There are various ways to get around Ho Chi Minh City: private car, taxi, motorbike taxi, cyclo, bus, bicycle, and walking. Bus is one of the most favorite means of transportation of not only locals but also domestic and foreign tourists thanks to the low fare, safety, and comfort. Although bus is not the most convenient mean of transportation, it is a good choice for adventurous and budget travelers. You can save so much money and experience the local life if you choose public bus to travel Ho Chi Minh. You can find that getting around the city by bus is not as difficult as you think with the help of this Ho Chi Minh City Bus Guide.
Pros and cons of public buses in Ho Chi Minh City
Advantages of buses in Ho Chi Minh City include:
- The bus fare in the city is 5,000 – 40,000 VND (0.25 – 1.75 USD). In comparison to other means of transportation, bus is the cheapest.
- In Vietnam, especially the hustle and bustle Ho Chi Minh, traffic is a bit crazy so that it is sometimes dangerous for you to go by cyclo, motorbike, or bicycle. Taxi and bus are safer than the mentioned means of transportation.
- Equipped with air conditioners, sometimes free wifi, sun protection glass, Ho Chi Minh buses are a comfort choice, you can protect yourself from the heat of the sun and heavy rain. Just hop on a bus, take a rest until you reach the destination.
- You can go to most of the places in the city by bus thanks to over 100 bus routes.
- It is a good way to immerse yourself into local life.
There are some disadvantages of getting around the city by bus:
- You must walk to the bus station and wait for the bus. If you have heavy luggage, do not have so much time, your location is far from the bus station, the sun is strong or it is raining, bus is not a good choice. However, they have built many shelters with roofs at most of the bus stations in the city. To overcome this, you can choose hotels which are near bus stations. For example, you can choose hotels in Bui Vien backpacker area which is a few minutes walking from 23/9 Park Bus Station, or hotels around Ben Thanh Market so that you can walk to Ben Thanh Bus Station. Do not forget to bring hats, caps, or umbrellas.
- Catching and getting off buses in Ho Chi Minh City is not as easy as in other countries in the world because many buses pass the stops and most of the staffs do not speak English, except for airport buses. The government has tried its best to place English on the signs on buses
- A few buses in the city are not in very good condition. The government is on its way to change the old buses by new ones.
- You may be pickpocketed when you are on a bus, at a bus station or when you are catching or getting off a bus. To solve the problem, some buses carry cameras to make sure the passengers are safe from scams.
Popular bus stops/stations in Ho Chi Minh City
Ben Thanh Central Bus Station
Location: 163 Ham Nghi Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; right in the city center.
Ben Thanh Central Bus Station, which is next to Ben Thanh Market, is one of the most popular bus stations in Ho Chi Minh City. The bus station covers an area of 5,600 m2, it houses 4 lanes and 8 bus stop shelters. The station with public restrooms, cameras, TV screens displaying all of the information about bus routes, departure and arrival time, is perhaps the most modern bus stations in the city. From this station, you can catch buses to many places in the city. Whether you would like to go to Tan Son Nhat Airport (Bus #109, Bus #152), China Town in District 5 (Bus #1), Mien Tay Bus Station (Bus #1), Dam Sen Park (Bus #11), Suoi Tien Theme Park (Bus #19), or other tourist attractions, you can find a bus to reach there from this station.
23/9 Bus Station
Location: Pham Ngu Lao Street, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; right in the city center.
23/9 Bus Station is the largest bus station in the city. Located next to Ho Chi Minh Backpacker Area, the bus station is a favorite bus station of backpackers who usually go to Cu Chi by Bus #13, Tan Son Nhat Airport by Bus #109, and most of the tourist attractions in the city by Bus #1, Bus #D1, etc.
Cholon Bus Station
Location: Le Quang Sung Street, Ward 2, District 6, Ho Chi Minh City; in the China Town Area, 7 km from the city center. You can take Bus #1 to reach this bus station from the city center.
From Cholon Bus Station, you can take buses to provinces in Mekong Delta, Bus #1 to the city center, Bus #94 to Cu Chi Bus Station, Bus #54 to Mien Dong Bus Station, and many other districts in Ho Chi Minh City.
Main gate of Cho Lon bus station, Ho Chi Minh City
Bus station shelters with roofs Cho Lon bus station, Ho Chi Minh City
Mien Tay Bus Station or West Bus Station
Location: 395 Kinh Duong Vuong Street, An Lac Ward, Binh Tan District, Ho Chi Minh City; in the China Town Area, 10.5 km from the city center. You can take Bus #102, Bus #2, or Bus #39 to reach this bus station from the city center (Ben Thanh Station or 23/9 Bus Station). You can take Bus #119 to reach this station from Tan Son Nhat Airport.
Mien Tay Bus Station is a hub for transporting passengers from Ho Chi Minh City to Mekong Delta provinces which are very popular destinations with unique culture, beautiful landscapes, rice paddies, lush orchards, a huge system of rivers and channels, and tons of amazing things to do. From Mien Tay Bus Station, you can take Bus #114 to reach Dam Sen Park, Bus #14 to reach Mien Dong Bus Station.
Mien Dong Bus Station or East Bus Station
Location: 292 Dinh Bo Linh Street, Ward 26, Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City; about 8 km from the city center. You can take Bus #45 to reach Mien Dong Bus Station from Ben Thanh Bus Station.
Mien Dong Bus Station connects Ho Chi Minh to provinces on the Southeast coast of Vietnam, Northern, and Central Vietnam. From this bus station, you can take Bus #14 to reach Mien Tay Bus Station, Bus #14 to reach Cholon Bus Station, Bus #64 to reach Dam Sen Park.
Tan Son Nhat Airport
Location: Truong Son Street, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City; 8 km from District 1.
How to reach the airport or reach other places by bus in Ho Chi Minh is a frequent question of many tourists. Certainly, there is not lack of buses from and to the airport. I will give you more information about these buses in the next part. Or you can read more detailed information at How to catch a bus from Tan Son Nhat Airport to Ho Chi Minh City Center. To catch the bus, you should wait at Column 12, International Terminal of Tan Son Nhat Airport or Column 18, Domestic Terminal of Tan Son Nhat Airport. There are directional signs which help you to find the right place to wait for your bus at Tan Son Nhat Airport.
Popular bus routes in Ho Chi Minh City
Buses in Ho Chi Minh City are in 3 colors: blue, green, and yellow. Blue and green are the colors of public buses. Most of the staffs do not speak English and all of the information on the buses are written in Vietnamese. The fares are from 5,000 – 10,000 VND. Blue buses run on CNG – an environment-friendly gas fuel. Green buses run on Diesel. It seems like these kinds of buses are for locals, not for foreigners. However, I will tell you some tips later to make it easy on these buses.
Yellow airport buses transport passengers from Tan Son Nhat Airport to the city center and Mien Dong Bus Station. Most of the buses are high-quality and the services are quite good. The English-speaking staffs are very helpful and the information on the bus is in English. Airport bus #109 and Airport bus #49 transfer passengers from the airport to District 1, Airport bus #159 starts at the airport and ends at Mien Dong Bus Station.
I would like to list some of the most popular bus routes for tourists in Ho Chi Minh City:
Green and blue buses:
#1: Ben Thanh – Cho Lon Bus Station
#2: Ben Thanh – Mien Tay Bus Station
#11: Ben Thanh – Dam Sen
#13: 23/9 Park – Cu Chi
#18: Ben Thanh – Hiep Thanh Market. This is one of the best ways to reach Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Central Post Office, Independence Palace from Saigon Backpacker Area, Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens.
#152: Trung Son Residential Area – Tan Son Nhat Airport
#19: Ben Thanh – Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City
#35: You can catch this bus to reach Ben Thanh Market from Notre Dame Cathedral.
#70-1: Cu Chi Bus Station – Tay Ninh Bus Station
#72-1: Tan Son Nhat Airport – Vung Tau Bus Station
#75: Saigon – Can Gio
#D1: 23/9 Park – Ho Chi Minh Zoo and Botanical Garden
Yellow airport buses:
#109: 23/9 Park – Tan Son Nhat Airport
#49: Tan Son Nhat Airport – the city center
#159: Tan Son Nhat Airport – Mien Dong Bus Station
#119: Tan Son Nhat Airport – Mien Tay Bus Station
Some great tips to make it easier to get around Ho Chi Minh City by bus:
How to get information about public buses in Ho Chi Minh City?
As a foreigner, it is not easy for you to find the information about buses in Ho Chi Minh City. There are some ways to solve the problems:
You can learn more about the information about buses, including all bus routes at the official website of Ho Chi Minh City Department of Transportation: http://buyttphcm.com.vn/en-us/Route.
Install the application Busmap on your smartphone. The application has numerous helpful features including smart navigation guide, view of waiting time at the bus stop, providing detailed information of all bus routes, finding bus stops, and updated with the latest data. Read more about Busmap at https://busmap.vn/?locale=en.
Read the information about bus routes at bus stations. At a bus station, you can find boards with information about bus routes that pass the station and the routes of these buses. At some large bus stations such as Ben Thanh Bus Station, there are screens displaying much helpful information and you can even search the information.
How to catch a bus and get on it?
Bus stations in Ho Chi Minh City can be easily recognized by yellow zigzag lines. Bus shelters with roof and signs are put at most of the bus station in the center. As mentioned above, buses in Ho Chi Minh City may pass some stops and it makes difficult for passengers to catch a bus. The streets are narrow and the buses are often late during rush hours. In order to save time, the drivers may pass some stops if he does not see any passenger or none of the passengers would like to be dropped off at a stop. The drivers do not wait for passengers, but open and shut up the doors quickly.
You should wait for the bus at the bus station and wave the bus from far away to signal the bus driver that you would like to be picked up. You should get on the bus quickly through the front door. Most of the buses only open the front doors for passengers to getting on, the others open both front and back doors.
How to pay for the bus ticket?
After getting on the bus, you should pay for the bus fare. If there is a conductor, you will pay for her, get the ticket, and find your seat. In case there is no conductor, you must pay for the driver or put the money into a box, then get the ticket as well as the change from him or a machine. Prepare cash in VND and pay the exact amount of the bus fare because sometimes change is not available.
The fare of blue and green buses can be 5,000 VND, 6,000 VND, 7,000 VND, 10,000 VND, the bus fare of yellow buses are 12,000 VND, 20,000 VND, or 40,000 VND. You should bring 2,000 VND, 5,000 VND, 10,000 VND, 20,000 VND notes with you. On yellow airport buses, you can pay in USD if you do not have VND cash. Instead of paying 20,000 VND, you will pay 1 USD for the ticket of Bus #109. Instead of paying 40,000 VND, you will pay 2 USD for the ticket of Bus #109. It is a bit cheaper if you pay in VND.
How to get off the bus?
It is easier on yellow airport buses because the staffs speak English and very helpful. You just simply let the staff know where you would like to be dropped off. In the opposite, it is more complex in green and blue public buses because the staffs do not speak English and sometimes are not very helpful.
On public green and blue buses, you should let the conductor know about your destination so that she can help you. Prepare a note written the location on it and show her the note because she does not understand English. If you know the bus stop, you should let the conductor or driver know when the bus is about 100 meters from the stop. In many buses, there are red buttons so that passengers can press them to request the stop when the bus is about 20 meters from the stop. Quickly get off the bus through the back doors because the driver does not wait for you.
How to be safe on a bus?
You may encounter some problems at crowded and busy bus stations, especially large bus stations such as Ben Thanh, 23/9, Cholon, Mien Dong, and Mien Tay Bus Stations. When you get on and off a bus, be careful of the crazy traffic, especially motorbike madness. Sometimes there are many motorbike taxis gather at the back doors to catch customers when the buses stop at the stations.
In fact, pickpockets and snatch thieves are popular at bus stations and even on the buses in Ho Chi Minh. However, pickpocket and snatch theft are popular in many countries, including developing countries. Ho Chi Minh government is on its way to make bus the best mean of transportation in the city. I will tell you some tips which can help you to overcome the disadvantages and feel the best with buses in the city. The followings are some tips to avoid the scams are as follows:
Tips to avoid pickpocket and snatch theft on a bus in Ho Chi Minh:
- Watch your belongings carefully, always put them in front of you, better put them on your legs while sitting, keep them in your hands, or put one of your hand on them.
- Bring as light luggage as possible, do not bring many belongings.
- Put all things in one bag, backpacks are better, bags with traps and locks are better.
- Do not sit too close to anyone.
- If it is too crowded on the bus, you can use your hand to keep the wallet in your pocket.