Sunday , June 23 2024

A fresh perspective: river tourism in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City offers more than just entertainment and shopping in its center. Visitors can indulge in a leisurely pastime by observing the city from the Saigon River.

Tourists in Ho Chi Minh City can enjoy river experiences, providing a unique perspective to view famous landmarks like Nha Rong Wharf, Ben Nghe Port, Phu My Bridge, Saigon Peninsula, and Binh Khanh Ferry Terminal.

Nguyen Minh Hoang, a freelance tour guide residing in Ho Chi Minh City, introduces a range of tourism activities that allow visitors to experience the Saigon River during the day.

River bus journey

The most popular river cruise activity in Ho Chi Minh City is the river bus route. This travel experience is suitable for all types of visitors. River buses depart daily from Bach Dang, Binh An, Linh Dong, Thanh Da, and Hiep Binh Chanh wharfs, starting from 8:30 a.m. The ‘buses’ usually operate at intervals of 30 minutes to an hour.

For those seeking an evening adventure, the night bus route departs at the latest at 10 p.m. Tickets can be booked online or purchased directly at the wharf for VND15,000 (63 cents) per ride.

Bến buýt sông Bình An ở TP Thủ Đức vào buổi chiều muộn. Ảnh: Bích Phương.

Late afternoon view of Binh An River Bus Station in Thu Duc City. Photo by VnExpress/Bich Phuong

River buses were introduced at the end of 2017 with the aim of serving as a means of public transportation between districts, alleviating road traffic congestion. Over the past five years, they have garnered popularity among locals and tourists as a way to explore the city by river.

Passengers can enjoy the panoramic view of the Saigon River from their seats beside the window. Alternatively, they can move to the outer section of the river bus to admire the scenery and capture better photographs. Drinks and snacks are available on board.

Due to the nature of public service, the river bus may have limited privacy and amenities. Visitors desiring a window seat should book their tickets a day in advance. It’s advisable not to linger at the front of the river bus for extended periods to ensure other tourists have an opportunity to enjoy the view. The river bus operates continuously along the Saigon River without anchoring in the middle, resulting in a relatively quick sightseeing experience. During the late afternoon hours after 4 p.m. or weekends, the number of passengers tends to be higher, so some waiting in line to board the bus may be expected.

River cruise

Every evening, a cruise sets sail from Saigon Port, taking passengers on a journey along the river to witness the beauty of Nha Rong Wharf, Ben Nghe Port, Saigon Bridge, and the iconic Landmark 81 building.

This option is ideal for travelers seeking a private space and a longer excursion. The yachts feature open areas with unobstructed views. Onboard, passengers can enjoy dining on the deck, outside areas for soaking in the scenery, and a variety of spaces suitable for couples, families, or large groups.

Visitors can opt for a dinner experience on the yacht, accompanied by the mesmerizing river views. Ticket prices range from VND350,000 to over VND1 million ($15-42), depending on the type of yacht and the choice between an Asian-European buffet or a combo meal. The cruise also offers art programs, music performances, and magic shows to enhance the overall experience.

Không gian thành phố về đêm nhìn từ tàu du lịch. Ảnh: Bonsaicruise

Nighttime cityscape viewed from a cruise ship on the Saigon River. Photo courtesy of Bonsaicruise

For those who wish to savor the journey without dining, tickets are available at a starting price of approximately VND100,000 per person. The cruise lasts for approximately one hour and includes a beverage service.

Travelers with a higher budget and a preference for privacy can even charter a small yacht, which accommodates around 20 people. Prices for these services range from VND10 million to 25 million. Booking in advance through a tour operator or directly with a cruise ship supplier is required for this exclusive experience.

It is important to note that the cruise schedule is fixed, typically taking place in the evening with a duration of one to three hours. Passengers who arrive late for departure are not eligible for cancelations or refunds, nor are alternative trips provided. The cruise departs exclusively from Saigon Port in District 4 and concludes at the same departure wharf.

To secure a prime location, it is advisable to book tickets at least a week in advance, particularly for weekends or holidays.

High-speed boat to Can Gio

Venturing to the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, visitors can board the high-speed boat Saigon – Can Gio – Vung Tau.

This route commences from Bach Dang Wharf in downtown District 1, passing through Saigon, Nha Be, Long Tau, and Nga Bay rivers, before arriving at Tac Suat Wharf in Can Gio District. The ticket price for a single journey is VND200,000 ($8.50) per passenger. From Tac Suat Wharf, visitors have the option to continue their journey to Ganh Rai Cape, providing access to the Ho May Park in Vung Tau beach city, with a ticket price of VND50,000.

The speedboat is equipped with amenities such as air conditioning, large TVs, cameras, Wi-Fi, a fire alarm system, and life jackets. In addition to 96 comfortable seats, the ship offers a VIP room for approximately 10 people and a mini bar for passenger convenience.

The boat operates four times daily from Ho Chi Minh City to Can Gio, and eight times daily from Can Gio to Vung Tau. Passengers can book tickets online or purchase them directly at the wharf.

Stand-up paddle boarding

Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), a popular activity on the Saigon River, entices many young tourists and sports enthusiasts. The participation price starts from VND350,000 ($15). Locations offering this experience can be found in District 7, Thu Duc City, and Binh Thanh District.

Several SUP tours cater to different fitness levels and rowing abilities. Tours for beginners are accompanied by guides, while experienced individuals can rent boards hourly.

Du khách tận hưởng hoàng hôn khi chèo SUP trên sông Sài Gòn. Ảnh: Vĩnh Phúc Trương.

Visitors relish the sunset while paddleboarding on the Saigon River. Photo by VnExpress/Vinh Phuc Truong

First-time visitors are advised to seek guidance from SUP tour operators to select the suitable route and schedule. For beginners, the river wharf in Thao Dien, Diamond Island in Thu Duc City, or the wharf in Phu My Hung District 7 are recommended, as the water currents are relatively calm.

Embarking from the wharf near Rach Chiec Bridge in Thu Duc City, visitors can paddle through coconut creeks, enjoy cocktails on the river, and admire the scenic riverbanks. The rowing experience typically lasts from two to hour hours, with a price of approximately VND490,000 per person, including a guide.

To avoid the scorching sun, visitors should consider scheduling their paddling session before 9 a.m. or in the late afternoon from 4 p.m. The organizers provide the tide schedule before the activity to ensure safety.

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