Foreign tourists debate quality of Vietnam sleeper buses

By Bich Phuong   November 8, 2023 | 07:24 pm PT
Foreign tourists debate quality of Vietnam sleeper buses
Foreign tourists on an economy class sleeper bus in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Backpackers Wanderlust
A number of international tourists have complained sleeper buses in Vietnam lack amenities and comfort, while others argued they are a popular means of transport with affordable prices for long-haul routes.

In October, Mia Challiner, a British health and wellness TikToker with more than 2 million followers, shared her experience on a sleeper bus for a 20-hour journey from Hanoi to Hoi An in what she described as one of the worst nights of her life, with only two hours sleep.

She said the night bus lacked amenities and there was no toilet onboard.

Challiner's video that filmed her experience on the sleeper bus was seen by over 3 million people in less than a week.

"I actually didn't drink for the whole 20-hour trip because I quickly found out there were no toilets on board," she said.

"I actually managed to sleep for a couple of hours with my knees bent and at 12 a.m. I woke up to a man walking down the aisles shouting."

The video has over 320 comments.

One wrote: "No toilets what" and "this actually sounds like my personal nightmare."

Another wrote: "There’s no amount of money I could save that would make this worth it, 20 hours and no bathroom is insane."

Immediately TikToker Remy Gumbs, 27, from the U.K. also posted a video in defense of sleeper buses, asking her followers: "What do you... expect for such low prices?"

Remy Gumbs poses for a photo on Hanois Train Street in August 2023. Photo courtesy of Remy Gumbs

Remy Gumbs poses for a photo on Hanoi's Train Street in August 2023. Photo courtesy of Remy Gumbs

She revealed video footage, which has gone viral on social media, showing her journey from Ho Chi Minh City to the south-central beach resort of Mui Ne on a sleeper bus for just $10.

Gumbs said with such a extremely cheap price we should not require luxury services.

"I think that's a bargain," she added.

"It's cheap and so affordable for long-distance travel compared to other transport [options]... sleeper trains are more expensive and I feel you get the same standard of travel," she told MailOnline Travel.

Known to foreigners as sleeper buses, but the vehicles also run during daytime as well, serving long-haul travel. Many are economy class buses with 22-41 beds, while some high-class buses have more private, spacious cabins equipped with TV screens and chargers.

Gumbs's video defending Vietnamese sleeper buses has reached 1.5 million views on TikTok and received hundreds of comments.

Gumbs said that sleeper buses in Vietnam often do not have toilets, but the drivers always stop along the way so passengers have a little time to eat, drink and do personal hygiene.

A TikTok account namely Emily commented on Gumbs's video that she was willing to spend $10 to travel by sleeper bus. "This price is too good."

Another Tiktoker named Gary commented: "I need this vehicle in the U.K., especially to travel to neighboring destinations like Spain, it will be very convenient."

Gumbs also pointed out the inconvenience was that the bed area is small compared to the height of most Western tourists. In return, the plus point is that the sleeping area has neon-colored LED lights, creating a "relaxation" feeling.

Tasha Amy from New Zealand, owner of travel blog Backpackers Wanderlust, who rode a Vietnamese sleeper bus in October, also said one of the biggest obstacles of sleeper buses for Western passengers is that the bed size is "designed to fit the height of Asian people" and those who are around 180 cm tall would find it "hard to straighten their legs" when booking a regular class bus.

She said this vehicle was popular with locals but foreign tourists needed to consider and research the bus company carefully before deciding to book a ticket.

Aaron Spray from Canada, who used to visit 80 countries and territories, shared his feelings about the experience of taking a sleeper bus in Vietnam on Canadian magazine The Travel last June.

He said night bus trips in Vietnam were quite safe, especially for female tourists.

No toilet on the bus is also a minus point of Vietnamese sleeper buses, Spray said, adding the travel time was "quite long" because the driver stopped to "pick up passengers along the way."

However, these things were "part of the experience," he added.

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