Vietnam has an extensive internal transportation system including a network of national and provincial highways, as well as local roads connecting all the provinces, cities and towns in the country. There are inter-province and inner-province bus stations with convenient passenger services, which are being improved every day. There are inexpensive taxi services in all the major cities. And for those looking for an affordable way cover the metropolises of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, there are inner-city buses operating all throughout the day. In addition to public transportation, using motorbikes, cyclos, bicycles and other vehicles is common in Vietnam.
Flying is the most convenient way to cover the most ground when attempting to maximize time. Many travelers greatly underestimate the distance between each destination and opt for budget travel as opposed to flying domestically. But for those unaware of the geography of Vietnam, a thirty to four hour train ride between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City is reduced to a mere two-hours by plane. Due to an increasing amount of competition among airline carriers, domestic flights are affordable and frequent. The official commercial airline, Vietnam Airlines, flies to 21 destinations across the country, competing with budget carriers such as Vietjetand Jetstar.
Soak in the beauty of the countryside by opting for a route less traveled via railroad. The north and South are connected by a single-track network managed by Vietnam Railways that snakes through the country from Ho Chi Minh City all the way to the Chinese border. The entire train network in Vietnam is 2,600km. The railroad line is undergoing serious renovations as much of the existing tracks date back to colonial times, so be plan accordingly.
- Tickets for many routes are sold at counters in the stations, days and months in advance. Only buy tickets inside the station.
- Disabled people, elderly people, children and foreigners can buy tickets at special counters in all stations.
- Train tickets are also are sold at all travel agencies. From Hanoi, tour packages to Hue Citadel, Cua Lo Beach, Sa Pa, Do Son Beach, Sam Son Beach, Cat Ba Island are available.
- Luggage transport and freight forward service is available on Reunification Express Train. For interested parties, contact number 04 3942 3028.
Cases of ticket exemption and fare reduction
- Children under 5: One ticket is used for an adult and a child under five.
- Children ages 5 to 10: Must be accompanied by adult to purchase ticket at reduced rate.
- For foreigners traveling in groups: The fare of collective ticket for more than 50 passengers is reduced 10%; more than 40 passengers is reduced 15; and more than 20 passengers is reduced 10%.
The Reunification Express
The Reunification Express isn’t one single entity. In fact, it refers to the the route connecting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, running a total of 1,726 km. 2016 year marks the 80th anniversary Vietnam’s historic north-to-south railway. The 36 hour long scenic ride makes stops in Hue, Danang, Nha Trang, and Phan Thiet (Mui Ne.) A slow, but memorable journey, five Reunification Express services run daily (7:30PM; 10PM; 6AM; 9AM; 1:10PM) from both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. There are four classes to choose from: hard seat, soft seat, hard sleeper, and soft sleeper. Each cabin is subsequently divided into four berths. Bedding is provided on all trains and there are communal western and squat toilets on both ends of every carriage. Reservations are highly recommended and can be arranged at travel agencies or at the stations.
The open-tour bus service is growing in popularity among tourists and locals alike. Buses run regularly and reliably from the popularly frequented destinations of Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Da Lat, Mui Ne, and Ho Chi Minh City. Most open tour buses are sleeper buses, providing a more comfortable bus travel experience. Bookings can be made 1-2 days ahead. However, be advised that for those traveling on public holidays, tickets are reserved weeks in advance and therefore, travellers may struggle finding any available seats. Ticket rates depend on the company and distance travelled. Usually, companies are strict with ticket sales and purchases are non-refundable.
The predominant mode of transportation, motorbikes are the most convenient way to travel around. Long-distance motorbiking is appealing for those with an inclination towards independent travel, although not recommended for novice motorists. You’ll find rental shops in almost every city. Renting price depends on the quality of the bike. On average, most bikes go from 6 to 12 USD a day. Renters may be asked to deposit his/her passport at the renting place or leave a monetary deposit of equal value to the renters if renting a vehicle for more than a week. This is not an uncommon practice. Never park your vehicle unattended and make sure to check the ticket number before leaving the parking lot. Wearing a helmet is mandatory.