The largest city in Vietnam and the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam is a city of an endless charm. Regardless official renaming into Ho Chi Minh City (or HCMC) after the former Communist leader, it is still widely called by its historical name both by locals and foreigners. If you arrive to HCMC by train, the first thing you will probably notice is large letters ‘Sai Gon’ greeting visitors from atop the railway station.
Elegant colonial buildings and brightly coloured Orient temples; incredibly tasty baguettes in French-style bakeries and two-dollar bowls of famous pho sold by street hawkers; hip young crowd in leafy city parks and dull grey concrete of the communist-era derelicts – Ho Chi Minh has tons of that wonderful flavour of old Saigon in the air. Buzzing with colourful markets, bustling with chaotic traffic, glittering with bright neon signs and shining with smiles of friendly locals Saigon never fails to conquer the hearts of its guests.
From Mui Ne to Saigon
Travelling from Mui Ne to Saigon is going to take you at least four hours – often more – if you opt for a direct bus with any of the operators serving the route. You can as well go to Phan Thiet first and take either of the two daily direct trains from Phan Thiet to Ho Chi Minh, too. Binh Thuan offers even more train departures heading to Saigon – but to get from Mui Ne to Binh Thuan you need an hour.
From Mui Ne to Saigon by taxi
The easiest and most comfortable way to travel between Mui Ne and Saigon is by a private transfer. It is especially useful if you need to get to the airport – no hassle with your luggage in Saigon guaranteed. TiiM Charter offers a choice of a minivan for up to 7 pax and a van accommodating up to nine people. From Mui Ne to Saigon with TiiM expect to pay from VND3mio/USD130 to VND3.4mio/USD150.
From Mui Ne to Saigon by bus
The majority of the bus operators, including The Sinh Tourist and Hanh Cafe, promise to bring you from the main tourist drag in Mui Ne to Saigon’s backpackers headquarters of Pham Ngu Lao and De Tham in less than five hours – and they normally do. Note though, that some travellers report having been stuck on the way for eight hours due to road construction. Bus tickets cost from VND140,000/USD6.50 (Hanh Cafe) to VND160,000/USD7.50 (The Sinh Tourist), making buses the most budget friendly way to get from Mui Ne to Saigon. Hanh Cafe has plenty departures throughout the day with the last one at 4pm while The Sinh Tourist offers just three: at 7.30am, 1pm and 1.30pm.
The buses of the above mentioned companies do not originate in Mui Ne but pass through the town on their way from Nha Trang. That means that you can be scattered around the bus if you travel as a group. Almost all of the buses are sleeper buses with berths which do not fold in during the day. If you need a seat, not a berth, take the 7.30am Sinh Tourist bus or 8.30am and 1.30pm Hanh Cafe buses.
Note All buses from Mui Ne to Saigon pass through Phan Thiet.
From Mui Ne to Saigon via Phan Thiet
There are two daily direct trains between Phan Thiet and Ho Chi Minh leaving Phan Thiet at 1.10pm (SPT1) and at 11.55pm (SPT3 – on certain dates only). Both take about four hours to get to Saigon. A soft seat in either of them will cost you VND210,000/USD9.50. To get to Phan Thiet from Mui Ne, take the red local bus which goes directly to the train station (VND20,000/USD1). It takes half an hour to get there. Alternatively, a taxi to the train station in Phan Thiet will cost you USD10.
In general, taking a train from Phan Thiet is considered by many a more soothing experience compared to taking a sleeper bus from Mui Ne.
From Mui Ne to Saigon via Binh Thuan
The Reunification express does not pass via Phan Thiet as the city sits at the end of the line branching from Binh Thuan junction. If you want to have a wider choice of train departures, go to Binh Thuan train station directly. A taxi ride from Mui Ne to Binh Thuan takes up to one hour; add four more hours to get to Saigon from Binh Thuan. Soft seats in an AC car cost VND200,000/USD9, and for VND260,000/USD12 you can get a berth in a first class sleeper – if you need one for such a short journey. From the point of view of the schedule, the most convenient train is probably SE7 at 12.40pm reaching Saigon by 4pm. SPT, SNT, HNT and TN trains run on certain dates only – check before you go.
Getting around in Saigon
Even if you are used to renting a motorbike for getting around cities and towns in Asia, think twice before doing it in Saigon. If you are confident in your riding skills, expect to pay about VND150.000 (USD6-7) per day for a motorbike from rental shops in Pham Ngu Lao area. Cycling could have been a good alternative to a motorbike but thick traffic and polluted air make it a questionable option. Instead try wonderfully affordable taxis and xe om (motorbike taxis). And while taxis tend to use metres, you should absolutely negotiate the cost of the ride in advance with your xe om driver.
Many beautiful temples lie within a walking distance from Pham Ngu Lao area, and strolling the street of the old city filled with colonial mansions make for an atmospheric experience. Do not forget to take a ride in a cyclo: being pedalled through heavily trafficked Saigon streets definitely enhances your travel experience.
If you are ready to decipher the routes of public buses, do not hesitate to use them: they are the cheapest and in most cases the fastest way to move around in Saigon.
Where to stay and things to do in Saigon
For our suggestions on where to stay and what to do in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), check our Nha Trang to Saigon page.
Your onward travel from Saigon
There is a choice of international buses, which connect Saigon with Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The trip takes about seven hours with any company and costs between USD13 (The Sinh Tourist) and USD18 (Giant Ibis Company). You can further connect from Saigon via Phnom Penh to Siem Reap to pay respect to amazing temples of Angkor (from 17 hours with Giant Ibis Transport).
Low-cost airlines fly between Saigon and neighbouring countries, the most popular destinations being Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia (from USD50 one-way with Air Asia), Singapore (from USD55 with Jetstar Asia) and Bangkok in Thailand (from USD60 with Thai AirAsia or Nok Air).