Visit Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam With Kids

When you visit Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam with your kids, you’ll find it’s an absolute sensory delight.

Of course, the food is a highlight, yet, it’s the diversity in culture that is truly fascinating when you explore the various cities throughout Vietnam. And let’s not forget the experience of visiting a communist country, which provides a truly eye-opening glimpse into a unique way of life.

Visiting the city was like stepping into a whole new world for me and the kids. It was a place where every sight, sound, and taste was exciting and new. From giggling about the currency’s name to learning about Vietnam’s history, this city was full of exploration.

To get to Ho Chi Minh City, most travelers fly into Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the largest airport in Vietnam. It serves as a major hub for international flights from around the world, including direct flights from major cities in Asia, Europe, North America, and Australia. Once you land, you can take a taxi, a bus, or arrange for a private transfer to get into the city center, which is about 6 miles (around 10 kilometers) from the airport. On this trip, we had a tour guide and driver, and that made transportation and our conversations much easier.

visiting ho chi minh city, vietnam

We started our adventure in the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh (formerly called Saigon), finding out about the country’s past and seeing the mix of old French buildings and busy markets.

The Vietnamese Dong

Oh, and did I mention the currency is called the Dong? We may have shared many juvenile conversations asking for more ‘Dong’. Get your dong!  (yes I do have the humor of a 13-year-old boy)!

Get your dong in vietnam
This was the sign at the airport to get currency 😉

Arriving at Ho Chi Min City

We began our travels in the southern city of Ho Chi Minh (Saigon as it was formerly known), and slowly worked our way up to Hanoi and Halong Bay. Ho Chi Minh City is the largest and most vibrant city in Vietnam located in the south, and it has a French Colonial vibe. You don’t have to be in the country long before you see the scars from the Vietnam War.

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon

Our hearts were heavy as we learned that even years after the war had ended, Vietnam remains deeply divided on the issue. The communist propaganda is a stark reminder of the powerful emotions that still surround the conflict. We couldn’t help but feel empathy for the Vietnamese people, who obviously still grapple with the aftermath of this painful war.

Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels with Kids

Visit Ho Chi Minh City with kids - the food is great!
This is our ‘Family of Seven’ visiting Ho Chi Minh City

If you really want to understand what the Americans were up against during the Vietnamese War, I’d suggest you visit the Cu Chi tunnels. We decided to forgo the big tourist group visit to the tunnels, and instead hopped in a taxi to explore on our own.

We stopped along the way for refreshments consisting of $2 Pho and 50c beers, and found a local guide to give us a personal tour of the tunnels.

Family at the Chi Chi tunnels outside of Ho Chi Minh city

The Cu Chi tunnels are a huge network of underground tunnels located in the Cu Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). They consist of 155 miles of tunnels and chambers interconnected together.

Kids inside the Cu Chi tunnels

\At any given time, thousands of Viet Cong troops would live inside these tunnels, only emerging at night to surprise attack the Americans, tend to crops or gather more supplies. At various points during the war, the Viet Cong would live underground for months at a time, not even seeing daylight.

the cu chi tunnels were scary
Not gonna to lie…this is my worst nightmare!

We were able to actually walk through certain parts of the tunnels. I was super nervous going in as I hoisted myself through a teeny opening in the ground, covered in leaves. As I lowered myself down about 15 feet underground to the deep stairs and narrow entrance it felt scary for someone who was slightly claustrophobic.

 Ho Chi Minh - cu chi tunnels

The tunnels are incredibly narrow, and the ones we passed through had been widened for easier access. I can’t imagine what the tunnels that had NOT been widened felt like, since I was hyperventilating at this point. We walked through an original tunnel that was 35 inches tall and only 16 inches wide!

Narrow cu chi tunnels
It was incredibly hot in the tunnels with no air

I’m not gonna lie, it was a freaking nightmare down there, and it was hard not to panic being immersed in darkness, crawling on your hands and knees through a tiny tunnel. Seeing the various booby-traps used by the VietCong was eye opening and it was quite frightening to think they were used on humans during this lengthy war.

Defensive spikes in the tunnels

There’s also a gun range outside where Tom was able to shoot an AK-47 to get the real Vietnam war experience.

I’d highly recommend visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels, however if you are claustrophobic in the slightest, it’s very uncomfortable.

Visit Ho Chi Minh City Hall

Ho Chi Minh City Hall or Saigon City Hall was built in a French colonial style for the city of Saigon (back in the day). It was renamed after 1975 as Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee when the war ended.

The gardens in Ho Chi Minh city were beautiful

The traffic is insane around the square (and in most of Ho Chi Minh actually), however, once we were inside the grounds we found a peaceful place to sit and watch the world go by.

Around the Palace, there are restaurants and cafes framing the gardens, and we found a statue of Ho Chi Minh in the garden. This building is another excellent example of the French colonial architecture in Ho Chi Minh City.

Explore Independence Palace

Independence Palace, not a very beautiful building

The Reunification Palace, formerly known as the Independence Palace, gained historical significance in 1975 when a North Vietnamese tank smashed through its gates, marking the end of the Vietnam War.

Sample the Local Food and Beer

When you visit Ho Chi Minh City, to really understand the culture you have to experience eating like a local and eating the food and drinking Vietnamese beer firsthand.

Food and drink in Vietnam is incredibly inexpensive. Our family of four would typically spend no more than $10 per meal, which included spring roll appetizers, beer (think 50c beers everywhere), cokes and dessert.

In fact we really had to try hard to spend $10 per meal. We fell in love with Pho, which is Vietnam’s national dish. It’s a noodle soup consisting of broth, rice noodles called bánh phở, a few herbs, and meat, primarily made with either beef or chicken.  

The aroma of pho wafts through the streets of Vietnam, making it nearly impossible to resist. We found ourselves constantly drawn to the next pho restaurant or market, and before we knew it, we were enjoying this delicious dish every single day of our trip.

Visit The War Remnants Museum

vietnam Ho Chi Minh War Remnants Museum

The War Remnants Museum was a highly anticipated destination for us. The experience of visiting museums in Vietnam is fascinating, given the one-sided version of events, and the selection of photographs and displays used.

These exhibits definitely felt like they veered into the propaganda territory.

Ho Chi Minh War Remnants - war propaganda poster

Vivid propaganda posters are sold in the stores and are posted on the streets, and it’s a solemn reminder of the damage that was done during the war.  This museum made us think about the stories we hear about wars and the people who live through them.

Visiting Ho Chi Minh City with Kids

Overall, when you visit Ho Chi Minh City, you will find a memorable experience filled with unique cultural and historical insights. And you’ll have a much greater appreciation for the Vietnam War. Interestingly, they call the war the Kháng chiến chống Mỹ, which means the “Resistance War against America”.

The activities and sights we experienced taught us a lot, made us laugh, and gave us memories we’ll always keep. Especially with our traveling “family of 7”. It’s a place where history, culture, and fun mix together perfectly. If you’ve been here or are planning to go, I’d love to hear about your adventures too! Let’s share our stories and keep exploring the world together.

Have you had a chance to visit Ho Chi Ming, Vietnam?

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About The Author

Samantha

I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Deborah Isacksen | 6th May 18

    Peter and I are traveling (American spelling LOL) to Bangkok, Koh Samui, and Ho Chi Minh City in December! Love your website, Sam. It’s so interesting. Where did you stay in Ho Chi Minh City? Thanks!

    Deborah Isacksen

    • Samantha | 8th May 18

      Wow, you will love it! We should chat before you leave. We stayed at Le Meridian Saigon in Ho Chi Minh… they are all very inexpensive compared to US prices, and very lovely. Are you going anywhere else in Vietnam?

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