Tuesday, 9 February 2016

How To Survive The Sleeper Bus, Vietnam

Along with sleeper trains, sleeper buses are one of the most popular ways for travellers to get around Vietnam. Everyone has their own experience, but here is mine.

Nearing our last couple of days in Hanoi, we decided that Hue was to be the next place for us to visit in Vietnam. We're currently working our way down South from North Vietnam, so we settled on using the sleeper bus for this particular journey. We booked it through the hostel, handed over our money and that was that. All sorted, nice and cheap, and we were to be picked up at 6pm on the day of departure. Now just a warning, if you want to look into the busses beforehand then feel free to Google them, but 9/10 reviews are negative and will put you off them like it did us. We read some pretty bad posts on how the drivers are really aggressive and angry, and that the bus itself can be quite horrible, so we weren't exactly looking forward to it but kind of had an idea of what to expect from these reviews. 

But the day of departure came and the lovely guy on his moped came and collected around 15-20 of us doing the same journey from the hostel. We then waited at the side of the road for the bus to pull up, loaded our backpacks underneeth it and got on. On our bus there was the main driver and his co-driver/helper - the helper was quite aggressive to me as I tried to put my bag into the luggage compartment as I initially put it in the wrong section, but I just brushed this off. I got on the bus, picked my top bunk seat and settled down. 

That's when the trouble began to start. About 5 minutes into the journey one woman and her husband were trying to decide which beds to sleep on, when the driver started yelling "NO, NO" every time she tried to pick one. We couldn't work out why he was doing this, but he began to get even more aggressive and ended up shouting in her face so loud and angrily that her husband jumped up and an argument broke out between them - very nearly causing a fight. The man was simply sticking up for his wife who had been shouted at for no apparent reason, and quite rightly so. It was so uncalled for.

We were all quite on edge at this point as we were worried incase anything else happened on the rest of the journey - we still had 12 hours to go after all. But we decided as a group, to keep ourselves to ourselves, not make eye contact and stay on the bus. Luckily nothing else happened after this, but it still made me not enjoy the rest of the journey. Out of the 12 hours I slept for around 2, worried incase anything else happened (which it didn't). The driving is also quite fast and doesn't feel the safest, but we are in Vietnam after all, and they don't really have speed regulations. 

Despite the aggression, the bus itself was lovely and so much better than we had expected. It's lined with bunks that can be reclined flat for you to sleep, and has a compartment for your feet to go in. It's not the biggest, but for me it was perfect seeing as I'm only 5'2! You also get your own air conditioning, a light, a curtain and there's a couple of tv's hanging from the roof although these weren't played during our journey. We got very lucky and had a brand new bus so everything was lovely a new, even the toilet! So yes, the bus itself wasn't bad at all. It's just a shame about the drivers. 

I swore I wasn't going to get on another one, but thinking back it wasn't unbearable so we're going to use one again to get us from Hoi An to Nha Trang. It's just a shame that sleeper trains are so much more expensive otherwise we'd hands down use them over the bus. 

My biggest tip would be to take plenty of things to keep you occupied - food, drinks, books, cards, movies, music... Anything. The less you think about it the better. Take it from my experience, I sat listening to music for 10 hours of the journey because I was nervous and it actually made the experience worse because I was wide awake. Try and sleep - I'm going to try next time. 

Basically, if you have the extra bit of money to either fly or get the train then do. It's much better (and far quicker if you fly). But if you do decide to do the busses then just be aware that the staff/drivers can be quite aggressive but keep yourself to yourself, keep yourself busy, try to sleep and you'll be absolutely fine. At the end of the day it got us from A to B in one piece and it's nice and cheap!

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