The distance between Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi, and its largest city, Ho Chi Minh, is a tiresome 1600 kilometers (1000 miles) yet this is still a very popular route for anyone exploring this southeast Asian country. If you decide to take the trip from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City you’ll be almost traveling from one end of Vietnam to the other, so it can be a great way to get to see more of the beautiful scenery spanning the country, but, such a distance takes a long, long time to cover.
Options for Travel from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City
There are three options for the trip between these two cities – by air, by rail, or by road, but the good thing is that there are plenty of flights from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh, as well as numerous trains, and a few buses, or, if you’re feeling independent, rent a car and do the driving yourself so you can stop whenever you want and take your time visiting sights along the way. One thing to note is that although there are large differences in some of the prices, if you shop around and book early, you can get a very good deal, so do bear this in mind.
Flights from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City
Let’s start with the quickest way to get from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Traveling by air is so fast compared to the rail and road options. Even when you add in the time to get to and from the airport, check-in, go through security, collect your baggage, and travel on to your hotel, you’re still easily beating the other transportation options. A flight to Ho Chi Minh from Hanoi takes only around 2 hours of actual flying time, so this is easily the best option if you’re only in Vietnam for a limited time and are mostly interested in visiting its two largest cities.
The cost of airplane tickets varies substantially, depending on which airline you choose to fly with, and there are several to choose from. Finding a flight should rarely be a problem – the route from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City is one of the world’s busiest air routes with approximately 50 flights per day going between these two cities. And, during holidays, there will be even more flights available.
Airlines offering this route include Jetstar Pacific, VietJet Air, and Vietnam Airlines. The first two are both low-cost airlines so look to these two for the cheapest prices – a seat on these airlines does not cost much more than the train, so, again, if you’re pushed for time, a flight could be a really good option. Vietnam Airlines is another matter entirely! As the flagship carrier of Vietnam, this airline strives to provide a more luxurious service than the low-cost carriers, but at about four times the price you may want to carefully think about whether it is worth paying so much more for a flight of only 2 hours.
Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City by Train
When time is not a factor, taking the train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City is the ideal way to get to see the landscapes of Vietnam. In fact, people say it’s the only way to get to see certain parts of the country that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to easily see. The train does make a number of stops as well, so theoretically you could jump off, spend some time at a destination, then catch the next train coming through. But, while traveling by train has a certain romanticism about it, and it’s relatively affordable, there are also a number of drawbacks to taking the train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.
The first drawback is the time it takes. Depending upon which of the Vietnam Railways trains you take, your journey will be somewhere between 29.5 hours and 34 hours and 40 minutes. Obviously that’s a very long time to be on a train but you can get a sleeper cabin and get some rest for the overnight portion of the trip. Ticket prices are divided into a couple of different categories – you could buy a seat only, a 2nd class sleeper, or a 1st class sleeper. All options should include air conditioning but be advised that the air conditioning can be too high and make you cold if you’re too close to it. Another thing that many travelers taking the train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City have mentioned is the cockroaches – they are usually fairly abundant on these trains, especially in the bathrooms, and especially after dark.
If you do want to take the train but would like a more luxurious experience, and the price tag to match, you could travel on a private car. Violette Express Trains cost more but the cabins are cleaner and more comfortable.
Take the Bus to Ho Chi Minh City from Hanoi
The trains between these two cities take a long time, but the buses take even longer! If you plan to take a bus to Ho Chi Minh City, your journey time will be about 37.5 hours. The cost is roughly the same as a 2nd class seat on the trains, but remember that when you’re traveling by bus you do not have as much space to move around. The good thing with these buses operated by Hoang Long is that they have “beds” in them. The beds are basic and not very big but they do allow you to lie down and stretch out a little. The buses also include a toilet and air conditioning, and have snacks available, plus stops are made along the way for you to get more substantial meals and time to stretch your legs.
So, when considering how to travel from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, the main thing to consider is timing. Flights will save you an entire day and a half of traveling but, apart from what you can see below you from the window, you won’t get to see much of Vietnam. Buses and trains fill this void, but can be cramped and perhaps not up to everyone’s standards when it comes to cleanliness.