Before traveling in Vietnam you’ll need to know exactly how to get around. We’ve found the largest factors are cost, time, and comfort, but know that everyone has a different travel style. So are you ready to experience a wild ride in Vietnam on the overnight bus, or would you rather take quick domestic flights? How about the Vietnam train, motorbike, or even a ferry? After many visits to this amazing country, we’re here to share the pros, cons, and best Vietnam travel tips we’ve picked up along the way!
Pin For Later ↓
Planning Your Vietnam Travel Route
Before you can decide on how to travel in Vietnam you should work out the best route that fits your holiday.
For example, do you prefer large cities or small towns? Are you looking for something relaxing, or an adventure vacation?
All of these things should be considered when you start your Vietnam travel research. It’s a massive country that many take several weeks to experience.
Below are some of our favorite travel itineraries for the north and south of Vietnam. Also, check out our one month Vietnam guide if you have the time!
- Southern Vietnam Itinerary: 2 Week Travel Guide from South to Central
- Northern Vietnam Itinerary: 7 to 11 Day Routes With Easy Tips!
Popular Destinations: Hanoi – Ha Long Bay – Ha Giang – Tam Coc – Phong Nha-Ke Bang – Da Nang – Hoi An – Mui Ne – Da Lat – Ho Chi Minh – Phu Quoc
Traveling in Vietnam With Domestic Flights
Most likely your time in Vietnam will start by flying into a major international hub such as Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi. With the country being over 2,000 miles long there are many domestic flights in Vietnam.
Depending how long your trip is it might be worth it to travel by plane between destinations.
For instance, Ho Chi Minh to Da Nang in Central Vietnam is only one hour and twenty minutes by flight. Compared to an 18 hours on the Vietnam trains, it’s obvious what’s more convenient!
An important thing to look at before booking your flight is if it’s actually direct. If you use an airline that isn’t Vietnamese they might be offing a good deal. Yet, you’ll be shocked when your simple one hour flight turns into a complete travel day!
Often the budget airlines will have you transfer in Bangkok, Singapore, or Kuala Lumpur. While taking domestic flights in Vietnam we’ve used Vietnam Airlines and VietJet Air almost exclusively, but there are several companies to choose from.
→ Is Vietnam Airlines a Good Airline? Jakarta to Vietnam Review
Airport Codes for Popular Vietnam Destinations
- HAN – Hanoi
- HUI – Hue
- DAD – Da Nang
- DLI – Da Lat
- CXR – Nha Trang
- SGN – Saigon
- PQC – Phu Quoc
Pros of Domestic Flights in Vietnam
Short Travel Days: What might take you a whole day on a Vietnam train will now only take a couple hours or less. Flying from north to south is also just over two hours compared to 35 hours worth of bus rides!
Cost: While flights will cost more than a bus they can often be similar price to the train. This will give you much shorter travel time, and can save you money if you plan the flights in advance.
Cons of Domestic Flights in Vietnam
Added Costs: Most airports are outside the city center. This means you will have to pay the additional cost of a taxi to reach your final destination.
Environmental Impact: Over the last year, we’ve been hearing more about travelers lowering their carbon footprint. Reducing the amount of flights you take is one of the best ways to do this.
Traveling in Vietnam by Bus
The Vietnam bus is a massively popular, and known as the cheapest way to get around. However, just because it’s used heavily and is less expensive doesn’t mean it’s the best way to travel.
When traveling in Vietnam you should consider the safety, cleanliness, and comfort that comes along with the price.
Our First Overnight Vietnam Bus
Our first night bus adventure was back in 2014 from Hanoi to Hue. Starting our journey at 9pm at night, we loaded on a bus and were transferred half an hour to a new location.
From there we unloaded and got on the official “sleeper bus.” This style of Vietnam bus is large, and consists of three rows of two layered bunkbeds.
This means if you’re a tall person it’s going to be slightly uncomfortable. You’ll have to squeeze your feet into the small boxes and lay back on the sleeper seat.
Also, there were no toilets on board and we only had a restroom when the driver needed to stop. In the middle of the night we were let off on the side of the road to go along with 30+ other people on the bus!
Bathroom situation aside, bright disco lights flashed the entire night and loud Vietnamese pop music blasted through the speakers.
This is in addition to being on the infamous highway one which is a mess of honking horns, stop and go movements, and fast driving. That was mixed with the slew of locals who were picked up along the trip, and slept in the aisle below as there were no seats available.
Needless to say, after this 14 hour Vietnam bus ride from hell we weren’t a fan of the long overnight rides. We have since stuck to shorter distance buses (four hours or less), and have been taking advantage of other forms of transportation in Vietnam that we’ll get into next!
Pros of Traveling on the Vietnam Bus
Cost: Hands down, this will be the cheapest option you’ll find in our Vietnam travel guide! You can find buses for as cheap as $10 USD.
Flexibility: There are endless bus companies in Vietnam so you won’t have any problem finding daily routes to everywhere.
Routes: All places on the popular tourist routes are connected by the Vietnam bus system. It might take you awhile, but eventually you’ll get where you’re going.
Cons of Traveling in Vietnam by Bus
Length of Travel Day: The Vietnam bus routes will typically take you the longest time to get to your destination.
Comfort and Safety: One of our best Vietnam travel tips is to keep your most important belongings on you our at your feet. Don’t leave them on the bus when you get off! The buses are a notorious place to get your things stolen traveling in Vietnam.
Bathroom Breaks: At connecting routes, or whenever the driver feels like stopping.
Traveling in Vietnam by Train
The train is one of the most overlooked forms of transportation in Vietnam, and definitely has its advantages. On our most recent travels we decided to try the Vietnam train out for the first time.
We had mixed experiences with it as some companies were much nicer than others. Unlike the Vietnam bus or plane, the type of train ticket you book may determine your experience.
The different cabins range from single seats to luxury carts with just 2 beds in them. Another thing to remember is that Vietnam trains are booked out in advance moreso than flights or buses.
We didn’t initially realize this and had to stay a couple extra days in Ninh Binh before heading South. However, it was no problem because we ended up loving this area!
→ Fun Tam Coc Boat Tour: Do The Women Row With Their Feet?
Pros of Using the Vietnam Train
Scenic Views: Riding on a Vietnam train provides some of the very best views out of any mode of transportation. The wide windows and routes along the ocean make for some beautiful rides, especially on stretches like Hai Van Pass.
Comfort: Depending on the type of ticket you book, we found the Vietnam train to be much more comfortable than the bus. The sleepers cabins have actual beds so you can lay down and sprawl out on long rides.
Cons of Riding the Vietnam Train
Sharing Cabins: The sleeper cabins we mentioned above often have 4-6 beds in them. It is possible to book entire carts out, but then you’re paying for each individual bed. Be prepared to make some friends if you’re not ready to cough up the extra dough!
Flexibility: Keep in mind again that the trains fill up fast. You’ll have to book these further in advance than the bus.
Length of Travel: Not much faster than the bus or driving a motorbike. Sometimes the train stations are also outside of the cities a bit.
Traveling in Vietnam by Motorbike
Some of our best memories have been on a motorbike so it would be crazy not to mention it in our Vietnam travel tips! This one is most popular for adventure travelers, and comes with good and bad just like anything else. It does give you the most freedom to be able to stop and go when you please.
Many travelers actually buy a motorbike in the north or south, and drive the entire length of the country. When they get to their final destination (Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi) they sell the bike before continuing on.
While we haven’t done the entire country by motorbike, we did do the popular Ha Giang Loop. This was an incredible 4 day 3 night ride through rural Northern Vietnam. It was easily one of our favorite experiences we’ve had in Southeast Asia!
→ Ha Giang Loop Vietnam: Amazing 4 Day 3 Night Motorbike Route
Pros of Vietnam Travel by Motorbike
Flexibility: You’ll never feel as free as driving a motorbike through the lush mountains of Vietnam! This is surely the most unique way to travel if you’re experienced enough.
Cost: Assuming you get a good deal buying and selling your bike, it will be a super cheap endeavor. Gas prices are very inexpensive for Vietnam travel, and motorbike rentals will only cost you $4-6 USD per day.
Scenic Views: If you thought the Vietnam train had good views it’s nothing compared to what you’ll get on the seat of a motorbike!
Cons of Vietnam Travel by Motorbike
Safety: Okay, pay attention to these Vietnam travel tips if you’re thinking about using am motorbike! Accidents are quite common, and this is definitely the most dangerous options to choose. Always wear a helmet and use every precaution possible while driving.
Legality: You’ll need an international drivers license to operate a motorbike in Vietnam. Still, you might have some issues with local police. We’ve been forced to pay fines ourselves a couple of times although we had the correct paperwork.
Length: Even for the most experienced motorbike riders this is a tough one. Our friends took one month to drive from Saigon to Hanoi and said it was pretty challenging. Prepare for long days, and some towns where you won’t see a single person or restaurant.
Traveling in Vietnam by Ferry
The only time you will have to consider taking a ferry while traveling through Vietnam is visiting one of the islands. On our last trip to Asia we explored Cambodia before crossing the southern border. From there, we jumped on a high speed ferry to Vietnam’s Phu Quoc Island.
If you’re coming from Ho Chi Minh City the “budget option” is sold as an overnight sleeper bus then transfer to the boat. This is specifically one route we would recommend skipping, and instead look into domestic flights in Vietnam.
We booked our flight several days in advance and paid just $20 USD to get to Phu Quoc Island from Ho Chi Minh. This was actually cheaper than the overnight bus and ferry would have cost!
We will not bother with the pros and cons in this section of our Vietnam travel tips. However, if you want to warrior down on the ferry more power to ya!
What is the Best Form of Vietnam Travel?
Honestly, that all depends on your budget and travel style! You may also prefer the Vietnam bus for one section, and the train for another.
Just don’t rule out domestic flights even if you’re on a budget. By booking in advance, they can sometimes be the same price as one of the options that is normally more affordable.
Of course, we understand if you want to see some epic scenery on the back of a motorbike! Hopefully, this guide for traveling in Vietnam at least gave you an idea of what to expect.
→ Use 12Go to compare trains, buses, flights and transfers all over the country!
Have any questions on this article or want to share your own Vietnam travel tips? Drop us a comment at the bottom of this post!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Vietnam Travel Tips
Transportation: 12Go is what we use to book ferries, trains, buses, and transfers while traveling through Vietnam!
Flights: For cheap flight deals check out Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we found flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Phu Quoc for $20 USD and Vietnam to Thailand for less than $50!
Accommodation: Compare multiple sites for hotels such as Booking.com and Agoda. Also, Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget.
Tours: Get Your Guide is an amazing place to find fun activities all over Vietnam! There is everything from a Hanoi Cooking Class and market tour to a Mekong Delta Pagoda & rowing boat trip, and even the Phu Quoc Cable Car Ride with three island snorkeling tour!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without insurance. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years and they are always there when we need them.
Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials!
*We receive a commission for purchases made through links in this post. This allows us to continue our travels and keep providing great content to our readers! Also, as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.