Transportation is SLOW in Vietnam. Poorly constructed highways and 90 million people in a small country equals long trips. Even the train rolls along at a snail pace. To get from Hanoi to the South, and Hoi An to the South (or if you’re traveling north) you will inevitably find yourself in a night bus/train situation. We traveled from Ninh Binh to Hué on a night train, about 11 hours in total. There are 4 classes on the train. Hard seats (benches), Soft seats, hard bunks (6 to a cabin) and soft bunks (4 to a cabin). We opted for the soft bunks and had a bumpy but good ride into Hué. When it comes to sleeping out on the road, there’s nothing like being in a prone position. From Hué to Hoi An, it’s an easy 4 hour bus ride. The Reunification Train (Hanoi to Hoh Chi Minh City) stops at Denang, but not Hoi An so the bus is the easiest route. Even though it was a 4 hour ride in the middle of the day, we still caught the Open Tour Bus. Neat in theory, but wow were the seats uncomfortable. 3 aisles wide, 2 levels tall, I was stuck in the middle isle on the bottom, with no room to extend my legs. And while you’re lying back as seen in the picture, you’re not laying prone with the ability to turn to your side or stomach. When comparing this to the night train bunk, it’s a no contest as to which means of transportation will provide you with a better sleep. Why travel on the bus then? It comes down to cost. It is considerably cheaper and easier to arrange. In addition, it services cities like Hoi An which the train does not. Another means to consider, flying. We were arranging transportation from Hoi An to Saigon and were looking at a lengthy night bus or train. With the train, it involved getting to Denang first via a 1 hour bus ride. At the Mandarin Café in Hue, they suggested flying from Denang to Saigon. I had read that internal fights were expensive and hadn’t considered it an option. Turned out to be $61 a person, with an entire day of our trip saved. Time was in issue for us, and this gave us enough to explore the Mekong Delta. If you have any questions about transportation in Vietnam let me know!
March 16, 2009
Night Train or Night Bus in Vietnam?