This post was last updated on February 3rd, 2020 at 01:02 pm
Transport in Vietnam is always accompanied by scooters. For those of us who are not great on two wheels there are other ways to get around. Most Vietnamese ride a scooter themselves, and sometimes with entire families all at once. It is extremely busy on the roads and they don’t have many traffic rules here. Traffic lights are present but you should always remain careful and the horn is used at least twice every minute with full dedication.
Transport in Vietnam
As said, fortunately, there are more options to move around in Vietnam besides driving a scooter. A bus is a popular option. On this page, we will give you tips and information about different means of transport in Vietnam.
Renting a Scooter in Vietnam
It depends on how long you want to travel through Vietnam. It is quite possible to travel by scooter from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi in two months, or vice versa. If you have less time, but you want to see the real Vietnam, we recommend that you rent a scooter or use a taxi service (also available for scooters) at your destination.
On a scooter you have complete freedom, you can easily participate in traffic and you experience the real Vietnam. For long distances between cities or distances that you cannot drive with the scooter, you can use a bus or train. Traveling with the scooter is the ultimate feeling of freedom during your trip!
Rules To Keep in Mind
You can only drive scooters with more than 50cc if you have a Vietnamese driving license. So make sure your scooter does not exceed 50cc. Translating your license into Vietnamese (International Driving Permit) is NOT a valid way to drive a scooter, car or motorcycle in Vietnam.
Cost of Driving a Scooter
You can rent a scooter anywhere. Hotels or travel agencies all rent out scooters. Make sure you have some experience because the traffic is really chaotic here! You can also choose to rent a scooter with a driver and sit on the back. It is possible to do this for as little as $25 a day.
TIP – Renting a scooter yourself costs between $5 and $25, depending on the scooter.
It can get pretty claustrophobic when you’re riding a scooter in Vietnam
Buses in Vietnam
You can go almost everywhere in Vietnam by bus, even to the furthest corners of the country. The large, modern companies run between large cities and highways. In remote areas, you often find buses that are in a slightly lesser state. Many travelers opt for the “tourist buses” and skip the local buses.
The local buses often cover shorter distances and are a lot less luxurious. Therefore, they are also a lot less comfortable. These buses only run during the day. Local buses are often overcrowded and drivers sometimes charge higher prices for tourists. These are not really a popular choice among travelers.
TIP – Try your best to accept the Vietnamese culture. This means that buses do not always run on time. Don’t panic, they always show up in the end!
These buses are often used by tour operators and modern bus companies. These buses are equipped with air conditioning, TVs and sometimes even Wi-Fi. The buses are comfortable and in many cases, the seats can be folded to the rear so you can try to sleep. These buses also often run at night.
Open Bus Ticket
It is possible to buy an open bus ticket in Vietnam. This is very popular among travelers. These buses run between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh and stop at every popular spot. You can get in and out very easily.
The prices are often very affordable which means that an open bus ticket is very attractive. A ticket that allows you to travel between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh costs between US $35 and $55, depending on the operator. You can count on it that you will be in a bus full of tourists.
TIP – The Sinh Tourist is a well-known organization.
The Vietnamese Minivan
With certain group trips or tours, you can also opt for a minivan. This is a very fast way of transportation. The price depends on the distance you travel and the travel organization with which you book it. Tip; a minivan is not recommended if you are claustrophobic. If the minivan has a limit of 8 people, then in Vietnam at least 12 people will get in. So it is not very comfortable!
Prices and Routes
Prices are, of course, dependent on the route you follow. A ride from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi often costs you less than $35. And that is a distance of more than 1,700 kilometers.
Trains in Vietnam
Vietnam has a very extensive train network running from Ho Chi Minh (the south) to Loa Cai, the station for visiting Sapa in the north of Vietnam. Like many countries, Vietnam also has the option of night trains and day trains with both their advantages. It is even possible to take your scooter (or perhaps bicycle) on the train; a great way of transport in Vietnam.
The tracks and trains are somewhat outdated but it is a great way to explore Vietnam. Especially the night trains, with air conditioning and beds, are a better alternative than the long bus rides.
Trains indicated by SE are often newer, faster trains. Trains that are designated as TN are the outdated trains. You can usually pick a hard seat, soft seat, hard sleeper or a soft sleeper. And then with or without air conditioning. Hard seats, the cheapest class, are often packed with locals.
Prices and Routes
Ticket prices depend very much on the train that you take. The hard seat class is the cheapest and least comfortable option. Soft sleeper is suitable for long distances at night but also more expensive (recommended!). For a ride from Hanoi to Hue, you pay around 492,000 Dong, which is around $21.
Domestic Flights in Vietnam
Flying is becoming an increasingly popular means of transport. Because Vietnam covers a pretty long distance from North to South, it is not always possible to travel through the country within a certain time by bus, train, or scooter. To travel faster through the country, more and more people are opting for domestic flights.
Bear in mind that domestic flights in the high season (July and August) are a lot more expensive. Booking well in advance is only useful if you know exactly what you are going to do.
Aviation in Vietnam has undergone a strong development in recent years. Domestic flights have become popular among tourists and Vietnamese people themselves. New routes are still being added. The prices for domestic flights are very decent. You can buy a ticket from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh during the off-season for around $33. It is not necessary to book far in advance as there are often several flights per day.
Riding in a Cyclo (rickshaw)
A guide on different means of transport in Vietnam would not be complete without the most traditional option; the cyclo. The cyclo is the Vietnamese version of the rickshaw. A cyclo is a bicycle with a container in front that can accommodate 2 passengers. It is a super fun way to get around the city.
They drive in all major cities of Vietnam. Prices depend on the city and distance but you pay around 50,000 Dong per hour or 15,000 Dong for a short ride.
Make sure you agree on prices in advance! Cyclo drivers sometimes ask for more money when you reach your destination.
Enjoy the beautiful scenery in Hoi An on a cyclo (rickshaw)
Driving a Car in Vietnam
Renting a car is only possible if you use a driver. Renting a car without a driver is not possible. And considering the traffic, that’s not a bad thing either. Many Vietnamese people use their own car to drive. Renting a car is therefore hardly done.
To drive a car in Vietnam you need a Vietnamese driver’s license. To apply for a Vietnamese driver’s license you have to live in Vietnam for at least 3 months. It is, therefore, NOT possible for most travelers to drive a car in Vietnam.
An International Driving Permit (IDP) is not sufficient.
Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are the most important cities where you can rent a car with a driver. If you go up north you definitely need a 4WD. Count on around US $75 to $160 a day for renting a car.