loaderWit
10 minutes

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you.

The top 10 things to do in Ho Chi Minh City with kids

Ho Chi Minh City (often abbreviated to HCMC) is Vietnam’s southern metropolis. Filled with neon-lit skyscrapers, millions of motorbikes, pagodas and bustling markets Ho Chi Minh City is a great city for a family city trip. French colonial buildings stand next to oriental structures in Vietnam’s largest city. There’s lots of things to do and see for families in this country’s most cosmopolitan city! Let’s share the best 10 things to do in Ho Chi Minh city with kids in 4 days.

Things to do around Ho Chi Minh City

Two of the things on this list are technically not in Ho Chi Minh City, but are best done from HCMC. The Cu Chi Tunnels are about 60km from the city also known as Saigon. And with Ho Chi Minh City as  a base, a (half) day tour to the Mekong Delta is easily done.

When you’re done visiting Vietnam’s mainland, Ho Chi Minh City is often the place where you start your trip to paradise island Phu Quoc. A flight from Ho Chi Min City to Phu Quoc island takes about 2,5 hours.

Ho Chi Minh City is also a great starting point for an ultimate family road trip through Vietnam. The other great starting point for a Vietnam family holiday is capital Hanoi. There’s no better option if you want to check out the entire country. They both deserve a spot in your family’s travel itinerary.  Going from North to South or the other way around are both equally good options.

Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon

Lots of people still call Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon. Sài Gòn (Vietnamese spelling) was the name of this city for centuries. Most locals still call it Saigon, even though it changed to Ho Chi Minh City in 1975. This was the year the war in Vietnam between North Vietnam and South Vietnam, together with the USA, ended.

The United States and South Vietnam lost the war with North Vietnam. Southern and Northern Vietnam were unified from that moment on. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City and remains the official capital city of Vietnam. The informal name remains Saigon. So this article could’ve also been called the top 10 things to do in Saigon with kids. Nevertheless, I decided to stick to the formal name.

Fun fact for aviator geeks: the IATA airport code of the Tan Son Nhat International Airport of Ho Chi Minh City is SGN. SGN stands for Saigon.

Why Ho Chi Minh City is a great choice for a family visit

A family trip to HCMC is a great idea. You can visit lots of amusement parks in Ho Chi Minh City, like Vietopia and Tiniworld. There are also lots of great cultural things to do here, like a visit to the War Remnants Museum with your teenagers or a visit to a water puppet show.

Overall, Ho Chi Minh City makes for a great family city trip because of the kid friendliness. Kids are welcomed in every restaurant and attraction. Vietnamese love kids and dote on them. Lots of the local dishes are great for kids, like noodle soup, or spring rolls and you can find fresh fruits for them everywhere. Don’t forget to check out Chinatown, known as Cholon Saigon, you can get amazing kid friendly food here as well.

Crazy traffic in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City with toddlers

Like I wrote in my article about 10 things to do in Hanoi with kids, Vietnamese cities are not stroller friendly. This also applies to Ho Chi Minh City. Instead of a stroller, bring a toddler and/or baby carrier along.

If your toddler is a walker, do make sure to keep them close, because the traffic is insane and rules don’t seem to apply in traffic. Carry them across the street for extra safety.

Is it safe to visit Ho Chi Minh City with kids?

Except for the fact that traffic is crazy in HCMC, there ain’t no other reason why Ho Chi Minh City is not safe for kids. Just make sure to skip gruesome museums or exhibitions about the war, like the War Remnants Museum of the Reunification palace with kids below 10. Other than that, Ho Chi Minh City is a great place to explore as a family with kids of all ages.

Ho Chi Minh City of millions of motorbikes

Let me share a little more about the traffic, before kicking of the list of 10 things to do in Ho Chi Minh City with kids.

Ho Chi Minh City has the nickname City of millions of motorbikes. Some say 6 million and others even 10 million, but no matter who’s right, HCMC is a motorcycle heaven. Everywhere you look, you can spot them. Sometimes ridden by a family of four. Or heavily loaded with products to sell and you can hardly spot the driver.

The main reason why it’s such an adventure crossing the street in this city is the amount of motorbikes. Add that to the fact that traffic rules don’t seem to be followed through and you get: MAYHEM!

Crossing the road as a pedestrian

It actually took us a good 10 minutes staring at all the motorcycles, cars and pedestrians on the road. After that we grabbed each others hands and practically ran to the other side of the road. That isn’t exactly the way to go. It took us another 3 tries, before we found out what we should do. Don’t run and definitely don’t stop in the middle of the road.

Even though it might look like no one’s paying attention, that’s not the case. They do anticipate other people’s actions. Find a place to cross where there’s only one lane per direction, that’s the easiest for a pedestrian. Your job is to keep an eye on the kids, hold hands or carry them and always keep an eye on the traffic. Cross the street in a steady pace and keep going. That’s the best way to cross a street in Ho Chi Minh City.

After a few tries, you’re used to it. I promise.

When to visit Ho Chi Minh City

The best time to visit Ho Chi Minh City with kids is during the dry season, from December to March. Temperatures range from 23 degrees Celsius to 32. Unsurprisingly the dry season is also the busiest time of year to visit Ho Chi Minh City. Make sure you pre-book accommodation when you have your eyes set on something special.

Heavy rainfall can be expected during monsoon season, from May to October. Add the typhoon season from the beginning of June to the end of November to this mix and it might be better to skip May to November.

If you do travel to Ho Chi Minh City during these months, be prepared for heavy rain, lots of mosquitos and the occasional flooding and large storms.

How to get to Ho Chi Minh City

Fly

Lots of international airlines fly to Ho Chi Minh City. Book your international flight from your home country to Tan Son Nhat International Airport at Expedia. They usually have some great deals available. Especially if you combine your booking with a stay in a hotel. Do always make sure to double check the flight prices at the website of the airline to make sure you get the best deal!

When you arrive at the airport of Ho Chi Minh City, it’s about a 30 to 40 minute drive to the city centre, also known as Quận 1 (district 1).

When you have to get to Hanoi within a short amount of time, jumping on a flight is the best way to travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi in Northern Vietnam.

Train & bus

If you’re traveling to Ho Chi Minh City by train or bus from other cities in Vietnam or internationally from neighboring countries book your tickets via 12Go.

The trains are all in good condition, with comfortable beds and relatively clean. People eat a lot of food on the trains and cockroaches know that. So don’t be surprised if you spot one here and there.

Taking a night bus is a different story, where comfort is concerned. Yes, they’re clean and there’s airconditioning and a toilet on board. But sleeping in the beds is only fun if you’re below 1m70. It gets really uncomfortable if your longer than that.

You can also start your trip to neighboring country Cambodia from here via bus. We took a comfortable bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh. The trip took a total of 7 hours, including 45 minutes at the border for a passport and visa check. You can book the tickets for this trip via 12Go.

Powered by 12Go system

Getting around Ho Chi Minh City

Lots of the highlights can be found in Quận 1, like the Ben Thanh Market, the Reunification palace and the Notre Dame Cathedral. You can let a Grab or taxi drop you off at one of the sights in this part of the city and walk from one highlight to the next. District 1 is basically the city centre.

Other things to do in Saigon are located outside of the city centre and that means you’re better of taking a taxi or Grab. Just make sure to avoid the morning and evening rush hour, or you’ll be in a car 2 to 3 times longer than you anticipated. We made that mistake once, while on our way to the airport. Instead of 45 minutes we were in a Grab for 2 hours and almost missed our flight.

Public transport in Ho Chi Minh City

Taking a bus is also an option, but only doable if you get a schedule at the larger bus stations. You can see which lines go to the places you want to see in Saigon and jump in. Note that, even though Ho Chi Minh City is the most cosmopolitan city of Vietnam, English is not always spoken by bus drivers. When taking public transport, you should also avoid rush hours.

Motorbike taxi

You can opt to hop on a motorbike taxi. They are everywhere. Every family member has to hitch their own ride, so with kids under 10 this is not a safe way to go. This is probably only an option for thrill seekers. We didn’t dare, but you might.

10 things to do in Ho Chi Minh City with kids

Roam around District 1

Pay a visit to the Notre Dame Cathedral

Buy trinkets at Ben Than Market

Drop of your postcards at the Central Post Office

Check out the Reunification Palace

Go to the top of the Bitexco Financial Tower for a great city view

Get a history fix in the War Remnants Museum

Visit the colorful Jade Emperor Pagoda

Fit into the Cu Chi Tunnels

A day trip to the Mekong Delta

Roam around District 1

Ho Chi Minh City is divided into districts. There are a total of 24 districts, 4 suburban ones and 19 inner districts. The district that is the most popular one for visitors is District 1, Quận in the Vietnamese language. This is the bustling city center of Saigon. You can find great restaurants and the best street food here. And it is the best area to find a place to stay, since it’s so centrally located.

Designed by French architects when Vietnam was a colony of France, you can find lots of French buildings, gorgeous boulevards and beautiful parks here.

While strolling through this part of the city, you’ll end up spotting a few of the top 10 things to do in Ho Chi Minh City with kids. I’ll get back to those later. Other things to do while in District 1 are:

  • tasting local food in one of the many restaurants or food carts
  • go on a Saigon River Cruise
  • check out Bui Vien Street and Pham Ngu Lao, the backpacker area
  • get goodies at one of the many shopping malls
  • snap pictures of the gorgeous Ho Chi Minh City Opera House
The Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam

Pay a visit to the Notre Dame Cathedral

I remember that our (then) 12 year old son saw the Notre Dame Cathedral and said “it’s like we’re in France!” When hearing the name of the cathedral he was less impressed, though. It’s not like the one in Paris. Since we’re not religious I told him that lots of cities all over the world have catholic churches named Notre Dame Cathedral. And, while less impressive than the one in Paris, it’s still more beautiful than some I’ve seen in other cities.

I do believe that the main reason you should visit this cathedral is the fact that it feels out of place here. It’s located right in the heart of a Vietnamese city, a place where you probably least expect it.

This cathedral is one of the French buildings District 1 is known for. And a fun thing to see in Saigon with kids.

Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam
The Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Min City - Vietnam

Buy trinkets at Ben Than Market

Our top thing to do in a different country is to visit a market. Our kids are mostly interested in the toys they sell or the strange looking fruits on offer, us parents love to check out the food stalls and the local arts and crafts stands.

The smells are different, the noises are different. And there’s always something unexpected to check out. You can easily spend an hour at the Ben Than Market in the city centre. Located between skyscrapers in the financial and commercial part of District 1, it’s a peculiar sight to see. A definite must do!

Drop of your postcards at the Central Post Office

The Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam
Inside the Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam

With its French colonial-style design the Central Post Office is one of the most important landmarks of Ho Chi Minh City. Many locals and even tour guides will tell you that Gustave Eiffel (yes, the one from the Eiffel Tower) was the architect of this building. This is not the case. Let’s give credit to the architect that did design this beautiful building: Marie-Alfred Foulhoux.

You can pay a visit and also drop off your postcards to your family and friends. This post office is still in use and often quite busy.

A fun free thing to do in Ho Chi Minh City with kids.

Don’t visit the Saigon Botanical Garden and Zoo

Buying a ticket to this place gives you entry to both the Botanical Garden and the Saigon Zoo. While the Saigon Botanical Garden is one of the oldest in Southeast Asia, founded in 1865, I only have reasons for you not to visit. There are other parks to visit in Ho Chi Minh City to enjoy lush greens and other Botanical Gardens to visit worldwide.

On multiple occasions while traveling solo and with kids I was shocked by how animals are treated all over the world. Yes, also in European countries and the US (Tiger King comes to mind).

Animal cruelty

Southeast Asia is certainly no exception. If you can ride, pet or feed a wild animal you’re in the wrong place. Be careful when visiting zoo’s or so-called sanctuaries. While some take great care of the animals, keep their enclosures clean and try to preserve species, lots of them don’t.

Saigon Zoo is a great example of a zoo you should definitely stay away from. We didn’t visit it, because we researched the place and found horrific pictures and stories online. Too sum it up, cages were far too small and extremely dirty. Animals laid around in their own dirt. They’re either lethargic or howling in their cages. People are allowed too, or at least not stopped from, throwing objects at the animals.

On TripAdvisor I read multiple reviews mentioning that animals looked like they’re waiting to die. A rare white tiger thin and agitated. Four elephants in a small cage with no room to walk around. Distressed rhino’s. I could go on and on. Please skip the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden. You can find lots of articles online telling you all you need to know. And the pictures speak even louder than words.

You can read more about animal cruelty in my article about animal abuse in the tourism industry.

The Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam
Inside the Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam

Check out the Reunification Palace

The Reunification Palace is also known as the Saigon Independence Palace. It used to be the residence and workplace of the president of Southern Vietnam, Nguyen Van Thieu. In 1962 the palace was bombed and a new one was built. Van Thieu worked and lived here from 1967.

On April 30th 1975 two North Vietnamese tanks crashed down the walls of the palace. This marked the end of the Vietnam War and the reunification of North and South Vietnam.

The palace is a great place to visit with kids. The architecture is beautiful and the decoration grand. Kids will probably like to check out the helicopter on the roof of the Reunification Palace.

Vietnam War remembrance

Note that the Thematic area is filled with gruesome pictures from the Vietnam War. Skip this area when you feel your kids are too young to witness them.

In this area you can also watch a movie about the war that ends with the National Anthem. When watching this movie, know that it’s quite graphic. And when the anthem starts all visitors are expected to stand up to show respect.

Go to the top of the Bitexco Financial Tower for a great city view

The iconic Bitexco Financial Tower in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam
View of Ho Chi Minh City from the skydeck in Bitexco Financial Tower - Vietnam

No city trip with kids is complete without checking out the view of the city from a nice viewpoint. In Ho Chi Minh City you should get tickets for the skydeck of Bitexco Financial Tower. When you head up here you get the best view of Ho Chi Minh City and the Saigon river. If you’re looking for a place to spot the best sunset in Ho Chi Minh City, this is a winner.

A ticket wil cost about 8 euro per person and will get you to the 49th floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower, called the Saigon Skydeck. If you don’t want to wait in line for tickets, you can pre-book it via Get Your Guide to skip the line.

Military plane at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam

Get a history fix in the War Remnants Museum

The War Remnants Museum focuses on the American War, but you can also educate yourself about the French colonial period. A visit to this museum gives your family insight in a defining chapter in the history of Vietnam.

You can find weapons, bombs and vehicles used during the war here, but also artefacts like a guillotine and the infamous “tiger cages” in which prisoner’s of war were kept.

Needless to say this museum is not fit for children of all ages. I will not tell you what the age limit should be, this is something you as parents should decide for yourselves. I can only tell you what my personal opinion is and I wouldn’t enter this museum with kids below 15 years old. My partner and I took turns visiting the museum, to avoid entering it with kids.

The ticket prize of the War Remnants Museum is about 2 euro per person. Children under 6 years old are free, but I would definitely advise against bringing them.

The Jade Emperor Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam

Visit the colorful Jade Emperor Pagoda

Next on this list of 10 things to do in Ho Chi Minh City with kids is a beautiful pagoda. The Jade Emperor Pagoda known as the best pagoda to visit in Saigon. This beautiful sanctuary can be found in District 1.

Luck Sea Temple is the nickname of this pagoda, as is the Tortoise Pagoda. This last nickname is obviously because of the many tortoises you can spot in the pond at the main entrance.

The pagoda has a reddish/pinkish hue and inside you can find lots of red details and shrines filled to the brim with artefacts. Incense and candles are burning and give a calming feel and lovely smell to the place.

Visiting this pagoda is a fun free thing to do in Ho Chi Minh City with kids. This is a nice little outing away from the busy streets of the city for your family to enjoy. The temple is open 7 days a week from 8am to 5pm.

Make sure to wear respectable clothes covering your legs, arms and cleavage. Also note that, while the entrance is free, you can add some money to the donation box.

Inside the Cu Chi Tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam

Fit into the Cu Chi Tunnels

As I wrote in the beginning, this list of 10 things to do in Ho Chi Minh City with kids also mentions 2 must do’s outside of the city. Let’s round up this top 10 with these 2 highlights.

The first are the Cu Chi Tunnels. There’s not much to see in Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc, your two starting options. That’s why people opt to visit the tunnels with HCMC as a base. And the reason why it’s part of this list.

If you book a tour you will visit Ben Dinh, but if you go by yourselves you have a choice. It’s less crowded at Ben Duoc and in our experience the better option, because you get to avoid the gun range.

Bus to Cu Chi Tunnels

If you want to visit the sight without booking a tour, you can take the bus. Bus 13 to Cu Chi departs from District 1, at Pham Ngo Lao. After about 1h40min you get to the terminal. There you have to choose Ben Dinh or Ben Duoc. Both add another 20 minutes to your trip. When you’re at the tunnels you have to go with a guide. You can’t go into the tunnels unsupervised.

Now, let’s compare both options.

Ben Dinh

When you book a tour, a bus will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the entrance of the Ben Dinh side of the Cu Chi Tunnels in about 2 hours. The prize is about 40 euro per person. The tour will take up about half a day of your time, including the trip to and from the sight.

The big pro of a tour is that in the bus your guide will start off by giving information about Vietnam’s political history and the Vietnam War and how the tunnels came about. You won’t have that if your family tours the grounds solo.

Once you’re on site you’ll get the chance to enter the tunnels. The tunnel system is a whopping 250km long. People lived and slept here and in some of the underground rooms they’ve added kitchens, living rooms and even an improvised surgery room. It perfectly shows how people had to live down here. With life size dolls it’s a really interesting and also grounding experience.

After your visit to the tunnels people aged 16 and up get the opportunity to shoot with an AK-47. Since we’re not a fan of shooting guns, we all opted out. Our kid was pretty freaked out by the noise. We all never heard gun shots before, so we never knew how loud it really was in real life. So prepare your kids, if you’re unaware like we were. Or ask if there’s a different pathway to follow without passing by the gun range.

Do you enjoy this list of the top 10 things to do in Ho Chi Minh City with kids?

If so, read more about family travel in Vietnam

You might also like:
Tourist traps

A con to visiting Ben Dinh with a tour is that both on your way to the tunnels and on the way back, you’ll stop at some tourist traps. I’ve heard of a visit to a local family, to a rubber tapping facility or a local restaurant. Not a lot of kids will be enthusiastic about trips like this. So do know that it’s part of the deal.

Ben Duoc

Some private tours focus on a visit to Ben Duoc, but we couldn’t find where you could bring the kids. We choose Ben Dinh over Ben Duoc. But after hearing other parents about their experience we were kinda bummed out and would’ve loved to visit Ben Duoc instead.

You get to see the same things as you can at Ben Dinh. The only difference is that there are less tourists and more locals and there’s no gun range. It’s a less rushed and less crowded option. The thing you do have to check before walking along with a guide is if he speaks English. Many of them don’t. You have to ask for one at the ticket booth.

Cu Chi Tunnels with kids

If your kids don’t speak (much) English, it’s not a big deal. Just because they’ve made everything so visually interesting. Bring lots of water for the kids, have them wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt and spray on and bring mosquito repellent. You’re in a piece of jungle where it’s humid and hot. Mosquitos are everywhere. The long clothing comes in handy in the tunnels. At some parts you have to get on your knees and that’s more convenient with a little layer on your body.

A day trip to the Mekong Delta

A boat trip on the river Mekong in Vietnam's Mekong Delta
Fisherman chilling in Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Last, but definitely not least on this top 10 is an excursion to the Mekong Delta. No trip to Vietnam with kids is complete without visiting this delta. Ho Chi Minh City is a great place to start your tour.

You can start your exploration of the Mekong Delta at a few destinations. The time it takes for you to get to these destinations, starting from Ho Chi Minh City differs. These are the 3 most common options:

  • My Tho, 1h30min
  • Ben Tre, 1h50min
  • Cai Be, 2h30min

We started at My Tho and then hopped on a ferry to cross the Mekong River, where we got on a sampan that brought us to Ben Tre. So we explored the first two. Unfortunately we haven’t been to Cai Be and I can’t share any info about that destination.

Cruising the Mekong Delta in a row boat in Vietnam
Making coconut candy in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam

We booked a tour at one of the many tour operators in Pham Ngo Lao (Quan 1), An Travel. But you can also book an excursion from Ho Chi Minh City to the Mekong Delta via Get Your Guide.

Part of the tour will be spend in a sampan. We really enjoyed our time on the water. We also visited a coconut candy factory. Yes, one of those tourist traps, but we enjoyed seeing the process of making the candy. A Vietnamese lunch was also included. And we stopped along the way to eat fresh fruits.

All in all a lovely day trip from Ho Chi Minh City to the Mekong Delta.

Eating the Vietnamese version of a Hot Pot in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam
Eating the Vietnamese version of a Hot Pot in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam

That’s it for the top 10 things to do in Ho Chi Minh City with kids in 4 days.

Other great things to do in Ho Chi Minh City with kids

Ho Chi Minh City offers much more than the 10 best things I mentioned. If you’re staying in Ho Chi Minh City for a week, think about adding the following attractions to your Saigon itinerary:

  • Do the Crescent Walk, in a lush green forest in the city
  • Go to amusement park TiniWorld Ho Chi Minh City
  • Check out 3D art in Artinus 3D Art Museum
  • Buy tickets to the Water Puppet Theatre
  • Enjoy the attractions in Vietopia
  • Do a traditional cyclo tour
  • Go to the Suoi Tien Cultural Theme Park

Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City in 3 days

Are you looking for the top things to do in Ho Chi Minh City in 3 days? Skip the excursions outside of the city and enjoy:

  • Roam around District 1
  • Pay a visit to the Notre Dame Cathedral
  • Buy trinkets at Ben Than Market
  • Drop of your postcards at the Central Post Office
  • Check out the Reunification Palace
  • Go to the top of the Bitexco Financial Tower for a great city view
  • Get a history fix in the War Remnants Museum
  • Visit the colorful Jade Emperor Pagoda

Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City in 2 days

Are you looking for the top things to do in Ho Chi Minh City in 2 days? Skip some places of the list and leave the following must-do’s on your to do list.

  • Buy trinkets at Ben Than Market
  • Drop of your postcards at the Central Post Office
  • Go to the top of the Bitexco Financial Tower for a great city view
  • Get a history fix in the War Remnants Museum
About me Sas Crossing Countries

Hi, I’m Saskia!

I travel the world with my family of 4 and write about our adventures.

Sas Crossing Countries is a family travel blog. It’s created to inspire other parents to travel the world with their kids. Gift your kids the world! It’s the most valuable present you can give them.

With all the experience I have as a traveling parent I’ve got lots of tools and tips for you. So on this site you’ll not only find family travel blog posts, you can also download FREE pocket guides, travel checklists and eBooks from my resources page.

All that I share can be used to plan your own ultimate family road trip!

Get FREE ebook The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Planning a Family Road TripVisit our travel shop!Become a member of my private family travel Facebook group


You might also like


About me Sas Crossing Countries

Hi, I’m Saskia!

I travel the world with my family of 4 and write about our adventures.

Sas Crossing Countries is a family travel blog. It’s created to inspire other parents to travel the world with their kids. Gift your kids the world! It’s the most valuable present you can give them.

With all the experience I have as a traveling parent I’ve got lots of tools and tips for you. So on this site you’ll not only find family travel blog posts, you can also download FREE pocket guides, travel checklists and eBooks from my resources page.

All that I share can be used to plan your own ultimate family road trip!

Get FREE ebook The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Planning a Family Road TripVisit our travel shop!Become a member of my private family travel Facebook group

Get my FREE eBook!

The Ultimate Beginners guide: Planning a Family Road Trip

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.