Heading to Vietnam? Knowing how to get around Vietnam can be a challenge, so we share the best ways to travel in Vietnam.
When planning our first trip to Asia, I desperately searched the internet to find out ways I could get around countries quickly but at budget-friendly prices. I will be honest in saying that I am not one for 10+ bus journeys nor did we have the time for that during our trip. However, friends of mine went to Vietnam just after us and I found myself discussing ways to get around Vietnam with them, weighing up the best options and the downsides to these options. So that is what I am sharing with you now – how to get around Vietnam.
Flying in Vietnam
This was my pick during our trip to Vietnam but that was because we were visiting Ho Chi Minh City and then Hanoi. In hindsight, I wish we had used the train to explore some more of the cost than taken a flight from Hue. Either way, we flew from HCMC to Hanoi with JetStar for 839,000 VND (around £30) each, taking us just under two hours. Check Jetstar directly for the best deals.
- The quickest route between cities
- Affordable flights are available
- Plenty of options throughout the day
- Harder to get to off-the-beaten-path destinations
- More expensive than some buses and train options
- Offers an opportunity to see the nature en route.
Trains in Vietnam
Taking the train along the coast of Vietnam is a good choice for backpackers wanting to explore a different way of life than the hectic and busy cities. You get to see the countryside rather than the sky (when flying) or random shops and petrol stations (when driving), plus Vietnam has improved their rail network to give you good access from HCMC to the beach areas of Hue, the colourful attractions of Hoi An and the amazing things to do in Da Nang.
Trains are air-conditioned, safe and inexpensive as well as being a good opportunity to talk to locals. To find extensive information about the trains available around Vietnam as well as prices and train times, check out blogger seat61.com. Train tickets from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi cost 1140,000 VND (around £40) but the shorter journeys to the coast may be worth the price. However, the shortest train journey still takes around 36 hours!
- Beautiful scenery en route
- Many class options depending on your budget
- Affordable options
- Recently been upgraded so more comfortable
- Slower journey
- Hard seats are uncomfortable
Tips for train travel in Vietnam
- Book your tickets in advance online at 12go.asia or Baolau.
- Tickets can also be purchased at the station.
- Check the Vietnam Train Schedule for your trip.
- Do not buy train tickets from sellers outside of the station.
- Book a berth cabin for overnight trips.
- Avoid hard seats if possible.
- Hard and soft sleeper rooms are shared with 3 or 5 other people.
Taxi or Driving in Vietnam
I often read about bloggers exploring Vietnam by driving it, either by car or motorbike. This sounds adventurous and fun but the major cities and even countryside roads can get busy, with very little regards for safety. Accidents are common as are emergency stops and horns! Plus, if you’re doing the driving then you will need to make plenty of stops to rest.
From what I know of, you can’t actually rent cars to drive yourself in Vietnam anyway! However, if you are in northern Vietnam then motorbiking around the mountains is meant to be a bucket list item for many.
Cars not for you? Why not motorbike around Vietnam instead?
- Pick up and drop off at exact locations
- Option for private driver
- Driving yourself means you can explore off-the-beaten-path locations
- More expensive than other travel options
- Can be just as long or sometimes longer than trains or flights
Tips for taking a taxi in Vietnam
- Taxi’s are widespread in the major cities.
- Download the GRAB app; Southeast Asia’s version of Uber. This way you know how much a journey will cost and can get yourself a taxi wherever you are.
- When flagging a taxi, make sure your driver uses the meter.
- Bring a variety of bank notes as some drivers will not have change.
- Mai Linh, ABC, Taxi Group and Vinasun are official taxi companies in Hanoi and other cities.
Bus travel in Vietnam
Perhaps the most popular way to get around Vietnam, catching a bus or coach has become easy and convenient across the country. If you choose to use buses then stick with ‘open-tour buses’ rather than National Bus Services. The latter service has frequent stops at smaller towns along the way and isn’t particularly comfortable.
Open-tour buses refer to bus services run by privately operated companies. More expensive bus tickets will be for buses that include an on-board toilet whilst most will stop for toilet and snack breaks every few hours. Bring plenty of snacks with you however as the bus often stops at overpriced, mediocre restaurants that are there purely as a stopover for the buses.
Overnight buses are often made of comfortable sleeper berths but don’t expect too much sleep on the bumpy routes. Buses tend to be around 770,000 VND (approx £28) for a bus journey from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi – which is why we chose to pay a few pounds extra for a flight. Check out the different bus routes before you start planning your Vietnam itinerary to make the most out of your time and money using this option – some bus routes are longer than you think.
- Very affordable option
- Night buses are adapted for lying down
- Include routes to many destinations
- An uncomfortable option
- Can take longer than most other forms of transport
- Buses can often leave later than expected
Tips for travelling by bus in Vietnam
- Tourist buses and mini-vans are more comfortable than others.
- Learn some basic Vietnamese if you are planning to take plenty of buses, some bus drivers will not speak English.
- Bring plenty of snacks for longer journeys and make sure to bring tissue for bathroom stops.
- Bus tickets can be bought on Baolau or 12go.Asia before your visit.
Hiring a driver in Vietnam
A pricier option but different. If you’re travelling as a family or group then why not rent a minibus with driver to arrange tours and trips around Vietnam. Prices vary greatly depending on area and company but expect to pay £40 per day for car and £70 per day for jeep. Check what is included with the company including ferry tolls, parking fees, repairs, food and accommodation for driver and so on.
Boat or ferry in Vietnam
I recommend getting a boat around Halong Bay to see Vietnam’s beautiful landscape and to unwind and get away from the busy cities of Vietnam. You can also get a boat or ferry along some of the coastal towns and along the Mekong River.
These are the most popular and efficient ways of getting around Vietnam, whichever you choose, we hope you have an amazing time! Like I have said before, we prefer to fly and hope to take the train on our next trip. Prices vary but not too drastically so any of these options can work for your trip.
Things to know before you go to Vietnam
How to save money in Vietnam
Have you been to Vietnam and travelled around using any of these forms of transportation? Leave a comment below and share your experience on how to get around Vietnam!