Getting there & away
Intercity buses depart from and arrive at a variety of bus stations around HCMC and are well served by local bus services from Ben Thanh Market. HCMC is one place where the open-tour buses really come into their own, as they depart and arrive in the very convenient Pham Ngu Lao area. This saves an extra local bus journey or taxi fare. Most of the open-tour companies sell tickets to Mui Ne (around US$5), Nha Trang (around US$9) and Dalat (around US$8), plus there are night buses to Nha Trang (around US$12). Phuong Trang (Puta Travel; 3837 9879; www.putatravel.com.vn) is a major new player serving the above routes plus Can Tho (80,000d) in the Mekong Delta.
Mien Tay bus station (Ben Xe Mien Tay; 3825 5955) serves all areas south of HCMC, which basically means the Mekong Delta. This huge station is about 10km west of HCMC in An Lac, a part of Binh Chanh district (Huyen Binh Chanh). Buses and minibuses from Mien Tay serve most towns in the Mekong Delta, using air-conditioned express buses and premium minibuses.
Buses to locations north of HCMC leave from the immensely huge and busy Mien Dong bus station (Ben Xe Mien Dong; 3829 4056), in Binh Thanh district, about 5km from central HCMC on Hwy 13 (Quoc Lo 13; the continuation of Ð Xo Viet Nghe Tinh). The station is just under 2km north of the intersection of Ð Xo Viet Nghe Tinh and Ð Dien Bien Phu. Note that express buses depart from the east side, and local buses connect with the west side of the complex.
Buses to Tay Ninh, Cu Chi and points northwest of HCMC depart from the newer An Suong bus station (Ben Xe An Suong;), in District 12, way to the west of the centre. To get here, head all the way out on Ð Cach Mang Thang Tam and Ð Truong Chinh. The station is close to the flyover for Quoc Lo 1 (Hwy 1). Note that it’s not really worth using local buses to visit Tay Ninh and Cu Chi, as many of the smaller tunnel sites are off the main highways, making it a nightmare to navigate.
Inquire at almost any tourist cafe, travel agent or hotel to arrange car rental. Just remember that your rental will include a driver, as it’s illegal for foreigners to drive in Vietnam without a Vietnamese license. The agencies in the Pham Ngu Lao area generally offer the lowest prices. Also check with travel agencies, or check out newcomer Budget Car Rental (3930 1118; www.budget.com.vn) which offers new cars with English-speaking drivers at reasonable rates.
Motorbikes are available in the Pham Ngu Lao area for around US$10 per day if you will be taking the bike out of town, although this is one city where it helps to have experience. Check the quality of the helmet provided as it may be worth investing in a better one for a long trip.
Trains from Saigon train station (Ga Sai Gon; 3823 0105; 1 Ð Nguyen Thong, District 3; ticket office 7.15-11am & 1-3pm) serve coastal cities to the north of HCMC.
Purchase tickets from Saigon Railways Tourist Services (3836 7640; fax 3837 5224; 275C Ð Pham Ngu Lao; 7.30-11.30am & 1-4.30pm) to avoid any commission, or from most travel agents for a small fee.
Hydrofoils (adult/child 160,000/80,000d, 1¼ hours) depart for Vung Tau almost hourly from Bach Dang jetty on Ð Ton Duc Thang. For more information contact Greenlines (3821 5609) or Petro Express (3821 0650), which are both located at the jetty. In Vung Tau you will board the hydrofoil at Cau Da pier, opposite the Hai Au Hotel.
Tan Son Nhat Airport was one of the three busiest in the world in the late 1960s. Even today, the runways are still lined with lichen-covered, mortar-proof aircraft-retaining walls, hangars and other military structures.
The majority of domestic flights in the country are operated by Vietnam Airlines. Newer budget airline Jetstar Pacific is providing some much needed competition on several routes, while Vasco flies between HCMC and the Con Dao Islands.