Once known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City sits on the Saigon River in southern Vietnam. Dynamic and modern, it’s the nation’s biggest city. Ocean cruises normally dock at Phu My and sometimes Cai Mep, both about 40 miles (65 kilometers) east of the city. River cruises typically dock at My Tho, about 47 miles (75 kilometers) to the south.
Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City by river is spectacular, particularly at night when the skyscrapers are illuminated. But, you’ll typically only do this on smaller vessels coming from the Mekong Delta, which dock in town at Nha Rong, Tan Thuan 2, or Lotus Port. Larger Mekong River cruise ships from Cambodia generally stop at My Tho.
To make the most of your time in Ho Chi Minh City, prebook a shore excursion. Top city attractions include the Jade Emperor Pagoda, Central Post Office, Independence Palace, and Notre-Dame Cathedral, as well as the War Remnants Museum, dedicated to the Vietnam War. Many travelers opt to take a street food tour, while some head further afield to the Vietnam War–era Cu Chi Tunnels or to floating markets such as Cai Rang.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Some of Ho Chi Minh City’s best food is found in simple eateries with small plastic chairs, and food tours often frequent this style of restaurant.
- Haggling is part of the Vietnamese travel experience. Prebooking a tour can save time and stress and may work out to be cheaper than negotiating at the port.
- Ho Chi Minh City is not a walkable city, with sidewalks often clogged by food vendors and motorbikes. It’s worth booking a shore excursion that includes transportation.
- If you’re taking a cyclo (rickshaw) ride, be sure to negotiate the price beforehand. Clarify the number in writing.
How to Get to Ho Chi Minh City from Ho Chi Minh City Cruise Ports
If your ship docks at Phu My, Cai Mep, or My Tho, a tour or a private driver is your only effective option for reaching Ho Chi Minh City in a timely manner, as the bus system only operates in Vietnamese.
Vietnamese is the dominant language in Ho Chi Minh City and relatively few people speak English. The local currency is the Vietnamese dong (VND) and, unlike yesteryear, locals prefer this to dollars. There are plenty of ATMs in Ho Chi Minh City and some in Phu My town and My Tho city.