Open Tour buses are run by many of Vietnam’s tour companies. They provide cheap transportation alternatives for Vietnam travelers, offering travel bargains (SAMPLE ITINERARY: SAIGON TO NHA TRANG – $US 10, NHA TRANG TO HOI AN – $US 12, HOI AN TO HUE – $US 6, HUE TO HANOI – $US 17. CAUTION: Many Vietnam travel websites are not up to date price-wise.) and pick-up/drop-off service at your preferred hotel. You can stop-off at any point you want to explore and move on with the same company in a few days, or just buy tickets for each leg of the journey as you travel through Vietnam.
Front desk staff at hotels will be happy to book any transportation need, although you’re better off shop around at local tour agents, as prices will vary. Going directly to the bus company office may net you a commission-free fare, but most major bus operators may not be willing to negotiate price as agents will cut their commission to get the business.
Since tour providers charge very little, they make money on their “rest stops” or “bus stations” which are often souvenir shops or cafes. Travelers buy a meal, some munchies for the ride or souvenir while taking a break or waiting for their ride. Keep in mind departure, arrival and travel times are estimates at best – never early and may be a couple of hours late. Depending on how many hotels they have to pick up passengers at, it may be a while before you’re officially on the road. Getting on the bus at the tour bus company office may get you a good seat with your companions, get there early – Good Luck. Try not to drink too much water, as “comfort” stops, especially for overnight buses, may be just somewhere where there are a lot of bushes, but don’t get dehydrated.
Some buses imported to Vietnam are designed for those of Asian stature – bigger Occidentals may be uncomfortable, particularly on over night trips. Even though you may suffer from motion-sickness, it is a good idea to take a seat at the middle of the bus rather than at the front. In the middle you won’t have to suffer watching the poor driving habits of your driver and listen (a bit less) to the his incessant horn honking.
When taking any public transportation, keep a physical control of your day-packs and fanny-packs; and be aware of where your big pieces of luggage are stored during your trip. Make access into your luggage difficult.
Some Vietnam Open Tour Bus companies offer “sleeper style” buses. These are a bit pricier and, like other buses, have various levels of comfort.
Plan to arrive during hours of daylight (if possible) so that you can find an acceptable hotel room, be aware that your driver/bus company has a financial interest in delivering you to a particular hotel – they may even own the hotel. There may be an abundance of hotel “touts” waiting for your bus to arrive and make their “pitch” to you. I have no “sure-fire” advice in this circumstance. Just don’t be led too far away from the tourist center. When you arrive at a hotel be sure to inspect your room for hot water, window screens, air-conditioning, and maybe most important – security
Planning a self-guided tour of Vietnam, including open-tour bus transport can make a vacation to an exotic destination – Vietnam – a reality for any traveler.