Transportation in Vietnam

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Vietnam transportation is improving rapidly in terms of both quantity and quality. When you travel long distance from one province to another, airplane, buses from credited travel agency and train are the safer options.

Taxi

Taxis with meters, found in most major cities, are very cheap by international standards and a safe way to travel around at night. Average tariffs are about 12,000d to 15,000d per kilometre. However, dodgy taxis with go-fast meters do roam the streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City; they often hang around bus terminals. Only travel with reputable or recommended companies.

Taxis in Vietnam (via 1812 Boutique Hostel)

Buses

Few travellers deal with city buses due to communication issues and the cheapness of taxis, cyclos and xe om. That said, the bus systems in Hanoi and HCMC are not impossible to negotiate – get your hands on a bus map.

Last month, the capital city Hanoi launched its much-anticipated bus rapid transit system (BRT), with the first route running 14 kilometers between Kim Ma and Yen Nghia, two of the city’s most populated areas.

Soon after Hanoi launched its first rapid bus service to mixed results, officials have announced that a new route will be added, reaffirming the city’s push for public transport to curb congestion. It’s planned that there would be 8 routes in total for BRT in 2030.

The BRT system is based on the idea that buses can travel faster and more efficiently on exclusive lanes of their own. However, during rush hours many cars and motorbikes can be seen taking over these lanes, and as a result the new buses are not as fast as expected.

In what seems to be a good sign, Nguyen Thuy, director of Hanoi BRT Company, said that passenger numbers for the rapid buses have increased. On January 1, the system served over 8,300 people, but on January 5 and 6, the daily number reached 12,000. Bus riders can try the new service out for free until the end of January. After that, one-way tickets will cost VND7,000, or around US$30 cents.

Buses (via Saigoneer)

Xe Om

The xe om (zay-ohm) is a motorbike taxi. Xe means motorbike, om means hug (or hold), so you get the picture. Getting around by xe om is easy, as long as you don’t have a lot of luggage.

Fares are comparable with those for a cyclo, but negotiate the price beforehand. There are plenty of xe om drivers hanging around street corners, markets, hotels and bus stations. They will find you before you find them…

Cyclo

The cyclo is a bicycle rickshaw. This cheap, environmentally friendly mode of transport is steadily dying out, but is still found in Vietnam’s main cities.

Groups of cyclo drivers always hang out near major hotels and markets, and many speak at least broken English. To make sure the driver understands where you want to go, it’s useful to bring a city map. Bargaining is imperative. Settle on a fare before going anywhere or you’re likely to get stiffed.

Cyclo (via Hanoi Free City Tours)

Approximate fares are between 10,000d and 20,0000d for a short ride, between 20,000d and 40,000d for a longer or night ride, or around 40,000d per hour.

Travelers have reported being mugged by cyclo drivers in HCMC so, as a general rule, hire cyclos only during the day in that city. When leaving a bar late at night, take a metered taxi.

Airplane

Vietnam has two hub international airports, Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi and Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. A third airport, Da Nang Airport, in Da Nang, accepts a far smaller number of international flights. Over a dozen other domestic airports are scattered across Vietnam.

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