Travel Guides

Sherpani Travel: The Best Thing You'll Do in Ho Chi Minh City

We firmly believe that experiencing Vietnam should be on every traveler’s bucket list. From the urban energy of bustling cities to the pristine beaches that offer sweet escapes, Vietnam will captivate you at every turn.

Train tracks run through an alley with brightly colored walls and many Vietnamese flags

Vietnam is situated in Southeast Asia, sharing borders with the nations of Cambodia, Laos and China. With two and a half times as much coastline as the state of California, Vietnam is an excellent beach destination with remarkable water views of the South China Sea and, in the southern part of the country, the Gulf of Thailand.

In the north is the capital of Hanoi, which has the second highest population in the country. The most densely populated city in Vietnam is Ho Chi Minh City, previously Saigon, which is located in the southern part of Vietnam.

Besides our hometown of Boulder, Colorado, Sherpani has deep roots in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It’s one of the destinations we know best, and we are so grateful to experience Vietnamese culture often through regular visits.


When we think of Vietnam, we think of all the friendly people we have met there, who are typically quite proud of their country, and rightfully so. Vietnamese culture is centered around history and tradition and is celebrated by locals with many national holidays throughout the year. It has a large religious influence that is evident in its predominantly Buddhist population. In our experience, the people are incredibly kind, family-oriented, and hard-working. They also make some of the best cuisine in the world!


If you've read any of the Sherpani "Unmissables" before, you know them to be our unique travel guides; we recommend only a single experience for destinations across the globe. It’s hard to choose just one thing - sometimes we’ll sneak in an honorable mention or two! - but we have never had it harder than when it came to selecting only one experience to highlight as essential for Vietnamese travel.

As we’ve thoroughly scoured this city and soaked in so much of what it has to offer, one tour experience stands out as truly perfect for the traveler with a taste for adventure. If you are in Vietnam for a month or just a few days, you simply cannot miss the opportunity we are about to cover.

The Sherpani Unmissable recommendation for visiting Ho Chi Minh City: “The XO Foodie” Tour!

A beautiful Vietnamese dish with clams

XO Tours, a Vietnamese-based, women-led tour company, has left a lasting impression on us, and we will be singing their praises to anyone who will listen! We aren’t the only ones who feel this way. Their tours have been named among the top ten in the world by USA Today and Forbes. Simply put, this company is the real deal.

XO Tours takes travelers on immersive experiences of Ho Chi Minh that are as unique as they are unforgettable. In their tours, you get to experience the city the way many local commuters do: from the back of a motorbike.

XO Tours tour group on their motorbikes

Traveling by motorbike is definitely one of the most amazing parts of booking with XO Tours. Their all-women staff is composed of professional, licensed guides who provide the thrill of the motorbike experience in a way that feels safe and fun.

Anyone who has been to this part of the world can attest to the whirlwind traffic on the streets of Ho Chi Minh. It can be intimidating to hop on a motorbike - the most common mode of transportation there - and take to the streets, weaving through a world of whirring engines that carry the city’s nine million residents about their day.

Our advice? Trust your driver and enjoy the ride!

Many motorbike tour companies in Vietnam do not operate legally and may not include insurance even when it’s advertised. XO Tours is an accredited company that includes insurance for every tour participant and promotes a safe experience by relying on the highest quality licensed professionals. The only way to book a tour with XO Tours is directly on their website. To ensure their legitimacy, they don’t use any third-party booking services.

XO Tours offers the following four experiences for exploring Ho Chi Minh on a motorbike:

1. The Sights of Saigon

2. The XO Foodie

3. Saigon by Night

4. Saigon Through the Lens

Each tour includes its own unique experience, from daytime tours that stop at Ho Chi Minh’s most famed attractions, to nighttime explorations, to a photography-focused tour. Though any tour with XO Tours is sure to please, there is one we feel is a standout experience that travelers just can’t miss: The XO Foodie.

A traditional Vietnamese dish

The XO Foodie tour is exactly what it sounds like: a flavor-focused city tour where one can delight in a variety of traditional Vietnamese dishes. It’s also so much more!

Trust us when we say we could write a whole post about Vietnam’s street food scene (maybe soon - we will!). The flavors of Vietnamese street food are impeccable, and this tour will lead you right to some of the best. While we were immensely satisfied with the food, we were blown away by the experience as a whole, and want to make sure to speak to what else made the tour so special.

The XO Foodie includes five stops, taking you to several districts within Ho Chi Minh City. It does a great job of taking you to places that, as a tourist, you’d be hard-pressed to see on your own. Getting away from the ultra-touristy spots is an amazing perk. It’s an authentic experience that paints a broad picture of life in Ho Chi Minh.

The tour pairs you with a driver, who will stay by your side throughout the evening. The drivers are friendly, knowledgeable and English-speaking; their pride in the experience they offer is evident and well-deserved.

Sherpani staff member and her driver on The XO Foodie tour

Though all the tour guides are women, the tour itself is co-ed. Male-identifying tour attendees are asked to refrain from putting their arms around the driver while on the motorbike and are encouraged to hold on to their seats instead. We love that XO Tours has implemented this boundary to ensure their employees feel safe and comfortable on the job. It’s evident that XO Tours wants to provide the best experience for everyone, including the thousands of Vietnamese women they have employed throughout their company’s history.

The stops on The XO Foodie tour alternate between dining experiences and spots where you stroll around and explore some of Ho Chi Minh’s hidden gems. 

A group of four women standing in a market at nighttime in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

You’ll see a variety of neighborhoods and witness a wide range of lifestyles among the people who call Ho Chi Minh home. The tour guides are incredibly knowledgeable, offering everything from the cost of living in different neighborhoods to the practiced dynamics within Vietnamese families. You get to learn about Vietnamese culture right at its source. 

The food you’ll encounter covers the full spectrum of Vietnamese delicacies! From pho, a rice noodle soup with a savory beef broth that has become popular in the United States, to balut, the fertilized duck egg dish that will surely capture the interest of adventurous eaters. The tour guides create an idyllic, low-pressure environment for exploring new flavors. You are encouraged to try anything but also able to decline without judgment. Each food stop is accompanied by a drink choice of soda, tea or beer. The tour will also do its best to accommodate dietary restrictions upon request.

Balut, a fertilized duck egg dish in Vietnam

Favorite dishes sampled by the Sherpani staff included mouthwatering grilled scallops with green onions and peanuts, delectable crab claws seasoned with garlic, chili and salt, and savory clams that were steamed with lemongrass, ginger, kumquat juice and chili. Yum!

People from all over the world flock to XO Tours, so you’re bound to find yourself in a group that represents many different countries and cultures. One of our favorite things about the tour is that it encourages engagement within the group. The whole evening is one of dining at community tables, chatting with tourists from other amazing places and even playing games! The tour guides lead group games at several stops to encourage a sense of community and create a friendly and comfortable environment for all, making the tour perfect for the solo female traveler. 

Dining at a community table on the XO Foodie Tour
Buttons that say "XO Champion" passed out to game winners on the XO Foodie

The XO Foodie also includes takeaways! Photos are taken throughout the evening and sent to you afterward via email, so you can put your phone away and lean into the experience, knowing it will be documented. They also provide a downloadable booklet that catalogs all the dishes you encountered on the tour! These above-and-beyond touches are why XO Tours rightfully dominates the motorbike tour industry.

Ready to go?

The XO Foodie tour is guaranteed to be one of your top travel memories from your time in Vietnam. We sincerely hope you check it out, and please let us know if you do! We can tell you one thing, next time we are in Ho Chi Minh, we’ll be taking The XO Foodie tour again.

Have you ventured to Vietnam before? What was the best thing you ate there? The flavors of Ho Chi Minh make our taste buds sing, and our heartstrings play along as we contemplate one of our favorite places in the world.

Buy your ticket, and pack your Sherpani bag. Vietnam is calling - and there’s a motorbike with your name on it. Happy travels!


The above post is part of an ongoing segment of the Sherpani Travel Blog. We want to give travelers a singular, tangible recommendation for destinations; something we deem truly unmissable. These recommendations are carefully chosen from the personal travels of the Sherpani team.

Discover more from the Sherpani Travel Blog

Need a Sherpani bag for your Vietnam trip? Check out our buy guide Sustainable Travel Bags for Southeast Asia: The Ultimate Guide of Lightweight Travel Bags That Protect Our Oceans

Read more about Sherpani’s & Vietnam in Sherpani Charity Highlight: Heartbeat Vietnam

Want another Sherpani Unmissable? Try Sherpani Travel: We Tried to Keep This New Zealand Experience a Secret... But We Caved

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By women for women, the Sherpani Travel Blog talks about all things travel. With a new post every week on Travel Tuesdayour blog is the go-to place for unique travel guidesgeneral travel tipspersonal travel stories from women in our community, and more!

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