Seeing Vietnam On A Budget Using The Open Bus Ticket

Sapa, Vietnam

Sapa Sunrise

When visiting Vietnam we knew we wanted to see most of the country, but didn’t know how. Thanks to a couple companies offering open bus tickets and Vietnam being laid out in a line we were able to visit 7 cities for only $55 a ticket for a whole month. It was bloody amazing.

What Is The Vietnam Open Bus Ticket

The Vietnam open bus ticket is offered by two major companies; Queen Cafe and Hung Thanh Travel. This type of ticket is a hop on/hop off type bus route where when purchasing a ticket you can simply visit one city and spend a couple days there, then just grab another bus to the next city. Taking this way of travel we were able to spend 3 weeks slowly starting from the north in Ha Noi and going all the way down south to Saigon, seeing a lot of the beauty that Vietnam has to offer and 6 cities along the way. Out of all of the travel deals and bus tours we have seen in Asia this is by FAR the most enticing and worth it. We chose Hung Thanh Travel for our open bus ticket as we heard it was slightly better than Queen Cafe although nothing special.

Now these buses are not the nicest. Do not expect luxury and as such the staff is not particularly super friendly and the buses themselves are not in the best of condition. Do not expect a team to be catering to your every need. Instead, taking this route is purely a means of travel for a budget price. If you want a good laugh you can always read some of the terrible TripAdvisor or google reviews online of these companies. These reviews almost swayed us to just fly everywhere instead, but we came to travel for experiences and took a chance and we did not regret it. While our experience taking the buses was not the greatest, it was also not terrible. Below are some pros and cons of this way of travel.

Pros

Affordable Price

See a Lot of Vietnam

Direct Routes to Cities

Cons

Seats Are Not very spacious

Buses Are Usually Dirty

Sometimes Can Be Overbooked Leading To It Being Overcrowded

Cities Included In Open Bus Ticket

Ha Noi

Ninh Binh

Phong Nha Cave

Hue

Da Nang

Hoi An

Nha Trang

Da Lat

Mui Ne

Sai Gon

Where To Book Open Bus Tickets and Prices

The best place to purchase tickets is at a travel agency or hotel; we got ours for $55 each. Be aware tickets prices may vary greatly from place to place so make sure to find the best price. We got ours from Hanoi Little Town Hotel. This is where we bought a lot of travel and tour tickets as the owner was so so helpful and even when we had left to other cities she messaged us to see how we were enjoying our trip and gave us some recommendations of what to see.

Upon getting your tickets you will be handed a book that has all the tickets inside so do NOT lose it. This has the pick up and drop off addresses for every city as well as the time for each bus departure. These addresses and times aren’t always accurate so make sure to double check when booking. Tickets are good a month from when you take your first bus trip.

To book a bus ticket to another city once buying this ticket all you need to do is reserve a seat at least 24 hours before. Have your hotel call and schedule it for you, or when arriving at the bus office go inside and make sure to secure a time. If you do not call ahead and plan on just showing up, you won’t be getting on as they are ALWAYS booked.

Vietnam open bus ticket

Our Open Bus Ticket Book

Bus Seating

Seating on this bus has two levels; floor level seats and also seats directly up above. Temperature is always changing on these buses, but for the most part the top section of the bus has more air flow and is colder. Every seat is reclined at 180* and has a thin leather pad on top. The seats have a plastic compartment to place your feet in but these seats are not made for westerners! Even for me it was not the most comfortable but as for Zach being 6’3” he was not a happy camper. Still, these seats beat sitting in normal upright or reclining seats.

Each seat comes with a blanket and some of the buses have a small pillow. I have no idea when these blankets were last washed, but they are nice to have as the bus can get very cold sometimes.

Seats are not reserved so make sure you board the bus as fast as possible. I always would get on the bus first to secure seats while Zach made sure our bags were loaded in the cargo hold below. In our experience these buses are often overbooked so if you don’t get a seat quick a mat will be pulled out and you will be on the floor!

Our Super Pro Tip: Bring Socks! You will have to take of your shoes when boarding the bus and if you are wearing sandals it is nice to not have to walk barefoot because like I said…these buses are nastyyyy.

Open Bus Tour Vietnam Seating

Sleeping On The Bus and Overnight Trips

We took two overnight bus rides, these were also the longest distance bus rides we took. The first one was from Ninh Binh to Hue (we skipped Phong Nha due to limited time) and the second was from Hoi An to Nha Trang. All other bus trips are during the day and range from 2 1/2 – 5 hours. In my opinion, the overnight bus rides are the biggest draw back of taking the bus. Not only are the seats not the best for sleeping, but many of the roads are windy and drivers are quite aggressive driving so you will wake up every time you feel a the smallest bumps on the road. The very back has a large open space seats that are like a mattress, if space permits and you get on first I recommend getting to this seat. This is where we got the most rest.

We at first thought taking an overnight route would be great as we would have more time to see the cities we wanted and be well rested. We were so wrong! If anything, we spent more time trying to catch up on sleep. If taking an overnight bus make sure your hotel or accommodation has a very early check in. When traveling to Nha Trang we had an airbnb where check in was at 8:30am. Our bus was supposed to arrive at 6:30am so we would just go to a cafe for a couple hours and then check into our accommodation. Instead we arrived at 3:30am thanks to the drivers quick driving (I know, the one time we DON’T want to arrive early). This meant that for 5 hours we just roamed around Nha Trang in the dark, where everything was closed, and then just sat on the beach. We were able to see a killer sun rise because of this though.

Bus Station Locations

Bus pickup and drop off locations are quite random but usually are always in the middle, or close to the middle of the city you are visiting. Usually these locations are either a bus office, a hotel, or guesthouse.

Have a sim card with data with you and the Grab app downloaded, a ride share taxi app that is like Uber. Honestly, I would even go as far as saying this is almost essential to have. Have the address and name of where you are staying so you can get a ride quick and at a good price or hire a taxi that has a meter. Always check the meter price before and don’t just negotiate a flat price for your trip as this will usually always be higher.

Bus Safety

Make sure to keep an eye on you stuff and make sure it makes it in the bus, be aware of your belongings at all times.

As crazy and fast these bus drivers drive we never have heard of a bus accident in Vietnam.

All in all, our experience of taking only buses in Vietnam was a blast. We were able to visit all the major cities that we wanted to and got to see a lot of the different landscapes. While traveling by bus wasn’t the fastest or nicest option available, it was the most budget friendly and we thoroughly enjoyed being able to quickly see all the places we were able to visit. We hope this post helps you with your Vietnam Travels! If you have questions leave a comment below!