Would appreciate any advice on this. We are off to Vietnam in a few days, will be covering a fair amount of ground in 3 weeks, from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh, with quite a few places one to stop at one the way. Can anyone reccomend what is the best way of getting around?Taking in to account costs and safety. Are open tours buses the only option, are there other tourist buses, and what are the local buses like? We have travelled around other parts of Asia before so being squashed etc isnt a problem...just wanted to know what people's experiences have been. Are the open tours really not worth it? I dont mind refusing to go in a hotel but are they really aggressive about it?
Also, how about the trains?
Thanks a lot!
#1 Noggins has been a member since 26/5/2009. Posts: 24
I would stick to the buses. Have to be careful on the open buses as they like to stop at hotels at night and try to make you stay there (so that they can get a comission fee) But I havent really heard many bad things about them. I think Mekong Bus and Sinh cafe are the most popular ones. Sinh cafe goes through all the popular destinations so you get to see them =D
#2 petite2fleurs has been a member since 28/4/2009. Posts: 2
I agree that Open Tour buses can land you in the midst of no-where. But, more importantly, they can be very restrictive in locational stops (ie. they only stop where the bulk of tourists go).
Also, be aware that there are some dodgy bus companies (and dodgy travel agencies).
I've used only Sinh Cafe for long distance bus travel. I've heard bad reports about Hanh Cafe, and others. If you choose to travel Sinh Cafe, only book with one of their actual offices (not an agent). This is because those who book with the Sinh Cafe office get priority if anything goes awry.
There are places where the train is the better option (though more expensive), especially where it is a daytime trip and the scenery attractive.
We just traveled through Vietnam in April and used a combination of Sinh Cafe buses and trains.
I was actually disappointed in the trains. We took the train from Hanoi to Hue (Sleeper) and day train from Da Nang to Nha Trang . The train was much more expensive than the bus and not particularly comfortable. For the sleeper we even did the "luxury" tourist train and apart from being infested with cockroaches it was a very bumpy ride with a "brake" happy driver.
The one train ride that is highly recommended is the Hue-Da Nang, we did a private car through there that followed the train tracks most of the way. I believe a lot of the buses cut through the tunnel under the mountain so you miss the most scenic part of the trip.
For the Sinh Cafe buses we just booked one leg at a time. I.e. Nha Trang - Dalat, Dalat-HCMC and they were fine. Comfortable buses and only about 1/2 full. The buses would always end at the "Sinh" hotel but there was never any pressure to stay there and they were always centrally located and we didn't in fact stay in any Sinh hotels except for 1 free night we got at the Sinh Tourist Hotel in Phnom Penh.
One caution: there are lots of rip-off "Sinh Cafe" imitators out there. Be reasonably careful, do your research.
As Smkuchta said, I've heard much from many about the disappointing state of rail travel in Viet Nam.
Re: Sinh Cafe, Archmichael is both right and wrong.
I learnt the hard way that the HaNOi administration does NOT enforce trade mark rights. So, in HaNoi, there is a Sinh Cafe 'tourist agency' on nearly every corner. Same same for Handspan, etc. Which agency you go to in HaNoi needs to be the 'real deal'. For Sinh Cafe, (or any other for that matter) look at their website to get the right address.
Once you get past Vinh and Hue (ie southwards), trade marks are enforced so you'll only ever encounter only one Sinh Cafe (etc) in a city.
Hope this helps
There is no simple answer!
If you can do it then buy a Minsk motorbike & ride! travel the back roads as much as possible and you will see the real Vietnam. Stay in villages along the way. But this is rough riding and not for everyone.
Trains are not as clean or well maintained as in China or some other neighbouring countries. BUT they do tend to run on schedule and price is slightly lower than budget airlines. They are convenient for some journeys & some journeys such as Saigon - Nha Trang are best by train.
Do NOT use local Vietnamese buses as they are normally overloaded (to make more money) and drive far too fast (to make more money). If they break down (frequent) you will have to wait until they repair the bus to continue your journey (often sitting on the side of the road) because drivers get paid in full before they leave.
"Tourist" buses are often not to international standards in terms of hardware or service quality. Having said that purchase all tickets direct yourself from one of the larger transport operators and you should be OK. Prices are lower than trains & so is quality of service - you get what you pay for.
#7 Pablot has been a member since 4/5/2009. Posts: 102