Me and my GF are in Hanoi atm, and are plotting our way down 'Nam with the usual stops of Hue, Hoi An, Mui Ne and HCMC. We have been recommended the open-tour bus system, in particular, a company called Sinh Cafe Travel- they're also reviewed by Lonely Planet and Rough Guide.
Has anyone used this company, and if so, could they tell me if they are any good? Mostly I just want to know if our bags will be safe on an overnight bus, (or at least as safe as they ever can be in Asia!!) and whether the service is good for tourists?
Thanks for any suggestions
#1 David_Flick has been a member since 28/10/2011. Posts: 3
The 'real' Sinh Cafe renamed their organisation about 2 years ago to The Sinh Tourist: https://www.thesinhtourist.vn/default.aspx. They did this as there were so many copy-cat operators using their name and offering substandard service in many cases. (Just search on 'Sinh Cafe' on this website to see all the old back-stories!)
I used The Sinh Tourist (around the time of their name change) and found them to be fine. By that, I mean I got picked up and dropped off as expected. Me, my travelling partner and our bags made it in once piece - and that was good enough for me!
Personally, I would tend to track down their office in Hanoi (refer to https://www.thesinhtourist.vn/OfficeIMG.aspx ) to get the address and speak to them personally. I wouldn't book anything online. I would also tend to just buy one leg at a time. You are likely to change your mind as you travel - you might end up doing a motorbike tour, or visiting another city that isn't on the open-tour bus route. I'm a firm believer in keeping your options open when travelling, esp in Asia!
I wouldn't necessarily recommend doing it through your hotel, because you never actually know which company they have booked you with. I still think it's best to go physically visit the office of the company that you intend to use. You can hopefully very quickly get a feel for how they run their business and their operations. It's not full-proof, but it gets you a step further ahead.
I booked it through my hotel - the guys on the front desk and I got to drinking - and I get the feeling the experiences you get with these companies are all more or less the same. As long as they pick you up and drop you off, you're golden.
I have to say it was hard not to notice the staff kicking the s--- out of the big backpacks in order to fit them in to the cargo hold down below before I got in. I keep everything fragile or valuable in day pack I carry with me at all times for that very reason. Just clothes and other stuff that can take a beating in the big bag.
I just rode on a Hung Thanh open ticket from Hanoi to Hue on a colossal 14-odd hour overnighter. I have to say the experience is pretty hellish if you're my height (6'3") since the "beds" they shove you in are built for people no more than like 5 foot nothing. Sleep was impossible - a coffin would have been more comfortable - and for some reason the driver seems to bump the lights on every hour or so, just for a giggle. Also, a couple of the Vietnamese guys in neighbouring beds had no reservations about talking loudly at 4 in the morning amongst themselves or on the phone. Jeez, use your 'indoor' voices fellas.
My advice would be, if you can, to get in one of the lower bunks, which seemed to afford more headroom - or just fly. From the time of departure 'til the time of arrival - 8pm to 9am, I got precisely zero winks of sleep. I did rack up a few nice bruises on the ol' shins though.
Not looking forward to the Hoi An - Nha Trang leg of the journey, I can tell you that for free.
Busy Lizzy have you had any experience of a company called Sinh Balo (http://sinhbalo.com/cgi-bin/app.cgi)? I was under the impression that this company was the original Sinh Cafe, do you think it is just another copy cat? I have to say I was led to it by someone on travelfish saying that it was the original (therefore reputable) but obviously now I am not sure. Ta
#5 Phiddy has been a member since 1/12/2011. Posts: 64
Phiddy - sorry, not I haven't heard of them, so can't help you out. But I'm pretty comfortable that Sinh Tourist is the original old Sinh Cafe based on discussions when I visited them in Nha Trang . That's not to say that Sinh Balo is not reputable; I just don't know. I did use other bus companies other than Sinh Tourist that were also OK, but I don't recall their names. I don't want to imply that Sinh Tourist is the ONLY decent company in Vietnam.
Cranky - you make me laugh! I did the Hoi An to Nha Trang journey and it was ... well, OK. I did manage to get a little bit of sleep. But my travelling partner, who is closer to your height didn't enjoy it so much!
I think the Hanoi - Hue leg is a bit longer than the Hue-Nha Trang leg if that consoles you in any way. (Not much shorter though!). We arrived in Nha Trang just as the sun was rising (about 5.30am maybe) which was an interesting sight as the streets were crowded with locals out for the daily exercise. It was a memory that stuck with me for some reason...
I saw a few early morning fisherman floating about at the crack of dawn when I rode, semi-crippled, into Hue . That was kinda cool.
As far as the comparative distance between Hanoi to Hue and Hoi An to Nha Trang - I was going off the cartoon map on the back of the bus ticket which in retrospect may not be to scale. I certainly hope it's a shorter journey.
There was a typo in last paragraph of my last post. I meant to say:
"I think the Hanoi - Hue leg is a bit longer than the Hoi An - Nha Trang leg..."
Anyhow, now I need to know - I'm worried about my fading memory. So I looked it up.
Hanoi - Hue = 14 hours by bus
Hue - Hoi An = 4 hours
Hoi An - Nha Trang = = 10 hours
http://www.travelfish.org/trip_planner/vietnam-hanoi-to-saigon. Scroll down to the bottom for a chart of travel times. Not sure if this will make you feel better or not?!
I have used Sinh Tourist about six times over the last two years. It seems to be slowly going downhill. The buses are getting older and the staff less reliable. Yesterday, in Nha Trang when I booked a ticket I was double charged. I queried it at the time and went to another company named Hanh Cafe I discovered their price was less than half of the Sinh Tourist price. I cancelled and rebooked with Han Cafe. I suspect that the Sinh Tourist the staff were trying to scam me. The Han Cafe bus was better than the average Sin Tourist bus.
#10 Travelguy71 has been a member since 29/8/2012. Posts: 1
I would like to add to Travelguy71's statement that Sinh Tourist "seems to be slowly going downhill" from August, 2012, that this process has obviously accelerated very much since then. We have used this agency twice in May 2014, and our experiences were completely negative. Therefore, I recommend not to use this agency anymore.
Details: We wanted to book a train ticket via Sinh Tourist - as advertised on their website - to go from Danang to Hue . As a reply, I received "No train ticket available for the day requested". This appears to be the first lie of Sinh Tourist; they wanted to sell their bus tickets, what we eventually did in order to see the landscape around the famous pass. We did neither get a voucher nor sufficient information about the procedure how to get the bus tickets. Only after our investigation we learned that, after paying the fees, we shall get a confirmation mail. The tickets will be handed out at the Sinh Tourist office in Danang. Furthermore, we had to deliver a copy of the passport and the credit card to get our ticket already paid online. The agent in the office told us that their bus has had an accident and we will have an equivalently comfortable ride to Hue by another company. This is the second lie. Because we were the only two Sinh Tourist tourists, this company booked us on an old and overcrowded bus operated by Hanh Cafe. The last two people entering the bus had to sit in the aisle on very small chairs. Our seats were more comfortable: just above the engine that dissipated most of its waste heat into the cabin. The outside temperature was close to 40 degrees Celsius, much colder than inside. The air condition did not work properly - if at all. The smart tour guide recommended "Open the side windows, that is your air condition". If we want to have sauna, we usually decide ourselves when and where to take it!
No compensation - not even the smallest bottle of water. What a great hospitality!
#11 stony has been a member since 15/5/2014. Posts: 1