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.
This was my pick during our trip of 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 then 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.
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 have improved their rail network to give you good access from HCMC to the beach areas of Hue 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!
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?
Get the Bus
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.
Hire a driver
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.
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.
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!