Travelling throughout Vietnam

While I was in Vietnam I got from destination to destination by bus, airplane, taxi, boats and scooters. On the map below highlighted were the destinations I went. The red is where I took bus/night bus and the purple is where I flew. The routes aren’t accurate as to exactly how I got there I just joined the departure and arriving cities. (Ie. Not the correct flight path or correct bus route). 

There are many  ways to travel about Vietnam. Personally I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way. Many people are weiry of the night bus, but I had good experiences when I took them. (Mui  Ne to Hoi An, and Da Lat to HCMC). Make sure to do your research and do what’s most comfortable for you. I ended up taking a bus from Hanoi to Sapa versus the train because it was on that date cheaper and quicker. I’ve heard a lot of good and bad about the night trains, just as I had about the night buses so I just did what felt right, sent a few prayers to the universe and was just fine. I had no problems with transportation in Vietnam and would happily do it all again. Even going on a scooter in HCMC!

Here’s a bit of information for travelling within Vietnam:

  • Often on buses your required to take your shoes off. Wear shoes that can easily slip off, and for night bus you might be more comfortable if you pack some socks to stay warm. They provide a blanket but it can get cold on bus. You’ll also want some good ear plugs. There’s two levels on the bus, I liked being on top personally. Because I’m short I found the night buses to be comfortable. I could see it being crammed  if your on the taller side as your in a “pod” see picture below. 
  • The first time I took bus was a bit daunting. I  found someone that spoke English to make sure I got on right bus, and that I got off in the right place. Make sure the driver or employee on bus knows your travel plans so you get dropped off at correct hotel, or correct station. I didn’t know that I was assigned a seat, so I just sat anywhere, and was quickly corrected. If your not sure, just ask someone. I was lucky to always find helpful travellers, employees or locals.
  • The bus from Mui Ne to Hoi An was about 16-17 hrs with a one hour stop in NHA Trang. I’m sorry I can’t remember the exact amount of time, however most of the trip is overnight and with some good ear plugs I was able to get some sleep. 
  • The bus from Hanoi to Sapa was about 5-6 hrs (if no traffic stalls) and it has lots of winding roads. If you get motion sickness I recommend some gravol before travel. The scenery is well worth it.
  • The night bus from Da Lat to HCMC saves you about 2 hrs versus going in the day, but the road had a lot of twists and turns and I didn’t sleep at all. It took about 5 hrs, during the day it can take up to 8. You can also fly in between those destinations.
  • My flights were easy and straight forward. I checked one bag (my backpack) and had my carry on as well. They were not delayed and both flights were good experiences with good customer service. I’ve heard a lot of other opinions, but I had very positive experiences both with Jetstar and Vietjet.
  • Most buses have wifi but there is no plug to charge your phone. Charge your devices before you go, pack ear buds or bring a good book!
  • Most of the night buses have a toilet but check when you buy ticket. Normally there is 1-3 stops at bus stations that has a toilet. 
  • If you get picked up from your hotel usually they give you a 1/2 hr window of time. I usually was ready 15 minutes before that. If bus is behind quite a bit, it seems to be normal. Don’t panic, your hotel or hostel can call to double check for you. I waited about an hour in Mui Ne for my bus, and called them. They were late but they didn’t forget me!
  • When going to Sapa and Ha Long Bay I would recommend packing a smaller backpack instead of taking all of your gear. It’s common practice to leave luggage at your hotel in Hanoi and pick it up when you return. In Sapa you’ll likely be trekking with what you take with you if your going to a homestay. In Ha Long Bay it just leaves you more room especially when on tender boat to get you around the harbour. Pack light, most likely your doing a two or three day trip. 
  • Hand sanitizer and tissues will be your best friend while in Vietnam. I was impressed how many western style toilets there were, and most I didn’t have to pay to use. But occasionally there is no tissue offered, and you have to adapt to other cultural ways. It’s just nice to have some familiar options when needed. 
  • There are many great travel tour companies such as VK tours that can help book different excursions, tours etc.  There are also many destinations and things you can do on your own! I did a tour in Sapa and Ha Long Bay. Do some research and have a blast!
  • In travel things are bound to go wrong… You might miss a flight, get sick and stay in one place longer then you intended, or wind up like I did often hopelessly lost. So be lost. Enjoy the moment knowing that your exactly where your meant to be. Get so lost that you find yourself. And then maybe find where your trying to go. Ask for help, but be willing to go with the flow. Because when it comes to travel, plans change, or things go wrong. Don’t take it as a negative. Find the good in every situation. When things go a different way, they often lead you to a great adventure, or a unforgettable night, or to somewhere even better then you could imagine. There is no right way, or perfect plan when it comes to travel. Only your way, whatever that may be.

I went to Vietnam on my own, as a first time solo traveller and I would recommend it to everyone. Solo travel is an adventure that I wish everyone experienced at least once in their life. You learn a lot about yourself, how strong you are and how much you can accomplish. I felt safe and comfortable and had great freedom.  I didn’t plan too much in advance, and even skipped some of the places I had intended to go, as I found others I didn’t want to miss. So many people along the way were there to help me, and  I couldn’t have enjoyed myself anymore. Take chances, enjoy new experiences and most of all be kind. All the best on your travels!!!

    Sapa 

    After Ha long Bay I was on my way further north to the mountain town Sapa. When you see pictures of Vietnam, Sapa always stands out with beautiful tiered rice fields, and lush greenery. I couldn’t miss seeing it.  I packed some warmer clothes, jumped in the bus and away I went!

    Highway to Sapa

     I set up a 2 night 3 day tour including home stays and trekking through APT travel. When I arrived I enjoyed a lovely lunch and then it was time to explore Sapa. 

      
      

    The best way to see Sapa? On foot.  And with a guide who knows the route. When you set up your trip to visit Sapa you’ll likely be doing some trekking. Make sure you have good footwear. Runners or hiking boots are a must, as your days will be spent trekking an average of 15 km. You’ll also want to dress appropriately. I had met a few girls when I was travelling in the Mekong Delta and they were very cold while up in Sapa, they bought jackets and blankets etc while they were out there. When I arrived about 10 days after they were in Sapa it was hot and sunny. Being in the Mountains up north the weather can fluctuate, especially between January and March, they’ve even had snow a few times.

    Our first trek was to the first homestay I would be staying at. It was 15 km and we went through many different villages and walked and talked with some of the locals.  The trek went through rice fields, villages, streams etc. Was a hot day so there were a few breaks to stay hydrated. 

    A homestay is  chance to rent a room with a local and experience life in their village. Often they’ll have several beds available to accommodate a few people at once. I find it to be a humbling and wonderful way to travel as you’ll be living in their village and seeing the day to day life of people that live in different parts of Vietnam. Usually they’ll let you cook with them or show you a more authentic version of life where you are travelling. I highly recommend it. When I get back to Vietnam I’ll extend my time in certain places so I can stay in one place longer with a family.   It’s been my preferred method of lodging while abroad Vietnam and I’ve been lucky to stay in some wonderful ones.

       
       

    One of the many tribes in Vietnam, the black h’mong

     Once arriving I was greeted by the hosts of the homestay. They welcomed us and prepared a snack of homemade garlic French fries. I met some of the others staying at the same place, and we were entertained by the young daughters laughing and playing. We helped make spring rolls as part of the dinner and the hosts put on quite a meal for us. Was a great evening with kind and gracious hosts.

        
    The next morning before breakfast I was up early enough I walked to a waterfall that was nearby and climbed up to see it. There’s giant rocks surrounding it so I was able to sit right on it. It was a lovely and calm morning and I could relax and take in the moment.

       
          

    After a nice breakfast one of the girls I met the previous night, Jeanette and I met our local guide who would be trekking with the two of us 17 km to the next homestay  called Hong located in the village Ban Ho which is a mostly Thai speaking village. We trekked through bamboo forests, rice fields, villages, and down the mountain taking many breaks for pictures. Sapa is breathtaking and the views are stunning. Shom, my guide was wonderful and we all had a great day travelling through Sapas rugged terrain.

       

    Children in Sapa. Be sure to bring some pens when you visit as they need for school

      

       

     

    We arrived mid afternoon at the 2nd homestay. It was wonderful. The  hosts were so kind, the place was perfect and even though we didn’t speak their language they were hilarious and great company.

      We walked down to the waterfall an then enjoyed a great dinner with another couple from Paris. After dinner we played a card game and whenever someone lost they had to dance. It was a memorable night. It’s a beautiful thing when a group gets together not knowing one another, speaking different languages, from different places but everyone is laughing and enjoying their evening.

       

    Such a fun night!
      

     

    Jeanette and I
      
    Shom and I
      
       
    grinding root vegatables for pig food
     
     Sapa you were beautiful and I promise I’ll be visiting you again one day.