I booked an Open Ticket from Hanoi to Saigon without thoroughly checking out optoins. I started out with Hanh. They had a sleeper bus to Hue but only a sitting bus from Hue to Nha Trang. I bought another ticket on Camel as they had a sleeper bus to Nha Trang. Once I arrive in Mui Ne (via mountain bike from Dalat), I learned that Hanh Travel had only afternoon departures (or 4:00 AM) for Saigon so bought another ticket with TM Brothers that left at 8:00 AM. This allowed me to arrive in time to check out tour operators and buy a ticket for the Mekong Delta trip the next day.
Check this out before buying your ticket if it makes a difference. People I talked to who were on the sitting bus overnight didn't sleep much. It might cost a bit more but consider buying the sections you need when you arrive.
Welcome to VietNams notorious bus system operated, in the main, by crooks and sharpies who exploit the Foreigners visiting the country on tight budgets.
There are few operators that do end-to-end (Ha Noi HCMC). Not even the original OpenTour Sinh only goes to Hue (where Ha Noi Toserco takes over). Hoang Long (Hai Phong) does the job with new, big engined buses driven by professional drivers. Mai Linh will join them after Tet.
Camel (in the north) partners with T. M. Brothers who cover the south - both run old Korean rust buckets with seats and a few sleepers, one of Camel's had a front-end collision after three days of operation.
Hanh Cafe now does end-to-end, again with seated rust buckets and a few new sleepers. Their driver who brought a sleeper (53S2374) knocked over a pedestrian on Pham Ngu Lao in HCMC tonight (Tuesday) when he was parking!
Vung Thanh has 8 sleepers of which 6 sustained damage in the first six weeks of operation. Its seated bus are in poor condition.
Trekking Travel operates from Nha Trang through to Ha Noi. They have simply terrible old equipment, and even one of their two new buses operated with a window filled with cardboard for 9 weeks last year. They have a capital shortage.
No one operator, except Hoang Long and Mai Linh, has sufficient equipment to operate their schedules so they are forced to 'code share'. Together equipment shortages and aggressive scheduling means that passengers will encounter 'shortfalls' on their tickets. And good luck getting a refund!
Added to this mix of equipment is a group of suicidal drivers who lack professionalism and sleep. For example, drivers on the Ha Noi / Hue run head south overnight, get about 5 or 6 hours sleep and then head back the following night. Now that the EU has donated large quantities of laser speed traps, passengers will notice that the excessive speeds cease from just north of Dong Ha right through to Hue - further reducing the amount of sleep the drivers get.
Insurance on the vehicles is sufficient to meet the banks requirements stipulated in the bus loans - there is NO INSURANCE for passengers.
In the event of an accident, the police usually arrest the driver - if the offence is too serious to be covered by a bribe - and impound the bus until the damages assessed by them is paid to the victim or their family. Trekking killed a motorcyclist last fall, in Vinh, and the company paid USD$25,000 to the family and to get the bus released. Passengers were accommodated, after prolonged delays, on other OpenTour buses.
The prices vary widely. Camel charges hotels and travel agents USD$12 for a sleeper between Ha Noi and Hue - they also pay commissions of VND20-30,000 based on sales.
The best routing is to get a sleeper train between Ha Noi and Hue as well as Da Nang (for Hoi An) and Nha Trang - saving a night in a hotel - and use a reliable OpenTour (Sinh, Hoang Long or Mai Linh) for the shorter, day journeys.
Not all OT buses provide water, so take your own (cheaper than at the bus break cafes) and some snacks.
#2 CatBa has been a member since 5/3/2007. Posts: 349
Semi related to this in terms of the tours and the accommodation associated. Don't go to Mui Ne Resort (run by the Sinh Cafe tour people) as it was $35 and although room was good, the staff in the resteraunt were not (food nothing to write home about either) and things were left broken (deck chairs etc) for days. Also as we were leaving, a guy had given in his passport wallet to the font desk safety deposit and he also had pounds in there, 20 pounds of which was missing and all his credit cards mixed up so he had to cancel them. Their buses are good (we are doing point to point buses not the tour) but I would shy away from the accommodation.
#3 celianz has been a member since 15/12/2007. Posts: 16