Ultimate Guide on Public Transportation in Vietnam
Decided to visit Vietnam but don’t want to drive on your own? Maybe you don’t have a driving license or are unsure of your capabilities as a driver. Don’t worry, as public transportation in Vietnam has undergone some pretty positive changes in recent times.
You can travel to almost any place in Vietnam with public transport! The choices of transportation are pretty numerous.
If you want to get to your desired destination quickly, you can book one from the many domestic flights available. Or maybe fancy a relaxed train ride on a decent rail route that connects Northern and Southern Vietnam? Of course, you can always book a bus and go for a wild ride through the congested traffic of Vietnam.
When you get to your destination with the help of the public transportation service, there are a lot of local transportation options to choose from too!
The bottom line is, if you want to travel around Vietnam and have an absolute blast, you don’t necessarily need to buy or rent a motorbike for yourself. Public transportation in Vietnam is a great alternative, and we’re here to help you figure out what are the choices for you!
In A Hurry? Internal Flights Got You Covered!
We live in a time when most of us are in a rush most of the time. Of course, when traveling, sometimes faster is better. So if you have limited time, taking an internal flight is the best option. After all, a 2-hour journey from Hanoi to HCMC with plane compares favorably to 30-40 hours you would spend traveling by train.
While getting on an internal flight is a fast option to get from point A to B, you will miss out on so many experiences you could get on the ground level!
Of course, there are lots of budget airlines for affordable flights to all of the major cities in Vietnam. The most popular are:
The national carrier of Vietnam. While the prices for some domestic flights may be two times higher than other airlines, their service is higher quality and more reliable.
Vietnam Airlines just got new planes too that are bigger and with seats that are more comfortable. You will also get a meal included on the flight! Nevertheless, this carrier operates a comprehensive and efficient network of domestic flights that are reasonably cheap.
If you value comfort, high-quality service, and reliability, you should definitely go with Vietnam Airlines.
This is the most popular carrier alternative to Vietnam Airlines. Generally, their flights are two times less expensive than the Vietnam Airlines flights. Well, that means that the service quality isn’t on the same level.
While you’re waiting on the Vietnamese airports, you will most likely hear many announcements on Jetstar Asia flight delays. Their planes are smaller, and there are fewer options regarding domestic destinations in Vietnam.
If you’re traveling on a tighter budget and are ready for an inferior service that often includes delays, then pick Jetstar Asia.
This airline carrier is yet another alternative for domestic flights in Vietnam.
David and Lovel took the flight from this carrier and ended up missing their flight back home from Hanoi.
The flights regularly go from most of the domestic airports, but delays are pretty commonplace with VietJet Air. If you can buzz through inferior service for a few hours of flying and are prepared for numerous possible delays, then you can definitely save money with VietJet Air.
Don’t make the same mistake as us and book the flight a day before the trip! You will wind up in a loop of micro-delays that can stack up in a more significant delay.
When talking about flight options, Vietnam is reasonably good when it comes to air connections. There are 22 domestic airports that you can fly between. They are located all over Vietnam, so that travelers may get to their desired destinations in a lesser amount of time. Here’s a list of the domestic airports in Vietnam sorted by three main regions:
- Hanoi Airport
- Hai Phong Airport
- Dien Bien Airport
- Thanh Hoa Airport
- Van Don Airport
- Da Nang Airport
- Hue Airport
- Nha Trang Airport
- Da Lat Airport
- Vinh Airport
- Quy Nhon Airport
- Pleiku Airport
- Buon Ma Thuot Airport
- Chu Lai Airport
- Dong Hoi Airport
- Tuy Hoa Airport
- Ho Chi Minh City Airport
- Con Dao Airport
- Phu Quoc Airport
- Ca Mau Airport
- Can Tho Airport
- Rach Gia Airport
Now you can see that Vietnam is pretty much connected by air all over the country. If you decide to travel to Vietnam by airplane, make sure to familiarize yourself with the ticket booking process!
Before you book any domestic flight in Vietnam, you have to present your passport (or rather, the passport number!).
The flights can be booked online with relative ease:
When booking flights online, make sure that you check all the categories. You will get an e-ticket online which you can then print or present in the digital format on the domestic airport of your choice.
If you want to catch the cheapest fare, chase the flights that are departing later during the day. These are usually the most affordable!
Air travel in Vietnam has undergone some pretty positive changes during the last years. It is definitely the fastest way to get from point A to B in Vietnam. But, we wouldn’t say that it’s the most authentic way of traveling in Vietnam.
Speaking of that…
Got some time to spare? What about a bus ride?
Ah, the buses in Vietnam. We have already talked about them from the motorbike driver perspective, and how they rule the road. But, how is it like once you’re inside one of these buses?
Bus travel is the most common form of overland travel in Vietnam. If you’re traveling for short distances, we wouldn’t recommend them. You should enjoy in the long bus rides, after all!
Buses are the cheapest overland transport option in Vietnam. There are daily runs from all the major tourist spots that you can imagine! You can also book them in the last minute, which increases the convenience of bus travel in Vietnam.
Many buses you may run into are overnight sleeper buses. You can fully recline the seats in these buses. That is comfort on another level!
One interesting fact is that most travelers use buses to travel around Vietnam, but don’t actually see a single bus station! That is because a vast share of touristic journeys are made on services that are privately operated.
These services are usually referred to as “open-tour” buses – they don’t operate from stations but from the open-tour company offices. Open tour companies sell through-tickets between Saigon and Hanoi, with their customers free to stop off for as long as they wish at the main points on that route. The mentioned stops are (from South to North):
- Da Lat
- Mui Ne
- Nha Trang
- Hoi An
- Da Nang
- Ninh Binh
There are some drawbacks to doing this though!
Other than the mentioned private bus affairs, there are also national bus services entering the competitive game! They link all the major cities in Vietnam, as well as most minor towns. Travelers tend to use them only off the open-tour route though.
Why is that so? Well, we have already talked so much about the heat and humidity in Vietnam. Open-tour buses actually have air-conditioning, which is a godsend during the hotter days.
Also, they have limited seating and fixed timetables, which instantly give them a substantial competitive edge over the national bus services. The open-tour buses don’t pick up on the route, which makes them faster too! Because of the fierce competition in the bus transport market, prices are almost as low as the national bus network!
One example of the inferiority of the national bus services is the Mekong Delta to Saigon route. It is a 276 km ride that will last for about 8 hours in total!
What about booking bus tickets? There is an amazing application called Baolau where you can book e-tickets in most of Southeast Asia for buses, ferries, trains, and flights! Their database is regularly updated to match the real timetables. The advantage of this search engine is that you can always check the current schedules and ticket prices. That will save you lots of time you would spend looking for these timetables online or in the stations themselves.
You can buy the Baolau e-tickets online. The payment methods are:
- Visa card
After buying the tickets, your ticket will be e-mailed to you in PDF format. You can print it out or keep it on your mobile device as you will need to present it on the ticket counter from the boarding station before you get on the bus.
Now that we know some of the basic stuff about bus travel in Vietnam, let’s dive in-depth into some main bus travel services available to travelers in Vietnam!
The open-tour buses are a reasonably comfortable way to get around Vietnam. They will stop at the occasional tourist sight, such as Marble Mountains, Hai Van, and Lang Co. This can save you much time and money compared to doing the same thing independent!
What about the bus quality though? Well, we can say that it’s pretty decent! Just don’t expect too much leg room (Vietnamese people are generally shorter than us Europeans!) or any toilets on board these buses. Some expensive services have them, but a significant majority of services will pull in every few hours for a toilet and snack break.
These breaks tend to be at subpar and overpriced restaurants, so it’s always a great idea to stock up on your own snacks before you start your journey!
Another downside to the open-tour buses is that you will be often encouraged to book into the hotels owned by the bus company or affiliate partners that are usually situated right next to the drop-off point. That doesn’t stop you from finding accommodation on your own though (check out the Booking app or Agoda app to see reasonably priced accommodation)!
The open-tour bus services tend to run on time, which is surprising, based on the Vietnamese perception of time. On longer trips, some journeys will take place on the overnight buses.
The sleeper berths in overnight buses are an awesome way to get some rest!
Don’t expect too much sleep though, as these are Vietnamese roads and drivers we are talking about! You will feel many bumps on the roads and hear many honks along the way.
Keep in mind that some of the open-tour bus operators are more reliable than the others. The operators with the best reputation are Mai Linh and Hoang Long. Other than these two, some reliable open-tour bus operators are:
- TheSinh Tourist
- FUTA Bus
- InterBus Lines
- Kumho Samco
- Sapa Shuttle Bus
The mentioned operators are more reliable than others. Some other, unmentioned operators have abysmal service standards, so it’s best to avoid them.
What about the ticket prices for the open-tour bus services? The rates will vary depending on several factors:
- What company you choose
- How many stops you want to make on the route (if you are booking a through-ticket)
You can make secure ticket bookings at the outset or opt for an open-dated ticket for greater flexibility.
If you book the open-dated ticket, make sure to book it one or two days in advance to make sure that you get a seat on the bus!
We would also recommend to buy separate tickets as you go along your route.
You can buy tickets and make forward reservations from agents (one from each operator) on the each main town on the route.
If you want to avoid being sold a fake ticket or paying over the odds, it is best to buy directly from a relevant agent rather than from hotels, restaurants or unrelated tour operators and affiliates.
More or less, this is all you will need to know about the open-tour buses in Vietnam!
Good news is, the Vietnamese government is slowly upgrading the state buses on the national bus network. They are replacing the old buses with air-conditioned models, especially on the more popular routes.
It isn’t surprising and uncommon to find yourself crammed among the luggage in these buses. The mentioned luggage could be anything from live pigs and ducks in baskets to sacks of rice. Vietnam can be crazy sometimes!
Progress in the national buses can be agonizingly slow, as the buses will stop to pick up passengers or for a meal break on a frequent rate.
Also, the breakdowns. They are fairly frequent among the older national bus models. Be prepared for that too, if you choose to ride on the national bus. The breakdowns can sometimes necessitate a wait on a roadside for several hours. Often, in these situations, the driver, fare collector, and mechanic roll up their sleeves, team up together and try to improvise a repair.
Regarding the tickets, it is best to buy them at the bus stations (or via Baolau app) where you can see the fares above the ticket windows. The ticket prices are usually also marked on the tickets as well.
There are still some cases of tourists being charged over the odds, which is very common in more rural destinations from the Lao border.
For longer journeys, make sure to buy your ticket a day in advance, since many routes are oversubscribed. That can save you from many headaches for sure! We bought a one-way ticket from Hanoi to Halong Bay to experience breathtaking views from Poem Mountain.
While the national bus service isn’t the ideal way of bus travel in Vietnam, it is slowly improving and should compete pretty well with open-tour bus companies.
The privately-owned minibuses compete with the public buses on most routes. They can be often seen sharing the local bus station or simply congregating on the roadside in the center of a town. That makes them really easy to flag down on the road!
These minibuses tend to squeeze in even more people per square meter than the ordinary buses, so don’t expect too much on the comfort side. They will often drive interminably around towns, looking for more passengers to cram inside.
At least, the minibuses run throughout the day and serve some routes that are not covered by the public bus services.
How can you book tickets for minibuses? The minibus services are ticketless. That means that you will buy your “ticket” onboard the minibus. Before doing so, make sure to:
- Find out what the correct fare should be and agree on the price before boarding (bargaining is a must!)
- Have the right change, as it will come in handy and cause fewer complications
One downside on the minibus services is that you may find yourself ditched on the side of the road before reaching your destination. In case that happens, you will most likely have to cram onto the next passing service.
So, these are the main bus services you will encounter in Vietnam. Each of them have their pros and cons. Undoubtedly, the open-tour bus services are the best choice if you want the most value for your money though!
Well, there is yet another form of public transportation in Vietnam that will give you an authentic experience of Vietnam.
Want an authentic travel experience in Vietnam? Hop on the train then!
Riding on a train in Vietnam is a relatively safe and cheap form of transport. Also, you get to see much amazing scenery on the Vietnamese rail tracks!
The trains in Vietnam stop at all tourist stops between Hanoi and Saigon. They are generally more expensive than buses but are much more comfortable to ride on long distances as they have sleeper cabins.
Make sure to book trains in advance, especially in peak season!
Nowadays, few travelers choose the train ride in Vietnam, as the bus ride is much more affordable.
Let’s check out some benefits of traveling Vietnam by train that justify the higher price tag:
- Major roads are mostly lined up with ramshackle cafes, gas pumps, snack stands, and mobile phone shops; with the train, you will see lots of beautiful countryside!
- You will be involved in much less near-collisions with trucks, motorbikes, cows, and whatnot!
- There is a guarantee to get into an interaction with a bunch of friendly local people; maybe you will even be invited to join their feast!
What about the railway connections in Vietnam? Well, we can say that the railway infrastructure has really improved in recent years. Vietnam Railways has a single-track rail network that consists of more than 2,500 kilometers of line. This line is popularly called the Reunification Express, and it stretches from Saigon to the Chinese border. The Reunification Express dates back to the colonial period, but the Vietnamese government frequently upgrades it.
Most of the train services in Vietnam are slow. Aside from that fact, traveling by train can be more pleasant than traveling on the road; you will be away from the busy and dangerous Highway 1 and see far more countryside, even if you’re paying more (the coastal route is gorgeous!).
Of course, keep an eye out for your belonging while traveling on the train! Do so especially when the train stops at the station. Some precaution measures are to ensure that your money belt is tucked safely under your clothes before you go to sleep and safely storing your luggage.
The most popular tourist train routes in Vietnam are:
- Da Nang – Hue (2-3 hours ride)
- Hue – Hanoi picturesque overnight train (11-16 hours ride)
- Hanoi – Lao Cai (8-9 hours ride)
Now that we are talking about the available train services in Vietnam, let’s go more in-depth!
Starting from Hanoi, three lines branch towards the northern coast and the Chinese border:
- The route that goes along the Red River northwest to Lao Cai, it is just a one-hour bus ride away from Sa Pa and a site of the border crossing into the Yunnan Province in China (sadly, the rail on the Chinese side is out of order)
- Runs north to Dong Dang, this route connects Hanoi and Beijing (ride duration is six hours)
- A shorter line that connects Hanoi and Hai Phong (ride duration is 2 hours and 30 minutes)
Now, you can choose from five train routes in Northern Vietnam:
- Hanoi to Lao Cai (Sa Pa) – this is the busiest route, as many travelers come to check out the wonders of the Sa Pa region; there are also four-night trains (7-8 hour ride) and a day ride service (9-hour trip)
- Hanoi to Dong Dang – this route goes to the Lang Son province
- Hanoi to Hai Phong – a relatively short route to the biggest port of Vietnam
- Hanoi to Quan Trieu
- Hanoi to Saigon via Ninh Binh
Then, there is the main line, the Reunification Express. It has five services that depart daily from Hanoi to Saigon and reverse. The duration of this journey is between 30 and 40 hours. This main line shadows the infamous Highway 1 and stops in popular areas like Hue, Da Nang, and Nha Trang. Most of these services arrive between 3 AM and 5 AM in Hanoi and Saigon both.
The trains will usually leave on schedule from their departure points. There is a possibility of a delay always looming, but don’t expect anything too severe to detract you from traveling by train in Vietnam.
The only reliable way to learn the schedules is to check them on the train station walls or online!
When it comes to trains, you can choose between different classes that differ in comfort levels and prices.
If you value comfort above all else, it is essential to aim high when choosing which class to travel in!
Starting from the bottom, the first class is the hard seat. These trains are bearable for shorter journeys. Beware of the hygiene standards in these trains though, it is common for the carriages to be filthy and the windows are caged. You may feel like an animal in this ambiance, and the views from such windows are generally poor.
Going up the train class ladder, we are coming to the soft seat trains. These trains are definitely more comfortable than the hard seat trains. Also, the new carriages are air-conditioned, and some of them even have double decks!
Finally, we have the high-class trains with berths! These trains tend to have flat screen TVs that operate at ear-splitting volumes (nothing too severe to detract from the comfortable experience though!). Taking these trains are well advised for overnight journeys.
You never know what you are getting with berth trains, as the rolling stock of berths is continually being upgraded!
The cheapest option, when we are talking about berth trains are the ones with hard-berth compartments. These are quite comfortable and have six bunks, three from each side. The top ones are cramped and are the cheapest while the bottom ones are the priciest. A general rule of the thumb is; the more comfortable it is, the more expensive it is too!
There are also berth trains with soft-berth compartments which have four bunks and are always comfortable. Just expect to pay more for this luxury though!
If you have trouble noticing the berth carriages, all of them are marked with SE1, SE2, SE3, and SE4 tags!
These luxury carriages are attached to regular services on a couple of routes that are going from Hanoi:
- Livitrans operates the trains going to Hue and Da Nang
- A bunch of companies (Orient Express, Sapaly, Chapa and King Express) operate the trains to Lao Cai
Regarding the quality of the trains in Vietnam, all Reunification Express trains have air-conditioning now, which is a real godsend! Also, the overnight trains to Lao Cai have air-conditioning and are upgraded with luxury soft-sleeper carriages!
All trains are theoretically non-smoking; this rule is mostly obeyed, at least in the sleeper rooms.
It isn’t surprising to even see the guard having a smoke in the hard-seat class though!
All train carriages have toilets of variable quality. It’s really hard to know what to expect from these sometimes. Most of them are fine though, squat in nature and a little grubby. These are far more likely to be dirty and be lacking toilet paper and running water.
The toilets in the soft-sleeper carriages are the proper sit-down toilets that are comparatively clean.
Also, expect simple meals to be included in the price of the train ticket! You might want to stock up on your goodies too. Thankfully, there are a lot of opportunities to buy snacks when the train pulls into a station.
What about buying train tickets though? Booking ahead is wise. The general rule when booking a ticket is the further ahead from departure you book the better. That especially applies to situations when you plan to travel on a weekend or holiday periods.
The lower sleeper berths are often sold as six seats, which results in absolute chaos!
Train ticket booking opens about 60 days before the official departure, in some cases even 90 days!
During the peak period (like the Vietnamese New Year – Tet), book as soon as possible!
When booking sleeping compartments, you should book them at least a day or two before departure. In some situations, it is advisable to book even further ahead, such as for soft sleeper berths on Hanoi-Hue and Hanoi-Lao Cai routes.
Keep in mind that it is impossible to buy through-tickets and break your journey en route. Each train journey will require you to buy a separate ticket from the point of departure.
Getting tickets is usually painless at the stations! Even hotels and travel agencies will be able to book a ticket, for a fee of course!
Fare prices will vary depending on the travel class and the train you take. Aside from the comfort level, the general rule of the thumb is: the faster the train, the more expensive it is!
The prices are regularly changing, so make sure to check them out before booking to see where you’re at. Check out the official Vietnam Railways website for the updated train schedules!
We recommend you to book train tickets from the Baolau app because train tickets can be sold out without your prior preparation. That ensures minimum stress! You can also choose your seat from the application, which is an added bonus!
If you book your train tickets from the tourist train companies (like Orient Express, Sapaly, and Chapa), you will have to pick them up from the departure station.
So, this is all that you need to know about train travel in Vietnam. It is definitely a reasonable choice for public transportation in Vietnam as it can be a quite comfortable and enjoyable experience.
Up for island hopping or a river tour? Take a boat or a ferry!
Vietnam has numerous beautiful islands along its 3,260 kilometer-long coastline. Ha Long Bay alone has 1,600 limestone islands! You can take a boat tour around Ha Long Bay which is one of the most enjoyable trips in Vietnam!
These tours tend to be really crowded, so plan ahead to avoid huge tourist crowds!
To connect the mainland with the islands, there are numerous scheduled ferries to keep you covered. Some schedules will depend on the weather conditions though, don’t expect to take a ferry ride during a storm! They sail through the whole year to the major islands off the coastline of Vietnam.
The available ferry routes are:
- Ferry and hydrofoil services that run from Hai Phong to Cat Ba
- Ferry services that run from Ha Long to Quan Lan
- Hydrofoil services that run from Ha Long to Mong Cai and Bai Tu Long
- Ferry services that run from Cai Rong to Quan Lan
- Ferry services that run from Cai Rong to Co To
- Ferry services that run from Tuan Chau to Cat Ba
- Ferry services that run from Hoi An to Cham Islands
- Ferry services that run from Quang Ngai to Ly Son
- Ferry services that run from Ha Tien to Phu Quoc
- Ferry services that run from Rach Gia to Phu Quoc
- Ferry services that run from Rach Gia to Nam Du Island
- Hydrofoil services that run from Saigon to Vung Tau
- Ferry services that run from Soc Trang to Con Dao
- Ferry services that run from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh (this ferry crosses the Cambodian border)
Other than ferry and hydrofoil services, you can also take the river ferries. They are gradually being replaced by bridges though. There are still a few river ferries that haul themselves from bank to bank of the numerous strands of the Mekong river. You can book them from morning till night!
All of these tickets can be bought via Baolau app too!
So, if you’re up for some island hopping or a Mekong river cruise, you are covered on that front too!
Want to experience the chaotic roads of Vietnam? Rent a car or a jeep then!
These days, cars get more and more popular for transportation in Vietnam. It is really no wonder; they are a convenient, flexible and independent means of transport!
The main disadvantage would be the high cost of renting though. Another one of the main downsides to renting a car is that foreign visitors (or other short-term visitors) still aren’t allowed to drive a car for themselves!
Renting a car, jeep or a minibus with a driver from same agencies, companies and tourist offices that arrange tours is literally effortless! This is quite an economical means of transport if you are traveling in a group. That also means that you can plan a trip based upon your own taste, instead of following an itinerary of a tour company.
The prices for car rentals vary wildly, so it really pays off to research! Expect to pay:
- $50+/day for a car
- $90+/day for a jeep
Of course, the prices will depend on the size of the vehicle, its age and comfort level.
The payment for the car or jeep rentals is often made in cash directly to agencies. Vehicles that are the most common are 4-seated and 7-seated.
When you negotiate the price, it is important to clarify who will be responsible for what. Some things to check are:
- Who will pay for the drivers’ accommodation and meals?
- Who will pay for the fuel, road and ferry tolls and parking fees? (clients are mostly responsible for the fuel costs!)
- Who will pay for the repairs and what will happen in the case of a major breakdown?
After negotiating the rental price, you should make a temporary contract that will show all the above details. Also, this contract should include the agreed itinerary, especially if you are renting a vehicle for more than a day!
Make sure that the driver gets a copy of the contract in Vietnamese!
In some cases, you will need to agree on the rental price in advance. If possible, it is best if you are able to arrange to pay roughly half of the amount before and the other half after your journey.
There are also some things to look out for before renting a car or a jeep in Vietnam:
- Make sure to check the quality of the car! Rental cars are often used by unprofessional drivers who do not care for their vehicle at all. That way, you will avoid unnecessary dramas, breakdowns, and accidents. Do not hesitate to spend more time in agencies to find the car that fits your demand most ideally!
- Consider the traffic in Vietnam! Driving a car in the heavy traffic of Vietnam is really challenging, especially in the cities – there is a flood of motorbikes on every side! Of course, the local drivers are familiar with this situation, and most of them will be confident with driving in these situations.
That’s all that you need about renting a car or a jeep in Vietnam. It is a flexible means of transport in Vietnam that can be an excellent experience for sure!
So now, we have covered all the public means of transport in Vietnam when it comes to overcoming larger distances.
Most travelers will want to stay in some larger cities as they are really attractive and have plenty of things to do. Some of the travelers aren’t confident enough to rent or buy a motorbike and enter into the chaotic traffic of Vietnam yet.
If you’re confident enough, check out our guidelines on how to buy a reliable motorbike in Vietnam!
Thankfully, there are more than enough local transport services, and we will be covering them shortly!
Are you staying in the city for a while? There is a lot of local transportation means for you to try!
It isn’t that surprising to see diverse types of local transport in a country with a population that is so creative with limited resources.
Taxis are increasingly getting more common each day, and a number of cities have reasonable bus services. Somewhere else, you will have to rely on two and three-wheeled vehicles for getting around. Also, the metro system in Hanoi and Saigon will be soon open for public, which will most definitely be the next means of public transportation in Vietnam.
So, here are some of the most common local transportation services in the cities of Vietnam!
Local buses in Hanoi
In Hanoi, you can spot the local buses by their red, yellow and white colors. The prices and standards vary, the rates are usually from 5k to 10k VND (from 22 cents to 43 cents). You must pay the fares in cash!
Try to negotiate on a price and have the exact money ready before boarding as fare collectors tend to take advantage of your ignorant position.
Boarding the local buses is a great way to practice your Vietnamese language skills that will come in handy for haggling.
The main bus route is called BRT (an acronym for Bus Rapid Transit). It is the first rapid transit bus system in Hanoi that opened at the end of 2016. The BRT connects Kim Ma and Yen Nghia, which are the most populated areas of Hanoi. There are eight BRT routes planned to be in function till 2030!
These buses may be uncomfortable for Western standards, as their design is for generally smaller Vietnamese people.
Buses also come in handy when trying to get somewhere in Hanoi from the airport. There are several bus routes to take.
You can catch bus number 7 from Noi Bai International Airport that you can ride to Kim Ma Station. There is also the number 17 bus that goes to the Long Bien Station. The tickets cost 5k VND (around 22 cents), and it will take an hour to get to the city center on these buses.
There is also a new bus, number 86. It is comfortable and has Wi-Fi. This bus connects directly to the central Hanoi railway station that is in Le Duan Street. The price of the ride is 31k VND (around $1,3).
There are also mini buses that will take you from the airport to the city center or directly to your accommodation. Their prices range from 32k to 64k VND (from $1,38 to $2,75) and will depart once they are full.
Vietnam Airlines organize these minibuses, and the end station is their office in the Quang Trung Street that is located on the south of Hoan Kiem Lake.
Local buses in Saigon
You can spot the local buses in Saigon by their white and green color. The prices and standards of these buses vary. Expect to pay anywhere between 3k and 10k VND (around 13 cents to 43 cents) in cash for a ticket.
The same thing as with local buses in Hanoi; try to negotiate a price and have the exact money ready before boarding to avoid the fare collectors taking advantage of your ignorant position.
These buses may not be the most comfortable for Western standards, but they serve as a suitable means of local transport.
There are also buses that can take you from Saigon airport to your desired location.
If arriving before 6 AM and 6 PM, take the bus 152; the bus stop is directly outside the international terminal.
Take bus 109 if you want a more luxurious journey. It departs from Column 15 at the international terminal and Column 18 from the domestic terminal.
Xe Om (motorbike taxis)
As motorbikes are flooding the cities of Vietnam like flies, it is not surprising that motorbike taxis are the most common means of local transport.
You will rarely be able to walk even twenty meters without being offered a ride in larger cities.
Most of the Xe Om drivers hang around corners of the street, hotels, markets and bus stations.
You don’t need to actively search for them, as they will most likely approach you at some point, especially if you give out non-verbal cues!
The motorbike taxi prices will go up after dark, and there is a possibility of extortion too! David and Lovel have been actually offered drugs and hookers from one motorbike taxi driver on a motorbike taxi in Hanoi!
Remember that the rules of bargaining in Vietnam apply at all times when trying to book the Xe Om:
- Use finger gestures to indicate numbers which in turn indicate the price with a higher number of zeroes or in dollars!
- Keep in mind if you are negotiating for a single or return trip, and for a number of passengers too!
- If you write these figures down, you can show the exact fare to the hand of an argumentative driver!
The motorbike taxis have almost replaced the quintessential means of local transport in Vietnam – the cyclo.
The cyclo is most definitely one of the most favorite methods of transportation among international tourists visiting Vietnam. It is very relaxing to just cruise around the chaotic Vietnamese traffic slowly!
The cyclo is an environment-friendly means of transport that is slowly dying out. These three-wheeled rickshaws consist of a “bucket” seat that is attached to a front of a bicycle, hence their iconic name.
They can carry one person, or even two, even though it requires a push, so it is just better to go on foot!
You can find cyclos around markets or hotels, mostly in groups. Mostly, you can find them in touristy areas such as Hoi An, Hue and the Old Quarter in Hanoi.
The cyclo ride prices vary based on an area. Expect to pay approximately:
- 10k to 20k VND (43 cents to 86 cents) for a short ride
- 20k to 40k VND (86 cents to $1,72) for a longer or a night ride
The general rate is 40k VND for an hour ($1,72).
There are various stories of cyclo riders charging enormous sums for their service or leaving passengers somewhere random and asking for a considerable amount of money in return. Aside from these, there are also stories of people being mugged by cyclo riders in Saigon during the night. It is safer to ride cyclos during the day!
If you want to avoid being ripped off by cyclo riders, find out what is a reasonable fare from your local accommodation. If the first driver won’t accept your offer, walk away and find another one – bargaining is absolutely necessary!
Good thing to know is that most of the cyclo drivers speak basic English as they mostly target international tourists. If you want them to know where you want to go, prepare a digital or physical map, just in case!
Taxis are a common sight on the streets of all major cities in Vietnam. Most of them have taxi meters with prices in Dongs, and the fares are not that expensive. The average tariffs go from 10k to 15k VND per kilometer (43 cents to 65 cents per kilometer).
The taxi standards have been improving in recent years as there is greater competition every day. There are some scams to look out for though:
- Some drivers may still need a bit of persuasion to use their meters.
- Some drivers will go along the longer route to fill up the meter.
- Some drivers will just cruise around while the meter will be spinning suspiciously fast – these guys are the most common in Hanoi and Saigon and around bus terminals.
- When you are arriving in town, beware of drivers who will insist that the hotel you ask for is closed and want to take you somewhere else – this is usually a commission scam that often happens when you book a taxi from an airport.
Read our comprehensive post on scams in Vietnam to get yourself prepared!
We can divide taxis into two types: official and unofficial.
Official taxi companies offer high-quality services for reasonable prices that are closer to the mentioned common tariff of 10k to 15k VND per kilometer.
Individual drivers usually drive unofficial taxis. They won’t offer the best quality of service and will mostly use unreliable and vague means of calculating fees. Generally, they are not verified to be a safe option.
Look for those taxis that look more “smart”. Those that wait outside big hotels tend to be more reliable than others. Mai Linh Taxi Network has the best reputation by far. You will see their green cabs all across Vietnam.
Local transportation apps
As mobile internet is very cheap and widespread in the cities of Vietnam, mobile transportation apps are also a viable means of local transportation!
We would definitely recommend the Grab app. It is an awesome mobile application that offers regular taxi and motorbike taxi services. You can save your credit card info to your account and use the GrabPay system, or pay in cash.
You can book your ride with this application and go to the wanted location by highlighting it on the map. With this app, you can also see where is your desired driver on the map. For this convenient method to function, you will need a mobile Internet connection, of course!
Check out more useful mobile apps that will come in handy while traveling in Vietnam!
So, this is mostly all that you need to know about public transportation in Vietnam. Be it overland travel or local travel, one is certain. Public transportation in Vietnam is quickly improving these days in terms of quality and quantity.
If you travel for longer distances; buses, trains, and airplanes are the best options. We opt for buses and trains if you want to see and experience more of the Vietnamese charm. While a flight may be faster, you won’t get amazing views and rich travel experience.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and as always, if you have any questions or something to add to this post, don’t hesitate to do so in the comment section below!
Wish you safe travels in Vietnam! 🙂
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