Getting around Ho Chi Minh City
Public transport in Ho Chi Minh City is becoming more developed as the government tries to tackle rising traffic congestion. The bus service is improving, with over 150 routes across the city (tel: +84 8 3854 6110; www.saigonbus.com.vn). You can buy tickets for single journeys on the bus. Pick up a route map from Ben Thanh bus station on Tran Hung Dao Street, the main hub in the city.
There are several taxi companies operating within the city and they are usually metered. Visitors are advised to check that the meter is turned on. Tipping is not necessarily expected but always welcome. Reputable taxi companies are Mai Linh Taxi (tel: +84 8 3838 3838) and Vinataxi (tel: +84 8 3811 1111).
Motorbike taxis (xe om) are available across the city and are an efficient way to travel around. Motorbike taxis usually approach tourists and offer their services. Negotiate a price first and also make sure the driver provides you with a helmet. If one is not offered, find another motorbike taxi as the police will inevitably give you a hefty fine.
Most visitors to Ho Chi Minh City are quite traumatised when they encounter the traffic for the first time. The streets are crammed with darting bicycles and motorbikes. Bikes regularly travel the wrong way along one-way streets and appear out of side roads without even a cursory glance in the direction of the oncoming traffic. Motorbike riders remove their wing mirrors allowing them to squeeze through the smallest gaps. Happily, visitors are only allowed to hire cars with drivers.
It is not possible to hire a car without a driver but cars with English-speaking drivers can be arranged through travel companies. The following companies can arrange a car with a driver for the day: Ben Thanh Tourist Co (tel: +84 8 3822 7788; www.benthanhtourist.com), Saigontourist Travel Service (tel: +84 9 0928 4554; www.saigontourist.net) and Vidotour (tel: +84 8 3933 0457; www.vidotourtravel.com).
Travelling by motorbike is also a popular option, but Ho Chi Minh City is not the place to learn how to ride. Wearing a helmet is compulsory. You can hire motorbikes and scooters, along with helmets, from the Saigon Scooter Centre (tel: +84 8 3848 7816; www.saigonscootercentre.com).
A popular place for hiring bicycles is around the Pham Ngu Lao area, which is the backpacker hangout. Bicycles should always be parked in the areas set aside for them (gui xe). It is always worth taking a padlock for additional security. Further out in District 7, Saigon Cycles (tel: +84 8 5410 3114; www.xedapcaocap.com) has bicycles for rent on a daily, weekly or longer basis.
If you don’t want to do the pedalling, a leisurely way to explore the city is by cyclo, where the passenger sits in front and driver behind. They can be found plying the tourist areas, but make sure you settle on a price in advance.