VietnamTravel Tips & InfoHo Chi Minh City Shore Excursions: Know-Before-You-Go Tips

Ho Chi Minh City Shore Excursions: Know-Before-You-Go Tips

Each year, roughly 15 million visitors are coming to Vietnam by plane, car, or cruise. Without a doubt, Ho Chi Minh (HCM) City, formerly known as Saigon, is one of the most popular destinations for a port of call. Whether you are on a 1-week cruise discovering Southeast Asia or on a 3-month journey exploring the world – Ho Chi Minh City shore excursions are not to be missed.

We are writing this blog to give you some know-before-you-go valuable insights about Ho Chi Minh’s port of call.

Popular Destinations on Ho Chi Minh City Shore Excursions:

It is crucial to know places of attraction should you decide to stop by the city on your voyage, especially when the port is quite far from popular tourist attractions. Note down these popular spots to plan for your trip:

  • Cu Chi Tunnels: see how Vietnam’s army back in the day built, lived in and battled in the intricate tunnel systems during the Vietnam War.
  • Ho Chi Minh City’s City Center: Visit the War Remnants Museum, the Independence Palace, and Saigon’s Post Office, and learn about the city’s history.
  • Go shopping at Ben Thanh’s Market.
  • Book a private tour to peek into the local life in Ho Chi Minh.

Important Notes to Know before Your Ho Chi Minh City Shore Excursions

  • Where your ship will dock: There are currently 3 active ports serving international cruise ships in Ho Chi Minh City: Nha Rong Port (a 10-minute-drive from the city center), Saigon Premier Container Terminal (SPCT) (a 50-minute-drive from the city center), Phu My Port (roughly 2-hour-drive from the city center).
  • Where to go from your port: If the ship arrives at Nha Rong Port, the most popular choice is a Ho Chi Minh City Day Tour. Additionally, Vung Tau is another option from Phu My or SPCT Port.
  • How to get out of your docks: Taxis can be convenient if your ship docks in either Nha Rong or SPCT Port. However, only use trusted brands such as Mai Linh or Vinasun to avoid scams (more details to be covered in the blog below). Above all, the safest and most favorite way is to book a private tour operator a few days before arrival.
  • Contact your ship for a free shuttle service from the ship’s side to the port’s front gate.
ho chi minh city shore excursions norweigian jade
The Norwegian Jade Cruise at the Thi Vai Port (Phu My)
ho chi minh city shore excursions thi vai port

Port of Calls for Ho Chi Minh City Excursions: Nha Rong, Phu My, and SPCT

Currently, 3 active ports serve cruise ships in Ho Chi Minh City: Nha Rong Port, SPCT, and Phu My’s Tan Cang Cai Mep Port.

Depending on the size of your cruise ship, the port of call varies. Smaller ships can navigate up the Saigon River and dock adjacent to the city center at Nha Rong or SPCT, but bigger cruise ships must dock at Phu My’s Tan Cang Cai Mep Port and Tan Cang Cai Mep Thi Vai Port.

  • Nha Rong Port – You are in for convenience. Nha Rong Port is located right next to the main city center. This is a 5-minute taxi ride or a 15-minute walk from your port to the city.
ho chi minh city shore excursions nha rong port
Nha Rong Port

-Hiep Phuoc Port – also known as the Saigon Premier Container Terminal;- is located about 1 hour by car from the city center. No worthy attraction is nearby as this port is located in the Hiep Phuoc industrial park. To get out of the port, contact your ship for a shuttle service or pre-book a transfer through tour operators.

Hiep phuoc excursion 2
Hiep phuoc excursion 3

Hiep Phuoc’s port with cruise ship docking behind the immigration checkpoint gate

-Phu My’s Tan Cang Cai Mep Port and Tan Cang Cai Mep Thi Vai Port-

ho chi minh city excursion tan cang cai mep 1
ho chi minh city excursion cai mep thi vai

Tan Cang Cai Mep Port (left) and Tan Cang Cai Mep Thi Vai Port (right)

If your ship docks at Phu My, it is a container terminal with no worthy attractions nearby. Your closest 2 cities are Vung Tau and Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), respectively 45 km and 60 km from the port.

Getting out of Your Port by Taxi

There are limited taxis parked outside the port’s gate, and they are first come, first served. It is recommended that you take these taxis with caution.

Standard taxi meter fees for your reference

4-seater car: VND 15,000/km or USD 0.75/km

7-seater van: VND 17,000/km or USD 0.85/km

Note: Tolls to Ho Chi Minh is USD 5 (one-way). If transportation based in Ho Chi Minh City needs to arrange a Phu My tour, they will need to pay four times (USD 20) for the toll for pick-up and drop-off services at the port. So, make sure your transportation fares are discussed ahead of time.

There are no tolls to Vung Tau.

Other fees may include waiting time fees, parking fees, etc.

Pros

  • Quick and easy, especially with the popularity of ride-hailing apps in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Personalized service – suitable for solo or small group experiences for Ho Chi Minh City shore excursions

However, this is only applied when your ship arrives at Nha Rong or SPCT Port.

Cons

  • High prices for long distances (one-way taxi fare from Phu My Port can cost from USD 50 – 60).
  • Risks of scams: fake taxis are common in the pick-up areas of the port, and they can be quite aggressive. Read more in our blog How to Avoid Taxi Scams
  • Most taxis can only accommodate 7 passengers at most, so taxi transportation for a big group can be a hassle.
  • You should have a working SIM card to call a taxi or to use 3G/4G services.

More about SIM Card and Mobile Data in Vietnam

Our Tips for Taking a Taxi for Your Ho Chi Minh City Excursions

  • Only use trusted taxi brands: Mai Linh (the green ones) and VinaSun (the white ones) taxis.

Mai Linh’s hotline (HCM):028 3838 3838

VinaSun’s hotline (HCM): 028 3827 2727

  • Make good use of the apps: Grab is a famous ride-hailing app in Ho Chi Minh. Both of the mentioned taxi brands also have their apps. You can check for the prices, distances, and routes on the app. Make sure to check the license plate carefully before hopping into the car.
  • Do negotiate the price (which should include the additional fees like tolls or waiting time fees)

Getting out of Your Port by the Ship’s Shuttle Transport Service

Depending on your ship carrier, some offer complimentary shuttle services from the port to the city and back. Some will charge a very high fee for this transfer service (USD 60 – 80 just for transportation). These have their specific timetable and stop locations. Depending on your nationality, a visiting visa is required, which can be arranged on your cruise ship. You will need to check with your cruise on this offer. 

ho chi minh city shore excursions boarding pass

Tip: For pricing and itinerary comparisons, check with your cruise liner for their tour packages and compare with the tour operators offering private tours. There are usually more options than a standard cookie-cutter tour.

ho chi minh city shore excursions tour bus

Getting out of Your Port in a Private Tour

If you wish to see and understand the city and get away from the traditional group tour, your best chance is to pre-book your private transport or pre-arrange a city tour with a travel agency in Ho Chi Minh.

ho chi minh city shore excursions city tour

Pros

  • Pick-up and drop-off at the port’s gate: all vehicles are modern and air-conditioned, ranging from a 4-seater car to a 7-seater van to a 45-seater bus, depending on the group size.
ho chi minh city shore excursions mini vans
  • Personalized service and customizable tours: you can design an itinerary for yourself according to your interests and the time you can spend on a tour. It can revolve around Ho Chi Minh’s iconic attractions or a food-centric trip with delicious Vietnamese dishes.
  • Professional tour guides with profound local knowledge: the highly-trained local tour guides can not only lead you on a fun and well-rounded tour but also assist you with your personal needs and requirements (i.e., finding a money exchange spot with the best exchange rate in the city)
ho chi minh city shore excursions city tour 2
Authentic local experiences are what set a top-rated private tour apart from other touristy programs

Cons: Most tour operators are located in Ho Chi Minh City, 1.5 – 2 hours (one-way), depending on traffic, from Phu My’s port.

Our Tips for Joining a Private Tour on Your Ho Chi Minh City Shore Excursions

  • Prior arrangement is strongly recommended to ensure sufficient time to tour the city and return to the harbor.
  • Plan your pick-up time by taking the ship’s arrival time and adding 1 hour of immigration procedure.
  • Do your research and read the reviews carefully before booking a tour.
  • One of the ways to save on transport costs is to gather up a few cruise mates, pre-book a private tour, and share the costs.

Getting out of Your Port by a Random Tour Operator

Some “self-proclaimed tour guides” will introduce you to joining their tour in case you haven’t booked your tour for a Ho Chi Minh City Excursion beforehand. The price for a tour in a 45-seater bus (with, or without transportation fee) is generally from USD 120/pax.

Pros: may only work if you haven’t had an itinerary planned for yourself.

Cons

  • Quality of the service is not guaranteed: you will most likely be squeezed in with dozens of other tourists, and the time spent in each city’s attraction may only be enough for taking a selfie.
  • Price is not guaranteed: it is unsure whether other random fees will occur.
ho chi minh city shore excursions random tour guides
Many “tour guides” will take advantage of the crowded situation at the gate to try to lure you into joining their tour

Our Takes on Ho Chi Minh City Shore Excursions

Good planning is the key to having a pleasant and fun-filled trip to Ho Chi Minh in a limited amount of time. In a city full of wonders and hidden stories, make sure you make a wise decision to get the most out of your travels.

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