If you’re planning a visit to Vietnam, especially if you’re a budget traveler, one important consideration is how you will get around the cities.
We spent two weeks exploring Vietnam, and took just about every kind of transportation option available during our time in the country. We feel confident speaking about the different modes of transportation available in the country!
Uber is everyone’s favorite ride app, so you may be wondering, “Is there Uber in Vietnam?”
Is There Uber In Vietnam?
The short answer to that is: No, there is not Uber in Vietnam.
The long answer is: There’s not Uber, but there are several other great options for getting around. Let’s discuss!
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Grab: Vietnam’s Alternative to Uber
Grab is Vietnam’s ride-sharing app and works essentially the same way as Uber. You put in your location and your intended destination, you request a ride, and a driver will come pick you up. You can verify the driver by license plate and name/picture and pay through the app.
Note: While you can download the Grab app to your phone in your home country, you will not be able to add your credit card until you are actually in Vietnam. This is unfortunately a weird feature of the app.
Grab Car versus Grab Scooter
One noteworthy feature of Grab is that you can either book a Grab car, or you can book a Grab scooter. The Grab scooters are still a “taxi-style” service, where a driver takes you from Point A to Point B. It is not a rental where you would drive yourself.
Scooter motorcycles are incredibly popular in Vietnam, and in most cities you will see more scooters than cars zipping around. Scooters weave in and out of traffic, seeming to be exempt from all traffic rules. It’s an exhilarating experience riding on a scooter!
You will be able to tell which scooters are Grab scooters because the drivers will be wearing green helmets that say “Grab” on them. The Grab scooters are pretty common – you will see them throughout the city.
A scooter can only take one passenger, so if you are in a group, each member will need the app.
Important: Data for the Grab App to Work in Vietnam
If you want to book a Grab while you are out and about in the city, you will need decently high speed data to use the app.
While it depends entirely on your cell phone carrier and plan, most international tourists do not have high speed data automatically from their cell phone carrier.
So, unless you do actually have high speed data included in your plan, I would highly recommend getting an e-sim card for your travels in Vietnam.
E-sims are a relatively new way to get inexpensive, high-speed data internationally. Instead of taking the time to pick up a local SIM card when you arrive at the airport, tired and jetlagged, you can get your e-sim card set up before you leave, so you’re ready to hit the ground running when you land in Vietnam!
Instead of purchasing a local SIM card (or renting a mobile hotspot) when arriving in a country, I’m now using an e-sim card from Airalo. I’ve used a lot of different methods in the past to get data when traveling internationally, and let me tell you, buying an e-sim card is EASILY the most affordable, fast, and convenient option.
Because e-sims are a relatively new thing, before you purchase, you’ll need to contact your cell phone provider and have them unlock your phone for e-sim use. If you haven’t updated your cell phone operating system for a while, you may want to run that update, too.
Before you leave on your trip, purchase the amount of data that you need from the Airalo website. Then download the app, and when you arrive, toggle on the e-sim card, and that’s it! You can check how much data you’ve used in the app, and top up with more if necessary.
How Much Do Grab Rides Cost in Vietnam?
Obviously, it depends on the distance that you go and the time of day, but generally speaking, Grab rides are incredibly cheap, and we used them heavily. Whether that was going between the airport and the city in Ho Chi Minh, driving between attractions in Hanoi, going from the train station to our hotel in Ninh Binh, or going to hike Poem Mountain or going to our cruise in Halong Bay.
We generally paid 30,000 to 40,000 dong (or about $1.25-$1.70) for a 10-15 minute ride around town.
In Ho Chi Minh City, we paid 158,000 dong ($6.75) for a 35 minute ride from the airport to our hotel in District 1.
In Hanoi, we paid 127,000 dong ($5.40) for a 25-minute ride from our hotel to a train station outside the city. Another time, we paid 95,000 dong ($4) for a 30 minute ride across town during rush hour.
Other Ways to Get Around Vietnamese Cities
Private Driver (To/From Airport)
While you can get a Grab or a taxi to take from the airport into the city center, you might also want to consider booking a private driver.
We actually decided to do this when we were first arriving in Vietnam – we were tired, we had been flying for a long time, and while we knew we could get ourselves into the city, handling any kind of logistics was almost more than we could handle (we had some bad delays and ended up traveling for 40 hours before arriving in Vietnam. To say we were exhausted would be an understatement!)
This is a good option for private car transfer between Hanoi Airport and the Hanoi city.
This is a great Saigon Airport to City Center private transfer, and then a Saigon City Center to Saigon Airport transfer option.
There are plenty of taxis in Vietnam and it’s not hard to hail a taxi. Taxis are metered, so make sure that your driver turns the meter on before you go. We also found it helpful to have a map out on our phone to show what our intended destination was, so there’s no confusion.
However, I would recommend always trying to get a ride via Grab before you get a taxi. We got ripped off our first day in Vietnam using a taxi off the street because we were tired, new to the city, and didn’t have a great handle on the exchange rate yet. We ended up MASSIVELY overpaying for a 10 minute ride. So frustrating.
Occasionally, you might run into a situation where there aren’t Grab drivers available near you, in which case, a taxi is really your only other good option.
You’ll probably be fine, but be alert to where they’re driving you (we always like to track our progress on Google Maps to make sure they’re not taking us somewhere weird) and that they quote you the correct and fair amount.
Should You Rent a Car in Vietnam?
First off, the Grabs are easy enough to use and widely available enough that you can use that for transportation around the cities.
For going between cities, the train system and bus system is incredibly well-developed and you can cheaply and easily get around the country using these public transportation options.
I used 12Go Asia to book our trains and buses between cities.
Pro tip: Night trains are the bomb, because you don’t lose precious daytime sightseeing hours on traveling between cities (which can take many hours) and can just lie down and sleep while you travel!
And third, traffic in Vietnam is absolutely bonkers. There are a million scooters zipping around, going wherever they want, and very few traffic rules that I’m used to as a Westerner.
Should You Rent a Scooter in Vietnam?
Now, we actually did rent a scooter on three separate occasions in Vietnam – one time in Sapa, one time in Ninh Binh, and one time in Ho Chi Minh City. We had a scooter when we went to university, loved it, and knew how to drive it, so we felt brave enough to take the plunge and drive in Vietnam, and it was SO fun!
It was also totally crazy driving a scooter (not so much in Sapa, but definitely in Ho Chi Minh City where the traffic was heavy).
Renting and driving a scooter in Vietnam is definitely not for everybody, but if you have any experience driving one before, and feel confident navigating the hoards of other scooters on the road, you might also enjoy the experience. Just, probably don’t do it on your first day; you’ll want to see what traffic is like first.
I’m going to write an entire article about renting and driving a scooter in Vietnam, so look for that soon!
The Wrap Up on Uber in Vietnam
The TL;DR is no, there’s not Uber in Vietnam, but there is the Grab app, where you can book a car or a scooter. Definitely get yourself an e-sim card so you have reliable data to book a car.
Don’t even think about renting a car, use the buses and trains (in particular, the night busses and night trains) to get between cities in Vietnam.
And most of all, have a great trip to Vietnam!