Ho Chi Minh City, also known as “Saigon” to the locals and abbreviated as “HCMC,” is a fabulous place to visit when you’re in South Vietnam. As the largest city in the country with about 9 million people, you’ll experience this buzzing city that never sleeps.
If you have only one day in Ho Chi Minh City and are looking for what to do in this city, then you’re in the right spot!
Whether you’re visiting Ho Chi Minh City as a layover or have a full day, we’ve put together this Ho Chi Minh City 1 day itinerary highlighting the top things to do and must-see attractions. We’re also providing transportation and accommodation information.
Your one day will go by quickly so this itinerary ensures that you maximize your time efficiently at each of the attractions. You’ll need at least 6-8 hours here.
Don’t worry. We won’t pack too many things to see in your one day in HCMC since you may be exhausted from the long travels.
Ideally, you’ll want to have at least 3 days or 5+ days in this city as you have more opportunities to explore at a leisurely pace and take several day trips. It’s a good reason to return to visit HCMC!
How do we know so much about Ho Chi Minh? We’re in our fifth year of living in HCMC. We tend to follow this one-day itinerary whenever we have family and guests visiting.
Without further ado, continue reading this post so you can make the most of your Ho Chi Minh City 1 day visit.
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How to Get to Ho Chi Minh City
Before your trip starts, read our post on what to know before traveling to Vietnam and what to pack.
If you’re arriving from an international country, don’t forget to apply for a tourist visa in advance. Some countries allow e-Visas, so it’s recommended that you read our tourist e-visa post to see if this option is available. Applying for a tourist e-visa is here. Visas are not available on arrival.
Most visitors enter Ho Chi Minh City via plane at Tan Son Nhat International Airport (airport code: SGN) either from the domestic or international side.
If you’re arriving from another international country, after you exit the aircraft, you’ll either go to the visa section to get your visa or wait in the long line to pass through Immigration. If you already have an e-visa, then you can go straight to Immigration. For Immigration, you’ll need to wait at least 30+ minutes.
Then you can pick up your check-in luggage and head out to the taxi area (which is on the left side when you exit the Arrivals gate) or call a Grab car. If you prefer to have an airport pick-up with a private driver, book one here.
Before you leave the airport, don’t forget to buy a SIM card or buy and set up an e-SIM for your phone. You’ll need to have data access to access maps, ride-hailing apps, etc.
If you’re from the U.S. and are looking to change to an international phone plan, consider Google Project Fi. We’ve had this plan since 2016 and get data and text to over 200 international countries. There are no roaming charges either. Click here to learn more.
If you’re arriving from another city in Vietnam, you’ll be on the Domestic Airport side. Once you exit the aircraft, grab your check-in luggage, and head outside to catch a taxi or Grab car. (We’ll share more information about transportation in the next section below).
Ho Chi Minh City Transportation Options & How to Travel Around
Click here for a complete list of transportation options that you can take around the country.
By Taxi and Ride-Hailing
The easiest way to travel around Ho Chi Minh City is to take a taxi or Grab, a ride-hailing app.
When using a taxi, find either a Mai Linh (green color car) or Vinasun (white color car) as these are reputable taxi companies that use the meter. Some taxis accept credit cards for payment.
TIP: Make sure that you’re in the right taxi as there are fake taxis with similar names, car colors, or phone numbers.
Grab is one of the best travel apps to have in Vietnam. This ride-hailing app is similar to Uber, so you’ll use the app to input your starting and ending location. You can hire either a motorbike or a car to get to your destination. It can also be a cashless transaction by using a credit card.
TIP: It’s often cheaper to use Grab versus a taxi, but watch out for surge pricing during the rain or peak travel times.
Read More: How to Visit Vietnam on a Budget
By Private Driver
If you prefer to have a private driver to drive you around the city, check out this option.
By City Buses
There are city buses. It’s a cheap form of transportation option that many locals use. But they’re often slower and may be hard to navigate for first-time visitors.
Walking is another great way to travel around the city. If you’re located in the main downtown area of District 1, then it’s easy to walk around to the different attractions. The downtown area is congested so it may be faster to walk than sitting in traffic.
By Hop-On-Off Bus
Try the double-decker hop-on-off bus that tours around the city. You can choose a half-day pass (4 hours) or an evening pass (1 hour). You can get off at any of the stops along the route.
If you do the evening tour, you can see many buildings lit up such as Landmark 81, Bitexco Financial Building, Opera House, and more. It’s nice to see the city brighten up at night.
If you’re limited on time and want to experience a city tour, check out the options below:
What to Do in One Day in Ho Chi Minh City
Depending on your schedule, you can either start sightseeing as soon as you depart the airport.
The following places that we recommend are located in District 1, the downtown area. It’s easier to walk around and explore.
If you plan to stay overnight in Ho Chi Minh City, you can also head to your accommodation to drop off your luggage before starting the itinerary.
1. Let’s go shopping at Ben Thanh Market.
Time needed: 30 minutes-1 hour
Ben Thanh Market (Chợ Bến Thành in Vietnamese) is the go-to place to visit when you’re in Ho Chi Minh City. Built in 1870, it’s currently one of the largest markets in the city. You’ll either love or feel overwhelmed by the ambiance.
With over 1,000 vendors, there are rows and rows of local goods, ceramics, clothing, shoes, tropical fruits, and other souvenir items to purchase. You’re bound to find something here if you’re looking for souvenirs.
Why are we visiting Ben Thanh Market first thing in the morning? There is a superstition that if you’re the first customer of the day, then it’s good luck. You may get a huge discount! We love finding good deals or hearing the word, “sale.”
Another reason to visit this market in the morning is due to the ventilation. The market doesn’t have air conditioning and gets stuffy as the day goes on.
Take the time to wander around and look to see what you want to purchase. Many of the vendors sell similar stuff so it can look the same after a while.
If there is something that you want, you’ll need to use your bargaining skills since items do not have a price tag. The first price stated by the vendor is often inflated, so you can continue to throw out prices that you think are reasonable until the vendor agrees.
Note: We think that the pricing for tropical fruits is way overpriced at Ben Thanh Market. You can find fruits at the grocery stores or local wet markets around town for cheaper.
If you’re not a fan of bargaining, head to the outer perimeter to see vendors with “fixed pricing.” You’ll see the “fixed pricing” signs.
Address: Chợ, Đ. Lê Lợi, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 700000
Opening Hours: 7:00am-7:00pm
2. Visit the Central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Book Street.
Time needed: 1 hour
Walk for 12-15 minutes for 1 kilometer (.62 miles) or take a Grab from Ben Thanh Market to iconic landmarks of Ho Chi Minh City – Central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Book Street.
These attractions are conveniently located only a few steps away from each other so you can change the order of how you want to visit
Central Post Office
Central Post Office (Bưu điện Trung tâm Sài Gòn in Vietnamese) is a must visit attraction. Opened in 1895, it’s a gorgeous golden-yellow building with French architecture. It still functions as a post office today.
When you enter inside, you’ll see two large maps on the left and right side of the upper walls and a large portrait of Ho Chi Minh (Uncle Ho) in the center of the back wall. There are former phone booths but they don’t work anymore and are now used for seating.
There are souvenir shops available at fixed prices. They have similar stuff to what you saw at Ben Thanh Market but more toys, wallets, bags, and coffee versus shoes and clothing.
Want to send a postcard to family members or friends? You can do that here!
Buy postcards from one of the souvenir shops, sit down at one of the tables, write a message, and buy stamps. When we sent a postcard back home to the U.S., it took around 2-3 weeks to arrive.
Address: 02 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 70000
Opening Hours: 7:00am-7:00pm
Book Street (Đường Sách Thành Phố Hồ Chí Minh) is one of our favorite streets to visit in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s an underrated area and such a charming street to stroll through.
You’ll love the quietness and seeing the towering trees covering the street. It’s the perfect spot to get some shade and reprieve from the heat, especially in the afternoon.
Take the opportunity to look for books and souvenirs at the small bookstores. There are books available in Vietnamese and English and often have discounts. You can also find souvenir items to buy such as journals, birthday cards, and canvas tote bags.
Motorbikes aren’t allowed on the street so you can walk around and browse the bookstores in peace. There is also an outdoor cafe if you want to sit down and relax.
It’s easy to get to Book Street from the Central Post Office. When you exit the Central Post Office, turn right and walk for a minute. You’ll see this street behind McDonald’s.
Address: Đường Nguyễn Văn Bình, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
Opening Hours: 8:00am-10:00pm
Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral (Nhà thờ Đức Bà Sài Gòn) is an iconic Catholic church in Ho Chi Minh City. Built between 1863-1880 by the French, it’s one of the main stops to observe the architecture and take a photo.
Unfortunately, you can’t enter the church as it’s getting renovated and is expected to reopen in 2023.
To get to Notre Dame Cathedral, cross the street from either the Book Street or Post Office. The church is in the middle of the road.
Address: 1 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh
Opening Hours: 24 Hours for the outside view
3. Take a lunch break.
Time needed: 1-1.5 hour
You may be hungry after walking around. If you need a lunch break, here are two options to consider:
Option 1: My Banh Mi
My Banh Mi is a small restaurant that serves delicious Vietnamese sandwiches (bánh mì) and fresh juices and smoothies. There are vegetarian banh mi options too.
Prices are on the higher end for banh mi compared to buying on the street. Yet, they use quality ingredients.
The best part is that it’s located across the street from the Central Post Office, so it’s easy to get to.
Address: 57 Nguyễn Du, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 70000
Opening Hours: 9:30am-7:00pm
Option 2: Bánh Khọt Cô Ba Vũng Tàu
Interested in trying sizzling Vietnamese pancake (bánh xèo) and sizzling mini pancakes (bánh khọt)?
Bánh Khọt Cô Ba Vũng Tàu is a great introduction to these Vietnamese foods. You get the opportunity to wrap your sizzling pancake with fresh herbs and lettuce and dip it into fish sauce. Yum!
Besides banh xeo and banh khot, there are other Vietnamese food on the menu such as spring rolls, rice dishes, hot pot, and more.
This place is a 10-minute walk (600 meters/.38 miles) from the Central Post Office.
Address: 40B Trần Cao Vân, Phường 6, Quận 3, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Opening Hours: 9:00am-9:00pm
4. Walk along Nguyen Hue Street.
Time needed: 30 minutes-1+ hour
Nguyen Hue Walking Street (Nguyễn Huệ) is a lateral pedestrian walking street in the heart of District 1. The length of the walking street is 900 meters/.5 miles and is surrounded by restaurants, cafes, and shopping.
The street is quiet in the afternoon since there isn’t any shade or trees to hang out.
However, the street comes alive in the evenings as locals and tourists use it as a hangout spot. You’ll see hawkers selling drinks and snacks, children running around, and people wearing costumes (ie: Elmo or Monkey King). If you take a photo with one of the characters, you’ll need to pay a tip (at least 20,000 VND/ $.90).
From the walking street, you can explore other areas based on your interest.
- Visit the statue of Ho Chi Minh with the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City building in the backdrop.
- Pass by the Saigon Opera House. See the AO Show, a bamboo circus show, if it’s available.
- Walk up or take the elevator to the Cafe Apartments for drinks or shopping at boutique stores.
- Walk through Dong Khoi Street for high-end shopping.
- Head to the Saigon River and walk along the riverfront. (You will need to cross a busy street where cars and buses will not stop for you. Read our post on how to cross the street carefully here.)
- Stop by Saigon Centre for department store shopping or head to the basement level for Japanese cuisines and sweets. Plus, you can get some reprieve from the heat with air-conditioning in the mall.
- Visit Bitexco Financial Center’s Saigon Skydeck to check out an observatory deck.
Address: 22 Nguyễn Huệ, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 700000
5. Take a coffee/tea break.
Time needed: 30 minutes-1 hour
Ho Chi Minh City’s weather is hot and humid all year round. Expect to have temperatures at 30-32℃ (86-90℉) throughout the year.
The only difference is whether you’re visiting in the dry (November-April) or rainy season (May-October).
We know that walking around is physically draining with the heat so it’s best to take a rest at a coffee or tea shop.
What is fantastic about central Ho Chi Minh City is that there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of coffee shops to choose from.
The local way of enjoying coffee is to find a small shop and sit on the sidewalk in lawn chairs or squatty plastic chairs. You’ll face the street, watch the vehicles and pedestrians pass by, and sip on your iced Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk (cà phê sữa đá).
Or, you can head to a coffee chain such as Cộng Cà Phê, Highlands Coffee, Phúc Long and Tea, and Trung Nguyên Legend. Starbucks is available as an option.
We love Cộng Cà Phê. The funky decor with the Viet Cong olive green and red colors and workers’ outfits is a fun experience. Plus, the drinks are delicious and refreshing. We like coconut coffee shakes as there is a strong coconut flavor. The iced teas are also yummy.
Tip: You can customize your sugar level with the drinks such as a little sugar or no sugar.
Trung Nguyên Legend has weasel poop coffee if you’re interested in trying it.
Workshop Coffee, located in District 1, is also recommended. It’s one of the better coffee shops around the city as they have pour over coffee, cold brew, and teas. They serve food too.
Read More: Drinks to Try in Vietnam
For those who love tea, Ho Chi Minh City has a plethora of Taiwanese milk tea shops.
Head to Nguyen Hue and Huynh Thuc Khang Street and you’ll find the crowd favorites such as Koi Thé, Gong Cha, and Chi Cha San Chen.
For a unique experience, consider taking this Vietnamese coffee and tea brewing experience session. Learn more here.
6. Enjoy the evening either on a food tour or at a restaurant.
Time needed: 2+ hours
It’s the end of the day and you may be hungry. We’re suggesting two options – take a food tour or enjoy dinner on your own.
Taking a food tour is a fantastic way to try local Vietnamese cuisine and street food away from the tourist spots. Your tour guide will bring you to hidden gems.
Most of the tours have pick up from your hotel or your tour has a meeting spot and then you travel between places either by walking or via motorbike.
Check out the following tour options to take:
Dining On Your Own
If you prefer to enjoy dinner on your own, there are plenty of options to try in Ho Chi Minh City.
We love how diverse Ho Chi Minh City is with the food options. You can have traditional Vietnamese, Italian, Japanese, and Western food. If you’re vegetarian, there are tons of vegetarian and vegan places to check out. The opportunities are endless.
We’ll have a post of our favorite restaurants to try in Ho Chi Minh City soon. In the meantime, here is a snapshot of our favorites:
Secret Garden is an open rooftop restaurant that serves a variety of Vietnamese dishes. The portions are on the smaller side so you can order a lot of dishes and share with others in your group.
Since this place gets busy, sometimes dishes do not arrive. Please check to make sure that you received everything that you ordered.
Reservations are required.
- Rooftop: 158 Pasteur, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 70000
- Second location (not rooftop): 131 Đ. Calmette, Phường Nguyễn Thái Bình, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 700000
Opening Hours: 11:00am-10:00pm
This is the crowd favorite for wood-fired pizza. Pizza 4Ps make their own cheeses such as burrata, so they’re super fresh.
With Japanese influences, there are unique flavors such as salmon sashimi pizza and seafood pizza.
Reservations are required.
Addresses: Many locations around Ho Chi Minh City, including District 1. See the locations and opening times here.
Read More: Best Places for Pizza in HCMC
SOL Kitchen & Bar
SOL Kitchen is a stylish restaurant serving delicious Latin American food. The menu changes often so you can try something new with every visit.
We like mushroom quesadillas, ceviche, squid, and desserts. The steak dish is also a winner with the larger groups.
Reservations are required.
Address: 115 Lý Tự Trọng, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
Opening Hours: 11:00am-2:30pm, 5:00pm-11:00pm
Check out other food recommendations:
Top Japanese restaurants to try in HCMC
7. Explore the nightlife.
After dinner, consider exploring the nightlife in the city. We only suggest this if you still have energy after your day of exploration.
Ho Chi Minh City has plenty of bars to check out along Pasteur Street and Tôn Thất Thiệp Street (across from Saigon Centre).
Bui Vien is a popular place for tourists to visit in the late evening. It’s Ho Chi Minh City’s version of Las Vegas with blingy lights, loud music, and bars everywhere.
If you’re not into the bar scene, Bui Vien has food options. The food tends to be more budget-friendly and opens very late. So if you get the munchies at midnight, feel free to browse options here.
Prefer craft beers? Pasteur Street Brewery has a variety of craft beers such as Jasmine IPA, Passion Fruit Wheat Ale, and more. Check out locations around District 1 here.
Or, consider taking this craft beer tasting experience here.
Final Thoughts on the 1 Day Ho Chi Minh City Itinerary
Your one day in Ho Chi Minh City is finally done. We hope you received some inspiration on what to do in Ho Chi Minh City.
We didn’t mention any museums on this one day itinerary since it might be too overwhelming to visit. If you are looking to squeeze in a visit, then head to War Remnants Museum to learn more about Vietnam’s history and what happened with the Vietnam War..
Hope you get a chance to visit Ho Chi Minh City and spend some time exploring the sites!
If you’re headed to other areas of Vietnam, check out our other posts:
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