It’s a short stay, but one day in Ho Chi Minh City gives you just enough time to get a taste of the bustling metropolis formerly known as Saigon. Plan carefully and you can check off the city’s signature attractions, feast on Vietnamese food, and travel back in time to the Vietnam War at the notorious Cu Chi Tunnels. Here’s how to make the most of your time.
Morning: Saigon Sights
Start your day in Ho Chi Minh City by getting a handle on some of the city’s signature sights, from French colonial relics such as the Central Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral to contemporary landmarks such as Reunification Palace. Shoppers won’t want to miss bustling Ben Thanh Market, where stalls are piled high with everything from Vietnamese herbs to colorful souvenirs. History buffs should head straight to the excellent War Remnants Museum, with relics, weaponry, and informative displays on the war against the Americans that shaped the country for many decades. Consider a ride on a classic cyclo (pedal rickshaw).
Afternoon: Tunnel Vision
Spend the afternoon exploring farther afield, on a trip to the notorious Cu Chi Tunnels, a tunnel network dug deep into the ground by freedom fighters during the Vietnam War. Learn about the war through an informative film, then descend into the narrow, cramped tunnels with their camouflaged entrances and see rooms that were once kitchens and even hospitals. Travel by speedboat for insights into life along the Saigon River and classic photo opportunities, or by minivan for a more wallet-friendly experience. Many tour packages include a Vietnamese lunch on-site.
Night: Feeding Frenzy
Street food is a highlight of any visit to Vietnam, from international favorites such as banh mi baguette sandwiches and pho noodle soup to South Vietnamese specialties such as bo la lot (grilled minced beef wrapped in leaves) or xa xui (barbecued pork). Spend the evening discovering the city’s street-food secrets with a guide. Some tours operate on foot, while others let you travel like a local on the back of a scooter through the neon and glitter of the city by night. Wrap up the evening with a freshly brewed draught beer at one of Vietnam’s trademark bia hoi bars.