Sam Nguyen

Travelled to 6 countries / regions

Written 33 briefs
I am a local living in Ho Chi Minh City



Asia > Vietnam > Ho Chi Minh City > Useful Info
Submitted on Jul 23, 2019 Useful Info

Best ways to get around Ho Chi Minh City

  • Ho Chi Minh City currently does not have any metro lines yet, although it's under construction and is expected to be operational by 2020
  • For the time being, I think these are the best ways for travelers to get around HCMC:
  • Grab:
  • Grab is the Uber of Southeast Asia (there's no Uber in Vietnam or elsewhere in Southeast Asia. They were here until a few years ago but have sold their business to Grab), and it works exactly the same way. You download the app and sign up for an account
  • Fares are really cheap by European and American standards. For example, a 5km trip, which covers most of downtown travel, will cost you 75K dongs, or $3.2USD. An 8km trip, which will get you to anywhere you might want to go, costs 100K dongs, or $4.30USD
  • An even cheaper option, if you dare, is Grab Bike. It works the same way as regular Grab, but you sit on the back of a motorcycle instead of a car (they will give you a helmet of course). This will cost 55% less than the regular Grab. So a 5km trip will cost you just 35K dongs ($1.5USD), and an 8km trip will cost you just 45K dongs ($1.9USD)
  • Payment can be made by linked credit card (all international cards work with Grab), or by cash directly to the driver. No need to tip
  • When you sign up, you need to provide a real phone number and Grab will text you an activation code
  • To use the app while in Vietnam, you need to have cellphone data or wifi. It's best to get a SIM card, which you can do so at the airport.
  • Check https://www.grab.com for more details
  • Grab fares for 5km in Ho Chi Minh City:User submitted photo of Ho Chi Minh City
  • Grab fares for 8km in HCMC:User submitted photo of Ho Chi Minh City

  • Walking:
  • HCMC is a big city, but many places are still within walking distance
  • If you're staying in District 1 (which is the main commercial hub of HCMC), for example, anywhere in District 1, most of District 3 (a hip area with lots of cafes and colonial architecture), and large parts of District 4 (street food and local life) within a 30 minute walk away
  • When walking in HCMC, you need to be vigilant of the massive amount of scooter that may or may not follow traffic lights. Crossing a street even at a pedestrian crossing can be scary, but you just need to be aggressive and determined. Or just follow a local!

  • Bus
  • Bus is the cheapest way to get around HCMC, and it's actually quite comfortable. Most of your trips will cost 6,000 to 15,000 dongs ($0.25-$0.65 USD)
  • The challenge with buses, of course, is to figure out the routes. But there's a hugely popular app called BusMap (https://busmap.vn/) that puts the public bus route information on an easy to use app. You can put in (or pick from the map) your start and ending destination, and this app will tell you exactly which buses you need to take to get there, and it shows you on a map where the stops are
  • All the buses have the route number prominently displayed on the front, so you can see them approachUser submitted photo of Ho Chi Minh City
  • When you see your bus approach, raise your hand to stop the driver
  • You pay for bus fares onboard. Most of the time there's a fare collector onboard, to whom you need to pay the amount in cash dongs. You can also pay the driver directly too
  • They don't announce the stops on the bus, so track your progress on a GPS and press the red button to request the bus to stop when you're approaching your stop

  • Motorcycle taxi (called Xe Ôm in Vietnamese):
  • They're motorcycles that you hop on the back of that can take you anywhere in HCMC. They're usually much, much cheaper than regular taxi
  • Xe Ôm is pronounced like "Say Ohmm"
  • Fare should cost the same as Grab Bike, or about 17,000 dongs ($0.75 USD) initial charge plus 3500 dongs per km ($0.15 USD per KM)
  • Up until a few years ago these everywhere, but now they're slowly being replaced by Grab Bikes
  • You will still find plenty of them on busy street corners. It's usually very easy to tell who is an Xe Om driver: they will be just sitting on their motorcycle, relaxing or looking around and not doing anything, and perhaps they may even be looking at you if you look like you're looking for a ride, like this:User submitted photo of Ho Chi Minh City
  • You just need to go up to them, tell them where you want to go (or show it on a map to be more precise if it's a lesser known spot like your Airbnb, but these guys know almost all the landmarks and places of interest in HCMC)
  • The important thing is to agree on a fare before you hop on. There is no meter used for this
  • Once you get to your destination, pay your driver in cash dongs. As long as you know how much the fare should cost (use my guideline above, or just Grab app to get a fare estimate), there's very little chance for scams with these

  • What I don't recommend:
  • Street taxi
  • I don't recommend street taxis because it's easy to get scammed. By street taxi I mean the ones you hail off the street. Airport taxis are highly controlled and I think it's completely safe to use
  • Taxi meters are not very well regulated, and many tourists have reported being charged 3X or 5X what they should have been charged by the meters. What happens is that the drivers will tweak the meters so it moves up much quicker and by higher amounts, and it's all technically legal
  • The only taxis you should trust are the 2 main taxi companies in HCMC:
  1. Mai Linh Group: tel (08) 38 38 38 38, https://www.mailinh.vn
  2. Vinasun Taxi: (08) 38 27 27 27, http://www.vinasuntaxi.com
  • These two are completely legitimate and will charge you standard fares that are comparable to Grab (slightly higher)
  • The problem is there are a lot of shady taxi companies that use similar looking name, logo, and even the phone number to try to trick passengers. These are the ones that will charge you ridiculous fares
  • So my suggestion is to simply avoid taking street taxis. If you need to take a taxi, have your hotel call one of these 2 companies for you, or call it yourself (but their English is not very good so it will be hard for you to communicate with them). If you have your hotel call it for you, make sure you trust your hotel and make sure they call one of these 2 companies and not one of the copy cats. If you're staying at a small guesthouse the owner may get kickbacks from shady deals like this!
  • Use Grab instead. Very little chance of getting scammed
  • Bicycle or scooter rental
  • I don't recommend getting around on a bicycle or motorcycle in HCMC because our traffic is pretty crazy here. Millions of scooters everywhere and many of them ignore traffic rules. Cars are becoming more common and they're aggressive towards scooters around them
  • Even getting around the city as a pedestrian is hard enough, trying to navigate our traffic on a vehicle is next to impossible for new visitors
  • Unless you've been in HCMC for months and are comfortable with the traffic, do not ride around on a bike or scooter, you will get hurt



Travelled to 0 country / region

On Mar 31, 2022

The best and cheap way to go around is to have your own motorcycle. You can rent motorcycle for a day just 5 $ to 10 $. You can find motorcycle rental service in Book2wheel website