A Good Review of Travelling on a Vietnam Night Bus: Ho Chi Min City to Ha Tien
Among the hordes of Vietnam night bus horror stories here is a good one to calm your nerves if you’ve bit the bullet and booked your ticket.
Now you do have to be realistic. You will not have a good night sleep, but you will reach your Vietnam destination in one piece, which is the most important thing.
We had started our journey in Ho Chi Min City and wanted to make our way to Phu Quoc, an island off the South of Vietnam. To get there we had to catch a bus to Ha Tein, a border town for Cambodia, before catching a ferry to our ultimate destination. We chose to take a night bus to save on accommodation and tackle a true Vietnam experience. Only once I had booked our tickets did I discover all the night bus horror stories myself and realise there were a number of risks besides being pick-pocketed.
There are numerous stories online about risky driving, stolen valuables, no sleep and straight out warnings not to take a night bus in Vietnam. We personally didn’t experience any of these (thank goodness) on our trip except for minimal sleep which was to be expected.
Our successful trip was due to being picky with our bus company and not being cheap with our spending. A night bus in Vietnam is cheap to start with so spending a little extra on a good bus company was definitely money well spent.
Vietnam Night Bus Company
We did our research and settled on Phuong Trang (Futa Bus), a Vietnam night bus company with a good reputation with stations across Vietnam.
We were told to meet at the Phuong Trang office, where we paid for our tickets, an hour before departure. Shortly after arriving we were crammed into a small bus to be taken to the main bus station about 20 minutes away. Once there we eagerly waited with eyes peeled to find our bus and get on first to nab the good seats at the back.
Once we had taken off our shoes and chosen our seats, we settled in for our first Vietnam night bus experience. The ride was bumpy and the night was filled with honking and interrupted sleep, but ultimately the trip was comfortable enough and saved us some cash and daylight.
All announcements were made in Vietnamese and you never knew how long a toilet break was but it’s all part of the experience.
When we boarded the night bus we were provided with the following:
Plastic bag for your shoes
Zero Waste Bus Ride
In order to try and reduce our waste we refused the plastic water bottles, plastic bag and hand towels, instead we took our own reusable bottles, hand sanitiser, bulk snacks of fruit and nuts, and took our shoes without a plastic bag onto the bus.
What to Bring With You
To survive your night bus journey there are a couple of things I recommend you pack to make your trip more comfortable and less stressful
Snacks: Sure you plan on sleeping on a night bus, but if you can’t, having some snacks makes the time pass a little faster
Entertainment: Remember to charge your electronics and download some TV shows, podcasts or eBooks in attempt to lull yourself to sleep
Layers: Expect the air con to be set to Antarctic especially if you’ve chosen a top bunk. Pack some clothes you can layer on top of each other to keep yourself warm and peel off once you reach your destination
Slip on Shoes: No shoes are allowed to be worn on the bus and you will be provided with a bag to place your shoes into. Wear some slip-ons to avoid the bus driver yelling at you for taking too long to take them off
Socks: A pair of socks come in handy when it gets chilly on the bus and to stuff any air vents which may be broken and blaring straight onto you
Valuables: Pack a small bag with your essentials and anything valuable. They do label your bags to be stowed away underneath the bus but better to be safe than sorry
Sleeping Aids: An eye mask is essential on these night bus trips as the driver will turn the lights on for no apparent reason, often. Ear plugs and headphones are helpful in trying to drown out the nearly constant honking and sleeping tablets are easy to obtain in Vietnam if you need them
Hand Sanitiser: Your best friend while travelling especially when crammed in with a bus load of people. Bring a face mask too if you want to be extra careful although I tend to find them claustrophobic
Toilet Paper: A staple while travelling anywhere in Asia and on a Vietnam night bus this is no exception. There are multiple toilet stops (one about every two hours) but only expect squatting toilets at the most and peeing into a drain at the least (yes I peed in a drain...)
Choosing Your Seat
There is much debate about whether top or bottom seats are better for a 6-12 hour bus ride. Depending on your night bus you will encounter bunk beds which are either flat or more commonly a seat in a beach chair position. Keep in mind to tell your travel agent to book your chosen seat for you to avoid fighting over the best seats.
Top bunks are closer to the air con and further away from the hands of pick-pockets. However it will most definitely be a bumpy ride and you may feel like you might fly out of your seat at times.
Bottom bunks are easier to get in and out of when stopping for toilet breaks but can get quite warm especially when the air con is turned off for said stops.
Back seats are the best for tall passengers as there are 5 seats lined up in a row, 3 with unlimited leg room. If you don’t mind sleeping next to a stranger these are the best seats on the bus.
I would love to hear how your experience was on a Vietnam night bus in the comments below and good luck with your travels!