Nestled in Can Tho, Cai Rang is the biggest floating market in the majestic Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. It’s a symbol of regional culture, a way of life that’s remained remarkably unchanged over the centuries.
In this Cai Rang floating market guide, I’ll share the best tips, tours, and insights to plan your trip to this unique trading hub.
Interesting facts about Cai Rang floating market
Born in the early 20th century, Cai Rang floating market is a bustling, energetic market floating right on the Mekong Delta.
Its name bears a mythical charm tied to the tale of a giant crocodile once washed ashore here, its teeth deeply embedded in the land. Some, however, argue that its name has Khmer roots and originates from the word “Karan.”
What I like about Cai Rang floating market is that it gives you an unfiltered look at the everyday lives of the Vietnamese locals who make their living through trade and commerce on the river.
Boat after boat, you will find them filled with local produce, from fruits and vegetables to household goods and crafts.
The interaction between sellers and buyers, the unique display of goods, and the background score of boat engines and chatter combine to create an energetic, lively scene that’s an absolute treat for the senses.
Where is the Cai Rang floating market?
Pack your bags for Can Tho City because that’s where this floating market is!
More precisely, it’s on the Hau River in the Cai Rang district, just a stone’s throw away (600 meters to be exact) from the Cai Rang Bridge. It’s conveniently positioned to be the commercial hub for the entire Mekong Delta.
How to get to Cai Rang?
Can Tho City, the charming home of Cai Rang Floating Market, sits approximately 170 km from the bustling Ho Chi Minh City.
If you’re planning your trip from Hanoi or the Northern provinces, I’d recommend hopping on a flight to Ho Chi Minh City or directly to Can Tho. It’s a time-saving option that ensures you maximize your exploration time.
If a road trip is more up your alley, FUTA buses provide daily services from Saigon to Can Tho, approximately a 3.5-hour journey that’s an adventure in itself.
Alternatively, consider Cai Rang floating market tours. These comprehensive bundles take the hassle out of planning by providing transportation, food, accommodation, and additional excursions, like a visit to the serene My Tho.
Where to stay in Can Tho
During our visit to Can Tho, we had the pleasure of staying at the Sheraton Can Tho Hotel. The outdoor pool provided a refreshing oasis, perfect for unwinding after a day of exploring. Also, the hotel is just 2 km (1.2 miles) from Ninh Kieu Pier, making it a perfect location for Cai Rang floating market trip.
For a serene retreat, Can Tho Ecolodge is a great choice. Nestled amidst nature, the resort provides a serene and peaceful ambiance. We loved exploring the surroundings on the complimentary bicycles. Plus, the outdoor swimming pool was perfect for relaxing and soaking up the sun.
If you’re on a budget, check out Magnolia’s Can Tho. This lovely hotel has an excellent location, and the room with a cozy balcony adds a touch of charm.
When is the best time to visit Cai Rang floating market?
Though Can Tho is a year-round destination, I’d suggest visiting during the summer if you’re aiming for the ultimate Cai Rang Floating Market experience.
The weather is more comfortable, and the market buzzes with extra life as traders bring colorful, juicy fruits fresh from the farms.
Not to mention, nothing beats the joy of biting into a succulent piece of fruit while floating down the river under the golden summer sun.
How much time to spend at Cai Rang?
The market typically starts at dawn and winds down by 8 am or 9 am. To experience the market at its peak, plan to spend at least a few hours here.
Arrive early (around 6 am), so you can get to witness the lively, frenetic trade activities. It’s an absolute hive of activity, and the morning light provides a beautiful backdrop for photography.
Cai Rang floating market’s ticket prices
Upon arriving at Ninh Kieu Pier, you’ll encounter numerous boat ladies selling tours. I recommend heading straight to the port to find a ticket counter. My shared tour cost 120,000 ($5).
For a more private and intimate experience, you can rent an entire boat for about $20 ~ $30, depending on the size.
On my trip, I was thrilled to experience a 4-hour excursion, which took me to the market, a rice noodles factory, a fruit garden, and a fascinating fish sauce house. Each stop offered a deeper understanding of local lifestyles and culinary practices.
What to buy in Cai Rang floating market?
The river’s width is about 100- 120m, and the length is about 1300-1500m. About 300-400 trading boats gather to buy and sell goods daily in the Cai Rang floating market.
The sellers usually use a pole to hang their agricultural goods, and each boat usually specializes in selling one type of item.
For example, if the boat specializes in selling sweet potatoes, people will hang some potatoes on the tree, and if the boat sells mangoes, there will be a few mango fruits hanging on the tree. That way, the sellers can tell buyers that “There are sweet potatoes here” or “Mango is sold here.”
Goods sold in this floating market are diverse, including agricultural products, handicrafts, household products, and daily essential household goods. Boats also carry household goods and ceramics from Bien Hoa, Sai Gon, or Lai Thieu.
Best things to do in Cai Rang
Beyond the obvious shopping, there’s much to do at Cai Rang. I particularly enjoyed trying out the diverse local food sold right from the boats.
Another must-do is observing the unique trading system, where vendors display their wares on long poles. Watching the hustle and bustle of this vibrant aquatic market is an experience that stays with you long after you’ve left the delta.
What to wear
Given the tropical climate, I would advise sticking to light, breathable clothing. A hat, sunglasses, and a good dose of sunblock will come in handy, given the boat’s openness and the sun’s intensity. Remember, comfort is key to fully enjoying this remarkable cultural experience.
What to pack
Pack light but don’t forget to bring your camera or smartphone – you wouldn’t want to miss capturing the stunning scenes around you.
Also, carry local currency (VND) for transactions. Carry a small bottle of water and wet wipes as well.
Food & drink
The Cai Rang Floating Market is a gastronomic delight. I love sampling the local Vietnamese food and beverages sold directly from the boats. You’ll find many local dishes, from Hu Tieu (noodle soup) to Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich), and refreshing local drinks like the unique coconut coffee.
There’s plenty more to see around the market. Nearby attractions include a rice noodles factory where you can see how this staple food is made, fruit gardens laden with local produce, and traditional fish sauce houses. A little further away, the beautiful Vinh Trang Pagoda is a serene spot worth visiting.
Useful tips for visiting Cai Rang market
So, here are some tips you should know for a smooth trip to the market.
- Early bird catches the worm: The market begins quite early, so try to get there by 5:30 am to 6 am to catch all the action. Don’t worry; the sight of the bustling market and the rising sun over the Mekong Delta is worth the early rise!
- Keep hydrated and sun-safe: The tropical weather can get quite hot. Be sure to bring a hat, sunglasses, sunblock, and plenty of water to stay cool and hydrated.
- Travel light, but prepared: Carry a small backpack with essentials like wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and maybe a portable fan.
- Local currency handy: Keep plenty of local currency with you. Market sellers prefer cash, and having small bills can make transactions smoother.
- Try local dishes: Don’t miss out on the delicious local dishes sold right off the boats. Whether it’s a piping hot bowl of pho or fresh fruits, your taste buds are in for a treat.
- Camera-ready: The floating market is a feast for the eyes and an excellent opportunity for photography. Keep your camera handy, but be mindful not to invade the personal space of the sellers.
- Comfortable attire: Wear light, breathable, and comfortable clothing. As you’ll be on a boat, wear shoes that you don’t mind getting a bit wet.
- Negotiate, but fairly: While it’s common to haggle in markets in Vietnam, remember that this is these people’s livelihood. The price is already low, but if you want to negotiate, do so in a fair manner.
- Take a guided tour: If you’re a first-time visitor, a guided tour can help you understand the market better. The guides can share fascinating insights about the market’s history and make your trip hassle-free.
When does the Cai Rang Floating Market operate?
The market operates early in the morning and is usually active until 8 am or 9 am. The busiest time is around 6 am to 7 am.
What can I buy at the Cai Rang Floating Market?
You can buy a wide range of goods, including fresh fruits, vegetables, local delicacies, household items, and more.
Can I eat at the Cai Rang Floating Market?
Absolutely! There are numerous boats serving freshly cooked local Vietnamese dishes such as Hu Tieu and Banh Mi. You can also enjoy coffee and fresh fruits.
Can I take a boat tour from Ho Chi Minh City?
Yes, there are numerous tour companies that offer 2-day tours from Ho Chi Minh City to the Mekong Delta, including a visit to the Cai Rang Floating Market.
Is the Cai Rang Floating Market open during the Lunar New Year (Tet holiday)?
The market operates with fewer vendors during the Tet holiday as many locals prefer to spend time with their families. But yes, it is open.