The transport infrastructure in Vietnam is fairly good and relatively cheap. You can easily navigate around using local transport if you are willing to brave a little sign language and have a map to hand to show your intended destination.
As previously mentioned, Vietnam has three major international airports in Hanoi, Danang and Hochiminh City. These airports can be used for long haul flights in and out of the country as well as internal flights. There are some other international airports located in Can Tho, Chu Lai, Da Lat, Hai Phong, Hue, Nha Trang, Phu Quoc.
The train network in Vietnam is surprisingly good and easily accessible. Tickets are available for train journeys up to 60 days in advance and can be bought either at the station or online.
The official website of the Vietnam railway is www.dsvn.vn. Be cautious of other sites with the name ‘Vietnam railways’ in the title, as these are unaffiliated agency sites purporting to be the official site.
The following website, www.baolau.vn offers a reliable online booking system where you can buy train or bus tickets using a credit card. The cost of the ticket matches the official price however there is a $2 booking charge and 3.3% commission is charged for the use of a credit card.
You can buy tickets at the station on the day however you run the risk of tickets being sold out or not getting a seat in the carriage that you wanted. It is worthwhile buying tickets a few days in advance, this not only ensures that you get the best seats but also gives you a feel for the station so you know your way round when catching the train.
There are a variety of carriage options depending on your budget and the length of the journey. Hard seats might be the cheapest option but you may come to regret that choice on a 16-hour overnight journey.
- Hard seats – Don’t need much explanation, wooden benches in a carriage with no air conditioning. The windows are generally kept open to catch a breeze so this is a good option for short journeys if you want to take photos.
- Hard seats with air conditioning – Same as above but with air conditioning.
- Soft seats with air conditioning – Airplane style seats that recline to a certain degree if desired. If you don’t mind this kind of seats then they are absolutely fine for longer, or even overnight journeys.
- Hard Sleeper – A 6 berth, bunk bed style cabin with room for luggage and a little sink. Perfect for overnight journeys on a budget.
- Soft Sleeper – A 4 berth comfortable sleeper cabin with a little more room than the hard berth.
All of the above options usually have charging plugs to charge your phone or laptop and room for luggage storage. All trains have toilets, a food carriage and a snack trolley.
Local buses are widely available and tickets can be bought at the station or even online. If you are going to travel by local bus then ask the staff at your hotel to point you in the right direction of the bus stop and make sure you have your destination written down in case you struggle with the language barrier.
Shuttle Bus/Tourist Bus
For popular routes you will find shuttle buses that are aimed at tourists. Whilst they cost more than normal buses they are usually more spacious, comfortable and above all, air-conditioned. Some shuttle buses will pick you up directly from your hotel and others set off from a well-known local point.
There is no shortage of taxis in Vietnam and, unless you get completely ripped off, they are generally reasonably priced. The best way to avoid being scannned is to use a reputable taxi company.
The biggest and most reliable company is Vinasun taxis; their cars are generally white with green writing. However, Vinasun taxis are not available in Hanoi but a good alternative are Mai Linh taxis. Taxi scams are rife in Hanoi so make sure that you use a reputable firm.
Unfortunately, as with a lot of things in Vietnam, there are plenty of counterfeit companies that rely on the good reputation of the above companies to tout for business. Whilst fake taxis aren’t dangerous per se, they are more likely to charge you extortionate prices or claim to be lost and take you to a restaurant (where they receive commission). The following are a few ways to identify a legitimate taxi:
- Bodywork – Clean and polished with no rust or dents
- Display a fare chart inside the cab
- Have the driver’s ID and number visible
- Don’t turn you away when you say where you want to go
- Always use a meter
- Ask for directions when they don’t know the way
- Take the most direct route, or the route with least congestion
- Never ask for the fee in US dollars
- Drivers will wait patiently by the car instead of shouting or calling at you
Try not to catch taxis right outside popular tourist destinations, as these are prime locations for fake cabs.
Car and Driver
To drive a car in Vietnam you must have a Vietnamese driving license – international driving licenses are not recognized. If you want the flexibility of your own transport then the best option is to hire a car and driver.
You can either hire a car for a tour of the area, for a set journey or on a daily basis. Prices vary depending on the area and the type of vehicle that you want but to hire but a 4 seated vehicle and driver for the day generally costs around $40.