Why Not Catch a Saigon Bus?
There are a LOT of reasons why you should catch a Saigon bus. In many ways, they could be the cheapest and most convenient mode of transport on your visit. I’ve detailed some of the arguments for and against using the local bus system and provided 8 handy tips for when you do.
8 Reasons Why You Should Catch a Bus in Ho Chi Minh City
1.THEY ARE DIRT CHEAP!!!! In fact, catching a bus here in Saigon is less than one tenth the cost of my hometown Brisbane. The average bus ride will be 6000 VND (30 cents) or less. If you take lots of buses, you can buy a book of tickets from the bus station, and it will be even cheaper.
2. Bus routes go to almost every area of town and will get you very close to your destination. There are over 100 bus routes. You can:
- buy a detailed route map from Ben Thanh bus station or many of the street sellers; OR
- Grab this fabulous new APP that will give you all the information you need and more. It’s in both English and Vietnamese and also has a Web Version.
3. Buses are extremely frequent. Even if you just miss a bus, you shouldn’t have to wait more than 5 minutes for the next one.
4. Most of them are quite comfortable compared to other developing countries. Compared to many buses we’ve been on in Africa, Central America and other parts of Asia, they are sheer luxury.
5. If you know your destination, and inform the driver or nearby passengers, the vast majority will alert you to your stop.
6. You will feel somewhat cocooned from the traffic chaos outside and far less exposed to potential harm than on a Xe Om.
7. You will definitely have a “local” experience, especially in peak hour. For me, this is half the fun of travelling and a great way to gain an understanding of everyday life.
8. Buses start very early in the morning. You can get to your destination before the tourist hordes.
What about the drawbacks????
Seven Reasons Not To Catch a Saigon Bus.
1. Unfortunately, many buses finish early in the evening. There aren’t too many that operate after about 6 pm except on the major routes. Don’t get caught out trying to return after around 5.30 pm or you may have to find alternative means of transport.
2. Buses can get extremely crowded, and if you do not get on at the beginning or end of the route, it might be difficult to get a seat especially in peak hours.
3.The buses are obviously nowhere near as comfortable as taking a taxi. Air-conditioning will probably consist of an open window if other travellers don’t mind a bit of a breeze in their face, and that’s not guaranteed.
4. Buses may not take the most direct route, and it will almost certainly take you longer to get to your destination than if you took a motorbike taxi or cab.
5. Pickpockets do operate on many routes. You should take extra precautions to secure your valuables. There are some great tips on staying safe in Ho Chi Minh City here.
6. One way streets may mean you have to track down a stop for your return journey as it won’t necessarily just be on the other side of the road.
7. Buses won’t necessarily come to a dead stop for you to get on and off. You need to be careful, not only of the bus but also, of other obstacles that might pose a risk. E.g. other pedestrians, motorcycles, street vendors, and holes in the pavement.
8 Tips for taking a Bus in Ho Chi Minh City.
1. Work out exactly where you want to go and then decide which bus will take you there most efficiently by using the Navigation option on this APP. You’ll get several alternatives with the quickest or most convenient at the top.
2. Get a local (your hotel receptionist for example) to write down your destination in Vietnamese. Show your information to the driver as you get on or another passenger. Making contact will not be a problem as you will be a source of curiosity.
3. If possible, determine a landmark or street name just before your hop off point. You should be able to do this via the map on the APP. Watch carefully as you think you are getting near and use my tip below for exiting the bus (Tip 8).
4. Have small change. Anything more than a 20 000 VND note is going to be a pain for the conductor.
5. Keep your valuables secured. Be especially careful of pockets and backpacks hanging to your rear when standing on a crowded bus where you may have to raise your arms to grab hold and steady yourself. Put everything in your front pockets or preferably in a concealed money belt. Keep bags of all descriptions zipped up and to your front. For extra protection, add a small carabineer to dual zippers to prevent expertise hands from getting inside your bag. Stay alert.
6. Try and ascertain where the stop for your return journey is AND the last service before you head off, just in case you need to make alternative arrangements, E.g., have a little more cash available.
7, When you see the bus approaching, raise your arm to indicate when that you want to get on. Be ready to jump onto the bus as it slows”almost” to a halt. Be aware of other obstacles such as motorbikes, pedestrians and street stalls that might impede your entry.
8, When exiting the bus, you should be ready to hop off the minute the bus slows enough for it to be physically safe to do so. It probably won’t come to a complete stop. Watch out for passengers wanting to hop on, moving and stationary vehicles and holes in the road or pavement.
You can check out key routes for tourists HERE. This includes the very handy bus to Ho Chi Minh Airport and the new Airport Shuttle Bus Service. Plus, I take a look at the HOP ON – HOP OFF bus that began in late May that will take you to many of the attractions in District 1 and China Town.
A new service makes it easy to look at your transport options for further afield. It gives prices for the different modes of travel and allows you to book online. 12GoAsia . It’s a one-stop shop for planes, trains, buses, and boats and takes the guesswork out of what your should pay. Even if you just look at your options here, you can then evaluate what you’re being told on the ground to know if you’re getting a good deal. Find out more HERE.
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