TRANSPORT - Around Saigon

Also see Leaving & Arriving Saigon.

Nice air-conditioned city buses regularly cross Saigon on a web of routes – you can get a bus-route map from Fahasa bookstore (7000D; US$0.45); see Basics. The main hubs is facing Ben Thanh Market, from south of the traffic circle (where Tran Hung Dao and Ham Nghi Sts meet). A ride of any length is 2000D (US$0.15). Useful routes include #152 to the airport – via De Tham St, and #1 along Tran Hung Dao St to Cho Lon.

If you don’t want the hassle of hailing taxis, you can rent a driver with car. EXOTISSIMO (see Travel Agencies) arranges one for US$35. It’s possible to get a driver to take you to nearby attractions for the day or longer. QUANG THANG (tel 08-912-0222; offers a car with driver to Cu Chi (US$40), Cu Chi and Cao Dai temple (US$50), or to the Mekong (US$50 per day, plus US$30 to stay the night).

Cyclos are on the way out in Saigon, as zoning has long kept these ped-powered transport off many major avenues. Cho Lon is a good place to get around between pagodas and markets on a local cyclo.

These ‘Honda taxis’ will contact you throughout your Vietnam trip – they’re guys on corners with a motorbike. Trips are based on negotiation. In Saigon, I managed to get US$2 per hour for full-day rides; otherwise it’s a good idea to get used to taxi fares. A ride between the Opera House on Dong Khoi St to the War Remnants Museum would be about 24,000D (US$1.50) in a taxi, so you should get it for 10,000 or 15,000D (US$0.60 to US$0.90) on a motorcycle.

You can rent motorcycles in the Pham Ngu Lao area from US$5 per day. Driving around on your own takes some nerve to begin – follow the local lead: don’t go too fast, there’s no need to look behind you, weave slowly where you need to go, and only look a bit in front of you. It’s your job not to smash into the sudden weavers before you, and the folks behind you not to smash into you. If bored, slalom around the squashed rats on the road.

I used to drive around Saigon all the time (one wreck in 14 solid months – not my fault, not that it matters). But my last visit I abstained – I’m becoming more ‘aware of my mortality’ with age.

Taxis are safe and reliable in Saigon. You can flag any down, ask for the meter, and you’re very unlikely to get ripped off (as can happen in Hanoi). Generally there’s a flag fall of 12,000 to 14,000D (US$0.75 to US$0.90; for the first kilometer). Rides around the center are anywhere from 20,000D to 40,000D (US$1.25 to US$2.50).