel to the Mekong Delta is to book a tour that includes return transport, a boat ride, and a ride on a sampan boat. The cheapest way would be to take the public Futa bus.
Cao Dai Temple
Caodaism originated in the 20th Century in Tay Ninh, a province in the south of Vietnam. Caodaism brings in a mixture of beliefs from other religions. There are an estimated four to six million followers.
The temple itself features a combination of French and Chinese-style architecture. Inside the temple features bright colours and hosts engrossing rituals.
How to Get to Cao Dai Temple
Cao Dai Temple is located two hours away from Ho Chi Minh City. To get there, you can take the #702 bus, or you could also join an organised tour. These tours usually include a trip to Cu Chi Tunnels, which will be featured later on in this article.
Cai Be Floating Market
This market is very different from the bustling Ben Thanh Market in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City. If you’re yet to see the wonder of a floating market, Cai Be is a great way to do so. A floating market substitutes streets for a river, and stalls for boats. It definitely is a sight to behold.
You can buy fruits, vegetables, rice, as well as ready-made meals such as noodle dishes and smoothies.
How to Get to Cai Be Floating Market
Cai Be is a 2.5-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City. There is an option for a public shuttle bus leaving from District 5, as well as full-day tours available for all budgets.
If you arrange transport there on your own or take the shuttle bus, you can hire boats or canoes (for a more intimate trip) once you’re at Cai Be.
Ba Den Mountain
Ba Den Mountain is also known as Black Virgin Mountain. The volcano makes for a popular trek for day-hikers. The return hike will take five to six hours to complete. The walk itself can be steep in some areas, so a moderate fitness will be required. When you reach the summit, take in the views over the Tay Ninh Province.
For those not so enthused by long hikes, there is a gondola that will take you partway up the volcano, to Ba Den Temple.
How to Get to Ba Den Mountain
Ba Den Mountain is a 2.5-hour drive northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. Getting here by public transport is not easy, so renting a car, scooter, or taking a tour from Ho Chi Minh City are recommended.
Cu Chi Tunnels
The Cu Chi Tunnels is one of the more sobering and informative day trips from Ho Chi Minh City.
During the Vietnam War, these tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers. The Cu Chi Tunnels are a nexus of very narrow tunnels with low ceilings. They were perfectly sized for Vietnamese soldiers as shelter and a means to commute from village to village while going unnoticed by American soldiers.
How to Get to the Cu Chi Tunnels
The Cu Chi Tunnels is the closest day trip from Ho Chi Minh City on this list, at only 90 minutes away from the main centre. For budget-conscious travellers, the #13 public bus will take you there.
You can also book half-day tours, or a full-day tour if Cao Dai Temple is added to the agenda.
While Phu Quoc, the idyllic beach getaway, is a little too far for a day trip from Ho Chi Minh City, you could visit Vang Tau instead. Vang Tau is a seaside town perfect for a day of rest and relaxation. Bai Sau and Bai Truoc are the most commonly visited beaches.
Once you’ve spent enough time soaking up the sun, head to the lighthouse on Nui Nho Mountains, as well as the giant statue of Jesus Christ.
How to Get to Vang Tau
There are two ways to get to Vang Tau from Ho Chi Minh City: by bus or ferry. The latter is the fast of the two options. The ferry ride will take you two hours, whereas the bus will take two and a half hours to get there.
Vang Tau is more commonly visited as a getaway from Ho Chi Minh City for a few days, but since it is quite close, it can easily be done as a day trip. Plan your visit on a weekday to avoid locals escaping for a weekend excursion.
Ben Tre is a small region located within the Mekong Delta. The area is known as the coconut capital of the country, so it’s a great place to try coconut candy and buy coconut shell souvenirs. My favourite is the lacquerware bowl made from a coconut shell which is the perfect size for a smoothie bowl.
How to Get to Ben Tre
Ben Tre is just two hours from Ho Chi Minh City. This makes it a great option for a day trip for those who are short on time and not planning to stay a night or two at the Mekong Delta. Tours are available which include return transport, as well as a boat tour at Ben Tre.
Can Gio Biosphere Reserve
The Can Gio Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO-protected site, known for its biodiversity. Some of the wildlife you’ll see include fishing cats, exotic birds, saltwater crocodiles, and maybe even a king cobra!
Head to Biosphere Reserve and journey through the Giant Bat Lagoon by sampan boat, then trek through the Vam Sat Mangrove Forest. Be sure to climb the observation tower for the best views, and some bird watching.
How to Get to Can Gio Biosphere Reserve
The Biosphere Reserve is located just 2 hours south of Ho Chi Minh City. There are full-day tours available, but there are also options for you to get there yourself, then take a boat tour down the Mura River.
How to Get to Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is home to a major airport, Tan Son Nhat International Airport. The airport is located around 30 minutes away from the city centre. This can vary greatly with traffic.
The most convenient way to get from the airport to Ho Chi Minh City is to join the taxi queue at the airport. Be sure to take either a Mai Linh or Vinasun taxi that goes by the meter. These are two reputable companies, so you will be a lot less likely to be ripped off.
You could also order a Grab at the airport. Just book it through the app.
The cheapest way to get from the airport to Ho Chi Minh City is by bus. The airport bus (#49) will cost 40,000 VND and the public bus (#152) will cost just 6,000 VND. Given the low cost of the airport bus, it’s worth paying more than the public bus for comfort.
If you started your Vietnam holiday in Hanoi, the chances are, you’ll be heading to Ho Chi Minh City from Dalat or Nha Trang. You can take flights or a bus from either location.
Travellers voyaging through Southeast Asia often arrive in Ho Chi Minh City from Phnom Penh. This is only a 6-hour bus ride away.
How to Get Around Ho Chi Minh City
If you’re staying in or around Bui Vien Walking Street, you’ll be able to walk to many of the attractions, restaurants, and shopping markets.
If you’re not keen on braving the heat as you walk around town, or you want to get to a location that isn’t within walking distance, the public bus system is quite reliable. Pay in cash as you enter the bus and pay anything from 3,000 VND to 10,000 VND, depending on the distance.
Ridesharing apps have become incredibly popular over the past few years. Grab and Gojek are used in Vietnam. Using Grab, you can order either a car or motorbike driver and with Gojek, you can hire a motorbike driver. I find these easier to use than hailing a taxi or bike on the street as it eliminates communication barriers and having to barter. Pricing through these apps is very reasonable.
Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City
For your first visit to Ho Chi Minh City, staying in District 1 is always your best bet. It’s the main tourist hub which means there are many great places to eat, activities to do, and things to buy.
Backpackers and budget travellers tend to stay in or near Bui Vien Walking Street, or Pham Ngo Lao. This is where there is an abundance of hostels, homestays, and cheaper accommodation.
District 5, which is Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown, is another great place to stay. Accommodation is cheaper, and there are ornate Buddhist temples scattered another the district.
For a more local feel, District 3 is a good choice. You’ll find more local markets and eateries, and the streets are cleaner.
Expats are known to stay in District 2. Here you’ll find upscale restaurants and eateries.
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