48-hours in Ho Chi Minh City with kids

,Temple in Ho CHi MInh City

Here’s how to spend 48-hours in Ho Chi Minh City to take in the big-ticket family attractions as well as some of the city’s best behind-the-scenes bangers.

From the enthralling chaos of street markets to the serenity of ancient pagodas, we embark on a whirlwind 48-hour journey through Ho Chi Minh City, a vibrant metropolis with an ineffable charm that invites families to explore its rich history in modern comfort. Here we share the best bits to explore in 48-hours in Ho Chi Minh City.


Ho Chi Minh City with kids – Day 1


Morning rush in Ho CHi Minh CIty © Aleney de WInter

6am Morning rush in Ho Chi Minh CIty

Morning: We’d expected a quiet start to a day of exploring Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) but this city has other plans. Noisy ones! When we exit our hotel at 6am, there are already conga lines of motorcycles and scooters in every direction, performing a raucous symphony of honks and beeps that could wake the dead.

Pho (beef noodle soup) is an popular breakfast in Saigon

Pho (beef noodle soup)

We start our day at Ben Thanh Market but first grab a fragrant and soul soothing pho, aromatic beef broth with soft and slippery rice noodles, crunchy bean sprouts and fresh herbs at Phở Hòa. The legendary street stall opens its doors at 5:00 AM and serves up noodle soup with a wide range of toppings including beef brisket, flank, tendon, tripe and meatballs. Fuelled up, we dive into Ben Thanh Market to bargain for souvenirs and stock up on snacks.

Tank on display at War Remnants Museum.

The War Remnants Museum

Mid-morning: Take a taxi or, if it’s not too hot, a 20-minute walk to the War Remnants Museum. The museum is confronting, with artefacts and photographs documenting the horrors of  the Vietnam War, but even if you’ve only got 48-hours in Ho Chi Minh City, it is a must visit for older kids to learn about the appalling consequences of war. Younger kids might prefer to engage with the bigger outdoor exhibits like the UH-1 helicopter and tank displays.

Notre Dame Cathedral Ho CHi Minh City © Aleney de Winter

Notre Dame Cathedral Ho Chi Minh City

We lighten things up with a visit to the nearby Notre Dame Cathedral, which stands as a testament to the city’s colonial past, and the Central Post Office, a pretty, yellow French-colonial confection, to marvel at its architectural beauty and to send a postcard  or two home. The landmark building was built in the late 19th century, by Gustave Eiffel, best known as the architect of the Eiffel Tower.

Lady in yellow outside Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh CIty

Central Post Office

Be sure to leave time to take a stroll down Nguyen Van Binh Book Street, which runs wight alongside the post office. The pretty pedestrian-only street is lined with coffee shops and around 20 bookstores offering a diverse selection of books in various languages, including kids  books.

Nguyen Van Binh Book Street

Nguyen Van Binh Book Street

Lunch: Banh mi, a French-style baguette filled with pickled vegetables, fresh herbs, pork and pate, is a must try. We love Banh Mi Huỳnh Hoa, a legendary spot that is known for its traditional and flavourful fillings and generous portions but is a little closer to the market. So, with tired little legs to consider we recommend popping to My Bánh Mì, which is closer to the Central Post Office and offers a comfortable sit-down option! Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa, arguably the city’s most famous banh mi vendor, is all about excess.

Diving into the Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh CIty

Diving into the Cu Chi Tunnel

Afternoon: Delve deeper into history at the Cu Chi Tunnels, exploring the underground network used by Viet Cong soldiers.  A combo of claustrophobia and a less-than-svelte physique, prevent me from fully navigating the tunnels that curious visitors are encouraged to explore. But kids will have no troubles shimmying through the narrow passages. Whether you go in, or stay above ground, you’ll gain an insight into the tenacity and ingenuity of the people who lived and fought in the tunnels.

Ho Chi Minh CIty by NIght

Ho Chi Minh CIty by NIght

Evening: After freshening up in your hotel, the kids will love a fun and informative ride around Saigon’s city streets on a Cyclo Dinner Cruise. Your guide will take you on a safe and fun one-hour cyclo tour of the city, before taking you to enjoy a dinner cruise on the Saigon River with a buffet meal and traditional music, before whisking you safely back to your hotel.


Ho Chi Minh City with kids – Day 2


Man asleep on motorcycle Ho CHi Minh City

Morning: Start the day with breakfast at The Vintage Emporium. Adorned with antique trinkets, mismatched furniture, and bathed in warm lighting, the café exudes a wonderfully nostalgic atmosphere. Choose between the cosy indoor seating or the charming outdoor patio, where you can bask in the Saigon sunshine.  The menu draws inspiration from both Vietnamese and Western breakfast traditions. Kickstart your day with the classic “Bun Bo Hue,” a spicy beef noodle soup, or savour the flavours of “Banh Mi Op La,” a baguette stuffed with a fried egg and savory pork filling. Or just go for a classic English breakfast featuring eggs, bacon, sausages, and beans. There’ also a tempting array of cakes and pastries for those with a sweet tooth (aka every kid).

Jade Emperor Temple Ho CHi MInh CIty © Aleney de Winter

Jade Emperor Temple

Take a short walk to the ornate Jade Emperor Pagoda, a stunning Taoist temple where coils of burning incense swirl around intricate dragon sculptures and vibrant murals. Then it’s just a short taxi ride to the Independence Palace, also known as the Reunification Palace, an architectural marvel that served as the residence for the President of South Vietnam.

Independence Palace Ho Chi Minh CIty © Aleney de Winter

Independence Palac

The palace bore witness to pivotal moments during the Vietnam War, including a North Vietnamese tank crashing through its gates on April 30, 1975, marking the end of the war. Guests can explore the underground bunkers, opulent rooms, including the Map Room, the Banquet Hall, and the President’s office.

Lunch: Nearby on Pasteur Street, the Secret Garden Restaurant provides a tranquil escape with a rooftop garden overlooking the city. Specialising in authentic Vietnamese fare, this restaurant offers a menu of regional specialties made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients, it provides a tranquil retreat from the buzzing streets of Ho Chi Minh City. The kids and I can’t go past our old favourite, Banh xeo (crispy Vietnamese pancakes), stuffed full of pork, prawns and herbs.

48-hours on Ho Chi Minh City - Water puppets

Water Puppet Theater

Afternoon: If you only have 48-hours in Ho Chi Minh City with kids in tow, you must catch a performance of its famous water puppets. A traditional Vietnamese art form featuring enchanting puppets gliding on the water’s surface, guided by hidden puppeteers behind a bamboo screen, the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater in the heart of Saigon, is one of the best places to see them. Their captivating water puppet performances blend traditional stories with modern twists, creating an engaging experience for families.

Late-Afternoon: Cool off at Dam Sen Water Park, Nestled in the heart of District 11. The perfect playground for families seeking a refreshing escape, there’s an array of water attractions suitable for all ages. Kids can revel in the joy of the wave pool, float along the lazy river, and giggle their way down family-friendly water slides. A dedicated Kids Zone offers shallow pools and interactive water play structures, ensuring a safe and entertaining space for little ones to splash around.

Bui Vien Walking Street

Evening: Head to the bustling Bui Vien Walking Street after sunset for a stroll along the 850-metre long, pedestrian-only street lined with cafes, bars, and street food vendors. It’s noisy and busy, but there’s plenty of street food with vendors tempting passers-by with everything from banh mi and pho to fresh spring rolls, grilled meats and one of our favourites, steaming bun thit nuong, a dish of marinated char-grilled pork, vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs and nuts. We like Bun Thit Nuong Chi Tuyen on nearby Co Giang street.  But if pork’s not your thing, there’s something for every palate in Bui Vien Walking Street, ensuring member of your crew can enjoy one last bite of their favourite Vietnamese dish. And, for those seeking a sit-down dining experience, Bui Vien is flanked by plenty of quaint local eateries offering authentic Vietnamese food. Afterwards head to The Monkey Gallery Dessert Bar, just a 10 minute walk from Bui Vien, for a sweet end to your stay.


Tips for exploring Ho Chi Minh City with kids.


Best time to visit
The dry season, from December to April, is the best time to visit Ho Chi Minh City. The weather is pleasant, with sunny skies and mild temperatures. However, it can also be the busiest and most expensive time to travel. If you’re on a budget, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons (May-June and September-November).

Visa requirements
Australian citizens currently require a visa to visit Vietnam regardless of their purpose of travel and the length of their stay. You can apply for an e-visa for tourism on the official Vietnamese visa website. Processing times for e-visas typically range from 3-5 working days but it is advisable to apply well in advance of your trip to avoid any delays. And don’t forget taht your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your Vietnamese adventure. For the latest visa details and regulations, check the official websites of the Vietnamese Government and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Wear weather-Appropriate Clothing
Ho Chi Minh City is known for its tropical climate, characterised by high temperatures and humidity. Packing light, breathable clothing and comfortable shoes ensures that your family stays comfortable while exploring the city. Pack sun hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect your family from the sun’s intensity, especially during midday outings.

Navigating Street Crossings
The traffic in Ho Chi Minh City is insane, especially for pedestrians. With 4.7 million motorbikes, 1.2 million cars and heaven knows how many buses and taxis, crossing Ho Chi Minh City’s streets can be a challenge. Designated areas with lights or barriers are your friends (though these are treated more like suggestions by drivers). Patience is key – wait for a comfortable gap and ideally, cross with locals who understand the traffic’s rhythm.  Ready to cross? Grab hold of the kids (carry them if they’re little), take a deep breath, briefly lock eyes with drivers, and strut across the street like the world’s boldest chicken. DO NOT run or stop as drivers can’t predict sudden movements. Walking at a consistent steady pace allows motorbike riders to anticipate your movements and adjust their speed accordingly.

Keep your crew hydrated
Ho Chi Minh City hot and humid weather can lead to dehydration, especially for children. Ensure that you carry enough water and encourage everyone to stay hydrated throughout the day. Explore local coconut water vendors for a refreshing and naturally hydrating natural drink, a favourite among both locals and visitors. The local government encourages residents and visitors to use bottled or boiled water for drinking and brushing teeth, and to say no to ice in drinks, to avoid waterborne illnesses.

Respect Local Customs
Ho Chi Minh City is rich in cultural and religious sites. When visiting temples, pagodas, or other religious places, it’s essential to dress modestly and observe local customs to show respect. Carry a scarf or shawl to cover shoulders or knees if needed when entering religious sites (this includes kids) . This cultural sensitivity will only enhance the overall experience of Ho Chi Minh City for your family.

Getting there
VietJet offers affordable non-stop flights between Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Ho Chi Minh City, with connecting flights to Da Nang and a network of airports across Asia.


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ABOUT US

Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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