From food tours and meeting Vietnamese artists, to boat safari’s and a murder mystery trail, these are the best local tours in Ho Chi Minh City.

Living our daily life here in Saigon, we don’t get to do city sightseeing that much. Luckily, most of us get visitors over frequently, who give us the ultimate excuse to play tourist in our own city. Because there’s still lots to explore! Once we only had the Vespa tour, but now there is a whole range of original and adventurous Saigon tours. But which one to choose? We hopped on bikes and boats, asked around and made you a list. If you like to explore the districts of Saigon, these are the best local tours in Ho Chi Minh City!

Local tours that take a peak behind the scenes

To really understand Saigon life, you have to get to know its art scene. Ho Chi Minh City is full of creativity, whether it’s in fashion, art or products. Hidden Saigon has found a great way to let you take a peak at this creative bunch. They take you into the work spaces, studios and homes of local artists and residents. Here you can discuss work and Saigon life with them. Less crazy about art than you are about food? Get past the been-there-done-that street food tours and go for their Oodle Noodle tour!

Exploring the creative Saigon scene. Photo by Linh Phan

One of the most original trails on our list of best local tours in Ho Chi Minh City is Urban Tales. This tour takes the Saigon story scene one step further and lets you solve a murder mystery. The plot takes you to authentic parts of town, past traditional medicine shops, old temples and markets. It’s well set up and includes some history of Ho Chi Minh City. All this while catching a murderer, we bet your visitors didn’t see that one coming! Also great for kids from 6 years and up.

Sightseeing on two wheels: motorbike tours 

When thinking of HCMC, we think of motorbikes. And indeed, it’s one of the best ways to explore this vibrant city. You speed past all the traffic through various districts and small hems (alleys), getting a good feeling of what this city is about. We’ve put two affordable tour companies on our list of best local tours in Ho Chi Minh City. First of all, Back of the bike tours has a good reputation and offers good value for money.  You can book various exciting tours with them, such as the Big Eats, Small Seats food tour. Their drivers speak good English.

Second, the very cool XO tours Saigon is an all-female motorbike company. Hopping on the bike behind your female guide, you can do a food tour, or go for the sight seeing morning or shopping spree tour. The guides know everything there is to know about the city, plus they’re professional and friendly. Their pricing is a bit more friendly as well. Girl power to the max!

Let’s tour Saigon with the Fast and Female team

Rather be on 4 wheels? Saigon 2CV lets you explore the city in vintage cars, like a cute citroên 2CV. They have a Morning Discovery tour as well as a food tour.

Cycling and Boat tours in Saigon

In our list of best local tours in Ho Chi Minh City, the boat tours of Les Rives definitely deserve a spot. Their Cu Chi tunnel tour is a fantastic way to travel to the famous Vietnamese tunnels. But we are also fan of their Saigon Sunset Cruise. It’s a great way to unwind at the end of the day, gazing at the city from the Saigon river.

If you want to get more active and cycling is your thing, Grasshopper Adventures organizes an amazing Mekong Delta tour. During this one day bike tour, the Grasshopper guides take you through the orchards, along canal paths and ferries of this region. It’s a good way to let your guests experience the green Mekong Delta, where so much fruit, veggies and fish come from.

Another good option is Vietnambybike, a local organization that provides single-day and multiple-days cycling tours in Vietnam. They can set up tailor made cycling tours for you. Their tours are usually a little more friendly for your wallet.

Sonny Crocket meets Saigon

The best tours for kids

Not every tour is fit to take the smallies, but some are just perfect! Take the Peanut Butter Tour of Dat Butter.  A fantastic farm and factory tour for kids and adults. In the middle of the green country side, this small boutique tour will teach you all about the farming of peanuts and the production of peanut butter. Interesting and interactive! Great for kids from 5 years and up.

And what kids doesn’t like to solve a mystery? Urban Tales is great for families. You can combine it with the Saigon 2CV and feel like a regular Hector Poirot!

The Saigon Sunset cruise of Les Rives is also a great tour to do with kids; besides the speed boat, they’ll love to explore the colorful floating temple in the middle of the Saigon river.

Food tours and cooking like a local 

When exploring a city, do what they do and eat what they eat! Another great local tour in Saigon is the street food tour by Saigon Street Eats. Dive into small alleys packed with food vendors who have spent decades perfecting their special dishes. While sampling a variety of simple street food, you’ll hear stories about this local neighborhood and how history has influenced the Saigon’s culinary scene.

GRAIN cooking studio will make sure you will not only eat the best of Vietnamese cuisine, but are also capable of cooking it yourself. We loved their spacious, clean kitchen and professional chefs. And the best thing is, you don’t need to be Martha Stewart to take part; guests of all ages and skill levels love it. The ultimate souvenir!

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So 4, Duong 217, X.Hoa Phu, H, Cu Chi, Vietnam

About 35km from HCMC, you’ll find the green farm grounds of Dat Butter.

Đạt Butter is a social enterprise that strives to create the most delicious peanut butter in Vietnam. You might know their yummy products from the supermarkets in HCMC. What you probably didn’t know is, that in the weekends, they organize a fantastic farm and factory tour for kids and adults. In the middle of the green country side, this small boutique tour will teach you all about the farming of peanuts and the production of peanut butter. It’s interesting and interactive; our kids loved to put on their white lab coats and start creating their own jars of peanut butter. 

Great tour for kids, families, small groups and guests. Available twice a day on Saturday and Sunday. Note that the tours are small and fill up quickly; you need to make a reservation via the website. Before going, check the route here.

For more great things to do with kids in Saigon, check here or read our blog on tours in Saigon.

Thap Muoi St., D5/D6

There are many great areas to explore in Ho Chi Minh, and Chinatown, Cholon, is definitely one of them. But where to start and where to go here in District 5? Don't worry, we have the best Chinatown walk for you here and you can easily walk it all by yourself. Cho Lon, the Chinese quarters in Saigon, means ‘big market’. This is where the Chinese immigrants settled around 1700 and many people here still speak Chinese dialects.

Start your Chinatown walking tour at the market

A good place to start your walk in Cholon, is the Bin Thay market (not to be mistaken with the Ben Thanh market in D1), situated in a pale yellow building with a clock tower. They sell all sorts of local things here and preferably in bulk: traditional medicine, aquarium fish, tools…you name it, they have it. Great to have a peak.

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Nguyen Hue St., D1

Nguyen Hue is a lovely street to wander around on a Sunday afternoon. This street stretches all the way to the river under the watchful eyes of the statue of Ho Chi Minh himself.  Cars are passing on both sides, but in the middle is a boulevard-like walkway, where people gather, concerts are held and small children ride their bikes.

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Great for a Sunday stroll! Located just behind Reunification Palace, Tao Dan Park is one of the biggest public green spaces in District 1. We usually go here in the morning if we are up and about before 9 am. You’ll see people gathering for badminton, tai chi and people exercising on the machines. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the singing competitions held by bird owners every Sunday morning, placing their prized bird cages next to each other. If you prefer a sleep in, come later in the day and join the free aerobics class that sometimes attracts hundreds of people. Difficult choice, we know! In any case, if you go with the kids, take their scooters as there’s plenty of space to roam free in the park.

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If you are in Saigon, go underground! 35 km from Saigon, you’ll find the Cu Chi Tunnels, a showcase of the network of tunnels the communists built before and during the Vietnam war. The tunnels you can visit are widened for tourists sake, but still cramped, humid and barely lit.

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A fantastic tour to do with friends or family. The drivers will pick you up with uber cool vintage model Vespa’s and show you a side of Saigon you haven’t seen before, such as the back alleys of Cholon and some funky places in the city center. You have to be a bit lucky with your guide and group, and it’s definitely not the cheapest tour, but it is worth it. You’ll have a great night in town!

Once a personal research project and then a very nice half day tour, this outing explores Vietnamese art from the last 2 centuries. You’ll find yourself learning an awful lot about the history of Vietnam, as you wander through various galleries and the Fine Arts museum and learn about the paintings.

Unfortunately for us, Sophie moved to the mystical city of Hue and therefor her art tours take place very irregularly. She shares the dates of these tours and talks as well as some great art tips for Vietnam on her website and facebook page.