River Life - Exploring the Saigon River - review by Rusty Compass
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River Life - Exploring the Saigon River

| 09 Apr 2018
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River Life - Exploring the Saigon River
Our rating
09 Apr 2018

The Saigon River is the lifeblood of the city. It’s the reason for its existence. Until recently it’s tended not to figure highly in travel plans. That’s beginning to change. Here are some ideas for getting amongst the life of the river for a unique perspective on the city.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service

As Saigon’s downtown becomes ever more congested and intense, the river provides a welcome respite. Take a walk along the riverfront or head out on a boat for some deeper exploration of river life. You can even visit popular nearby destinations like the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta by boat. Here are some tips.


A walk along the riverfront

Even if you don’t have time to take a boat out, make sure you take a walk along the riverfront. It’s long been a neglected feature of the city - but that’s slowly starting to change. Getting across the road will be the major challenge.

We suggest you start at the old colonial-era cannons opposite the Ton Duc Thang Museum and head south. You will see Saigon’s new business district, Thu Thiem, rising on the opposite bank of the river.

Walk along to the Ben Nghe Canal and the colonial era financial district. There are some impressive colonial structures here. Late afternoon is a good time to take a walk - allow 45 mins to 90 mins.

For more on the Saigon River walk, check click here.

Saigon river walk with Thu Thiem in the background.
Photo: Mark Bowyer Saigon river walk with Thu Thiem in the background.


Take a local boat

Jump on a local boat from the waterfront and cruise the river for an hour. This is a very local experience - no guarantees about the seaworthiness of the craft and some of the boat guys can be pushy.

You can explore the river for a bit before getting off at Thu Thiem - the opposite bank of the river. The views of the city from here are interesting in the late afternoon. You can pull up a plastic stool and grab a sunset beer.

Some of Saigon’s oldest church structures are located at Thu Thiem. Though they’ve been threatened with demolition on numersou occasions in recent years. You’ll see the cluster of church buildings it as you head across. Access varies depending on the time and the day. Expect to pay around 300,000VND per hour for a boat (or more) depending on the number of people in your group.

Saigon River heading to the Mekong Delta
Photo: Mark Bowyer Saigon River heading to the Mekong Delta


Try the Saigon Waterbus

In 2017, a new passenger transport service was inaugurated - Saigon Waterbus. There are big plans for the service. For now, the network is limited but it’s a cheap and pleasant new way to see the river and get around.

The Saigon Waterbus  a good way to get to Saigon’s main expat area in District 2 too. Fares are just 15,000VND - less than a dollar.

The Waterbus boats leave from the Bach Dang dock at My Linh Square right downtown. You can get tickets there and check the timetable there too. Services operate once an hour and there are plans to increase frequency and the network.

Saigon WaterBus
Photo: Mark Bowyer Saigon WaterBus


Longer journeys on the Saigon River - Mekong Delta, Cu Chi, Can Gio, Vung Tau

In the past, tourists heading to the tunnels at Cu Chi and the Mekong Delts have tended to travel by road. These days, many choose to travel by boat. Travel times tend to be similar, and the boat ride is usually more interesting.

Boat travel tends to be more expensive and more susceptible to bad weather. Travel is by speed boats that usually have space for around 20 passengers. They have reasonable wet weather cover.

Boat tours also operate to the mangrove biosphere at Can Gio. You can also customise a tour if you have special interests.

Saigon River Tour

Les Rives

Saigon Tourist, the major State owned travel company in Saigon, also commenced offering tours by boat in 2017.

Saigon Skyline from the river
Photo: Mark Bowyer Saigon Skyline from the river
Mekong River at My Tho - Travelling to the Mekong by boat
Photo: Mark Bowyer Mekong River at My Tho - Travelling to the Mekong by boat
Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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