Best Ways to Get Around in Vietnam
So you're headed to Vietnam, mostly likely on a plane. Air travel is a great way to travel, just saying. But now what do you do once you land? Many travelers opt to explore the country by making their way from Hanoi in the North to Saigon in the South or vice versa. Before having my experiences in Vietnam I thought that traveling through the country was going to be quite a difficult task, especially since I didn't know the language. However, much to my surprise, transportation there is pretty simple, with a few caveats nonetheless.
Here's the top 3 ways to travel in Vietnam:
Motorbike's rule in Vietnam. They're EVERYWHERE. But this is good news for you! This means that you can easily rent a motorbike in any city or you can even purchase one at your first stop, ride it all the way to your last stop, and sell it there. People have even fixed up their bikes a little bit and sold it for more than they bought it for! To ensure that you're getting good quality and safe bikes ask your hostel or hotel (if they're reliable) for recommendations on where to rent or buy.
Purchasing a quality motorbike should cost you averagely $300 and no more than about $450. The most common model used by locals and travelers is a Honda and more specifically the Honda Win. I highly suggest getting one of these to blend in and reduce the amount of unwanted attention you may attract from thieves and police.
Renting a motorbike for the day should cost you around 150,000 to 200,000 VDN (about $6.50 - $9.00). Most places will also give you 1 price for with gas and 1 price for without gas. I'd take the with gas price just to make your life a little easier.
2. Sleeping Bus
When I first heard "sleeping bus" I was like what the heck is a sleeping bus and I'm sure you're thinking the same if you've never heard of one too. A sleeping bus is EXACTLY what it sounds like. It's a bus fitted with sleeper chairs instead of normal seats. So you can lay down and take a nice little nap on your ride from one city to the next.
You have to take off your shoes when entering the bus, which makes perfect sense! So you don't track dirt and who knows what else everywhere inside. They also provide you with a blanket and usually a bottle of water. I didn't feel super safe or clean using the blanket so I opted for my own sweater or jacket instead. The buses can get cold pretty quickly so bring something to cover yourself with if you don't want to use their blankets.
But beware! Bus timing information is usually incorrect. Journeys will take longer or shorter than expected. Our supposed 4 hour journey was easily about 7 hours. Also pick up could be on time or it could be 2 hours late. The boys waited for a little over 2 hours once for a bus. So be prepared for things to go unexpectedly.
Booking a sleeping bus is easy! All you have to do is go to a tour operator's office and tell them where you want to go and they'll book you a spot. Your hostel or hotel can do the same, for a premium. Most of the time the bus companies will pick you up from your hostel or hotel. Depending on where you're going, a ticket should cost you about $5 to $11. Our sleeping bus from Hoi An to Quy Nhon cost us $9 each, although we could've gotten it cheaper from a more sketchy tour office, which I opted out of doing. Safety first!
3. Taxi or Private Hire
In Vietnam you can actually take a taxi from one city to another. You can also get a private hire car to do the same. Both are good options if you're going to a more secluded area or if you're wanting a more leisurely experience. Be careful with both because it's so easy to get ripped off. Make sure you compare prices and for most city to city situations settle on a fixed price with the driver before getting into the car. To get from Vedana Lagoon Resort and Spa to Hoi An, about a 2 to 2.5 hour trip, it cost us a fixed price of 1.1 Million VDN about $48-$50. This was a bit overpriced because the taxi actually ran the meter while we drove and it ended up being somewhere around 800,000 VDN. But we had to hire the taxi at the hotel so there's always a premium for that.
Fake taxis in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon). Yes, fake taxis exist! A fake taxi is basically a taxi that has a rigged meter and your ride can end up costing you up to 5 times more than the average price. There are only two real taxi companies that run in Saigon. These two are the white Vinasun Taxis with the phone number 38 27 27 27 on the cars and the green Mai Linh Taxis with the phone number 38 38 38 38 on the car.
A taxi is the best way to get to the Ho Chi Minh Airport (Tan Son Nhat International Airport). The cost of a taxi from District 1 to the airport or vice versa is around 150,000 to 170,000 VDN + 10,000 VDN. I got ripped off and I knew I was getting ripped off too. At that point I was so tired that I didn't care. The parking ticket cost or entry fee for taxis at the airport is 10,000 VDN (this is stated on the airport website so you can screenshot that and show it to your driver) and you'll be asked to pay this fee, which is normal. My driver basically told me it was 50,000 VDN and I just gave it to him because I wanted to get on my plane. 40,000 VDN is only about $1.80, so I let it slide. But I'm putting this here so you know!