Few travellers deal with city buses due to communication issues and the cheapness of taxis, cyclos and xe om. That said, the bus systems in Hanoi and HCMC are not impossible to negotiate – get your hands on a bus map.
The cyclo is a bicycle rickshaw. This cheap mode of transport is steadily dying out, but is still found in some Vietnamese cities.
Groups of cyclo drivers always hang out near major hotels and markets. Bargaining is imperative; settle on a fare before going anywhere. Approximate fares are between 12,000d and 25,0000d for a short ride, between 25,000d and 40,000d for a longer or night ride.
However, do consider that there are some dodgy cyclo operators out there (HCMC has several) who target tourists by outrageously overcharging and there have been reports of threats of violence.
Cyclo tours organised by tour operators and some hotels are sanitised rides around cities.
Taxis with meters, found in most major cities, are very cheap by international standards and a safe way to travel around at night. Average tariffs are about 12,000d to 15,000d per kilometre. However, dodgy taxis with go-fast meters do roam the streets of Hanoi and HCMC; they often hang around bus terminals. Only travel with reputable or recommended companies.
Two nationwide companies with excellent reputations are Mai Linh (www.mailinh.vn) and Vinasun (www.vinasuntaxi.com).
App-based taxis (both car and motorbike) including Uber and Grab are available in several Vietnamese cities including HCMC, Hanoi and Danang.
The xe om (zay-ohm) is a motorbike taxi. Xe means motorbike, om means hug (or hold), so you get the picture. Getting around by xe om is easy, as long as you don’t have a lot of luggage.
Fares are around 15,000d for a short hop, or from 20,000d in HCMC or Hanoi. Negotiate the price beforehand. There are plenty of xe om drivers hanging around street corners, hotels and bus stations. They will find you before you find them…