What to do in Saigon – Suggested Itineraries
In the midst of planning your visit to Ho Chi Minh City? I get a lot of inquiries as to what to do in Saigon, especially for relatively short visits. Perhaps you’re not coming on an organized tour or are free to choose your activities while you’re in town. The suggestions I’ve offered cover many of Ho Chi Minh City’s highlights and even if you’re only here for half a day, you can still get a taste of the real Saigon.
Below you’ll find a half day itinerary plus 1, 2 and three days. Each is full of experiences and activities. Of course, you can mix and match my suggestions based on your particular likes and dislikes. Do you prefer to explore by yourself or do you like to take along a local? Are you happy to delve into “street culture” or would you prefer to see the more famous sights, with or without a guide? If the following suggestions aren’t exactly to your liking, there are numerous other on my “Tours” page.
Itineraries for what to do in Saigon
Half Day Itinerary
I’m sorry you can’t spend more time here, but since you’re in a rush, an organized tour is probably the best way of getting the most from your visit. If you haven’t been here before, I advise you to see the major sites in District 1. Take a look at some of my recent “Insider’s View” interviews and you’ll see most people agree you should at least see a few of these while you’re here.
Urban Adventures, Cyclos and Market Tour will help you see the main sites in town. You’ll also have time to do some shopping in and enjoy the unique experience of a ride in a cyclo amongst Saigon’s crazy traffic. The whole tour is around 4-5 hours.
NOTE: I DO NOT recommend you take a cyclo by yourself as there are way too many scams.
Urban Adventures also have a half day Cu Chi Tunnels trip that will get you back to District 1 about 2 pm. Ideal for those with late afternoon or evening departures.
If you’re a bit of a foodie and want to learn and experience Vietnamese street food at its best, I can highly recommend Saigon Cooking Class by Hoa Tuc, Street Food Secrets Tour. This tour finishes at lunch time.
How about Saigon Street Eats Pho Trail? Learn all about the most famous Vietnamese dish and more.
If you’d rather get off the beaten track, head out to the less visited part of the city with Saigon Unseen.
Afternoon and Evening Tours
If you’ve arrived mid morning, I recommend you check out the main sights by completing my one-day walking itinerary. It’s free except for a few entry fees. It takes one day at a very leisurely pace but if you don’t have a whole day you can easily do it all in 4 or 5 hours. If you’re completing it after lunch, I recommend that you do it backwards, so you get to Tao Dan Park late afternoon. The activity will be equally as impressive as in the early morning.
Then check out the Urban Adventure, Saigon Street Food by Night. I highly recommend you take at least one food tour while you are here. You DO NOT want to miss sampling a great selection of the fantastic Vietnamese cuisine. Book ahead if you can as they are popular. If you can’t get on this one, then check out some of the other street food tours I mention on our “Tours” page.
￼One Day Itinerary
It may be surprising just how much you can see and do in just one day, especially if you combine a morning and evening tours as mentioned above. Three options include:
Cyclos and Markets + the evening Food Tour or
Day 1 Self-Guided Walking Tour + the evening Food Tour or
CuChi Tunnels + the evening Food Tour
The suggestions above will leave your afternoon free. You could:
- chill out at one of the many cafes around town;
- do some shopping; or
- pencil in a bit of my self-guided Day 2 walking itinerary (or the Day 1 itinerary if you went out to Cu Chi);
before you head off for dinner.
One of my other favorite areas in Saigon is Cho Lon (China Town). The Urban Adventures, Ho Chi Minh Discovery Tour (which takes about 8-9 hours) covers the main sites PLUS a visit to bustling China Town. You’ll get to see some amazing temples and another side of Saigon and have plenty of time to fit in the evening Food Tour as well.
Another option if you want to see all the major sites but prefer something a little more active is to take the full day Saigon Sightseeing Tour with Vietnam Bike Tours. It should finish in time for you to have a quick shower before you head off on the Food Tour.
￼Two Day Itinerary
Pencil in the first day as above (and maybe the second day if you’d had trouble choosing) and then consider:
1. A full day Cu Chi Trip
There are loads of options but here’re a couple of my personal recommendations.
- OneTrip has a full day motorcycle trip that will get you out into the countryside to see another side of Vietnam. It gets rave reviews from everyone who goes.
- Vietnam Bike Tours offer a couple of cycling options for the tunnels.
2. A trip to the Mekong Delta.
Urban Adventures has a Mekong Discovery Trip that will give you an excellent taste of life on one of the world’s busiest rivers, or
Vietnam Bike Tours has a full day ride to the Delta (and you can use your discount voucher). Check out my experience with them here.
3. A Full Day Cycling Trip
Vietnam Bike Tours has numerous other cycling trips from Ho Chi Minh City. They include ecological reserves, battlefields and more.
4. A street food tour combined with a cooking class
Most cooking schools have morning or full day classes. Saigon Cooking School by Hoa Tuc, however, also has an afternoon class. Take a morning street food tour and then attend their cooking class in the afternoon. I doubt very much if you’ll need dinner with this combination so perhaps you could just sample a few refreshing beverages at one of our favourite bars.
￼Three Days OR More
With three or more days you will start to get a full appreciation of everything awesome in Saigon. I suggest you combine a couple of the days mapped out above to give yourself a real spectrum of experiences.
If you have the time, why not consider a specialized tour like:
Sophies Art Tour – A brilliant insight into art and it’s connection with Vietnam’s turbulent history,
Saigon Unseen – get out and see a side of Ho Chi Minh City most tourists don’t see, (Special Offer here)
A Shopping Tour with City Treasure Hunt; or
Make up your customized tour with the help of the free guide service from Saigon Hotpot.
Escape Hunt Experience for a fun time if you’re in a group, and the weather looks too wild to be outside.
To get the best views at night PLUS an amazing dining experience, then jump on board the fabulous Bonsai Dinner Cruise.
Mention the code HCMCH – Bonsai and get a 5% discount on your ticket price. You can make a booking by emailing SALES@BONSAICRUISE.COM.VN.
Certainly, find a chance to check out some of our favourite bars around town and try some of the most innovative restaurants like Noir, Dining in the Dark. If you’re more into traditional Vietnamese Cuisine, choose from the extensive menu in beautiful surroundings at Ngon 138.
I hope this gives you at least some ideas on what to do in Saigon on your visit. There’s enough here to keep you occupied here for months, but these itineraries cover many of Ho Chi Minh City’s highlights. Keep an eye out on the website for a couple of new self-guided tours coming up soon and please do let us know in the comments below if you have any other great suggestions on what to do in Saigon.
I do not receive any payment for this post. I do receive a small amount of money by allowing advertisements on the site and any purchases made through those links, including Urban Adventures and Bonsai Dinner Cruises. This does not directly affect the price you pay for these products or services.
All you gave was links to pre-paid tours. You didn’t give a real Itinerary, explaining what, when, where, and why to see specific sites. It looks as if this article is just to give you a kick-back from the tour companies you mention.
Please update with more useful Itineraries. It is fine to make your list of tour company suggestions at the end.
Thanks Ron, the links and recommendations are to companies either I have reviewed in detail or my friends and family have on visits here. You can see those reviews on the site. I don’t get kickbacks on any of them except Urban Adventures and that is clearly stated in the article. It’s about enough to buy me a coffee or a beer in most instances. You can also get special deals on many of the companies I have mentioned through the special deals page(and I get nothing.) Of course I am going to support companies who I know are good value and who are prepared to give my readers discounts…Once again, I get nothing unless I have disclosed it as with Urban Adventures. I have also provided two FREE walking tours with links to the sites in question. The article is meant to be a suggestion on the way to organise your time. Many of the suggestions have links through to details about the places. Except CuChi which I haven’t been to since 1997. However, I will visit again with my family who are visiting soon and then write up in detail.