Hong Kong to Hanoi by Bus

As part of our ongoing efforts to cut down our carbon emissions, our family decided to take a holiday in Hanoi this year, travelling by bus from Hong Kong via Nanning in China. I’ll give details of the journey as I know others might be interested in avoiding air travel.

We bought tickets from the China Travel Service (CTS) office at HK airport, which is where the bus leaves from at 7pm every evening. This was very straightforward, whereas going to a CTS office in town was less productive as they scarcely seemed aware of the fact that there was such a service to Nanning. The bus we took wasn’t full, but it only took us as far as the border with the mainland at Huanggang where we had to get through the two border posts before changing to our sleeper coach which would take us to Nanning. I’d never heard of a sleeper coach before, so I was a bit apprehensive as we had our two daughters, aged 7 and 9, with us, and I also recall the worst journeys of my life being on overnight buses in Tanzania: an absolute nightmare. However, these sleepers are state-of-the-art vehicles with each person having a sleeping compartment about 6 ft long, with a roll mattress, a duvet and a pillow. There were no seats at all, and no hassle about someone else taking your bunk. Everyone was provided with a bottle of water, and we set off close to the scheduled time. The only downside was that there was no light in your compartment, so you couldn’t read. The journey was trouble-free, with toilet stops every three hours, and the two drivers alternating every three hours. All in all, a comfortable trip in which we were all able to get some sleep, and which was quite a pleasant adventure for the girls. It took about 12 hours from HK to Nanning.

If we’d wanted to we could have connected with the morning bus leaving for Hanoi, which departs from the Lang Dong Bus Terminus, which was the terminus we arrived at from HK. However, the information we’d received in HK was that the bus for Hanoi would leave before we arrived. This, in fact, was wrong as there were buses leaving at different times in the morning, one of them a couple of hours after we’d arrived. However, we’d booked into a hotel for the night and left the following morning at about 9.30am. The bus was very comfortable, not crowded, and we were provided with a bottle of water. Near the Vietnamese border we stopped for a meal which was included in the price of the bus ticket. One of the many people offering to change money for us in fact gave us a better deal than we got in Vietnam. They were not over-persistent or irritating.

Having passed through the two border posts, we got on a Vietnamese bus which was also not full, and which was rather more worn than the Chinese one, but was still comfortable and relatively cool. We received another bottle of water and stopped after one and a half hours for food and toilets. The journey was slower as there was much more traffic and the road was single-lane with an occasional pothole instead of being a motorway, but still no problem. The journey from Nanning to Hanoi took about 8 hours, the border being roughly halfway. When we arrived in Hanoi, a company woman appeared on the bus and gave us useful information on what charges to expect for taxis to whatever hotel we were going to.

The whole journey went very smoothly, and the girls never complained. The scenery between Nanning and Hanoi is beautiful for much of the way on either side of the border, and there is much of interest in seeing the people working in the rice fields once you get into the plains towards Hanoi. If you go with kids, and stop in Nanning, take them to the Water Park for a thoroughly enjoyable day zapping down slides of all descriptions. Great for adults too. There’s a similar one in Hanoi that’s also a treat.

The only real downside to going by bus was the fact that it made us less willing to take the 4-day trip up to Sapa in Vietnam, which would have meant two overnight train trips plus 2 x 2-hour bus rides to get to the indigenous market we wanted to visit. We were further put off by someone who’d just been up there who said it was raining most of the time, this being the wet season. Never mind, a trip to Halong Bay is a must – very beautiful – and Hanoi has its pleasures, especially in the Old Quarter. Two good veggie restaurants – ’69’ and ‘Gecko’s’, both in the Old Quarter.

The journey back was equally smooth and efficient. Very impressive.

Don Latter


About transitionsl

I've been an English teacher for the best part of 30 years, teaching in England, Tanzania, Brunei, Australia and Hong Kong. I've always been interested in nature and environmental issues, but it was the discovery of Peak Oil about five years ago that galvanised me into trying to help my local community to prepare for what will be a dramatically different world to the one many of us have been used to. I've been helping to run a transition group, following the guidelines created by Rob Hopkins's Transition Movement in the UK. This blog is an attempt to engage in discussion with a wider group of people in Hong Kong on the ways to transition from our current oil dependency to a state of fossil-free local resilience.
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10 Responses to Hong Kong to Hanoi by Bus

  1. Hey thanks for posting this. We have been talking about doing it ourselves! Better book our tickets!

  2. antony says:

    thanks for your great advice about the HK to hanoi bus trip. really put my mind to rest.

  3. erica shen says:

    what a fabulous find! your posting comes just in time as i was one click off purchasing flight tickets.
    i too have my 6yr old daughter with me and we are travelling alone, this posting reassures me that all will be ok. we have travelled malaysia, phillippines, taiwan, hong kong but a first for vietnam.
    you didnt mention the type of visas that you travelled with? did you have a china visa too?
    when i checked for vietnam visa the offical website advised to apply online for a ‘visa on entry”
    any suggestions much appreciated
    aussie erica

    • transitionsl says:

      Erica, we bought visas for China and Vietnam before leaving HK because we’re wary of ‘visa on entry’ claims. The Chinese visas were multiple entry six-month visas because we came back through China, whereas the Vietnamese ones were single entry one-month visas. As far as I remember it only took a week or so to get them.The Chinese ones were through the Chinese Travel Service, the Vietnamese ones from their embassy. Hope the trip goes well.

      • erica shen says:

        thanks for being so quick with your reply. have decided to express the vietnam visa and apply and wait for the china visa whilst we tour HK. upon researching the v.visa… you can not ‘visa on entry’ when arriving by land, only air. the chinese in transit visa is only applicable by air too.
        i will arrive in hong kong at 10.40pm so the CTS will probally be closed… lets hope the city office has picked up there game! although it was a year ago that you travelled and things change. what was the approximate cost of the bus trip please.
        with thanks

  4. transitionsl says:

    We can’t remember exactly what the costs were, bu we think it was about $1000 each from HK to Hanoi. We had to buy the onward tickets to Hanoi in Nanning because we had decided to stay there overnight. There is a CTS office at the airport, although I’m not sure what the opening hours are – probably longer than the city office, so worth checking. Weekends the buses may be quite busy, but I reckon weekdays might be the time to get a seat quite easily.

    • erica shen says:

      thanks again (i am still waiting on a reply from cts, correctly assumed you would reply before they figured out how to answer!) i can begin my itinery.

    • larraitz says:

      Hi!! thanks for the info!! it is very useful for us!! sorry but I may missuderstood your message… which was the cost of both buses to arrive to Hanoi from China? You said 1000$ but I think that is too expensive… is that price ok?

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