Our Saigon Family Travel Guide
This is a short and sharp Saigon Family Travel Guide because we only spent four days in the city. Our flight arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, on the 6th of March 2020. We enjoyed our time in the hustle and bustle but we prefer laid back travel, so we were happy to move to Da Nang on the 10th of March.
If you're travelling to Vietnam, you might also like our Vietnam guide - click here.
Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon?
Ho Chi Minh City is the official name of the largest city in Vietnam. Before the end of the American War (this is the war I always previously understood to be the Vietnam War), this city was named Saigon. The city was renamed Ho Chi Minh when the north claimed victory. People in Saigon call it Saigon. Once we learned the history we called it Saigon too ?
What to do in Saigon
Rimaha didn't want our short stay packed out with tours so we had to choose what we wanted to do. The list ended up being Cu Chi Tunnels for a half day and the War Remnants Museum. We explored the city in between these outings. It ended up being a good mix because there is a lot to see in the city, it's a big place!
Cu Chi Tunnels Half Day Tour
At the top of the list was the Cu Chi Tunnels, because - tunnels!!!
We took this tour on day three because we knew we needed a day or so to recover. The day day before we flew out seemed like a good plan because it didn't have a late finish. We were happy with this decision, although we did have to put up with daily questions about when we would be visiting the tunnels!
Elijah had been excited about the tunnels since we talked about it in New Zealand. He made sure he got his head torch before we left. When we got there, our biggest challenge was getting him to sit patiently while we learned about the history before going inside.
We opted for the half day tour because Elijah is three and we didn't want to try and do too much in one day. Toddler tantrums on tour wouldn't be fun (although that could have been a really good name for the blog ?).
If your kids are a bit older, you might opt for a full day tour including the Cao Dai Temple. The combined tour below (from Get Your Guide) came highly recommended by World Travel Family (who we have followed since about 2014). We will check out the temple when we return to Saigon later this year to pick up our suitcase (yes, we left a suitcase in Saigon).
War Remnants Museum
The War Remnants Museum was on our list because the reviews were fantastic. Our kids don't go to school, they learn in the world, so this was a great opportunity for them to learn very important world history. The questions they were asking made me realise just how inhumane adults can be. Innocent children don't see reasons for war. Maybe politicians would do well to listen to their inner child from time to time!
If you visit the War Remnants museum, watch out for the guy who pretends not to have a scam. Flick through the instagram photos on the above post to see Rimaha posing carrying the coconuts. This is a great scam, and we were lucky to pay the going rates for coconuts. I think he asked us for 100,000 per coconut but I told him, "oh, we only have 100,000 vnd left, we are going to find an ATM".
We were also lucky to stop him at three coconuts, he was going for five. In case you get caught out, do your best to not pay more than 30,000 vnd per coconut, perhaps you'll enjoy the cool refreshment and laugh about it like we did.
Strolls in the Walking Streets
We loved walking through the inner city streets, especially at night. Our guest house was just around the corner from Bui Vien Walking Street (although it was still filled with a lot of motorbikes). My older children loved crossing the road, it was like a game to them, they were braver than I was!
I'm looking forward to creating some videos of our evenings in Saigon. We collected a lot of video footage, if you like video check out our Saigon Instagram stories.
Nguyễn Huệ walking street is another place to walk with your family. We started at the end furtherest from the river. When we were a little hungry, we called into Vo Roof Garden to eat and play a game of Jenga.
After watching the sun set, we continued down the walking street toward the river. Mums and dads beware, the street is lined with stalls filled with toys and lights enticing children to beg their parents to buy. This is something I don't particularly enjoy, so we were trying to distract Elijah as best we could. When we reached the river we walked along and took a lot of photos and videos. It was a lovely place to walk and it made for a nice evening.
Playgrounds in Saigon, Ho Chi Minh
Our youngest is Elijah who was three while we were in Saigon. We found there were some really great parks but they weren't close to where we stayed. If we were returning to Saigon for more than a couple of nights, I would be looking for something near Tao Đàn Park, which is near the Reunification Palace. This area is still within District 1, which is important if you plan to take tours as most tours will only pick up from District 1.
Tao Dan Park has a few playgrounds sitting on the sand. There are huge grassy areas and it had a really nice vibe. I didn't get any photos from these playgrounds, but we have some good memories of Rimaha falling off one of the rides and splitting his shorts open ?
What we loved in Saigon
We loved the location of our guest house which we booked after reading World Travel Family's Ho Chi Minh Blog.
Our guesthouse, Funny Guesthouse, was in such an awesome location. We were right in amongst the city. Bui Vien Walking Street was just up from our alley, yet the place was so quiet. If you are travelling to Saigon and want to be right in amongst the city, but don't want the noise, I'd highly recommend staying along this alley!
Our older kids favourite thing in Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City was crossing the street. They loved the thrill of running across, dodging all the bikes. I was terrified ?
Elijah's favourite thing was the Cu Chi tunnels, he would love to do that again!
My favourite thing in that city was walking with my family at night. My heart feels happy and full thinking of the talks we had as we strolled along looking at all the lights. Definitely go walking at night in this city ?
What we didn't love in Saigon
Ben Thanh Market is something we didn't enjoy. At all. I wouldn't recommend it unless you really enjoy markets. Rimaha felt like he needed a fly swat, he only wanted some shorts, but it was so in our faces. Everyone was desperate to sell to us. It may have been that most tourists had already gone home because of Covid. I don't know. But we just felt bombarded there and couldn't wait to get out of the place.
I think that was the only thing we weren't thrilled about. If I think of anything else I'll come back and add it.
Is there anything else I need to add for this Saigon Family Travel Guide? If you can think of anything, let me know and I'll add it asap!