Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is the capital city of Vietnam. Located at the south end of the country and off Saigon River, it is the largest city in the country. The capital city is also known as Saigon; this is where solo travellers come and see war relics from the Vietnam War and the French colonial architecture influences all over the city.
And sampling Southern Vietnamese cuisine is high on everyone’s list. Meanwhile, traffic is in complete chaos, yet there is some organization where cars, motorcycles and pedestrians can coexist. The combination of the different sights and sounds can either overwhelm or excite you. Ho Chi Minh City is exciting for solo travellers, especially if this is your first time in the city.
This post covers all the solo travel tips for first-time travellers. Plus, I included a detailed itinerary to see all the best attractions while spending 3 days in Ho Chi Minh City.
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Solo travel to Ho Chi Minh: what you need to know
Before you start your 3 day Ho Chi Minh City itinerary, take a look at some of these useful travel tips first:
- Get cash from the ATM at the airport when you arrive because cash is the primary payment at most places.
- Get a prepaid SIM card at the airport so you are connected right away.
- Plan your solo trip to Saigon with the following festivals and events:
- Lunar New Year or Tet (January/February) – Vietnam’s most important festival of the year
- Reunification Day (April 30) – see fireworks and a parade on the day of the unification of the country
- Independence Day (September 2) – parades and fireworks to celebrate the important day
Solo travel to Saigon: is Ho Chi Minh safe?
Generally speaking, Ho Chi Minh City is a safe city for solo female travellers.
However, pick-pocketing is a big problem in Saigon. Petty theft is common in touristy areas like District I, especially around Bus Vien Walking Street. Not only at night when the area becomes super rowdy, but potential theft can happen during the day too.
I say this because two guys on a scooter ripped my laptop bag from my hand during the day near Bui Vien Walking Street. They came out of nowhere, but I’m sure they were watching me walking down the street.
Nonetheless, this can happen to anyone. No matter if you are a seasoned traveller (like me) or a new solo traveller, you should always be on guard in a big city like Saigon.
Here are some tips to keep yourself extra safe while travelling solo in Ho Chi Minh City:
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times
- Don’t wear flashy jewellery to attract unnecessary attention
- Put mobile phones in your pocket or bag while walking around
- Carry a backpack instead of a messenger bag so it is harder to steal
- Leave all your important items at the hotel and not bring them out with you
How to get to Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam
Most international travellers will fly directly into Saigon’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN), which is 6km northwest of the city.
The easiest way to get to the city centre from the airport is to take a taxi. Make sure to find a taxi queue and not get a ride from any random cab.
Alternatively, prearranged a private transfer. Most hotels have airport pick-up service.
There are buses from the airport, but the taxi isn’t too expensive. And taking a cab is a more comfortable and safer option for solo travellers.
Train and Sleeper Bus
If you are going to Saigon from different parts of the country, you could be coming from Central Vietnam, like Da Nang or Northern Vietnam, like Hanoi.
There are various transportation modes when it comes to travelling in Vietnam. Depending on your budget and timing, you can fly (Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar, VietJetAir), take an overnight train or a sleeper bus.
How to get around Saigon as a solo traveller
Most of Ho Chi Minh City’s attractions are within District 1 where almost everything is easily accessible by foot.
However, you may not want to walk too much as the heat and humidity are brutal if you are not used to it. Companies like Grab make solo travel in Saigon very easy. You can order an inexpensive motorcycle ride on your Grab app. They even provide a helmet for safety and a raincoat if it is raining.
Ho Chi Minh Solo Itinerary: Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh for 3 days
Follow my Ho Chi Minh City 3 day itinerary if this is your first time visiting the city. It includes all the must-do in Saigon and the best places to eat around the city.
All the top Saigon attractions are pinned on the interactive map. Here is a quick legend for the map below:
- Red pins – all the must-see Saigon attractions for day 1
- Purple pins – sightseeing places for day 2
- Green pins – day trips on day 3 in Ho Chi Minh City
- Blue pins – other things to do in Saigon
Day 1 in Ho Chi Minh City: best of Saigon attractions
1. Admire Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon
The first attraction on your Ho Chi Minh City itinerary starts with the famous Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon.
The Catholic cathedral with two 58m tall Romanesque bell towers is located in the heart of the city. It was constructed between 1863 and 1880.
As of November 2022, the cathedral is going through a major restoration. That means you can only see the outside of the church. Still not a bad way to start your solo trip in Saigon.
Address: 1 Cong Xa Paris Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, HCMC | Hours: 8-11am, 2-4pm (temporarily closed) | Admission: free
2. Visit Saigon Central Post Office
This is a post office designed by Gustave Eiffel. Built in a Gothic style in 1886, it is one of the most well-known buildings in Saigon. See the vaulted main hall from the colonial period and the portrait of Ho Chi Minh.
Address: 2, 125 Cong Xa Paris Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, HCMC | Hours: 7:30am-5:00pm; closed Sundays | Admission: free
3. Ho Chi Minh City Book Street
Pedestrian-only street with Vietnamese and expat bookstores. There are also al fresco cafes for a quick morning break.
Address: Đường Nguyễn Văn Bình, Bến Nghé, District 1, HCMC | Hours: 8am-10pm
4. Sip a cup of Vietnamese coffee at L’Usine
Trying Vietnamese coffee has to be one of your top things to do in Saigon. It is so strong but oh so tasty!
I really like L’Usine. It is a cafe with an instagrammable interior and a lifestyle boutique shop selling products made by local artisans. This is a good spot to buy high-end products only made in Vietnam.
Besides L’Usine, there are many excellent coffee shops in Ho Chi Minh. Here are some other ones that I really like as well.
- The Workshop – a cool spot in the city to sip coffee and do some work.
- Cafe Runam – a classy cafe space with a great coffee selection and local food.
- Maison Marou – known for its delicious chocolate.
Address: 19 Đ. Lê Thánh Tôn, Bến Nghé, District 1, HCMC | Hours: 8am-9pm
5. Visit Independence Palace
The Independence Palace was the former home of the president of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War era. This is also the same spot where the North Vietnamese invaded the city in 1975 and Ho Chi Minh City surrendered.
Walk around inside and see the historical and cultural significance. You can also pay an entrance fee to see the government offices and artifacts inside the historic building.
Address: 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, HCMC | Hours: 8am-4:30pm | Admission: 40k VND
6. See exhibitions at the War Remnants Museum
The War Remnants Museum has several exhibitions on old military vehicles and period military equipment, including helicopters, fighter jets and tanks. There are also other memorabilia including photographs, weapons & other objects from the First Indochina War (1946) to the Vietnam War (1975).
The museum is dedicated to educating visitors about the atrocities of the Vietnam War.
Address: 28 Vo Van Tan Street, District 3, HCMC | Hours: 7:30am-5pm | Admission: 40k VND
7. Try authentic Vietnamese food at Quán Ăn Thanh Bình
With influences from the French and neighbouring countries like China and Thailand, Southern Vietnamese cuisine has an eclectic mix of flavours that is addictive.
For your first meal in Saigon, go to Quán ăn Thanh Bình and try bún thịt nướng which is a grilled pork and rice noodle, a southern favourite. The restaurant also has other classic Vietnamese dishes and an English menu with photos.
I only sampled some of the fantastic food in Ho Chi Minh City, and here are some places I tried.
Vietnamese restaurants in Saigon
- Bánh Canh Cua 87 –
- Bánh Mì Huynh Hòa – try their famous seven meat banh mi and be prepared to line up if you go in the evening.
- Nam Giao Restaurant – walk into the alley, and you will find this restaurant that serves southern and central Vietnamese cuisine.
- The Lunch Lady – made famous by one of the best travel shows, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. She is THE lunch lady in Saigon who serves fantastic Vietnamese food.
Address: 140 Đ. Lê Thánh Tôn, Phường Bến Thành, District 1, HCMC | Hours: 8am-10pm
7. Wander around Bui Vien Walking Street (Beer Street)
Bui Vien Walking Street is a backpacker’s area with plentiful and inexpensive accommodation. You are literally in the heart of all the action! This area comes alive after dark, where you can find cheap food and cheap beer served on a low table and small stools.
Address: Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, HCMC | Hours: 7pm-1am | Admission: free
Day 2 in Ho Chi Minh City: Other Things to Do in Saigon
1. Start the day with a Vietnamese breakfast at Bánh Mì Hòa Mã
Bánh Mì Hòa Mã – their breakfast, banh mi op la, is outstanding and comes with the ambience of sitting in an alley with motorcycles driving by.
Address: 53 Đ. Cao Thắng, Phường 3, District 3, HCMC | Hours: 6am-11am
2. Wander around Ben Thanh Market
The inside is the day market where you can buy and eat
After 5 pm, you can dine outside of Ben Thanh Market at one of the food vendors
Address: Le Loi Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, HCMC | Hours: 7am-11pm | Admission: free
3. Visit Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts
Designed by a French architect in 1929, the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts was built in an early 20th-century French architectural style, including some Eastern elements.
There are over 22,000 paintings, sculptures, and other artworks in all three buildings, making this the largest art centre in Vietnam.
The museum focuses on two main areas: Ancient and Contemporary art. Don’t miss the artwork by Nguyen Gia Tri.
Address: 97A Pho Duc Chinh, Nguyen Thai Binh Ward, District 1, HCMC | Hours: 9am-6pm | Admission: 150k VND
4 & 5. See the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City and the Ho Chi Minh Statue
Address: 86 Le Thanh Ton Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, HCMC | Hours: not open to public
6 & 7. Watch a cultural show or water puppet show
Walk along Dong Khoi Avenue (Scenic Avenue), the main road in the middle of the District. And admire the French neo-classical architecture.
Watch the A O Show, an acrobatic show at the Ho Chi Minh City Opera House. The contemporary show combines acrobatics and live traditional folk music and tells a story about urban and rural life in Vietnam.
Or watch a water puppet show at the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre. The show tells a story of the spiritual life of Vietnamese people performed in water. This is one of the most unique things to do in Ho Chi Minh City.
Ho Chi Minh City Opera House Address: 7 Cong Truong Lam Son Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, HCMC | Hours: 6pm show
Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre Address: 55B Nguyen Thi Minh Kai Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, HCMC | Hours: 6:30pm show
8 & 9. Have a stroll on Đ. Nguyễn Huệ and have a drink at the Rex Hotel Rooftop Bar
Walk along Đ. Nguyễn Huệ, the pedestrian promenade towards Rex Hotel
A centrally located rooftop bar with an awesome view and pricey cocktails.
Address: 141 Đ. Nguyễn Huệ, Bến Nghé, District 1, HCMC | Hours: 10am-11pm
Day 3 in Saigon: day trip from Ho Chi Minh
For your third day in Ho Chi Minh City, take a day trip outside the busy city center and spend the day touring through the Cu Chi Tunnel or the Mekong Delta. You can find all the tour companies in the Bui Vien area or book ahead online.
Cu Chi Tunnel
Take a morning or afternoon tour to the Cu Chi Tunnel and see the network of underground tunnels used during the Vietnam War. During the half-day trip, see rural rice fields and remnants of the Cu Chi Tunnels and get a chance to fire an AK-47.
Song Sai Gon River at Cu Chi Tunnel
How to get to Cu Chi Tunnel: The tour includes a pickup from District I.
Mekong Delta and Vinh Trang Pagoda Tour
The day trip to the Mekong Delta, My Tho and Ben Area Islands.
The full-day Mekong Delta tour includes a boat ride through the Mekong River and a walk around the villages.
How to get to Mekong Delta: The tour includes a pickup in District I and lunch.
If you have more than 3 days in Ho Chi Minh City
There are so many things to do in Ho Chi Minh City! My itinerary only covers most of the attractions in District 1, but there is still plenty to do in the city’s center and other districts in Saigon.
Here are some suggestions on other things to do if you are spending more time in Saigon:
- Bitexco Financial Tower – skip the line and go up to the Saigon Sky Deck on the 49th floor and see a panoramic view of Ho Chi Minh City
- Tao Dan Park – a relaxing public park with manicured gardens, a Buddhist temple
- History Museum of Ho Chi Minh City – learn about Saigon’s history through Vietnamese artifacts and artwork in a large Chinese-style complex
- Jade Emperor Pagoda – see the bright pink Taoist temple with various statues and stone carvings
- Tan Dinh Church – visit the pink Catholic Church from the 1870s
- Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine – see a replica pharmacy and museum showcasing traditional Vietnamese medicine
- Motorbike Street Food Tour with local students – see the off-the-beaten attractions in Saigon on the back of a scooter and try authentic Vietnamese street food with locals.
Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City for Solo Travellers
If you are only in Saigon for 3 days, definitely stay within District 1 or close to the area. Most attractions are within walking distance. Plus, most tour companies for day trips will include a free pick-up if you are staying within District 1.
Make sure to avoid Bui Vien and any main roads like Nguyễn Thị Nghĩa if you are sensitive to noise (like cars honking all day!)
Here are some recommended accommodations for solo travellers in District I:
- Meander Saigon ($) – get a modern dorm bed or a studio city-view room if you are on a budget
- Check prices and reviews: Agoda
- City House – City Oasis ($$) – the premiere studio room has a sitting area and a kitchenette.
- Check prices and reviews: Agoda
- The Myst Dong Khoi ($$$) – the luxury hotel has eclectic decor and furnishings
- Check prices and reviews: Agoda
Looking for tours around Saigon? Check out some of these experiences:
Are you ready to travel alone to Ho Chi Minh City?
I hope this solo Saigon itinerary can help you plan your first trip to Ho Chi Minh City. There is a lot to see, so having an efficient itinerary can help maximize your time in this chaotic city.
And just because I had an incident while travelling solo to Saigon doesn’t mean it will happen to everyone. If you follow these solo safety tips, you will have a good and safe time in Ho Chi Minh City.
Let me know your thoughts on the itinerary or if you tried it. And if you have been to Saigon, please share your favourite solo travel tips for travelling to Ho Chi Minh or Vietnam.
Thank you for reading my Ho Chi Minh solo travel guide
You might also like these other posts on solo travel in Vietnam:
- 3 weeks Vietnam solo travel itinerary
- Hanoi Solo Travel: 2 days in Hanoi
- Trekking in Sapa as a solo traveller
- Day trip to Ninh Binh from Hanoi
- Halong Bay 2 night cruise for solo travellers
- Hoi An 3 day itinerary
- One day in Hue Vietnam
- Things to do in Mui Ne Vietnam