Vietnam is a really long country, over 1000 miles from top to bottom, so it often requires hundreds of miles worth of traveling between destinations. We tried out a few different ways of getting around Vietnam, but for all the wrong reasons the sleeper bus was definitely the most memorable…
Being budget travellers, for our first journey from Hanoi to Hue we chose the wallet-friendly sleeper bus. All I can say about this is do not let the price tempt you. I think it cost us about £12 each for a 400+ mile journey but I would never, ever do this again. Just pay the extra. It was fourteen hours of hell!!
The buses are basically three rows of tiny bunkbeds one behind the other. I’m only 5’4 and couldn’t fully extend my legs so it must be unbearable for tall people; the dimensions definitely aren’t suited to westerners. The beds themselves are leather for some reason so when I finally fell asleep I woke up every twenty minutes and had to peel my sticky face off of the bed. The worst thing about the bus though was the smell – you have to remove your shoes before getting on so all we could smell for fourteen hours was other people’s feet, and believe me you are in uncomfortably close proximity to said feet. Combine this with the toxic aroma that fills the bus every time someone opens the toilet door and it doesn’t make for a very pleasant journey!
When we booked our tickets in Hanoi, we were shown pictures of a bus (definitely not the one we got) and told there would be wifi and places to charge our devices etc. which obviously wasn’t the case. Plus they turn all the lights off straight away, and there’s no individual lights on beds, so when your phone dies you can’t even read as it’s pitch black. Honestly though I think they would have told us there was a five star restaurant on board just to sucker us into buying a ticket. In fact, their emphasis is so firmly on selling tickets that they seem to just keep selling even after the bus is fully booked. We boarded at the first stop so had no trouble finding beds, but the people who boarded afterwards literally had to LAY ON THE FLOOR IN THE AISLES. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Even though I had a bed I was fuming for the people on the floor, and this was when I knew I’d never get another one of these buses and risk that happening to me!
One more thing that just added to this grim night was the men driving and stewarding the bus. I found them pretty hostile and intimidating and they were so rude if I tried to speak to them. I didn’t feel comfortable with my fate being in their hands (sounds dramatic I know but it was down to them to get us to our destination). You also have to just sit and wait whenever they decide to stop and go for food etc for however long they feel like which is so annoying. Plus we got a flat tyre at 2am and had to wait two hours for them to change it, really not what we needed! I kept thinking how I wished we were on the train where things like this don’t really go wrong. Also, if you’ve ever experienced the roads in Vietnam you’ll know how fast and dangerously people drive, so I feel a lot safer travelling by train there anyway.
So, if you need to get around Vietnam, I implore you to pay the extra to get a train or even a flight. When we finally arrived in Hue we met two girls who had just made the same journey as us in an hour by flying for £20! Gutted. I think the train costs about double the bus but it’s much more bearable – we got one from Da Nang to Nha Trang and it takes just as long but isn’t smelly, plus the staff are friendly and come round every now and then with corn on the cob, noodles and other delights. Whatever you do, for anything more than a few hours avoid the sleeper bus at all costs!
Has anyone else taken the sleeper bus in Vietnam? Am I being an over-dramatic snob, or did you find it as unbearable as I did?