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6 Best Day Trips from Ho Chi Minh City

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Ho Chi Minh City in itself is massive. There are so many things to do within the city limits that it might take you some time to want to stretch your wings and see what lies just beyond.

During our year living in Ho Chi Minh City, we honestly didn't leave much. That's because the city really is just that alive. Many tourists arrive thinking the city is too chaotic and too dirty, and while those things are true, Ho Chi Minh City actually feels alive. I highly recommend you spend your time exploring all the hidden gems spread around before you set your sights on leaving.

But, when you are ready for a day trip, there are some unique ones waiting for you.

Most underestimate just how big Vietnam is and the lack of a massive highway system makes getting from Point A to Point B slower than you might expect. Although you might feel like you have less options than you originally thought, you still get a good variety.

Travel further and head out to the best places to visit in Vietnam or hang around and stick with these 6 best day trips from Ho Chi Minh City.

Short on time? Here's the cheat sheet:

🌍Day trips from Ho Chi Minh City mean immersing yourself into nature, history, and Vietnamese culture. 

🏥Accidents happen so come prepared with nomad insurance, just in case!

💰In general, HCMC and its day trips will be affordable but why not sweeten the deal? Earn travel rewards on all expenses with a Capital One Venture Card.

🛵If you’re comfortable driving, the best way to get around is by motorbike. Otherwise use Grab (like Uber) to get a taxi.

 🎭Rather go with a guide? GetYourGuide, Viator, and Klook offer a wide variety of tours and activities to suit your schedule, budget, and interests. 

⌛Have minimal time? My #1 day trip recommendation is to Ben Tre to enjoy nature, try some delicious treats, and take a little break from the city chaos.

1. Ben Tre

  • Travel Time From HCMC: 2 hours
  • Why Visit: To take a break from the chaos of the city
  • What to Do: Go on a boat ride, rent a bicycle, or learn how to make coconut candy
  • Who It's Best For: Nature enthusiasts and those looking to glimpse into rural Vietnamese culture

The Mekong Delta is the region in Southern Vietnam that's known for its winding rivers, lush mangrove forests, and bountiful farms. While this region is large, the best part to explore for a day trip from Ho Chi Minh City is Ben Tre.

If the chaos and noise of Saigon is getting to you, Ben Tre is the perfect antidote. It can get touristy in areas, mainly because of its proximity to the city, if you go off-the-beaten-path just slightly you'll be in a lush, green oasis.

Many travelers visit here for a riverboat tour, where instead of being on big boats on a big river, you'll traverse narrow river canals in small canoe-esque boats. It's also home to plenty of coconut plantations so if you want to enjoy your fill of coconut candy, Ben Tre is the day trip for you.

I recommend you rent a bike for at least an hour or two to explore your surroundings a bit more while in town.

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Where to Stay in Ben Tre

📍In need of a little bit more relaxation? Turn your day trip into an overnight one to enjoy extended time in Ben Tre. I recommend these hotels, based on your budget:

  • Budget Option: Ecoco Homestay: If you want to stay overnight for a chance to experience the local culture, this very affordable homestay is a great choice.
  • Mid-Tier Option: Ben Tre Farm Stay: This is where we stayed when we visited Ben Tre and really enjoyed our experience. It's a great choice if you want to be fully immersed in the surrounding nature.
  • Luxury Option: InnerZen Riverside Homestay: Traveling with a group? This Japanese-style 2-bedroom apartment can comfortably sleep 4.

2. Cai Rang Floating Markets

  • Travel Time From HCMC: 2 hours
  • Why Visit: To experience a unique market culture, with boats instead of regular stands
  • What to Do: Explore the market and try local food
  • Who It's Best For: Those seeking something unique, although not a hidden gem

Cai Rang Floating Market is located just outside of Can Tho, another city in the Mekong Delta Region. This area isn't too far from Ben Tre so if you do end up staying the night, you combine both of these destinations into one getaway.

This is one of the most famous floating markets in all of Vietnam. And honestly, I was super excited to visit it as part of our week-long getaway from Ho Chi Minh City.

Personally, it didn't live up to the hype for me. I did visit during 2020 when the country was closed to outside tourists, although not currently in a lockdown, meaning, I think, it was much quieter than maybe it normally is. I loved the entire region but this market and Can Tho in general didn't quite click for me.

But, everyone's opinion and experience is different, so if you're still intrigued, give it a try!

To visit the market you'll need to go on a boat tour. Most of them leave from Can Tho but it's also possible to schedule this tour directly from Ho Chi Minh City so you don't have to worry about transportation or any of the logistics.

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Where to Stay in Can Tho

📍Turn your day trip into an overnight one to enjoy extended time in Can Tho, the closest city to the floating markets. I recommend these hotels, based on your budget:

  • Budget Option: Thanh Ha Guesthouse: If you're looking to not just stay the night but also enjoy a tour or two on a budget, this simple guesthouse is a good choice.
  • Mid-Tier Option: The Lighthouse: If you want to stay in the center of Can Tho, this is a great location. It's near the night market so if you want another market experience to try some delicious food, you'll love it here.
  • Luxury Option: Victoria Can Tho Resort: Want a stay in the lap of luxury? This resort has a spa, swimming pool, restaurant, bar, and fitness center.
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3. Vung Tau

  • Travel Time From HCMC: 2 hours
  • Why Visit: For a day on the beach
  • What to Do: Swim, sunbathe, eat fresh seafood, hike up the hill to the Statue of Christ
  • Who It's Best For: Beach lovers or those needing a city break

Ho Chi Minh City is pretty hot all year round, which might just make you crave a day at the beach. Although this isn't the best beach in Vietnam, it's a pretty great spot, especially given it's close proximity to the city.

Vung Tau can get really crowded, especially on the weekends, but if you're craving a day on the sand and splashing in the waves, it's one of the best, but not the only, options on this list.

Most of the coast is lined with seafood restaurants and chairs and umbrellas you can rent for the day. Although there's an amusement park, lighthouse, and a huge Jesus statue on the hill, I recommend taking your day trip to Vung Tau easy and simply enjoying the beach.

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Where to Stay in

📍Turn your day trip into an overnight one to enjoy extended time in Vung Tau. I recommend these hotels, based on your budget:

  • Budget Option: Queen Garden Hotel & Apartment: Especially for the price point, you'll have everything you need at a great price point when you book your stay here.
  • Mid-Tier Option: V Boutique Hotel: Want somewhere super aesthetically pleasing and more modern? This one has great rooms, a scenic swimming pool, and is only 1 km from the beach.
  • Luxury Option: Nice Apartment Goldsea: If you're traveling with your family, this 3-bedroom apartment will have space for you all. Not only is it spacious, it's also a quick walk from the shore.

4. Cu Chi Tunnels

  • Travel Time From HCMC: 1 hour
  • Why Visit: To see the tunnels built by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War
  • What to Do: Go into the tunnels and learn more about the war history
  • Who It's Best For: History buffs

If you're at all interested in the war history in Vietnam, a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels is one of the must-see attractions. It's become very touristy so unless you get lucky on the timing of your visit, you can expect a lot of people around, but it's still pretty incredible to see how the Northern Vietnamese forces were able to tunnel their way into South Vietnam.

Although you can't traverse the entirety of the 155 miles (250 km) of tunnels, you can go to either Ben Dinh or Ben Duoc to take a peek into the underground tunnels and even climb down into one if you dare.

While you certainly can stay around the Cu Chi Tunnels, there's not really much more going on in the area so other than some time at the tunnels, an overnight stay isn't really necessary.

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5. Can Gio

  • Travel Time From HCMC: 45 minutes
  • Why Visit: To get off the beaten path and spend time in nature
  • What to Do: Wildlife viewing
  • Who It's Best For: Nature enthusiasts, eco-tourists

Want more day trips that offer a dive into nature? Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO-listed destination that'll get you far out of the city without a big drive.

Although not technically part of the Mekong Delta, the landscape is similar with wetlands, mangrove forests, and interconnected river canals.

The real reason to visit this Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve is to see up close the flora and fauna of the area from the river or from observation towers above the trees. This park is home to a variety of plants and animal species, namely snakes, crocodiles, monkeys, fishing cats, and an abundance of birds. Be sure if you're here to see the animals, you don't support any businesses focused on animal tourism and instead pay a local guide to try to spot them in the wild.

For adventurous travelers that want to get off the beaten path, I'd recommend a visit here instead of the most popular day trips to Ben Tre or Cai Be Floating Market. Full disclosure though, I haven't personally visited here.

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Where to Stay in

📍Turn your day trip into an overnight one to enjoy extended time in Can Gio. I recommend these hotels, based on your budget:

  • Budget Option: SAY Camp Forest: Want something that really sets you up in nature? Here the living quarters are tents so you can experience camping/glamping.
  • Mid-Tier Option: Tan Thai Duong Motel: For a completely indoor stay, aka a regular room, that's still very affordable, this motel is a good choice.
  • Luxury Option: Cần Giờ Homestay: This 2-bedroom house offers enough space and beds to sleep up to 7 people. It's a simple house but has a kitchen and everything you'd need in a 1 or 2 night stay.

6. Mui Ne

  • Travel Time From HCMC: 3 hours
  • Why Visit: For the unique landscapes
  • What to Do: Go to the beach, try surfing, sandboard or ATV on the sand dunes
  • Who It's Best For: Adventure seekers and beach bums

Although this is pushing the list for nearby destinations from Ho Chi Minh City, if you're willing to travel a bit farther or even stay the night, Mui Ne is a great option.

This coastal city is more than just a beach town, it's also home to giant red and white sand dunes for extra fun. So whether you want to spend your day on the beach, surfing the waves, or boarding down sand dunes, there's a lot to see and do in Mui Ne.

Many also are intrigued by the so-called "fairy river," but other than just a cool photo opp (so long as the weather has been good and it's not a dry creek bed), there's not too much to do. If you're on a day trip, I'd skip this and stick to the beach and the sand dunes.

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Where to Stay in

📍Turn your day trip into an overnight one to enjoy extended time in Mui Ne. I recommend these hotels, based on your budget:

  • Budget Option: Homestay BONO: This homestay offers an incredible ocean view and close proximity to restaurants and coffee shops.
  • Mid-Tier Option: IRINI Boutique Homestay: This hotel is beachfront with great views and a private pool but is on a local beach, not the central Mui Ne beach.
  • Luxury Option: Villa Amory: Traveling with a group? This villa sleeps 10, is pet-friendly, and offers a swimming pool just for your group.

Things to Know Before You Go

Before we dive into the good stuff, there are a few things to know that'll help you plan your day trips from Ho Chi Minh City with ease.

I know just how easy it is to look towards the big hike, bucket list city, or beach of my dreams and forget about all of the little things in between that’ll make your trip run as smoothly as possible. Be sure to take into consideration these few things before you go to make sure you get all the good bits of your trip without the stress. 

  • The best time of the year to visit is January to April. I suggest this because during these months you don't need to worry about typhoons or afternoon downpours ruining your day trips. The best time to visit Vietnam in general though will vary.
  • Make sure you have travel insurance. A good travel insurance, like SafetyWing, will ensure you’re covered in case of emergencies. While you will have to pay upfront for your doctor or hospital costs, unless it’s for a pre-existing condition, you can file a claim and should be reimbursed. For any Americans reading this, fear not, healthcare in pretty much every other country is far more affordable than ours, even if you’re paying out of pocket. 
  • Do your best to learn a few local phrases in Vietnam. No, I’m not expecting you to be able to have a fluid conversation with locals at the bus stop if you’re just visiting their country for a week but knowing your numbers (for prices), how to order something (“I would like…”), and basic greetings really will take you a long way. Mondly is a great app for phrases and vocabulary. 
  • Book any popular tours you want to do in advance. I’m really not a great planner and I’ve made this mistake more times than I can count. I plan a trip to a destination knowing that I want to do a sailboat trip or food tour and wait until the day before to book only to realize it’s not available the day I’m in town. GetYourGuide, Viator, and Klook offer a wide variety of tours and activities to suit your schedule, budget, and interests. 
  • Getting from Point A to Point B. I wouldn't recommend renting a car or a motorbike unless you're a confident driver and familiar with Vietnamese traffic. If you are, a motorbike is by far the best way to get to these day trips. If you aren't, consider hiring a taxi, a tour, or the local bus. Just know that the drive times mentioned earlier as for driving yourself, the public bus will take longer.
  • Before you start booking your flights, hotels, and tours, consider opening up a travel credit card. Thanks to our Capital One Venture card, my husband and I have gotten countless free flights just by gaining points on everyday expenses. This tip certainly isn’t mandatory but it is helpful.

Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City

Before you can get too excited about all the day trips from Ho Chi Minh City you'll embark on, make sure you book a nice, centrally located place to stay. While there are loads of great neighborhoods in HCMC to choose from, if you're just in town for a few days, staying in the center will be easiest.

I'd recommend staying in the heart of the action at one of these hotels:

  • Budget Stay: Zeus Living: They do have a few room types but the studio with spa bath seems like a great home base to build in Ho Chi Minh City while you take advantage of a few of these day trips.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Silverland Bến Thành: Looking for an architectural marvel? While that may be dramatic, this hotel is super cool, unique, and will be one you'll want to spend plenty of time in.
  • Luxury Stay: Fusion Original: If you want to explore Ho Chi Minh City on foot, this hotel will put you in the best location to do so and see District 1, the heart of the city, well.

Which Day Trip Will You Go on First?

I started this article urging you to spend more time in Ho Chi Minh City and I'll end it by saying the same. There is such a rich history, vibrant culture, and endless alleyways to get to know that I really think most visitors to the city overlook.

That being said though, taking some day trips from Ho Chi Minh City will be the icing on top of your stay. Whether you choose to head to the beach, to the depths of the Mekong Delta, or learn from historical sites, there are a variety of destinations awaiting you.

The only question left to ask yourself is which will you go on first?

All photos, except the last 2, courtesy of depositphotos.com.

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