Ho Chi Minh City, previously known as Saigon, may be the capital of Vietnam, but it is often ignored by travelers as just a city to start and end their journey in Vietnam. While a big metropolitan city is not what you may want to explore during your holiday, there are a number of places around Saigon that are perfect for easy day trips to whisk you away from the crowds.
We love the idea of day trips because not only are they more pocket-friendly, they also save you the added work of packing and repacking for all destinations. They also help you explore and discover hidden gems that you would otherwise never see. With that in mind, here are some of our favorite day trips from Ho Chi Minh City for the curious travelers among you.
Day trip to Vung Tau
Vung Tau lies a little less than 100 kilometers south of Ho Chi Minh City and used to be a major center for trade with Europe during the 14th and 15th centuries because of its strategic location. As a result of its colonial history, the town has various temples, statues, gardens along with some of the best beaches in the country. Vung Tau also served as a holiday destination for members of the French and the American army at one point.
Plan a day trip to this beach town to relax and rejuvenate after all the hectic traveling through Vietnam. Spend the day out on the beach, enjoy a delicious seafood lunch and visit the local Buddhist temples. The travel from Ho Chi Minh city to Vung Tau takes about two to three hours whether you take a bus, car, ferry or minivan, and you can be back in the city post-sunset for a dinner in Saigon.
Day trip to Can Gio
Just 50 Km Southeast of Ho Chi Minh City lies Can Gio, an island that is home to a UNESCO bio reserve and some of the naughtiest monkeys you’ll come across on your travels. Can Gio Island is popularly known for its 80,000 hectares of mangroves, wetlands, and incredible wildlife. The mangrove forests can be explored on speedboats with exclusive tours. You can also go and see the guerrilla camps which are located deep into the forests. The island is rich in flora and fauna that are waiting to be explored.
If planning a day trip to Can Gio from Ho Chi Minh City, do keep in mind that this tiny destination may not be well-developed in terms of its infrastructure and tourism activities. It is rustic, but if you don’t mind that, Can Gio offers an excellent getaway opportunity from Ho Chi Minh city in less than 2 hours.
Day trip to Cai Be
Cai Be, located a little more than 100 Km from Ho Chi Minh City, lies in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam and is famous for its local floating market. Head to the floating market for a glimpse of the local culture or to sample some of the delicacies being sold at the various stalls here. Another fun activity to do in Cai Be is to visit fruit orchards for a taste of the lush tropical bounty of mangoes, jackfruits, coconuts among others.
You can reach Cai Be from Ho Chi Minh city either by hiring a car or a minivan which will take around 3 hours. If you leave Ho Chi Minh City at around 7 in the morning, it is possible for you to come back comfortably by 7 in the evening.
You can plan your day around boating, first to see the floating markets then through the river cruise and absorb the local culture. Later you could try walking or cycling through the village paths and witness the traditional daily life and enjoy some sweet tropical fruits.
Day trip to Ben Tre
Located in the heart of the Mekong Delta, Ben Tre is only 2 hours away from Ho Chi Minh City, to the south. It is not often frequented by tourists, because of which the locals are especially warm towards the few they happen to bump into.
Take a bus, car, or minivan for a quick and easy day trip from Ho Chi Minh City to Ben Tre. Famous for its coconut production, Ben Tre is often referred to as Vietnam’s coconut capital! Spend your day around this beautiful, rustic town sampling tropical fruits and the popular local coconut dessert known as ‘Keo Dua’, while enjoying the views of the neighboring rice fields. The town also has beautiful fish farms and orchards which the locals would gladly invite you to for a glimpse of the local lifestyle.
Day trip to Tay Ninh
While in Ho Chi Minh City, you cannot miss visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels and one of Vietnam’s unique treasures, the Cao Dai Temple. But to visit these iconic attractions, you have to travel to Tay Ninh, located around 90 Km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City, perfect for a day trip. The Cu Chi tunnels are magnificently constructed and preserved even today.
They were made as a defense against the French and then later used during the War with the United States. These tunnels run deep, for kilometers at a stretch, and lead to secret passages, trapdoors, underground kitchens, living areas, and meeting rooms. You can then spend the rest of your day learning about Cao Daism at the Great Cao Dai Temple in Tay Ninh. The monotheistic religious belief takes its inspiration from several other cultures and religions and is bound to leave you intrigued.
We love the idea of taking short day trips from Ho Chi Minh City not only because the transportation options are cost-effective, but they also give you the opportunity to nest in one city without the need to hop across multiple destinations. Moreover, some of the destinations mentioned above may not even be suitable for overnight stay, so a day trip is the best way to experience the local culture and explore these places. So the next time you’re planning your stay in Ho Chi Minh City, remember to keep a few spare days in the city to go out and discover some of these nearby destinations and rediscover the joy of road-tripping!