The alternative to the trains are Open Tour Buses. These run frequently between tourist spots and can usually be booked through your accommodation or local travel agent. They are the cheapest method of transport and are excellent. I travelled on both shorter and overnight journeys and each was very comfortable. The buses aren’t ‘buses’ as we’re used to in the UK; they have almost fully reclining seats which allow you to stretch out. I had some great sleep on these buses!
As I’ve mentioned the food was one of the main highlights for me. You can sample the most delicious and fresh dishes on the street, crouched down on a little stool. My ‘must try’ foods are: Rolls filled with sticky sesame pork, salad and chilli; Pho (Noodle Soup); Banh xeo (pancake filled with shellfish or pork) and Bi Cuon (Rice paper rolls filled with shredded pork, salad and chilli). Lastly you can’t go without trying a Vietnamese coffee (iced with condensed milk). Yummy!
The best time to visit Vietnam is March- May or October – December. I visited in March and it was hot in the south and cooler in the North, but the weather was reliable. We found 3 weeks was just enough time to pack in stops along the coast and travel overland. Backpacking in Vietnam is easy, safe and very cheap. If you plan your time you can see and do a lot in 3 weeks! I loved Vietnam and it will always have a special place in my heart as my first Asian experience.