Traffic and transportation in Vietnam can be like a dangerous attraction.
Traffic and transport in Vietnam is hassle free. Well…. it is if you bite the mental bullet and embrace the concept that almost everyone, everywhere, is running about like a madman. Often people do not comply with any rules of the road. It is quite common to ride on sidewalks/ pavements and the wrong way in one-way traffic. An exception might perhaps be in the large and well-known city centers, where there may be a group outbreak of sensible driving following some rules of the road. But stay calm ! and you won‘t see a lot of accidents.
It is important to realize that the war in Vietnam and the bombing had a great influence on the current transport infrastructure. Lots of railways and roads were destroyed during the war. Although it has been a long time since, there have still been traces of this damage until recently. Roads in remote mountainous areas especially are not in good condition. However, the situation is changing and I have seen a lot of roads newly built or repaired.
In almost any place in Vietnam you can take a bus or rent a motorbike
For the most remote areas really the best way to get there is to rent or buy a motorbike in a town. If you are on a guided tour and finances are not a problem, well you probably can get by without a bike. The best advice I can give you is that It is important to ask and talk with the people! you will find people helpful – “Everybody knows everything.“
UBER and GRAB – alternative taxi services for less than half price
• great mobile applications and taxi, motorbike services (apps for Android and iOS)
• you will save your credit card to your private secure account so you do not need any cash
• you can book your ride with the application, select the location where do you want to go
• within a few minutes the driver will pick you up, take a ride and after you get a receipt by email
• you need to have mobile internet, buy a prepaid SIM card with 3G Internet
• create your Uber account here and get some credit for travelling for free
• in Vietnam you can use Uber and Grab in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city
• information about Uber in Vietnam and Grab (according to media reports from February 2018, Uber will leave Southeast Asia market and pass its activities to Grab, more info)
Motorbike or scooter is the most widely used means of transport in Vietnam.
You will probably also use the services of buses, which are very widespread, also trains or taxis. If you use a motorbike for transport and Google Maps, watch out for road markings. Some small roads can be displayed as main roads, but when you get there, it can be a very difficult to pass dirt road (especially in remote areas). The traffic in Vietnam can sometimes be dangerous, personally, I’ve seen only one minor traffic accident in Hanoi, and it was only a fender bender 🙂
TRAVELING ON A MOTORBIKE IN VIETNAM
• from 2015 you need to have international driving licence
• the best and cheapest option for transportation in Vietnam is to rent or buy a motorbike
• rent costs from $7-15 / 1 day (this price applies if you rent a motorbike for 1-4 days, if you rent a motorbike for 1 month, the price is greatly reduced).
• you will see thousands of motorbikes and confusing chaos in Hanoi
• motorbikes ride in the wrong direction, along the sidewalks/ pavements, on paths, etc … be careful !
• if you do not want to drive, you can ask someone with a motorbike (mototaxi)
• when you rent a motorbike or take a bus you will see very intersting and out of the way places
• when you rent a motorbike, check it and take a picture in front of the dealer
• wear a motorbike helmet, ride slowly and very carefully, the roads are dangerous in some remote areas
• check the traffic situation in front of you, traffic in Vietnam is unpredictable
• in mountainous areas it is better to rent a motorbike with a bigger engine
• the most popular model is Honda, I personally tried these several times without any problem
• fill a reserve of petrol in to a plastic bottle, on some routes there might not be a petrol station for a while
• take at least a basic set of tools for a motorbike
Where to rent or buy a motorbike in Vietnam:
You can buy or rent a motorbike mainly in the center of big cities and tourists spots. Outside the shop is a row of motorbikes and the inscription “Motorbike for sale / rent”, it is a clear signal, there is a bike shop. Vietnamese – “Xe máy” = Motorcycle, “Cho thuê xe máy” = Motorcycle Rentals.
Sale and rent of motorbikes, good and certified companies + websites + expats:
rental of motorbikes (+motorbike tours) in Hanoi+Ha Giang, Da Nang (good reference) – RENTABIKEVN.com
sale and rental of motorbikes in Hanoi (good reference) – Phung Motorbike / Tigitmotorbikes / Flamingotravel
rental of motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh city – Saigon scooter rental
the good website where travelers sell motorbikes in Vietnam – Travelswop
motorbikes for sale or rent in Vietnam (Facebook group) – Backpacking Vietnam by bike
advertising community site – sales of motorbikes in Vietnam – TNH Vietnam
motorbikes for sale or rent in Vietnam (Facebook group) – Vietnam Backpacker Sales
sale and rental of motorbikes in Vietnam – Vietnam Craigslist
motorbikes for sale in Vietnam – Expats
Motorcycles for sale or rent in Vietnam:
– favorite brand of motorcycles in Vietnam
– according to experience of travelers they are also reliable (Honda Win, Honda GS Neotech)
– a lot of copies from China (in the registration papers should be indicated mark)
– the price is based on age and use
– approximately around $ 500, the newer are a bit expensive
– you can buy parts almost everywhere and everywhere is also service
– Honda Blade, Honda Wave, Honda Future is a good choice for traveling (semi-automatic)
– Honda Win (manual, cheap but not reliable, place to store your backpack)
– widespread brand of motorcycles in Vietnam
– you can buy parts almost everywhere and everywhere is also service
– Suzuki GS 125 ccm is a good choice for two people on a motorcycle
– price is about the same as Honda
– very old and for somebody “cool” motorbike
– suitable for very low budget travellers
– more easily correctable fault but not too reliable motorbike
– price is about $ 100-400
– Mio and Nuovo models dominate in Vietnam
– widespread brand of motorcycles in Vietnam
– stronger types of motorbike for motocross or difficult terrain
What you should know about traveling on a motorbike in Vietnamicon-angle-double-down
The government was working on accepting international driving licenses (IDP) from 2015. Unfortunately, there is no final confirmation or further instruction from the Ministry of Transport. Vietnamese driving licences are mandatory for riders of motorcycles with a capacity of over 50cc. You need A1 license for under 175cc or A2 licence for over 175cc. Currently, it’s near impossible to have a Vietnamese motorbike license if you travel on a tourist visa. You need a business visa, a work permit and/or a residence card. Then it is possible to transfer your International driving license into a Vietnamese motorbike license. In practice, the Vietnamese police rarely stop foreign tourists on motorbikes and enforce the requirement for a Vietnamese motorbike license. But, it is still a good idea to take with you an international driving license.
since 2015 in Vietnam – a new international driver’s license – get it!
if you have an accident and need your travel insurance, an international driving license is necessary
you can rent more powerful motorbike without a license – the seller is not inerested in a licence
if you have an accident and you dont have an international driver’s license and travel insurance – you pay all the costs
no insurance exists for foreign tourists for the motorbikes themselves in Vietnam
if you want to buy a motorcycle, try to look beyond the big tourist centers or certified partners
when you buy or rent a motorbike you need to get the registration papers (Blue Vietnamese registration card)
for traveling I recommend a semi-automatic motorbike
TRAVELING BY BUS IN VIETNAM
• there are different types of buses of different companies: minibuses, city buses, tourist buses, long-distance night buses
• buses in Vietnam run almost everywhere and often, with the exception of mountain areas, I recommend you ask the people locally (Vietnamese language is sometimes necessary)
• some buses are in good condition and comfortable, night buses are adapted for lying down
• a cheap option of traveling in Vietnam
• sometimes its a long drive, especially in mountain areas
• they often fail to comply with the exact times of departure / arrival
• lots of drivers drive like lunatics
• when traveling to Sapa from Lao Cai train station, you meet travel agents when leaving the train. I recommend not taking their minibuses., it is far better to go with a local bus for 1/5 of the price
• lots of buses from Hanoi go to the various provinces, take a look at the map of Hanoi
• book and buy bus or train e-tickets on Baolau or 12go.asia (special websites for foreign tourists)
• a well-known bus companies Hoang Long, TheSinh Tourist, Futabus, EcoSapa, InterBus Lines, Kumho Samco, Sapa Shuttle bus…and many other companies you will find in Baolau and 12go
• the advantage of these search engines > always current timetables and ticket prices (do not rely on the advice of different travel bloggers on the internet who write the times of departing buses or trains, these information may no longer be up to date)
• Baolau is recommended in the new Lonely Planet 2017, by Tripadvisor and Vietnam Airlines
• tickets for Vietnam on Baolau and 12go.asia can only be bought online (Mastercard, Visa cards or Paypal accepted)
• you will receive your e-ticket by email, ready to print or carry in your mobile phone or tablet and present at the ticket counter of the station before boarding the bus
Bus from Hanoi to Sapa + tickets:
The quickest way is to use a day and night direct bus from Hanoi. You will find Hanoi bus stationso n the map, see the article about Hanoi. Buses depart from Hanoi to Sapa (Lao Cai) from the My Dinh bus station. You can also use several private company buses departing from other places. Prices range from $ 12-18 per ride to Sapa. Times, prices and possible reservations of some companies – eg. Sapaexpress or Sapaethnic, Sapa Shuttlebus. EcoSapa, Hoang Long, or Sapa Shuttlebus, Hung Thanh… and other buses you can book and buy tickets online on Baolau or 12go.asia.
Bus from Hanoi to Ha Giang + tickets:
A direct buses from Hanoi to Ha Giang town. Now, the best option is to buy a bus ticket online. From the half of 2017 it is possible to book and buy bus tickets to Ha Giang online on Baolau or 12go.asia
Bus from the Noi Bai Airport to Hanoi:
– May 2016 – new bus No.86 new comfortable buses with wifi, which regularly directly connects the main railway station in Hanoi (Le Duan Street) to NoiBai Airport. The price is around $ 1.35, more info about these buses and departure times
– public buses – No.7 ends at the station Cau Giay, No. 17 ends at the Long Bien Station, No. 90 ends at the Kim Ma station (buses run from 5 to 22 o´clock, every 15 minutes)
– minibuses by Vietnam Airlines (the end station is at the Vietnam Airlines office in the street Quang Trung in the south of Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi (Airport taxi), the price is $ 2, or when you are going to another hotel it costs $ 4)
TRAVELING BY TRAIN IN VIETNAM
• Vietnamese trains have been extensively upgraded or renovated
• Vietnam Railways – are the state-owned operator of the railway system
• a relatively cheap and safe option of transport in Vietnam
• Vietnamese trains are mostly clean, but not too fast and some are not very comfortable (“Hard seat“ labeled)
• high-quality and comfortable trains with sleeper cabs (4-6) marked as SE1, SE2, SE3, SE4
• air conditioned coaches with comfortable seats (Dièu Hòa – Air-conditioned soft seats)
• Vietnam does not have a large network coverage, but does connect north and south, Vietnam railway map (December 2017)
• you can buy snacks and also food in the trains (coffee, beer, water, snack, food …)
• it is better to book and buy train tickets in advance on Baolau or 12go.asia, train tickets can be sold out
• Baolau > recommended in Lonely Planet 2016,2017+Vietnam Airlines+Gapyear (I also recommend this company)
• tickets can also be purchased directly at the station (but some trains are often sold out)
• when traveling in Vietnam, definitely try Vietnamese trains
• do not buy train tickets outside the station from the dealers, now it is very easy to buy tickets online
icon-exclamation-circle If you want to go with the official Vietnamese Railways trains or tourist companies and want the minimum stress for buying tickets then buy e-tickets in Baolau or 12go.asia. Keep the ticket in a mobile phone or tablet (you can get away without printing it, but if you have the opportunity its better to print it) and then just get on the train. If you buy train tickets of private companies for tourist trains to Lao Cai (Orient Express, Sapaly, Chapa, King Express…), you must pick it up at the station. Read carefully all information before you buy tickets.
– a specialist for tickets, flights mainly in Vietnam (also tickets for Cambodia and Laos)
– from 2017, you can also buy train tickets for Thailand (you have to print your ticket)
– Baolau company recommended in the new Lonely Planet 2017/18, Tripadvisor, Vietnam Airlines and Gapyear
– you can choose a seat in a train, you can use your online tickets in your smarphone in Vietnam
– if you order and buy an train ticket at these companies for tourist trains (Orient Express, Sapaly, Chapa …), you must pick it up at the station
– the final price of the ticket will show before your order (before starting of paid transaction)
– a specialist for tickets mainly in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia..
– you can not use an online train ticket in Thailand, you have to print it
– you can use an online train ticket in Vietnam in your smarphone
– if you order an train ticket at these companies for tourist trains in Vietnam (Orient Express, Sapaly, Chapa …), you must pick it up at the station
– advantage: immediately after your search, this final price of the ticket and the fees will shown
– in the search of this website you will see also a photos of the trains and ratings
– if you buy train tickets in Thailand over 12go.asia, you have to pick them in the office: Bangkok (DOB building) or Chiang Mai (Bossotel), more info about trains in Thailand
NORTHERN VIETNAM CURRENTLY HAS THE FOLLOWING TRAIN ROUTES:
Hanoi – Lao Cai (Sapa)
Hanoi – Dong Dang (Lang Son province)
Hanoi – Haiphong (Halong Bay, Cat Ba island)
Hanoi – Quan Trieu
Hanoi – Ninh Binh – Ho Chi Minh City
• the busiest route is Hanoi – Lao Cai, in the north direction (Sapa, Bac Ha, Ha Giang)
• you can take the train from Hanoi to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) – the journey takes up to 35 hours (direct line)
TYPES OF SEATS AND BERTHS IN VIETNAMESE TRAINS:
Hard seat – hard wooden seats with air-conditioning in the cab
Soft seat – soft and comfortable seats with air-conditioning in the cab
Hard sleeper – hard bed in the cabin, pillow+cover, shared with 3 or 5 other people
Soft sleeper – soft bed in the cabin, pillow+cover, shared with 3 or 5 other people
4 berths cab – 4 persons share one cab
2,4,6 berths cab – Soft sleeper – tourist trains – Hanoi – Lao Cai (Sapa)
NIGHT TRAINS FROM HANOI TO SAPA:
Many travelers go to Sapa (Lao Cai train station) with a night train. Trains may be from Vietnam Railways with less comfort (ofic.viet.railways) or also from private tourist companies, 2,4,6 seats cabin in the train, but also more expensive (Orient Express, King Express, Fansipan, Sapaly…). Check out the photos of these touirst trains.
– ticket price from 155 000 – 190 000 dong / 1 person, soft seat
– ticket price c. 400 000 dong / 1 person, soft berth in 4-bed cabin
– ticket price from 600 000+ dong / 1 person, soft sleeper in 2-bed or 4-bed cabin
– better quality and service, some trains have 2-bed cabins
Personally, I travelled the route Hanoi – Lao Cai by the tourist Orient Express train (21.40 to 6.00 hrs.). The train has a shower, toilet, very clean, you get a light snack with a drink and warm blanket. There are 2 and 4 berth cabins. However, it is slightly more expensive than a traditional Vietnamese train. If you want to go to official Vietnamese Railways trains, buy the tickets on the website Baolau or 12go.asia.
BAOLAU – trains, flights, buses + online ticket booking
Baolau is a relatively a new service in Vietnam (starts from 2014), which can find and book tickets for trains, buses and flights. It is possible to book tickets online, the website is in english language. Reservation is possible only when the official Vietnam Railways (Vietnam Railways) will open reservations. Some trains on the website can be “not available“ (eg. trains that will run for up to 60 days), so try selecting a reservation later.
After buying a ticket, you receive 2 emails. One email is your order and the second email is your e-ticket. Print your e-ticket. Prices for a ticket for a child under 6 years of age is 50% of the ticket price. Check also the frequently asked questions on Baolau.
Baolau also offers tickets to neighboring countries – Cambodia – flights + buses + train + ferry, Laos – flights + bus, Thailand – flights + train, Taiwan – flights. Check out the full map of coverage: flights, buses, trains, ferry (December 2017). Next places will probably slowly increase.
Train tickets from Baolauicon-angle-double-down
Baolau integrates ticket booking for trains operated by Vietnam Railways and private railway companies Fanxipan Express, King Express, Orient Express, Sapaly Express, Livitrans Express and Chapa Express.
For bookings with Vietnam Railways, you will be required to complete the payment before submitting your order. Your reservation will be processed and you will receive your e-ticket by email, ready to print or carry in your mobile phone or tablet and present when boarding the train.
For bookings with private railway companies Fanxipan Express, King Express, Orient Express, Sapaly Express, Livitrans Express and Chapa Express, you will be required to complete the payment before submitting your order. Your reservation will be processed and you will receive a voucher by email to collect the physical ticket at the station before boarding the train.
At the end of the booking process you will receive the official tickets, which you can use to board the train. Baolau supports Online Payment and accepts international credit cards including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, JCB and Union Pay.
Bus tickets from Baolauicon-angle-double-down
Baolau integrates ticket booking for buses operated by the companies Mai Linh, Vu Linh, Sapa Shuttlebus, Hoang Long, Giant Ibis, EcoSapa… At the end of the booking process you will receive the official tickets, which you can use to board the bus.
Your reservation will be processed and you will receive your e-ticket by email, ready to print or carry in your mobile phone or tablet and present at the ticket counter of the station before boarding the bus.
Flights from Baolauicon-angle-double-down
Baolau integrates ticket booking for domestic and international flights operated by Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar, VietJet Air, AirAsia and Nok Air. At the end of the booking process you will receive the official tickets, which you can use to check-in at the airport.
Your reservation will be processed and you will receive your e-ticket by email, ready to print or carry in your mobile phone or tablet and present at the check-in counter of the airport before boarding the plane.
Ferry and boat tickets from Baolauicon-angle-double-down
You can book e-tickets from Hai Phong to Cat Ba Island, from Ha Long to Quan Lan Island, from Cai Rong to Quan Lan Island or Co To Island, from Saigon to Vung Tau and ferries to Phu Quoc, Nam Du Island, Con Dao. Ferry from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh in Cambodia.
TRAVELING BY TAXI IN VIETNAM
• especially in Hanoi taxis are relatively widespread
• price for 1 km about 10 000 – 17 000 viet.dongs
• Vietnam has plenty of official but also unofficial taxi companies
• it can be difficult to find a taxi in smaller towns, in mountain areas it is practically impossible
• a bit of an expensive option for traveling, however, prices are low (for example: drive from the Noi Bai airport to Hanoi (Old Quarter) – about $15)
• Mai Linh, Vinasun, Taxi Group, ABC are recommended companies in Hanoi but also in another cities
• ask the driver for a meter, insist on the meter, watch the meter as you move, especially in Hanoi as there are well known stories where a taximeter jumps while driving and raises the price
• take a variety of banknotes, drivers can say they do not have change
• take a mobile phone with map and GPS navigation, the driver can take you to a different place (eg. same hotel name)
• I did not have any problems personally with taxis in Hanoi, but be very careful !
• you can use an alternative taxi service UBER in Hanoi and Saigon (register and get some free credit for your traveling)
TAXI FROM THE NOI BAI AIRPORT TO HANOI:
– recommended taxi companies from Viet Thanh (white car, a blue sign „Airport taxi„) and Noi Bai (white car with yellow line and the sign is „Noi Bai taxi„)
– the price for taxi is $ 15-20 for car, one way to Hanoi or from Hanoi to Noi Bai airport
– you can try to search Uber taxi in Noibai airport
TRAVELING IN VIETNAM ON A BICYCLE
• useful in areas of lowland plains and rice fields (eg. Mai Chau, Ninh Binh)
• in hot weather, it is not too useful
• mainly in mountainous areas it can be rather dangerous
• I do not recommend renting a bike in Hanoi, as driving is dangerous here
• the cost is approximately $5 / 1 day
TRAVELING IN VIETNAM BY AIRPLANE
• use only for departure and arrival, or crossing to south – Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon) or to other neighboring countries
• flight from Hanoi to Saigon fly all through the day (price for flight $40-60, the flight takes about 2 hours)
• you can also buy flight tickets to neighboring countries (Laos, Thailand, Cambodia …)
• domestic flights or flights to the neighbouring countries you can buy on Baolau or 12go.asia
• Vietnamese Airlines: Vietnamairlines.com | Vietjetair.com | Jetstar.com
If you travel in Asia, or fly in Vietnam (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang) or other Asian countries try to take advantage of the company AirAsia. This company offers very cheap flight tickets in this continent.
Domestic flights and flights from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City:
From the biggest airports in Hanoi, Da Nang or Ho Chi Minh City, you can also fly to the other major cities in Vietnam with vietnamese airlines: Dien Bien Phu, Hai Phong, Vinh, Dong Hoi, Hue, Da Nang (Hoi An), Chu Lai, Pleiku, Nha Trang, Da Lat, Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho, Phu Quoc, Con Dao… Read also article > International and domestic airports in Vietnam.
TRAVELING IN VIETNAM BY FERRY/BOAT
• ferries and boats are another widespread way of transport in Vietnam
• travelers use them mainly for transfers to some of the islands in Vietnam
• separate chapter include boat trips at Ha Long Bay and Mekong River in southern Vietnam
The most known ferry and boat tourist routes in Vietnam + tickets:
icon-angle-double-rightNorthern Vietnam: Hai Phong → Cat Ba / Ha Long → Quan Lan / Cai Rong → Quan Lan / Cai Rong → Co To / Tuan Chau → Cat Ba
icon-angle-double-rightCentral Vietnam: Hoi An → Cham Islands / Quang Ngai → Ly Son
icon-angle-double-rightSouthern Vietnam: Ha Tien → Phu Quoc / Rach Gia → Phu Quoc / Rach Gia → Nam Du Island / Ho Chi Minh City → Vung Tau / Soc Trang → Con Dao / Chau Doc → Phnom Penh (Cambodia, border crossing)
• you can rent a car with a driver mainly in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City
• Transits, Jeeps or minibuses are available
• prices range from $30 or more for 1 day, depending on the type of car
• no car can guarantee that you get to less accessible places (bad roads, except that you rent a Jeep)
• when you want to rent a car personally, you need to have a vietnamese driving licence (you need to have a business visa or work permit in Vietnam to get this)
A few words in Vietnamese:
Bicycle - Xe đạp Motorcycle, scooter - Xe Máy Mototaxi - Xe Ôm Bicycle Transportation - Xích Lô
Public bus - Xe buýt Bus station - Bến Xe Train - Xe Lua Train Station - Ga
Airport - Sân bay Airplane - Máy bay Ferry - Phà Boat - Thuyền
Where you can go by bus or train from Hanoi?
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, from here you can get to most major cities in northern Vietnam.
1. Hai Phong (Ha Long Bay) – by bus (My Dinh and Yen Nghia bus stop in Hanoi), by train
2. Lang Son – by bus (My Dinh and Giap Bat bus stop in Hanoi), by train (Dong Dang)
3. Cao Bang – by bus (My Dinh bus stop in Hanoi)
4. Ha Giang – by bus (Gia Lam and My Dinh bus stop in Hanoi)
5. Yen Bai – by bus (Giap Bat and My Dinh bus stop in Hanoi), by train
6. Sapa, Lao Cai – by bus (My Dinh bus stop in Hanoi), by train to Lao Cai town
7. Mu Cang Chai, Nghia Lo – by bus (My Dinh bus stop in Hanoi)
8. Ninh Binh – by bus (My Dinh and Giap Bat bus stop in Hanoi), by train
9. Bac Ha – by bus (My Dinh bus stop in Hanoi), by train to Lao Cai and there take another bus
10. Moc Chau – by bus (My Dinh bus stop in Hanoi)
11. Mai Chau – by bus (My Dinh bus stop in Hanoi)