The public transport system in Vietnam is still in its nascent stage, although it does vary from city to city. The most convenient and safest mode of transport for travelers is by metered taxis. The local bus net work is getting better, and in many cities has become a viable option for travelers, although probably the quickest and cheapest way to get around is by motor bike taxis, known as xe om or Honda om. The streets of Ho Chi Minh City especially are overflowing with them. Foreign visitors may rent both motorbikes and cars to drive. Though banned in 2009 and not very safe in busy streets, cyclos still service tourist areas in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.
Getting Around Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City
The best way to explore both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi – the latter especial ly so – is on foot. Though Ho Chi Minh City is a great urban sprawl spread across many miles, each of its districts is walkable in itself. Hanoi’s Old Quarter, on the other hand, is a charming little neighborhood, the length and breadth of which can be easily walked in a day. A cyclo is a bicycle-like contraption where passengers sit in front of the driver, who pedals them through alleys and city streets. A popular mode of transport for visitors wishing to explore Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Hue, and other centers of tourism, cyclos were also engrained in Vietnamese culture. They were used to transport both passengers and heavy loads of goods between markets, shops, and homes throughout Vietnam’s colonial and modern history. Unfortunately, in modern-day Vietnam, the streets are crowded with speeding motorbikes and automobiles, and the cyclo has become a traffic hazard. It is still possible to ride cyclos in some tourist areas, but not necessarily advised. A faster yet affordable way of getting around, especially in Ho Chi Minh City, is on a Honda om, known as xe om in Hanoi. These are motorbike taxis on which the passenger rides pillion, and can be found in large numbers throughout the cities. In major tourist areas, men on motorbikes offer their services at almost every corner. If you are not approached, simply stand on the sidewalk and try to wave down a passing bike. Sooner or later, one will stop for you. A typical fare is about US 70 cents per half-a-mile (1 km). Fares, however, vary from district to district, and will depend largely on your negotiating skills.
Buses and Minibuses
City buses in Vietnam are often quite uncomfortable and crowded, although they are improving as time goes on, with most cities now running more modern, air-conditioned buses. They are also an inexpensive way of getting around. Minibuses are available for hire at affordable rates, and hire can be arranged by most hotels and travel agencies. Small groups of tourists or families can easily hire one for day trips, and even for a one- or two-day excursion out of town.
Until recently, taxis were a rarity on the streets of Viet nam’s cities. Where they did exist, they were privately owned, borrowed, or rented cars with negotiable fares. Today, taxis are every- where in most cities, and virtually all are metered. The government acknowledges that even the most reputable taxi companies rig their meters or cheat customers by taking longer routes. Fares generally start at just under US$1 but vary according to company and location. Always watch the meter closely and try to pay the exact fare, as many drivers falsely claim they have no change. Alternatively, you can use the taxi app Uber, which arrived in Vietnam in 2015.
Rules of the Road
The number one rule of the road is never yield to the temptation to rent a car and drive it yourself. It is simply not advisable for foreigners to rent self-drive cars as the traffic can get very chaotic at times. Renting a motorbike for getting around is relatively safer, although it would be wise to observe and familiarize yourself with the general flow and movement of traffic, usually erratic, for a few days first. Also keep an eye out for livestock on the road. For the average tourist, the main consideration is how to cross the street. There are few traffic lights, and those that do exist are often considered to convey an advisory rather than a compulsory message. Watch the locals step out into traffic and follow their lead, first waiting for four-wheeled vehicles to pass, and then walking slowly and steadly through a sea of two-wheelers. Don’t hesitate or stop suddenly as drivers will not be able to predict your movement and you will risk a collision. Motorbike riders are required to wear helmets at all times. Only two people are allowed to ride on a motorbike. However, this law is enforced somewhat inconsistently and, at times, blatantly ignored.
Organized day trips, as well as one- and two-day group tours are very common. In addition to being convenient, they can also, at times, work out cheaper depending on the size of your group. There are numer ous companies in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City offering such tours. Since costs can vary extensively, it would be a good idea to check with a few tour com panies for the best deal available. Most trips from Ho Chi Minh City are to the Cu Chi