Getting around in Vietnam

The topography and available infrastructure are important considerations in tour design. Our target will always be to balance the attractiveness of the destination with the time and cost taken to get there.

If you travel with Haivenu, all transfers from airports, harbours, stations or whatever will be included in your itinerary, unless you request otherwise. In each case, you will travel in a private vehicle driven by an experienced safe driver. Vehicles on highway and city routes will be high-quality, air-conditioned, and allow plenty of room. In more remote areas, 4-wheel drive vehicles or Jeeps may be used.

Road travel
At present, only Highway 1 links the north and south of Vietnam along the narrow coastal strip. It’s mostly a single carriageway road with dual sections passing through towns and villages. Goods and passenger traffic is usually heavy, and there are many accident black spots. Flooding during the late autumn monsoon season in the central area sometimes makes Highway one impassable.

A second north-south highway is based on the wartime Ho Chi Minh Trail. It follows an inland route thorough what was previously remote areas. Its purpose is three-fold: to alleviate congestion, to provide an alternative when the Highway 1 link is severed, and as part of a strategic plan to open up the development potential of the remote areas along the Annamite mountain range.

Elsewhere, the majority of roads range from reasonable to awful. Journey times are therefore much longer than those in developed countries.

If you travel with Haivenu, your itinerary will be designed to eliminate unnecessary road travel wherever possible, and use the most interesting routes where it’s essential to travel by road. Your vehicle will always be less than a couple of years old, and be driven by a fully licensed experienced driver with a first-class safety record. Because you will be on a private tour, you can stop off whenever and wherever you wish.

By Air
All internal flights are by Vietnam Airlines or its subsidiary, Pacific Airlines. Both use well-maintained modern aircraft and have excellent safety records. Airport procedures are straightforward. Both companies are opening up new routes and the government is investing in the supporting infrastructure. The new Cam Ranh terminal has allowed Nha Trang to join Danang, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as an international airport, and local connections to provincial towns and offshore islands are being expanded.

The lack of competition means fares are comparatively expensive and, apart from occasional promotions, no discounts.

If you travel with Haivenu, and your itinerary included domestic flights, you’ll receive your tickets on arrival or well in advance of the flight. We’re a licensed ticket agency for internal flights, so there will be no problems with bought through Haivenu.

By rail
The main railway is single track and follows the route of Highway 1, often running alongside. Journey times are long, but sleeping compartments are available on the long-distance trains.

The flagship of Vietnam Railways is the daily E1 express service, popularly known as the 'Reunification Express'. It has the best rolling stock, and makes the journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, or vice versa, in thirty hours.

Other trains ply the same route. The S1 is also a daily express, but a bit slower than the E1. Others stop at local stations en-route. There are also a few branch lines, notably extensions from Hanoi to Ha Long City and to Sa Pa via Lao Cai station, where it connects with China’s rail network.

Tickets to travel from north to south and vice versa, and to intermediate destinations, can be bought in advance only at Hanoi, Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City stations. Tickets to travel from intermediate destinations are only available at the local station, and there is no guarantee that the preferred seats or berths will be available. At busy times, trains are full.

If you travel with Haivenu, and your itinerary includes a rail journey from an intermediate station, one of our local representatives will buy the correct tickets in advance on your behalf – you’ll be given them when you arrive.

By water
Most travel by water is for sightseeing or on ferries: there are no routes that link more than a couple of coastal centres. Where water travel is essential, there is usually a choice between fast and slow boats. The latter are usually the ships that carry supplies and passengers to outlying villages and islands and seem to take forever.

There are hydrofoil services in some places - from Ha Long to Mong Cai on the border with China, from Hai Phong to Cat Ba and from Ho Chi Minh City to various destinations in the Mekong, for example.

A recent innovation is a well-appointed 26-cabin cruise boat that plies up and down the Bassac River between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City. We have some reservations about the service provided - full details to follow.

If you travel with Haivenu, the boats you use will always comply with safety regulations and be fully licensed where necessary. For smaller boats, such as sampans, kayaks or dug-out canoes, you will always be accompanied and offered a lifejacket.

Haivenu Tours Homepage

Our Vietnam Tours

Vietnam Travel Information

Choosing a Tour Company
Arranging a Tour
Travel Tips
  Beggars and bartering
Children travelling in Vietnam
Female travellers in Vietnam
Food and drink
Getting around in Vietnam
Gifts and gratuities
Health matters
How to be popular
Prices in Vietnam
Safety matters
The local currency
What to take home
What to take with you
Vietnam Hotels
About Vietnam
Responsible Travel with Haivenu
Vietnam Photo Library

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