Vietnamese traveller on bike

What does “Xe Om” mean in Vietnamese

Motorbike taxi – Xe om (pronounced “say om”; flat-tone)

Xe om (pronounced “say om”, not “zay om”) refers to a motorbike taxi. It is the best way to get around cities in Vietnam. It literally means “vehicle in which you hold on”, as in, you hold on to the body of the driver.

Before the ride-sharing app Grab, you would see typically see, on any popular street, rows and rows of idle men resting on their motorbikes, calling out to passerbyers “Hey moto?!?”. It was a great and affordable way to get around a city, in rain or shine, with luggage or none. Prices were typically less than 30k Dong (<$2 USD) to travel within 2-5 km in a heavy urban area.

Like any taxi service, travellers could be expected to significantly get ripped off. So, if you want to Xe om, you should plan a little ahead and get to know local prices (see our approximate price guide below).

Passenger Motorbikes in Cities vs Rural Areas

Nowadays, travellers should try to use Grab (or Be and Go-Viet), which provide fair pricing regardless of your race or language abilities.

Such apps are usually only available in dense urban areas. If you travel in rural areas and small towns, you will need to be good at negotiating with the crowds of Xe Om drivers waiting for you to emerge from a hotel or bus. They will charge you outrageous prices if you aren’t careful.

Try estimating the fare ahead-of-time. If you have a trusted Vietnamese confidant (like the hotel staff), ask them for an estimate. Once you are armed with accurate pricing, Xe Om can be a reliable and fun service to get around Vietnam.

You will definitely need to haggle the price, so read our post about haggling.

Approximate Prices for Xe Om

Thanks to Grab, Go-Viet, Be, and other ride-sharing apps, it is easy to estimate the fairs for motorbike trips. As of June 2021, the following prices are representative for major urban areas:

  • Xe om trip 8km-10km for one person during regular daylight hours: 38-50k VND.
  • Xe om trip 25-30km for one person during regular daylight hours: 120-140k VND.
  • Beware: you shoudl expect to add an additional 15k VND during evenings and high-demand periods.

These distances and prices are typical for scenarios like: i) travel between your hotel and a popular landmark (e.g., downtown, museum), and ii) travel between your hotel and an international airport. In other words, when you are in a Vietnamese city, you can expect to pay 30-50k VND for daily excursions to/from your hotel and a local landmark, and 100-150k VND for trips to an airport on the outskirts of town.

Types of Vehicles in Vietnamese

“Xe” is a category of ground-vehicles that carry passengers, like cars (xe ô tô, or xe auto) and buffalo carts (xe trâu), but not airplanes or ships.

  • xe buýt – bus
  • xe máy – motorcycle
  • xe đạp – bicycle
  • xe ô tô (“xe auto”) – car
  • xe hơi – car
  • xe lửa – train
  • tàu hỏa – train
  • xe tăng – tank
  • xe bò – ox cart

Vehicles that are not xe…

  • máy bay – airplane
  • thuyền – boat

Asking Where to Find Mechanics

If you rent motorbikes in Vietnam, it is important to know how to ask for help if/when you need repairs. For example, on our 300km motorbike trip in the remote region of Hà Giang, our rented motorcycle broke-down twice!

Fortunately, almost every little town and hamlet has a competent mechanic. Look for signs that say “sửa chữa xe máy” (motorbike mechanic).

  • “Sửa chữa xe máy” – motorbike mechanic
  • “Tôi cần sửa xe máy” – I need to fix my bike.x
  • “Tôi cần sửa xe.” – I need to fix my vehicle.
  • “Sửa xe máy ở đâu?” – Where to fix motorbike?

How has your experience been with Xe Om? Do you miss it outside of Vietnam?

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