There are scores of travel agencies in Ho Chi Minh City that offer half- and full-day tours. Larger companies like Sinh Tourist (246-248 De Tham, D1, tel. 08/3838-9593, 6:30am-10:30pm daily) and TNK Travel (220 De Tham, D1, tel. 08/3920-4766, 7am-10pm daily) provide inexpensive, cookie-cutter tours to most of the city’s major sights and cost VND150,000-500,000. Though by far the most inexpensive option, these tour buses often shepherd groups of 20-30 people around town. Being on such a large tour diminishes the experience, as it can be difficult to hear the tour guide or get much of the benefit that paying for a tour is meant to provide.
The tour companies below offer a more intimate and enjoyable city tour experience.
Hands down, the ultimate way to experience the city is as most locals do—on a motorbike. XO Tours (tel. 09/3308-3727, 9am-10pm daily, VND1,100,000-1,700,000) does just that, ferrying visitors around town on the back of a scooter. In addition to visiting the city’s major sights, XO provides tours tailored to food, nightlife, and shopping, all with experienced, traditionally clad local guides who double as motorbike drivers. The same goes for Vietnam Vespa Adventures (169A De Tham, D1, tel. 09/0836-7997, 7am-2am daily, VND1,600,000-2,100,000), which runs food and nightlife city tours as well as one-day trips to the Mekong Delta.
Foodies should book a trip with Back of the Bike Tours (tel. 09/3504-6910, 9am-10pm daily, VND1,200,000-3,600,000), the brainchild of husband-and-wife team Chad and Thuy Kubanoff, a pair with a serious passion for the city and its delectable street food. Tours leave from District 1 and take guests outside of Saigon’s central area to dine in some of the less-visited neighborhoods, offering a more unique, authentic take on Vietnam’s southern hub.
For a unique perspective on Vietnamese history and art, sign up for Sophie’s Art Tour (tel. 09/3375-2402, 9am-1pm Tues.-Sat., VND1,500,000). A longtime Saigon resident and the former curator of local Galerie Quynh, Sophie Hughes spent over a year researching and compiling this living project, which tells the tumultuous history of 20th-century Vietnam through its greatest artists. Divided into four chapters, the tour whisks visitors to a series of private galleries as well as the Fine Arts Museum, focusing on different aspects of local history before and after colonialism and the American War. Sophie’s interactive approach and continuing research keep the story fresh, adding new anecdotes and information all the time and encouraging visitors to get involved. The tour leaves from a small café in District 3 and its fee includes transportation as well as admission to museums, cold drinks, and, of course, the expertise of a local resident.