Generally, there are 2 common ways to get to the central city of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) in District 1 from Tan Son Nhat International Airport via public transportation. If one is not rushing for time and wishes to save money, go ahead and take Bus No.152 from the airport to Ben Than Market stop in District 1. The bus fare costs 5,000 dong per person, per journey. Simply make your way from the airport to the local bus stop located not too far away and look out for the blue bus with No.152 on display. 🙂
Kindly ignore anyone who approaches and tells you that the public bus is not available. They are merely trying to persuade you to hire a taxi instead. Once you alighted from the bus at Ben Than Market, you may proceed to your next destination on foot as almost all landmarks and the main attractions in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) city such as the Notre Dame Basilica, Independence Palace and Central Post Office are located within a comfortable walking distance from one another.
Cautious Vinasun Taxi Ride To FUTA (Phuong Trang) Bus Terminal (District 1)
The other option, especially if you are rushing for time is to take either a Vinasun or Mai Linh taxi. 🙂 These are the two main and most reliable taxi operators in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) city. Just so you know, a Toyota Vios taxi charges a lower open door/entry rate than a Toyota Avanza taxi. And, there is a compulsory airport exit fee of 10,000 dong imposed onto your total taxi fare once you arrived at your destination. It is supposedly the “parking fee” for the taxi at the airport. Rest assured that this compulsory fee only applies to the passengers of the taxis departing from the airport.
That aside, there is a taxi scam that you need to know when travelling in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh). 🙁 It is very important that you pay extra attention to the serial numbers displayed on the sides of the taxi because there have been cases where copycat rogue taxis lookalike bearing similar-but-not-entirely-the-same serial numbers to confuse unsuspecting passengers, and rob them off their belongings or exhort a large amount of money from their victims.
Their modus operandi is simple; once a victim enters the taxi, the taxi driver will lock the car (with the passenger seat in child lock mode), so there is no chance of escape for the victim. He will then drive the victim to a secluded spot and rob or demand a large sum of money from his victim in order to be unharmed and released safely. Such cases even happened in public places, with passers-by being unaware of what is happening inside the car/taxi.
Basic Safety & Travel Tips When Taking a Taxi In Saigon (Ho Chi Minh)
So, to be safe, take extra precautions when boarding a taxi and make sure that you take only authentic Vinasun or Mai Linh taxis bearing these serial numbers:
- Vinasun Taxi (in white) – No: 38. 27 27 27
- Mai Linh Taxi (in white/green) – No: 38. 38 38 38
Copycat rouge taxis lookalike will have similar-but-not-entirely-the-same serial numbers like:
- 39. 27 27 27 (for Vinasun) OR
- 39. 38 38 38 (for Mai Linh)
Noticed the slight difference of a number in the serial numbers? To the unsuspecting, he/her will not notice the difference and most likely ended up being a victim. 🙁
Other taxi boarding tips to take note of:
- Do not get into a taxi with heavily tinted windows
- Take down the number plate and/or registration number of the taxi
- Even better, take photographs of the taxi driver and his registration number
- If you feel unsafe, pretend to talk on the phone to someone and mention important information such as the taxi’s plate or registration number, your current whereabouts, your destination or saying phrases like “I’ll see you there when I arrive”, etc
- If in any way you felt something is amiss, trust your gut feeling and proceed to get out of the taxi immediately by all means; try strangling the driver with his safety belt, unlock the door, get out and run to safety or call for help! (Yes, I can be rather vicious if provoked, especially when my life is at stake and so should you!)
- If the driver asks if this is your first time to the city, answer no even though it is your first time there. If you answer yes, the taxi driver might take advantage of your lack of knowledge and sense of direction in the new city; thus take you on a much longer route just so he can earn that little extra from you
That way by following the tips and tricks above, the chances of you and I being a victim of such unscrupulous tactics will drastically be reduced. Back to my story, with the guideline above, my sister and I boarded the right Vinasun taxi from Tan Son Nhat International Airport to FUTA / Phuong Trang bus terminal in District 1, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh).
Nevertheless, it is a habit of mine to take photographs of the driver and his registration number just in case anything happens. My sister kept an eye towards our surroundings while I kept mine on the meter. Why? To make sure that the meter is running correctly without being tempered or risk being charged exorbitantly. The fact that our taxi driver kept on looking at us for some unknown reason made me even more alert and careful. 😛
A Date With Vietnam’s Chaotic & Intimidating Traffic
If this is your first time to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh), Vietnam’s chaotic traffic is something you got to get used to through experience. 😀 The sound of endless honking and the sight of incoming traffic from all directions that does not seem to stop can be quite intimidating for beginners. Seasoned travellers, after learning the art and tricks of surviving Vietnam’s traffic will be able to cross with ease!
The good news is my sister and I were able to get by Vietnam’s traffic effortlessly by practising several tips and tricks even though it was our first time to Vietnam! We have earned the bragging rights to this remarkable feat! Learn our art of crossing the streets in Saigon (HCMC) like a boss here. 😉
My sister and I were prepared to face the infamous Vietnam traffic, hence we were not taken by surprise on how shocking the traffic was. While we were travelling in the taxi, motorcyclists and even cars and trucks zoomed past by, overtaking us, sometimes at a distance that was too close for comfort. Eventually, our taxi was involved in a minor collision with a motorcyclist (a common affair in Saigon a.k.a Ho Chi Minh), but he drove off after seeing the motorcyclist was fine.
In the end, our taxi driver didn’t try to do anything funny to us throughout the journey and we arrived safely at our destination – FUTA / Phuong Trang bus terminal @ 272 De Tham Street, District 1 in about 30 minutes due to Vietnam’s chaotic traffic conditions. In total, we paid 170,000 dong (160,000 dong for the fare + 10,000 dong for the airport exit fee) to the taxi driver for our journey.
Up next: A 4-hour FUTA (Phuong Trang) Buslines double-decker sleeper bus ride from the bustling Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) city to the sleepy town of Phan Tiet, Mui Ne