Contrary to what it may seem, Saigon does actually have some traffic laws. If you plan on using a motorbike yourself to get around the city, we suggest brushing up on these laws as well as how to deal with Saigon’s police. One of the most important laws to abide by is HCMC’s helmet law.
Finding a helmet in Saigon isn’t hard; plenty of helmets are sold right on the side of the road, though the quality of these roadside helmets is usually suspect and wearing one is more for compliance than safety. Some are no more than flimsy plastic shells with cheap liners. Even the better quality helmets aren’t really much better, being hard plastic and Styrofoam with hard plastic face shields. I guess you’re getting what you pay for because these helmets are cheap, starting at as little as 20,000 VND and topping out around 150,000 VND.
Helmet quality on the street certainly leaves something to be desired but, surprisingly, few companies have stepped in to fill the void. For a step above what you’d find on the street, head to the Andes showroom on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, just across the street from the Reunification Palace and a couple of blocks from the War Remnants Museum. At Andes you will find better quality helmets offering more protection than what you see on the street. Helmets range in style, going from cheap 200,000 VND skullcaps to 550,000 VND full-face headgear. Their shells are harder, the Styrofoam is thicker and the helmets just look better. Still, the certification of these helmets by any Western transportation board is non-existent and although they are a step in the right direction, those truly concerned with safety may want to press on.
If safety is your number one priority, and you’re looking for a helmet that has been certified by the transportation departments of the Western world, the best place to look is at the Saigon Scooter Centre. At the Centre you can purchase a variety of full-faced and open-faced crash-certified helmets that should meet Western standards. The helmets aren’t cheap but, in the event of an accident, they will actually protect your brain; expect helmets to start at around 2,000,000 VND. The biggest downside to the Scooter Centre is that it’s so far out of town — it’s located next to the airport in Tan Binh. If you do make the trip, however, you get to walk through their showroom, which boasts a museum of restored scooters.
Try to keep a couple of things in mind when you’re shopping for a helmet in Saigon. First, this city gets hot and muggy; a full-faced helmet may seem like a great idea safety-wise but can become agonising in the daytime sun. Next, just like if you’re shopping for shoes in Saigon, you will find it harder to find larger sizes. I have a pretty big head and consistently have trouble finding helmets to accommodate my size, even at more reputable retailers like Andes.
Saigon Scooter Centre
25/7 Cuu Long, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City
T: (08) 3848 7816
112 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 3
By Max Murta