With many people fearful of even attempting to cross the road in major towns and cities, it is little wonder that the system of taxis and on-demand motorbike services is substantial, offering a great way to get around the towns. Although there are wonderful systems of buses, which should definitely be investigated as an alternative, the routes may not suit or you may simply need to get from A to B in a shorter time frame, which will give the alternative of taxis and on-demand services.
Taxis in Vietnam
There are a wide variety of taxis in Vietnam. They typically display a company logo and can be flagged down on the street or you can call them to your location. The main one is Mai Linh Taxi – although new types are popping up all the time. Note that the airport taxis are much more expensive – so if you can avoid these that is better – you will know they are airport taxis as they will have the word “airport“ in their name.
Fares are based on both distance and time traveled as well as an initial starting fee. There are metres in all taxis so you can look and see how the amount is ticking up.
The biggest problem with taxis is that there are some unscrupulous ones, so they have tinkered with the meter box so you will find that there is a huge fare when you have only just chugged down the road. If this happens to you then it is fine to tell the driver to stop and get out and try another type of taxi.
The other biggest problem with a taxi is that as the fare is calculated based on distance, then it is to their advantage to take you a much further route to arrive at your destination.
Some taxis take credit cards (you need to check before you get in) and all of them give receipts – sometimes they may state that the machine is broken and no receipt can be issued – however, they do also have a paper version – so do be persistent if you need the receipt.
Taxis are plentiful in major towns and cities in Vietnam
Although sometimes there is no alternative and you have to take a taxi, however, a less stressful and more economical option is to use an on-demand ride service such as Grab, Be, or Xanh SM. These platforms provide users with a convenient and user-friendly way to book rides through smartphone applications. These three main companies are not only car services but also motorbike taxis. Grab is the most established system and has the most cars/bikes so it is probably the first place you should try. When it is raining however, there is suddenly a severe lack of options – the motorbikes tend not to bother working (as most people do not want to get wet) so it is very hard to get a motorbike, however, all the people who would have used a motorbike are now using a car – which means that not only are the prices much higher than usual, it can be very time consuming to find one.
Grab is the most popular form of on-demand travel although other companies are emerging and competing
The next popular option for on-demand rides is a company called Be (identified as bright yellow) This system works similarly to Grab, however as a general rule the prices are a little higher and since they are not as well established as Grab there are fewer motorbikes/cars. However, if it is raining and you are having problems with Grab then it is worth trying to see if you can get lucky.
A new company which is developing is Xanh SM – which is recognizable as having very distinctive bright turquoise outfits and cars. These are also a little more expensive and have fewer options as they are only just developing, however, it is great to have a third option.
How The On-Demand Services Work
To get an on-demand motorbike or car, you need to first download the Relevant app, which is easily found on Google Play Store. You then register your details – please note that it is vital to have a local Vietnamese phone number for this process – and you can then start to use your app.
The apps are very simple to use – the app will automatically check where you currently are ( it is not always correct so do make sure that you check with someone nearby if you are unsure ) and you simply confirm your pick-up point.
Next, you choose your destination – as many of the names may seem very similar, it is quite easy to put in the wrong address so do make sure that you check the approximate distance that you were planning to go and look at the map as a general guide.
You then have the choice of the different types of transport :
Cars – seven seaters – these are useful if you have a large crowd of people or are going to the airport and have a lot of luggage
Normal cars – these are just like taxis
Motorbikes – some apps give you the option of larger motorbikes (which will cost a few VND more) or the normal type of motorbike
When you book, the app will tell you the make of the motorbike so if you are on the larger size and know that the type of motorbike coming is particularly small then it is fine to cancel and rebook (although do not do this too many times as otherwise you will be marked up and find it more difficult to get a bike on another date).
You can add your credit card to the system if you want (this helps if you don’t like to carry money around all the time) or you can simply pay in cash
Finding your driver
Once your ride has been booked, a map will pop up which will show you where your driver is. There is also a time estimate which tells you how long before your driver will arrive. Your phone will make a noise to tell you when it is time to actually go to the meeting point and the phone will again make a noise to tell you that your driver has arrived.
Although in theory, it should be easy to find your driver – this is not always the case. To assist you with this, there is a message section, so it is recommended that you take a photo of where you are standing (you don’t need to be in the photo – just the street/building, etc) In this way, the driver will know exactly where you are. Similarly, if they are unable to find you then often they will take a photo of where they are and then you can look and find them. You can also send messages in the message section and it will automatically translate.
There is also a phone section on the app so your driver can call you (and vice versa) – this is hard however if you don’t speak Vietnamese.
It is not always easy to find your driver – It is vitally important to make sure that the grab which arrives is your grab – make sure that you ask to look at the driver’s phone to check for your name. Although this sounds very obvious, it is extremely easy to be eager to leave and see a grab and jump in only to discover 10 minutes later that you are going in the completely wrong way!
In Vietnam’s busy urban environment, there is an unlimited choice of affordable ways to get around – from buses and traditional taxis to on-demand ride services like Grab and Be – enabling you to see all the sights and get around to wherever you want – simply and easily!