Bus Travel in Vietnam
Flying is the fastest way to travel within the country, but it’s also the most expensive (although compared to other countries, it’s still cheap). Traveling by bus in Vietnam is the most popular way to get around the country if you are on a low budget. You can stop wherever you want, stay there as much as you want and then continue your journey. Compared to the train, the bus hardly offers a comfortable trip (it most often is described as feeling like in a sardine can). However, it remains the cheapest way to get around Vietnam.
Getting to/from Vietnam by bus – from another country
There are boarding crossings with Cambodia, China and Laos. All can be used by foreign travelers. In general, traveling to Vietnam by bus can be just as uncomfortable as traveling within the country. But do add the facts that: you’ll be hassled by those who can obtain the visas for you (for money , of course), you’ll wait for hours at border crossings and you’ll travel with cargo (including live animals). There are VIP buses available as well.
Getting around Vietnam by bus – from one city to another
Long-distance buses connect most cities in Vietnam. Do plan to travel either early in the morning or during the night, in order to avoid both the traffic and the afternoon showers. The road speeds are low and you’ll end up traveling 8 hours to cover 276 km. Do remember that Vietnamese buses are made for the locals and Westerners might find them too small and uncomfortable.
The open tour buses are run by many companies and are designed for travelers. They offer door-to-door service at very low prices (i.e.US$20-25 to get from Hanoi to Saigon). You can stop any time you want and resume travel at your own leisure.
Be careful and keep your eyes on your possessions at all time, especially on the night buses. Typically, a travel lock will do the trick. And try not to show your expensive items. Stick to the good old mp3 player or reading a book (during the day). When you arrive at the destination and you are asked if you have booked a hotel, the answer is always “yes” (in order to avoid the taxi scams).
Getting around Vietnam by bus- within a city
In Hanoi the public buses are cheap and scam free. But they are a bit hard to figure out at first. There are 60 bus lines and the flat fare is 3000 dong.
In Saigon there are 150 bus routes. All buses are bright green, so they are hard to miss. Public bus travel in Saigon is cheap, safe and not crowded.