The Complete Guide for Buses and Trains in Vietnam

In Vietnam, the bus is the cheapest and -arguably- most convenient public transport for tourists, and why not locals without a scooter? This is often the case in countries in which the train system is not fully developed. On the other hand, the bus network is developed and reaches all corners of the country.

However; we’ve found that trains are way better on many routes in Vietnam, and even from Vietnam to other countries nearby.

We present this guide that we compiled after investigating and travelling in Vietnam for some time.

Train Travel in Vietnam

The most helpful source during our own investigation was this post by Seat61. However; I’d argue that trains are not the best way in all cases and for all people. Some of the pros and cons are the following.

– Avoids traffic jams
– Can save time and money if you are willing to take a sleeper train and travel overnight
– Better views
– Sustainability (vs buses and planes)
– Don’t reach many areas in Vietnam, although combinations are possible
– Could be more expensive than buses
– You may need to share the berth/room (it could be a pro for some)

If you are looking to save some money and time and you are a good sleeper and you don’t mind sharing a berth/room/cabin, then the sleeper train could be your best choice. If any of the three conditions above are not met, I would start thinking about alternative options. You can always take trains during the day, organise shorter legs with stops, or take buses or fly or a combination. And there are also private taxis or vans and even limousines.

Many people also find trains uncomfortable to sleep in because of the movement, but it’s a similar or worse case with buses.

So our conclusion is that is more of a personal choice if you have both options (three counting planes!) available.


Map taken from the official website

Trains in Vietnam link the main cities which are Hanoi, Hué, Danang, Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). There are also trains from Hanoi to Haiphong (for Halong Bay) and Hanoi to Lao Cai (for the hill resort at Sapa).

There are also smaller stations where you can connect with a bus or take a taxi to reach other towns or villages. For example:

  • The beautiful, tourist and historic UNESCO-listed town of Hoi An is just 30 km by bus or taxi from Danang.
  • The -not as touristic-  beach town of Quy Nhon can be reached by bus or taxi from Dieu Tri train station.

Which train number or line you should use

SE1, SE2, SE3, SE4, SE5 and SE6 have the best and newer (most recently refurbished) trains, although you shouldn’t expect western standards as they are intensively used.

Each soft sleeping car has a corridor down one side with seven 4-berth compartments. Each of these compartments may be safely sealed from the inside. There are two top berths and two lower berths in each compartment. A pillow, sheet, and duvet are included in each berth, which also has its own reading light. On the other hand, hard sleeping-cars are similar but have 6-berth compartments.

A trolley service offers snacks, coffee, soft drinks and beer, and a meal for around 35,000 dongs (£1 or $1.60).

There are also SE7 to SE21, but don’t worry about the numbers, just find the one that takes you to your destination, and if you want and can afford it, try to get first-class or the best option available. So what is really important is where to buy the tickets.

There are two companies proving a VIP service to trains SE1/SE2/SE3/SE4 between Hanoi, Hue and Danang. They are called Livitrans and Violette and they offer an upgraded onboard service for a higher price.

Where to buy train tickets in Vietnam

Do you need a reservation in advance? Yes. All tickets come with a specific date, train/car number and reserved seat/berth number. The best websites to buy tickets online are:

Powered by 12Go system is the best “private” company to buy tickets in Vietnam and other countries in Southeast Asia. They provide an excellent service, including what you normally expect from a modern online vendor, including real-time availability and seat allocation.

They also accept international credit cards and sell tickets from many vendors, including VIP services such as Orient Express and Golden Trains. They also show you other means like buses, private cars, ferries and even flights.

But the feature I like the most, which I haven’t seen on other websites, is that its search engine is smart enough that if you search for two cities for which there are no direct trains. For instance, if your search for trains between Quy Nhon and Hoi An, for which there is no direct line, the website would show the optimal route, which is from Dieu Tri to Da Nang. is another great website for buying tickets online, with similar features to The prices are the same or cheaper and most of the time they add a bit of a commission, which it’s worth considering given the service provided.

The only feature it doesn’t have, or it does not work as well, is the one mentioned above regarding smart search for alternative stations, but I guess you can always find that information by doing your own research.

And talking about research, for this trip we used TripAdvisor a lot. It may not be as trendy as it used to be, but its forum and reviews have super valuable content.

Other private websites

There are many other websites and agencies (OTAs) offering train tickets, and some of them simply redirect to other websites. Some of them are:

Official website

Some people only buy from the official websites, and for good reasons as other companies add a commission most of the time.

The official Vietnamese Railways website is and their official online sales site is, so don’t get distracted by fancy names and domains.

At the station

You can go the traditional way and buy tickets at the station. Bear in mind that most likely you would only find tickets for the regular Vietnamese Railways seats or sleepers, not tickets for the high-quality and privately owned tourist sleepers.

Bus Travel in Vietnam

Sleep bus

Buses are normally the first choice for backpackers and budget travellers. Cheaper prices and wider reach are buses’ main advantages. Some of the pros and cons are the following.

– Reach most areas in Vietnam, the network is well-developed and there are many companies
– Cheaper than trains
– As with trains, many people find buses uncomfortable to sleep in because of the movement
– Traffic jams are common in Vietnam, you may need to think about the hour as well to avoid this problem
– Can save time and money if you are willing to take a sleeper bus and travel overnight
– Sustainability (vs trains)

It’s not worth mentioning specific routes for buses, as you can reach most towns and villages with the right combination. But there are different types of buses.

Types of Buses in Vietnam

Thanh Buoi‘s sleeper bus

Local or public buses

These buses are to move within cities, are normally overcrowded and uncomfortable, and we know about some tourists getting charged more than they should. So these ones are not really recommended.

Tickets for these buses can only be bought onboard, where the driver would tell you the price.

Interprovincial buses (sleeper, night, deluxe)

There are buses connecting multiple cities, villages and towns all around the country.

These services are provided all over the nation by a number of reputable operators, including Ma Linh Express, Futabus, Thanh Buoi and Hoang Long. Tickets may be ordered directly from the organization’s website or from other online resellers that let you compare prices from various operators on one page.

Most of these companies offer VIP/luxurious buses that come equipped with WiFi, air conditioning, sleeper seats, reclining seats, TVs, and even restrooms. They are also very roomy and comfy. Every major city in Vietnam has a terminal for these buses, which travel to popular tourist locations.

Tickets between Hanoi and Hue would cost about 15 USD for a sleeper train and 20 USD for a standard AC seat on Hoang Long service. Some companies offer a 10% discount when booking at least a week in advance.

The guys from GeckoRoutes provided an interesting post describing many bus companies.

Open tour/ticket buses

These are not recommended! See open discussions in TripAdvisor (1, 2). We haven’t tried them but there are plenty of people reporting overselling and other disadvantages.

But if you still want to know, these buses are a sort of hop-on hop-off service. Ticket holders can get in and get off the bus in any major city along the route. However; they need to call the company running the service 24 hs before and book a seat.

Tickets are available on the company’s official website, such as Sinh Tourist (reported to be the best or least bad), or in online sellers like Viator. Other local companies running open tour buses are Phuong Trang Bus, Hanh Cafe Open Bus, Hey Travel Tour Bus and Hung Thanh Bus Travel.

Where to buy bus tickets in Vietnam

Most online agencies/resellers that sell train tickets also sell buses. So the companies listed above are the recommended ones:

If you really want to take a closer look at any operator, check this complete list of Vietnam’s operators with reviews, routes and more!

Private transfers in Vietnam

Private transfers are available all over Vietnam as well. They are, obviously, more expensive than public transport. All the online resellers listed above like also search for private transfers, which could include taxis, vans and even limousines. But there are more options.

Where to book private transfers

  • The online agencies listed above
  • Through the hotel. Most accommodations, especially hotels and well-organised flats, will offer a transfer service as soon as you book a room with them.
  • Klook. This OTA is originally from Hong Kong and has a great variety of tours and activities in Asia. Their section for searching airport pickup and dropoff is quite good and you can search from/to your hotel to the airport.

Taxis in Vietnam

Mai Linh taxis

You will see plenty of cars as soon as you step out of the airport in Vietnam. And yes, there are stories of people being overcharged, as in many other countries in the world.

A single ride should generally set you back about 15,000 VND (about 65 cents in USD) per kilometre. Given that the language is not easy at all, the best you can do is to open up your destination in Google Maps for both the driver and you to see. Having a card from the hotel and a tourist leaflet also helps. And of course, you need to ensure the meter is running.

There are really two reputable and recommended (by locals) cab companies: Mai Linh and Vinasun. And the good news is that they are easily recognisable. Mai Linh cars are green, as in the picture above, and Vinasun cars are white.

Uber and Grab

Both Uber and Grab operate in Vietnam and they are normally slightly cheaper. And they have the advantages we all know, such as knowing the driver and car in advance, the price, we choose the payment method, etc.

Grab seems to be the first choice in Asia. Taxi scooters and food are also available. We used the Grab app extensively for transportation, it works super well and it is very cheap. Most intercity trips cost 1 to 3 USD.

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