Transportation in Vietnam

Travel in Vietnam is easier than it used to be. Means of transportation are usually very comfortable. Routine travel in Vietnam between major cities and tour destinations is generally comfortable and hassle free as well. Independent travelers will sometimes be required local knowledge for a decent level of comfort.

By air: You can get almost anywhere while visiting Vietnam, but scheduled flights to some Vietnam travel destinations are few and late changes in aircraft type can impact travel plans.

By train:  Rail is still slow. The rail network is limited. Lines run between Hanoi - Saigon, Hanoi - Lao Cai - Hekou (China) - Kunming (China), Hanoi - Langson - Beijing (China). The train to China departs from Hanoi train station.

You can join the train to Kunming at the Lao Cai station, but you can only join the train to Beijing from Hanoi. The train stations for some Vietnam travel destinations can be literally in the middle of nowhere. The rolling-stock is generally serviceable, but old and spartan by western standards.

By local bus: Bus travel used to be available only packed sardine-style into hot and stuffy, smoke belching reject Russian 40-seaters with bicycles, motorbikes and maybe the odd pig strapped to the roof. For the true adventurer only! These buses are still around and popular with the locals (tickets are dirt cheap).

By Cyclo: Note that cyclos are banned from some streets in the city centres, so don't be surprised if you're taking a slightly roundabout route. Also, it's not a good idea to take cyclos late at night in HCMC as some people have been mugged.
Always agree on a price before setting off, preferably by writing it on a piece of paper. Make it clear whether you're bargaining in dollars or dong and whether it's for a single or return journey. It helps to have the exact money ready at the end to save any arguments or hassles over change.

By Motorbike taxis:  (called xe om or Honda om) come in handy in country areas, especially in the mountains. You'll also find them in the main cities where they are a shade cheaper than a cyclo and faster, though perhaps even more scary in the chaotic traffic. The same rules of bargaining apply.
By Metered taxis: now operate in HCMC, Hanoi and other major cities. You'll find them outside the main hotels or cruising the streets, though you can also order one by phone. Rates for short journeys within the city centre are around 10,000d per km with a flag fall of 12,000VND. If you can only find an unmetered taxi, make sure to agree a price before jumping in.

On Foot: You may need to learn how to cross city streets, especially in Saigon and Hanoi. City traffic in Vietnam is like "water on wheels", It is constantly moving on and flowing around everything in its path. The daytime traffic never stops. People are always on the move.

Bicycle or motorbike rentals can be found in major cities of interest, like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh or Hue, Hoi An, but make sure that you understand the traffic rules before riding.

1. What are the trains like?

Train travel can be a great way to experience Vietnam. The most common routes are the overnight journeys between Hue and Hanoi and Hanoi and Sapa. We book our travellers in 4-berth soft sleeper compartments, which are clean and comfortable. Most luggages stows easily under the bottom berth or in racks above the top berth. We recommend bringing earplugs as the train is quite noisy and it can be difficult to sleep at night.

2. Can we travel by local bus?

If you plan to get more of a local experience then you can travel by local bus. There are public bus stations in all Vietnam cities and towns, but we do not recommend traveling on these buses.
There are many reasons for this. The safety is not to a standard that we feel is sufficient for our guests, and the standard of the bus alone is one that is dire need of attention. Finally, the safe driving sense is one that is not practiced by the drivers of these buses.

3. What about the Open Bus?

Same as the train from North to South and vise versa, the open bus is often a good choice for budget travelers. The open-tour buses cover most of the popular destinations between the North and South, and travelers can stop whenever they want for as long as they want in each destination along the way.

4. Is it safe to catch a taxi or cyclo at night?

We generally advise against taking cyclos at night unless they are registered with a hotel. Taxis are safe and metered provided you use a reputable company. To assist in finding your way back to your hotel, make sure you obtain a hotel address card, to show drivers where you want to go.

5. Are the domestic flights safe and reliable?

Most domestic flights within Vietnam are with Vietnam Airlines. The fleet is modern and comfortable, with most flights using Airbus A320 or Fokker 70 aeroplanes, however schedules frequently change and this can result in alterations to your itinerary.

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