Nanning to Hanoi by bus – It’s a long day, but by far the cheapest way to Travel from China to Vietnam.
There are 3 buses that leave every morning at 8am, 9am and 10am. We’re lazy so chose the 10am one, figuring we may as well give ourselves a bit of a lie in – we are on holiday after all???
Before you plan this bus journey make sure you have got your Vietnamise visa, Vietnam is the only country in South East Asia that will not issue you a visa at the border.
The bus station is quite a way from the centre of Nanning and pretty confusing place for someone that cannot understand a word of Chinese. When we arrived there was a bus boarding and we couldn’t tell whether it was ours or not but someone who was making the same journey as us tried to board it and was very quickly shouted down and told to wait, you won’t be allowed to get on the wrong bus.
By 10 we were off on our way to Pingxiang border (I still don’t know how to pronounce this!). Water was provided and around 2 hours in there was a rest stop, one nice surprise was an included meal just before the border.
We never say no to anything free so settled down to some pretty tasty grub. Hanging around the restaurant were unofficial currency exchangers and quite a few people did change a bit of Yuan into Dong but their exachange rate was wayyyyy off so we politely refused.
We arrived at the border around 1pm, as we got off the bus we were handed a lanyard which identified us as part of the coach company and we were looked after for the duration of the border crossing. Exiting China was incredibly easy, just fill out the departure card, hand it over with your passport, get a stamp and then x ray your bag, boom your out.
On the Vietnamese side it was a little more confusing, on entering you have to collect a form from the furthest window, only to walk back and give it to the first window. I am sure the guards must be sick of saying, “pick up form from last window” to everyone who walks in. Once you have the all important stamp it is just a quick check of your temperature and your done. None of this should cost you any money as you have already paid for your visa beforehand.
Although this sounds like a quick process, the border formalities took just over two hours. After this it is 4 hour ride to Hanoi including a 30 min rest stop. The Vietnamese bus wasn’t the most comfortable bus in the world, it felt like all the seats had springs in the backs so if you sat back you ended up jumping all over the place!
We arrived in Hanoi around 7pm, travelling for a total of 9 hours, not the 7 advertised! The bus doesn’t drop you off at a bus station but on a side of the road reasonably far from the old quarter, where most people stay.
Plenty of touts are ready waiting to take you anywhere you want to go. We ended up going with a “metered taxi” that charged us 160,000 VND (£5) to take us around 2/3 km. Even worse was that Poi had to push it a lot of the way as it broke down twice! He was nice, but the meter went up far too quickly, we probably paid twice or three times the going rate. My advice: try and book a taxi or try and get your hotel/hostel to pick you up.
We finally got to Hanoi Backpackers Hostel around 8pm. We checked in and was soon relaxing with some very cheap beer.
Overall the bus journey was extremely easy and pretty cheap when factoring in lunch and the free golf buggies ferrying round the border crossing. I would recommend this type of border crossing to anyone just be aware of the difference in quality between the Chinese and Vietnamese coaches on either side of the border.
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