Getting around Ho Chi Minh City
Of all the idiosyncrasies that come with living and working in Ho Chi Minh City, the commute has to be one of the most peculiar for expats who haven’t traversed much of Asia before. Expats relocating to the wild and wonderful city can forget the traditional commute theyve grown accustomed to over the years, that’s for sure.
Motorbikes rule the road
While there is some semblance of normalcy to it all, the primary reason for the ride being a bit more unique is due to the fact the main mode of transport in Ho Chi Minh City is the motorbike.
Every morning, Saigoneers hit the road seemingly all at once, turning the streets into a sea of somewhat organised hectic chaos. Due to the narrow roads and alleyways that make up the beautiful city, these small scooters make it easy for locals and expats to zoom through the city faster than cars or buses. The rules of the road are a bit confusing as people on the zippy rides generally tend to do whatever they want. Turning signals are optional, so people often drive through red lights, and one-way street signs frequently ignored.
Expats can rent motorbikes from many reputable places throughout the city, or they can choose to purchase one themselves. Buying a motorbike is definitely the cheaper option, but some choose to initially rent one to determine what bike fits their needs.
Motorbike rental cost: Anywhere from 800,000 VND to 1,500,000 VND per month (~$34 to 64 USD)
Motorbike purchase cost: Anywhere from 3,000,000 and up. These prices are dependent on what quality of motorbike you’d like and if you’d like something brand new or not.
If expats don’t feel quite comfortable getting behind the wheel, they can book a lesson with Ride With Me Saigon to break the ice and get their bearings.
Cars and taxis are also quite popular
Similar to most cities around the world, Ho Chi Minh City also offers car services. While Uber and Lyft trump most of the global market in the West, Asia’s premier company is Grab. A major benefit of using these services in Vietnam is the fact that the app is extremely cost-effective. A 20-minute ride can cost as low as USD 2; the company frequently runs promotions, making it even cheaper sometimes.
It’s worth noting that expats who are interested in cheap transportation but don’t feel comfortable operating their own motorbike can easily book motorbike taxis for half the price of a car!
Should anyone find themselves in need of a carpool situation each day, some locals offer personal driving services daily at a fixed rate. The prices depend on the services provided as well as the type of car. It’s best to get a local colleague, neighbour or friend to assist with this process.
Don’t forget about buses
Although this transportation option is probably the least popular on this list, it certainly does exist. Given the fact that there’s heavy traffic during the morning and evening rush hours, this might not be the best option for a work commute unless expats are willing to surrender to the flow or don’t happen to be on a tight schedule. Hopping on a bus in Ho Chi Minh City is slightly unique. There are designated bus stops throughout town, passengers will have to flag down the bus; otherwise, the driver will pass them by.
There are a few useful apps to learn the cost of bus fare as well as the schedule.
Commute options for expats with children
Most of the international schools in Ho Chi Minh City offer pick up and drop off services for children. While most of these academies are located within District 2 and District 7, the drivers go anywhere in the city in a chartered van to ensure the kids get to school safely and on time. These prices vary on the number of children, the institution and location of pick up and drop off. When applying for schools, be sure to inquire about these options.