Vietnam: Transportation 2/2

Taxis

Like in any other countries there is no lack of taxis in Vietnam. You will always find one in front of airports, bus or train stations, hotels or popular tourist sites, and of course on the road. Especially when arriving in a new place it is always tempting to jump into a taxi if you don’t know where your accommodation is. So there shouldn’t be any lack of transportation.

Unfortunately the reputation of taxis in Vietnam is not very good, which probably applies to most SEA countries. THere are many reports of tourists scammed – and we are not talking about $1 or $2. In some instances passengers were even attacked. And it is not just tourists who get scammed – the taxi drivers do it ot the locals as well.

So I repeat an advice I was given numerous times, and an advise I shared with other tourists who have just arrived in Vietnam and were not aware of it. Only use Mailinh or Vinasun taxis. Mailinh is operating throughout Vietnam. THeir taxis are or white and green,  and all drivers wear a white or green shirt and a green tie. Vinasun is mainly based in HCMC. THeir taxis are white with red and green stripes on the bottom of the car, and the drivers wear white shirts with red ties.

Other alternatives are letting your accommodation order a taxi for you. if anything goes wrong the taxi might help put (they are worried about possible bad reviews).

And most important, never agree a fix price for journeys within the city, always insist on the metre. I have never seen a taxi driver who happily offers a low price. For longer journey this is different, and a price might be agreed in advance (potentially taken into account the return journey for the tax).

For a list of possible scams please visit this page.

 

Xe Oms

For shorter journeys Xe Oms – motorbike taxis-  are very popular. It is seemingly impossible not to be approached by a Xe Om driver when arriving at a bus or train station, or walking along the street in town – even if you have a large suitcase with you. It is not the most comfortable ride if you are on the back of a bike with your large and small suitcase.

Unlike taxis you have to agree a rice BEFORE the journey starts. Drivers will always ask for a higher price, and often tourists are not aware what a right price would be. So a quick search how far away your destination is might help. As an alternative ask your accommodation how much the usual prices are. However, being overcharged by $1 or so it not the issue, but like with taxis there are many fraudulent drivers out there.So pleas be wary of Xe Om drivers approaching you at stations, popular tourist sites or bars at night. I would avoid them at these places.

But overall, for a quick ride a Xe Om is a good and cheap method of transportation.

 

Cyclos

The image of cyclos is one that you instantly connect to Asia, and in Vietnam you will find them all over the country. While in the off-the-beaten tracks cyclos are mainly for localsas cheap transportation, in the main tourists hubs they are after tourists. So if you would like to explore the crazy traffic in Hanoi or HCMC, or just exploring the beauty of Hoi An in front of a bike, you will easily find a cyclo.

Unfortunately cyclos have a bad reputation in Vietnam for tourists, as a result of too many reports about scams and violent drivers.Particular the area aorund Ben Than market in HCMC is a well-known area to avoid. If you want to do such a ride, contact your accomodation. Do not get onto a cyclos near tourists sites or those waiting in front of big hotels. Here you can find more information about popular scams

 

Private Car

A more expensive alternative is hiring a car with a driver. The advantage is that the car can stop on the way to enjoy the scenery a bit more or if the stomach requires a break, and the ride is more comfortable. I never used a private hire so I cannot provide any advise about prices. Contact your hotel or a travel agency for a quote. or longer journeys you might have to pay for the accommodation of the driver as well

 

Motorbike

Using a motorbike is probably one of the best ways to explore Vietnam. What could be better riding through some stunning areas while locals, especially kids, are waiving and shouting “Xin Chao” or “Hello, what is your name”. Nothing comes close to me. You will be able to rent a motorbike in most hotels, and often you will find tourists trying to sell their bike.

While it is very tempting please be aware that traffic in Vietnam is so different to the traffic back home. THere arequite a few unwritten rules in Vietnam, without being aware of it ti will be a matter of time before you have an accident.

Also, to drive legally you require a normal motorbike licence PLUS an international permit. If the police catches you without licence, you will be fined. If you have an accident and injure a local, it will be your fault – even if it is not. The punishment could not just be a fine, but prison as well. And obviously, your travel insurance might be void if you have an accident while driving without a licence. I don’t want to say do not ride a bike, but at least consider the risks.

One thing that surprised me when arriving in Vietnam for the very first time is that nearly everyone wears a helmet – it s the law. So if you ride a bike, make sure you got a helmet.

When hiring a bike make sure you inspect the bike, and take pictures of any damage you spot – otherwise you run the risk of paying for a repair. Also read the contract – there are some agencies that will ask for the price of a new machine if you damage it in any way. If they want to keep your passport as deposit, walk away. You need to have your passport with you when travelling through Vietnam.When staying overnight most guesthouses will lock the bikes or store them indoors to protect them from theft. And paying a little fee for the bike attendant at the tourist spots is always a good way to keep your bike safe.

Depending on location a motorbike might cost between 150.000 to 300.000 Dong per day. Places like Hanoi and HCMC offer a wider variety than the far north. And buying a bike might be something to consider for longer journeys.

If you want to enjoy the thrill of being on a motorbike without riding one, you can hire motorbike drivers for longer journeys. Most of them call themselves Easy Riders, and you can find them in every tourist place. The Easy Riders will not just use scooters, most of them ride proper bikes, that are more comfortable for passengers. You can do day trips, or even multi-day trips from A to B. Prices can vary from $40 to $80m per day, and for a multi-day trip prices usually include accommodation for you and the driver. So far I have done 5 trips on the back of the bike – a three-day round trip in Ninh Binh, a one day trip from Hue to the DZM, a trip from Hoi An to Quang Ngai, a 3 day trip in the Mekong Delta from Tra Vinh to Can Tho and a 4 day ride from Dalat to Kon Tum, and I enjoyed every single trip. In the various blog entries I have added the recommended driver. So if you do not want to ride ta bike, this is a great way to explore Vietnam.

 

Boat

Obviously being on the coast and having some rather large rivers boats can be an important part when travelling throughout Vietnam, especially in the rural area. While more bridges are used for rivers, you still find little boats operating. You can differentiate between different kind of boats though:

  • Larger boats with cabins to explore Halong Bay. THey are far more luxurious than the average boat. It will include cabins, dining room and kitchen. When heading out to Halong Bay please note that you get what you pay. The quality and safety standard of the low quality boats are not very good, and there are reports about sunken junks. SO do some research before choosing the right boat for you.
  • There are also other tourists boats for day trips. You can find them in Hoi An, Hue, or HCMC. It is a quick and nice way to see a bit of the rural area
  • Larger ferries connect the main land to islands, for example Cat Ba in the north, Vung Tau and Phu Quoc in the south. The one between Rach Gia to Phu Quoc is a bit longer (2 1/2 hours) and can be tought for those with a sensible stomach. The one for shorter journeys might be much easier. Please note, that there is no ferry heading out to Con Dao islands, but only a cargo boat that leaves on some days. I was told that it is not advisable to get to Con Dao by that mode of transportation
  • For short journeys connecting little islands to the mainland, or just for crossing the Mekong or other rivers some small ferries / boats are operating. Some of these ferries there was space for cars and scooters (especially for crossing the Mekong or near HCMC), and it is a smooth ride. But you could also find little boats where you can only get scooters on it, some are rather small. I actually enjoyed them most as it was interesting to watch them getting everything on board.
  • In some areas you can also hire private boats. In Hoi An you can explore the surrounding area as passenger of a little boat, which can be a nice activity while you want to relax. In the Mekong Delta it is a great way to see more of the typical life in that area, especially if the little baot gets you to the floating markets or the little canals. If you are in that area travelling by boat is a must-do activity
  • There are also fast boats in operations, however, I have not used them so cannot comment on that. However, after seeing some fast boats on the Mekong in Laos I will gladly not use them

 

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