The best way from Hanoi to Saigon
The best way from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi (or the other way around)
You are in Hanoi and need to get to Saigon (for a Saigon Tour of course) how should you do it?
Following on from a blog I wrote earlier about the excellent decision to visit Vietnam, now I am going to chat about the best way to get from one end to the other which is pretty much Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi or the other way around. Vietnam is shaped a bit
like a big ‘S’ with Hanoi right at the top and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City – shall I just pick one? OK – let’s just go with Saigon from now on) at the bottom. Many tourists to Vietnam will want to visit both cities and the areas around them – so what’s the best way to get from one to the other? Let’s look at the three main ways ……
Airplane the best way from Hanoi To Saigon
Most people will say its the best way from Hanoi to Saigon, and if you book in advance there are some great fares to be had, especially since the introduction of low cost carriers and there are currently 3 airlines plying the route. The state carrier, Vietnam airlines and the two low cost carriers, Qantas backed Jet Star and the Hanoi based Vietjet air. Flying time is around 2 hours and a taxi from the airport in Saigon (Tan Son Nhat) to down town should cost around $10 and take 30 minutes. You don’t need to worry about taxi touts as the service is well run and you will be given a price for your ride by the controller at the taxi rank before you leave. The taxi from Hanoi (Noi Ba) airport to down town Hanoi is similar in price and distance and also well run. At the Saigon end a new airport to city centre bus service has just been introduced as of March 2016. Journey time is 45 minutes and the ticket cost is 20,000 vnd (under 1 U.S Dollar).
Approximate Cost: Tickets can be found from $45 to $170
Pros: Quick, easy to book online, choice of airlines, comfortable
Cons: Removes option to stop en route at places like Hoi An, Nha Trang or Hue. Can be expensive if you go with Vietnam Airlines
Links and further planning: We find www.skyscanner.net super useful for comparing flight times and prices; you can book with them too.
This is a little more complicated to find the best way from Hanoi to Saigon, there are many trains to choose from and the upshot is this, it’s a long journey but the trains available are comfortable with good facilities (dependent on your ticket) and from end to end it will take you a little over 30 hours. Yes I did just say 30 hours, however, before you write it off you need to consider the benefits – it’s an amazing way to see the country, meet fellow travellers and local people alike and the journey is an experience in itself. Bear in mind that few people will actually do the journey non-stop – if you intend to break the journey the train can be a great option. Soft sleeper tickets with A/C and plugs for your gadgets will ensure you travel in comfort.
Time: End to End is approx 33 hours
Approximate Cost: Tickets range from $50 to $70
Pro: It’s an experience, quicker and more comfortable than the bus, possible to break up the journey with stops in places such as Da Nang and Nha Trang and if you buy a soft sleeper it really is very comfortable, relatively cheap, takes you to the centre of your destination
Cons: Yes it takes over 30 hours end to end, you might end up sharing a cabin with someone you don’t like, with the cheaper airlines the saving over air is not as great as it was.
In March this year Vietnam Railways has announced price reductions on the Saigon to Nha Trang leg of the journey.
This website is essential reading for further planning a rail trip in Vietnam
The cheapest and slowest option to find the best way from Hanoi to Saigon – but by no means the worst choice depending on your travelling needs. Most travel agents in Hanoi and Saigon will be able to sell you an ‘open bus’ ticket which is in effect a ‘hop on – hop off’ ticket but you need to confirm which bus you will take before you get on it. You buy the ticket and get a berth on an air conditioned sleeper bus with wifi. Its relatively comfortable – you don’t get a fully flat bed and there is little privacy – but if you are an easy sleeper it’s really a good way to travel for those with time on their hands. One caveat however is the astonishing number of different buses plying this route – it’s entirely possible your bus won’t be the brand new space age vehicle your travel agent is promising you and the timetable is more like a rough guide than a reference document. If you are of a nervous disposition Vietnamese bus drivers may not be your friend.
Time: As far as I am aware it isn’t possible to do the whole trip in one (unless you are the driver – just kidding – they swap over at regular intervals) see below for some sample trip times.
Sai Gon – Nha Trang – 6 hrs
Nha Trang – Hoi An – 8 hrs
Hoi An – Hue – 4 hrs
Hue – Ha Noi – 12 hrs
Approximate Cost: It depends how many stops you make and where you buy your ticket. For the whole North to South trip expect to pay around $55. Our big tip here is shop around at the travel agents in HCMC or Hanoi – you will often find there is a price difference between agents.
Pros: The cheapest option, many services to choose from, very flexible in terms of breaking up your journey and seeing places along the way
Cons: The least comfortable (compared to most train tickets) and slowest option, timetables can be a little erratic
Conclusion : Its horses for courses, there is an easy and best way from Hanoi to Saigon, a cheap way from Saigon to Hanoi and and many different variables in-between. Do a little bit of reading and don’t take the first price you are offered and you wont go far wrong, happy travelling and see you soon at Saigon Buddy Tours