One place comes to mind when you think of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam - The Cai Rang Floating Market!
Being the largest floating market in the Mekong, its popularity comes with good reason. So if you’re thinking of visiting the Mekong Delta, here is an honest guide to the Cai Rang floating market in Can Tho.
Having visited the floating market twice, first during Covid and recently, we're going to share our own experiences with you, from what we liked to what we didn't, as well as our personal recommendations.
Find out what to expect at the floating market, best time to visit, how to get there, and plenty of our insider tips you won’t want to miss.
So if you’re wondering whether the Cai Rang floating market in Can Tho is worth visiting, read on as we share with you everything you need to know in this complete and honest guide!
Overview of Cai Rang Floating Market
The Cai Rang floating market is located in the city of Can Tho, Vietnam’s 4th largest city, and is about 165km away from the center of Ho Chi Minh city.
It used to be a bustling hub of local trade, where farmers and merchants would gather to exchange goods.
However, with the increase in tourists, the market has transformed into more of a spectacle than a genuine trading place. It is now one of the most visited tourist attractions in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta with plenty of daily tours to choose from.
What to Expect at Cai Rang Floating Market
Though each experience will vary, here is an overview of what you can expect of the infamous Cai Rang floating market in the Mekong Delta.
First and foremost, most of the photographs you see on tour advertisements and websites do not accurately portray the current state of the floating market. It is not as busy as it used to be and you won’t find many local small boats trading their produce.
What you will see are larger boats trading with each other. Most of the smaller boats will have tourists on board wearing their bright orange life jackets. While other local boats are set up to cater to the needs of the visitors, such as selling noodles, drinks, and fruits.
In general, the locals at the floating market now mainly focus on catering to the tourists' demands, causing the experience to lose its authenticity.
Cai Rang Floating Market Tours
Along with its popularity, there are numerous ways you can visit the Cai Rang Floating Market in Can Tho.
Important to note: Majority of these tours follow the same itinerary. It begins with a visit to the floating market in the morning, then continues with a rice paper-making demonstration and a cocoa farm, all of which are aimed toward tourists.
Day Tours from Ho Chi Minh City
There are a few day tours departing from Ho Chi Minh City but we do not recommend these as it means you will have to leave around 2am.
Multi-Day Tours from Ho Chi Minh City
Another option is to join multi-days tours from Saigon, which gives you more chances to see other places in the Mekong, such as Ben Tre and An Giang Province. It is the most convenient way to see as many places in the Mekong and your accommodation and transfer are included.
Here are some of the most highly rated multi-day tours you can book from Ho Chi Minh City.
Booking a Boat On Your Own
If you are already in Can Tho, you can head towards Ninh Kieu Wharf the day before your intended tour and book a boat on your own. You will see locals walking around offering a boat tour to see the Cai Rang floating market starting at 5 USD per person.
This is the cheapest option to see the floating market, but you won’t be able to guarantee the size of your boat and the number of people that join the tour. The floating market is touristy enough, and you don't want to be crammed into a crowded boat either.
Private Tours from Can Tho
Another option you can consider if you’re visiting Can Tho for a few days is to hire a private tour in Can Tho. There are plenty of locals in the area offering private tours with more flexibility depending on what you prefer.
During both of our visits to Can Tho, we’ve booked local guides through Facebook. On our recent trip, we booked with Toby, and though he was not able to join us on the tour, he sent out another young guide who was helpful and friendly, which we also recommend.
You can book a tour with Toby at +84 94 951 65 56
Another local tour guide in Can Tho is Mekong Lily. We’ve found through reading that her tours are the most popular and highly rated.
To book a tour with Mekong Lily, contact her at +84 94 931 76 72
As we strive to give our honest opinions, here is our experience with the largest floating market in the Mekong Delta. Here are our thoughts on what we enjoyed and disliked about the experience, as well as our suggestions.
What We Enjoyed the Most
We visited the Cai Rang market with low expectations. We knew that the market wasn’t what it used to be, but we were just curious about its current state. And like they say, you might be pleasantly surprised when you let go of your expectations.
The fact that the market now mainly serves as a whole-sale market means that we saw lots of big vessels selling large quantities of one specific product. Such as watermelons, pineapples, or bags of rice. These big trades being made on water were a fascinating sight to witness.
But what stood out the most during one of our visits to the Cai Rang market was our boat rower. A friendly and hardworking woman who greeted us with a warm smile. She maneuvered through the tangle of boats with great ease. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the flocks of tourists also provide a livelihood for people like her.
Things We Didn’t Like
Even though there’s still genuine trade going on at the market. It’s easily noticeable that the market's focus has shifted towards catering tourism. We were constantly approached by vendors on small sampan boats selling either coffee, noodles or other snacks.
Furthermore, the businesses around the market are also aimed at tourists, rather than the sales of the actual product. A great example is the rice paper factory that is included in most tours. After you pass through a gallery-like hallway filled with souvenirs you can see how traditional rice paper is made. A fun short stop, but there isn’t much tradition left in such a place.
As much as possible, we do not recommend taking a day tour from Ho Chi Minh City. The market is busiest in the early mornings so most tours from Saigon will depart around 2 am.
Instead, stay the night in Can Tho and book a private tour with a local guide. Visit the market early in the morning and enjoy the sunrise.
The private tour gives you the option to make multiple short stops at places such as the cacao farm and rice-paper factory. They are a good opportunity to stretch your legs and to get a glance into these crafts. Just keep in mind that they are a bit touristy as mentioned earlier.
The dragon fruit farm is also a nice place to visit if you want to enjoy a boat ride through the small waterways. Plus, you’ll get to try the delicious dragon fruits of course!
If you’re looking for something less touristy, consider going to Long Xuyen floating market instead. Although it is not a busy trading hub, it is much smaller and attracts fewer tourists, providing a more authentic experience of the Mekong's way of life.
If you’re in Can Tho for a few days, we suggest renting a motorbike and exploring the beauty of the countryside on your own. You can visit the Vi Thanh Market, a unique market square where you can find the freshest produce and other Mekong's delicacies.
Additionally, if you visit a few weeks before the Tet holiday, go to Sa Dec Flower Village and see the rows and rows of flowers in preparation for Vietnam's largest celebration!
When to Visit the Floating Market
While it is possible to visit the market anytime of the year, the best months are from December to April, when the weather is dry and temperatures are pleasant.
Cai Rang Floating Market Hours
The floating market is normally held from 5am until 10:30am. The busiest and best time to visit is between 5 and 6:30am, when the market is mostly filled with locals.
How to Get to Can Tho
Here are the best ways to reach the city of Can Tho to visit the Cai Rang Floating Market.
Car: The easiest way to get to Can Tho is rent a private car. The drive takes about 3 hours from Ho Chi Minh City. Book your car to Can Tho here!
Bus: There are plenty of buses departing from Ho Chi Minh City to Can Tho daily for around 9 USD. Book your bus to Can Tho here!
Plane: If you’re coming from anywhere else besides Saigon, there is an international airport in Can Tho where you can fly into. Find flights to Can Tho now!
Where to Stay in Can Tho
We recommend staying near the riverside and the night market, so it’s easier to get to the floating market. There are also plenty of food options nearby. If you’re looking for a more relaxing stay, book your accommodation outside the city center.
Is Cai Rang Floating Market Worth Visiting?
If you’ve never been to a local floating market or floating village before, then it is worth it. The combination of the floating market and the boat ride through the small waterways is a nice way to spend your morning in Can Tho. Just don’t get your expectations too high and you’ll enjoy the Cai Rang floating market.
However, if you’re interested in seeing the locals' way of living and trading in the Mekong Delta, then we recommend going somewhere else. To give an example, walking around a local market in Can Tho will give you a more truthful experience than visiting places catered to tourism.
And that’s our honest guide to the Cai Rang floating market in Vietnam!
We hope we've made it easy for you to decide whether or not to go to the market. The Mekong Delta Region is vast, and there are numerous places to explore that will meet your preferences.
If you want to see more off-the-beaten-path areas, check out our 4-day Mekong Delta motorbike route, which will take you to the region's hidden gems.
Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.
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