When I first arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, I didn’t know how to ride a motorbike. The only way to get around was by taxi or Uber and Grab (the Southeast Asia rival of Uber in the region).
Both applications feature reliable driver supply in Ho Chi Minh City and the experience of using both applications are the same as using the apps anywhere else in the world. Even in rush hour or in the rain, you can usually find a driver though you may pay for surge pricing for the convenience.
Uber and Grab Tips in Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam
Like I mentioned, it’s no different from other parts of the world. But here in Vietnam, there are small differences in driver behavior and what to expect in terms of price.
- Drivers will always call you to confirm your origin pick up address. Be prepared and if you don’t speak Vietnamese, just repeat the address until they get it
- Prices are fixed in Vietnam, so you’ll know exactly how much you will pay
- Surge pricing is common. Usually the surge has to exceed 1.7x on Uber to be more expensive than a regular cab
- The cars are generally quite clean and pleasant. I haven’t ever had a bad experience with the pick up car itself
- Uber and Grab drivers are notoriously bad for not knowing the best route. They will always ask you. If you’re not familiar, tell them to use Google Maps
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UberMoto and GrabBike in Vietnam
One notable feature that’s different in Vietnam is that both services have launched options called UberMoto and GrabBike where you can hail a motorbike taxi, also known as ‘xe om’. From a user perspective, it’s no different from the UberX or GrabCar options. It’s half the price and it’s a much faster option to get to your destination since you can move through rush hour traffic.
Some tips to know about UberMoto and GrabBike:
- The drivers provide helmets and if you request, they should also have a face mask and hair cover for the helmet
- All Uber and Grab bikes have handle bars at the back, so you hang on while driving through the city instead of hugging your bike. If you’re an experienced biker, you’ll get used to not using the handle bars
- UberMoto typically does not surge, though GrabBike will
- UberMoto is cheaper, but I’ve found that the GrabBike experience is slightly better. Grab’s drivers all wear the bright green jackets and helmets so they are easy to spot. Uber drivers tend to use their own helmets and only occasionally use the Uber-branded ones
- Like regular UberX and GrabCar drivers, many bike drivers also don’t know the best route. Be prepared to guide them or advise them to use Google Maps
How much do I spend on local transportation in Ho Chi Minh City?
After using Uber and Grab for my first 90 days in Vietnam, here’s the breakdown of my usage:
- 216 rides
- $229.62 total spend
- Average ride cost: $1.06
On an annualized basis, that’s $912 for one year of Uber and Grab use. The number is probably less, since I’ll be out of town every now and then.
If you’re living in Vietnam for less than a year, you’re better off using Uber and Grab everyday. If you’re in Vietnam for the long run, it makes more sense to invest in a bike. An average motorbike can cost you around $400, while monthly operating costs can run about $10.
For the convenience factor of not having to park, being able to carpool with friends, and not having to take care of a bike, it’s well worth using Uber and Grab in Ho Chi Minh City.