In Vietnam, taxi is the number one complaints for tourists and expats. Ripped off a trip, going in circles, and being robbed off are all too often and are daily affairs.
In Ho Chi Minh City, the taxis are divided into two categories, company operated taxis and private taxis.
I will touch on private taxis first. AVOID, at all cost, even if it means you have to walk back to your hotel.
These taxis are unregulated. There are no background check done, and there is nothing to stop them from over charging you or even hurting you with force.
These taxis lurk around in tourist spots like train station, outside popular bars and pubs at night, bus station, just to name a field.
They will try to disguise their taxi as a legit ones with taxi company’s phone number written outside their taxi, or have extremely similar or similarly but not exact taxi company’s name decal stick to their taxi. For example, I have seen Vinasum taxi, Vinnasun taxi, VinSun taxi. (The legit taxi should bear the name Vinasun.) You name it.
The easiest way to identify these taxis are by their puny little meter. The first thing you will notice upon entering these taxis is that the interior of the taxi is run-down. And the driver is not in uniform.
Company Operated Taxi
Even company operated taxis are not safe to be honest. Even my wife (a Vietnamese) is afraid to travel on certain companies’ taxis.
There used to be just two companies operated taxis which are safe to take, namely Vinasun and MaiLinh. But these days, the locals are giving Mai Linh a missed as well. So that just left us with Vinasun.
Forget about Saigon Tourist Taxis. These taxis are driven by thugs. They tout at the airport and some downtown 5 star hotels. These are their turfs. Other taxis are prohibited from picking up guests there. I have seen other cabbies beaten up by these Saigon Tourist Taxis.
And these thugs also threatens passengers when they refused to pay tip. They will routinely refuse to give you back any change. They will almost always take the longest routes. And I have reasons to believe their meters are tampered with. There’s just too many horror stories that I have heard. So just avoid them completely.
If the hotel you stay in happens to have these thugs as the official taxi, just walk out to the main street and hail a taxi.
The safest by far is Vinasun taxi. Mostly honest day to day work horse of Saigon. They have strict policies that will see you being erased as a driver if you receive more than 3 complaints from passengers.
Their taxi is their only livelihood for most. And I have spoken to many whom spent every night sleeping in their taxi, only to return home for a shower and meal and off they go again picking up passengers. By sleeping in their taxis, first they ensure nothing can be stolen from the taxi (like side repeater light! Trip meters!). Second, their home are probably rented and really small, so by sleeping in their taxi at night ensures their wife and children get more room to sleep.
How to spot and recognise a legit Vinasun taxi.