What is a xe ôm?

Living in HCMC | 2019-11-15


For many western cultures, riding at the back of a motorcycle as public transportation is taboo. In Saigon and the rest of Vietnam, it is actually the norm. So if you’re an expat or foreigner who just moved to the country, here’s a crash course on Xe Om.

The term literally means “motorbike hug” which comes from the need for the passenger to hold on tightly to the driver as he speeds through traffic. Most xe ôms have a corner or spot on the road from which he works and can usually be found sitting (sometimes sleeping) on his bike. Look for the unofficial xe ôm uniform: an untucked, long sleeve shirt with rolled up sleeves, trousers and sandals. All will have an extra helmet for their passengers.

What do I need to consider when riding a xe ôm?

It’s good to get to know your local drivers and if you find a reliable one, ask for his mobile number. You never know when you will need him to get you around town. Many residents have a driver they regularly use and some pay their xe ôm a monthly fee to take them to and from work. Short trips around town will cost between VND30,000 and VND50,000. Many cases have been reported of drivers taking foreigners for the proverbial ride at their expense. If you are still intent on going with a driver, the best thing to do is to have a quick look on Google Maps or other websites to gain a cursory understanding of the neighborhood. Always give the exact address that you want to go to and ask for a “quotation” before taking a xe ôm.

There are now many ride hailing apps in Vietnam, like Grab, Vato, and GoViet. The rates are very affordable and much cheaper than regular xe ôm rates. Conveniently, you don’t have to negotiate a price with the driver, as the rate is fixed once you put in your destination.

For more information go to Xe Om