Vietnam Country Guide

Getting Around

 
 

By Bus

Long Distance Buses
Long-distance bus services connect most cities in Vietnam, usually departing early in the morning (to avoid traffic and late afternoon rains) or run overnight. It is important to note that average road speeds are quite slow, even when travelling between cities. For example a 276 km (172 miles) journey from the Mekong Delta to Ho Chi Minh City by bus will likely take about eight hours.

 
 
 
 
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Public buses travel between the cities' bus stations or teminals, which may be distance away from the city centre. In such cases, you will have to book your own transport to get to the city centre. You may want to book a seat in the middle section rather than at the front of the bus. First, you will avoid viewing directly the short-sighted risks the driver is taking on the road. Second, you will somewhat escape the loud noise of unceasing honkings each time the bus passes another vehicle.

The long haul bus lines run from North to South and back on the only main road (QL1). Be aware that if you take a bus going further than your destination, the bus may drop you off at the most convenient crossroads and not at the station of your destination. Hoang Long (a major bus company) has an excellent English website (www.hoanglongasia.com) providing details on fares and locations of stations in cities they serve. You can bypass the travel agents (they charge a commission) and head straight for the bus station since agents sell the very same tickets.

Sleeper bus by Ecow

Tour Buses
Tour buses are operated by a multitude of tour companies. They cater mainly to tourists, offering ridiculous low rates (e.g. Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City for USD20-25) and door-to-door service to and from your hotel or hostel. However, boarding at the company office will guarantee a choice of seats and you'll avoid getting stuck at the back or unable to sit next to your travelling companions. The offices are usually located in or near the tourist area of town and a short walk might make your trip much more pleasant.

Since tour companies charge very little, they do make commissions on short stops (during the journey) which are often at souvenir shops. However, you do not have to buy and they always have toilets and drinks and water available for purchase. The estimated time for a bus trip may not be accurate and may be an additional couple of hours sometimes, due to the number of stops. Collecting the passengers at the start of the journey can also take quite a while too. Always be at least half an hour early to catch the bus.

Bus station in Dalat by Diane Selwyn

Scams & Thefts
A scam that you may encounter is that after arriving at your location, guides will ask you whether you have booked a hotel. Even though you haven't, say that you have and prepare the name of a hotel. If you say you have not booked one, they will charter a taxi for you and probably drop you at a hotel where they can collect commission. If you decide not to stay, things may get a little ugly, as they will demand that you pay the taxi fare, which they may quote as several times the actual fare for a ten minute ride.

Be very careful of your possessions on the overnight buses, people (including bus employees) have been known to look through passengers' bags and steal expensive items such as iPods and phones. If you are travelling with an iPod, do not fall asleep with it in your ear, as chances are it will be nowhere to be found in the morning. Simply get a padlock for your hand luggage and lock everything before you sleep.

 
Vietnam
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