The Best Day Trips From Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Author: Veruska Anconitano, Award-Winning Food Travel Journalist, Sommelier & Outdoor LoverAuthor information
About the author
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska is a a food travel journalist with awards to her credit, such as World Best Food Travel Journalist. She holds a certification as a sommelier and she is also an ardent lover of the outdoors. Aside from this, Veruska is a Multilingual SEO and Localization Consultant and co-owns multiple websites that cater to a global audience.
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Ho Chi Minh City is a vibrant hub of culture, history, and rapid modernization, offering more than just its bustling city life. If you are looking for day trips from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, you are in for a treat.

Ho Chi Minh City is the starting point for exploring some of the most intriguing destinations in the region. These day trips provide a rich mix of historical exploration, natural wonders, and a deep dive into the cultural fabric of Vietnam.

From the historical significance of the Cu Chi Tunnels and the natural beauty of the Mekong Delta to the unique spiritual experience at the Cao Dai Temple, each destination offers a distinct perspective on Vietnam’s multifaceted culture.

This guide aims to take you on a detailed journey through these exceptional day trips from Ho Chi Minh City, emphasizing the unique aspects of each location and how they contribute to a fuller understanding of Vietnam’s diverse cultural heritage.

The goal is to ensure that your travel experiences are enriching and memorable, leaving a lasting impression of Vietnam’s historical depth and contemporary vibrancy.

Before you keep reading…
If you are looking for the best Ho Chi Minh travel guide, carved from experience and with plenty of advice, just visit our Ho Chi Minh itinerary and guide and plan your perfect itinerary.

Cu Chi Tunnels: A Journey into Vietnam’s War History

Cu Chi Tunnels

The Cu Chi Tunnels are a testament to the resilience of the Vietnamese people during the Vietnam War. Spanning over 250 kilometers, this vast underground network was developed by the Viet Cong to conduct guerrilla warfare against superior enemy forces. The tunnels served multiple purposes: living quarters, command centers, hospitals, and supply routes, all hidden from the prying eyes of the enemy. Venturing into these tunnels offers a glimpse into the harsh realities of war and the strategic brilliance that played a crucial role in shaping the outcome of the conflict.

Today, the Cu Chi Tunnels have been preserved and opened to visitors, allowing a unique opportunity to experience a part of Vietnam’s wartime history firsthand.

Crawling through the narrow passageways, one can only marvel at the tenacity of the soldiers who lived and fought under such challenging conditions. The site is also educational, with exhibits displaying the various traps used in guerrilla warfare and the simple yet effective tools that the Viet Cong utilized to maintain life underground.

This exploration is not just about witnessing the remnants of war; it’s an immersive experience that connects visitors with the spirit of perseverance and resourcefulness that defined a nation’s struggle for independence.

The visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels is more than a historical excursion; it’s a profound journey into the heart of Vietnam’s wartime legacy, offering insights into the complexities of conflict and the indomitable human spirit.

How to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels

Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels, located outside Ho Chi Minh City, offers a profound insight into Vietnam’s history and is a must-do for anyone interested in the country’s war past. While going solo is certainly possible, it’s essential to consider the logistics and costs involved in such an endeavor. Traveling to the Cu Chi Tunnels independently can be more expensive and less straightforward than joining a guided tour. The journey involves navigating public transportation or renting a vehicle, which, without local language skills, can be challenging and time-consuming.

For those determined to plan a solo trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, it’s crucial to do thorough research and preparation. Booking your transportation in advance, whether it’s a car rental or understanding the bus routes, will save you significant stress on the day of your visit. Additionally, consider that you’ll need to pay for entrance fees and possibly hire a local guide upon arrival to make the most of your visit, as the historical context and stories behind the tunnels greatly enhance the experience.

Joining a tour might be the more convenient and cost-effective option. Tours to the Cu Chi Tunnels are offered by numerous agencies throughout Ho Chi Minh City and cater to a wide range of preferences, from group to private tours, and often include additional stops at interesting sites along the way. These tours not only provide hassle-free transportation directly from the city but also come with knowledgeable guides who offer invaluable insights into the history of the tunnels and Vietnam’s war with America.

If you prefer the organized route, booking your tour in advance is advisable. This guarantees your spot and allows you to research and select the tour that best fits your interests and budget.

I recommend this highly-rated Cu Chi Tunnels Luxury Tour that you can book for the morning or afternoon. It will allow you to experience this network of underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong soldiers. 

Mekong Delta: The Lifeblood of Southern Vietnam

Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta, often referred to as Vietnam’s “rice bowl,” is a region of unparalleled fertility, crisscrossed by a network of rivers and canals that sustain life in this lush corner of the world. This area is famous for its floating markets, a vibrant display of Vietnam’s river culture, where boats brim with fruits, vegetables, and goods, mirroring the delta’s lively spirit and agricultural bounty.

A visit to these floating markets, such as Cai Rang or Phong Dien, offers an authentic glimpse into the daily lives of the local people for whom the river is both a lifeline and a way of life. Travelers can witness the early morning bustle, the skillful negotiation, and the colorful chaos that define these aquatic marketplaces.

The Mekong Delta is significant for its economic contribution to Vietnam and a bastion of unique cultural and culinary traditions. The delta’s cuisine is a testament to the region’s rich bounty, featuring dishes that are both simple in their ingredients and complex in their flavors. Sampling specialties like the “Banh Xeo” (sizzling pancake), “Canh Chua” (sour soup), or the myriad of seafood dishes offer a taste of the local palate, deeply influenced by the geography and the abundance of the delta. Moreover, the culture of the Mekong Delta, with its traditional music, crafts, and festivals, offers visitors a deeper understanding of the diverse tapestry of Vietnamese life. Engaging with the community, whether through a homestay experience or a village visit, allows for meaningful connections and insights into the resilient and welcoming spirit of the delta’s inhabitants.

The journey through the Mekong Delta is a voyage into the heart of Vietnam’s agricultural and cultural heritage, revealing the intricate relationship between the land, the water, and the people.

How to visit the Mekong Delta

Whether choosing to explore solo or with a group, the Mekong Delta is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in experiencing the natural beauty and cultural richness of Vietnam. Solo travel offers a more personal and flexible experience but requires thorough planning and a sense of adventure. In contrast, group tours provide ease and educational value, making them a great option for those seeking a worry-free exploration of this fascinating region. Regardless of your choice, the Mekong Delta promises an unforgettable journey through the heart of Vietnam’s agricultural and cultural landscape.

Visiting the Mekong Delta Solo

Traveling solo to the Mekong Delta allows for a flexible itinerary tailored to your interests, whether it’s exploring local markets, visiting traditional villages, or simply cruising along the delta’s many rivers and canals. However, going solo requires more planning:

  • Transportation: You can reach the Mekong Delta by bus from Ho Chi Minh City’s main bus terminals. Consider renting a motorbike or bicycle upon arrival for local exploration, allowing you to navigate the delta’s winding roads and pathways at your own pace.
  • Activities: While solo travel offers flexibility, arranging boat tours or visits to specific attractions may require negotiation and logistical planning on your part. It’s advisable to book these activities in advance when possible or seek assistance from your homestay hosts or local tourism offices upon arrival.

Joining a Group Tour

For those who prefer a more structured approach, group tours to the Mekong Delta are plentiful and can be booked in Ho Chi Minh City. These tours offer several advantages:

  • Convenience: Tours handle all logistics, from transportation and meals to guided activities, making your trip hassle-free.
  • Knowledgeable Guides: Group tours are typically led by experienced guides who provide valuable historical and cultural context, enhancing your understanding of the delta.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Joining a group tour can be more economical, as participants share costs. It also offers the chance to meet and interact with fellow travelers.
Do you want to visit the Mekong Delta?
This excellent Mekong Delta Tour from HCM City will explore the distinctive delta landscape by motorized river boat and row boat. It also includes a Delta-style lunch at a local restaurant.
Do you want to combine the Chu Chu Tunnels and the Mekong Delta?
This Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta Luxury Tour from HCM City is the perfect blend of culture, history and nature and will allow you to be amazed by this fascinating area.

Can Gio Mangrove Forest: A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

Can Gio Mangrove Forest

The Can Gio Mangrove Forest, situated at the edge of Ho Chi Minh City, serves as a critical ecological barrier, protecting the inland from tidal surges and erosion while also being a vital habitat for biodiversity. Recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, this extensive mangrove forest is home to many species, from hundreds of bird species to the elusive saltwater crocodile. The forest’s dense mangroves are crucial for maintaining the ecological balance and carbon sequestration, playing a significant role in combating climate change. A visit to Can Gio explores the intricate interplay between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and an opportunity to witness conservation efforts in action.

Touring the Can Gio Mangrove Forest offers a chance to immerse in nature’s tranquility and raw beauty. You can engage in various activities, from bird watching and canoeing through the maze of mangrove channels to visiting the monkey sanctuary, where playful primates roam freely. For those interested in the environmental and scientific aspects, educational tours provide insights into the mangrove’s ecosystem, highlighting the importance of mangroves in coastal protection and biodiversity conservation. The forest’s serene environment and the richness of life it harbors make it a perfect destination for those seeking a respite from the city’s hustle and bustle, offering a moment of reflection on the significance of preserving natural habitats.

With its lush landscapes and diverse wildlife, Can Gio Mangrove Forest offers a unique adventure, combining ecological education with the simple joy of being in nature.

How to visit the Can Gio Mangrove Forest

Whether venturing solo or with a group, visiting the Can Gio Mangrove Forest is an opportunity to connect with nature and learn about the critical role mangroves play in environmental protection and biodiversity. Solo travel allows for flexibility and personal discovery, while group tours offer convenience and educational benefits. Regardless of how you choose to visit, the Can Gio Mangrove Forest promises a memorable experience away from the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City, offering a peaceful retreat into one of Vietnam’s most precious natural habitats.

Visiting Can Gio Mangrove Forest Solo

Visiting the Can Gio Mangrove Forest solo can be a rewarding experience for travelers who prefer to set their own pace and itinerary. Here’s what to consider:

  • Transportation: The journey to Can Gio Mangrove Forest from Ho Chi Minh City can be undertaken by bus or rented motorbike. The route offers scenic views and the freedom to stop along the way. Upon arrival, you may rent a bicycle to navigate the park’s paths.
  • Activities: Exploring the forest solo allows for spontaneous decisions, whether it’s taking a quiet canoe ride through the mangroves, bird watching, or seeking out spots for wildlife photography. However, it’s essential to research and possibly book some activities in advance, especially those that require a guide or specialized equipment.
  • Preparation: As a solo traveler, it’s crucial to prepare for the day with adequate supplies, including water, snacks, sun protection, and insect repellent. Also, familiarize yourself with the park’s layout and main attractions to maximize your visit.

Joining a Group Tour

Opting for a group tour to Can Gio Mangrove Forest can enhance the experience through structured activities and insights provided by knowledgeable guides. Here are the benefits:

  • Ease of Planning: A group tour simplifies the logistics, covering transportation, entry fees, and scheduled activities. This is ideal for travelers who prefer a hassle-free approach to exploring natural attractions.
  • Educational Value: Guided tours often include educational components, offering insights into the mangrove ecosystem, its importance to coastal protection, and conservation efforts. Learning about the biodiversity and ecological significance of the area can enrich the visit.
  • Social Interaction: Joining a tour provides an opportunity to meet like-minded travelers, share experiences, and perhaps even spot wildlife together, adding a social dimension to the adventure.
This Can Gio Tour from Ho Chi Minh City is perfect for outdoor lovers, and it includes seeing monkeys play at Can Gio’s Monkey Island, checking out the crocodiles at Hoa Ca, having a canoe ride in the mangroves, and more.

Vung Tau: Seaside Escapes and Colonial History

Vung Tau

Vung Tau, a coastal city just a short distance from Ho Chi Minh City, presents a delightful retreat for those looking to enjoy the sea and sand. Renowned for its long, sweeping beaches such as Back Beach and Front Beach, Vung Tau offers a variety of water-based activities, from swimming and sunbathing to jet skiing and kite surfing. The city’s unique position on a peninsula means visitors can enjoy sunrise and sunset over the ocean, a rare feature for Vietnam’s coastline. The calm waters and gentle waves make Vung Tau an ideal spot for families and those seeking a serene beach experience, away from the more crowded tourist destinations.

Beyond its natural allure, Vung Tau is steeped in history, with its past as a French colonial port leaving a lasting architectural legacy. The Vung Tau Lighthouse, perched atop a hill, offers panoramic views of the city and the sea, while the Christ the King statue, one of the largest statues of Christ in Asia, is a significant landmark, with visitors able to climb to its arms for an unrivaled vista. The city’s colonial buildings, once homes and offices of French officials, now serve as museums and cafes, offering a glimpse into Vung Tau’s past. This blend of natural beauty and historical depth makes Vung Tau a multifaceted destination, where leisure and learning go hand in hand.

The charm of Vung Tau lies in its ability to offer a tranquil beach escape while encapsulating the rich cultural and historical essence of Vietnam. Whether it’s lounging on the beach, exploring the remnants of colonial history, or enjoying the city’s culinary delights, Vung Tau provides a comprehensive experience that caters to a wide range of interests.

How to visit Vung Tau

Visiting Vung Tau, a serene coastal city located just a few hours from Ho Chi Minh City, offers an easy and refreshing escape to the beach without the need for organized tours. The charm of Vung Tau lies in its accessibility, scenic beaches, and relaxed atmosphere, making it an ideal destination for a self-guided day trip or weekend getaway. Here’s how to plan your visit:

How to Arrive in Vung Tau

  • By Hydrofoil/Ferry: One of the quickest and most scenic ways to reach Vung Tau is by taking a hydrofoil or ferry from Ho Chi Minh City. The journey takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, departing from the Saigon River terminal in District 1. This option provides a unique perspective of the region as you travel along the river and out to sea, arriving directly at Vung Tau’s waterfront.
  • By Bus: Several bus companies operate frequent services from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau, with departures from various bus stations including Mien Dong Bus Station. The bus journey can take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours, depending on traffic, and is an economical choice. Buses drop passengers off at central locations in Vung Tau, making it convenient to start exploring the city right away.
  • By Motorbike or Car: For those who prefer the freedom to explore at their own pace, renting a motorbike or car is an excellent option. The drive to Vung Tau offers a straightforward route with the chance to take in the scenic countryside. However, it’s essential to be comfortable with Vietnamese driving conditions and have the necessary licenses and insurance.

What to do in Vung Tau

Vung Tau’s main attractions are its beaches, such as Front Beach (Bãi Trước) and Back Beach (Bãi Sau), each offering different vibes and activities. Front Beach is closer to the city center, with calm waters and a picturesque park, while Back Beach is known for its expansive shoreline and ideal conditions for swimming and surfing.

Allocate time to visit the iconic Christ the King statue, which provides panoramic views of the city and sea from its outstretched arms. The Vung Tau Lighthouse, another must-visit landmark, offers stunning vistas, especially at sunset.

If you plan to stay overnight, Vung Tau offers a wide range of accommodation options, from budget hostels to luxury resorts. Booking in advance is recommended, especially during weekends and holidays when the city is a popular getaway for locals.

Cao Dai Temple: Spiritual Splendor and Unique Beliefs

Cao Dai Temple

The Cao Dai Temple, located in Tay Ninh, is a stunning representation of Caodaism, a unique religion that blends the philosophical and spiritual elements of Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism, and Confucianism. The temple’s architecture is a vibrant spectacle, with dragon-embellished pillars, colorful murals, and a dome representing the cosmos. The main hall, adorned with a divine eye symbolizing the supreme being, is an awe-inspiring sight that encapsulates the eclectic nature of Caodaism. Visitors have the opportunity to witness the daily ceremonies, which are characterized by elaborate rituals and the harmonious chanting of followers dressed in white, symbolizing purity. These ceremonies provide a profound insight into the spiritual practices and the inclusive philosophy of Caodaism.

Exploring the Cao Dai Temple offers a deeper understanding of this relatively modern faith, established in Vietnam in the early 20th century. The religion’s core tenet is the unity of all religions, promoting peace and tolerance among different faiths. The temple serves as a place of worship and a symbol of the religious diversity and unity that Caodaism advocates. Engaging with followers and learning about the religion’s beliefs, practices, and its emphasis on meditation and non-violence, offers a unique perspective on how different spiritual traditions can converge to form a cohesive and inclusive belief system.

The visit to the Cao Dai Temple is more than just a cultural excursion; it is a journey into the heart of a spiritual movement that challenges conventional religious boundaries.

How to visit Cao Dai Temple

Given the temple’s distance from Ho Chi Minh City, approximately 100 kilometers or about a 2 to 3-hour drive, visitors should plan their trip carefully to make the most of their visit. . Whether you choose the convenience of a tour or the adventure of solo travel, knowing what to expect and planning accordingly will ensure a memorable and respectful visit. Here’s how to approach your visit, whether you choose to go solo or with a tour.

Visiting Cao Dai Temple with a Tour

For many travelers, joining a tour to the Cao Dai Temple is the most convenient option. Tours often include:

  • Round-trip transportation: Eliminating the need to navigate public transportation or rent a vehicle.
  • Guided tours: Providing valuable context about the temple’s architecture, the principles of Caodaism, and insights into the daily ceremonies.
  • Scheduled visits during ceremonies: Ensuring you arrive at the temple in time to witness the colorful and fascinating noon prayer session, a highlight of any visit.

Tours may include stops at additional attractions like the Cu Chi Tunnels, making it a full day of exploration and learning. When choosing a tour, look for options that offer a small group experience for a more personalized visit.

Our recommendation
This Cu Chi Tunnels, Cao Dai Temple & Ba Den Mount have everything you may want from a tour: a small group, Cao Dai, and more attractions, including Ba Den Mount and delicious restaurant lunch at a local restaurant.

Visiting Cao Dai Temple Solo

Given the travel time to Tay Ninh, it’s best to depart Ho Chi Minh City early in the morning, whether driving or catching a bus. This allows ample time to reach the temple, participate in or observe the noon ceremony, and explore the temple grounds or nearby attractions in the afternoon. If you prefer to venture solo should consider the following:

  • Transportation: Renting a car or motorbike offers the most flexibility but requires comfort with local driving conditions. Alternatively, public buses from Ho Chi Minh City to Tay Ninh are available, but you’ll need to manage your timing carefully to catch the prayer ceremony.
  • Timing: The main ceremony occurs daily at noon, and arriving early is advisable to explore the temple before the ceremony begins. This also provides a chance to find a good spot to observe the rituals without disturbing the worshippers.
  • Research: Understanding the basics of Caodaism and the temple’s significance will enrich your visit. Also, familiarize yourself with the temple’s etiquette, such as dressing modestly and asking permission before taking photographs.

Check these customized Vietnam itineraries to make sure you add day trips from Ho Chi Min City to your schedule:

Explore day trips from Ho Chi Minh City

Day trips from Ho Chi Minh City help us understand the diverse character of Vietnam, from its historical depth and cultural richness to its natural beauty and spiritual diversity.

Each destination, from the Cu Chi Tunnels to the serene waters of the Mekong Delta, the lush Can Gio Mangrove Forest, the picturesque beaches of Vung Tau, and the spiritually uplifting Cao Dai Temple, offers a unique story and an unforgettable experience.

These trips enrich travelers’ understanding of Vietnam’s past and present, inspiring a deeper appreciation for its resilience, beauty, and the harmony that defines its spirit.

As the adventures unfold, they reveal the essence of Vietnam, a land of contrast and convergence, where every visit becomes a chapter in a traveler’s book of memories, each one distinct yet part of a larger narrative of discovery and wonder.

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