National transport

Getting around Vietnam

National transport

Flying is not the cheapest, but is definitely the most comfortable, and safest, way to travel around Vietnam over long distances. Other options, like trains or buses, differ a lot in comfort and quality.

Vietnam may not be one of the largest countries in terms of surface area, but it measures more than 1,500km from south to north. This means travelling from its capital, Hanoi, in the north to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon and the largest city in Vietnam), in the south can be quite a long journey. The possible ways of getting around vary widely in consideration of time, comfort, price and security. GeckoRoutes suggests a couple of interesting Vietnam itineraries .


The fastest and most comfortable way to travel is by plane. Vietnam has three international airports, Hanoi, HCMC and Na Dong, and a further 14 airports for local flights. The official Vietnam Airlines, as well as the low-cost alternative Jetstar Pacific, offer several domestic flights. Getting from Hanoi to HCMC takes about two hours. Hotel shuttle buses or pick-up services take people to the city centres.


The train ride from Hanoi to HCMC takes about 30 hours, so it is wise to invest a little money in the ticket. That means booking a cabin with a bed and air-conditioning if you want to have a pleasant journey. Following this advice the trip can be a great experience in itself since the scenery is breathtaking. Make sure to book far in advance and remember that besides the connections between the main cities, the Vietnamese train network is very limited.


Concerning prices the same thing applies for buses: book quality! If you are trying to save money in the wrong place you will find yourself in a dirty uncomfortable bus without air con sharing your seat with another person (since seats are often sold twice). Although buses are the most common method for long distance travelling they are also the most dangerous. Reckless drivers and bad streets make it the means of transport with the most accidents by far. When choosing this way of travelling make sure it is one of the well-established companies. Open tour buses are a great option since you can get off during the journey and continue it later, on another bus run by the same line.


An alternative to all the common ways to get around is a personal driver. The advantage to renting a car is that a driver is used to Vietnamese traffic and driving. Furthermore any eventual damage of the car is his responsibility. Arrange the price and conditions before the journey. You are expected to pay for the meals and accommodation for the driver if it is a longer trip.

Another option is travelling on the water. Tours on the Mekong Delta and frequent express boat services to its major islands are popular with tourists and locals alike.

Further reading

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