Our mini guide to acing Ho Chi Minh City with the kids in tow...
Here at HoneyKids HQ we’re firm believers that having kids shouldn’t have to put an end to cheeky last minute getaways from Singapore, and with so many fantastic short break options on our doorstep, we’ve been crossing them off as often as we can. This time? Destination: Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known officially, and still known to many unofficially, as Saigon)! Here’s how we spent our time exploring Ho Chi Minh with kids – a city packed with history, culture, friendly people, amazing food and bikes. So. Many. Bikes.
GUIDE: HO CHI MINH CITY WITH KIDS
HOW TO GET TO HO CHI MINH CITY
Vietnam really isn’t far, and Ho Chi Minh is one of the closest ‘Nam destinations of all. A direct flight will whizz you there in just under two hours. Scoot, Silk Air, VietJet and JetStar all fly daily from Changi Airport.
WHERE TO STAY IN HO CHI MINH CITY WITH KIDS
Ho Chi Minh certainly isn’t short of hotels, and no matter what your budget may be, you’ll find great options to suit. Here are a few of our favourites:
1. Somerset Ho Chi Minh City
Reasonable and oh-so-spacious, Somerset Ho Chi Minh City is an apartment-style stay in a central location. These serviced apartments are home to both tourists and expats and provide a comfortable stay and loads of space if you need a break after touring the streets of Saigon. There’s also a decent swimming pool and a small kids’ playground on site – boxes, ticked!
2. Pullman Saigon Centre
Located centrally within Ho Chi Minh City, Pullman Saigon Centre is a great option for the family. There are restaurants on-site come the evening and large rooms that can fit all the family. The swimming pool is also set to be a hit with the kids!
3. Ramada Encore By Wyndham Saigon D1 Hotel
The team has also stayed at a mid-price range, four-star boutique hotel, The Millennium Boutique, now Ramada Encore By Wyndham Saigon D1 Hotel. It ticks all our boxes: a great location (extra thumbs up for being in a quiet street: a rarity in bustling Ho Chi Minh), interconnecting family rooms (small but clean, modern and comfy) and a rooftop swimming pool and bar area to use after a busy (and dusty) day of exploration.
4. InterContinental Saigon Residences
Another great option if apartment living floats your boat – InterContinental Saigon Residences has one-bedroom apartments with separate lounges, so you can chill once the kids are down. If you don’t fancy dining early with the kids, you’ll be pleased to know that Ho Chi Minh City has loads of great delivery options when it comes to food, and with a separate room, you can have a banquet and date night without disturbing the little ones.
WHERE TO EAT IN HO CHI MINH CITY WITH KIDS
1. Barbecue Garden
Former HoneyKids editor, Tracy, loved Barbecue Garden so much that her family went back twice! If you hadn’t guessed, Barbecue Garden specialises in a unique mixture of Vietnamese and international barbecue recipes – yum!
2. The Vintage Emporium
This might win top spot for the cutest place we’ve ever had breakfast. Hidden in a small backstreet, this little retreat is the respite you need from the busy bike-filled streets. Start the day right with breakfast at The Vintage Emporium – we can confirm the pancakes go down very well with everyone.
3. Marcel Gourmet Burger
We know, we know – we’re in Vietnam, for goodness sake, but if you’ve got fussy eaters as part of the holiday crew, chances are you’ll need a few familiar options too – and Marcel Gourmet Burger should be high on the list. To be honest, it should be high on the list regardless because it’s totally delish. Book in advance – it gets really busy.
4. Pizza 4P’s Ben Thanh
What about pizza fiends? Well, you’re in luck because Ho Chi Minh City also delivers the goods on the pizza front with the scrumptious Pizza 4P’s Ben Thanh – again, you need to book, or you’ll be dearly disappointed.
5. Tuk Tuk Bistro
Pining for Thai? Tuk Tuk Bistro is a winner when it comes to Thai staples – the curries are to die for, and there are enough noodle and rice options to please the kids.
6. Cục Gạch Quán
If you’re after a more traditional affair, then Cục Gạch Quán is a great spot for delish Vietnamese classics.
WHAT TO DO IN HO CHI MINH CITY WITH KIDS
Even if you’re limited on time, it doesn’t mean you can’t pack a whole heap of adventure into your itinerary. Here’s some of our fave options:
1. Hit Book Street
Possibly our fave street in the whole of Ho Chi Minh City and a great option for the fam. Book Street is literally just that – a street filled with bookshops. We happened to head on a Saturday, and it was full of kid-friendly activities (not sure if this is the norm or if we just lucked out). There’s also a small playground and lots of coffee shops. Plus, it’s pedestrianised – which is the ultimate win in this bike-mad city.
2. Go for a boat trip on the Mekong River
Opt for a boat trip along the Mekong Delta and visit Dragon Island, Unicorn Island, Phoenix Island and Tortoise Island. Try honey tea at a bee farm, row down canals in the Ben Tre Province, check out how to make coconut sweets, try exotic offerings at a fruit farm and wear the odd conical hat. Also: elephant ear fish for lunch…
3. Head to Sai Gon Central Post Office
If this sounds a bit random (and relatively mundane), well, think again. This ain’t any old Post Office. It’s the most beautiful post office we’ve ever seen – even the kids were enthralled. Be sure to head inside and take a look around; you can even send a postcard or two.
4. Catch a water puppet show
A Vietnam bucket list experience, if ever there was one – this traditional Vietnamese pastime is still popular today and is great for kids of all ages. Try The Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater shows inside Tao Dan Park, which runs every day and are some of the most famous in Ho Chi Minh (no website: sorry!).
5. Check out the parks
Although it’s a sprawling urbanised metropolis, Hoi Chi Minh City is also home to some beautiful green spaces to escape the busy streets. Make a beeline for Bầy Vàm Cỏ – Đạo Phong Châu (a street behind Independence Palace), and you’ll find an excellent playground complete with swings, slides and that all-important sand. Even better – there’s plenty of shade.
6. Explore the Chu Chi Tunnels
If you’re up for heading out of town and want to give the kids a history lesson, then have the Chu Chi Tunnels on your list. You’ll get an insight into how the Viet Cong soldiers lived, hid and fought in the area during the Vietnam War, and you’ll get the chance to actually go down some of the tunnels. One to have on the list for older kids.
7. Take a stroll (and tick off the sights)
One of our fave things about Ho Chi Minh City is the incredible architecture, and a great place to see it is along Đường Nguyễn Huệ. This pedestrianised street is a great place to let the kids wander and also a great spot to bag a fam holiday selfie with the amazing architecture in the background. Some buildings to check off your list: Municipal Theatre, Ho Chi Minh City Opera House, Nguyen Hue Music Fountain (head at night for the latter for a light up display!).
8. Visit the War Remnants Museum
Warning: this one has some shocking and sobering exhibits – but it’s an important history lesson nevertheless. Former HoneyKids editor, Tracy, visited with her three kids (aged five, 10 and 15 years), and they found it a very sobering, thought-provoking experience that led to a lot of questions (so be prepared to give yourselves your own history lesson to be able to answer). The planes and tanks outside are a hit for kids of all ages if you do decide to avoid some of the displays inside.
9. The Cafe Apartments
You might’ve clocked this one on the ‘gram, and yes, it might be touristy, but we reckon it’s worth a stop. The coffee isn’t amazing (but perhaps we picked the wrong shop), but it’s quirky, and the kids enjoyed it. Note: you do need to pay for the lift access to the cafes, it’s minimal, and some of the cafes in the building refund it – but don’t worry, it is legit, and you’re not being fleeced!
10. Saigon Skydeck
If your family have a head for heights, then take the lift to the Saigon Skydeck at the top of the Bitexco Financial Tower for views galore. It’s a novelty and makes for a great game of i-spy.
11. Barter basics at Ben Thanh Market
What’s a holiday without a street market? Put your and the kids’ barter skills to the test and haggle for souvenirs, bags, knick-knacks, clothes, and so much more (if it’s not here – chances are it doesn’t exist). Our tip? Settle only once the prices have come down by at least 50-60% from starting offer. There is also a ‘fixed price’ section for those who can’t be bothered dealing with the haggling.
FINAL TIPS ON TRAVELLING TO HO CHI MINH WITH KIDS
- Grab exists and is great. And they have seatbelts (but you’ll have to bring your own car seats).
- Book a hotel transfer – it’ll save you the stress at the airport.
- The pavements are almost as dangerous as the roads in Ho Chi Minh City: the motorcycles often mount the sidewalks, so you need to keep your wits about you at all times. Would we try and navigate the city with young children in strollers? Probably not: use a baby carrier instead!
- Crossing the roads can be quite a hair-raising hazard. There are pedestrian crossings, but as far as we could tell, nobody seems to pay much heed to them. Locals will often take pity on you and help you across. And if all else fails, tag onto another group while they cross and hide in the middle!
- Barter for everything!
- You won’t be escaping the humidity, mozzies or the sun – pack accordingly…
Enjoy – Ho Chi Minh City is epic!
Lead image: Markus Winkler via Pexels