Best tours of Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is one of the most important cities in Vietnam and also one of the destinations that offer the most excursions. Here I tell you the alternatives you have to choose the best tours during your trip.

Matías Rodríguez

Matías Rodríguez

9 min read

Best tours of Ho Chi Minh

THE BITEXCO FINANCIAL TOWER |©manhhai

If you are planning to visit Ho Chi Minh City, you will find that it is one of the most attraction-rich destinations in Vietnam. With a wide range of cultural offerings and some of the country's most outstanding historical buildings and monuments, the city formerly known as Saigon will challenge you to choose the alternatives that are ideal for your travel plan.

Some of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City include taking a guided tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels, boarding a dinner cruise on the Saigon River, going on a motorcycle tour, visiting the Bitexco Financial Tower observation deck, attending a popular water puppet show and discovering Vietnamese cuisine on a guided tour.

1. Guided tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City

Cu Chi Tunnel|©Bui Nam
Cu Chi Tunnel|©Bui Nam

If during your tour of Ho Chi Minh you want to visit one of the most outstanding sites in Vietnam, you can't miss the Cu Chi Tunnels. These experiences will allow you to get to know the subway labyrinth that has been steeped in the country's history and has become a symbol of resistance.

During these tours you will explore the intricate network of tunnels that played a crucial role during the Vietnam War and were instrumental in the triumph of the North Vietnamese guerrillas. Assisted by an expert local guide, you will witness the tenacity and creativity of the soldiers during one of the most intense conflicts of the 20th century.

The Cu Chi tunnels reveal extraordinary subway artisanal construction, including narrow passages and secret rooms that served as hideouts, hospitals and command centers for the Viet Cong. There visitors can discover how the Vietnamese created ingenious ventilation and camouflage systems to survive in adverse conditions and in the face of a militarily superior enemy.

These experiences offer an in-depth look at daily life in the Cu Chi tunnels, from a walk through the makeshift kitchens to a review of combat strategies. In this fascinating place, you can also find remnants of war, such as soldier's traps and historic battlefields.

Details of interest

  • Price: about 17 euros per person.
  • Duration: approximately 6 hours.
  • Advantages of these tours: you will be able to participate in a traditional Vietnamese experience and experience first hand the daily routine of these tunnels.
  • Disadvantages of these tours: not recommended for people with claustrophobia or mobility limitations.

Join a Cu Chi Tunnel Tour

2. Dinner cruise in Ho Chi Minh City

Cruise ships|©roullix
Cruise ships|©roullix

One of the best views of Ho Chi Minh City is from the Saigon River and the most popular alternative to live this experience is to participate in a night cruise with dinner included. This river tour will not only offer you a captivating panoramic view of the illuminated city that will allow you to contemplate the iconic skyscrapers of the city and the historic bridges, but will also allow you to discover the local gastronomy.

The Ho Chi Minh City dinner cruise usually includes stops at some of the most iconic sites along the Saigon River, such as the Bitexco Tower and Mong Street Bridge. These strategic points offer sweeping views that transform as you move along the river, providing a unique and captivating visual experience.

As for dining, you can discover authentic Vietnamese flavors. From traditional dishes like pho, a rice noodle soup with beef or chicken, or bánh mì, a Vietnamese sandwich with fresh, flavorful ingredients to sophisticated goi cuon, fresh spring rolls stuffed with shrimp, fresh herbs and rice noodles, you'll get a taste of the best of the local culinary culture.

Details of interest

  • Price: approximately 38 euros per person.
  • Duration: about 3 hours and a half.
  • Advantages of these tours: you will be able to combine a panoramic tour with the highlights of Vietnamese cuisine.
  • Disadvantages of these tours: during the summer or rainy season, the visibility of these tours may be significantly affected.

3. Ho Chi Minh Motorcycle tour of Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh by motorcycle|©Mack Male
Ho Chi Minh by motorcycle|©Mack Male

Exploring Ho Chi Minh on a motorcycle will allow you to immerse yourself in the very essence of the city, where this means of transport is an inseparable part of the bustling urban life. In addition, these tours will allow you to discover the most authentic and exciting corners of the city, as expert drivers will take you to the most striking sites of this destination.

During the tour, you can visit iconic buildings such as the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Saigon Post Office and the lively Bui Vien Street, known for its nightlife and vibrant atmosphere. Motorcycles are also very popular in the city because they are the perfect way to get around the chaotic city traffic.

Motorcycle riding, then, is an activity rooted in Vietnamese tradition, where the streets teem with scooters zigzagging between markets, temples and street markets. Common itineraries usually also include a visit to Ben Thanh Market, where you can explore the rich variety of fresh produce and handicrafts.

Details of interest

  • Price: approximately 18 euros per person.
  • Duration: 3 to 4 hours.
  • Advantages of these tours: you will be able to tour the city in a typical local alternative and in an efficient way that will allow you to avoid heavy traffic.
  • Disadvantages of these tours: because it is a very intense experience it is not recommended for seniors or people with reduced mobility.

Join a motorcycle tour

4. Excursion to the Bitexco Financial Tower observation deck

Bitexco Financial Tower. Saigon, Vietnam|©Sileong
Bitexco Financial Tower. Saigon, Vietnam|©Sileong

If you want to live an experience that will allow you to contemplate the contrasts of the urban and architectural layout of Ho Chi Minh City from 262 meters above sea level, you can not miss the viewpoint of Bitexco Financial Tower. This observation deck will give you access to a full perspective of the city as far as the eye can see.

Bitexco Financial Tower is an architectural icon of old Saigon and rises with its imposing 68 floors in the heart of the city. The building is distinguished by its avant-garde design and unique shape that evokes a lotus flower. Moreover, this tower not only represents the city's economic progress, but also harbors an intriguing history that unravels as you ascend its heights.

Built in 2010, the tower has become an emblem of Vietnamese modernity and an unmissable landmark for those who wish to appreciate the city's evolution from a rural conglomerate to a thriving Southeast Asian financial center during the 21st century.

Note that from the observation deck the skyline view spans from the street markets to the tranquil Saigon River, giving you a full perspective of urban life in this indecipherable metropolis.

Details of interest

  • Price: approximately 10 euros per person.
  • Duration: the guided tour to the viewpoint lasts approximately 30 minutes.
  • Advantages of these tours: you will be able to discover the skyline of the city from one of the highest points in Southeast Asia.
  • Disadvantages of these tours: during cloudy or rainy days the view from the observation deck is obstructed due to the height of the building.

Buy tickets for the observation deck of Bitexco Financial Tower

5. Water Puppet Show in Ho Chi Minh City

Water Puppetry, Ho Chi Minh City|©Joseph Hollick
Water Puppetry, Ho Chi Minh City|©Joseph Hollick

If you want to take part in an age-old Vietnamese tradition, you can enjoy water puppet shows, known locally as Mua Roi Nuoc. In Ho Chi Minh City, the Golden Dragon Theater is an outstanding venue for this unique experience.

With the purchase of your ticket to the show, you can discover a world where puppets, skillfully carved from fig wood, come to life on water, narrating stories rooted in Vietnamese folklore and peasant traditions.

The history of water puppet shows dates back to the 11th century, when peasants celebrated events such as the end of the harvest with performances on water. The puppets, operated with bamboo sticks and strings, narrate local tales and children's legends, usually presented by Chu Teu, the puppet narrator of these adventures.

This theater, located in the center of town near points of interest such as the Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum, is easily accessible. Whether by scooter, cab or public transportation, Golden Dragon is waiting to take you on a captivating and fun journey through the traditions and art of Vietnam.

Details of interest

  • Price: approximately 20 euros per person.
  • Duration: about 45 minutes.
  • Advantages of these tours: ideal experiences to enjoy with children in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Disadvantages of these tours: you will need to book in advance, as they tend to sell out quickly, especially during the high season months.

Attend a water puppet show

6. Gastronomic motorcycle tour of Ho Chi Minh City

people on motorcycle|©Weronika Czekaj
people on motorcycle|©Weronika Czekaj

There is no better way to really get to know Ho Chi Minh City than by participating in a gastronomic tour, an adventure that you can combine with a motorcycle tour through the streets of the city. During these itineraries you can immerse yourself in the authenticity of Vietnamese cuisine, guided by local drivers who know the best-kept secrets of Saigon's flavors.

During the tour you will explore various neighborhoods, from the noisy District 1 to the authentic local markets of District 4, each with its own charm and unique gastronomic offerings. The motorcycle will also allow you to get lost in the narrow alleys and discover places off the beaten tourist track.

The rich and varied local cuisine will allow you to taste elaborate dishes such as bun thit nuong, which are vermicelli with grilled meat, to more traditional alternatives such as pho, a popular rice noodle soup.

Interesting details

  • Price: approximately 28 euros per person.
  • Duration: about 4 hours.
  • Advantages of these tours: you will be able to combine two traditional and very outstanding activities of Ho Chi Minh City, which are touring the city by motorcycle and discovering the gastronomy at the local food stalls.
  • Disadvantages of these tours: they are usually very intense tours with little free time for rest.

Join a gastronomic tour

How to book a tour in Ho Chi Minh City?

person in front of laptop|©Chris Benson
person in front of laptop|©Chris Benson

As with the best tours from Ho Chi Minh City, you can book any of these tours in advance online or book them once you are in the city. The options are very varied and there are many tour service providers, so it is rare that the sites are sold out, even during the high season, although if you book before arriving in the city you can get better prices.

If you want to attend the water puppet shows, however, you will have to book in advance, because it is in the Golden Dragon Theater and tickets usually sell out quickly due to the high demand generated by these traditional shows.

Tips for a tour in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam|©Jennifer Huber
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam|©Jennifer Huber

To get the most out of your Ho Chi Minh City tour, keep in mind a few tips that will ensure an unforgettable experience. First, consider the option of a guided tour to explore the city. Tours such as motorcycle tours or visits to the Bitexco Financial Tower observation deck will provide you with an expert narrative, contextualizing each location visited and enriching your understanding of local history and culture.

When planning your itinerary, also include a variety of activities to capture the city's diversity. From exploring the Cu Chi tunnels and their historical impact to marveling at the magic of traditional water puppet shows, each experience offers a unique perspective of this destination.

As for logistics, if you want to secure your spot and freeze the often dynamic rate, book in advance and choose convenient time slots, especially for activities such as puppet shows, where different options can fit your schedule. Also, don't forget to consider the option of gastronomic motorcycle tours to discover the delicious local cuisine, relying on local guides who will take you to the most authentic places in Ho Chi Minh City.

What are the advantages of taking a guided tour vs. visiting Ho Chi Minh on my own?

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi.|©apardavila
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi.|©apardavila

Opting for a guided tour in Ho Chi Minh over exploring the city on your own will offer you a number of advantages that will enrich your experience and guarantee you a full perspective on Vietnamese culture. Guided tours will provide you with expert local guides, who will contribute their knowledge to give you a deeper understanding of the complex history, architecture and local traditions.

In addition, another comparative advantage of choosing a guided tour is convenience. In these experiences you won't have to deal with logistical planning and navigating complex city streets, instead, you can relax and enjoy the journey as local guides skillfully lead you through the highlights.

This allows you to optimize your time and make the most of your visit, especially at destinations such as the Cu Chi Tunnels, where a guide can reveal details and anecdotes that could substantially alter your experience. The same will happen when traveling to crowded places such as the Ben Thanh market, where a guide will suggest shortcuts and alternative routes.

Last but not least, safety is another aspect to consider. At sites such as the Golden Dragon Theater for the water puppet shows, a guided tour offers the advantage of ensuring hassle-free entry, avoiding potential mishaps and last-minute price increases.