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Transportation in Saigon
Transport within Saigon can pose a challenge. Try to avoid travel by car / taxi in and around the city centre during peak hours - about 0730 - 0930 and 1630 - 1830. During those times, two wheels or two feet are best. Saigon is relatively flat, so walking short distances and cycling a few kilometres is not too difficult, although it can be tiring in the midday heat.
Getting around Saigon can be an experience in itself!
Negotiating city traffic is also more difficult than in most Western cities. We have compiled this list of transport information for Saigon, but as always, ask your host and the staff. They live here so they will have the latest local knowledge. You may find our Vietnam Transportation Guide useful as well for information about travelling to & around the rest of the country. For things to see and do during your stay, our Saigon Destination Travel Guide will point you in the right direction.
Saigon Transportation Guide
Ho Chi Minh City can be reached by air from Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Vientiane, Taipei, Tokyo, Osaka, Singapore, Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Kunming, Hong Kong, Kashiung, Kuala Lumpur, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Manila, Melbourne, Sydney, Moscow, Oslo, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Stockholm and Zurich.
Airlines currently serving Ho Chi Minh City are Vietnam Airlines, Air France, Cathay Pacific Airways, China Southern Airlines, Qantas Airways, JetStar, Philippine Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Laos Aviation, Singapore Airlines, Swiss Air, Aeroflot Russian, Thai Airways, Tiger Airways, Korean Air, Lufthansa German Airlines and Asiana Airlines.
Domestic: Vietnam Airlines has frequent flights from/to Ho Chi Minh City. Schedules are subject to change. Please contact Vietnam Airlines in Hanoi (Tel: 04-832-0320 Fax: 824-8989) or Ho Chi Minh City (Tel: 08-832-0320 Fax: 823-0273)
For transport from the airport to the city (or from the city to the airport), we recommend Green Path Transfers, who offer eco-friendly airport transfers in hundreds of destinations around the world.
There are two chief bus stations in Saigon. The first is the Mein Dong Terminal, which has buses departing to Da Lat, Hue, Da Nang and Hanoi. Buses departing to the Mekong Delta, My Tho, Can Tho, Ca Mau, and Long Xuyen leave from the second terminal, known as the Mein Tay terminal. Another bus terminal at Cho Lon connects Saigon to Long An, Ben Luc, My Thuan and My Tho. Facilities at the bus stations are very basic and food stalls are likely to serve only local snacks.
Booking for a bus is not possible over the phone. You will need to personally visit the bus station to purchase a ticket. Services to short distances depart only when the bus is full. The Saigon Star Bus Company is a privately run bus service, which visitors can try.
High-speed hydrofoils ply from Saigon to Vun Tau and Mekong. There are 6-7 trips per day and it costs US $10 per trip. Two companies operate the hydrofoil services, namely, Vina Express and Greenlines.
The Saigon Railway Station is located in District 3 of Saigon and was constructed in the early 1930s by the French. The station links to the 2600-kilometre Vietnamese railway system that runs up and down the coast between Hanoi and Saigon. Trains on the Saigon-Hanoi line stop along the way - at Hue, Da Nang, Nha Trang and other smaller provincial cities. Tickets can be purchased at the station or from travel agents for a fee. It is advisable to book tickets in advance. The trains are not in the best of condition and train travel is slower than travelling by bus. However, they are safer for cross-country travel. It takes 36 hours from Saigon to Hanoi and 17 hours from Saigon to Danang. The trains are also much more spacious and offer you the chance to travel in comfort.
A new express service to Nha Trang reduces the journey from 12 hours to 7 hours. For more details on train timetables, you can call the Saigon Railway Station directly.
Contact Details of Saigon Railway Station:
Saigon Railway Station
1 Nguyen Thong St, Dist 3, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: (84-8) 8245585
Getting around by taxi is perhaps the best way to see Saigon. Drivers are dependable and the fares are economical ($1-5). It is recommended that you write down the name of your destination as pronouncing street names incorrectly could cause you to end up in a very different location. Most taxis are metered, saving you the problem of haggling over price and rate. Just make sure that the driver turns down the meter before your journey begins. For taxis that are not metered it is better to agree on a rate before starting so you avoid any unpleasantness later. While you are not expected to tip the driver, a small reward is always accepted with gratitude. You can hail a taxi on the street or ask your hotels or guesthouse to call one for you.
Some taxi companies:
Mai Linh Taxi Company - (08) 3838 3838
Vina Sun Taxi - (08) 3827 2727
Vina Taxi - (08) 3811 1111
Saigon Taxi - (08) 3842 4242
If you truly want a unique Vietnamese experience, then a ride on a cyclo is a must. It is an entertaining way to explore the city, although it can get a bit intimidating at times when the cyclo squeezes its way through some unruly traffic. The cyclo is unique to Vietnam and is like a cycle rickshaw except that the driver sits at the back and the passenger in the front. The cyclos in Saigon accommodate just one passenger comfortably so if you are travelling with family you will have to hire quite a few.
Try the cyclo only when time is not a factor. Most cyclo drivers have picked up a smattering of English and will also volunteer a commentary on the way. They are found just about everywhere and you will not need to wait for more than five minutes before running across one. Fix a rate before you set out - a short journey should not cost more than US$1. Visitors are also advised to take care of their personal belongings when on a ride on a cyclo. Recently, the authorities have banned cyclos from entering some central streets.
By Xe Om/Honda Om
Xe Om is a Japanese motorbike taxi and such taxis can be found on most street corners. You will find these drivers sitting on or near their motorbikes watching for customers at street corners. It is easy to get their attention with a wave of the hand. Before getting on the Honda Om, negotiate a price because a ride of about 3 kilometres should not cost you more than VND 5,000. These taxis have a few advantages over cyclos - they are faster and can enter streets, which are out of bounds for cyclos.
There are no limousine services here. You can hire a car with driver and specifically ask for a luxurious car. That is probably as close as you can get to luxury transport in Saigon.
Driving in the City
The streets of Saigon are filled with a variety of vehicles from buses, trucks, SUVs, cars and taxis, motorcycles, mopeds, bicycles, cyclos and motorized or pedalled tri-carts. You may even spot a wheelchair making its way in the traffic! With all these vehicles vying for space, just imagine how chaotic traffic can be here. The streets are very narrow and when crammed with vehicles, traffic rules are seldom followed. It is common to see bikes and other small vehicles on the wrong side of the road trying to squeeze in whatever little space they may get. Visitors are allowed to only hire cars with drivers because otherwise there would be even more chaos. Long-term residents usually refrain from driving on their own and hire drivers. Parking too is a challenge in the city.
Hiring a Vehicle
Cars cannot be hired without a driver in Saigon. Bicycles and motorbikes can usually be hired in the area around Pham Ngu Lao, which is a popular backpacker hangout. An International Driving Permit is required for motorbikes over 500cc. The client's passport is collected as surety when a vehicle is hired. Bicycles and motorbikes are required to be parked in specified parking lots. If parked elsewhere, there is a good chance that you will return to find that it has gone missing and you will need to buy or pay for another one as a replacement. Make sure that the locks on the vehicle are in good condition and that there are some safety restraints.
259 - 261 De Tham St, Dist 1, HCMC