Most of what I read about traveling by bus here told me not to do it. It’s the cheapest and most convenient so many do. So far I’ve overheard two people’s stories that confirm things I read about.
First was a man who bought an open ticket from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Didn’t get a ticket from the agent, who told him he’d get it on the bus. Bus guy said he’d get it before the first destination. Never received the ticket so he has to pay for the subsequent legs of his trip. Moral: If what’ you’re paying for can be produced on the spot, have them do so before handing over any money.
Second was a young woman who’d been on an overnight bus that ran off the road. No one was hurt. Bus ploughed to a stop in soft earth so it couldn’t continue.
After a delay (it wasn’t clear to me if there was a 9 hour wait or if the bus reached it’s final destination 9 hours late) they boarded a replacement bus and continued.
It was still night when the driver stopped in the middle of nowhere to let several locals on. They and the driver informed the tourist passengers that they could either cough up the specified amount of money or get off here. Moral – Take your pick: 1) Don’t take buses, 2) Don’t take buses at night because the accident rate is much higher, 3) You pays your money and you takes your chance.
One leg of my trip can only be done by bus or paying more than I wish to for a private car. I’ve been using a car hires through Discover Vietnam, an agency that receives consistent high feedback on tripadvisor.com for being prompt and scam-free by courteous and conservative drivers. I’ve been happy with their service but don’t know if I’d heard enough bus horror stories not to take the bus on a 5 hour ride that’s considered a scenic highlight.