I've heard about the Sinh Cafe open tours, can you give me an idea on costs and where they go (I want to go from south Viet Nam to the north) thankyou
#1 bonze has been a member since 24/1/2006. Posts: 4
Overall we're not great fans of the Open Tour system -- primarily because the sellers often misrepresent the level of service you'll receive, the bus travels a limited route, concentrates tourism in a few centres, runs on an affiliate basis and it is a very touristic experience. On the upside, the service is very affordable, it is convenient and, if you're only planning on visiting the big tourist centres, then it will take you everywhere you need. Here's some more details:
The bad points
the sellers often misrepresent the level of service you'll receive
Travel agents who sell tickets for the open tour will promise you it is always on time, that you will always have a seat and that the bus will be in good condition. In our experience that is not the case. Buses are often late and woefully overcrowded. Broken seat recliners and leaking windows (especially tedious) are not uncommon.
the bus travels a limited route
The general route the buses take is Saigon - Dalat - Nha Trang - Hoi An - Hue - Hanoi. The bus runs in both directions. While the service is called an "Open Tour" it is more like a "limited tour" in that it takes you to the above stops and that is it. If you decide to break a trip between two of the stops (eg get off at Vinh between Hue and Hanoi) then you forfeit the remaining part of that segment -- this is not something a travel agent will tell you!
concentrates tourism in a few centres
Because of the limited route, tourists find themselves all showing up in the same centres. While this may suit some, it deprives others of seeing many of the other destinations in Vietnam. It wouldn't be difficult for the bus to pick up and drop off at more centres but it doesn't -- in part because of the next point.
runs on an affiliate basis
The reason the bus is soooooo cheap is because the bus company has a comprehensive system of franchise and affiliate agreements throughout the trip, with them receiving back handers on every purchase you make. You'll often find yourself dropped at an affiliated guesthouse -- often a long walk from anywhere else, and often (tough not always) overpriced. While you may only be paying marginally more than if you were stopping at these places independently, many travellers resent the fact they're being taking to a certain place not because the food is good, but because the bus company is getting a back-hander.
it is a very touristic experience
Travelling the whole length of Vietnam in an overcrowded minibus full of other tourists is, in my opinion, a pretty touristy experience.
The good points - yes there are some!
the service is very affordable
Short of walking, there is no cheaper way to travel from Saigon to Hanoi than via the Open Tour -- through tickets can cost as little as US$20. So if you're on a very low budget -- it is the way to get around. Remember you get what you pay for!
it is convenient
No trips out to outlying bus stations. No dealing with non-English speaking touts. The Open bus system is easy and convenient. They will often pick you up at your guesthouse, though getting dropped off at the guesthouse you want can sometimes be more of a challenge.
if you're only planning on visiting the big tourist centres, then it will take you everywhere you need
Just remember there is a lot more of interest in Vietnam than the big tourist centres!
The train is safe, reasonably on time and affordable. The public bus system is a bit creaking, but is super-cheap. Either of these are worthwhile alternatives for travellers who don't mind a little discomfort.
#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,707
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Thanks a lot. very helpful answeer
#3 bonze has been a member since 24/1/2006. Posts: 4