Good news, If Vietnam is your first experience of overnight travel or your last experience of South East Asia sleeper buses. Vietnam sleeper buses are the best you will come across. Like a communal three rowed two-tier bunk bed slumber party, these sleeper buses are entertaining if nothing else!
Here are some top tips to surviving and potentially managing to sleep on the disco buses:
These brightly lit, neon flashing disco buses aren’t great for getting a good amount of shut eye, Plus, throw in the varied city street lights and buildings, an eye mask becomes little bit of a life saviour.
2. Bottom Bunk
As any traveller knows – bottom bunk is worth the fight. Getting a top bunk on one of these moving buses is similar to a risky rollercoaster ride where you may fall off either side, at any point.
3. Beware the back row
Like all kids on the school bus, the back of the bus is where you want to be. Except on these, if your lucky to have a toilet on the bus – they are right next door. The smells at the back aren’t always the freshest FYI.
Secondly, all is fun in the group sleepover, until you want to roll over and you are inches from your friend / or if your really unlucky, a complete strangers face. There nothing like getting extra close and personal to get to know your fellow bus travellers.
A staple lifeline for any tourist or traveller. We renamed the sleeper bus The Beeper Bus. A horn is used in the UK for aggressive road rage and getting your point across when someone has pissed you off.
In Vietnam, the horn is used in many different situations. For example, as a friendly hello, excuse me coming through, I’m behind you, I’m overtaking you on your left, I’m overtaking you on your right, thank you, the list goes on and on. If you’re unlucky enough to get a horn friendly driver, do not expect any sleep whatsoever. It becomes a laugh or cry situation – Carly and I opted to laugh hysterically whilst Chloe lost her shit and went full on Essex girl on the driver. Adam opted for the Valium and passed out throughout the whole journey.
A sleep playlist, podcast or any form of relaxing sleep evoking sound is a major life savour. Nobody likes to hear a snorer, coughing, hacking travelling local/tourist.
5. Google Maps Offline Mode
I’ve said it before, I will say it again. Download the map to where your heading prior to leaving. Make sure to check out my google maps blog post on Travel Tips. In Vietnam, especially in the north, the English language is limited. The bus drivers will often just stop and expect you to know where you’re going and if this is your stop. Sometimes they will have multiple stops and throw your bags off and you have to make sure they go back on again. It can get rather stressful and frustrating. Make your journey in a foreign country a little easier by knowing where you are in relation to where you are going.
6. Stay Warm
The aircon on these sleeper buses are often blasting. Occasionally you will get given a blanket alongside a bottle of water and a face wipe. To add to your comfort we made sure we had our own small blankets and travel pillows to make the journey a little bit more comfortable. Especially, as some of these journeys can be for 12 hours plus.
Some of the buses pick up times are around 6 pm. Obviously, at the point of the evening, you are unlikely to want to go to sleep. Pre-downloaded entertainment in the form of whatever provider you choose (Netflix) is a major life savour and boredom averter.
Completely disregarding the general public transport smell rules, we often opted for a takeaway pizza’s when we had long overnight sleeper bus journeys ahead. Eat as much or as little as you want. The box fits in the foot compartment, usually. + Carbs = Sleep. Organise your snacks, the bus sometimes stops, but its not usually at places where westerners can grab a packet of Pringles or Haribo.
9. Avoid drinking
Trust me, dehydration is better than dying for a wee on a bus with no toilet and no foreseeable stopping point. For boys an empty bottle is an option (yes they boys did this: both disgusting/ resourceful) for girls, you are talented if you can.
I discovered I had a weird talent for waking up exactly at the point we were arriving at our destination. In case you don’t have this super talent – set an alarm an hour and half an hour before you are supposed to arrive. Sometimes they will wake you up with fun Vietnamese music and the lights come on for the last stop, otherwise its a guessing game.