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Getting around Ho Chi Minh City

Public transport

Public transport in Ho Chi Minh City is becoming more developed as the government tries to tackle rising traffic congestion. The bus service is improving, with over 150 routes across the city (tel: +84 8 3854 6110; www.saigonbus.com.vn). You can buy tickets for single journeys on the bus. Pick up a route map from Ben Thanh bus station on Tran Hung Dao Street, the main hub in the city.

Taxis

There are several taxi companies operating within the city and they are usually metered. Visitors are advised to check that the meter is turned on. Tipping is not necessarily expected but always welcome. Reputable taxi companies are Mai Linh Taxi (tel: +84 28 3838 3838; www.taximailinh.com) and Vinataxi (tel: +84 28 3811 1111; vinataxi.vn/en/).

Motorbike taxis (xe om) are available across the city and are an efficient way to travel around. Motorbike taxis usually approach tourists and offer their services. Negotiate a price first and also make sure the driver provides you with a helmet before you set off. If one is not offered, find another motorbike taxi as the police will inevitably give you a hefty fine.

Driving

Most visitors to Ho Chi Minh City are quite traumatised when they encounter the traffic for the first time. The streets are crammed with darting bicycles and motorbikes. Bikes regularly travel the wrong way along one-way streets and appear out of side roads without even a cursory glance in the direction of the oncoming traffic. Motorbike riders remove their wing mirrors allowing them to squeeze through the smallest gaps. Thankfully, visitors are only allowed to hire cars with drivers.

Car hire

It is not possible to hire a car without a driver but cars with English-speaking drivers can be arranged through travel companies. The following companies can arrange a car with a driver for the day: Ben Thanh Tourist Co (tel: +84 8 3822 7788; www.benthanhtourist.com), Saigontourist Travel Service (tel: +84 8 3827 9279; www.saigontourist.net) and Vidotour (tel: +84 8 3933 0457; vidotour.com/newsite).

Travelling by motorbike is also a popular option, but Ho Chi Minh City is not the place to learn how to ride. Wearing a helmet is compulsory. You can hire motorbikes and scooters, along with helmets, from the Saigon Scooter Centre (tel: +84 8 3848 7816; www.saigonscootercentre.com).

Bicycle hire

A popular place for hiring bicycles is around the Pham Ngu Lao area, which is the backpacker hangout. Bicycles should always be parked in the areas set aside for them (gui xe). It is always worth taking a padlock for additional security. Further out in District 7, Saigon Cycles (tel: +84 28 5410 3114; www.xedapcaocap.com) has bicycles for rent on a daily, weekly or longer basis.

If you don’t want to do the pedalling, a leisurely way to explore the city is by cyclo, where the passenger sits in front and driver behind. They can be found plying the tourist areas, but make sure you settle on a price in advance.

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Grand Hotel

Hulking ex-Yugoslav monolith with a cavernous interior, stay at Pristina's famous Grand Hotel for a retro trip down Eastern Bloc's memory lane. Blessed with the most central location in Pristina on Nënë Tereza.

Windsor Plaza Hotel

A perfect place for those who want the comfort of a luxury hotel without the pain of paying for it. Located in Cholon, this 25-floor hotel has stunning views across the city and the rooms are large and smart with excellent facilities. The bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh City's Chinatown surround the hotel and the hotel itself has its own shopping plaza and nightclub. On request services include airport transfers, 24-hour in-room dining, a 24-hour business centre and a 24-hour multilingual concierge.

Caravelle Hotel

The Caravelle Hotel is located in the heart of the commercial and entertainment area and offers 335 large and stylish rooms. It is one of the most famous addresses in Ho Chi Minh City as it was one of the gathering places for war correspondents during the Vietnam War and the rooftop Saigon Saigon Bar is still popular for its bird's eye views of the city.

Park Hyatt Saigon

The hotel is centrally located at Lam Son Square, near the elegant opera house in downtown Ho Chi Minh City and within walking distance of shopping, entertainment and main tourist attractions. One of the smartest hotels in Ho Chi Minh City, this relatively new property is stylish, reflecting the French colonial era, and has ultra-modern facilities throughout, space for major special events and high levels of service.

Hotel Majestic

Boasting an enviable location overlooking the fine historic monuments of the Zócalo, the 85-room Hotel Majestic has five large suites. A mirrored lobby is adorned with fountains and Mexican tiles. Choose a room overlooking the square for bird's eye views of the daily ceremonial raising of the flag at 0600. Simple décor centres on comfort with a TV, mini-bar, coffee-making facilities and rustic wood furniture. Popular terrace restaurant Terraza overlooks the Zócalo and serves basic Mexican and international food at reasonable prices.

Elios Hotel

A good-value, 3-star hotel located in the Pham Ngu Lao area, which has excellent facilities, including free wireless internet throughout. The rooms are smart and comfortable. There is a rooftop restaurant and bar with fabulous views across the city and the staff can help with tour and transport reservations.