I hired a motorcycle taxi for the day (9 - 3pm) could have been longer, but I had seen enough.
I was taken to Notre Dame Cathedral, Post Office, Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, Zoo & Botanical Gardens, City hall, Opera House, Jade Emperor Pagoda, Saigon river waterfront, Antiques street. There wasn't anything else that I wished to see. He stopped for me to take photos and told and pointed out different sights. I was very happy with what I saw. The bus city tour went to places that I didn't want to visit.
The price of the tour was 150,000dong, plus admission fees, these were small amounts.
For many first arrivals to HCMC, crossing the streets in HCMC is a most daunting frightening task as the flow of motorbikes never seems to stop....and they really never do (as nobody really cares about traffic rules). The trick is, WALK ACROSS SLOW AND WITH CONFIDENCE. Most of the drivers do not really bike fast, so they will steer clear of you. Traffic will just part aside around you. There's a mutual understanding between pedestrian and motor-bikers. Don't let the avalanche of motorbikes scare you.
Undoubtely the best way to move around the city. There are, in fact, little cars in Saigon, but the motorbikes are enough to make huge traffic jams in a noisy atmosphere.
You don?t have to rent one to experience this way of transport: many locals will offer you a ride in their own bikes as you walk by the city. They are not oficial taxis or so, just people who want to eran some extra money.Bargain first, and don?t pay more than 1 USD for any ride!
The traffic in Saigon(HCMC) is nothing I've ever seen before in my life! As I watched locals hurrily make their way through countless busy intersections and congested roads and streets, I watched in awe. The rule of the road is fairly simple in Saigon: if there's room, then you proceed; Yes, even if it means claiming the sidewalks...hahaha....My point being...If you think you can handle the kind of traffic with people recklessly maneuvering their way around you. Then by all means purchase or rent a motor scooter (usually 125cc) and take the traffic head on. I'm not sure about renting motor scooters in this city, but a new and decent scooter (Chinese made model, Japanese made model is a lot more) is about 5.2 Million VND which equates to roughly $300-350 USD.
If you do rent a bike in Saigon, and if you've never riden one I don't reccomend to learn here, remember a few tips here;
1. Traffic will come from all directions, no matter what side of the street your on
2. Red lights don't always mean stop here, so keep you eyes peeled when you go through a green one and don't try going through an orange one
3. Large truck often don't have brakes
4. Watch out for the boy racer coming towards you, he will likely swerve all over the place to impress mates or the poor girlfriend on the back.
5. Be careful when driving along side busses, especially mini busses, as vietnamese are notoriously car sick and a face full of vomit is not pleasant
6. I advise wearing one anywhere but on Highways you must where a helmet
7. As a foreigner in an accident it is more than likely, no matter what happened, you will be in the wrong. If it's not your fault get the hell out of there as quickly as you can. If you do stop make sure you remove your keys and put them in your pocket.
8. Puddles in the road often hide very deap holes, don't drive through them
Frankly, Saigon traffic scares me. However, after a while, you'll get used to it. Eventually I got up the nerves to ride a motorbike around, and it was actually kinda fun.
Crossing the streets here requires a leap of faith. You just have to take a deep breath, close your eyes, and lunge forward (I'm exaggagerating a little, but not much). You're like an island, and traffic sort of flows around you.
You probably can just walk if you're staying in the city center, where most landmarks are within walking distance. You can always hail a cab. We typically spent around VND50000 (around USD3.5) to go from the suburbs to the city center.
An alternate mode of transportation is riding on the back of someone's motorbike. Many of them stand at street corners offering rides. A ride is typically 3 times cheaper than what taxis cost, and you get to feel like a local. However, they don't wear helmets (though new laws may change this), so make sure you're comfortable with the idea. With motorbikes, you should discuss the price before hopping on.
Most of the drivers only need to be told where to go and they'll take you there. Unless you mispronounce badly.
There are lots of regular taxis in Saigon, and when it is raining, it may be a good choice, but when the weather allows it, hiring a taxi-bike is the best option, as they are fast, safe, and not too expensive; well, sometimes, it happens they do not take you where you expect, but that’s life, and the funny side of this way of getting around! And on the bike, if you have a fast reacting camera, you can even take funny pics!
So, I used taxi-bikes several times and always enjoyed it; you have to negotiate price, of course, but if you do not know the distance to the destination, it may take some time. . . . prices vary from 10.000 to 40.000 VND in the city.
On the first picture) you see that one of my drivers was a fashionable lady, with coloured nails; on a bike, you can observe the traffic from the back (picture 2), and at a street crossing, you also have time to take pictures, like picture 3.
Of course, you have to wear a helmet! Most bikers have a spare helmet, and they will adapt it to your head size; for those who are scared of lice or just dandruff, remember Vietnamese are very clean people, wash several times a day if possible, and their hair is very clean; no risk!
General advice on these guys; on the whole they are reliable and safe, I always look for the oldest bike mainly because with foreigner on the back they can't go fast. Late at night is not a good time to use them, especially around Phan Ngu Lao, there are lots of reports of dodgy dealings so either use one you know (used before) or get a taxi.
BTW: Xe means motorbike and Om is cuddle, cuddle bike because you have to hold on for dear life, also check for BO before you get on.
when I don't have my motorbike I will take xe om. However I always negotiate price beforehand.
Rarely they will take you some round about route then demand more money but better just to pay beforehand. Seems like 2011 the minimum is 20,000 vnd. Maybe if going completely across town 50,000
will be more expensive during Tet.
Note: some people say the price per ten thousand sounds like "chup" ex. 20,000 sounds like "hai chup"
1 mot, 2 hai, 3 ba, 4 bon, etc
They can be found at most major intersections. They will see you coming and raise their hand like a "hiel hitler" thing kind of
Though it looks insane, once you try it you'll realize that motorcycles are the best way around town. For US$1 or 2 an hour, you have your own personal tour guide and translator who will take you to all of the major sights and even wait while you walk through museums or take photos. Our driver took us to some great restaurants outside of the tourist area.
I'm not sure if there is really any other smart way to travel...
The small motorbikes used by the vast majority of Saigonese to get around are referred to as "Hondas", although they are many brands. They cost about $400. USD and there are over 1 million of them in Saigon's streets.
You can hail a motorbike "taxi", or, as I did, ride on the back of a friend's bike. It was initially scary, but gradually I settled into the chaos that is driving in Saigon. See the link for the facts about the dangers.
You can also see that many people wear masks to protect from the pollution. Helmuts are now required in some areas, but people have been slow to comply, calling them "rice cookers".
yes you can drive motorbike but you need a 3 month visa to be able to get a license. if you don't have a license, police can seize your motorbike.
In sai gon you can just pay off police but do it discreetly. International driver's license is not recognized by Viet Nam however you can use it to conceal a neatly folded 100 or 200 thousand VND banknote. Act like you're giving the guy your license and discreetly let him see the cash.
Just stay out of the car lanes, dont do anything stupid like go the wrong way up a one way street etc.
If you rent motorbike be sure you have the paperwork or the cell number of whomever rented it to you.
Don't lose your parking ticket stub.
Stay in the proper gear. Most VNese alway lug it in top gear so they are always behind the power curve so you'll have an advantage
Follow an old guy driving a cub or beat up dream
if you've never driven here before, take a xe om around and see how he drives.
Scooters of all kind of are most popular here as all over East Asia. With the crowded big cities it is also most convenience. Please note that lately Vietnam added the law for compulsory helmet and all require to wear one while riding.
I face bumper to bumper traffic everyday but it nothing compared to Ho Chi Minh City! Motorcycles are everywhere, including on the sidewalks. I saw accidents everyday I was in Vietnam but since the city speeds are not very fast the damage was minor.
The Vietnamese are incredible drivers. They have to be to make the system work. Cars are not too common but it seems everyone owns a small motorcycle or at least a bicycle. People are very adept at carrying everything on them. On various motorcycles I saw air conditioners, a 2 1/2x5 foot sheet of glass, a mannequin, and up to 5 people at once all being transported.
Other driving techniques I noted were;
During quiet hours people do not stop for red lights. We took a couple of early morning cab rides and not once did the drivers stop for red lights, just blew the horn and sped on through.
People turning right do not stop they keep going and just merge into traffic.
Use your horn for everything!
Whether you decide to join in simply watch from a street side café I really think it is the best show in town!
Xe om (motorbike taxis, and pronounced ‘‘see ohm’’).
Xe om refer to the motorbike taxis that are available on most street corners. They are usually men and even women nowadays that are sitting on or near their motorbikes which are parked on the street corner as advertisement of their availability. They are usually watching for customers so it is easy to get their attention with a little hand wave. "Om" means to hug and you may do this if it makes you feel safer but you will probably surprise the driver if you do. Negotiate fare in advance: rides within 2 - 3 km should be about VND8,000. They have the advantage of being able to enter all streets off limits to cyclos as well as many of the narrow alleys cars cannot access. They are sometimes called "Honda om" because of the ubiquitous Honda wave motorbikes and some offer a city tour around saigon as low as 100,000 VND for a half day tour.
they are available everywhere!