It is important for first-time travelers to have an overview of our city, most importantly navigate yourself to the downtown area.
First and foremost, Ho Chi Minh City is devided into different urban units, generally 5 main urban areas (UA):
The Eastern UA: this area stretches over to the northern regions where you come across when traveling northward.
The Western UA: this area is on the way to Mekong Delta provinces and farther to Cambodia.
The Southern UA: this area borders the town of Can Gio (Long An Province).
The Northern UA: this area is in the proximity to Cu Chi Tunnel and in the direction to Cambodia.
The City Central (The Downtown): it would take you several days to sightsee the city, hang out, go shopping, as well as immerse yourselves in Vietnamese Culture and Cuisines. You would have very little time to visit every parts of the central urban areas of Saigon, such as famous tourist attraction like the War Remnants Museum, or the Reunification Palace. Moreover, Ho Chi Minh city as a whole is too vast to explore within a day or two.
Secondly, locating yourself and navigating to the downtown is equally important:
Backpackers usually call the Backpacker-Area Downtown due to its short distance to main tourist attractions. In this area, there is 23/09-Park which sits next to a large bus terminal, making traveling relatively easy.
Travels to HCM City from neighboring regions can be either by Motorbikes, Airplanes, Trains or Buses. Thus, knowing your location and how to navigate to the Downtown is really necessary.
In Ho Chi Minh City, you can get around using Motorbikes, buses or cars.
Indeed, every vehicle has their own pros and cons and fits for different traveling purposes. Let us give you some insights to each mode of transports.
Airport – Downtown (Backpacker Area, 23/9-Park)
Buses: even though they are so cheap and safe, they are also very time-consuming and no buses work around the clock. Generally, 10km by bus would take you 45 mins and even longer during busy hours.
– From Airport to 23/9-Park: catch bus 109 at Gate 12 at Intl Terminal or Gate 18 at Doms Terminal. There are other options for bus but the 109 is recommended. Look up the route of this bus or ask the bus drivers for a drop-off at the nearest stop to your hotels in case you do not stay in Downtown Area.
Bus 109 Route Intl Terminal-Dom Terminal – Pham Ngu Lao str – 23/0 park
You can catch this bus at Tan Son Nhat Intl Airport.
- Working Hours: 5am – 1am (the following day)
- Frequency: 15-20mins
- Time: 45mins/ journey
- Fee: 12.000vnd within the first 5km; 20.000vnd for longer journey.
Motorbikes: this mode of transport is cheap and swift but motorbike-taxis can only be picked up outside the airport. Furthermore, first-time passengers will feel quite uneased and uncomfortable. Anyways, here is how you can pick up a motorbike-taxi:
Move from Intl. to Dom. Terminal. Pass the parking basement and exit the airport. Outside will appear plenty of bikers. It is possible to book directly with bikers but make sure checking the price since tourists may get ripped off; booking using Grab (a smartphone application) with mobile data is a recommended option. From the airport to 23/9 Park will take 30’ and costs in between 30-50.000vnd.
Cars: this option will cost more than buses and bikes but safer and more comfortable. It takes 30-40’ from the airport to downtown area. Here is how to find a car at the airport:
Grab taxis: you can catch one using Grab app and mobile data (since using wifi at the airport is a good choice); however, most Grab drivers cannot speak English. In some cases, ending up with an unfriendly driver will make you feel unwelcomed to our city.
Prices will be subjected to, booking time, the weather, etc. Daytime will be cheaper than night-time, sunny days will be cheaper than rainy days, Grabs with promotion will definitely be cheaper than regular Grabs.
Price from the Airport to 23/9-Park will range from 100-200.000vnd (not including 10.000vnd extra for terminal entrance fee). Prices are shown upon booking so there is little chance of being ripped off.
Taxis: Mai Linh and Vinasun taxis are more reliable because they are big companies but not always. There are a lot of chances of being scammed by fake taxis, even if you buy taxi tickets at the airport. In the case of foreign tourists, instead of 150-200.000vnd, they will charge you from 500.000vnd up to 2 millions vnd. If you refuse to pay, you will be forced to drop off in the middle of nowhere or seize belongings taken until you settle the payment.
Pick-up service is outright expensive, at least two times more expensive than taking a taxi but it is also fair since it is a private service, safe and guaranteed. They will pick you up safely and escort you to the requested location, and even wait for you in the event of delay. Here is the information for pick-up service:
Regular Price: 13usd/2px – daytime; 18usd/2px – nighttime
Train Station – Downtown Area (Backpacker Street – 23/9 Park)
Bus: bus 149 (No Speaking English)
Saigon Station to Downtown Area, look up this bus 149’s route
Motorcycles: from Saigon Railway Station to the Downtown would be 15.000vnd to 25.000vnd.
Cars: from Saigon Railway Station to the Downtown is around 50.000vnd.
Buses: There are two main bus stations in Ho Chi Minh City, Mien Dong Bus Station (Eastern Region Bus Station) and Mien Tay Bus Station (Western Region Bus Station) where you can take several buses to the city central.
From Mien Tay Bus Station: take Bus No.2 to Pham Ngu Lao Station which is in walking distance to the Downtown.Bus No.2’s route
If you arrive from neighboring provinces, you will be dropped off directly at 23/9 Park. So no worries.
Mien Dong Bus Station (Eastern Region Bus Station): take bus No.45 and drop off at Nguyen Cu Trinh Stop and walk to the Downtown.Bus No.45 Route
Motor cycles: Mien Tay Bus Station to the Downtown will be 40.000vnd to 50.000vnd.
Mien Dong Station to the Downtown 25.000vnd to 35.000vnd.
Cars: Mien Tay Station to the Downtown will be 70.000vnd to 100.000vnd. Mien Dong Station to the Downtown will be 60.000 vnd to 80.000vnd.
Please pay extra attention to Departure and Return route to catch the right buses.