It's not a great idea to cycle around central HCMC; the traffic is appalling and very few locals attempt it these days.
Local buses are cheap and plentiful, serving more than 130 routes around greater HCMC. However, very few visitors bother with them, preferring to walk or take taxis, which are very inexpensive.
Useful lines from Ben Thanh include 109 or 49 to Tan Son Nhat International Airport, 149 to Saigon Train Station, 1 to Binh Tay Market and Cholon Bus Station, 102 to Mien Tay Bus Station and 26 to Mien Dong Bus Station. Most buses have air-con; tickets start at 7000d. Buy your ticket on-board from the attendant.
Car & Motorbike
Travel agencies, hotels and tourist cafes all hire cars (with drivers) and motorbikes. Even though motorbike travel is the fastest way to get around the city it's best not to attempt riding yourself, as this is one of the toughest and most dangerous cities in the world to navigate by road. Very few travel insurance policies offer cover, too.
If you plan to ride around Vietnam, try Saigon Scooter Centre for classic Vespas, new scooters and trail bikes. Daily rates start from US$10. For an extra fee it's possible to arrange a one-way service, with a pick-up of the bikes anywhere between HCMC and Hanoi.
A vanishing icon of HCMC, there are very few cyclos (pedicabs or bicycle rickshaws) remaining in the city today and they are now prohibited from many central streets. If you do manage to find one, short hops around the city centre will cost around 50,000d.
For traffic-dodging speed and convenience, the xe om (motorbike taxi) is, for many, the way to go. Xe om drivers usually hang out on their parked bikes on street corners, touting for passengers. The accepted rate is around 30,000d for short rides (Pham Ngu Lao to the Dong Khoi area, for instance).
Almost all travellers use the excellent Grab smartphone app these days, which works out cheaper and is less hassle.
Metered taxis cruise the streets, but it is worth calling ahead if you are off the beaten path. The flagfall is around 12,000d for the first kilometre; expect to pay around 35,000d from Dong Khoi to Pham Ngu Lao. Some companies have dodgy taxi meters, rigged to jump quickly, but both Mai Linh Taxi and Vinasun Taxi can be trusted. Using Grab is another good option.
Motorbike or car?
You’d expect to pay extra for the relative comfort and safety of an air-con taxi as opposed to a white-knuckle motorbike ride, however, overcharging by xe om (motorbike taxi) drivers in the tourist areas traditionally made any difference negligible. What's now different however is the adoption of the new Grab smartphone app which confirms the cost of your journey before you set off. Note also that a car booked through the Uber or Grab smartphone apps will be cheaper than two motorbikes when there is more than one person travelling, but weaving through the traffic on the back of a motorbike is often faster, especially in rush hour.
Going Underground: the HCMC Metro
Ho Chi Minh City sorely needs a metro system to help marshal the transport chaos above ground. First proposed in 2001, the system will run to an estimated five or six lines, with the 20km (part-underground, part-elevated) first line – linking Ben Thanh Market, District 2 and Suoi Tien in the east under construction. Up to 88% of the scheme is being paid for by the Japanese government. Long delays have affected the project however, with work suspended for many months as constructors and authorities have argued over funding; 2021 would seem the very earliest the first line could open.
Sandwiched between Ð Dong Khoi and Ð Nguyen Hue, the central station is taking shape near the Opera House. You'll also notice significant construction work and road closures at the western end of ÐL Le Loi and Ben Thanh Market.