Ho Chi Minh City is massive. I’m talking 8.4 million people massive. There is so much to see and do (and eat) here that you could easily spend weeks and not cross everything off your list. But here is a quick guide for seeing this southern Vietnam megacity if you only have 48 hours.
Two days should give you enough time to get a taste of Saigon and see which end of the love-hate spectrum your feelings lie. Personally, we at Perogy & Panda LOVED Ho Chi Minh City. If/when we return to Vietnam, we wouldn’t hesitate to carve out time in our itinerary for more exploration of this chaotic metropolis.
How to Spend 48 Hours in Ho Chi Minh City
Day One > Morning
Start early to get the most out of the daylight hours before the afternoon heat makes doing anything unbearable. Fill up your energy reserves with a quick but hearty breakfast. Either from your hotel (most hotel stays include complimentary breakfast) or from a local cafe.
Set out on foot to explore some of the historic buildings and landmarks in Downtown HCMC. Some popular options include:
- Independence Palace
- Notre Dame Cathedral
- Saigon Central Post Office
- Saigon Opera House
- Ho Chi Minh City Hall
- Supreme People’s Court
- Ho Chi Minh City Museum
For an epic view of HCMC and, since you’re already in the area, head to the Bitexco Financial Tower.
This is the tallest building in the city, and the Saigon Skydeck Observatory on the 49th floor boasts some of the best views around for 200.000 VND (about $11 CAD).
Related Post: Hanging Out on Rooftops in HCMC
As the sun is positioning itself high in the sky, the muggy air is probably making it increasingly more difficult to breathe comfortably. And should we even address how sweaty you likely are? Take refuge from the heat by enjoying a nice long lunch, and plenty of icy cool drinks at a cafe. Even better if you find one with a patio, so you can watch the pedestrians playing frogger with the scooters on the street below.
Come sunset, you’re going to want to situate yourself on a rooftop bar patio to watch the city’s skyline glow with warm pastels. May we suggest The Rex Hotel for 2-for-1 drinks?
For dinner, switch things up a bit and try some Indian cuisine. Really? Indian food in Vietnam? Yes. Trust us.
HCMC is no Bangkok. And Pham Ngu Lao Street (the backpacker district) is not even remotely similar to Bangkok’s Khao San Road. Wander down PNL Street to see what I mean. If you pass a bar that looks inviting, by all means, go in and enjoy a bucket or three before retiring back to your hotel.
Related Post: Top 7 Vietnam Travel Tips
Day Two > Morning
Another early morning start. Either eat a quick breakfast at your hotel before heading out to Ben Thanh Market or go directly there and enjoy a breakfast with the locals at one of the market’s many food stalls.
Next, try your hand at bartering as you navigate the maze of stands in search for items worthy of purchasing. Don’t forget to check out the stores around the outside of the market as well. These vendors can sometimes be less pushy and more willing to give you a deal.
Related Post: Shopping at Benh Thanh Market
Hail a cab to take you to Dam Sen Water Park. With no time to waste, grab a banh mi sub for lunch from a street cart out front of the entrance.
It would be an absolute darn tootin’ shame if you left Ho Chi Minh City without spending an afternoon at Dam Sen Water Park. Children and adults alike, you will no doubt have the time of your life at this cheap as beans ($8 CAD) sketchy as heck (read: not made for Western-sized people) waterslide park.
Related Post: Dam Sen Water Park – Best $8 Spent In Vietnam
If you did the water park right, you should be exhausted by now. Have dinner close to your hotel and head off for an early bedtime. You’ll be on to your next destination in morning and will want all the energy you can muster. Especially if that destination is the idyllic beachy island of Phu Quoc, which it obviously should be!
Related Post: Phu Quoc Island Guide
** Some of the photos in this post were taken by my good friend and travel partner, Hep**