Getting Around Sai Gon: By motorbike
Motorbike taxis (xe ôm, literally hug-vehicle) are plentiful (get used to hearing “you want moto!?” everywhere), cheap, and are generally quite safe. As of 2007 all riders in Vietnam are now required to wear helmets, a rule that is strongly enforced. Make sure a driver supplies you with a helmet. If he doesn’t – find another one, as you’ll be the one stung for the fine.
Absolutely agree on a price before you set off; short hops around town shouldn’t be more than 20000 dong, and all the way to the airport around 40000 dong. A rule of thumb for the price is to round up of half the cost of taxi ride for the same travel. Drivers are generally quite friendly and will go slower upon request. They’re also not adverse to a bear hug if you’re really struggling to hold on to the motorbike. Many of the moto drivers, especially in District 1, speak some English and like many Vietnamese will repay you in a flood of smiles (and probably point out all the sights) if you make a little effort to get to know them.
2nd opinion: Avoid Xe Om altogether. They are ridiculously expensive since for the same price or less you can use a Mai Linh or VinaSun taxi and arrive at your destination in air conditioned comfort and protection from the sun.
You can rent your own motorbike in many places, especially around the backpacker area (Pham Ngu Lao) in District 1. 110,000 dong should get you a solid 100-110cc bike. Driving in Saigon is best left to experienced drivers – the traffic is intense and has its own rhythms and logic. However, if you’re up for an adventure, it’s best to keep a few things in mind: drivers with limited experience should consider renting an automatic bike (usually a bit more expensive), as at busy crossroads there is not time for worrying about how to change gears. Beware of thieves: always keep your motorbike in sight or parked with an attendant. Most restaurants have guards/parking attendants out front who will issue you a numbered tag and take care of your motorbike. Independent parking lots are scattered around the sidewalks, alleys, and basements of the city – look for rows of neatly-parked motorbikes or signs that say giu xe. Prices range from free at some restaurants (though a small tip is common) to 5000 dong at upscale night clubs.