Everything You Need to Know About Sleeper Buses in Vietnam

sleeper bus in Vietnam
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If you’ve stumbled upon this post, chances are you’re considering taking a sleeper bus in Vietnam.  After all, they are cheap, easy, and pretty hassle free.  But is the lack of sleep and sometimes unfavorable conditions worth it?  Here’s everything you need to know about taking sleeper buses in Vietnam.

By the way, I took multiple sleeper buses throughout my 7-weeks in Vietnam with the longest journey being 18-hours (from Hoi An to Hanoi).

 

BEFORE READING FURTHER, DON’T MISS:

 

What is a Sleeper Bus?

A sleeper bus is just what it sounds like – a bus you sleep on!  Vietnam has tons of sleeper buses and it’s a popular mode of transportation for budget travelers, backpackers, and anyone else!  While these buses generally drive during the night, it’s a possibility that you end up on a sleeper bus even if you’re traveling during the day.  For example:  I took a sleeper bus from Hoi An (leaving at 1300) to Hanoi (arriving the next day at 0730).  During that route we made multiple stops so there were some travelers on the sleeper bus who left Hoi An with me at 1300 and arrived in their destination the same day.

 

Are Sleeper Buses Safe?

I think that the main question when deciding whether or not to take a sleeper bus in Vietnam is are they safe?  Truthfully, I go back and forth on this answer.  At times I felt safe (as safe as you can when you’re laying down trying to sleep on a bus), but you also know that you’re at the mercy of someone else driving through the night.  There were some sleeper buses I took that had multiple drivers who would rotate in and out, and others where there was just one driver for the entire night.  I have to assume that since this is their job they are used to staying up all night, but my biggest concern was always if the driver would be able to stay awake.

As far as being on the bus itself, I felt completely safe.  Every sleeper bus I took was full, so you’re surrounded by other travelers.  Of course, I took precautions with my bag (I’d consider getting a lock to be on the safe side), but I never felt like I was personally in danger.

Even with my concerns, I do want to point out that of all of the sleeper buses I took, I always made it to where I was going in one piece without anything bad happening.

 

How do You Book a Sleeper Bus in Vietnam?

My favorite way to book a sleeper bus in Vietnam is on Bookaway or 12Go.  You can compare multiple different bus companies and prices through the website so you have a little bit more of a choice when booking.  One thing to know when booking, if you’re traveling on a popular route it might take 24 hours to be confirmed on the bus.  For that reason, I recommend booking your bus at least 36-hours ahead.

Another way to book a sleeper bus is by asking your hotel/hostel/homestay to do it for you.  This is just as reliable but you don’t have much of a choice on which bus you’re going to take.

 

How Much does a Sleeper Bus Cost?

The price of a sleeper bus varies depending on what bus you get (some are cheaper than others) and where you’re going.  I never paid more than $25 for a ticket and my longest journey was 18-hours.  It’s very affordable and remember, you’re saving on the cost of a hotel for the night.

 

What are the Best Sleeper Buses in Vietnam?

It’s hard to say what the “best” sleeper bus is because even if you rent from the same company, each sleeper bus varies greatly.  As far as I can tell, booking “limousine” or “VIP” generally means you’ll have a nicer sleeper bus and it usually costs a bit more money.

I would also say, if there’s an option, generally a smaller sleeper bus will be nicer.  You can also use filters to make sure your bus has AC, Wifi, etc.  However – this is not guaranteed.  I had a couple of experiences using these filters and ended up getting on a bus that didn’t have what I requested.  Remember, traveling in Vietnam can be chaotic at times, try to go with the flow and not stress.

 

What to Wear on a Sleeper Bus

Comfort is KEY on a sleeper bus.  I recommend wearing shorts or pants (not a dress or skirt as you don’t want to be laying down all night in a dress).  I would also dress in layers because it can be pretty hot and pretty cold throughout the ride.  Lastly, you’re required to take your shoes off on the bus, so I recommend wearing flip flops for easy on, easy off as you enter/exit the bus.

My sleeper bus outfit was always a variation of…

 

What to Bring on a Sleeper Bus

Of course, you’ll take your luggage on the sleeper bus, but I recommend packing a small backpack (very small so that it can fit in your seat) or a purse of things you can easily access on the bus (your bigger luggage will be put under the bus).  By the way – when you book you might notice that your bus has limits for luggage.  I was never denied boarding because of having too much with me and nobody ever weighed my luggage.  (I had two carry-on sized bags and one backpack with me).

Here are the things I’d make sure to include in your backpack/purse that will be on the bus with you…

  • Sleep mask – You’ll definitely want this because it doesn’t get very dark on the bus
  • Earbuds – For noise control
  • Cord for phone charger (some buses have a place for you to plug in your cord and charge your phone)
  • External charging device – If your bus doesn’t have a phone charger and you want to ensure your device is charged
  • Wifi hotspot – This isn’t a necessity, but if you want to guarantee wifi, you might want to consider bringing a hotspot (some of the buses have wifi and some don’t)
  • Travel size toothbrush/toothpaste (so you can brush your teeth at a rest stop)
  • Cash – If you want to buy food/drink at a rest stop
  • Entertainment – I’d suggest bringing a book or making sure that you’ve downloaded podcasts/TV shows for the journey
  • Travel lock – To keep your stuff safe while you sleep

 

For a more extensive packing list, don’t miss:

 

Tips & Tricks for Booking/Taking a Sleeper Bus

From my multiple trips in a sleeper bus, I’ve compiled my best tips and tricks for booking and taking a sleeper bus…

  • Dress comfortably and wear flip flops
  • Have cash on hand for rest stops
  • Always go to the bathroom at a restaurant as you never know your next chance will be
  • Bring an eye mask and ear plugs to help you get some shut eye
  • Fully charge all of your devices before boarding
  • Don’t rely on the information given on the website – buses can change without any notice
  • Eat before getting on the bus – even if you have a food option, it generally isn’t a great option
  • It’s common culture in Vietnam for locals not to use headphones when listening to music/TV; for that reason, you might be inundated with a lot of noise
  • Lock your bag so you aren’t worried about theft
  • If you’re claustrophobic, grab a top seat
  • If you have a huge backpack with you, grab a bottom seat so you can put your bag on the ground and not at your feet
  • Although you might be lost and confused – your driver will get you there
  • Get “ready” for bed before boarding the bus (brush teeth, wash face, etc)
  • If you get motion sick, bring medicine that will help (rides are generally very bumpy)
  • Buses rarely leave on time, but I suggest showing up 30 minutes early because they also leave early sometimes
  • Buses rarely arrive at your drop off at the scheduled time  – they can be both early or late
  • When you book a ticket, you won’t get an assigned seat; usually you sit where you want, but sometimes the driver tells you where to sit

 

ARE YOU READY TO BOOK YOUR SLEEPER BUS?  BOOK HERE NOW!

 

FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions that I’ve encountered about sleeper buses in Vietnam…

  • Q:  Are sleeper buses comfortable?

    • A:  Honestly, yes and no.  They are better than I thought they’d be, but of course – it’s not like sleeping in a bed.  The chairs do recline and you’re usually offered a pillow and blanket so there isn’t much to complain about.  I think that if you’re tall it would be much less comfortable because you wouldn’t have much room for your legs to stretch out.
  • Q:  Do sleeper buses have toilets?  Are there bathroom stops?

    • A:  Some do – but remember, even if you select the “toilet” option when booking, it won’t guarantee your bus comes with a toilet.  You will have bathroom breaks and I suggest taking advantage of the toilet at that time.  Also, if your sleeper bus does have a toilet, I recommend sitting far away from it because it usually smells pretty awful.
  • Q:  What are the best seats on the bus?

    • Truthfully, wherever you’re most comfortable!  If you’re claustrophobic I’d suggest grabbing a top seat, but if you have a big backpack and want room for your legs, I suggest a bottom seat so that you can put your bag on the floor and not at your feet.  Lastly, like I mentioned earlier, I’d definitely suggest sitting as far away from the toilet as possible.
  • Q:  Are there size requirements for sleeper buses?

    • As far as I can tell – no.  But the seats aren’t don’t necessarily cater to tall people.  Also, there are luggage size requirements, but not one time did I have anyone question me about my luggage (and I had more than what was allotted every time).

 

Vietnam Essentials – What You Need & Need to Know About Visiting Vietnam

TRAVELING THROUGH VIETNAM

  • The easiest way to book bus tickets in Vietnam is through Bookaway or 12Go
  • To book a flight to Vietnam, I recommend Expedia or Skyscanner to compare options
  • If you want a private, English-speaking driver waiting for you at the airport in Vietnam, book one with Welcome Pickups
  • Vietnam does require a visa, you can purchase one through iVisa
  • If you plan to rent a motorbike in Vietnam, you do need an international drivers license
  • I highly recommend travel insurance when traveling through Vietnam – I use and recommend SafetyWing

ACCOMODATION IN VIETNAM

  • To easiest way to book hotels in Vietnam is through Booking.com

TOURS IN VIETNAM

  • For tours and activities in Vietnam, I recommend using Viator
  • For cooking classes in Vietnam, I recommend using Cookly

WHAT TO BRING TO VIETNAM

 

If you’re exploring the option of taking a sleeper bus in Vietnam, I hope that this post helps answer some of your questions and prepares you for the journey!  If you have any other questions, let me know in a comment below!

 

IF YOU’RE PLANNING A TRIP THROUGH VIETNAM, DON’T MISS:

 

IF YOU’RE TRAVELING TO VIETNAM, CHANCES ARE YOU’LL NEED A VISA.  GET ONE HERE!

 

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Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to purchase through my link, at no cost to you.  Passports and Preemies is also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees.

 


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Kylee is a NICU nurse passionate about making travel affordable and accessible to nurses. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee has been a NICU nurse for 9 years and a travel nurse for 7 years. Since starting her career in travel nursing, she’s worked in six different states, 10 different hospitals, volunteered as a nurse in North Macedonia, worked as a nurse in Saudi Arabia, and has traveled to 45+ countries. Her favorite travel nurse assignment was in Seattle and her favorite destination is Georgia (the country). Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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