The Completed Guide for Main Transportation of Vietnam

How to get around Vietnam

  • Vietnam Transportation
How to get around Vietnam

When a new tourist destination comes to your plan, you will inevitably try to figure out how to get there and how to get around the destination after arriving. Then you will also think about what kinds of transportation are available and which one is the best choice. We have accumulated practical experience for years in arranging tours in Vietnam. And we believe our valuable experience will certainly help you when it comes to how to get around Vietnam. It is obvious that Vietnam's traffic conditions have been improving over the past few decades, which is undoubtedly a blessing for all the travelers. However, there is still much room for improvement in traffic conditions in small cities and rural areas.

By plane

In Vietnam the international airports in Hanoi and Ho Chi Ming City are the main transportation hubs to the outside world while a third airport, Da Nang Airport, accepts a far smaller number of international flights. At present, the country already has connecting flights with over 20 countries and regions in the world including the continents of North America, Europe, Oceania and Asia.

What’s more, there are also many domestic flights between major tourist hubs, except for Sapa, which is in the mountains. For instance, the distance between Ho Chi Minh City (once called Saigon) and Hanoi is about 1130 Km and it merely takes around two hours by air from one to the other, which takes about 30~40 hours instead by train. This apparent difference in time can help you make an easy judgment that you will save a lot of time by air. In the meanwhile, flight fares are very reasonable and the frequency of flights to main hubs are also well acceptable. If you have limited time at your disposal and want to get around Vietnam, taking flights will be the only best choice for you.


Vietnam Airlines


Vietnam Airlines is the best carrier in Vietnam, in terms of routes, airline quality and punctuality, but is generally a little more expensive. Its prices are leveled from Super Saver—the cheapest—up to Saver and Business Flex. Super Saver fares aren't always available so the Saver is usually the favorable to choose. Jetstar is a budget operator in Vietnam and is usually cheaper than Vietnam Airlines, but you get what you pay for in terms of services and punctuality. In a word, if you're booking online it is beneficial to book in advance as you will be more likely to find a deal. If you want to keep your options open then booking on arrival through us could also help save your money.

By rail

If you want to get around Vietnam in a leisurely way, traveling by train is absolutely a good idea. On the train, you'll feel that you're really getting to know and discovering the country, not just a passer-by in the sky.

Vietnam has a decent nationwide railway system – a legacy from French colonial era. In history, Indochina was a three-tiered Colonial empire, with Vietnam at the top, Cambodia in the middle, and Laos at the bottom. So the French Colonists provided most training to the Vietnamese in Colonial administration, and rail system is their way to move these trainees around the country. During the following Vietnam-American War, the rail system was greatly damaged, but the post-war government has restored the rails along the coast and inland to the northern mountainous region (towards Sapa) so it is now possible to travel by rail from the far northwest corner (only around two kilometers to the Chinese border) to Hanoi, then down the coast, and finally into HCMC.

To travel by rail the full length of Vietnam (around 2,500 km), without stopping, will take about three days and two nights. Although most of the trains are comparatively slow in Vietnam, but the fun of travelling by rail is unbeatable compared with travelling by car or air. It's easy for you to meet like-minded travelers or interesting local people. And you have plenty of time to chat with them or even play games with them, which will be a valuable experience of the trip.


Train of Vietnam


We strongly recommend that you travel by first-class soft sleeper, which is best equipped and most enjoyable. Sanitary and equipment conditions of other train carriages sometimes are difficult to expect although the overall situation on the trains is improving. If you travel by train, you do get “meals” of a sort, but we also suggest you bring some own food, drinks, and snacks with you. When the train stops, your window will be deluged by local women peddling all kinds of things - food, drinks, handicrafts, and more. You can regard them as another scenery. Life is always multifaceted, you can't be too careful when traveling outside. You’d better pay special attention to your luggage on the train, especially when the train stops and guests get on and off.

By bus

First to know, roads in Vietnam are generally OK, but not great. It's a matter of comparison. They are much better surfaced, marked, and maintained than in Laos or Cambodia. There are decent highways around the major cities while these and all other roads are often congested with scooters, cyclists, cars, animals, and even other things not seen on Western highways. However, bus is still the most popular way to get around Vietnam for travelers on a tight budget. As a general rule, buses leave and arrive on time, and are relatively cheap and quick.  Traveling by bus allows traveler to stop in any destination and stay as long as they like at affordable prices.

Although, buses can hardly give passengers comfortable trips compared with trains and planes, they are still unbeatable means of transportation in Vietnam. If you want to explore thoroughly a certain place and get more local experiences, public buses are good choices worth considering. They operate many of the same routes daily and additional routes throughout Vietnam as well. Though, there are also regions where public buses are prohibited to access, such as some districts in Ho Chi Minh City.

Then, for the good of yourself, you’d better purchase a map of the main routes of every city's public bus at bookstores. You can buy tickets directly at the bus stations or on buses at lower prices. But you should get prepared for the possible discomfort when taking this vehicle.


Bus of Vietnam


Open Tour Buses have a range of activities in almost all the popular tourist destinations in the country with a little higher price, but tourists can stop at any destination for as long as they want in the journey. The entire journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City costs about $25 to $30, which is determined by the transportation company based on the route distance. It is easy to purchase tickets at local travel agencies, and there is usually no need to book in advance. But it’s better for you to reconfirm your seats, especially when it comes to the peak season, holidays and weekends.

By car

In Vietnam, foreigners are not allowed for self-driving, but renting a car, minibus or jeep with a driver is easy and convenient. When getting around Vietnam, you can rent it from a car company or otherwise book in advance through us. Renting a minibus with a driver or arranging a private tour with guide and driver will be super for a family or some close friends. In addition, it entitles you the freedom to explore the country in the way you like. The cost of a private guided tour is much cheaper compared with that in other Western countries. You’d better have a careful check of all the services provided by the company, such as routes, tour guide services, drivers, hotels and so on before making your decision.

By motorbike

Vietnam is one of the few countries in the world where motorbike is still seen and used so widely. Riding one is fun, but you must take into account the fact that people do not always observe the rules on roads. In principle, you need a driving license to ride a motorbike but traffic police hardly stop tourists for license check.

If you are not brave enough to ride one yourself, sitting on the back of someone else is also an experience that most tourists should not miss. Since late 2007, it is required by law that all rides on motors need a helmet. Any qualified motor taxi driver should spare an extra for you.

“Xe-om” (or motor-taxi) is a cheap way to get from one place to another within the city. Do not forget to reach an agreement on the price before you put the helmet on. If you are brave enough, a motorbike adventure to mountainous areas may be a great and thrilling way to explore Vietnam.

Many tourists often choose taxi as a safe option for transportation for their trips in Vietnam. High quality services, English-speaking driver make the trips convenient and enjoyable, but of course it comes with a higher price. So if one travels solo or with just one partner, why not try the locally-grown special transportation service - “xe om”? For those who have not yet heard the term before, “xe om” (pronounced “say ohm”), is an informal word that Vietnamese use to mean “motor-taxi”. There is no doubt that motorcycle is the main means of transportation in Vietnam, and “xe om” is the cheaper and more interesting way for tourists to get around when travelling to “the kingdom of motorcycles”. In every street in Vietnam, one can easily find this service with the driver hanging a sign reads “XE OM” in front of the motorcycle. Or to make it even easier, just seem to be lost and the over-friendly driver will appear to offer his service soon enough.

Normally, the same driver will wait at the same corner every day, and he is willing to take one wherever he wishes to go at a very reasonable price. Figuratively speaking, “xe om” means “hug the driver” in Vietnamese, but surely one does not have to actually commit the act (anyway, if that’s what you want, it is fine). One simply needs to board behind the back of the driver, put the helmet on and get ready to be a part of the organized chaos that is Vietnamese traffic! “Xe om” can be seen all over Vietnam, from the North to the South, from mountainous to metropolis areas. Joining the busy flow of vehicles in the street or taking a deep breath of the fresh highland air from the back of a motorcycle will both be an extremely thrilling experience to remember.


Ride a motorbike in Vietnam


When coming to Vietnam - land of motorbikes, many visitors would love to experience the thrilling feeling of riding on the “iron horse” and explore all the corners of the country by themselves. Dreaming of becoming a hero on the road with your own motorbike? Vietnam is your dreamland! Motorbike renting service is very common in Vietnam, since it is extremely handy for not only foreigners wanting to try new things but also locals who rely on motorbike as their main means of transportation. Do not have enough money to buy a motorbike yet? Need a special one to escape the city for only a few days? Renting motorbike - fast and convenient with a reasonable price - is an ideal solution.

The first thing one will have to deal with is to find a motorbike that is good enough for his own purpose and capacity. Determining factors include short vacation or long holiday, the quality of the road, plain or mountainous terrain, and certainly the most essential concern - your driving skill.

There is a wide range of motorbikes to choose from, from automatic to semi-automatic ones with popular brands like Wave, Dream, or even backpackers’ favorite Simson and Minsk. Understanding thoroughly his own needs, one can avoid getting confused when facing hundreds of motorbikes at the rental store and save a lot of time on selecting the appropriate one. In response to people’s high demand, renting shops can easily be found in big cities as well as at tourism destinations. Most travel agents and hotels provide this service for travelers so one can contact the receptionists to have detail information and assistance.

By bicycle

Vietnam has plenty of places where you can travel by bicycle, regardless of terraces. Travelling by bicycle is extremely enjoyable in the country if you are on the beach or on a scenic route like Dalat. There are a lot of organized bicycle tours for mountains or along the countryside areas. But try to avoid riding the bicycles in big cities where you have to breathe in the polluted air and experience annoyance due to numerous fellow motor drivers. And always keep in mind the safety issues: checking bicycle condition and wearing a helmet are highly recommended. Many travel agents or local hotel receptionists will be more than happy to assist you with renting a bicycle. The price differs, depending on cities and make sure you are not charged more than $5 per day of rental.


Biking in Vietnam


By boat and ferry

It is just recently that traveling by boat and cruising becomes more and more popular to explore Vietnam's waterway. Just 3 hours by road from Hanoi, Halong Bay is a World Heritage Site with thousands of islets locating on amazing waters. Cruise trips in Halong Bay will take you pass these islets and appreciate fully the beauty of this World's wonder. You can join in a group, or take a private cruise trip for just you and your loved ones.


Ferry Boat in Halong Bay


Further to the Southern tip is Mekong delta where you will take a cruise along the Perfume, Red, or Mekong Rivers to many local villages, floating markets and tropical mangroves. At a minimum a two- or three-day boat trip through the Mekong Delta is an experience not to be missed – a trip back in time.  You will learn how people make a living there on water, and you will find out that the honor of "Asian Venice" simply does not fully describe the region's charm.