Take a Bus to Ho Chi Minh Airport
Editor’s Note: Update – May 2016
So much has changed since I first wrote this post back in 2014, and all of it’s good for tourists and locals alike. Ho Chi Minh city has finally got itself not one, but two, airport shuttle buses, to rival those in other popular destinations around the world. I’ve also discovered a crazy useful App that replaces all those paper and online route maps (that always seemed to be down!!) So now a decision to take a bus to Ho Chi Minh Airport has never been so easy. And there’s a new Hop On – Hop Off Service to get around District 1 and China Town. Although, I’m not as enthusiastic about that one. You can read my reasons below.
Most tourists wouldn’t even consider taking a public bus when visiting Saigon, but there are lots of reasons why you should make it an option. As well as the comfortable 152 bus to Ho Chi Minh airport, there’s also two dedicated Airport Shuttle buses to popular District 1 destinations including to Ben Thanh bus station near the market. The 152 costs between 30 cents and a dollar, depending on the amount of luggage you have. And the new airport shuttles cost between 12 000 and 40 000 VND (< $2), regardless of how much luggage you have. That’s much, much cheaper than the already inexpensive taxi option.
Check out the pros and cons of taking a bus and some handy tips here.
I’ve totally scrapped the links to all the other online routes and timetables. They were forever going down and creating frustration for my readers and me. The absolutely best way to find a bus route to where you want to go is to either download this fantastic FREE App or use the web version. It’s in both Vietnamese and English and is incredibly easy to use. CLICK HERE to access the APP.
The only downside at this point is it doesn’t have the details of the new SHUTTLE BUS. I’ll give you more on that below.
Here’re a couple of screen shots to help you find your way:
New HCMC Airport Shuttle BusesHooray!!! HCMC now has its own Airport Shuttle Buses. Click To TweetRoute 109 from the Airport to District 1 has been operating since mid-March 2016 and is proving a hit with locals and visitors alike.It terminates at Park 23/9, right near Pham Ngu Lao backpacker district and goes via Ben Thanh Bus station (it leaves from the same platform as the 152 at this station).
The trip costs 20 000 VND (<$1 USD) to District 1 and only 12 000 VND if you don’t go all the way. Just tell the staff where you want to get off and they’ll tell you the price) And, there’s no extra charge for luggage. The buses are air conditioned, have non-slip floors, brand new modern interiors and large open areas to put your bags. And for your safety and security, video cameras have been installed. Only drivers with 5 to 6 years experience are allowed to drive the bus which hopefully makes for a smoother and safer ride.
Written information on the bus is in both Vietnamese and English, and staff speak adequate English to help out.
The bus leaves every 15 to 20 minutes between the hours of 5.30 am and 1.30 am. Time to the city depends on traffic but should be under 50 minutes.
Route 49, launched on the 19th May and is slightly more expensive but has more stops near the big hotels. Like route 109, the route 49 is operated with modern buses and trained staff with English and communication skills. It charges passengers a flat fare of VND40,000 and takes 30-40 minutes to complete the whole journey. The service is available between 5 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. the next day.
Route 49 goes via Tan Son Nhat Airport’s international terminal – domestic terminal – Truong Son – Tran Quoc Hoan – Hoang Van Thu – Nguyen Van Troi – Nam Ky Khoi Nghia – Le Duan – Cong Xa Paris – Dong Khoi – Dong Du – Hai Ba Trung – Ton Duc Thang – Ham Nghi – Ben Thanh – Pham Ngu Lao – Nguyen Trai – Le Lai – Nguyen Huu Canh – Cach Mang Thang 8 – Dien Bien Phu – Nam Ky Khoi Nghia – Nguyen Van Troi – Phan Dinh Giot – Truong Son – International terminal
The bright yellow buses are easy to spot, and the ones I’ve seen are very spacious and uncrowded. This might change as the service becomes more widely known.
Note: Some locals still prefer the 152 as it has a broader reach around the city and is cheaper if you have little or no luggage. But for most visitors to town, this new service is a clear winner for cost, comfort, and convenience.
Key Bus Stations and Transfer Points.
For tourists wanting to get to the main sights around Ho Chi Minh City, the bus station near Ben Thanh Market will be the most useful hub. The station is right across the roundabout from Ben Thanh Market and is called Ga HKXB Sai Gon. The actual address is Pham Ngu Lao Street.
Transfer points around the city facilitate a wider coverage by connecting buses. Two of these include
- Cho Lon Station District 5 and
- Mien Dong Station District Binh Thanh
For catching buses to other destinations in Vietnam, – See THIS POST that has information on intercity buses and bus stations.
Popular Routes for Tourists
Bus to Ho Chi Minh Airport (Tan Son Nhat)
Route 152 – This bus to Ho Chi Minh Airport is air-conditioned and the cheapest way to and from the city from Tan Son Nhat if you travel before 6 pm. The new Shuttle Bus (see above) has much broader hours of operation and is almost as cheap, especially if you have luggage. The cost is 6,000 VND (~30 cents) per person plus a fee for bags that varies from about 4000 VND for a smaller bag to 14 000 VND (70 cents) for two larger ones. The Airport is Stop 36, Ben Thanh Market Stop 13 and Pham Ngu Lao-Bui Vien area, Stop 12.
Upon exiting the airport, turn right and you will see the bus waiting there. If not, walk down to the domestic terminal – about a 5-minute walk. The bus waits across a small road. There is no signage indicating where the bus stop is.
Unless it is after 6 pm, IGNORE Taxi drivers and scammers that will try and tell you there are no more airport buses. The taxi rank attendants, easily identifiable by their uniforms will usually point out the spot to stand and wait if you ask politely.
Other Handy Bus Routes
Get THIS APP to find exact locations of the stops.
Route 38, – New World Hotel (The stop (nr 8) is in Nguyen Thi Nghia) near Ben Thanh Market to Damsen Water Park (Last Stop)
Routes 35– Ben Thanh Market to the Jade Emperor Pagoda. Get off at stop 29 at 87 Dien Ben Phu just before Victoria Healthcare. Cross the road and walk down the other side of the street (against the traffic) until you reach Mai Thi Luu and turn left.
Route 18 – Ben Thanh Market to Saigon Zoo. Get off at stop 13 on Le Duan, at Sofitel Plaza. Walk straight up the street to reach the main entrance.
Route 1 – Ben Thanh Market to Cholon (District 5 -China Town)
Route 102 – Ben Thanh Market to District 4 – Dragon House Wharf and the Ho Chi Minh Museum. The bus stop is on the corner of Pham Hong Thai and Le Lai street rather than the actual Ben Thanh bus station.The museum is about a 450m walk from stop 5, (first stop over the canal). Walk straight towards the river. Cross over Nguyen That Tan and turn left.
Routes 65 will get you close to the Saigon Train Station from Ben Thanh Market, but you’ll still have a little bit of a walk. Get off at stop 10 or 11 on Cach Mang Thang Tam.
Hopefully, some of you, especially those of you on limited budgets, will find this information useful in getting around Ho Chi Minh City. The bus system, including the bus to Ho Chi Minh airport, provides a cheap and reliable way to get around the city. Sacrifice a few creature comforts and you are guaranteed a genuinely local experience.
As of late May 2016, Ho Chi Minh City has it’s first Hop On – Hop Off bus service. For 199 000 VND (approximately $9), You can visit the major tourist sites in District 1. Frankly, many of these attractions are so close; you are better off walking between them. Especially if it’s peak hour (See my Day 1 walking tour HERE) There are a couple of the stops further afield – the zoo, the pier, and the Skydeck. But a taxi between them will total up to around the same and save you heaps if there are more than one of you. However, you do have access to audio information in English, French and Chinese, so that might be a big advantage. (Or, you could book a free tour with one of the guys at Saigon Hotpot and get your own personal guide) At the moment, it appears the District 1 schedule is every 30 minutes between 8 am and 5.30 pm.
For 149 000 (7 USD) you can get to the main sites in Cho Lon (China Town). Again, once you’re there, the stops are really close. There are some much cheaper alternatives available. A number 1 bus from Ben Thanh market to Cho Lon bus station will cost you 6000 VND (30 cents) either way. A taxi will set you back around 50 000 VND. I don’t think you would spend an hour at any of these sites, so you would spend a lot of time hanging around waiting for the next service (and probably walk there very easily). At the moment, it only runs hourly from 1 to 5 pm (finishing at 6 pm). That might change in the future if it proves popular.
You can combine both tours for 299 000 ($14) which will save you money, but I’m just not convinced it’s worth it. ESPECIALLY if there are more than one person.
So I’m not saying don’t take it. I commend the company for trying to make things easier for tourists to see the sights around town. I haven’t listened to the audio guide, but I’m sure it’s wonderful. Just be aware of the alternatives and the current limitations.
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