If I had to summarize my tips for visiting Ho Chi Minh City with a baby in one phrase, I’d say that the Vietnamese love for children, fried rice with tofu, and a babycarrier are key in making sure you have a spectacular trip.
Vietnam is one of those places we really wanted to visit especially because of Sergio’s interest in the Vietnam war, and therefore, Ho Chi Minh City was a must in our itinerary. Of course, we knew that we had to plan it out carefully as we were going with a baobao, but we were also sure that most of our prejudice would be proved wrong, as has been the case in many places in southeast Asia.
The first thing I’d like to point out about Vietnam is the huge myth that it is a young backpacker destination. We have never thought of ourselves as backpackers (and lately I’m not sure we can think of ourselves as young either), and those that know me are probably laughing at the mere thought of me as a backpacker (although I would like to point out that I could totally pull it off if I wanted to!). Anyways… I am more of a small carry on suitcase and breakfast included hotel kind of girl…With this I mean to emphasize that Vietnam is really for any kind of traveler. We saw groups of older tourists (60+ year old), loads of families with young children and baobaos, women traveling alone, and people of all sorts.
Back to the topic of this post: Ho Chi Minh City. The food is delicious, the history is shocking and its influence in the western world is huge. The allies are an amazing adventure, and the bars, shops and things to do around downtown are amusing.
We are loving #Vietnam and as always, couldn’t be possible without our @ergobaby … comfy and safe, baby has even had naps in it, thought at a year and a half that would be harder, but has been perfect!!! Photo credits @sergio_soquete #hcmcity #asia #takeyourkidseverywhere #ababyabroad #familyholiday #travel #tourist #hochiminhcity #keepcalmandcarrythem #blsshare #flag #babywearing #ilovebabywearing #toddlerwearing #toddlertravel #momblog #travelblog #travelmlmblog #mommyblog #wearetravelmoms #travelmom #FamilyTrails
Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City
I recommend a hotel in District 1. This is the city center, also known as the backpacker district because it’s full of budget hotels and hostels, as well street food, bars, restaurants and shops. It is walking distance to anywhere. If visiting with a baby, I suggest you mostly walk , because saying that traffic is crazy is truly underestimating it, and traveling with a carseat or booster chair is completely unpractical.
Many hotels in Ho Chi Minh City have no elevators, another reason for which I recommend you take the basic necessities only. There are hotels and hostels of all sorts, at reasonable prices. We stayed at “Yen Trang 2 hotel”, which we found via booking.com. There was nothing particularly special about this place, but it has a great location, it’s clean, the beds are comfortable and the best of all: the rooms have a balcony. I’d like to highlight this last characteristic. When you travel with a baobao chances are you will hardly get to see the nightlife. That’s when a balcony comes in handy: we left baobao snoring inside while Sergio and I had some glasses of wine outside, while admiring the scandal going on below us.
What to eat in Ho Chi Minh City
Many people ask me about this issue. First of all, what to feed a baby is something totally cultural. I have had a pediatrician in three different continents, all of them with different cultural norms, and I can say from experience that something that is not okay to feed your baby in one place, is the norm in another place. Realizing this truly helped me relax about this issue. The golden rule is to always eat healthy and balanced.
Vietnamese food is de.li.cious. Luckily, baobao has no allergies, so it was not a worry that they use lots of spices and peanut in their dishes. Rice paper used to make vegetable rolls was a huge hit. Fried rice with egg, corn and peas was too. And tofu…. Well, this is one of baobaos favorite food.
I suggest you take on the challenge of giving your baobao all of these things, as long as he or she does not have any allergies or dietary restrictions. Worst case scenarios is they won’t like it, and you can find pasta bolognese and chicken anywhere… and of course rice can be found literally in every corner!
Where to get supplies
When packing for this trip I used my special diaper calculating formula: 4 diapers per day, 1 diaper por night, plus 4 extra diapers, just in case. It has never failed.
We walked into the first convenience store we saw (A Seven Eleven), and the first thing I saw were Huggies diapers and wet wipes. Conclusion: there are baobaos everywhere, and (almost) everywhere they use diapers.
Milk was not an issue for us because at the time baobao was still breastfeeding (long live the boobies that make life so much easier!)
Having said this, I have been following a website for quite a while, with loads of tips on traveling with babies and children. They have a resources page where they list baby items available per country and the cost, here.
What to take
A babycarrier, like I said before, is a MUST. Do not even dare put a food in Ho Chi Minh City without one that you like. As always, we used the Ergobaby. As always, it was perfect.
We did not take the stroller, buggy, pushchair, so that my international readers can understand :).
Taking it would have been a complete waste of effort, mainly because of three reasons:
- Crossing the streets is an adventure, and the safest place for your baobao is in your arms.
- There is a lot of getting on and off tuk-tuks, up and down stairs and dodging obstacles. A stroller would really be more of a problem than a solution.
- The low cost airlines we took throughout our trip charge extra for checked in luggage and in general there is not enough space for a stroller in the cabin.
There are many places where we wouldn’t have survived without a babycarrier. Read about them here.
Another important must is mosquito repellent. I know many parents prefer using natural versions, without DEET, but in my experience, these are not very effective and in interest of your piece of mind, you should simply use a regular one. Of course, always consult with your pediatrician before putting any chemicals on your baobao’s skin.
What to do
Finally, the fun part! There are tons of incredible things to do in Ho Chi Minh City. A quick Google search and you will find many lists of must – dos and itineraries. I am going to focus on the things that we did that I think are unmissable, and that I can confirm are okay to do with a baby.
War Remnants Museum
This museum tells the story of the Vietnam war and has photographic and artefact exhibits that will give you goose bumps. It’s extraordinarily informative and helps give you a clear picture of what happened. Of course, the story is told from the perspective of Vietnam and it may come across as bias. However, I thought it was great to learn about that version of what happened, especially because being from the west, all my life I had only heard the western version.
At the entrance of the museum there is an exhibit with war tanks, airplanes and helicopters. This part, of course, was a huge hit with our baobao.
Before entering the museum building, towards the left, there is a real size replica of concentration camps along with several photographs and texts explaining about it. This section is quite scary, and totally worth exploring.
Once in the museum, there are different rooms throughout the four floors, that tell about the different stages in the war. There is no elevator – remember I told you about the babycarrier?
Watch out with some of the photograph exhibits – some sections are too shocking and may be too much for older children, so you might want to skip over a few rooms, especially in the last floor. On this fourth floor you will also find a playroom for children with lots of toys and books. I loved finding this room, especially because we had gotten to a room with photographs of children who had suffered chemical attacks and I thought it was too much, so having a comfortable place to stop for a while, let our baobao play freely, and rest while Sergio finished looking at the exhibits was great.
Cu Chi Tunnels
This is a tunnel system that is located about 45 kilometers outside of Ho Chi Minh City. They were built during the war by the Vietcong and used during different combats against the Americans. They are beneath a jungle like environment, although it is currently considered an urban area.
In the center of Ho Chi Minh City there are tons of tourism offices. They all charge approximately the same amount for similar tours, so we found one of these to visit the tunnels. We took a minibus towards Cu Chi, where we saw the museum and the tunnels.
Again, the babycarrier was a lifesaver during this tour. Baobao was great, he had some time to walk around and explore a bit, while I ran after him scared of losing him between the trees.
Towards the end of the tour there is a shooting range. Baobao was a bit scared – truthfully, so was I – because the shooting noises were really loud. We don’t really like guns so we were not interested in this part of the tour, and just waited around for the rest of the participants to be finished.
An anecdote of this tour was that the guide was surprisingly funny. He didn’t speak very good English, actually, it was impossible to understand anything he said. Sergio and I spent half the time smiling, saying “aahh…” and trying to look interested. When the guide turned away from us we’d both look at each other and say, in unison “what did he say?”. No idea. At the end of the tour, while we were waiting as other people tried the shooting range, the guide appears having a huge can of beer, which really was fine because he wasn’t the one driving the van anyways, but it did call our attention.
The tour finished with a meal including a typical Vietnamese Pho soup. It was tasty, but it seemed like the the places strength was not the cooking. Nevertheless, it was a great opportunity to meet the other participants in the tour and connect with people from all over the world.
Cho Ben Thanh market
I read so much about this market and looked at tons of photos before the trip. We got to Ho Chi Minh City with excitement to see it. But, it was closed throughout our whole stay because of Lunar New Year. So, if you go to Ho Chi Minh City and get to see this, please let me know what it’s really like!
Getting lost in the allies
Finally, one of our favorite activities in any city – randomly walking about all sorts of allies and test our luck! The main roads in Ho Chi Minh City are practically impossible to walk around – but still particularly entertaining. Various smaller allies come out of these streets that twist and turn in all sorts of directions. Walking around, peeking into the houses, watching the locals, and emerging in a new surprise place is super exciting.
Our time in Vietnam was short and intense. The two days and two nights we spent in Ho Chi Minh City were amazing, but it felt like we could have been there for a bit longer.
From Ho Chi Minh we went to Hoi An, trip I’ll be writing about soon. We chose not to go to Hanoi or Halong Bay, which I kind of regret. We are waiting for baobao to be a bit older before going to Halong Bay though, as I understand it involves a long bus ride and a few days on a boat, and I’m not sure I’m up to stressing about baobao jumping off board.
Have you already read my tips about how to survive southeast Asia with a baby? Check them out here.