During IVI’s cultural week you will learn everything you need to know about Ho Chi Minh City and become as prepared as possible, before your project starts. Ho Chi Minh was formerly known as Saigon and is known for its French colonial buildings, skyscrapers and motorbikes! Over the next week, we will be exploring this bustling city, learning everything from 1970 Vietnam War, visiting historic temples, exploring the War Museum and the famous Chu Chi tunnels.
You will also have valuable lessons on the local language and culture, as well as a fun cooking class!
Program Duration & Availability
Min duration (weeks):1
Max duration (weeks):1
Aims & Objectives
- To have a deeper understanding of the local Vietnamese culture
- To become familiar with the local way of life
- Get prepared for your volunteer project
We start with a welcome meeting and introduction session with our local team. You’ll learn about the various projects and sort out any important documents, etc. This is followed by Vietnamese language lessons, the do’s and don’ts within the local culture and learning about the customs and norms of the Vietnamese people. You will also have a tour of the volunteer accommodation and surroundings, such as where you can find ATMs and supermarkets. In the afternoon we will take part in various activities with local students.
After breakfast you will visit some of the most iconic places in Ho Chi Minh, including the Reunification Palace (home and workplace of the president of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War and where an Army tank crashed its gates at the end of the war). We’ll also visit the Notre Dame and the Centre Post Office.
We then visit one of Ho Chi Minh’s most atmospheric temples, the Jade Emperor Pagoda. This temple comprises of many halls and rooms, each dedicated to specific deities. These rooms are full of statutes of phantasmal divinities such as; “The Lord of Hell”, the “Goddesses of Health and Fertility”, and the “Buddha of the Future”
After lunch you will visit the War Remnant Museum, a great chance to learn more of the recent history of the country. After this we will visit the lively Ben Thanh Market.
In the morning you will have fun at a Vietnamese cooking class. Later on, we get involved in bracelet making, before a visit to the Can Cu markets which are close to your accommodation.
Today we will take the whole day to explore one of the most visited places near Ho Chi Minh, the Chu Chi Tunnel system. This extensive set of tunnels were used by soldiers in the Vietnam war as hiding spots. They also served as hospitals, food and weapon storage, and even living quarters for many North Vietnamese fighters. Here you can explore some of the tunnels, have a go at firing a gun and learn about the traps they used to set up for the enemy.
Today we will visit your project site. You’ll get introduced to the project and what you will be doing, becoming familiarised with the people you will be working with. We will spend some time here and helping on the project.
There are no further requirements for this program.
No specific equipment required for this program.
Ho Chi Minh City (formally known as Saigon), is located in the South-Eastern region of Vietnam and is the country’s largest and most modern city. During your stay, you will be sharing a dorm within a college campus right in the centre of the city.
Accommodation & Food
About the Accommodation
The accommodation is located on a campus in a college dorm. As such, you will have to abide by certain campus rules such as a night curfew.
We also have a room reserved as an “office”, where you can go to if you want some peace and quiet. There are books and magazines available here for you to borrow.
There is a nice, quiet local café right next to the accommodation, which is a great place for fresh juices, snacks etc..
Available Room Types
|All meals included||Yes *|
|Free beverages||Yes **|
|Persons per room||4-6|
|Wifi in public areas||Yes|
|Laundry facilities||Yes ***|
* On weekends brunch instead of breakfast and lunch
** Water, coffee, tea at the accommodation
*** At extra cost
Basic Vietnamese meals are provided at the accommodation, with some western dishes such as sandwiches, spaghetti and bread.
There are many taxis close to the campus. You can easily catch one from the main road to reach anywhere in Ho Chi Minh.
There are several ATMs close by, the closest being about 10 minutes walking distance from the accommodation.
Ho Chi Minh is a large city and you can find all the necessary amenities you will need for your stay.
Mandatory Orientation Day
On your first Monday, you will join our orientation day, to familiarise yourself with your new surroundings, as well as local culture. Your project will continue as usual from Tuesday onwards.
- Welcome meeting, House rules, Setting Expectations, Health and Safety Advice and handling of documents.
- Vietnamese Do’s and Don’ts, Vietnamese Culture Lesson and Local Language Lesson.
- Tour around the campus accommodation and local area; where to find local shops and arrange a sim-card if necessary.
- Activities with local students and more
Activities & Events
Football is arranged for the volunteers every Wednesday together with the local coordinators.
Sights & Surroundings
Here are some interesting places to explore in your free time/weekends!
Within Ho Chi Minh City
As a large city, Ho Chi Minh has a lot to offer from shops to Vietnamese water puppet shows. Here are a few suggestions:
Bui Vien Street is the main street in Ho Chi Minh City, also called ‘backpacker street’. There are many cheap restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, massage parlours, markets, tour agencies and hotels/hostels. This is a great place for tourists to shop, dine, entertainment and to party!
Landmark 81 is the tallest skyscraper in Southeast Asia. It towers over the rest of Ho Chi Minh’s buildings and has incredible views form the top. Not only that, it also has an ice rink, virtual reality game, restaurant and shops!
Another place to go for a great view of the city. There is an observation deck (Saigon Skydeck) open daily and offering panoramic views of Ho Chi Minh City. From floors 50 to 52, there are more entertainment facilities, including a fine dining restaurant and bar/nightclub.
Dam Sen cultural park and Water Park
Fun for adults as well as kids, this water park is guaranteed to get you smiling! Plus, it also has some lovely gardens to walk around too. There’s animals, musical shows and restaurants too, making it a fun day trip.
Thien Hau temple
Thien Hau Temple is a beautiful Chinese temple, situated in district 5 of Ho Chi Minh city. It is dedicated to Thien Hau, (also named the Lady of the Sea). Inside there are many intricate carvings, statues and paintings, a very pretty and atmospheric place to visit.
Vietnam Quoc Tu pagoda
The Quoc Tu Pagoda is located in District 10 of Ho Chi Minh City, and is another interesting temple to explore, with its lovely incense smells, colourful statues, murals and shrines. It’s one of the tallest pagodas in the city with 7 floors. Usually only the first and second floors are open, but they open up the third and seventh floor to visitors every 15th of the month.
A couple of hours out from the city is ‘Monkey Island’, also known as Can Gio Island. This huge 80,000 hectare nature reserve contains mangrove trees, water coconut forests, and yes- monkeys! Hundreds of them live wild here and they will be sure to say hello to you- just be sure not to bring food with you, they are pesky little creatures!
Ba Den mountain (The black virgin mountain)
The Ba Den Mountain trail takes you through lush jungle, mountain streams and caves, before reaching its rugged top. You can also take a cable car up to the top to see some wonderful views from above, sometimes from above the clouds!
Outside of Ho Chi Minh
The Mekong Delta River consists of swamps, islands, Khmer temples and the local floating markets. There are many small villages situated along the river front. It takes 2-4 hours by bus from Ho Chi Minh. Float on a traditional boat, through the jungle, swamps and floating markets to get a real feel for the way of life here.
Vung Tau beach
If you fancy a beach trip, only a couple of hours from the city is Vung Tau beach. There are 4 beaches in this town but try Pineapple beach for calm waters, which are great for swimming and getting away from the more crowded Front beach. There is also a culture and ecotourism park here which has rides and other outdoor activities to have a go at.
Mui Ne beach
Taking around 5 hours by bus or 4 hours by train (from Ho Chi Minh), this is a long sandy beach, lined with palm trees. There are many restaurants, shopping venues and luxurious resorts along the seafront, as well as a fishing village (great for photographers). It’s also a popular place to kitesurf.
Located high in the mountains, Da Lat is pleasantly much cooler and is surrounded by hills, pine forests, lakes and waterfalls. Close to the town is Datanla Falls, where you can walk to see a pretty waterfall (for the adventurous you can try water abseiling). You can also visit Elephant Falls, go tobogganing or just enjoy the beautiful jungle scenery.
Nha Trang is a busy beach resort with a great nightlife, located along the South-central coast of Vietnam. There is a long stretch of white sand and palm tree lined beach, as well as many island hopping tours to gorgeous islands. This is a great place to go and enjoy some nightlife.
Hoi An, along the Centre of Vietnam’s coastline, is a very pretty town, known for its lanterns and its Japanese covered bridge. Although popular with tourists, the town still feels very authentic. There are many French architectural buildings, markets, nearby beaches and colourful lantern stalls to explore. This lively town also has a very relaxed and romantic vibe.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
A UNESCO Heritage Site in central Vietnam, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park hosts the largest cave in the world (Son Doong). There are also many other stunning caves to explore, on top of lush jungle, mountains, lakes and native wildlife. This is an adventure lover’s paradise, with the views you can get here being absolutely stunning.
Hue Ancient city
There are plenty of things to do in beautiful Hue, central Vietnam. This is a great place to explore temples, as there are many around. A Visit to the Tombs of the Ancient Emperors will take you around 19th and 20th century tombs, statues and carvings, with stunning backdrops of the countryside. Other popular places to visit are the Citadel, the Imperial City and the To Mieu Temple complex, all colourful and intricate temples.
Hanoi (Capital City)
Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, has a rich culture and is known for its Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influence, as well as it’s antient architecture. Located in the North of Vietnam, you can explore the old quarter, watch a traditional water puppet show, wander through the maze of streets or visit some of the many museums.
Easily done as a day trip from Hanoi, Halong Bay is known for its emerald green waters and giant limestone imposing cliffs. Hire out a traditional junk boat and cruise through the beautiful scenery. Or hire a kayak and explore the many different and colourful caves as you go!
Sapa is a stunningly beautiful part of Vietnam, popular with trekkers. For miles you will see green rolling hills, mountains and rice paddies. Explore this beautiful area, stopping in the small villages as you go for an authentic experience. You can reach Sapa by an overnight train from Hanoi, taking 8 hours (or 6 hours by direct bus).
Ninh Binh’s surrounding countryside is absolutely stunning and a great place for those who love the outdoors. Take a trip to Tam Coc, which is similar to Halong Bay. Drift through big limestone cliffs and bright yellow and green rice paddies. There are many things to do in this area from the Mua Cave, Bich Dong Pagoda, Bai Dinh Temple, a nature reserve and boat trips.
From this location we provide free transport to your next project at the following location(s):
- Mekong Delta
- Phan Thiet