A Guide to Public Transportation in Vietnam

Boat Public Transportation

Public transportation is a good option for foreigners in Vietnam. As the traffic and road conditions in Vietnam may be quite different from those back home, many tourists find it more convenient to use local transport.

In general, it is easy to get around Vietnam. In larger cities, including the capital Hanoi, the transport offering is ample, whilst rural areas are also generally well served.

To see as much of the country as possible, many tourists move around Vietnam, traveling from city to city in order to see the main attractions.

This guide provides information about the main modes of transport in Vietnam and a guide to fares and tariffs.

How to Get Around Vietnam

The most popular forms of transport in Vietnamese towns and cities, as well as in rural areas are:

  • Local and deluxe buses, including sleeper services
  • Train
  • Taxi
  • Cyclo (bicycle rickshaw)
  • Xe Om motorbike taxis

The best way to get around Vietnam depends on several factors. Key considerations when planning transportation include the length of the journey, whether traveling alone or as a group and luggage storage capabilities.

Buses are a good way to experience cities like a local

In major cities such as Hanoi, the bus provides an inexpensive and convenient way to travel.

It can also be a good way to enjoy the scenery, especially when covering long distances in the countryside.

Local buses in Vietnam

Hanoi is well connected with many bus stops throughout the city and modern vehicles. Away from the urban centers, buses may be less modern yet adequately comfortable.

Travelers should be aware that buses are often crowded and, as they make many stops, slow. Foreigners should not be deterred from trying local buses in Vietnam, however, as a way to see everyday life firsthand.

  • Service timetable: early morning until around 5 pm
  • Bus fares: Under $1 (USD)

Deluxe bus travel in Vietnam

For longer distances, deluxe buses provide greater comfort for foreign visitors with features such as reclining seats and air conditioning. Some even have WiFi, particularly useful for business trips.

One popular route offered by several operators is between Hanoi and Haiphong:

  • Journey length: 1.5-2 hours
  • Price: $4- $5

It is worth booking bus tickets online in advance to guarantee a space on the preferred service.

Sleeper buses are an alternative to domestic flights when going long distances but should only be booked through reputable companies.

Airport shuttle bus in Hanoi

A fast and inexpensive way to travel from Noi Bai International Airport to the center of Hanoi is to take the shuttle bus.

The journey takes around an hour and 15 minutes and costs around $1.80 (40,000 VND).

Train travel in Vietnam is dependable and inexpensive

Trains are a great alternative to the bus for medium or long trips. Four classes are available providing increasing levels of comfort:

  • Hard seat, the least expensive and busiest carriages
  • Soft seat, more comfortable seating and slightly less crowded
  • Hard sleeper, 6 beds per compartment, the most affordable overnight service
  • Soft sleeper, 4 beds per compartment, more expensive yet more relaxing

Prices vary widely depending on the train speed and the ticket class. As an indication, a soft seat ticket from Hanoi to Haiphong costs approximately $6 and the journey takes around 2 and a half hours.

Taxis are found in most Vietnamese cities and are affordable

For groups and families, taxis are ideal. Moreover, taxi prices are low compared to international standards: average fares are under a dollar.

With bus services finishing in the early evening, taxis are essential for traveling at night.

Foreigners should be sure to only use reputable firms to avoid being overcharged.

Is there Uber in Vietnam?

Western travelers may be used to the ride-hailing application Uber. Although visitors will not find Uber in Vietnam, they will find Grab, the country’s equivalent.

Travelers wishing to use the service can download the app on their smartphone and input the pickup and dropoff points, removing any issue with language.

Cars and bikes are available on Grab.

Cyclos: the traditional Vietnamese bicycle rickshaw

The cyclo, similar to the more widely recognized tuk-tuk, was once widely used in Vietnam however it is becoming less common, replaced by more modern options.

In some Vietnamese cities, such as Hanoi, cyclo drivers can still be found offering tourists and locals rides.

Short journeys cost from $0.50, up to around $2 for a longer trip.

As well as being a way to bet from A to B, some bicycle rickshaws take the form of a city tour which can be organized through a tour operator or hotel.

Xe Om motorbike taxis, fast and in great supply

Whilst the cyclo is on the decline, Vietnam’s Xe Om motorbike taxis are seen across the country. Xe Om actually means motorbike hug as the passenger sits on the back of the bike and holds onto the driver.

The motorbike taxi is fast and well-suited to moving around cities, provided there’s no luggage.

Fares are from about $0.60 to $0.80 depending on the length of the journey.

How Much is Transport in Vietnam?

As indicated above, transport in Vietnam is much cheaper than in most western countries. The least expensive form of transport for short intercity trips is the cyclo, Xe Om and bus fares are only marginally more.

For longer journeys, deluxe bus services are affordable, even for travelers on a shoestring, whilst passengers can select the train tickets which match their budget requirements.

Whichever mode of transport is selected, Western visitors are likely to spend much less than they would do back home.

How to Book Buses and Trains in Vietnam

When planning a trip to Vietnam, it is now possible to organize many key elements online.

Accommodation in Vietnam can be booked using hotel websites and portals and the Vietnam eVisa, which allows travelers to obtain a visa over the internet, is available to citizens of most countries.

Similarly, online train and bus reservations are recommended as they offer reliable pricing and, by having a guaranteed seat, travelers can enjoy greater peace of mind.

Tickets for local buses do not need to be purchased ahead of time. Cash should be carried to pay drivers.