Details of Life on the Road: Street eats, cheap sleeps, budget travel experiences

6 things I learned On My First Long Distance Bus In Vietnam

6 things I learned on my first long distance bus ride in Vietnam


 

The title of the post should actually say “…re-learned…”, because I already knew and had experienced all of these things from taking buses in other parts of Asia, as well as in South America, but I had forgotten them. With a little bit of planning and research, as well as word of mouth from other travelers, you may be able to avoid some or all of the things from the following list.

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  1. Up in smoke: The driver, and his two helpers, will be smoking. Yes, you and every other traveler will have to put up with the smell of cigarette smoke drifting through and filling the bus.
  1. Don’t be in a rush: You may not depart on time – when a bus is scheduled to depart at 10:00am, it quite possibly means that it will be leaving the bus terminal around 11:00am.
  1. Don’t plan too far ahead: You may not arrive on time – similar to #2, when the duration of the trip is meant to be three hours – or so you were told, you could realistically be arriving two or three hours later than originally planned.
  1. Don’t forget your parka: It’s going to be a cold trip – the air con is going to be just-a-pumpin’. People living in tropical areas love their air con. It’s alright if you’re able to control your own, but if it’s broken you’re out of luck. Most buses provide you with a blanket and pillow, but just to be safe you should bring some warm clothes. I remember taking a night bus in Ecuador and it was so cold that I put my lap top under my shirt in order to try and keep warm – needless to say I didn’t sleep a wink.
  1. There will be blood: Not really! I’m talking about violent movies. For some reason many bus companies like to keep you occupied with a violent, bloody film.
  1. Put your dancing shoes on: Get ready to listen to some traditional music. If the violent film has finished, chances are some ear-piercing tunes are just around the corner. I also vividly remember having to endure the same Colombian and Peruvian music over and over while taking buses in South America.

This list really only pertains to the first bus I took in Vietnam, from Saigon to Mui Ne. Since then I’ve been on numerous other buses, including a few lengthy (12 hours) night buses which have been very different and much better than the first one – no smoking, more comfortable seating, timelier, no violent movies, no loud music, etc. Despite the things mentioned in this list, most bus rides can be enjoyable experiences – you may get to see some beautiful scenery, catch up with fellow travelers, and meet some local people.

I’m actually on a sleeper bus from Hanoi to Sapa, Vietnam, as I write this post. I’ve secured a seat at the back of the bus so that I’m able to stretch completely out – the sleeper buses in Vietnam allow someone my height (5′ 10”) to stretch almost the length of their body, but not quite. Luckily, there are a few seats at the back of the bus that are a bit longer than the others, and that also lack the compartment which your feet fit into allowing you to stretch out.

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