What to Expect Taking a 16 Hour Sleeping Bus in Vietnam

Friday, 11 May 2018

There are many ways to travel around Vietnam. Trains, flights, motorbike and the famous Sleeper Bus.
Durning my time in Vietnam I took 5 sleeper buses to travel from the north to south, because it was the cheapest way to travel. I had a mixed experience when it came to the sleeper bus, good and bad.

* All the interior of the buses are the same as what I have shown in my photos above so you know what to expect, however they will be all at different levels of newness and cleanliness obviously haha

There are a mix of sleeper buses. Ones with toilets, ones without. Some have charging points, others don't. Most have wifi and most of the time the wifi doesn't work.

Hanoi - Sapa

The first bus I took was with Green Bus company. The bus had no toilet but it had wifi and a charging point at your seat. They also gave you a bottle of water and a pillow.
We left in the afternoon and arrived in Sapa around 7:30pm, taking about 6 hours. It was a comfortable journey and we stopped off about 3 times for toilet and food breaks. The guide and the bus driver where all friendly and spoke in English to let us know how long we where stopping for.
My bad side to this was during the last hour I was getting desperate to pee, so this made me realise next time I book a bus it has to have a toilet on board.

Sapa - Hanoi

Next we took the Queen Cafe VIP bus. This one had a toilet so that made my bladder happy for the journey. I had no problems with this journey, it was straight forward and comfortable.

Hanoi - Hoi An

This time we took the overnight bus with Camel. This is a 15hr journey (I think it was a bit longer due to constant stops).
The lady who sold us the tickets said, toilet yes, phone charger yes. Turns out no phone charger but toilet yes. I've noticed that on the buses, if there is a toilet there is no charger, if there is a charger there is no toilet. She also said we would be dropped off at our hotel by the driver - which obviously didn't happen and had to walk from where the bus driver ditched all of us.
We where also overcharged for this ticket. After reading online the price we realised next time find out how much the ticket is and then shop around for the best price, don't settle on the first thing you hear.
Music played for hours into the night bus, with the speaker being right on top of my head and the toilet door constantly swinging open stinking out the bus.

Hoi An - Mui Ne

Another long bus journey with Queen Cafe VIP, This was 14 hours. The first half of the journey was okay despite the constant stops to pick up random people on the side of the road and the harsh braking and constant honking of the driver...But that's standard when you travel these buses haha.
Then we stopped in Nha Trang at 5:30am to swap to our new bus. There was no one to tell us what to do or where to go, But I was told by the agent back in Hoi An that we would be dropped off and picked up at 7am by our new bus, So i was expecting this.

We ended up not getting on the next bus and leaving until almost 9am. This was one of the worst journeys. It was 4 hours of the rudest people EVER. The bus driver and the guide where so rude, the whole bus was pissed off with these people by the end.
He wouldn't let people off to pee (the toilet was out of order on the bus) He would drive off when people were still in the bathroom outside, he wouldn't say how long we where aloud off for and just shout "1 minute only!".
He also left the air con blasting freezing air out on the top bunks, I was shivering under my blanket so I moved down to the lower bunk, I had both of them shout at me to get back up, I said it is so cold I can't lay there any longer, They just shouted more like "get up, get up!" - bare in mind, no assigned seats and a half empty bus, whats the problem..? I said to them turn it down it is freezing, the just didn't give two shits about it. Thankfully the girl behind me showed me how to twist them down so it wasn't blasting so hard. (In my defence they weren't the usual air con fans, i fiddled with it before but couldn't find the way to do it.) Everyone on the bus had their own little argument with these twats at least once!
Honestly the rudest, most negative people I've ever met in my life. Everyone on that bus was glad to be off there and away from those people.

Needless to say, by the end of that journey I was well and truly over the bus life and I would be happy to not do it again.
* Don't travel with Queen Cafe VIP - would not recommend. Just check out there trip advisor..) *

Mu Nei - Saigon (Ho Chi Minh)

We chose The Sinh Tourist which had the best reviews out of most of the buses. This journey is only a 4 1/2 hour drive so we booked the seating bus because it left at the time we wanted and was a bit cheaper. When we arrived in the morning we where told the seated bus was not working this morning so they had changed it to a sleeper. I was happy with this 'upgrade' because it does make a comfier journey being able to half lay down.
The Sinh Tourist I find is much more professional and the people where pleasant. The also provide you with a bottle of water for the journey.
Even though I peed before the journey, I couldn't help but my bladder going crazy half way in. This bus had no toilet (I swear I only desperately need to go when there is a toilet, if there is no toilet I'm good haha). Imin asked the driver to stop for me and he said they will stop in 40 mins. When i heard this I started to cry because I was desperate...every bump we drove over, every shop, every gas station we drove past I couldn't help but think about how much I needed a toilet.
We asked for a 3rd time and said please just one person, stop off at the next gas station and they did! The guide on the bus took me off and helped me cross the road to use a gas station toilet. They where so friendly to me and I apologised for making the bus stop for me, but thankfully they weren't like the last bus drivers...They probably would have chucked me off the bus and gone without me if it was! hahaha

That was our last bus and honesty I was soooo happy that it was! I'm over the long bus journeys now.

To survive the long bus journey, I would recommend to bring:

  • Fully charged phone/tablet/kindle
  • Portable charger & cable
  • Download movies and shows off Netflix (This was the best thing to keep me distracted and time went by quicker engrossed in a show)
  • Hand sanitiser & tissue (for after using the delightfully smelly bus and bus station toilets)
  • Travel sickness tablets or bands (Bumpy ride so if you're prone to car sickness do this!)
  • Travel pillow & Sarong blanket (Sometimes they provide, sometimes they don't and usually don't get washed between uses...If you're a bit of a germaphobe like's a no thanks lol)
  • Water and snacks
  • Local sim card for internet (Useful for your whole trip in Vietnam not just the bus, but keeps you entertained with a good internet connection)
  • Small money to pay for the toilet at the stops (2000-5000VND)

Tips for travelling on the bus:

  • If you have a small bladder and pee a lot, Book a bus with a toilet. 
  • If your over 5ft 8 you're gonna have a hard time with the seats. I've heard of taller people booking the back row of seats so they can lay diagonally across, But I've never seen a bus like this with assigned seats, So you better push to the front to get on first! 
  • Same goes for if you're a bit on the larger side, the aisle's are quite small to walk down and the seats would be too narrow to be comfortable for that long.
  • Wear flip flops because you have to take your shoes off when you get in the bus. For ease of getting on and off at the stops it's just easier to have slide on shoes.
  • Take the top bunk! When travelling they pick up hitch hikers a long the way and the bus driver squeezes them all in along the aisles of the floor. You will feel extra squished with a bunch of people asleep along the floor next to you.
  • Middle of the bus is best, I made the mistake of taking seat right at the back next to the toilet. After everyone used it they never locked the door shut, So I had to deal with the strong scent of pee all night :)

Now that I've travelled quite extensively on these buses and read about how unsafe they are - and defiantly felt it when they constantly speed and overtake, I think next time I would be happy to pay a little bit more for the overnight trains or planes.

If you have any more questions, comment bellow or message me on any of my social media! 

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