Two weeks ago I was in Vietnam for a short vacay. My entry point was Hanoi which is located in the northern part of the country. I only have five days there so I decided I was going to explore Hanoi, Hoi An, and Hue only. Hoi An and Hue, however, are located in Central Vietnam. When I travel, I always start with the farthest. In this case, it was Hoi An. The cheapest way to get there is by sleeper bus. The travel time, more than 17 hours.
I haven’t tried riding on a sleeper bus yet and 17 hours is quite long but I didn’t want to overspend so I decided to try it. To avoid inconvenience during my trip, I decided to book my bus ticket in advance. I did it online through Baolau. An advantage of taking the bus option to Hoi An is that it is the only direct way to get from Hanoi without having to deal with the hassle of transferring in Danang.
Prior to the Trip
I booked the 18:00 trip of Hung Thanh Sleeper Bus. On the day of the trip, I went to the bus station of Hung Thanh in Hanoi two hours before the scheduled trip. I got tired of walking around Hanoi Old Quarter while carrying my backpack so I decided to just wait at the bus station. I showed my e-ticket at the ticketing desk and was then issued a bus ticket that indicated the actual time of departure of the bus (18:30) and my bed number.
While waiting for the bus to arrive, I checked for reviews of the sleeper bus. Most of the reviews I read were not good. Some wrote about scams of the drivers and that the drivers and attendants are rude, some wrote about how uncomfortable the bus is and many other things. These stories scared me so right there and then I booked a flight for my trip back to Hanoi even if it’s 2.5x more expensive.
The bus arrived at the station a few minutes before 18:30. Before boarding, you have to show the bus attendant the ticket issued to you. Upon boarding, you will be asked to remove your footwear. Don’t worry though coz the driver provides a plastic bag to put your footwear in.
The bus isn’t a double-decker, just a single floor. Inside the bus are three rows of bunk beds. The bed assigned to me was at the upper bunk right window side. There’s a toilet inside the bus but I didn’t use it so I have no idea how it looks like. It also has a free wifi. Blankets are provided too. The bed, however, is not really a bed but more of a seat that can be reclined for about 150 degrees. Below are pictures of how the bus looks like inside:
My Sleeper Bus Experience
My first sleeper bus experience wasn’t as scary as what I have read. It was a little uncomfortable because I had my backpack beside me. I decided not to stow it in the hold underneath the bus. I have read horror stories of bags that had gotten completely wet because someone peed on it and I didn’t want that to happen to me. Other than that, everything was fine. I was able to sleep well even if the bus made several stops to pick up passengers from other towns.
At one of the stops, the bus attendant told the newly picked up passengers bound for Hoi An to get off the bus because the bus is bound for Hue only. I almost went down too, but I remembered asking the bus attendant before I boarded the bus if it’s the bus to Hoi An and she said that it is. I decided to just stay and if the bus indeed stops at Hue, then I will worry about it when I get there.
The bus made two meal stops. First one was around 22:00. The second was in the morning somewhere before the city center of Hue. I didn’t go down on the first stop. I got off the bus during the second stop because I needed to pee and I was already hungry. The bus driver announced that we are stopping there for 30 minutes so I decided to check out the area near the bus stop.
When we got to Hue, we were told that it is the final stop. Those bound for Hoi An were told to transfer to another bus that was already there waiting. When we transferred, they just asked for our ticket but we weren’t charged extra.
Thoughts About the Reviews I Read
When I told my bus experience to my brother and the reviews I read on the internet, he told me that the bus really isn’t that bad. He said that maybe those who gave negative reviews were used to better buses in their country. Also, the buses in Vietnam were designed for Vietnamese who have smaller built compared to Westerners, so it is really uncomfortable for people who are over 5’8″. Maybe there are really buses that are horrible and have really bad customer service. I was lucky the bus I booked wasn’t one.
Tips for Sleeper Bus Travel
- If you suffer from motion sickness, take an anti-nausea pill before your trip.
- Wear flip flops/sandals/slippers prior to your trip to avoid hassle because you won’t be allowed to wear footwear inside the bus.
- Keep your valuables with you at all times. When you get off the bus to pee or buy food, take your valuables with you. When you go to sleep, make sure these are not easy for other passengers to steal.
- Don’t drink too much water before your trip to avoid the feeling of needing to pee. Also, make sure to use the bathroom before getting on the bus.
- Bring earphones with music if you are easily annoyed by loud chatter.
- To avoid getting bored during the trip, take something to entertain you, something to read or whatever works.
- Bring some snacks just in case you get hungry. You’re never sure when the stop will be so it’s always worth carrying some snacks like biscuits.
- Carry some hand sanitizer or alcohol so you can clean your hands before you eat.
- Take a light jacket or travel blanket to keep you warm just in case the blanket provided is not enough for you.
- Make sure to arrive at the bus station at least 1 hour before your departure time. There might be some changes to the bus schedule. To avoid missing your bus, it is better to be there early. Also, a refund is not given if you miss your bus.
- Book your trip in advance to secure a bed especially if you are following a tight schedule. I highly recommend booking through Baolau. It is reliable and fast processing. You pay a commision when you book online but it is not so high (around USD 1.5). I have read that travel agencies in Vietnam charge even higher.
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