Scam Free Rides in a Saigon Taxi

Why would I even bother to write a post on how to prevent scams when you catch a Saigon Taxi? Well, unfortunately one of the most common rip-offs for visitors to Ho Chi Minh City is the “overcharging taxi cab”. Authorities are constantly cracking down on the dodgy companies but in a country where success means you instantly have at least 2 or 3 copycats, it’s like cutting off the head of a Hydra. Banish one and another 2 appear. The funny thing is that many tourists probably won’t even realized they’ve been scammed as taxi fares are incredibly cheap compared to most Western countries. Even charging you 3 or 4 times the price can seem like a bargain when you first arrive and don’t know any better.

Don’t be put off by the possibility of being ripped off, however. Catching a taxi in Ho Chi Minh City is one of the safest and most comfortable ways to get around the city and cheaper than risking it on the back of a motorbike if there are two or more of you. If you follow the hints below you should be fine.

My Top Tips for Scam Free rides in Saigon Taxis

Number 1 -Only use Vinasun or Mai Linh taxis. These are the biggest cab companies in Ho Chi Minh City. Sit in one spot for long enough and you will see hundreds of them drive by. Their drivers are well trained and professional and, in my experience, always use an accurate meter. All their cabs are air conditioned, in good condition and kept spotless. The flag fall and per kilometer rates are prominently displayed on both the outside and inside of the taxi. Drivers display their Identification and unique identifier clearly in the front of the cab.. There are other companies who are honest but as I can’t personally recommend them I won’t mention them here.

Number 2 – Beware of Vinasun and Mai Linh fakes. Yes you heard me ….FAKES! There are a couple of companies with very similar paintwork and logos. The easiest way to be 100% sure you are in a real one is to check the phone number on the side of the cab. Vinasun is 38 27 27 27 , Mai Linh 38 38 38 38 for their green cabs seen below . Below are pictures of their cabs with their markings clearly shown. Mai Linh cabs may sometimes be white with green markings and have a phone number 38 26 26 26.

Saigon taxi - Vinasun Taxi

Vinasun taxi with logo, phone number and rates (above the ph Nr) clearly displayed.

 

Saigon taxi- Mai Linh Taxi

Mai Linh taxi (Green) with logo, phone number and rates (above the Ph. Nr.) clearly displayed.

Number 3  – Both Vinasun and Mai Linh “own” ranks around the city. For example, take a cab from the Diamond Plaza Shopping Centre rank and it will be a Mai Linh. Vinasun runs the one on the Rex Hotel side of the Union Square Shopping centre right in front of Saigon City Hall. If you catch a cab from a company rank there will be a uniformed attendant assigning cabs who will give you a slip of paper with an identifier. You can quote this if you have any problems. The attendant will often speak English and can assist in telling the driver your destination.

Number 4 -If you are not near a rank, cross to whatever side of the street the traffic is heading in your direction. Stand in a space a cab can safely stop for you. This is not a requirement as they will literally stop anywhere; however it IS safer for the general population. Watch for a Vinasun or Mai Linh cab to appear (should take about 2 seconds!!) and put your hand up to hail them. If it is another company let them go on.

Number 5 – For getting home safely, always carry the business card or another written form of your Hotel’s address IN VIETNAMESE. I’ve never come across a hotel that doesn’t have a card, even the very cheap ones. This will solve a lot of confusion. Street names are hard to read, hard to say and will inevitably cause immense confusion if you try to communicate with the driver verbally. We always take a copy of a Google map with our address and the location of our apartment clearly marked even though we know the way home from most places.

Number 6 – When heading out for the day, carry a map and get your hotel staff to mark your destinations on OR write them on a piece of paper BEFORE you find a cab. Better still, ask them an approximate price then get them to hail the cab and give the driver instructions for you. Most hotel staff will be more than happy to do this for you. Make sure they hail a Vinasun or Mai Linh cab.

Number 7 – If you carry a smart phone, plot the route out on Google maps before you go so you have some idea of what direction you should be heading in. Show the driver if he seems unsure. DO NOT take this as gospel though. Drivers sometimes know a better way to go, especially in heavy traffic and there are many one way streets in the city. However, if they deviate too far off course call them out immediately and get them to radio in to the office for directions.

Number 8 – If you pick up a cab as someone is getting out ALWAYS close the doors and reopen them before you get in. This will ensure the meter is reset and you don’t just get your fare added on top. The meter should go blank and then restart with the flag fall. Normally between 12 and 15 000 VND depending on the size of the taxi.

Number 9 – If for some reason you do end up taking another company – ALWAYS MAKE THEM USE THE METER. This will not guarantee you are not ripped off as some of the bad companies have dodgy meters, but you at least have a fair chance. Do not use them if they insist otherwise. Flag fall should be no more than 15 000VND (~75 cents) and the per km rate is around 15 000 VND. It advances in multiples of 3000 VND (15 cents) every 200 m or so AFTER the first km. This rate varies slightly  between different vehicle types. Large vehicles with more seats are a little bit more expensive than smaller cars. If your meter starts spinning rapidly, stop the cab and get out immediately.

Number 10 – Always identify if you only have BIG notes before you head off. This includes 100 000VND and above as most rides around the city will cost you less than that. Honest cabbies will make all attempts to find change but it can sometimes take a while. If he doesn’t have change, find another cab or break the note before you take the ride. (Buy some chewing gum in the closest minimart).

Number 11 – If you have shopping or bags not within immediate reach, always make sure you have access to them BEFORE you pay the driver. That way he cannot extort more money by holding them hostage and is unlikely to drive off with your possessions.

Number 12 – We usually round up the fare to the nearest 10 000VND. Taxi Drivers from the big companies do not expect a tip but certainly appreciate it if you do. It also solves the problem of having to have really small money, especially when you first arrive. If your driver hassles you for a large tip, make like you are going to report him. Start writing down his details and phone numbers. They will normally back off quick smart.

Number 13 – Check the seat and floor to make sure you have taken everything before closing the door and letting the cab drive off.

Extra Tips for Catching a Taxi from the Airport

If you don’t have a hotel pick-up arranged from Tan Son Nhat Airport, then head outside for the taxi rank . IT WILL BE CHEAPER THAN BOOKING A TRANSFER INSIDE THE TERMINAL.

At the International Terminal, walk out of the arrivals hall and turn left. Head straight until you find the very obvious rank.

At the Domestic Terminal, walk out of the terminal. Turn to your right and across the street you should see a parking lot with many Vinasun and Mai Linh taxis.

DO NOT accept offers from other people offering you a ride, especially those not in a uniform. YOU WILL BE RIPPED OFF!!!

At the taxi rank join the end of the line and you will be assigned a cab in turn. If it is not Mai Linh Or Vinasun you are within your rights to refuse the cab and let the next person have it. Make it very clear that you will use only those two companies and there should be no problems. Have your accommodation booking form ready, with the address clearly marked, to give to the rank manager assigning the cabs and/or the driver.

If you do not have accommodation booked then you will probably want to head for Pham Ngu Lao (pronounced Fam New Lao) or Bui Vien (pronounced Boy Vien) if you are looking for cheap accommodation or around Ben Thanh Market if you are mid range. Check out my post on how to find cheap accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City. If you are heading for Top End and haven’t got a booking or a transfer arranged then just ask for The Caravelle. There are at least half a dozen 4 star and above hotels within a block of here. All cab drivers should know where all of these are. A trip from the airport to any of these locations should cost no more than 160 000 VND ($8) maybe 180 000VND if the traffic is REALLY, REALLY heavy.

There should be no reason to book a transfer back to the airport UNLESS you are leaving extremely early in the morning. There are thousands of cabs around. You should never be stuck. If you do book a transfer it should cost ABSOLUTELY no more than the equivalent of $10 for the whole ride (NOT per person).

When you arrive at your destination, make sure you have access to your luggage BEFORE you pay the driver. It is not unheard of for dodgy drivers to demand a hefty tip before releasing the boot lock. The logistics of this are obviously easier if there are two or more of you, but should still be possible if you are alone. At most hotels, even the cheaper ones, the hotel staff will come to your aid as soon as you pull up out the front and being allowed to carry your own bags is more of a task than getting someone to carry them for you.

As I said at the start. Don’t let the potential of getting ripped off stop you from taking a Saigon Taxi. They are, on the whole cheap, comfortable and professional. Follow the tips above and you’ll be fine. Please let me know in the comments below if you’ve had any good OR bad experiences with taxis here in Ho Chi Mih City. I’m sure there are other good companies but I follow my own advice so I really can’t say.

Note: I do not receive any payment for this post (or any others on the site for that matter!). I do receive a small amount of money by allowing advertisements on the site and any purchases made through those links.

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45 Responses

  1. Hazel Garcia says:

    I was a victim of this just yesterday, April 23, 2017.

    It is my first time in Vietnam. I paid about 140k from Thao Dien to Ben Thanh Market on the same day and was expecting my return fare to be the same or close to it. As I was nearing Thao Dien, I noticed that my fare was going really fast which was going to almost 350k. As I was leading the driver to the exact location, he suddenly stopped and was telling me to go down, I am sure that he understands English so I explained that it still far from where I’m supposed to go. With a very rude attitude and high tone, he asked me to pay the taxi fare and go down. I am sure I gave him 500k for the 357k fare. Then he would return the money to me with a 20k bill and was angry coz I was giving him the wrong amount. 500k and 20k bills are almost the same color. This happened three times. When I went down, after a few minutes, I realized that my mobile phone was not with me.

    This taxi driver is a professional scammer. He switched my money. He made me feel nervous so I won’t be able to think straight. He stole my mobile phone. He didn’t want me to alight at the exact location coz there are a lot of security guards and CCTV to where I am going.

    His taxi is a white heavy tinted sedan. We checked with Vinasun, the trip that I did was not in their software.

    Being a widow, just really starting to have the courage to do things on my own, and that feeling of wanting to see the beauty of Vietnam, this experience was very very traumatic for me. I wasn’t able to sleep well last night. My heart rate is really high. I was supposed to do a tour this morning, but because of all these, I opted not to. Up to now, there are moments that I just need to sob and pour it all out.

    Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh in particular, is not a good place to go. Especially if you will travel alone. Maybe I wasn’t really able to do some precautionary measures to protect me from this but it is mainly because I trust the people as I am an Asian as well.

    • Sharyn says:

      So sorry to hear that. Trust me, Ho Chi Minh City is a great place to visit as long as you use a few rules. Some are those mentioned in this post. Here is another two that people find useful: Is Ho Chi Minh City Safe and Staying Healthy on your visit

      I hope things improve. I have a few tours I have personally done and found to be good, mentioned on my Tours page. . Urban Adventures is an international company with a corresponding reputation for service.. Otherwise, there are a few free tours as well. Onetrip now has a food tour and donation based student tour the same as Saigon Hotpot .

  2. Annie says:

    Can you let me know how many people can fit into one of the taxis (Vinasun OR Mai Linh) you have mentioned? We have 4 people, each one probably has one hand carry luggage plus backpack or handbag. Will one cab fit all? Do they charge additional for luggage? Please advise. Thank you!

    • Sharyn says:

      There are different size taxis, right up to 7 seaters in which the back seats lie down leaving plenty of room for luggage. Unless the 4 people are super huge, you should be fine.

  3. Nicoletta says:

    From Pham Ngu Lao to hotel Liberty Saigon Riverside we paid 12$. A rip off since it was less than 2km with no traffic on the afternoon of Tet. I should have read this article before.

    • Sharyn says:

      Sorry to hear that Nicoletta. Yes, that was extortionate. It should have been no more than about 60 000 VND (2.70) max!

  4. Amar says:

    TQVM Sharyn and other commenters…
    Its very useful and informative info

  5. Jenny says:

    We just caught a taxi today from Saigon domestic airport. My partner wanted to have a Vinasun taxi at that time. I thought the airport is not allowed so we got in other taxi. When we arrived in our hotel. The metre was showing 130,300 Dong but the taxi drive insist we need to pay 40,000 Dong for airport ticket. We can not understand him so we just paid the 170,000 Dong. Now I just realised it is 10,000 Dong which he paid when we passed the toll cubicle. 5 days ago, when I arrived in Saigon. I caught a taxi from international airport. The driver made us paid the 10,000 ticket when he drove pass the toll cubicle. He did not use the metre, when we reached our hotel, he asked 225,000 Dong. I was angry, raised my voice and told him that I would just pay 150,000 Dong. He agreed. So I think you are right that vinasun is a good company and we had a few short trip by vinasun taxi and had no problem at all.

  6. Scarlet Fuenteblanca says:

    hello. this is very informative. thank you so much for this. question – my flight arrives at 12:20am. are there money changers open that time? will i still be able to catch a bus? if not, would you think using uber taxis are ok?

    • Sharyn says:

      The buses stop at 1am. I doubt if you’ll be through immigration and customs by then, even if your plane is on time. I’m not sure Uber is allowed to operate in the airport. I’m pretty sure they won’t be allowed anywhere near the taxi rank so you would have to work out where to meet. The airport transfer desk MAY be open. If it’s only around 180 000 – 200 000 VND (less than $9 or $10 USD) I would double confirm that is all I had to pay and take that option. Check who has to pay the airport fee (10 000 VND) It might cost you a little extra but they speak English and from experience were very comfortable and since you’ve agreed the money up front there is no haggling unless you want to tip (and you probably won’t have small money to do that – 10 000 VND is a generous tip (so don’t go handing out 100 000 VND notes 🙂 )

      It’s fine to take a taxi. Just be firm and catch a Vinasun or Mai Linh. Make sure they understand where you are going BEFORE you set off (Take a google maps printout of your hotel details). At that time of the evening a trip to D1 will be less than 20 minutes and should cost around 160 000K (less than $8 USD)

      I’m not sure what time the money changers close BUT there are ATM’s in arrivals. To ensure you get some smaller notes, try and withdraw an uneven number eg. 3.9 million VND, instead of 4 million ($190 USD) That way you’ll at least get a few 100 000 VND notes (about $4.50)
      ,
      Also, make sure you tell your hotel you are arriving late and to expect you if it’s not a big one. Otherwise, you might need to wake someone up.

  7. Benny Escoto says:

    All replies are very informative for our own safety. We are travelling to Saigon this Oct 8 to 14, 2016 & planning to take Bus#152 to Ben Thanh Market or De Tham-Pahm Ngu Lao sts. You think this is much better & safer. Our ETArrival is 12:30am But we plan to stay at the airport & wait till 5am or so. Is there already available bus 152 during this time? If Not, what time will they arrive in Tan Son Nhat Airport, that is Sunday Oct9 5am? We are still goin to look for a hotel in the area of Ben Thanh Market & Pham Ngu Lao, De Tham Streets after gatting off the bus or taxi. Thanks lot and God Bless.

  8. Hi, i am a local guy, having my own cars which are available for transport service, saturday and sunday. If you want some taxi service with lower cost (20%) than Vinasun or Mailinh. The reason is that we have family cars, not a big business. Hope you can experience different!

    • Sharyn says:

      Thanks Khoa, I’ll keep you in mind. I’m sure you are legitimate but as I have yet to use your services I can’t personally recommend. I normally advise my readers NOT to take private cars unless they are through UBER and are protected through their policies and procedures. There are just too many scams.

  9. Jakes says:

    I’m not a season traveller but am now learning fast. First trip to Ho Chi Minh and got 2 million dong stollen from my wallet. The only person who could have done it was the cabbie who generously assisted me in getting the correct amount from my wallet. Trip was 6 km. Well, I live an learn. Made really silly mistakes. Approached the airport taxi rank. Was intercepted and shown to an unmarked vehicle. There you go.

    • Sharyn says:

      So sorry to hear that. As you say, live and learn. Glad you are otherwise unscathed and the rest of you visit was a good one.

  10. Anton says:

    http://www.taxi2order.com is a booking engine where you can order your transfer before you arrive at your destinations

  11. Ian Martinez says:

    Every day we were in Saigon, I drummed it into my girlfriend only to take Vinasun or Mailinn. The first time she hailed a taxi, it was another one, but I didn’t realize, the meter raced and eventually we got out. He turned around and put his hand on my leg but a few seconds later I realised he had stolen my wallet. He shouted and shouted, the windows were darkened, luckily my gf had some cash. One thing I would like to add to your “things to look out for” are to avoid taxis with darkened glass.

    • Sharyn says:

      Oh dear. So sorry to hear that. I’ll definitely make that suggestion in the next update. Hope the rest of your trip was enjoyable. Did you like Ho Chi Minh City?

  12. clive newman says:

    I meant to write that the meter said 200 000

  13. clive newman says:

    I got into a cab from the ferry after arriving from vung tau. when i went it cost just 40 000. he took me on a round trip and it came to 20000. I told him I’d done the journy many times and he was a crook. I made sure I got my bags and gave him half the meter 100 000. He started to argue but he could see how furious I was and left. I was very angry with myself as I am a seasoned traveler and I felt I’d let my guard down.

  14. Jayden Tan says:

    I went to took a cab at the airport to lotte legend hotel. The cab i took was saigontravel not vinasun or mai linh however the attendant did tell me it will cost around 15usd. When i board the cab, it went past a gantry and he asked for 200k dong to buy him a ticket. I refuse to give it to the driver and told him to include all payments in a receipt when i reach the hotel. The meter started at 110k dong. I am horrified to see the meter jump to 890k when reaching my hotel. I insist that he stop at my hotel lobby where he hesitated and tried to give me lots of excuses. Once i reach the hotel, suddenly the bill is a flat 200k dong. He didn’t ask to buy him any tickets. He didn’t even want to provide a receipt but i manage to get help from the hotel staff.This is a bad experience for me and hope everyone be careful when taking cabs there

    • Sharyn says:

      So sorry to hear about your experience. You acted correctly. I’m glad the taxi driver backed down. Take care and I hope your visit to Saigon is awesome in spite of this experience.

  15. Marjorie says:

    By the way, the fake taxi which we rode
    from Ben Thanh to our hotel carried the tel number of 38 38 38 38.

    • Sharyn says:

      Hmmm. That should be a real Mai Linh and they have very strict rules about customer complaints. I think more than 1 and they get the sack. So my advice on your last comment about taking pictures should have had him scared enough to let you out and charge you a correct amount. Fake taxis, unfortunately, are not unknown, but this one must have been a particularly good one or perhaps you got a rogue driver.

  16. Marjorie says:

    I wish I was able to read your article earlier. My family and I got ripped off thrice by taxis. The first was in the airport when we arrived. Since there was a sign that we can not choose the taxi company and the taxis were in line at the metered taxi queue, we took the first taxi there. Seems legit enough because the rates were properly posted. But the meter was quite fast. Cost us 200k VND up to our hotel (Pullman) in District 1.
    The second one was today when we took a taxi from the War Museum up to the Jade Pagoda. We initially flagged down a Vinasun Taxi, which refused us. An old man (who seemed kind enough) then got a cab for us which was parked in front of the museum. Our fare reached 160k. Since I didn’t have any smaller bills anymore, I handed the driver 500k. He said that he didn’t have any change and asked for a smaller bill. He was hurrying me up, making me count my smaller bills. I was able to have around 150k and he said that it was enough. Because of the confusion, I failed to get the 500k I previously handed to him, which magically disappeared from his hand in a few seconds, making my husband think that the driver returned it to me. Still, I had the nagging feeling that the driver didn’t return the 500k bill to me. And true enough, when i got back to the hotel and computed everything, I was missing 500k!
    The worst one was from Ben Thanh back to our hotel. For such a short distance, the driver charged us 500k. He didn’t even bring us to the curb of the hotel. He said that he couldn’t make a u-turn. We told him that it was too much since his meter displayed only less than 50k. He argued with us and shouted at us. He then drove for a few meters with the doors locked and we can’t open the doors. We told him to bring us to the police or to our hotel because we were going to report him. By then, it was already raining hard. He refused. We had a shouting match until he relented to let us out for 100k. We paid him that amount after he opened the locks, a block away from our hotel. We were soaking wet when we got to the hotel. We asked for assistance from the hotel staff. They promised to accompany us to the police station when the rains ceased. However, after reading in another article that the fake taxis were protected by syndicates, we decided not to go to the police anymore. We are afraid that the police might be in cahoots with the syndicates because based on what we read, this problem had persisted for 20 years and still, nothing has been done!

    • Sharyn says:

      So sorry to hear you had these problems. Yes, they try to make you stand in line and take the next taxi at the International airport BUT we just go to the back of the queue, across the road or to the Domestic terminal to take a Vinasun. But I know the pressure can be great, especially on your first experience. To be fair 200K isn’t all that more than the right price and I guess heavy traffic could have made it a little more as the Pullman is on the far side of the backpacker District. The missing 500k is a classic sleight of hand and the conmen are experts at making you feel hassled. Having small money in a different pocket can alleviate this issue. If getting money at the airport, draw out an odd number fromt he ATM (eg 4.9 million) or get the money changer to give you at least some small notes. Your last experience is downright criminal. The only thing I could advise is to have taken out your phone or camera and start taking pictures. With two of you,it would have been difficult for him to use force of any kind and being identified is normally enough to make them want to get you out of the cab quickly. Once again, I’m so sorry you had these dreadful experiences. I hope you at least enjoyed the rest of your visit to Saigon.

  17. Mathew says:

    Very informative and practical info. Thank you very much

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