Tandem bike in dalat

Vietnam Travel Tips: How to Get Around

Although Vietnam isn’t quite as well travelled as some South-East Asian countries it still has a decent transport network. Throughout our month in Vietnam we travelled from Hanoi in the north all the way down the coast to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) before heading into Cambodia. While the clean fast trains were a joy to use, most of our bus journeys were typical of Asia – pretty hellish. If you’re planning to travel to Vietnam, check out our tips on how to get around the country.

If you’re heading to Vietnam then you’ll probably need an invitation letter for your Visa On Arrival, we recommend Vietnam Visa as they provide a professional, efficient and transparent service.

General Vietnam Travel Tips

Vietnam is a large country and it can take many hours to get from place to place. Unless you get internal flights it’s likely that you’ll need to take a few overnight journeys and plenty of day buses as well.  We took one sleeper train from Hanoi to Hué while visiting Vietnam and although it was expensive we were really glad we did as it was much more comfortable than the trains in Thailand and we actually managed to get a decent night’s sleep. On the other hand, we also took one overnight sleeper bus which was less successful since we were bombarded by the overpowering smell of unwashed feet and we barely got any sleep.

Vietnam Sleeper Bus

Here are a few key things to remember when travelling to Vietnam:

  • Buses are generally cheaper and faster than the trains.
  • You will get a toilet and sink on the train but you may not even have a toilet on the bus and if you have, it will probably stay locked.
  • Trains are the best option for comfort and space.
  • Day or night journeys are available (if you go overnight then you save a night’s accommodation costs).
  • You are likely to be assaulted with freezing-cold air-con at night, especially on buses.
  • When booking through a tour agency you will likely have a free pick-up from your accommodation or the tour agency.
  • Different classes of tickets are available, from simple seats to full-on sleeper bunks.
  • A few Vietnam travel companies offer ‘Open Tour’ tickets where you can pay for a ticket from Hanoi to HCMC or vice-versa and make multiple stops along the way, which is great for saving money.
  • The sleeper buses in Vietnam were completely new to us; the seats are like capsules with reclining backs which turned out to be very cramped and uncomfortable.

Here’s what we paid, per person, for the following journeys around Vietnam in December 2013. Please note that this isn’t an exhaustive list of journey options.

How to get from Hanoi to Hué

  • Method of Transport: Train
  • How long? About 11 to 13 hours
  • How much? From £17 for a hard seat to £30 for an air con sleeper ticket
  • When? 06.15, 09.00, 19.00, 19.35, 23.00
  • Where from/to? From Hanoi Train Station to Hué Train Station
    • We’ve taken this journey once; we left on a sleeper train at 19.35 and arrived at 09.30 the next day. The tickets cost £30 each and were booked through our hotel at no extra charge – they even drove us to the station.

Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

How to get from Hué to Danang

  • Method of Transport: Train
  • How long? About two and a half hours
  • How much? £6.50 for a hard seat and £9 for a soft seat
  • When? 07.57, 10.45, 19.32, 22.42
  • Where from/to? From Hué Train Station to Danang Train Station
    • We’ve taken this journey once; we took the 10.45 train but it was delayed and so did not leave until nearly 12.00. We paid about £4.50 each (although the price has since increased to £6.50) and the journey took two and a half hours.

 How to get from Hué to Hoi An

  • Method of Transport: Bus
  • How long? About three to four hours
  • How much? About £7 to £8
  • When? 08.00, 12.00 (Sinh Café)
  • Where from/to? From your guesthouse in Hué to Sinh Café office in Hoi An
    • We haven’t taken this journey by bus.

Hoi An

How to get from Danang to Hoi An

  • Method of Transport: Bus
  • How long? About one hour
  • How much? About £1
  • When? Every twenty minutes to half an hour
  • Where from/to? From the main main road in Danang to Hoi An bus station
    • We’ve taken this journey once; our hotel receptionist directed us out of the hotel and around the corner to the bus stop. A bus turned up after about 15 minutes at about 10.00 and it took about an hour to get to the bus station in Hoi An and cost us just £1; we then got a taxi to our hotel.

How to get from Hoi An to Mũi Né

  • Method of Transport: Sleeper Bus
  • How long? About 20 hours
  • How much? About £14
  • When? 19.00 (several private companies run sleeper buses at about this time)
  • Where from/to? Pick-up from your hotel in Hoi An hotel to anywhere along the main road in Mũi Né
    • We’ve taken this journey once; we were picked up from our hotel in Hoi An at about 17.00 and our bus left at about 19.00, we arrived in Nha Trang at about 07.00 and changed buses for Mũi Né. We were dropped off along the main road near our guest house at 13.00, 20 hours after leaving, and it cost us £14 each.

Tandem bike in Dalat

How to get from Mũi Né to Dalat

  • Method of Transport: Bus
  • How long? About five hours
  • How much? About £4
  • When? 07.00, 13.00
  • Where from/to? Pick-up from Mũi Né Hotel to Dalat Sinh Tourist Office
    • We’ve taken this journey once; we booked with SinhTourist (SinhCafe) who run one of the open tour buses through Vietnam. We were picked up from the main road near our hotel in Mui Ne at 13.00 and arrived at their offices in Dalat five hours later; the journey cost us £4 each.

How to get from Dalat to HCMC

  • Method of Transport: Bus
  • How long? About seven hours
  • How much? About £6
  • When? 08.00
  • Where from/to? Pick-up from Dalat Hotel to Cholon Bus Station in HCMC
    • We’ve taken this journey once and it cost £6 each. We booked through our hotel and were picked up from there; the journey was meant to take seven hours but actually took 10. We arrived in Cholon Bus Station and took a taxi to our hotel in Pham Ngu Lao.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam to Cambodia

How to get from HCMC to Phnom Penh

  • Method of Transport: Bus
  • How long? Six hours
  • How much? About £6
  • When? 07.30, 09.00, 13.30 (Capitol Tours)
  • Where from/to? From Delta Adventures tour office in HCMC to Phnom Penh bus station
    • We’ve taken this journey once; we booked with Delta Adventures (who use Capitol Tours) and we left their offices at 09.00. The journey took about six hours and we were dropped off at the Phnom Penh bus station near the central market. There are numerous operators running buses along this route.

How to get around Vietnam

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  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
    Posted at 10:48h, 23 April Reply

    Great round up & break down of your costs, and certainly to be useful for other travelers to Vietnam. The only thing I would add is that if you know your dates & routes well in advance, it is often cheapest to fly on VietJet. Ok, maybe not as cheap as the bus, but a lot faster and generally cheaper than the train. I think we flew from HCMC to Hue for just $40 per person booking one month out. If we had booked farther in advance, it would have been even cheaper. The overnight train would have taken aaaaaages and cost about $50 per person!

    • Amy
      Posted at 12:26h, 23 April Reply

      Hi Steph, great tip about VietJet we didn’t even check out domestic flights actually as we just assumed the train would be cheaper.

  • Kerri
    Posted at 03:28h, 24 April Reply

    Great information. We have found that the sleeper buses vary wildly in how comfortable they are. Like you mentioned one of the buses had an enclosed area for the feet and was definitely not made for the longer western legs making it a cramped ride. But other one we took, which did not have enclosed area, but had definitely seen better days. It had no seatbelts and a couple times due to our drivers wild driving were were bumped out of your seats. The joys of travel.

    • Andrew
      Posted at 12:13h, 24 April Reply

      Thanks Kerri, the joys of travel 😉 sums it up nicely!

  • Victoria
    Posted at 10:21h, 04 May Reply

    I love what you’ve done and your list will be very useful to other travellers.

    I went in 2007 and the buses were awful. I normally like to sit at the front so that I can see the journey. In Vietnam, I decided not to “see” as I didn’t like the sloping roads and the speed of driving. Ouch!
    I too took a flight from Hanoi to Ho Chin Minh (Saigon) with Pacific Airlines (a local Vietnamese airline) and it only cost $80.00 or €57.00. This was a scheduled airline as I originally flew with Aerflot from Berlin to Hanoi…I’m sure budget airlines would have been even cheaper as we also flew with Air Asia from Hanoi to Bangkok too!

    The best transport bit in my opinion was the train and after my India fiasco, this was paradise. I can’t remember how much it was, but we took a sleeper train from Hue to Ninh Binh. 4 Sleepers per compartment with free bottles of water, duvets, sheets, a pillow, and free hot water to make tea and pot noodles!

    • Andrew
      Posted at 14:46h, 04 May Reply

      Thanks Victoria, we loved the train too, it was much better than the Thai overnight trains – although it was a lot more expensive. We didn’t get the duvets and free water though, that would have been great! 🙂

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