On the voyage to travel around the world or Southeast Asia by cruise ship, Ho Chi Minh City is a great destination that will surely bring you an interesting trip. Are you looking for what to see and explore in Ho Chi Minh City shore excursions? Our local guide can help you get a glimpse of what to do on Ho Chi Minh City shore excursions.
Your Drop-Off and Pick-Up Port on Ho Chi Minh Shore Excursions
Find out your port of call in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon). There are currently 3 active ports serving ships.
Nha Rong Port (5-minute-drive from the city center)
It is very convenient if you are dropped off at Nha Rong Port because it is located close to the center of Ho Chi Minh City. In general, smaller ships such as Seaborn, Silversea, World Odyssey, and Nautica Oceania will dock at this port when they arrive in Ho Chi Minh City.
Nha Rong Port
Saigon Premier Container Terminal – SPCT (60-minute-drive from the city center)
Mid-size ships such as the Viking Orion and Silver Muse dock here.
Phu My Ports (90-minute-drive from the city center)
Larger ships such as Princess Cruises, Azamara, and American Hollands, regularly dock at Phu My Port. However, this port is about 60 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City and about 45 kilometers from Vung Tau City.
Important: read more on Ho Chi Minh City Shore Excursions: Know-Before-You-Go Tips.
Arrival and Departure at the Ports for Ho Chi Minh City Shore Excursions
In general, cruise ships often dock at the ports in the morning at around 7 AM or 9 AM. Also, depending on your voyage’s agenda, some cruise ships just stay full one day, frequently from 7 AM to 6 PM. On the other hand, some cruise ships will stop in the ports for 2 days.
What You Need to Do to Plan Your Ho Chi Minh City Shore Excursions
- Prior arrangement with a tour company is necessary to avoid scams and have your Ho Chi Minh/Vung Tau itinerary planned by local tour guides (most shore excursion tour operators are based in Ho Chi Minh)
- Do your research and read reviews of the tour company carefully before booking.
- A passenger landing card is required to tour around the city. Check with your cruise for this service.
- Don’t join random “drivers/tour guides” on their tours. There will be people waiting outside the port’s gate trying to get you to join their tours, but no one can guarantee the price and the quality of their service.
What to Do on Ho Chi Minh City Shore Excursions
How adventurous are you?
- Tour in a private car/van/bus?
Private cars are the most convenient for shore excursions, especially if you’ll be arriving at the SPCT or Phu My Ports (both are quite far from Ho Chi Minh’s city center). What’s more, an air-conditioned vehicle is a huge plus when you’re touring under the tropical weather of Ho Chi Minh.
The toll from Phu My to Ho Chi Minh is USD 5, one-way. Therefore, for transportation based in Ho Chi Minh to arrange a Phu My tour, they will need to pay 4 times the toll fee (USD 20) for pick-up and drop-off services at the port. Make sure to discuss the transportation fares carefully.
Our tip is to gather a few cruise mates to join a Ho Chi Minh Excursion tour so you can share the transportation cost.
- Tour on the back of the bike?
If your ship arrives at the Nha Rong Port, you’re in luck. Book a private motorbike tour to see Ho Chi Minh City from the most authentic viewpoint.
Below are some special attractions that you should have on your list of what to do on the Ho Chi Minh shore excursion:
In Ho Chi Minh City
Ben Thanh Market
The market has become an iconic symbol of the city ever since its appearance in the heart of the city. It was once an architectural highlight and a bustling trading spot in old Saigon, til it became a tourist’s favorite place for buying souvenirs and enjoying authentic local cuisines.
It is always a fun time shopping at Ben Thanh Market
Notre Dame Cathedral
Another special icon of the city is the Notre Dame Cathedral – built by the French government in 1880 and has been preserved until now. This ancient construction is located on Cong Xa Paris Street, near other famous attractions like Independence Palace and Central Post Office.
This place is known as the most gorgeous ancient church in Ho Chi Minh City
War Remnants Museum
The museum tells the stories of the Vietnam War through a huge collection of pictures, articles, and outdoor exhibitions.
The museum attracts hundreds of tourists daily
Saigon Central Post Office
To develop telecommunication in Indochina, the French government decided to construct this post. The architect Gustave Eiffel, who designed the famous tower in Paris, also constructed the post office in the 19th century. Although the outside of this building has been changed several times, the original interior of the post office has been preserved.
Saigon Central Post Office is the oldest functional post office in Ho Chi Minh City
The Independence Palace was initially the office of the French governors and was named “Norodom” Palace. Since Vietnam was divided into two territories, North and South, the president of the South – Ngo Dinh Diem – changed its name to “Independence Palace”. Nowadays, it has become a famous tourist attraction because of its colonial structures and exhibitions inside.
Outside of the Independence Palace
Read more information on attractions in Ho Chi Minh City
On a private tour, you will have more choices and flexibility regarding the time and place you visit. You might even have time to visit Chinatown, ancient pagodas, and local markets and explore off-the-beaten-path destinations.
Try Vietnamese Cuisine
You will love to try Vietnamese cuisine and local beers because of the variety of delicious specialties in Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnamese pancake (Banh xeo)
Unlike your typical pancakes, the Vietnamese pancake has a savory surprise
Broken rice (Com tam)
The savory taste of broken rice, grilled ribs, and fish sauce would amaze you completely
Vermicelli and grilled pork (Bun thit nuong)
This food is a lovely mixture of vermicelli, fish sauce, pork, and vegetables
Sweet soups (Che)
Sweet soups are refreshing local desserts in Ho Chi Minh City
You should not miss out the most famous Vietnamese dish when you arrive in Ho Chi Minh City
Milk Coffee (Ca phe sua da)
Be Vietnamese for a day, sit at a roadside shop and sip ca phe sua da
Make a Tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels
In the Vietnam War, this area used to be a horrific battlefield that many Vietnamese and American soldiers sacrificed. This land was severely destroyed by bombs and chemical pollutants. The tunnel system was created by the locals to help Vietnamese soldiers use it as combat bases, meeting offices, and hiding places.
You can read more about what to see at Cu Chi Tunnels
Peek-a-boo from underground
Shooting range at the Cu Chi Tunnels
In Vung Tau
From the Phu My Ports, the distance to Vung Tau is closer than the distance to Ho Chi Minh City, only about a one-hour drive. You can catch a taxi to get there or book tours to explore the city in a day.
Ba Island in Vung Tau
This is the resort of the kings of Vietnam and the officials of the Republic Vietnam Government before 1975. This house has stunning views for you to take some amazing pictures.
The Statue of Christ
The statue of Christ in Vung Tau is one of the largest statues of Christ in Asia. Its construction was finished on the mountain of Tao Phung in 1994. From the top of the mountain, you will see the whole landscape of Vung Tau City. The beautiful view of the beaches will go beyond your expectations.
You can climb up to the Christ statue to get a panoramic view of the city
The Vung Tau’s Lighthouse
The French army built this lighthouse to control the coast of Southern Vietnam when they took over this place. Today, it has become a special destination for locals to come to explore and take pictures. You can get up here on the mountain road in a taxi or with a motorbike.
Vung Tau’s lighthouse
Try Vung Tau’s signature dishes
Mini Rice Pancakes (Banh khot)
One of the specialty foods in Vung Tau City
Enjoy fresh seafood in the beach city is always a favorite experience
Read more about Vung Tau City
Summary of What to Do on Ho Chi Minh Shore Excursions
There are many fascinating experiences and things waiting for you to visit and explore on your list of what to do on Ho Chi Minh shore excursions. You can find many tours including Ho Chi Minh City tour, Vung Tau tour, the Cu Chi Tunnels tour, and a food tour with local guides.