How to Travel around Vietnam easily and safely.

Traveling around Vietnam.

Vietnam’s transportation network is improving, however, it is still a touch rough around the edges. 

The majority of travel takes place on roads, which are generally OK, but you may get a few potholes here and there.  Air-conditioned coaches transport visitors and locals up and down Highway 1.

Highway 1 is a small and unsurprisingly congested thoroughfare that stretches from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, passing through Hué, Da Nang, and Nha Trang along the way.

 Off the beaten path, the roads are less friendly. Quite often you will find winding dirt roads and tight narrow alleyways if you are riding a motorbike or traveling around town on a Xe-Om. (Motorbike Taxi)

Trains operate alongside Highway 1, and for longer journeys, their sleeper beds are significantly more comfortable than buses. 

Airline services are expanding, and the low-cost, comfortable services may allow you to shave days off your plan. 

Let us have a bit more of a look.

Planes, trains, and automobiles. (and Boats)

Coaches and Cars and Motorbikes.

Automobiles.

Coaches

Although Vietnam’s congested, narrow roads are not designed for overtaking, nearly every vehicle is either overtaking or being overtaken at any one time, and accidents ( And fatalities) are common.

Most routes now have fixed-price tickets, and the introduction of luxury buses on the main tourist route has seen comfort standards soar. Many buses have sleeper-berths for the entire route on the longer stretches, though obtaining 40 winks might be difficult. 

Why, because the nature of local roads ( and bladder requirements) means that emergency stops are regular, and Vietnamese drivers frequently blast their horns, which can become annoying after a lengthy stop-filled trip.

Security is still a major consideration. Always sleep with your bag at your side and never leave valuables unattended if you travel by coach. Petty crime such as theft is common and quite often done by local ex-pats as well as Vietnamese criminals.

Cars.

Hiring a personal driver is not expensive in Vietnam. Yes, it is more expensive but not exorbitant. An example of this would be traveling from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau, a coastal town close to H.C.M.C., which would cost about 2,000,000 dong or about $90.00 US. Not bad for a 2-hour journey of 61 miles.

Motorbikes

Xe-oms used to be the go-to for traveling around town if you can cope with the heat and traffic. However, Grab has made big inroads into the local Xe-Oms business, mainly because they are cheaper and safer. 

Two dollars will get you from one side of the city to another, so if you are on a budget download the local grab app.

Hiring Motorbikes.

If you want to play Russian road roulette you can hire a motorbike. Unless you have lived here for a while or are a very experienced driver, I would not recommend it. 

But there are many places you can hire from. And most only need a copy of your passport and cash upfront. Do not leave your passport.

If you want a trustworthy person to speak to in H.C.M.C. I would recommend Stevie’s garage. He not only provides rentals but also sells quality second-hand motorcycles.

Road Rules

Because of the chaos that passes for a traffic system in Vietnam you should not venture out onto the roads until you’re completely sure of your ability to do so. 

In theory, you should drive on the right, but in fact, drivers and cyclists will drive on sidewalks and duck in and out of traffic as fast as they can. 

Using the “horn” on the car or motorbike is a normal occurrence and is used to warn others where you are. So do not freak out when you are walking or driving down the road and you hear a loud “BEEP” 

The normal speed limit on highways is 60 km/h, while in cities or towns it is 40 km/h or less. And if you get up to these speeds in rush hour, hats off to you. The traffic here is frantic. 

Get your Licence

I have had friends who have had their motorcycles confiscated because of no paperwork. Do not become one of them. 

You can find out more about getting your license in Vietnam in my postHow to teach English in Vietnam”

Trains.

Fewer passengers choose the railway over tour buses, mainly because of the lower prices and consistent service of traveling by coach. But rail travel is definitely worth considering for a variety of reasons. 

For starters, main highways are usually dotted with run-down cafés, gas stations, snack stalls, and cell phone shops which the bus companies may have an affiliation with. So stopping in some cases is compulsory. 

However, from the train, you can view some of the countryside. Second, you’ll have a lot fewer close calls with vehicles, motorcycles, and dogs. Third, you’re practically certain to meet a bunch of pleasant locals, and maybe even get invited to join in the feasts that some of them bring on board.

Prices.

The prices are reasonable by train. HCMC to Hanoi costs between US$35 and US$70, depending on the operator and route, whereas HCMC to Hue costs around US$25. The higher the price, the more stops you add.

You can check out the fares at the Vietnam railway website. however please do not provide credit card details to this site as it is not secure. Please see below. From Google.

This website doesn’t have a valid certificate. The information sent to and from it is not secure and can be intercepted by an attacker or seen by others. There’s a risk to your personal data when sending or receiving information from this site.

If possible, contact the website owner to request that their site protect its data with a secure connection.

Google.

Planes

On longer journeys, flying comes into its own, saving hours or even days. 

The two-hour flight between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, for example, compares well to the 30 to 40 hours you’d spend on the train. And even longer on a bus. However…

With Vietnam’s extensive domestic aircraft network, getting around the country has never been easier.

Airports
Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang International Airport in Da Nang are the three major international hub airports in Vietnam.

Airlines

Domestic flights in Vietnam are currently operated by the following four airlines:

Vietnam Airlines is the country’s national carrier.

Low-cost carrier VietJet Air is dependable for short-haul flights.

Jetstar is a low-cost carrier founded by Vietnam Airlines in collaboration with Australia’s Qantas.

Vasco is a Vietnam Airlines subsidiary that specializes in very short-haul flights. It is used by those who wish to travel around Vietnam’s southern region.

And there are many regional airports in Vietnam with connecting services and taxis waiting to take you to your accommodation.

There are 33 Airports in Vietnam and this link covers all these 33 Vietnam Airports. Find Airport Information about airport to airport distance, airport to city distance, Current Time and Date at airport Vietnam, etc… at ..Airport lists in Vietnam

Boats, Ferries, and hydrofoils.

There are some places where you can catch a boat or a ferry or even a hydrofoil. And it can be a lot of fun.

One of the most amazing adventures in Vietnam is a boat tour of Ha Long Bay. Others include scheduled year-long runs,  weather allowing, to the key islands off Vietnam’s coast, such as Phu Quoc, Cat Ba, and Con Dao. 

Ferry and hydrofoil services are also available from Hai Phong to Cat Ba, as well as hydrofoils from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau and Ha Long City to Mong Cai and Bai Tu Long. 

River Ferries

A few river ferries still carry people from bank to bank in the Mekong from morning to night, despite being steadily superseded by bridges.

I have gone from high-end cruises to small boats on the riverways, and one of my most memorable occasions was sailing down the river in Tra Vinh with my wife and two friends. All at a ridiculously low price.

You can find out prices and more information at Vietnam Open Tour. But once again please do not provide credit card details as it is an unsecured site. OK to look, but do not provide personal information, please.

This website doesn’t have a valid certificate. The information sent to and from it is not secure and can be intercepted by an attacker or seen by others. There’s a risk to your personal data when sending or receiving information from this site.

If possible, contact the website owner to request that their site protect its data with a secure connection.

Google

Conclusion.

Whatever way you want to travel around Vietnam is dependant on cost and how adept you are at integrating and socializing with others. 

Be open to new experiences and share how you feel with your new Vietnamese friends, and try to learn a little language before you visit. 

Here is a link to my Happy New Year Phrases in Vietnamese.

 

My name is Stephen and I am the author and owner of Vietnam ESL 

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