The best Mekong Delta Floating Market Tours from Ho Chi Minh

Photo by Huy Hung Trinh / Unsplash

If you are impressed by the breathtaking mountain ranges and exotic hill tribes in the North; If you are captivated by the untouched beauty of hidden islands and rich marine life of central Vietnam, wait until you set foot in Southern VN and experience the “floating" culture which was created along the Mekong Delta River. The Mekong Delta region will greet you with the lovely people of the rural villages, colorful tropical fruit gardens, and vibrant floating markets that seem to never sleep with hundreds of boats coming and going daily.

Located just about four hours drive from central Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta floating market is at a perfect distance for a day trip that is isolated from the bustling hub of cityscapes. Visitors coming to this waterland will never get bored thanks to a myriad of local activities that the region has to offer. From the dynamic trading scene on narrow rivers, delicious food served on floating restaurants to the hospitable local families that have been producing handmade goods for several decades. Whether you're looking for a weekend getaway or a history and culture excursion, these floating markets are certainly a place you should go once in your life!

There are plenty of ways to see and admire the giant maze of the Vietnam floating markets but there is only one way to truly feel it. Follow your informative local guide on one of our best Mekong Delta floating markets tours from Ho Chi Minh City and experience the life of a local for one day. Every activity is thoughtfully selected to bring you the most insightful experience and unforgettable memories.

A glimpse into the rustic lifestyles that was built
on the narrow waters for hundreds of years

For over 100 years, people living in the Mekong Delta have been used to making a living right on boats along the tropical river, rowing all day. Since then, floating markets have become a way of life and a vital culture of the Mekong Delta dwellers, thanks to the complex and extensive river systems of the region. It is really interesting to see how locals live their daily lives, working, making money, eating, or even shopping on the water.

It will not take much time to feel the peaceful atmosphere of this region. Moments after arrival, you will be immediately surrounded by the rustic beauty of Mekong River, authentic cuisines, and lovely people that are always willing to show you around their world. A trip to the southwestern part of Vietnam will definitely give you a fresh look on life!

Mekong delta floating market in the morning

Feel the busiest trading places on waters

The Mekong Delta is a complex network of distributaries in southwestern Vietnam, between Ho Chi Minh and Cambodia. The river itself starts from the Himalayas, passes through China, Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia before reaching southwestern Vietnam, which partly explains the reason why the waters here are so murky. Around two-thirds of Vietnam rice and fruits come from the Delta region, providing sustenance for millions of Vietnamese people. For tourists, the Mekong Delta is a home to a unique floating market culture and peaceful sampan rides through natural tunnels.

There are six floating markets in the Mekong Delta. They are Cai Be, Cai Rang, Phong Dien, Nga Nam, Nga Bay, and Long Xuyen. These markets are scattered around the different provinces in the region. Cai Rang floating market of Can Tho is the largest wholesale market of the region and the most popular one due to its proximity to Ho Chi Minh City. In this lively and crowded trading atmosphere, you will find tons of tropical fruits and veggies loaded on long boats and being continuously juggled from one boat to another. If you'd like to immerse yourself in the authentic and genuine vibes of the Delta's people and nature, make a visit to Long Xuyen floating market in An Giang province. It is truly a hidden gem as the market mostly serves local people and is hardly commercialized, which will definitely take you off the tourist trails to feel the peace and ease of the great rive.

Embrace a unique culture that has existed for over 100 years

There is a wide range of local activities that will keep you busy once visiting the Mekong Delta, with the floating market as the regional highlight. This is the place where local people sell and buy an amazing variety of products catering to their daily lives. Here, you can find many local products at very reasonable prices, from processed specialties such as coconut candy, fish sauce, or dried fish to all sorts of fresh fruits, especially the exotic ones such as Nam Roi grapefruit, Vinh Long pink kiwi kumquat, and the Cai Mon durian. Tourist scams, however, still happen in some areas and may worsen your shopping experience. Therefore, some bargaining tips shared by local people will certainly help you a lot to get the best deal from the sellers.

Taking a sampan boat to row further into the narrow waterways is the best way to see up-close the daily life of local communities. The view over the river with colorful fish and wild mangrove forests settling on the shimmering golden water at sunset is extremely photogenic. Make your way through the tributaries of the Mekong River, snap a few photos and stop over at anything that looks interesting - rice paddies, fruit orchards, stilt houses or riverside restaurants/cafes. The locals here are extremely friendly and may invite you to see their homes or even to join their lunch.

Swamp swimming is another must-do experience on the Mekong river. Swimming in a swamp is way more fun than swimming in the pools, and children living in the rural areas of Vietnam really love doing it. This activity is really enjoyable during the wet season, from September to December, when the water levels are rising. Especially on the hot afternoons, swamp swimming is such a great way to cool off and get the stress released. If possible, join them! A journey back to childhood times with these children is absolutely memorable.

You will also probably come across some locals doing their net fishing while traveling through the canals. They will heartily welcome you, let you have a try, and even share some tips on how to get a big catch. Your catches, of course, will be cooked for your dinner. An Giang, Dong Tap, and Long An are the three most famous places for swamp swimming and net fishing that offer you the true Mekong experience.

Many residents of the Mekong Delta specialize in producing goods such as rice paper, coconut candy, bricks or handicrafts for several decades. They gladly open their homes for you to visit, look around and buy items if you wish. Make a stop at Mien Tay Homestay, which is not only a local homestay but also a fruitful cacao farm owned by Mr. Cuong and his family. He will take you to see around the farm and share lots of things about the farming process. He is always open to show you how fruits from a cacao tree turn into the familiar cacao products that we consume daily such as chocolate, body butter, liquor, or cacao drinks. Go with someone who can help with translating since you wouldn't want to miss any of his farming secrets. Don't miss out trying a hot cup of chocolate because it's a signature drink of Mr. Cuong's wife! A visit to Mien Tay homestay will certainly be the highlight of your whole adventure.

Feast on Mekong Delta specialties

There are many amazing local specialties you should not miss out while in the Mekong Delta. Up to 70% of fruit consumed in Vietnam are grown here, so make sure you fill up on as much dragon fruit, pomelo, coconut juice, mango, jackfruit, mangosteen, and durian as possible. You can even eat the freshest ones from the tree if you pay a visit to a local fruit orchard. Some popular ones are Cai Be orchard, My Khanh and Phong Dien. A fruit garden tour would be a great help to show support to these farmers' hard work and sustenance.

Also, exploring the authentic cuisine of the Mekong River served on various floating restaurants is a must-try for all visitors coming to the region. Since the trading activities start early in the morning, many noodle soup ladies even start their stalls at around 3:00 AM to serve both local sellers and shoppers. Despite the limitation of space, those small floating restaurants are still full of fresh ingredients from Vietnamese spices and herbs, rice noodles, to a large pan of broth to make the most flavorful dishes. Rowing along the river, you may find an abundance of local dishes including bún cá (fish noodle), hủ tiếu Sa Đéc (dry noodle), bún riêu (crab noodle), bánh mì (Vietnamese baguettes) and lẩu mắm (salted fish hotpot). With only 30,000 VND (~$1,5), you can treat your hungry stomach with quite a hearty meal, some traditional pancakes for dessert or even a cup of Vietnamese coffee.

Frequently asked questions

Is the Mekong Delta floating market really worth a visit?

Absolutely yes! The Mekong Delta floating market is definitely worth a visit because of not only the attractive tropical scenery, interesting river cultures but also the friendly people and special cuisines

If you are looking for a weekend getaway, the Mekong Delta is an ideal destination to immerse yourself in the peaceful atmosphere of rural areas, where you can leisurely enjoy sampan rides through the natural canals, feast your stomach with mouthwatering local dishes or stroll around the tropical fruit orchards and taste some natural sweetness.

If you are craving for a history and culture excursion, a trip to the Mekong Delta floating market from Ho Chi Minh City will take you further into the waterways where the locals have resided and thrived for over a hundred of years. You will see up-close the traditional lifestyle of local residents as well as experience every activity that the locals do on their daily basis so as to enrich the knowledge that you already have of the country!

When is the best time to visit the Mekong Delta floating market?

Found in the tropical climate of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta experiences two major seasons. The dry season lasts from October to May, while the rest of the months are considered to be the rainy season. The Mekong Delta floating market is at its best during the dry months when the weather is relatively mild with warm sunshine and light winds. However, you can also visit the Mekong Delta during the rainy season because the rainfall normally only lasts for about an hour.

Trips in the rainy season will also be much more pleasant thanks to the cooler atmosphere while the harvest season falls into dry months, which means there will be chances for you to taste various types of native fruits and find agricultural products. Indeed, at each time of the year, the Mekong Delta floating market will treat you with seasonal specialties that cannot be found in the other one.

Can I visit the Mekong Delta floating market by myself?

Of course, you can! There are two options you can consider before doing a trip to the Mekong Delta floating market.

If you want to explore the region by yourself, make sure to have a detailed plan on what to see, where to go and things to do in the Mekong Delta. You will have to manage your time, arrange your own transportation and budget very carefully since the Mekong Delta is a vast and diverse area consisting of more than 10 provinces and each one is unique. For example, you can reach Can Tho City from Ho Chi Minh City by either taxi (~$79) or sleeping bus (~$11), which takes around 5 hours to get to the city center. Once arriving at Can Tho, catch a taxi or a motorbike taxi (~$2) to get to Ninh Kieu Wharf, where you can buy boat tickets to the Cai Rang floating market. The boat ticket for a 2-hour trip usually costs 40,000 VND to 80,000 VND (~$2 - $4) for each person. If you are traveling in a group, consider renting a whole private boat because it can be more economical and you can add some preferred destinations to your itinerary. The price for a private boat ranges between 800,000 VND (~$34) and 1,300,000 VND (~$56). Beside the higher budget, there are several difficulties you may have to face when deciding to travel alone. There could be a chance that you have to wait for your boat to be filled, and you may miss the best hours of the market. Some boats may take you to their own shopping stalls or other unexpected destinations, which will waste a bunch of time. Not to mention that language barriers are unavoidable and tourist scams often happen in some crowded places.

A more convenient way is to to join an experienced local on a guided tour, which costs no more than 1,299,000 VND (~$55). They are perfect for travelers who do not have much time to look for things to do in the Mekong Delta and only have a limited time to see the area. If you're interested in the dynamic trading scene of the Vietnam floating markets or the traditional lifestyle of local communities but do not know a word of Vietnamese or are afraid of being scammed, a guided tour offers a wide range of incredible activities that cater to all ages and personalities. Whether it is a joined group tour or private journey, you will certainly see a different Mekong Delta region that other large group tours cannot show you. It also provides pick-up and drop-off service from your hotel in Ho Chi Minh city or various southwestern provinces and is accompanied by boat tickets and a delicious local lunch. Professional local guides are carefully selected by Local Insider to have your travel itineraries tailored for your needs and preferences, guaranteeing that you will experience all the best parts and gaining real insights without having to do lots of logistics.

How long should I stay in the Mekong Delta?

The Mekong Delta is the perfect distance from Ho Chi Minh City for a day trip, which is enough to give you a taste of the area. However, an overnight stay is not a bad idea as the fantastic views at sunset and tasty experiences at the floating markets truly shouldn’t be missed.

The local floating markets are open all day but they are at their best early in the morning, when the temperature is comfortable and the sun is not too strong. Some markets wake up really early, even as early as 3:00 AM, therefore, try to make it before 06:00 AM so as not to miss their peak hours.

You can book your accommodation at hotels or hostels, yet staying at a local homestay is the greatest way to get a glimpse into the local life. Your local host will take care of you as if you are a part of their family, teach you some classic Vietnamese food and enjoy meals together, take you on a tour around the town or their orchards, or even let you participate in their farming activities. You will get to learn their stories, lifestyles, customs and habits. The experience is so intimate that will certainly make lifetime memories and real insight into the rich Vietnamese culture.