Finding Ho Chi Minh City Transport is never a problem as it seems to be the occupation of a large proportion of the male population. We’ve already covered HCMC airport transfers so here are a few tips on getting around the city when walking gets too much for you.
Cyclo drivers won’t be happy seeing you walking around when they could be cycling you around town so they’ll be offering their services wherever you go. These men are extremely good natured and a rejection is normally met with a smile. If you do decide to go in a cyclo just be sure to agree a price in advance, it’s unlikely to cost more than about 30,000 Dong ($2US) between any of the main HCMC sights and usually less.
Many of these drivers speak good English having worked in administrative jobs with the Americans but after the fall of South Vietnam they became an underclass who were never able to return to professional posts. The Municipal Government of HCMC has already set restrictions on where these cyclos can go so don’t assume you’re being ripped off if you end up taking a road that doesn’t seem logical (you’ve agreed a price already remember). In fact there is a plan to get rid of this traditional form of Ho Chi Minh City transport entirely which would be a major loss to HCMC so go in one at least once, it might be your last chance.
You’ll see metered taxis all over the place and these are also an incredibly cheap transport option. We took a taxi from the Spring Hotel in the Dong Khoi district out to the Chinese district of Cholon which is about 5km away through fairly heavy traffic. The driver didn’t speak any English though he was very helpful in ensuring that he took us to the correct pagoda that we’d showed him on the map. The price was a mere 50,000 Dong ($3US) as shown on the meter.
Coming back from Binh Tay Market market in Cholon we jumped in another taxi that took us back to the Ben Thanh market along the squalid banks of the Saigon River where we saw the poorest living conditions of anywhere in Vietnam. The fare was again about the same as on the outward journey. No problem. One thing to avoid when using public transport is being paranoid. Some travellers seem intent on bargaining for everything and saving a dollar here and there. It’s not worth it as everything is so cheap. Even if you are overcharged on a cyclo or in a taxi you’re looking at a few cents, nothing more. Having said that we never felt overcharges and found people in HCMC very honest and friendly people.
Just as the cyclo riders will offer to give you a ride every time you see them so will men standing by their motorbike at the roadside. Again this is a cheap way to get around but when you see the chaos on the roads you may not be too keen to give it a try. Certainly this is the most dangerous of the Ho Chi Minh City transport options in the city.
You’ll see city bus services operating all over the place but realistically there’s no need to use them when the cyclos and taxis are so easily accessible and cheap. You’ll have no idea where to get off buses and the driver is unlikely to be able to help you, they’re usually overcrowded and very much for the use of locals.