There are tons of ways to get around Saigon.
There are plenty of taxis and cars… Buses and trucks. You can even get around on foot pretty easily.
But the most efficient way to get around, by far, is on a motorbike. They’re everywhere. And the locals use motorbikes for everything…
Hop on the back of one, or rent your own if you’re feeling comfortable.
I was absolutely terrified to drive a motorbike. Especially in the traffic of Saigon. When I visited Thailand I had so much fun riding on the back of a motorbike but I refused to drive one, even when we visited the sleepy little town, Pai. It just seemed like a bad idea and I figured I’d end up bandaged from a ridiculous motorbike accident.
^See! That guy is driving down a one way road the wrong way! Accident waiting to happen.
But my cousins were set on it, so on our second day in Saigon we made it a mission to rent motorbikes.
Our rental place of choice was Loi Dat Tourism. It was conveniently located on Phạm Ngũ Lão (near the McDonald’s, not far from Ben Thanh) and their price was good.
The first bike cost 150,000 dong and each bike after that only cost 120,000. That’s just $6-7 a day.
We started with one bike so we could take turns and decide if we were comfortable driving. Anna went first and did really well (although she had almost crashed the bike she test drove the day before!). When it was my turn I chickened out and asked James to drive me around the park so I could get a feel for the route. We did a quick loop, with me on the back, then he handed over the keys.
My heart was pounding but I decided to just go for it. I don’t know why I was so worried the bike would be hard to balance. That turned out to be the easy part. Once I got out there it was just like crossing the street, and the flow of traffic didn’t seem as intimidating when I became a part of it. But the little loop around the park felt so long when I drove it by myself.
The hard part was driving back on the other side of the park. The street where I started was quiet and fairly open, but the other street, Lê Lai, was filled with buses and parked cars. It felt like vehicles were closing in on me from every side.
I miraculously made it back to the rental shop and had done really well… Until I pulled off to the sidewalk and a dog lunged at me. I panicked and dropped the bike (which took me down with it).
The local guy definitely judged me. You can see it in his face!
Have you ever ridden a motorbike? In Vietnam? Here are my tips for you (other than don’t drop the bike!)…
Keep moving forward at a steady pace while watching your surroundings.
For the most part, other drivers will keep a safe distance and move around you.
Traffic gets pretty thick in the city and rush hour is a nightmare. Just watch out for parked cars, bus drivers and pedestrians.
The best times to drive seem to be mid-morning and on Sunday. And if you drive away from the city there are roads and tunnels dedicated to motorbikes, which make driving one really easy.
So if you don’t want to sit around in the traffic or are feeling adventurous, give a motorbike a try. I was pretty bad on my first go round but it was certainly fun!
And if you’re interested, check out this video my cousin made (it includes my motorbike fall about 10 second in!).