7 Ways to Get Around in Ho Chi Minh City (And Stay Safe)


Motorbikes in the streets of Ho Chi Minh City

Before visiting Ho Chi Minh how to get around was one of our main concerns. After researching online and testing out the various transport options around Saigon we decided to create this guide for you.

There are 6 ways to get around in Ho Chi Minh City:
1. Taxi with a reputable company
2. Using the Grab app
3. Xe Om, a motorcycle taxi
4. Cyclo, a three-wheeled bike
5. Public Bus
6. Hop on-Hop off Bus
7. By walking in the main districts

Before heading into traffic there are a few facts you need to know about before using transport like the motorcycle taxis and regular taxis in HCMC.

How to get around Ho Chi Minh City Safely

Before you go wild and try out all the Cyclos and Xe Oms you can find in District 1, we want to address a few concerns.

Since you are new, or a tourist in Ho Chi Minh City there is a much larger chance that some the local drivers will try to scam you. This goes for everybody living in the city, but if you don’t know what to watch out for, it is a lot easier for you to fall victim to one of the scams.

1. Taxis

Like we mentioned in our airport guide yesterday, if you use any other company than Vinasun or Mai Linh, the chances of getting scammed are a lot higher.

And always try to bring small notes so you get all your change back, or your driver may try to keep it!

The cost for a taxi is 13,000 VND as a base fee, and then an additional 12,000 VND per kilometer. Very reasonable compared to western standards.

2. Grab

Grab is the most convenient and safest way to get around Ho Chi Minh City. It is the South-East Asian equivalent to Uber. Simply download the app, and create a new account. Then you put in the location you would like to leave from and where you would like to go and get a quote.

The only thing to watch out for with Grab is if the driver asks you to cancel the booking while in the car. Don’t do this, as you may end up eating a cancellation fee.

Also, keep all transactions (like additional costs for highway fees) in the app itself. You don’t need to bring out your wallet ever while using Grab.

Grab is usually cheaper than Taxis, and certainly a better option than a taxi for a tourist since you avoid most of the opportunities to be taken advantage of.

3. Xe Om, Motorcycle Taxi

When visiting HCMC you will see a lot of local Vietnamese having a nap on their motorbikes in the sun around the city. This is not because they are sunbathing, but waiting for customers.

If you wish to hire a motorcycle driver, simply tap him on the shoulder and tell him with very simple words where you are going. Most of the Xe Om drivers will speak very limited English, so you need to be very clear.

Also, since there is no meter, or app (unless you use Grab for a motorbike!) to track the fair cost, you will need to haggle a bit to not get taken advantage of.

Here’s a good tip: Bring out your phone with Grab, and show them how much it would cost to use the app instead of their service. This gives you some leverage to bargain with.

Xe Om is best used during the hours with heavy traffic, as the scooter ride will be significantly faster than using a car or bus service. The motorbikes can snake their way between cars, and drive to the front of the lines.

But please be mindful that you’re way more prone to injuries when riding a motorbike in HCMC. So it is best to use it sparingly and for shorter distances. Avoid highways and always insist on getting a helmet.

4. Cyclo, a three-wheeled bike

Cyclo can be a fun tourist activity to try out in Ho Chi Minh City. Just be wary of the drivers that yell at you to use their service. Since this is largely a tourist attraction around District 1, you need to be aware that you could get scammed.

One of the more common scams is that the driver will give you a great price for a ride, and then bring you to some remote area instead of your destination. From here they will ask for outrageous sums to bring you back to for example District 1.

If you decide to get one of these rides out of curiosity or for Instagram photos, make sure to agree upon a sum before getting on the ride. You are going to overpay for the ride as a tourist, but 50,000-100,000 for a ride around District 1 is “reasonable”. It is only a few USD.

Make sure you are not getting taken away from the area you are intending to go to! Google Maps is your best friend while traveling.

The best way to avoid getting scammed is to have your hotel take care of this for you. Since you are going to overpay anyway you might as well do it the safe way

5. Public Bus

For those looking to not spend unnecessarily much, or be environmentally friendly the public bus in Saigon is an excellent option.

Traveling around Ho Chi Minh City by public bus will only cost you 5000 VND for short distances!

Ben Thanh Station, Mien Dong Station and the Cholon Station are the three main hubs for buses. If you decide to take the bus around the city, and especially if you are staying in District 1 we can recommend going to Ben Thanh Station. Here you can also pick up a free bus map, or just download the BusMap app on Google Play.

Ho Chi Minh Citys roads and buildings from above

The bus is simple to use. When you see the bus you are taking simply walk on, and sit down if seats are available. On most buses in Ho Chi Minh, there will be a conductor walking around and taking payments. While they often don’t speak much English, you can get away with just saying the name of where you are going, and give them the payment. Bring small bills.

In the rare cases where there is no conductor, pay the driver instead.

Keep your ticket handy while on the bus in case they want to check it later.

6. Hop on-Hop off Bus

The hop on-hop off bus in Ho Chi Minh City is a new service that is offered.

This bus is very much catering to tourists, the aircon, complimentary wifi and comfortable seats make this a very comfortable option if you are going sightseeing.

For these buses, you buy a 24-hour ticket for 330,000 VND (270,00 VND for children). Then you can hop on and hop off wherever you would like along the designated bus stops. Since this bus caters to tourists you can usually get on and off at all the various tourist attractions around the city.

The bus starts and stops at 23/9 park, but you can start your journey at any of the stops. The buses run from 8 AM to 5:30 AM every day.

7. By walking in the main districts

If you stay in the more compact districts like District 1, you should have no problem walking around on foot.

There is the everpresent concern of getting into an accident, but after walking around the city, and crossing the road for a few days (or hours!) you will start to get the hang of it.

In the beginning if you are afraid to cross the road, we recommend walking at the same time as the locals.

To give you a taste of Vietnamese traffic here’s a video of us driving into Hanoi, you can expect even more traffic in Ho Chi Minh City

Nobody will respect the crosswalks unless there are traffic lights, and even then you need to be very careful. People will still drive, especially if they are turning right as that is normally legal (but obviously not on a red light).

The best way to cross the road in Ho Chi Minh is to never stop walking once you get into the road. Drivers in Vietnam dislike stopping and will calculate their speed so they can slow down as you walk past. If you stop in the road you will obviously mess up their calculations and create more dangerous situations.

Watch out for buses, trucks and beat up cars the most. Motorbikes and nice private cars will be a bit more careful, though not much.

Perhaps consider hiring a guide for the first day out if you are intimidated by the traffic.

In the future, there will also be a metro system around HCMC, but that is probably a few years away still.

Check out our guide on transport costs, and getting from the airport to HCMC here next.

If this article was helpful, please consider sharing it to help others too! 🙂

Tor Tours

Tor Tours has spent the past 6 years traveling around the world. On his website, he is dedicated to making high-quality travel guides focusing on South East Asia. His content focuses on how to get the most out of your travels. That includes getting good value, staying in the best locations, what things to do, and what to avoid.

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