If you are anything like me when you travel you always tend to be in a hurry, trying to check all of the sights off your to-do list. It can get especially bad here because Ho Chi Minh City is such a fast-paced place. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of neon lights and crowded streets. So, when I get tired of the city’s bustle and want to slow things down, my favourite thing to do is hire a cyclo and go for a ride.
It’s easy to find a tour guide; many cyclo drivers in District 1 are eager to provide their services, with prices negotiable. In Saigon, you’ll find that most cyclo drivers speak English, though this can be a good and bad thing. Good because it can make negotiations easier, but bad because they will tend to start at a higher price.
Just like any form of transportation in the city, a cyclo can be hired for a short ride or by the hour for longer tour. On short rides expect to pay no more than 20,000 VND. Short rides, however, don’t do the cyclo justice. I prefer hiring a cyclo by the hour and taking a tour.
A cyclo in Saigon can be hired for 50,000 to 100,000 VND an hour. This is a great way to tour the city’s sites, as well as letting you enjoy the everyday sights of the Saigon streets that normally go unnoticed on the back of a motorbike — they’re particularly great for exploring pagoda-filled Cholon, or Chinatown. The best driver/guides will just let you sit back and listen as they tell you the history of city.
Do make sure to keep your belongings, such as handbags and cameras, close at hand as cyclos are easy prey for motorbike snatch and grabs.
Also do try to book your tour in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat, and bring water, hats and sunscreen. If negotiating isn’t your cup of tea, several tour companies offer fleets of cyclos for group tours. Mr Binh and his network of drivers give great tours at 200,000 VND for two hours.
Sadly, as Ho Chi Minh City advances, the cyclo is becoming increasingly rare with talks of them being banned from the streets. See the city from the padded seat of a cyclo before it’s too late.