XE OM in Vietnam
For some Vietnam is synonymous with motorcycles. Everywhere you look there is a motorcycle; maybe its a motorcycle cruising along a bouncy countryside road driven by a ten year old, or an entire family or five heading to the movies, or someone helping to move a neighbour’s refrigerator to a new home across town. It is a joy to sit and watch the impossibilities that are absurdly achievable on a motorbike in Vietnam. Nevertheless this is the way people get around
Xe Om Culture in Vietnam
Most tourists on their Vietnam tour will opt to take the visually safer option, the taxi. However, if you are a one or two persons, most Vietnamese will suggest the much quicker, and generally cheaper, xe om (pronounced ’say ohm’), motorcycle taxi. On just about every corner – and usually the same drivers are found on the same corners everyday – you will find ready and waiting xe om drivers. All are equipped with helmets for their passengers (as it now is the law in Vietnam) as well as intense bargaining skills.
The prices usually range on how many people you want to take on the motorbike (two people are feasible, but best to take only one), how bad the road may be, and how far you want to go. Approximately 10,000 – 15,000 dong per kilometre is reasonable, but you will find that the price gets cheaper as your Vietnamese gets better.
Nevertheless, finally strapping on your helmet, mounting the bike, then whizzing off into the busy motorcycle-filled streets of Vietnam is true exhilaration. Becoming a part of the organized chaos that is Vietnam traffic is an amazing experience; and, actually relatively safe. No one is ever going that fast and the rules of the road in Vietnam are conducive to the number of users. A beep of the horn is not to tell someone to get the heck out of way, instead it is to say hey there, I’m coming up on your left.
So even if it is to take a few evening laps around Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem lake, it is highly suggested that you get your wits about you, and head out into the streets of Vietnam on a motorcycle!
For getting around the Hanoi, there is nothing better than the Xe Om (motorcycle taxi) for zipping around traffic. My advice before getting on a Xe Om:
(A) chose one with a good motorcycle (ie., one made by one of the 4 major motorcycle manufacturers in Vietnam – Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, or SYM);
(B) chose a middle-aged driver (too young and they may drive too fast, too old and they may not maneuver as well around Hanoi’s crazy traffic);
(C) chose a driver with white white eyes (this is to make sure they haven’t been drinking). Witnessing collisions on the streets of Hanoi are all to common so be careful. Many streets have no traffic lights!
The price of a Xe Om ride is not rocket science. Although supposedly around 10,000VND ( 0.60USD) per 3km I normally give 15,000VND (.90USD). That should be enough to cover travel within the city. Also, I’d advise negotiating the price first as Xe Om drivers will often ask for more than whatever you give them.