9 Cheap things not to miss in Ho Chi Minh City 

We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (previously known as ‘Saigon’ until 1975) after a long journey from the sleepy town of ‘Kep’ in Cambodia. By contrast, as we arrived off our bus into Ho Chi Minh City we found that we had instantly stepped into a sea of scooters. Attempting to cross the road here made me feel like I had been eaten up by the chaos, I didn’t know how on earth to cross a road in this city (despite having already been in Asia for over 4 months) but the drivers seemed to have it all under control as they swerved in what was actually a sort of organised chaos around me.

It was dark  when we arrived and the city at night had a buzz to it. We also noticed all the big fast food chain signs lit up – McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC and these easily urged us in after 2 months of being in Laos and Cambodia. Okay so I’m not saying eating in these places should be included in your ‘top things to do in Ho Chi Minh’- it was just a bonus for us! (Plus it’s pretty cheap). Instead, you could always try the local delicacy ‘Pho’ (Noodle Soup) like we  did stupidly did not… We may have eaten a little too much fast food in Ho Chi Minh!

But there’s obviously far more to Saigon than meeting our fast food cravings. The city has more history than I could have imaged and we ended up extending our stay from 3 nights to 6 and our days were still packed full of things to do.

 Here’s our Top 9 Cheap Things we Recommend Not to Miss:

1.Learn about the brutality of the Vietnam War at the ‘War Remnants Museum’ previously known simply as: ‘Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes’. Entrance fee is just 50,000 Dong (50p). 

2. Squeeze through the tiny ‘Cu Chi Tunnels’ to experience the claustrophobia that was gone through by many during the war. The price of this completely depends on if you do it as a tour or not, if you do it as a half or full day tour, who you book with, and of course your haggling skills. The entrance fee to the tunnels was about 110,000 Dong (£4) without a tour.

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3. Learn all about Vietnamese life and culture at ‘The Vietnam History Museum’, it costs just 15,000 Dong (50p) and is located just inside the main gate to the city’s botanical gardens.

4. Stroll through the huge grand gates to enter the site of the end of the Vietnam war – The Independence Palace, otherwise known as the ‘Reunification Palace’. Have a stroll around the palace for just 30,000 Dong (£1).

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The Independence Palace

5. If you’re brave enough, try some weird and daring food, local delicacy’s include deep-fried snake (and the still beating heart). 

6. See some Grand French Architecture for free, such as the Central Post Office and then located just opposite; the Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral.

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Central Post Office
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The Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

7. Shopping! – Shop in the local markets and practice your haggling skills in the city’s big central market: ‘Ben Thanh Market’ in District 1. Or for a not so cheap option, you could even experience high-end shopping in the central business district. We didn’t buy anything here, but it was interesting to wander around these malls and see how the elite locals live.

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8. Perch on a little plastic stool at the side of ‘Pham Ngu Lao Street’ drinking extremely cheap homemade beer  with other travellers, then party the night away to cheesy music in one of the awesome clubs!

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9. Finally, my favourite of all – Try the Local Coffee. We became addicted to this very cheap, rich, sweet drink (like all the locals are too) and coffee stops were very often during our days sightseeing. The coffee is strong and served with sweet condensed milk often over ice. Buy from street vendors or in local markets for the best experience.

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Where we slept:

Ho Chi Minh is an expensive city for accommodation for South East Asian standards, so we went for the option of a dorm room in a hostel in this city for £6 each – We stayed in the huge ‘Vietnam Inn Saigon‘. The location was great, it was really social with a roof top bar and a view of the city.

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View From the Hostel Rooftop

One final Top Tip: I eventually learnt how to cross a road in Ho Chi Minh! The rule is generally to just walk slowly into the road, but don’t stop half way through! Stopping will confuse the drivers who will already have planned to swerve around you, so just keep walking and don’t panic 🙂

Have you been to Ho Chi Minh City? Did you find other cheap fun things to do there? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

9 cheap things not to miss in Ho Chi Minh City
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Hi, I'm Zoe. Welcome to Zo Around The World! Since 2012, I have travelled to 24 countries within 4 continents. Zo Around The World is a collection of my travel experiences – particularly writing about backpacking and budget travel. I am a self confessed over-organised travel planner, travel has become my favourite part of my life and let me show you how it can become yours too

29 thoughts on “9 Cheap things not to miss in Ho Chi Minh City 

  1. I think I’d have to give the deep fried snake with the beating heart a miss!! Sounds horrendous. I bet the Cu Chi Tunnels really make you think don’t they. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for the men using them during the war.

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  2. Hahaha your story about scooters happened to me in a kinda similar way in Katmandu ! I was with a friend who was used to it and made me cross a huge traffic road with him I thought I would die but of course it s totally normal for them and nothing bad happened to me! I like the way you write it was pretty informative and funny! I love to pin articles that I save for later (when I actually decide to go to the country!) so I ll do that with yours! Thanks for the tips!

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  3. Great list! I love Vietnamese coffee and would die to drink it in Vietnam. I head crossing the road here is just crazy, I think one blogger even wrote an entire guide on just how to cross haha. I think I could handle deep fried snake, but can we skip the still beating heart… OMG. Did you try it??

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    1. Thanks 🙂 Vietnamese coffee is the best ever! 🙂 Haha that’s funny, it was the craziest place ever to cross a road! I did not try a snake or a still beating heart, but I met a few very brave people that did, they couldn’t persuade me to try it!

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  4. Oh my god… A still beating heart?! That isn’t going on my plate, that’s for sure. I like how everything is so cheap in Vietnam en Asia in general, beautiful places but instead of spending 20 euros at an entryticket it will cost you less than 1. Love it!

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  5. I’m so bummed I only had like 1.5 days in HCMC when I was there… but I was able to squeeze in the War Museum (very strategically, on my last day). And I love the tip about crossing the road! After 4 years in Asia, I regularly confuse Boston drivers with my ‘wild’ street crossing tactics lol

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  6. Looks like you saw some amazing places. I would love to explore the historical and architectural pleasing places that you have suggested here. I will probably skip out on the daring food though- just not that brave.

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  7. Wow, crossing the road seems incredibly dangerous. Good to know that you should just go for it and don’t stop. I’m planning on visiting the region in the next couple of months and these are really great tips. I just pinned this post for future reference as well. Cheers!

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  8. I traveled through the country for 4 months back in 1991. I loved it then but I’m afraid to go back and see the horrible changes and how touristy it has become. It breaks my heart to think this is what they are selling now a days.

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    1. Wow I bet it was so different in 1991, I personally would be really interested to see how much it’s changed. Its a shame if its changed in negative ways though, although I didn’t find this city overly touristy though in comparison to other parts of Southeast Asia which are very overly touristy now. What is it that they are selling now that you don’t like?

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