How To Navigate Transport in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam | © Chansak Joe/Shutterstock
Photo of Matthew Pike
Writer18 May 2018

Newcomers to Ho Chi Minh City may be tempted to get on a motorbike and explore these wild streets for themselves, but there are so many cheaper and safer transportation options. Trust us, it takes time to understand the way traffic flows here, so let’s have a look at other ways for you to navigate this hectic city.


Taxis in Ho Chi Minh City are safe, abundant and, best of all, air conditioned. While they may be one of the more expensive options, it all depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for. Many people would rather pay a premium to avoid sitting on the back of a motorbike in smog so thick you can taste it. Like many things in Vietnam, however, taxis are buyer beware. Try to only use Vinasun (white, red and green) or Mai Linh (green and white). They’re the most reputable companies.

Local tip: Don’t worry about waking up any drivers who might be napping in their taxis. They’re always looking to earn an extra fare.

Vinasun taxi in Vietnam | © shankar s./Flickr

Xe ôm (Motorbike taxi)

There are two kinds of motorbike taxis in this city nowadays: those who wait for customers to find them, and those who use ride hailing apps like Grab. The traditional xe ôm driver is becoming a thing of the past, but they’re still around. You can usually find them at busy intersections, often with their feet kicked up to catch a quick nap during the hotter, midday hours. If you see an older man parked on a motorbike on the side of the road, it’s probably a xe ôm. Look below in our section on apps to learn more about Grab, which now dominates the motorbike taxi market.

Local tip: Always agree on a price before you get on the motorbike. They’ll often have a set fee to bring tourists to popular destinations, but even those are negotiable. Also, every xe ôm will provide you with a helmet.

A motorcycle driver (motor taxi) waiting for passenger | © Asia Images/Shutterstock

Local bus

If you’re on a tight budget, you can save a lot of money by using the public bus system in Ho Chi Minh City. The schedules are a bit dubious because of the sporadic traffic conditions, but with so many buses on the road, you won’t have to wait too long before getting picked up. To find out which bus you need to take, check out the HCMC Department of Transportion’s handy “Way By Bus” feature.

Local tip: Sometimes the drivers are more focused on traffic than bus stops, so when you see your bus coming, make sure to get the driver’s attention by standing close to the street and waving.

Bus Station at Tan Son Nhat International Airport | © kateko/Shutterstock

Coach buses or sprinter vans

Unless you plan on flying or taking the train to other cities and towns in Vietnam, you’ll probably be traveling by either coach bus or sprinter van. Sleeper buses are a bit more expensive, but we highly recommend them. They allow you to save precious holiday time because you can sleep through those long hours on the road. Then, when you wake up, you’re at your destination.

Local tip: Sprinter vans are pretty well all the same in terms of quality for the price, and any travel agency can set you up with one – but if you don’t want to be squeezed in with more than a dozen others, consider paying for a private ride with friends or other people who are traveling to the same place.

Inside a sleeper bus in Vietnam | © Aleksandr Zykov/Flickr

Transportation apps

When it comes to hailing a motorbike taxi or private car, Grab is the best app in the city – especially now that Uber has pulled out of the market. The app is easy to set up and has an excellent English language interface, plus so many other benefits. You have your driver’s name, you can pay by cash or card, they pick you up, and you get the estimated price before you even start your journey. No bartering, no getting lost and much less chance of getting scammed. If you’re unsure at all about how to get around this city, download the Grab app.

Local tip: If you want to you public buses to save money and/or help the environment, download the BusMap App to find all the routes and schedules. It’s available on Apple, Windows and Google Play.

Grab (motor taxi), Vietnam | © Xita/Shutterstock

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