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Two Days in Ho Chi Minh: Things to Do

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two days in ho chi minh things to do
Written by Edith & Juan
Two days in Ho Chi Minh is a short time to spare for this big city, but you’ll get a good feel of it in this short time frame. It’s a city of motorbike chaos, delicious food, and sweet coffee.

 

Also known as Saigon, it is the biggest city in Vietnam.  Its name was changed in 1975 when South lost against the North during a war over the idea of becoming a communist country.  The museums in this city can teach you more about this topic which is quite interesting.

 

However, with only a couple of days to spare, we had to choose only a few places to visit and so we set off to enjoy what this city has to offer.  Here are some things you can do if you only have two days in Ho Chi Minh.
two days in ho chi minh things to do

 

Two Days in Ho Chi Minh

 

Day 1:

Our first day we started with a few touristy places first, followed by us wandering around the city by foot.  We spent the day walking in District one where there is lots to do.

 

Central Post Office

The architectural design of the post office is beautiful.  This yellow building designed by famous French architect, Gustave Eiffel, sits across the Notre Dame Basilica. Here you can send post cards back home or purchase souvenirs from the boutique stores. Inside you’ll find old wooden telephone booths and a beautiful roof top.
two days in ho chi minh things to do

 

Notre-Dame Basilica

Just across the Central Post office is the smaller version of the original Notre Dame building in Paris.  It’s a beautiful building and the area surrounding it has very European-like buildings because there is a French influence dating back to its history. We enjoyed walking around this part of the city which is located in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh.
two days in ho chi minh things to do

 

War Remnants Museum

Here you can learn more about the Vietnam War.  A trip to the museum will allow you to see the American aircraft and collection tanks left behind during the war.  The entrance is only 40,000 VND (less that 2 USD).
two days in ho chi minh things to do

 

Bui Vien Walking Street

With clubs, restaurants, pubs, and coffee shops, Bui Vien Walking Street has something for everyone.  The prices can be pricey because the area is very touristic, but you can find many cheap eats and drinks by walking into the smaller alleys located throughout the area.  Both westerners and locals hang out and party until late in the morning, so we recommend getting a hotel in the alleys where the noise from the music is blocked.  We enjoyed our stay at My Home Guesthouse which is near all the action but away from the noise.
two days in ho chi minh things to do

 

Taka Plaza

We ended up here by chance but we were bombarded by all the delicious-looking plates being served.  The food and goods market is an air-conditioned building with many food stands similar to fast-foods.  The amount of choices can be overwhelming, but the food is worth it.  We had some great meals and deserts here and even found a bookstore and other shops inside.

 

Saigon Park

Just outside the indoor food market is a park where we enjoyed walking both evenings we were in Ho Chi Minh.  Few tourist and mainly locals spend their time exercising, playing, and hanging out.  We found the park to be peaceful despite the chaos that surrounds it in the busy streets of District 1.  This is a great place to sit back and relax just before going back to your hotel to sleep.
two days in ho chi minh things to do

 

Day 2

 If you are only in Ho Chi Ming for two days, you will only have time for one long tour.  The two most recommended are the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta. As much as we wanted to go to the Mekong Delta, we opted for the shorter tour to Cu Chi Tunnels which took most our day also.  However, people rave about the Mekong Delta.  If you have an extra day you can add it to your itinerary.
two days in ho chi minh things to do

 

Cu Chi Tunnels

Before coming to Vietnam, we only had limited comprehension about the Vietnam War against the U.S.  A trip to Cu Chi Tunnels taught us more details about it.  Not only was it educational, we also got to experience going into the slim tunnels the Vietnamese made to hide from American soldiers during the war.  We were quite impressed with the underground system they created and could not believe how they made it work for so many years.

 

This was one of our favorite stops in the city.  Our tour included an English-speaking guide, water, and bus transportation.  The tunnels are far and we highly recommend taking the further options because there are less tourists! We booked with Skytravel and had a great experience.
two days in ho chi minh things to do

 

two days in ho chi minh things to do

 

Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta River flows through a few countries in Asia, but is known in Vietnam as the place to visit on a river cruise.  While riding a boat, you can purchase items from smaller boat vendors selling fruit, souvenirs, delicious food, and more.  It sounds quite fun, so we’re hoping to do this next time!

 

Ben Thanh Market

Even though this market is geared more towards tourists, it’s still fun to explore  You’ll find many souvenirs and items to shop for such as accessories, clothing, food, and more.  Use your haggling skills to get a lower rate.  After the Cu Chi Tunnels, the tour bus we made a stop at Ben Than Market before going back to District 1.  This is great because it’s a free ride there.  However, getting there yourself isn’t hard.
two days in ho chi minh things to do

 

Bangkok’s China Town

Just nearby in district 5, you can wander the markets of this China Town.  You won’t find many tourists here, but you will find outdoor vendors along the street, wholesale stores, and Chinese architecture.  It’s an interesting area to hang out if you’re looking to do something other than the most recommended things.
two days in ho chi minh things to do

 

Relax by the Rach Ben Nghe River

After getting lost in the busy streets of District 5, we wandered back to our hotel and wound up by the river.  You’ll mostly see families sitting by the benches and men fishing.   We grabbed a bench and relaxed to the view of the city lights.

two days in ho chi minh things to do

 

Experiences to have in Ho Chi Minh

 

Street Food

We always heard people talk about how great Vietnamese cuisine was and it’s true!  The flavors are delicious, perhaps better than Thai food which we also loved.  A specialty is Pho soup, which is similar to chicken or beef noodle soup.  Not only is the food amazing, the prices are very low!  Sometimes we would eat for a combined total of 6 USD for both of us, that’s including drinks.  We had the best banana shake and food at Gumbo’s in District 1.

 

Drink Vietnamese Coffee

For those who love sweet coffee like us, it’s hard to find throughout Asia.  However, in Ho Chi Minh there are coffee shops on every corner.  The iced-coffee served can be strong, but it comes with a sweet taste because they are served with condensed milk.  YUM!

Skip the Starbucks, we had great coffee at local shops.

 

Get Lost in the City

Just walk around!  One day we just kept walking and didn’t even know what district we were in.  But it was fun because we ended up in areas where only local people hang out and we got to see another side of the city.
two days in ho chi minh things to do

 

Watch the Motorbikes

Would you believe us if we told you this was one of our favorite things to do in Ho Chi Minh?  We’ve always hated traffic, but the chaos of the motorbikes in this city is like no other place!  It’s entertaining to watch the crazy things drivers can do.

 

There are 12 million people in the city, 7 million motorbikes, and very few cars.  What they learn to do while driving a motorbike left us speechless. There are no rules, no signs, and you’ll quickly realize that crossing the street requires skills!  Here’s what we saw on the motorbikes:

 

  • texting and calling with one hand while driving with the other
  • transportation of a 5 foot refrigerator
  • balancing a food platter with one hand
  • driving one-handed while holding a huge item behind them
  • an accident (both women were fine)
  • people nearly getting ran over, including us

 

We had the best time sitting on the side of the street just watching the motorbikes!  Wouldn’t drive it like we did in Thailand, Philippines and Cambodia.
two days in ho chi minh things to do

 

Buy From Street Vendors

You’ll never go hungry in Ho Chi Minh!  The street vendors transport all kinds of food on their bike, motorbike, on their backs, and even on their head by balancing act.  You purchase fresh fruit, drinks, desserts, cooked food, and other goods from them.  You can even pretend to be a coconut juice vendor for a quick second.
two days in ho chi minh things to do

If we had one or two extra days:

The above activities are enough to experience during your two days in Ho Chi Minh, but we definitely wish we had at least one more day.  We would have chosen from the following:

 

  • Independence Palace/Reunification Place
  • Mekong Delta
  • Food Tour
  • Rooftop Bar to view the city

two days in ho chi minh things to do

Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh

District 1 is the place to be!  Everything is nearby and easily accessible by walking or a short ride away.  You will find museums, hundreds of restaurant choices, bars, travel agencies, and more.  There are many affordable stays, therefore many backpackers will choose this area.  However, there are many guest houses and luxury hotels too that couples can enjoy.  We stayed at My Home Guesthouse and had a relaxing stay.

If you prefer, you can get 40 USD free on your first booking with Airbnb apartment using our Airbnb referral.

two days in ho chi minh things to do

How to Get Around Ho Chi Minh

Getting around is cheap in Vietnam.  If you stay in District 1, you can easily get around by foot.  This was our number one choice.  Our second choice was Uber, which we recommend.  You can get a discount off your first ride using our code.  Most prices were lower than Grab when we compared both apps.  If you are solo, you can ride on the back of a motorbike for a few cents.  Metered taxis are also a choice if you prefer.  You can also rent a motorbike if you dare!  Juan wanted to do this, but I managed to convince him not to.
two days in ho chi minh things to do

 

How to Stay Connected

Staying connected is really cheap in Vietnam.  To buy a SIM card, it’s best to go to an official store where you must show your passport so it can be registered, since there are regulations in Vietnam.  Some shops will sell you SIM cards without needing a passport, but it won’t be registered and you risk having the card blocked.  Thegioididon is an official and legit store where you can do this.  They are easy to find around the city. Just look for the big yellow buildings.
two days in ho chi minh things to do

Let us know if you’re hoping to visit Ho Chi Minh!  Would you dare ride a motorbike in this chaotic city?  Let us know in the comments.

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You can also check out our other adventures throughout Asia.

two days in ho chi minh

Two Days in Ho Chi Minh
    California Globetrotter

About the author

Edith & Juan

From Arizona but currently traveling through Asia living only from a backpack each. Edith and her husband Juan created Life Beyond 520 to share inspiration from their travels and adventures beyond Arizona-the 520 area code. Edith is the blogger behind these posts, but together they hope to inspire couples and others to get out there and explore new places, including their own city.

38 Comments

  • It sounds like you had a great time exploring! Street food is definitely one of my favourite things about Asian cities – loads of the food tastes SO much better than it looks so you just have to try.

    The driving sounds a lot like here in Italy, by the way!!

  • As someone who loves food, your descriptions of the markets and street food on offer in Ho Chi Minh city really made me want to hop on a plane. I also year to visit the Mekong Delta and take it all in. Great post!

  • I have fantastic memories of HCMC. We spent a little longer than 2 days so got to see a lot of the city as well as trips to Vung Tau, the floating markets and the Mekong Delta. I agree the food is one of the top reasons for a visit to Vietnam. I love it!

  • Also have to agree with shona and you that Vietnamese food is amazing. I had a week in Ho Chi Minh City and loved it, would definitely recommend heading there to people and I’ll send them to your post for loads of ideas. Can’t believe how much you fit into 2 days!

  • This one reminded me on my current memories from Bangkok. I loved the street food, the culture, the motorbikes, the hospitality. So I would definitely love to visit hcmc, it seems like a place that I would enjoy and love. Thanks for sharing

  • Of all the countries that my daughter has been to – and that’s way more than I had been at her age – she claims Vietnam as first in her heart. The food looks amazing – and the city looks quite chaotic. I’d love to go!

    • Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. Those tunnels were definitely great to see. We learned so much and the Vietnamese were so smart with the system! Not everyone had to go in. They advised people to stay above if they’re claustrophobic. Only one couple did. We aren’t claustrophobic, but one of the tunnels took a few minutes to get through and the space was tight, so we were ready to get out of it!!!

  • Ho Chi Minh looks like a very vibrant city. I’d ideally like to go and teach there in a few years time, so its good to get an idea of what its like. I’d love to visit the museum, I find history fascinating!

    • It really is vibrant. I think this would be the perfect place for you to teach. We’re loving this country a lot and perhaps it’ll be one of our favorite Asian countries. Hope you go soon!

  • That’s quite the squeeze into those tunnels, but it would be so interesting to walk around under the city. Vietnamese coffee is probably my favourite kind of coffee, so I imagine I would be pretty wired if I ever visited. Hopefully some delicious street food would even me out.

  • Great itinerary – I really enjoyed HCMC and would love to go back and spend some more time exploring its streets – Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta were definitely worth the day trips to see them. You guys have managed a lot in your time there!

  • Although it sounds a bit sombre, I really loved learning about the war when I was in HCMC. Crawling the Cu Chi Tunnels gave me a newfound respect for what the solders had to go through, while the War Remnants museum was fascination–particularly the gallery of propaganda art. Although I also loved the rest of the city too haha

    • Yes! I have so much respect for what they went through in the tunnels. The ability to build them and live in them with little technology and or equipment is just impressive. Haha, the city was great. We thought we wouldn’t like it since it’s such a big city, but we actually enjoyed it a lot.

  • That street food looks amazeballs – not that everything else doesn’t 🙂 Also love how practical and comprehensive your guide is. Thanks for sharing!!

  • Wow, looks like you had a great time in Ho Chi Minh! Vietnam is high on my list. I’m really interested in exploring the Cu Chi Tunnels even though they are a little eerie. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Vietnam is soo beautiful! I only spent time in the North (Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and Hoi An) so next time I go, I hope to spend some time in the north and check out Ho Chi Minh city! I’ll make sure to bookmark this!

  • Those tunnels look really scary! Not sure I could have visited let alone hid down there during the war! Street food is definitely amazing though!

  • Mmmm…that Pho Ga looks awesome. So does the coffee, although I do find it super sweet. Looks like you guys had a great visit! Can’t wait to spend some time exploring HCMC. Thanks so much for sharing your visit with us on #TheWeeklyPostcard and #WeekendWanderlust

  • Thank you! We will be in HCMC in a week or so and this has given us some good ideas. We’re in Hue at the moment, and didn’t think the food could get any better. If you get to Hue try the night market by the river under the bridge, and eat at Hahns Restaurant. In Hanoi just eat Bun Cha day and night.

    • Nice! When we would read posts about Vietnam some people recommended skipping it, but the truth is we really enjoyed the city. Hopefully you do too. We thought the food and the motorbike craziness was actually a positive. Thanks for the tips! We’ll be in Hanoi in two days, we’ll try the Bun Cha. Sadly we have to skip Hue because we want to make it to the north areas. Enjoy Vietnam! Happy travels.

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