Ho Chi Minh City on a budget: best things to do

Like any mega-city, Ho Chi Minh City can be mega-pricey – or genuinely budget-friendly. It's all about knowing where to look...

Young woman wearing a backpack admires Ho Chi Minh City’s Central Post Office.
  • Jetstar
  • February 2018
  • Updated January 2022

A captivating blend of colonial and contemporary, Ho Chi Minh City (also still known as Saigon) is bursting with opportunities for low-cost fun. From bustling markets to underground tunnels, lush parks to Insta-worthy architecture, here are five low-cost activities that will make you fall in love with this vibrant city.

Pledge your love at ‘Rainbow’ Bridge

If you’re here with your one and only, do what young Vietnamese couples do and stroll hand-in-hand across this beautiful historic footbridge, designed by legendary French architect and engineer Gustave Eiffel. Linking the city’s central District 1 with District 4, the bridge (official name: Mong Bridge) is believed to possess secret powers granting longevity to partnerships. What have you got to lose?

Feel the love on Ho Chi Minh City’s ‘Rainbow’ Bridge.

Bag a bargain at Ben Thanh Market

With its iconic clock tower, famous street-food stalls and endless shopping possibilities, the historic Ben Thanh Market is a must-see. Whether you’re looking for reasonably priced souvenirs, clothes, or gifts for the folks back home, you’ll find them here. Bargaining is part of the fun, so be ready to smile and negotiate! And if you come with an appetite, all the better: there’s a jaw-dropping range of tasty and affordable dining options. Beloved by locals and visitors alike, the market is centrally located and close to other popular attractions.

Cyclists whizz past the Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Image credit: Richie Chan - stock.adobe.com
No trip to Ho Chi Minh City is complete without a visit to the Ben Thanh Market. Image credit: Richie Chan / stock.adobe.com

Admire the amazing architecture

Vietnam has been proudly independent for many decades, but its French colonial past is evident in many of its best-known buildings. If you like your architecture grand, colourful, ornate and ridiculously photogenic, Ho Chi Minh City delivers. From the magnificent Saigon Opera House (in front of which you can even catch a free performance most weekends) to the gorgeous Central Post Office and historic People’s Committee Building, you’re in for a visual treat. Fans of Modernist architecture should make a beeline for the Reunification Palace, an eye-popping building with a fascinating history.

Ho Chi Minh City’s Central Post Office: a fabulous example of French colonial architecture.
It’s hard to take a bad photo of the historic Central Post Office!

Recharge in Tao Dan Park

While Ho Chi Minh City’s frenetic pace is exhilarating, even the most energetic traveller needs a bit of downtime. And there’s no better place to escape the big-city buzz than Tao Dan Park. Home to 1000 mature trees and many quiet corners, this leafy oasis comes alive in the early morning, with locals exercising, jogging or practising their tai chi moves. Head down at dawn to realign your chi, or while away the afternoon with a picnic and a wander. Besides the lush greenery, there are several historic structures worth checking out.

Flowers in bloom in Tao Dan Park, Ho Chi Minh City
Get your green (and floral) fix at the lovely Tao Dan Park.

Discover hidden history at the Cu Chi tunnels

Located at the edge of the city, this mind-blowing labyrinth of underground tunnels provides an unforgettable insight into Vietnam’s turbulent 20th-century history. Work started on the tunnels in 1948 during the Indochina War and continued well into the Vietnam War, allowing Vietnamese soldiers and citizens to move around safely and undetected. The tunnels even housed schools, hospitals and kitchens, and were fortified with booby traps and fake bunkers to mislead enemy troops. The small admission fee gets you a local guide and a priceless experience.

A female tourist poses in the entrance to one of Ho Chi Minh City’s historic Cu Chi tunnels.
Head underground into the Cu Chi tunnels for an experience you’ll never forget.