How to Get Around Vietnam

Last Updated: January 10,2020

When we are planning a trip to an unfamiliar country, one of the thing we usually search on the internet is how to get around the country. So I am assuming that you are searching how to get around Vietnam now. UME Travel experiences in arranging tours in Vietnam for many years and we have honest advice on how to get around Vietnam. 

During the recent decades, Vietnam's transports has been continuing to improve, although there is a still rough around the edges and there is a great choice for new travelers. 

By plane

You might be surprised to learn that there are over 20 airports in Vietnam a not very big country. Why? Because many of the airstrips were built during the period of the Vietnam War and have been converted to airports in the peacetime. 

Plane is the most efficient and time saving transportation means. It only takes about two hours by plane from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (former Saigon), comparing with a 30-40 hours' train, you will save a lot of time. Hopping from north to middle to south by air if you only have limited time traveling in Vietnam makes a lot sense. The Vietnamese national carrier, Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar Vietnam operate a reasonably cheap, comprehensive and efficient domestic flight network. It is very easy to book the air tickets online. 

You may like to see all our Vietnam tours

By rail

If you leave plenty of time to wander around in Vietnam, traveling by train is a good choice. Vietnam Railways runs a single-track train containing over 2,500km of line, stretching from HCMC to the border of China. Most of the tracks are made during the colonial period, but it's gradually being upgraded. However, most of the trains are relatively slow, but travelling by train can bring you more pleasant and fun than going by car or plane because taking the train along the coast of Vietnam is a good choice for the visitors who want to explore the country in a different way. On the train, you will see far more of the countryside rather than the sky or the petrol stations and random shops along the route. With the improvement of the trail network, the train gives you good access from Ho Chi Minh City to the beach areas of Na Nang and Hue. On the train you can also have a talk with a bunch of friendly locals, and perhaps you will have an opportunity to join in on the feasts that some of them bring on board. The trains are air-conditioned, except it is very slow, it is quite comfortable. All train carriages provide toilets and most of them are fine but it is still hard to know what to expect. Most of them are squat in nature and might be dirty, lack of tissue or running water. Those in soft sleeper carriages are much better. The toilets are sit-down ones with tissue and they are comparatively clean. The train is not always safe, so you should keep a particularly close eye on your belongings, especially when the train stops at stations. 

The rail routes from Hue to Hanoi (11-16hr) and from Hanoi up to Lao Cai, for Sapa (8-9hr) are very popular in world round tourists. 

Get Around Vietnam by Rail

By bus

Many visitors would choose to get around Vietnam by buses, because catching a bus has become more and more convenient and easy across the country. There are two kinds of buses and one is National Bus Services the other is called 'open-tour buses'. The 'open-tour buses' refer to bus services run by privately operated companies with much better facilities. The buses of National Bus Services are not good enough so most people choose the 'open -tour' ones although the price of the tickets are more expensive. It has an on-board toilet and it will stop for toilet and snack breaks after a few hours driving. If you choose to travel by bus, please remember to bring plenty of snacks with you because the bus often stops at overpriced but very ordinary restaurants which are purely as a stopover for the buses. Some visitors choose the overnight buses which are often made of comfortable sleeper berth but don't expect too much comfortable and sleep is also a extravagant hope on the bumpy routes. The condition of nation owned buses are normally old vehicles with air-conditioned models. It's not uncommon to find yourself crammed in amongst the luggage, which could be anything from scores of sacks of rice to live pigs. What the more, the nation owned buses stop frequently to pick up passengers along the way and the old vehicles often breakdown. The prices of the nation owned buses are quite low but the prices of 'open-tour buses' are just a little bit higher which are just a little lower than a fly journey, so our suggestion is taking flight is better than bus. 

By car

Self-drive in Vietnam for foreigners is not permitted yet, however, it is easy to rent a car or minibus or jeep with driver. You can rent it when you are travelling in Vietnam from a car company or you can book it through UME Travel in advance. If you are travelling as a family or a group of several friends, rent a minibus with driver or arrange a private tour with guide and driver would be a very good idea. Moreover, it means you can plan a trip to your own preference and tastes, rather than having to follow an itinerary of the group. The price of taking a private guided tour is much lower than that in other European countries. Before making reservation of it, check what is included with the company such as the tour itineraries, guide service, driver, food and accommodation. 

By motorbike

Getting around Vietnam by motorbike is very cool however it is the physical test to people. Motorbike can be rented in most of towns and cities and visitors can rent it with relatively low cost. Some experienced bikers explore the countryside on motorbikes freely, but we do not recommend inexperienced bikers to do it as the roads of Vietnam are distinctly dangerous. The indifference of road discipline of the most Vietnamese drivers means the risk of an accident which is not a joke and it is really terrible if it happens in a remote area where the well-equipped hospitals are far away and there is no ambulance service there either. 

Many experienced motor bikers like to ride around in Vietnam and they have no problem in doing so. They bike in the northern mountains, through the central highlands and around the Mekong Delta. You will also see them bike on the Ho Chi Minh Highway where offers pristine and wonderful scenery. Some of them also bike on the long haul up Highway 1 from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City or vice versa for a leisure journey of two weeks at average 150km per day. 

Get Around Vietnam by Motorbike

Visitors can easily rent a motorbike in any major tourist centers at very low price about US$7 per day as there is never shortage of motorbikes rental in the country. If you rent it for a relatively longer period, you can get discounts. Before the rental, you are normally asked to sign a rental contract and leave a photocopy of your passport. Sometimes, you may be asked to pay in advance, but if you rent for a week or so, you may be asked to pay a deposit with the same value of the motorbike. 

Some travelers also choose to buy a second hand motorbikes at very reasonable price although it is technically illegal for non-residents to own a motor vehicle in the country, however the trade is quite popular in some hotels, traveler's cafes and travel agents. The police have ignored the practice so far, but you'd better check the latest situation before committing yourself. The motorbike is usually a Minsk 125cc, which is sturdy and particularly for mountains and it is very easy to get repaired on the route outside the main cities. However, when you are renting or buying, do remember to check the bike carefully, especially the brakes, horn and lights. Don't forget to wear a helmet as it is very important and is a legal requirement. 

One thing is very important that do remember to bring your driving license and bike registration papers with you although the international driving licenses are not valid in Vietnam. You'd better buy at least third-party insurance in advance. 

Though road conditions have improved distinctively in recent years, it is still very bumping with plenty of loose gravel on the sides of the road, so be careful during on the way. There are numerous repair shops on the route, but it is better for you to carry at least a puncture-repair kit, spare spark plug and pump with you. Fuel is widely available and cheap but often from bottles. Finally, try to travel with one or more other motorbikes in case one of you gets in trouble and need help.

By bicycle

Cycling is a very healthy and excellent way to explore the towns and cities in Vietnam since you can involve in the local lives. Bicycle can be easily rent in main tourist cities but if you decide to take a long-distance cycling holiday, you’d better bring your own bike with your own helmet, a good loud bell and all the necessary spares and tools with you. Hardy mountain bikes are quite suitable for the surfaces of the roads of the country. During a long-distance cycling, when you get tired and want to skip between towns, you can put your bike on the train or on a van you rent with driver, or an open-tour bus and change the way of traveling. So it is very convenient. When you park you bike, it is advisable to leave it in the parking area with paying a small fee, otherwise you will run the risk of being tampered with.

Get Around Vietnam by Bicycle

By boat and ferry

Cruising around the Ha Long Bay is one of the most popular and enjoyable trips in Vietnam and the scheduled boats sail all-year- round to the major islands off the coastline, including Cat Ba, Phu Quoc and Con Dao. There are also ferry and hydrofoil services which ran Hai Phong to Cat Ba, Ho Chi Minh to Vung Tau, Ha Long City to Bai Tu Long and Mong Cai. With the development of the country, the unique ferry and hydrofoil are gradually replaced by bridges, however some of these river ferries are still haul themselves from bank to bank every day from morning to night on the various strands of the Mekong.   

Visit Vietnam with UME Travel

Millions of visitors come to Vietnam every year. They are attracted by its exotic culture, French-colonial building, mouthwatering cuisine, boutique café, and lively local markets. 

Most of the them spend 9 days in exploring the country. Usually they start in Hanoi, and end in Ho Chi Minh City. During their stay, they also visit Halong Bay, Hoi An, and Mekong Delta. 

UME Travel would cherish the opportunity to help you design your unique trip to Vietnam. Our professional trip advisors know Vietnam very well and they will assist you in selecting assist you in selecting destinations, activities and accommodations that suit you best. 

Essence of Vietnam: 9 days Hanoi - Halong Bay - Da Nang - Hoi An - Ho Chi Minh

Angkor Wat & Thailand: 12 days Siem Reap - Bangkok - Chiang Mai – Phuket

Classic Vietnam & Thailand: 16 days Hanoi - Halong Bay - Hue - Hoi An - Ho Chi Minh - Mekong Delta - Bangkok - Phuket


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