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Cyclo in Vietnam


The cyclo (xich lo) pedicab, short for the French cyclo-pousse, is the best invention since slice bread. Cyclo offer easy cheap and aesthetic transportation around Vietnam’s confusing, sprawling cities. Riding these clever contraptions will also give you tho moral superiority that comes with knowing you’re being kind to the environment - much kinder than all those drivers on whining, smoking-spewing motorbikes.

Groups of cyclo drivers always hang out near major hotels and markets, and many speak at least broken English (in the south, many of the cyclo drivers are former Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN)  soldiers). To make sure the driver understands where you want to go, it’s useful to bring a city map with you, though some drivers cannot read map either.

All cyclo drivers are male, although they vary in age from around 15 to perhaps 60 years old. Many of younger ones are transients from the countryside, coming to Saigon and Hanoi to seek their fortune-with no place to live, they may even sleep in their cyclo. The more affluent cyclo drivers buy their own vehicle for US$200 but to do so requires that the owner have a residence permit for the place where the cyclo is to be driven - th transients from the countryside are thus excluded from vehicle ownership. Operating a cyclo is often a family business - a father and son take turns so the vehicle gets use 18 hours a day. But driving a cyclo is no way to get rich. Bargaining is almost always necessary. Settle on a fare before going anywhere or you’re likely to be asked for some outrageous quantity of doing at the trip’s end.

Since 1995, the government have been requiring cyclo drivers to obtain a license. The requirements for this include passing an exam on traffic safety laws.


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