Transportation in Vietnam

Transportation in Vietnam, ways to travel, places in vietnam, trains in vietnam, vietnam transportation
Transportation in Vietnam, ways to travel, places in vietnam, trains in vietnam, vietnam transportation

Travel in Vietnam and what transportation options to consider

It’s true.  Almost all forms of transportation in Vietnam is chaotic, energetic and seem like utter maddness from the sidewalk (or usual lack there of). Heck, even crossing the road succesfully can seem like a miracle some days. 

Not so though. We’ll arm you with some basic information that will take the hectic right out of it.

What are the most common forms of transportation in Vietnam?

Vietnam has many travel-friendly traits and is well known for being cheap to travel within. One of those traits is that you can get anywhere you need super easy.

The country has a vast network of roads and rail lines. Old and new alike, connect almost every inch of the country.

Before we go any further we have some business to take care of first and that is, our

Affiliate disclosure: The information in this posts contains affiliate links for our travel partnerships.  You don’t get charged extra for using these links and we may earn a small commission from them which goes towards finding and managing all the awesome content on our site.  You are under no obligation to use them but if you do, we want to salute and thank you for your support, we appreciate it!

So, what are the best ways to get around Vietnam? Let’s find out.

Transportation in Vietnam, ways to travel, places in vietnam, trains in vietnam, vietnam transportation

Bus

What are the options? They are public buses and tour buses.

 

Public Buses

Public buses can get you (and cargo, lol) almost anywhere in the country. It’s one of the main methods of transportation in Vietnam and also one of the cheapest for travelers.

Getting info online can be tricky for remote or rural areas but less so in the cities.

Da Nang, for instance, has DanaBus which offers a very useful website in English that includes,

  • Clear route layouts
  • Time tables/schedules
  • Fares, and
  • Ticket booking facility

If you’d like to see it in action, have a look at Leon’s bus trip from Da Nang to Hoi An.

In rural areas, you may find yourself in a bus station trying to buy tickets over the counter. If you can’t speak the language, don’t stress. Google translate is your friend! Locals are pretty good at interpreting the most interesting translations. Once you get past that you should be okay.

If you can’t find the bus station but know which bus you want, then no stress either. You simply hop on and pay for your ticket on board.

We had to fall back on this option in Coa Bang on our way to the Ban Gioc Waterfall. It was a hilarious adventure.

Travel Tip!: Be aware of scams. We came across many during our search for bus options. The most common was over charging when buying a ticket on the bus. Operators will try to charge tourists more than locals, then extra for your baggage. If it’s only a couple of bucks out of your pocket, don’t sweat it but be aware of unusually large amounts.

Tour buses

Tour buses are everywhere! In fact, they will find you before you find them. Most activities from main centres offer tour buses to get you there and back.

We experienced a few like our trip to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi which was a very pleasant experience. (There are some horror stories out there too so do your research first.)

We looked for tours with good English reviews (you can tell the local attempts from real reviews easily) and photos.  Photos are your friend because amongst the fravolity lies the gold. Look for things like condition of the vehicle exterior and interior. 

If you’re happy with the condition put them on the list of possibilities.  Also reach out to the travel communities on social media.  Facebook groups in particular were very helpful and insightful with our searches.

 

Sleeper buses

The least of the favorites

Couple of things to know;

  • They are not comfortable if your height average is above 5’7”
  • Night time can be the most dangerous time on the road (no police, poor vehicle maintenance, lack of care)
  • Theft is also a common occurrence on these buses, not only on the bus but we’ve heard for situations where people luggage have been ransaked in the cargo compartment during the trip. (we have a solution for that though)

If you can live with the above then go for gold.

Not sure where to start looking for bus tickets, time tables and the like?

No problem, we've got you covered. Hit search to find  your travel solutions

Train

As a traveler, there is only one train line you’ll be looking for and that is the Reunification Express.

This national trunk line stretches from the Mekong Delta all the way up to the capital Hanoi. While that may seem basic, it’s anything but.

It’s a fluid line integrated with a generous amount of stops to help you get anywhere in the country. This is why it is the second most preferred method of transportation in Vietnam.

The stretch between Da Nang and Hue alone is enough to make angels weep.   Views that are worthy of its spot on the list of top ten train rides in the world.

Leon and Tash Vlog

Traveling on one of the top 5 train rides in the world, Da Nang to Hue on the Reunification Express.

If you want to know more about schedules and how to make bookings? We’ve done it all for you in our Reunification Express Post.

Travel Tip!: Make sure you sit on the side of the train that looks out over the water. You’ll get the best views, especially if you want to take photos and video.

Private Transfers

Not quite a taxi and not quite a tour. Private transfers are not only easy to find but a very budget friendly option. Especially for short trips like Hoi An to Hue or Hue to Dong Hoi.

They advertise in mysterious ways though. In popular tourist areas, they will spray paint their telephone numbers and ‘transfer’ on street sides. Not ideal if you can’t speak Vietnamese.

The best option here is to ask for quotes through your accommodation or local tourist kiosk. The former will be cheaper as they generally ‘know some people, who know some people’ and get the best deals.

Travel tip!: We used a private transfer from Hue to Hoi An and asked to go via the Hai Van Pass for sunset photos. It was the best thing we did!

Transportation in Vietnam, ways to travel, places in vietnam, trains in vietnam, vietnam transportation

Motorbikes / Scooters

We get asked about this one a lot. We did after all, travel the country by motorbike for over six months.

In that time we learned some valuable lessons. Lessons want to share to give you an opportunity to make informed choices.

During our time, things were fairly lax around foreigners renting and riding motorbikes in Vietnam. That is changing fast though.

With an influx of visitors comes a steady rise in fatalities involving foreigners. We’ve seen many debates and arguments online about this topic. We don’t claim to be experts, all we can do is speak from experience.

What an amazing experience it was too! 

 

The freedom of your own transportation in Vietnam

On a bike, you get to make your own itinerary and with it, a greater freedom to travel your way. It’s not all amazing though.

We almost got wiped out on day one of our road trip by not only one, but three heavy vehicles. One was a bus from a well-known company that couldn’t be patient enough to wait for a clear stretch.

When you’re jammed up against the safety rail on your side of the road with nowhere to go, watching a tour bus barreling down on you, sh*t gets real, quick!

What saved us on many occasions was experience, advanced training and taking it slow. All you have to do is watch one of our riding day videos to understand what we mean.

 

What that freedom could cost

Some things to think about before hopping on a bike;

  • Helmets, they save lives. It’s your brain, so think about what it’s worth to you.
  • Driver licenses. The most epic subject on travel in Vietnam. The short of it, you have to have a Vietnamese drivers license to legally ride on the road. Most police will wave you off or hit you up for a bribe but it doesn’t save you when it comes to,
  • Insurance. If you do not adhere to the T&C’s on your insurance policy they may not cover you. For example, our insurance policy stated we needed, a) a legal motorcycle license from our country, b) a Vietnamese issued drivers license and, c) helmets complying with AU/NZ minimum safety standards. If you’d like a good place to start your insurance research then we recommend starting with the team at Worldnomads for great info on travel insurance and things like riding a motorcycle overseas.
  • International driving permits aren’t as straightforward either, more on that here.
  • Accidents. It’s not a case of if but when. Vietnam has the world’s second highest fatality rate in the world. Think about that. Say you end up involved in an accident? You could get seriously injured or worse die. If not, local law could deem you responsible causing a whole lot more hurt. Jail, compensation to the deceased family, damages, etc. I can go on but I’m sure you get the grim picture. I’ll add one more thing though. If you don’t comply with your insurance policy, it could get a whole lot worse.
  • Emergency care. No insurance means you’ll end up in public hospitals. In a developing country, it can be hit or miss on what you get. Do you really want to try it?

If like us, you’re happy to make everything you need align then, Vietnam is your oyster! It was by far the best way for us to explore the country and we wouldn’t hesitate to do it again!

 

How does this two wheel thing work anyway?

 

Rental motorbikes

These are a dime a dozen and are literally everywhere. We do recommend doing some research.

 

Long Trips

Look for options that offers help for mechanical failures, have branches in areas you are traveling to or through and have good reviews. Look for reliable, well-maintained bikes too. That one is the most important. Don’t know how to do that? Then keep an eye out for an upcoming vlog on how to do a quick safety check before you ride.

 

Short Trips

Your hotel will almost always has a rental or two or hand. If not they most likely have a deal with a local rental company. 

Compare prices, look for options with good English reviews and check you are happy with the condition of the motorcycle before you sign up.

Leon and Tash Vlog

Say hello to BoB (bucket of bolts), our first rental motorbike in Da Nang

Buying motorbikes

Tourists are able to buy motorbikes in Vietnam no problem. Thing is you cannot legally put it in your name unless you have a temporary resident card or a local friend to help you.

Buying and selling a motorcycle among tourists is easy. Best way to look for them is to hit up social media platforms.

The biggest piece of advice we can give you is to make sure you have the blue card. This little blue document has all the manufacture and registration details of the motorcycle.

One, if you get pulled up by local law it’s the best way to prove the motorcycle isn’t stolen. Two, it makes things a lot easier come time to sell. You’ll be able to sell to locals as well as travelers but locals need the blue card to register it in their name. See the appeal? Nice.

Air Travel

The average Vietnamese person earns about US100 a month. True! When you think about a one way trip from HCMC to Hanoi costing around US60, it’s easy to see why it’s the least used mode of transportation in Vietnam by locals.

Tourist rejoice! For us, it’s heaven sent.

There are three main operators;

  • Vietnam Airlines – good reputation, well-maintained planes, almost always on time but usually the priciest.
  • Jetstar Pacific – good reputation, well-maintained planes, hit and miss on reliability and usually a good deal.
  • VietJet Air – good reputation, well-maintained planes, known for being late but the cheapest option (especially if you book a couple of weeks in advance)

 

Ferries

This was our least used method of transportation in Vietnam. In fact, we only ended up using the Cat Lai Ferry get into and out of Ho Chi Minh City.

It’s the fastest way to cross the Saoi Rap River if you’re traveling by motorcycle. There is a shiny new bridge but it’s an expressway and that means no two wheels allowed.

There are plenty of ferries running throughout southern Vietnam to many tourist-worthy destinations. Make sure to leave us a comment if you have used any of these, we’d love to know more.

Transportation in Vietnam, ways to travel, places in vietnam, trains in vietnam, vietnam transportation

Check ferry time tables, destinations and fares

The best local transportation in Vietnam

Ride shares

I’m guessing your first thought is Uber? Uber is no more in Southeast Asia and sold out to GRAB.

GRAB is one of the best and cheapest ways to get around in local towns and cities. It has a user friendly app and they offer plenty of discounts if you keep up with the messages you get.

If you would like to know how to get the GRAB app and how it works (even earn yourself a first-time user discount), then just go and follow our easy instructions – Registering and using Grab Share Ride

There are other ride share options, but we found GRAB to be the most reliable and cheapest option. You can book one person rides on motorbikes all the way to people movers taking small groups. Easy Peasy.

 

Taxis

We’ll admit this one can be a bit of a mine field. While they are convenient they are also riddled with scams and dishonorably behavior.

We found two companies, VinaSun and Mailinh,  that we never had issues with. In some instances they even ended up being cheaper than GRAB.

If you’re in a situation where neither VinaSun nor Mailinh are available, then always check the fare BEFORE you get in the car. Also it pays to be able to do currency conversions off the top of your head. If a five minute fair is going to cost USD 25 then walk away.

Transportation in Vietnam, ways to travel, places in vietnam, trains in vietnam, vietnam transportation

Travel tip!: We used to check the GRAB app to get an estimated cost on the trip. That way we could tell if we were getting ripped or not.

Driving a car

Can you drive a car in Vietnam? We get this a lot.

If you’re a local, yes you can. If you’re a foreigner, not so much. There are two good reasons for this. One, cars are hellish expensive in Vietnam. They also make the roads more treacherous than they already are. Two, you cannot hire a car in Vietnam (nor would you want to).

To be honest, the options listed above will get you anywhere and you don’t really need to use a car.

 

Other methods of transportation in Vietnam

There are still a few simple solutions to getting around in main cities and towns.

They include;

  • Cyclo – the traditional method of people carrying. While it had a hey-day, it’s more of a tourist trap now but still fun.
  • Xe Om – motorcycle taxis. They still exist in an ever-growing rideshare world and are widely used by locals. If you cannot speak the language though, it may not work for you.
  • Bicycles – another widely used hire option and great for exploring rural rice paddis in Hoi An for example. Not so great for main roads unless you know what you’re doing.

 

Transportation in Vietnam, ways to travel, places in vietnam, trains in vietnam, vietnam transportation

We hope this post answers some of your questions with regards to transportation in Vietnam. If you do have any more, feel free to leave a comment below or contact us directly.

If this is your first visit to our site, then welcome!  Head on over to our Things to do in Vietnam Page where we tell you about more things you should add to your Vietnam itinerary.

Don’t forget to subscribe and join our Tribe!  You’ll find us on Twitter, Facebook , Insta  and YouTube too!

Thanks for reading guys and we’ll see you in the next post…

Beer Corner Hanoi: Old vs. New, which is best?

Hanoi Beer corner, bia hoi hanoi, things to do in hanoi, hanoi nightlife, rice lager, fresh beer, drinking beer in Vietnam
Hanoi Beer corner, bia hoi hanoi, things to do in hanoi, hanoi nightlife, rice lager, fresh beer, drinking beer in Vietnam

Beer Corner Hanoi: Old vs. New, which one is best?

Before pubs and clubs became a thing, bia hoi or beer corner Hanoi, was the original choice for locals looking for a cheap, tasty beer. 

Travelers suckling on bottles of Saigon or Bia Hanoi soon got wind of an even more affordable tipple and so began a tradition. Beer corner is almost like a traveler’s rite of passage in Vietnam. 

The old beer corner has become so popular that it has lost its uniqueness.  Like most things in Vietnam, popularity has all but destroyed the experience.

All is not lost though! Much to our delight, some entrepreneurial locals have revived the institution.  They simply took the original concept and started it around the corner. Let us tell you about it and why it’s a must-visit when exploring Old Quarter in Hanoi.

Hanoi Beer corner, bia hoi hanoi, things to do in hanoi, hanoi nightlife, rice lager, fresh beer, drinking beer in Vietnam

What is Bia Hoi?

Bia hoi is the Vietnamese phrase for ‘fresh beer’.

This light, refreshing Vietnamese beer or rather, rice lager is made from, you guessed it, rice. It’s easy to make, can be done in big batches and takes no time to mature.

That convenience translates into bulk supplies and cheap prices for the thirsty masses.

At VND 5,000 (~USD 0.21 / ~AUD 0.30) to VND 8,000 (~USD 0.34 / ~AUD 0.50) for a glass we can see why it’s a winner with locals and visitors alike.

How to find Beer Corner Hanoi

Finding Hanoi’s cheapest beer is easy.

Simply look for people sitting on tiny tables and chairs surrounding a keg with a sign that says ‘Bia Hoi’ and a cheap price.

The trick is to find the experience you would enjoy most.

 

Old Beer Corner

Hanoi Beer corner, bia hoi hanoi, things to do in hanoi, hanoi nightlife, rice lager, fresh beer, drinking beer in Vietnam

You can actually type ‘beer corner Hanoi’ into Google maps and it will pin point a location for you.

Now, this is where you will need to make a decision.

Do you want the original beer corner Hanoi (also known as bia hoi junction), with large crowds and overpriced glasses of beer? Great, then head to the pinpoint on the map, at Ta Hien Street.

Hanoi Beer corner, bia hoi hanoi, things to do in hanoi, hanoi nightlife, rice lager, fresh beer, drinking beer in Vietnam

It literally is a street, not corner, crammed with tiny bars out to convince you they have the cheapest beer on the street.

To be honest, it didn’t look like a good option for a quiet drink. It’s narrow and noisy and it can be hard to have a decent conversation.

What surprised us most was the price of the beers. It certainly wasn’t the spot to get a cheap beer. Some of the prices were higher than most of the bars and clubs in Old Quarter.

 

New (unofficial) Beer Corner Hanoi

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If like us, you want to have the authentic experience of a traditional beer corner, then head to the unofficial new spot on Pho Ma May street.

The best way to find it is to head to the Medallion Hanoi hotel and look across the road.

Travel Tip!: There is a toilet available in the Medallion hotel reception. You know, for when you eventually break that seal and make room for ‘more’. Cue tipsy laughter!) 

What to expect

Simplicity is key for the perfect beer corner experience.

 

Pick your spot

You will have a pick of spots. They are easy to identify as they consisting of no more than one to three tiny tables per spot. Each spot will have one to two large pressurized beer kegs with a server eager to get you to join the fray.

Once you’ve picked where you want to have your beer, you simply grab a tiny seat and plant yourself. While you do that, the server pours your beer with efficient precision straight from the keg into a 8 oz (250ml).

We can almost guarantee your beer will hit the table, the same time your bum hits the seat. There’s no mucking around here!

 

Savvy servers

The beer servers are some of the savviest we’ve ever come across. A fresh beer was in front of us mere seconds after the last mouthful of the old glass, without even having to ask. It’s great, but can lead to sore head and empty pockets the next day. LOL!

At the end of your visit, your server will let you know what you owe and you are free to go.

Things they don’t tell you

The popularity of the original beer corner has caused new ones to sprout up through Old Quarter.

Daytime businesses are turning their sidewalk space into beer corners at night. All in the hopes of cashing in on extra income.

But it is a gamble and why there are usually only one to three tables. It’s all about available space and staying out of ‘trouble’.

 

Uh-oh, it’s the police

Thing is, it’s not entirely legal. It’s also the reason you’ll see the local police roll round in a small truck patrolling the streets. They confiscate offending tables and chairs where they catch them.

This is why the server will suddenly tell you to stand up and start clearing the tables and chairs, leaving you and your beer, hanging in the breeze.

There is no need to panic. As long as you’re on the sidewalk looking inconspicuous, you’ll be fine.

Give the five-oh a few minutes to roll past and watch as all the chairs and tables come rolling back out.

Before you know it, you’ll be back to having a beer ball on the sidewalk. It’s all part of the adventure, right?

 

 

General traffic

Our beer corner sat right next to a door to an apartment building.

We were constantly having to stand up or move our chairs for motorbikes zipping past.

It was clear they weren’t too happy about the arrangement but never made a fuss about it.

In some instances, your table might be hugging the curb, so it’s best to keep an eye out for traffic.

Again, it’s all part of the experience because where else can you do this?

So which is the best beer corner Hanoi, old or new ?

We’d say try both and decide for yourself.

We loved the new beer corner for many reasons but the main ones are,

  • It’s a legit cheap beer

  • It’s not overcrowded

  • You can make friends easier because you can have a decent conversation, and

  • There is a bit of fun involved regarding local law enforcement.

Leon and Tash Vlog

See Beer Corner Hanoi for yourself!

So, if you’re looking for things to do in Hanoi, make sure to add a visit to the beer corner as part of your Hanoi nightlife itinerary.

And if this is your first visit to our site, welcome!  Head on over to our Things to do in Vietnam Page where we tell you about more things you should add to your Vietnam itinerary.

Don’t forget to subscribe and join our Tribe!  You’ll find us on Twitter, Facebook , Insta  and YouTube too!

Thanks for reading guys and we’ll see you in the next post…

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel, Dong Hoi

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Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

Au Lac Bar and Hostel is more than your average Vietnamese hostel

This was our second visit to Dong Hoi and it was for pretty much the same reason. We wanted to visit the Phong Nha caves. While researching accommodation options, we found that not only was Dong Hoi cheaper than Phuong Nha, it had more to offer too.

Leon and Tash Vlog

The famous Phong Nha National Park Caves

On our first visit we found one hostel, Buffalo’s Hostel and all the foreigners were raving about. Everything else, was either in Vietnamese or way out of our price range, so we went with it.

We chose to book it as they offered accommodation and cave tour options, which at the time, was just what we needed. While our stay there was a fun experience, it wasn’t the warmest or most comfortable experience.

This time round we did the same thing and found the same result. Phong Nha just didn’t offer value for our money so we went back to looking at Dong Hoi.

I’m going to be honest and say that I wasn’t completely thrilled by the idea of staying at another party-hard hostel. What saved the idea was that it wouldn’t be for long and I could work with that.

Our stay at Au Lac Bar and Hostel turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip!

 

How we found Au Lac Bar and Hostel

Our regular readers will know that Hotels Combined is our ‘go to’ for finding a place to sleep and so far, it has been good to us. Though when it gave us another hostel option in Dong Hoi, I was a bit hmmmm.

As it turned out, Au Lac Bar and Hostel is now a new addition to our favorite accommodation list. Not to mention our first option for future visits to the super funky city of Dong Hoi.

Affiliate disclosure: This blog contains affiliate links for our accommodation partner, Hotels Combined. We trust and used them for most of our trip and we are happy to recommend their services (especially since they were so easy to use and found us really good choices too.) Now, you don’t get charged extra for using these links and we may earn a small commission from them which goes towards finding and managing all the awesome content on our site.  You are under no obligation to use these links but if you do, we want to salute and thank you for your support, we appreciate it!

 

Location

Au Lac Bar and Hostel

Au Lac sits at 68 Dong Hai, Dong My, Dong Hoi.

The area boasts plenty of restaurants, bars, hole-in-the-wall eateries and you can walk to the city center or river front in no time.

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Facilities

The first thing we noticed about Au Lac was the awesome decor and welcome feel when you step inside.

The massive pool table greets you at the entrance then leads you to the bar/reception area. before sweeping you up the stairs to the rooms.

The communal area extends from the comfy couch by the window with a great view, across to the the row of small tables and chairs on the opposite wall leading to the bar.

There’s no lift but thankfully it’s only three levels so you don’t have far to go. The staircase is nice and wide too, so you’re not wrestling your luggage to the room.

 

Parking

Au Lac Bar and Hostel does offer parking and at first, we thought the parking facilities were a bit silly as there wasn’t much room in front of the building.

We soon learnt thought that they use the parking space across the street as well as the space out front.

The staff also bring the bikes inside round 11 PM and then wheel them back out at 7 AM the next morning. We thought that was super courteous of them, making our stay so much more enjoyable.

 

Socializing at Au Lac Bar and Hostel

The ground floor area is great for mingling with other visitors or just doing your own thing.

We had a blast playing a few games of pool and chatting to Thao who was manning the bar. Not only was she awesome to hang out with but she had great taste in music and was happy to find a few of our favs too. Thanks Thao!

We met a few of the other visitors in passing, though we got the feeling it wasn’t fully occupied.

 

Our booking bonus

Another bonus for us and booking via Hotels Combined was that we got a free breakfast out of this deal.  Kien delivered our breakfast as soon as we were ready for it and it consisted of the most delicious banh mi. Freshly made by the local banh mi legend and we loved every bite.

Au Lac also has a proper coffee machine too! You can order a choice of Vietnamese or western coffees at very reasonable prices.

 

Red Peppers Restaurant and Pizzeria

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

If you’re looking for somewhere to to eat, then head on over to Red Peppers Restaurant and Pizzeria.

Au Lac guests receive a 10% discount on their food bill. Extra bonus, whahoo!

The food selection is a good combination of western and Vietnamese food. The ingredients are fresh, the dishes are really yummy and reasonably priced.

Red Peppers is a short walk from Au Lac and like the hostel it has a very welcoming vibe to it too. It is a sister property to Au Lac and you’ll receive the same high level of hospitality there.

It’s not unusual to see Thao, Binh or Kien floating between the two either.  Good company guaranteed!

 

Where to eat in Dong Hoi

If you’re looking for something of the more local variety, then head right out the front door where you’ll find plenty of options to choose from.

A short stroll across the bridge towards Cang Dong Hoi takes you to an area that is full of eateries with mouthwatering selections to chose from.

Dong Hoi also sports a lively night market. On of the main features is the selection of local delicacies and crowd favorites, which we miss out on thanks to the wet weather and of coarse a good reason to come back. HA!

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

 

We tried a local spot at the other end of Đông Hải that had a lovely little old couple running it. While communication was almost non existent between the four of us, Leon and I were quietly confident they would deliver a superb meal, which they did of coarse.

Our order turned out to be beef and noodle soup dishes that were absolutely divine, not to mention a great find as it cost us next to nothing at VND80,000 (~USD3.50 / ~AUD4.80) for both bowls.

The most enjoyable part of the meal was watching the old couple get excited about their foreign visitors, finding ways to converse which ended in a fun and hilarious conversation via Google Translate that still makes us laugh.

 

Our Room

Our room was a basic but lovely and comfortable space where everything felt and looked bright and fresh and the private bathroom was huge (compared to previous places we’ve stayed).

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

 

The queen size bed was a dream with a Western style mattress, crisp sheets and a super warm and comfy duvet.

The first bonus was the balcony with a view over the Cau Rau river and out over towards the Nhat Le river. It was a great spot to have a beer and watch the world go by.

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

 

Two special mentions.

One, there is no TV. We weren’t bother as we were too tired after exploring and touring. Two, there is no wardrobe as such but they do offer coat hooks. Still if you’re only there for a few nights, you won’t even notice it.

The bathroom was clean and modern with the traditional all-in-one set up and was big enough to swing a cat in. We love it!

It had a western toilet, basin, double head shower which was perfect for Leon and stocked with basic toiletries as well as plush towels.

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

 

Service Experience

Can’t fault the service in any way. Owners Binh and Kien, along with their team did an amazing job of looking after us. They give us heaps of insight into Dong Hoi and some great recommendations too. Then they hooked us up with a great tour to Paradise and Dark Caves, assuring us it would be both value for money and memorable.

We enjoyed hanging with these guys so much so that we’ve become friends and stay in touch regularly and it’s experiences like this that make us love this country so much!

 

Cost

We paid VND 200,000 (~USD 8.50 / ~AUD 12.00) per night for our three nights at Au Lac Bar and Hostel. It was an awesome deal and one of the best we’ve come across in our travels so far.

 

That’s our stay at Au Lac Bar and Hostel

We really enjoyed our stay. In fact, we enjoyed it so much so that we almost considered extending our trip to spend just so we could spend more time with Binh, Kien and Thao!

If you are thinking of doing the Phong Nha caves, don’t feel obligated to stay in Phong Nha. Dong Hoi has so much more to offer and Au Lac is the ideal spot for a base.

Check them out guys, you won’t be disappointed!

They are locals who know Dong Hoi well. They have a ton of recommendations that you will never find on TripAdvisor. Or any other review platform for that matter. (*Hint: Ask Binh about the hot springs.)

Thanks for reading and see you in the next one…

Khach San Ngoc Phuong Bao Loc

Kach San Ngoc Phuong

Good budget accommodation in Bao Loc

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Khach San Ngoc Phuong was the first of what is going to be many one-nighters on the second stretch of our road trip adventure.

The LTXtraordinary Road Trip

So, why only one night in Bao Loc? We’ll tell you more in our Leg 10 blog. In the meantime, let’s tell you more about our over night stay.

Where to book Khac San Ngoc Phuong

If you haven’t met us before, first off, welcome. Secondly, if you had you would know we rave about the conveniences of using Hotels Combined. Especially when we are out on our road trip.

How we choose accommodation in Vietnam

Khac San Ngoc Phuong was our winner. Not only did it offer the basic conveniences we look for but it had a couple of our ‘luxury items’ too. Bonus!

In addition to the above it came at a great price which was why we booked it on the spot.

(PS: those are affiliate links. You don’t pay extra to use them but we do get a small commission and that helps keep us on the road longer and to tell you about more places like this one!)

Location

Our winner sat slightly past the town center at 184 Lam Sơn, Lộc Sơn, but this was on purpose. We chose this hotel because it sat just off the route we had mapped out for the next morning to Da Lat.

More importantly, it was close to a gas station and walking distance to a brand new Vincom complex. Handy for stocking up on water and Netflix supplies.

We also found a Jolibee inside and decided to have lunch while we were at it.

Facilities

Khach San Ngoc Phuong had stories and no elevator on site. The staircase was semi enclosed which buffered a bit of the ground level noise.

They offer two simple options in room type, namely twin and double rooms.

For us the bonus was that they had free, secure onsite parking. In fact, it was so secure we couldn’t even get to them the next morning. LOL. It didn’t take much to free them so there was no hassle there.

They also have free WiFi but we didn’t end up using it so can’t tell you if it’s any good or not.

Our Double Room

We stayed in a nice light and spacious double room at the front of the property. Furnished in traditional Vietnamese furniture.

Initially we thought it might be noisy due to the busy road but as soon as we settled in, we realized it wasn’t an issue at all.

We had a large bed with a firm mattress which wasn’t too uncomfortable. The linen was clean and decent and included a light blanket.

The room came with a small fridge, kettle, large flat screen TV and cable channels. Basic but nice.

We had a private bathroom in the familiar all-in-one style we’ve come to know so well. And it came stocked with clean towels and basic toiletries.

Unfortunately, the hot water didn’t last long but the pressure was good. Thankfully the small water heater worked fast and we didn’t have to wait too long to take showers.

Service

The check in process was easy.

I simply showed my passport, he took a photo of it and gave it back to me.

That was a first, as they will usually hold your passport until check out. Not sure why this was different, but if we find out, we’ll let you know.

Apart from the above, our only other interaction with staff was when they asked us to park the bikes in the garage.

They were very friendly and easy to interact with, even with the lack of English. We just used Google translate and that worked a treat.

Cost

Our one night cost us VND250,000 (~USD11.00 / ~AUD15.00). Not a bad deal at all.

Khach San Ngoc Phuong lets you book a room without using a credit card and you can pay in cash on check in or check out.

That’s our stay at Khach San Ngoc Phuong

The only thing that marred our stay a bit was the weird artificial bird song coming from the balcony.

The same song played continuous. It didn’t stop until around 11PM and fired up again at 5AM. It just wasn’t happiness.

But as I said it was the only thing that was frustrating and it’s small in the grand scheme of things.

The rest our stay was very enjoyable. We would happily use it again if we need another reason to overnight in Bao Loc. Next time in a back room though, ha-ha!

Have questions about Khach San Ngoc Phuong?

Hope this was of use but if you’re looking for more info, then try Our Two Cents Page or our Destination page.

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Then feel free to leave us a comment below. Or you might find the answer on our Leon and Tash channel.

Thanks for reading and see you in the next post…

Hong Thien Ruby your heavenly stay in Hue

Hong Thien Ruby

Hong Thien Ruby

Heavenly Hong Thien Ruby in Hue is waiting for you!

You’ve heard about the beauty of Hue and decided to go see what the Forbidden Purple City is all about.

The list of things to see is long, the way to get there clear. What is unclear, is where to stay.

How we found Hong Thien Ruby hotel?

We found this little gem purely by accident after a rough start to our Hue adventure.  It was our third hotel in three days and our first two experiences were a tad hair raising.

Thankfully Hong Thien Ruby restored our faith in Hue hospitality.  And why it is our first option when planning our next trip back to Hue.

Where in Hue is Hong Thien Ruby?

She’s tucked away in smallish alley off Chu Van An, right in the middle of the tourist area. If you were to simply walk down the street, you would never know it was there.

Hong Thien Ruby Chu Van Anh

The location is also perfect for getting around Hue on foot or by taxi and ride share.

An added bonus is that even though it’s in the busier part of town, you would never know it. The hotel sits at the back of the lane way, making it a quiet and enjoyable option. (Town can get rowdy over the weekends.)

How long did we stay at Hong Thien Ruby?

For this visit, we stayed five nights and would happily have stayed longer.  But we had work commitments to attend to at a different venue.

How much does Hong Thien Ruby cost?

We paid VND350,00 per night (~USD16 or ~NZD23 per night) for a double room with en suite, including daily breakfast.

We thought it was a great price for the location and what was on offer. (Feel free to check HotelCombined for comparisons.)

[Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. If you make a booking via the link, we get a small commission that helps keep us on the road. For that we thank you immensely.]

Why choose Hong Thien Ruby?

There are plenty of reasons to choose Hong Thien Ruby.

For a smaller, lower price point property it delivers a high level of quality and service.

The rooms are comfortable and well laid out (even the smaller double rooms). This one came with a queen size bed which is larger than the standard double bed you’ll find in most of the other hotels.

Hong Thien Ruby Double Room

We also work on the road. So, the desk in the room came in handy for one of us and the other had the option of working at a table in the reception area.

I worked in reception for a couple of days and was rewarded with regular delivery of freshly made fruit juice during the day. Not something you get up in the room or a working space LOL. It was a nice touch and made the working day a lot more enjoyable.

Hong Thien Ruby fresh fruit juice

The en suite was very clean with no signs of water leaks or mold and had ventilation to the outside. This may sound silly but in a tropical humid country it can be an issue that could spoil your stay.

An added bonus here was the shower. It was tall enough for 6’3” Leon to fit under comfortably and it had the best pressure! Not to mention plenty of hot water (also an issue that seems to crop up regularly here in Vietnam).

They offer laundry services, so you don’t have to run around trying to find it yourself.  Our laundry came back in good condition and was done on the same day.

The best part about Hong Thien Ruby?

The norm here in Vietnam is fresh bread rolls and eggs (which is a good way to start the day). But here at At Hong Thien Ruby they spoil you a bit more. You get a cooked to order breakfast and you can have as much as you want! The letter being very unusual for other accommodation options.

Hong Thien Ruby included breakfast

The selections are great and cooked with that homemade touch. Very yummy!

Hint: Try the banana pancakes. It’s a house specialty and they are scrumptious!

We will admit that we’ve had better coffee elsewhere, but their juices are a great alternative.  Made from fresh fruit and vegetables every day, they are very tasty.

Another great thing about Hong Thien Ruby’s  and her location is that Chu Van An turns into a walking street from Friday to Sunday between 6PM and 12AM so you’re right there for the action too.

If you want some free entertainment. Wander down to the intersection of Võ Thị Sáu and Chu Văn An. On the weekends, they have random people come together to play musical instruments and sing. It’s a form of street karaoke and it is great fun to watch.

Parking at Hong Thien Ruby

Scooter parking is available but limited. If you are travelling on your own bike, best check before you make the booking, but we’re pretty sure it won’t be an issue.

Note, there is no parking or access to the hotel for vehicles. Something to think about if you’re travelling with luggage that is not easy to move.

We can’t stop talking about the service

The staff at Hong Thien Ruby were outstanding which made our trip to Hue even more memorable. They were always happy to help with anything and offered great recommendations for food and attractions in Hue.

They spoke very good English and were a pleasure to interact with.

Would we recommend Hong Thien Ruby?

For us and our accommodation needs, it’s a winner! We couldn’t find fault with this property, hence why it is our go to option for Hue now. If you choose to stay here, please let us know what you think of it in the comments.

That’s it for our stay at Hong Thien Ruby

Many thanks for reading our review on Hong Thien Ruby. We would like to mention that this is not a paid piece either, we truly enjoyed our stay here and wanted to share it with you.

If you’d like to read more reviews like this, please head over to Our Two Cents!

And if you want to read about our adventures in Vietnam, check out our Destinations Page.

Thank you for reading and see you in the next post…

 

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Visas for Vietnam and what you need to know

vietnam visas, applying for vietnam visas, vietnam border control, vietnam visa requirements

You’ve seen the amazing pictures and heard the tales of spectacular Vietnam. Now you’ve decided to come have a look for yourself. First question we get asked is, ‘Do we need visas?’. Short answer, yes you do.

 

Types of visas

If you are planning a short and sweet visit of less than 15 days you may be exempt from needing a visa. Vietnam currently offers visa free entry to a lucky few. This list changes often though, so make sure you check if your passport qualifies. To see if you do, check this list.

If you are not covered for the above, fear not. There are three other common types to choose from. They are;

  • E-Visas (electronic visas)
  • Tourist visas
  • Business visas

 

E-Visas (electronic visas)

Vietnam is fast catching up with technology and how the world uses it. E-visas are still relatively new in Vietnam but they are available to 46 countries as listed here.

This option is valid for stays of 30 days max and single entry only. (Single entry is where you come in once, you stay here and you leave once). This is a simple do-it-yourself online application on the official Vietnamese government website.  This is a one-off fee application too.

This visa is valid for all points of entry, i.e. airports, seaports and land crossings. We recommend you research your point of arrival as e-visas are not accepted at all ports. Check to see if you point of entry is on the list.

If you’d like to read more about e-visas in general, try this site.

 

Tourist visas

You can apply for a one or three-month tourist visa and each has the option of both a single or multiple entry. (Multiple entries mean you can come and go from Vietnam as often as you want within the validity of the visa.)

 

Business visas

You can apply for a one or three-month visa and have the option of single or multiple entry. If you are planning on staying longer, you have the option of six or twelve-month visas with multiple entry. This option is mainly for business purpose but you can consider it if you want to stay longer than three months and want to try and avoid visa runs.

Another thing to consider. If you are going to translate your driver’s license into a Vietnamese license, great. But remember that the Vietnamese license is only valid for as long as your visa.

 

How do I get a visa?

The second question we get is, ‘How do I get a visa?’. Again, here you have options.

We covered e-visa above. It’s a do it yourself, online process through the official government website with a one off fee. If you want to know more about them, have a look here.

If you are flying into one of Vietnam’s four international airports (Hanoi, Da Nang, Na Tranh, Ho Chi Minh), then you have the option of a visa on arrival (VOA). This means the visa is granted at the airport on landing and before you go through border control.

This process might sound complicated, but it’s pretty straight forward and easy.

vietnam visas, applying for vietnam visas, vietnam border control, vietnam visa requirements

Application requirements

The first thing you need to do is apply for a Letter of Approval (LOA). This is an official letter from the Vietnamese Immigration Department. It grants you permission to come into the country and obtain a visa at the airport.

To get this letter you will need to use an online agent.

There are plenty out there so do your research and be careful about who you use too (as with anything online). They will ask you for a copy of your passport, your arrival and departure dates, and the airport you flying into.

As we’ve mentioned in the vlog, used an agency called Sun Viet to help us with our visas. Again, use it as a point of reference for your own research.

Note that the fee for the LOA will vary between agents and the type of visa you are applying for. There will be additional, for example the agent’s fee and the stamp fee.

Your agent will forward the LOA to you once it’s been granted. It will most likely have two pages. The first granting you permission to enter the country, and the second will contain your details. Don’t be surprised if there are other people’s details on there too. It’s common for agencies to group applications together. You can request your own Letter of Approval but it will cost you more.

 

Arriving at the airport

The on arrival process is straight forward and simple with a bit of pre planning.

 
Before you leave
  • Download the 01 Application Form and complete 2 copies (1 as back up),
  • Have two passport photos ready with the application (take spares regardless, you never know when you’ll need them), and
  • A copy of the letter of approval (both pages)
  • Make sure these documents are in your carry on and within easy reach. Some airlines may ask to see them before you board your plane.
 
Visa on landing counter – Window 1

Once you have landed in Vietnam, head to the visa on landing counter. It’s usually located just before you see the border control counters.

In Ho Chi Minh for example there are two windows. You need to go to the first window and handover your paperwork (completed visa application form, both pages of the LOA, the two passport photos and your passport.)

This is where having all your paperwork completed and ready to go, comes in handy. So many people get to the airport not even knowing what the process is and it can get chaotic quick. Especially when several arrivals descend on the area all at once.

Grab a seat and wait to be processed.

 
Visa on landing counter – Window 2

When you hear your name called, head over to window two where they will give you your passport. Check all the details on your visa first (your name, passport number, entry/exit dates and entry option. If anything is incorrect, sort it there and then. Having any changes done after you have gone through border control is very unlikely.

 

UPDATE:  Even though we say above to check your exit day, we never did and I (Tash), learnt a valuable lesson. It wasn’t until after we applied (and received visas to enter China), that our visa agency made us aware of the fact that the exit stamp in my passport was dated for March 2018 and we were now in late 2018.  They told us that we may have an issue at border control but given the fact that we have multiple entry visa, it shouldn’t be an issue.  Lucky for us it wasn’t!  The immigration officer did scratch his head but said nothing and stamped me out.  However, it could have turned into a headache we didn’t need.  So peeps, check your dates thoroughly before you hit border control!

If everything is correct and you’re happy, then this is when you will need to pay the stamp fee. The amount will depend on the type of visa and entry option you’ve chosen but your agent should be able to tell you what it is or you can look up fees on this site.

We recommend you pay in US dollar (US$) and that you have the exact amount when the time comes. You can pay with local currency but it could be at an inflated exchange rate, meaning you pay more. Also, we saw a couple of people running around looking for an ATM. We couldn’t see any and there are no electronic payment options that we could see either.

 
Border Control

Once you have your passport complete with visa, you can proceed to the immigration line.

This process is the same regardless of whether you’re applying for a tourist or business visa.

 

Already in  southeast Asia?  Then you’ll need an Embassy issued visa

vietnam visas, applying for vietnam visas, vietnam border control, vietnam visa requirements

 

Already in Southeast Asia and wanting to do a land crossing? Or are you entering Vietnam anywhere other than the four international airports? Then you will need an Embassy issued visa.

You can do this yourself if you have access to a Vietnamese embassy in the place you are living or travelling from.

Alternatively, there are agents that will do this for a fee. Research is key and remember, you will need to hand over your passport for this option, so be careful. Copies won’t cut it as the visa is a sticker and has to be in the actual passport to be valid.

 

Important to note

Also remember that you have to have this visa in your passport before you depart. You might get asked for it at the airport and you will need it to get through border control in Vietnam. A visa on arrival will not be an option once you land.

When you receive your passport back from the embassy/agent, double check all the details on the visa before you leave. Again, if anything is incorrect you need to sort it there and then.

That’s pretty much visas in a nutshell. Only other piece of advice we can give you is to be patient during the visa and immigration process. It’s easy to lose your cool when you’re tired and just want to get to your hotel. But these guys are going to do it their way whether you like it or not. If you start getting vocal or pack a tantrum it will take longer or they could end up ignoring you completely.

If you’re head is spinning right now, we don’t blame you, there is a lot to take in.  BUT to help you with your planning process, we created this simple and quick Visa Checklist to download and use. Let us know if it’s useful or not. (Cheers)

If you have any questions or want to add something, please leave us a comment and we will answer as best we can or you can go check out our Vietnam Visa Vlog.

 

Happy travels and see you in the next post…