Why is the Vietnamese cyclo a unique means of transportation?

Present in Vietnam since the 30s of the 20th century, cyclo used to be a popular means of transporting passengers and goods in urban areas.

Over time, the rapid development of other transportation and changing moving needs have made cyclos no longer as popular as before.

Today, we will mention the different aspects of the Vietnamese cyclo, including:

Let’s dive into it!

vietnamese cyclo
So exciting to sit on a Vietnamese cylco to visit the city. ©Vietnamdrive

The origin of the cyclo

Many people believe that the cyclo was invented by a Frenchman, so it still used the French name Cyclo called it in English. The first one was used in Cambodia. By 1939 in Saigon (Vietnam) there were about 40 cyclos in use, and by 1940 the number of cyclos had increased to 200.

Since then, cyclos have gradually appeared in other cities in Vietnam, such as Hanoi and Hue. And of course, this unique vehicle had greatly assisted in transporting goods and people within the city area, over short distances.

In the early 1960s, cyclos were fitted with an engine to reduce human power. Since then, motor cyclos were born that can circulate faster and travel longer distances. Help save more manpower.

From the 1990s, motorbikes began to develop in Vietnam, gradually replacing the function of cyclos. Motorcycles move faster, more flexibly, and can get into small roads and alleys better than cyclos. Since then, riding cyclos and even motorized cyclos have slowly lost their priority position for moving.

To this day, cyclos can still be seen in touristy cities, such as in Hanoi, Saigon, Da Nang, Hue, and even Hoi An. The cyclos are made more beautiful to be more suitable for transporting tourists. Sitting on a cyclo and watching the streets becomes an interesting experience for many domestic and international guests.

cyclo in vietnam
A guest uses a cyclo to visit Hue City. ©Vietnamdrive

The structure of a cyclo

Cyclo has three wheels made of rubber, like bicycle wheels, but bigger. The front of the cyclo is designed as a comfortable seat for the guest, and the top has a roof that can be folded to cover the sun and rain. Behind is the saddle for the cyclo rider.

Many people believe that the cyclo is a variant of the Japanese-style rickshaw of the late 19th century. While the rickshaw pulls by hand, the driver jogs in front, the passengers sit in the back. Thus, passengers can clearly see the hardships and poverty of the tow truck.

Therefore, the cyclo is designed with a front seat to reduce the pain of passengers when they see the operator having to work hard and sweat. At the same time, when in the front, passengers are not out of sight, can freely see the scenery, life on every street, street corner.

vietnam cyclo
A Vietnamese cyclo has two main parts, including a guest’s seat and rider’s saddle. ©Vietnamdrive

How to ride a bicycle cyclo

There are two types of cyclos: riding cyclos and motor cyclos. However, most tourists use riding cyclo for the reason that it is environmentally friendly, the speed is easier to control, and its moving slowly is a perfect way for guests to see the scenery along the streets, and the life going on.

Therefore, Vietnamdrive will only mention how to ride a riding Vietnamese cyclo. Cyclo must use human strength to pedal like a bicycle. However, there are a few other points to watch out for:

  1. Cyclo has three wheels, so it can stand in a place without falling. Therefore, the rider’s seat is much higher than a normal bicycle, it is not possible to quickly hit the ground with legs. It has a high saddle structure to match the overall cyclo frame and reduce energy when riding.
  2. Cyclo handlebars are much heavier than bicycles and motorbikes because they are linked to the passenger’s seat. Therefore, when operating, it is necessary to pay attention to steering control, especially when turning left or right, must slow down and be very careful.
  3. The structure of the cyclo’s power system usually cannot rotate in the opposite direction like a bicycle. Its moving is operated in two directions: forward and backward pedaling. This is a way to move the cyclo back and forth when carrying heavy loads.
  4. If you want to experience riding a cyclo, try operating it in a secluded place to avoid unwanted issues. Easy but difficult, difficult but easy if you know how to ride it.
try riding a vietnamese cyclo
A guest tries riding a Vietnamese cylco. ©Vietnamdrive

Uses of cyclos today

Due to the development of modern means of transportation, cyclo no longer has the main function of transporting goods and local people. It turns into a unique vehicle to serve the needs of travel and relaxation. This major change has raised the normal level of cyclo into an elegant and attractive means of transport.

The cyclo also has many variations from a simple and rudimentary iron frame that is more beautifully decorated, from a comfortable seat cushion for guests to the colorful colors of the roof and chassis.

The cyclo driver also became more elegant and neat than before. Cyclo unions in some cities were born to put cyclos into management organizations to improve their ability to serve tourists better.

If you have the opportunity to sit on a cyclo, you can ask for a lot of useful information from the driver. Many cyclo riders can speak English well with foreign tourists, able to introduce briefly the attractions you need to visit. Most of them are locals who know a lot of stories from east to west, from this corner to the other streets. It is a necessary need that many cyclo drivers upgrade themselves to better suit the new requirements, serving tourists.

vietnamese cyclo trip
A cyclo trip to explore the city. ©Vietnamdrive

Price when using cyclo

Although cyclo is classified as a rudimentary means of transportation, the production cost of a Vietnamese cyclo is not cheap for many Vietnamese. The price of a cyclo can range from 20 million VND to 50 million VND depending on the material and design.

When it comes to cyclo transport per hour for visiting, you can see the difference between the cities of Hanoi, Saigon, and Hue.

  • The price to visit by cyclo per one hour in Hanoi and Saigon is from 150,000 VND to 200,000 VND.
  • The price to visit by cyclo per one hour in Hue is from 120,000 VND – 150,000 VND.

Prices may vary depending on the routes and destinations you want to visit.

If only looking at the price per hour, a few people think that the cost of using cyclo is quite high compared to the labor level of Vietnamese people. However, most cyclo riders only have enough money to eat every day, because the working time to serve tourists is very precarious, there are days of gain and loss. Therefore, income cannot guarantee a good life for most cyclo cyclists.

using vietnamese cyclo
Very comfortable to use a cyclo to relax. ©Vietnamdrive

The best time to use a cyclo to visit

The cyclo is built with a roof, so it can operate well in both sunny and rainy weather. However, rain can limit the visibility when moving. For some people who love romance, experiencing cyclo in the light rain will bring them very interesting emotions.

According to Vietnamdrive’s experience, most tourists think that dry weather is the best time to choose this unique vehicle to explore the streets.

The most suitable time of the day for a cyclo tour is from sunset to evening, around 8 pm. It is because at this duration, the weather is cool, no longer the heat of the day, and it does not affect your sightseeing schedule.

travel with a vietnamese cyclo
Travel by cyclo is an exciting activity. ©Vietnamdrive

Necessary notes when choosing a cyclo to explore the city

To get a memorable experience in choosing a cyclo to explore the streets, please pay close attention to the following issues:

+ Please specify the location, route, and duration with the cyclo riders. Then, ask them for specific prices to avoid being overcharged for your trip.

+ Be careful saying the currency unit in Vietnam Dong or USD or any others. For example, when drivers say you 50 without giving the unit, you can think it is 50,000 Vietnamese dong, but when you arrive at the destination you may be asked to pay 50 USD. Therefore, please specify the currency unit in price.

+ Another note is, please feel free to agree on a clear price with the number of people traveling on a cyclo. For example, the cyclo driver says it is 100,000 VND for a distance of about 2 km. Your group has two people sitting on a cyclo, then you may be asked to pay 200,000 VND because it is not previously agreed on the price of 100,000 VND for one or two people. But, Vietnamdrive recommends one adult uses one cyclo to create more work and reduce the weight for cyclo riders.

vietnam cyclo trip
Be careful when getting on or off a cylco. ©Vietnamdrive

+ When stepping on and off the cyclo, you should be very careful to avoid your pants, sandals, and feet getting caught in the crossbars, hooks, and even sharp objects on the cyclo.

+ If you are an international tourist and want to experience cyclo, you should book a tour with a travel company. At that time, the company will know how to choose a better cyclo group. And, you don’t need to worry about the price when sitting on it.

+ Most cyclos expect guests to give more money when serving, so you should prepare from 20 thousand or more for tipping, depending on the time of service. One hour of service, if possible, you can add a cyclo driver from 50,000 VND, it will be your pleasure for them.


Sitting on a Vietnamese cyclo to explore the streets and local life of a city is an exciting activity in Vietnam to do.

Do not miss a chance to try being ridden on this unique vehicle when traveling to this beautiful country!

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    About the author

    The editorial staff of Vietnamdrive is a team of travel experts managed by Mr. Thom who has worked in tourism for 14 years. Trusted by thousands of tourists from all over the world.