To the first time visitor, Ho Chi Minh City can seem like one of the craziest places on earth. The sheer volume of traffic here is terrifying at first. Simply crossing a road appears to be impossible. However once you get used to it, it all kind of makes sense. Traffic moves very slow and there is a policy of giving way to everyone. To cross the road, simply stroll across while keeping your eye on the traffic - they will go round you.
Walking is the best way of seeing any city, but the heat here and the size of the place sometimes makes that difficult. So what of public transport?
Buses: There are a lot of bus companies registered in the city. They cover a total of well over a hundred routes, are cheap but a little confusing. Always carry small denomination notes. Buses are generally air-conditioned and many are relatively new. The drivers tend to drive erratically; sometimes the safest place to be is on one.
Trains: Train travel can be useful for getting out of the city and into the other provinces. There is no Light Rail Transport system in place, though a comprehensive one is currently under construction. Coming into service in about 2020, it will have a combination of underground, street level and raised level sections.
Taxis: Taxis are inexpensive and pretty efficient. They are a great way to get about, particularly in bad weather. They are air-conditioned and generally in good working order. The best two companies are Vinasun and Mai Linh. These two have good reputations, respectful drivers and are always clean. Some of the others are not so trustworthy.
Xe Om: Motorbike taxis are just about everywhere, they hang around on street corners and ask anyone who appears hot or tired if they want a motorbike. These guys are ok, they know the city and are relatively cheap, about half of the normal taxi fare. It is a shame they don’t wear uniforms as in Thailand, it would make life a lot easier.
Cyclos: These three wheeler bicycles have a seat at the front to carry two passengers. The drivers are generally older guys, and they earn their money, peddling large Westerners round the city in searing heat. However, always negotiate a price in advance and stick to it. Avoid the invitation to visit a good tailor or jewellery store. It will be a family member and is almost always a scam.
Motorbikes: If you have the nerve and a bit of experience, you can hire a motorbike almost everywhere in the city. They will keep your passport as surety and a cash deposit. This is easily the best way to see the city, if you are capable. The traffic though can be more than a little daunting. Try and practice on a quiet estate and stay away from buses and trucks.
Getting around Ho Chi Minh City is really a simple operation. Any of these methods will serve you well.