Although Vietnam considered to be a third world country, but don’t think for one second that you will have to be traveling by bicycles or motorbikes all the times. The locals usually travel by motorbikes, cars, buses, and bicycles. But I’ll stay focus for you, keeping the topic on track with tourists, helping you plan not only on your traveling but how to travel.
The Types of Transports Available for Tourists
You’re not limited in your choice of how to travel in Vietnam. Whatever available for locals mean of transportation it’s also available to you. Here are the main transportation that you’re most likely be traveling by: Taxi, Buses, Motorbikes (xe om), Ferries, and Airplanes.
For traveling locally or short distances the best ways are either by taxi or motorbikes. The cheapest way is by the local bus, of course—but it’s not as easy or convenience. Buses would be best for long distance travel. I’ll get into that later.
It’s much easier to tell the taxi driver your destination and he’ll get you right to the location. Keep in mind that not all taxi drivers are equally knowledgeable with the area. So don’t expect them to know everything but most are very familiar with tourist area and locations.
There are two major taxi companies in Vietnam that you will see, Mai Linh which are usually the green cab and Vinasun which are usually white.
One BIG Drawback traveling by taxi is that the cost will slowly adds up. Plus, you don’t get to take nice clear pictures as to motorbikes.
This is something you at least want to try once, riding a motorbike taxi, motorcycle taxi, motor taxi, or whatever you want to call it. In Vietnamese, it called “xe om”. I will call it “xe om” and will use this term through out this website so you will get use to the term and it will comes naturally to you in Vietnam. This is probably the cheapest and most convenience way to get around locally if you’re traveling alone.
It cost half of the price of the Taxi and sometimes even cheaper, just a fraction. Xe om are usually around the busy street corners, that’s their hangouts. You can spot them easily and sometimes they have this keen instinct that you’ll be needing their service and flag you down instead of you flagging them down.
They usually drive an older motorbike and have extra helmets for passengers. After a few times seeing them you will spot them much easier.
Traveling Long Distance Within Vietnam
The fastest way to is get on an airplane and fly to your destination. But that’s not always the best way to travel because two main reasons; cost and availability. Cost might not always be a major issue because sometimes you will find great deals especially if you book ahead. And sometimes because of the great deals you might want to travel in the air, it’s a lot faster and comfortable—counting the fact that your travel time is short.
The major issue is that not all your destinations will have an airport available. That’s when you have no choice but you travel by other means.
The next best way to travel long distance within Vietnam is through buses. This is probably the most common for tourists. With buses that go just about all your destinations; occasionally you will have to take the bus then moto taxi.
The “sleeper bus” is a great option to travel long distance like from Ho Chi Minh City to Dalat for example. It’s a pretty long time trip so it’s best to able to lay down and even sleep when possible. On a regular bus you will be fine too if you able to take sitting in one place for over 6 hours.
Two Major Bus Stations
There are two main bus stations in Ho Chi Minh City. If you’re traveling northern Vietnam then you can go to Mien Dong Bus Station. And if you’re traveling southern Vietnam then you can go to Mien Tay Bus Station. You will find a varieties of buses available to you. From regular buses to the sleeper buses and to even smaller van cargo like buses. It’s an experience in itself just riding these different buses. It’s sometimes unbelievable what happened on the bus and what they do to packed more customers (I personally don’t like it because it’s making the ride very uncomfortable.) but again, just try it for the experience.
Larger bus companies doesn’t pack or pickup extra customers along the way. So if you don’t like being uncomfortable then best is to go with big bus companies. Phuong Trang’s Futa Buslines is one of those bus companies I recommend.
Ferries or Boats When Available or Necessary
Now this, get a little interesting; sometimes part of your trip require you to cross some rivers and you have no option but you use the ferries. And other times, ferries are just another option to cross. Like for example, going to Phu Quoc island you can fly there or take the ferries. Another one is Vung Tau. You cannot fly there so you have a few options: taxi, motorbikes, buses, and ferries. This is when ferries are available as an option and you might want to take. It’s a lot faster from district 1 Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau right around an hour and 15 minutes.
The Choice is Yours
Now you have some decisions to make. It’s really up to your liking. What you prefer? I know some people try to avoid airplanes because they don’t feel safe or comfortable in traveling in the air. Some prefer motorbikes because it’s refreshing to them. So there are three things to consider when deciding; convenience, travel time, and comfort.
I recommend trying all of the possible mean of transportation to get the experience of how it’s like. Even if you have been in a bus back in the States, trust me—it will surprise you when you ride these buses in Vietnam.