Hanoi is an excellent weekend getaway from Phnom Penh, filled with lots to see and perhaps more importantly, lots to eat. The last time I went to Hanoi, I spent a week scratching my head trying to figure out how to actually get there. But now that I’ve figured out, I’m here to tell you the best ways to get from Phnom Penh to Hanoi.
There are no direct flights between Phnom Penh and Hanoi. Vietnam Airlines flies the route with a 45-minute stop in Vientiane. The flight takes a little over three hours and costs start at $227 one way, or $355 for a round-trip ticket. Flights can often go up to as much as $600 return. To add insult to injury, they don’t serve alcohol on the flights. It’s possible that come high season they will start doing direct flights again, but right now there aren’t any scheduled.
Irritated by the price and schedule, I, like many intrepid expats, made my way to Hanoi with a mix of busing and flying, which can be done for less than $70 each way.
There are a number of buses that go between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City. The trip takes anywhere from six to eight hours depending on how things are at the border.
One of my favorites is the Giant Ibis bus from Phnom Penh to HCMC. They offer luxury buses with WiFi leaving every day at 8:00 a.m. Tickets cost $18 and include hotel pickup. You can book online (recommended) for an extra $1 and reserve a seat in advance.
I’ve also taken the less expensive Mekong Express (purchase tickets at BookMeBus) but many prefer Sapaco (which also can be booked online). Mekong cost $13, and offered WiFi on the bus up to the Cambodia border. Their buses are old and shabby, but they have a toilet on board and stop at a pretty decent restaurant with toilets for 20 minutes near Bavet. The land crossing was surprisingly painless. Even though I needed to get a visa on my way back, I wasn’t asked for a single bribe. You’ll need to get your Vietnam visa in advance, however. Insider tip: it’s cheaper to use a travel agent than to go to the Vietnam Embassy in Phnom Penh.
Once you’re in HCMC, it’s a $6 or $7 taxi ride to the airport (take Mai Linh taxis if you don’t want to experience the joys of rigged Vietnamese taxi meters). There are a dozen daily flights that fly the HCMC-Hanoi route, priced as low as $40. Vietnam Airlines is the most reliable but most expensive and they charge extra for one way fares. A better option is Jetstar Vietnam. They’re cheap and while Vietnam expats like to gripe about them, I’ve had pretty good experiences with them.
There’s a newcomer on the scene, Vietjet Air. I’d strongly recommend against using them. Although they have 6 flights a day on this route, they usually combine them to fill planes, and only run a few per day. Both of my Vietjet Air flights were cancelled, and I was moved onto one of the later flights. On the way there, it was only an hour delay. But on the way back it was a 5 hour delay. Definitely not worth the $5 savings. With any of these airlines, though, expect some delays and don’t schedule tight transfers.
If you’re not the flying sort, there are buses from HCMC to Hanoi, but they’re long and unappealing. Consider instead taking the Reunification Express, a train that runs the length of Vietnam. The trip is long, it’s 2.5 days and best to break it up with stops along the way. But you’ll see some of the most gorgeous countryside in Vietnam as you make your way up the country.
Another option for those just looking for cheaper flights is the new Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City route on Qatar Airways that’s priced at $215 return. Combine this with Jetstar and you can get to Hanoi for around $315.
Finally, another option is to get yourself to Siem Reap by bus, taxi, or plane, and fly Vietnam Airlines from there. They’ve got a direct flight from Siem Reap to Hanoi that usually starts at $340 return or $200 one way. Although this way is not always the cheapest, the flights with Cambodia Angkor Air line up well and allow for a long weekend in Hanoi. Happy Hanoi-ing!
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