Foreign visitor shares how to survive overnight Buses in Vietnam

The British woman said she had traveled by bus three times in Vietnam and did not want to do it again. “Understandably a lot of travellers opt for the bus because of this, me included. Some people don’t mind it, but it really wasn’t for me. So if you are taking the bus, read my 5 tips to make your journey more bareable,” she shared on Charlie on Travel.


Sounds dumb, but Charlie totally did it. She drank as much water as she wanted when she ate dinner, not thinking about getting on a bus at 6pm and not being able to go to the bathroom until 10.30pm. With no toilets on board most of the buses, you have to wait until the driver pulls in at the usual stop. Sometimes, if the driver needs to go, he’ll pull in at a roadside and all the men will pile off and take a piss over the edge of a mountain. Not much use to the women on board and it’s not a sure thing. The stops are pretty grim, no toilet roll and often no running water, sometimes no lights as well. Take some hand sanitiser.

Wanderlust Tips Magazine | Foreign visitor shares how to survive overnight Buses in Vietnam


With Charlie, the worst journey is the return bus route between Hanoi and Sapa. This winding mountain road is motion sick inducing, and she was forced to lie down because there’s no space for you to sit up on the bunks. Motion sickness tablets definitely took the edge off and help her get to sleep. She recommended to try and get a bottom bunk so that you wouldn’t be thrown around as much, and you could stretch your legs in the aisle if you need to.


If travelling solo, you’ll probably be sharing a tight bunk with a stranger. There are old, unwashed leopard print blankets on each of the bunks, which you need because of the leaky air-con pumping out above you. There’s a reason silk sleeping sheets are available at all the shops in town, and this is it. You don’t know exactly what you’re lying on or who you’re lying next to. Cocoon yourself in your silk sheets and you’ll be much happier.


Charlie shared: “You’ve already booked and paid, but some bus driver doesn’t want to let you on the bus. Sounds crazy, but it happens.”

She realized that the drivers, especially on the return journey from Sapa, are sometimes trying to make a few extra dollars on the side by picking up random people who will pay them directly. She thought they were probably earning only a fraction of what tourists pay to hotels and tour operators, so they had no qualms about it.

It happened to her, but she insisted, forced her way on and told them they could phone the guesthouse she’d booked through if they had a problem with her reservation. Not wanting to be caught, they soon backed down.

Once you’re on the bus, another big problem is the driver and assistant trying to make Western tourists move to the worst bunks (e.g. top bunks, ones with leaky air-con, ones near the toxic smell of the engine) so they can give the Vietnamese who are hassling them a better bed. She suggested the way to deal with their pushiness was to point-blank refuse. You’ve paid the same fare as everyone else, so take whatever free bunk you want. Don’t move and they’ll eventually leave you alone.

Wanderlust Tips Magazine | Foreign visitor shares how to survive overnight Buses in Vietnam


Just before her return journey from Sapa to Hanoi, she was waiting nervously with Luke – her friend, afeared to be getting back on one of the buses. It was already half hour late. Finally it came round the corner, but to her dismay backed up a road away from the bus stop. Luke sighed and said, “It’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t pick us up, I know someone who died on a sleeper bus in Vietnam anyway.” she stared at him wide-eyed, “WHAT?”
Immediately realising his mistake, he fumbled for words, “Well, I mean know of someone, a friend of a friend, and it was years ago, when I was in sixth form, and I don’t know what bus it was, or which route it was on. Probably it’s not this bus at all!”

Charlie looked at him, horrified. “You knowingly allowed us to get on a DEATH BUS. And not only that, we booked a return ticket on it! Why would you do that to me?”

He stared at his feet and whispered, “It’s cheap…”

Charlie on Travel | Wanderlust Tips | Cinet

Leave a Reply