Cyclo - A Unique Icon of Vietnam - Local Guide

Duc - October 28, 2018

I. Overview of Cyclo

 Cyclo or Xich lo in Vietnamese

Cyclo (also know as Xich Lo in Vietnam), you may not be familiar with this type of vehicle but it used to be the most popular means of transportation in Vietnam in the 19th century. Though not as commonly used, Xich Lo is still a representation of the Vietnamese way of life that you should not miss whenever visiting Vietnam.

II. Introduction of Cyclo

Working as a Xich Lo driver was also a popular means of earning money in the 19th century

Xich Lo, originated from the French word “cyclo”, is a type of tricycle designed to carry passengers on a for-hire basis. It is human-powered by pedaling and has 3 wheels. Xich Lo is recorded to be a variant of rickshaw from the 19th century. The movement from “pull” to “pedal” is a work of combination with bicycle in the early 20th century.

Xich Lo is designed conveniently for tourists with shield from sunlight and comfortable cushion to sit

According to the history, the cyclo was brought to Vietnam by a French man named Coupeaud. To further promote this means of transportation, Coupeaud organized a cycling journey with the cyclo from Phnompenh (the capital of Cambodia) to Saigon. Running continuously 200 km in 18 hours, this journey helped promote the presence of Xich Lo in Saigon, with numbers increasing from 40 to 200 cyclos in a year.

Xich Lo drivers stood as a symbol of hard working subservients under French occupation

Until the early 1990s, Xich Lo was still very popular, Vietnamese people found it useful as a Xich Lo could carry two people plus goods. It was cost effective and with its small size could fit perfectly on Vietnam city alleys and narrow streets. 

Xich Lo in the 19th century in Saigon

After the 'motorbike storm' in Vietnam, Xich Lo became redundant, people needed to travel further and faster. Xich Lo did not meet their demands. At this time, Xich Lo was used mostly for cargo, goods, short transfers and deliveries. Currently, there are only about 300 cyclos licensed for tourism in Hanoi.

 Tourists on Xich Lo are relatively common and popular around Old Quarter

Tourism has created a chance for Xich Lo recently. Xich Lo has a new face which is wider, more colorful and drivers dress better for tourists. Touring with Xich Lo in the city is very interesting for Westerners: it is slow enough for them to see the city and more importantly, it is safe enough for travelers in the busy traffic of Saigon or Hanoi.

 Xich Lo has become an unique cultural icon of Hanoi

Xich Lo looks different in each region of Vietnam. Hanoi's Xich Lo is wider and low, Hue is a bit narrower but longer, Saigon's Xich Lo is tall and long. Whatever it is, Xich Lo has now become a great icon of Vietnam, a unique form of transportation.

 Regardless of the rain or the sun, Xich Lo drivers are always out on the street driving tourists

Traveling to Vietnam, try Xich Lo once, this is a great way to feel the local life, see the cities from different angles and encourage Vietnamese Xich Lo to remain as a true cultural icon.

 There are many Xich Lo tours in Hanoi that goes around the Old Quarter

III. Related Tours

If you are interested in sitting in a cyclo, why don't you contact AZ Local Trip to get a very unique local experience on the iconic transportation of Hanoi?

Our cyclo tour around Old Quarter provides a tour guide to explain and guide you through all the destinations on the route.

Tourists won't have to keep an eye out for scam and unreasonably high price from the drivers.