Photo: Burning incense at a Cholon pagoda.

The flight to Ho Chi Minh City can be a tiring one — from my hometown of Seattle for instance, it takes about 17 hours. And once you land, you still have work to do: getting through immigration, which may include a wait at the visa on arrival desk, collecting your bags, and then stepping outside to a humid heat you may not be, or ever get, used to. Finally, if you haven’t arranged for a pick up at the airport, you have to catch a taxi. Unfortunately, the airport is a notorious haunt for bad taxis, so here are a few tips on where to go and how to catch a reputable one.

About time.

About time.

To get a good taxi, or any taxi for that matter, head left once you exit the airport into the sea of people waiting for their friends, family, or clients to arrive. As you head left, you may be approached by several people asking if you want a taxi. Most of these taxi peddlers are decently dressed and, to the untrained eye, can seem all right, however they are known for telling you that your hotel has been closed and taking people to the wrong destination. Ignore them and push on toward the end of the sidewalk where you will see a line of taxis, in all variety of size, shape, and colour, waiting to pick you up.

Navigating your way through the masses.

Navigating your way through the masses.

Once you make it to the line, you’ll probably be called out to again, this time by drivers next to their taxis. They will be willing to negotiate flat rates to the city, and they may promise good deals, but the same warning applies: they may take you for a ride. Like I mentioned in an earlier post about catching a taxi anywhere in the city, I default to my trusted brand of taxis, either Mailinh or Vinasun, and this includes at the airport.

To catch one of these, search for one of the men with a dark green shirt and red tie, for Vinasun, or green shirt and green tie, for Mailinh. These men are in charge of calling in taxis for respective companies; once you contact them you will be ‘in line’ to get a cab. Remember to be patient, as you may think you’re first in line, but when the next taxi pulls up, someone else may be shuffled in. Don’t worry! You’ll get a taxi — they want your money and getting upset over your assumed position won’t speed the process. After you do get your ride, tell the handler the address of the destination and you’re off.

Remember, not all taxis are created equal.

Not all taxis are created equal.

That’s all there is to it — the main line of defense you must take is to fend off the less reputable taxis. The ride from the airport to a hotel or guesthouse in Pham Ngu Lao will cost around 150,000 VND and take about 30 to 40 minutes depending on traffic. If anything about your ride feels questionable to you, you can always double check the final price with your hotel and they should come to your aid in the case of a pushy taxi.

Last updated on 2nd November, 2011.

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