Having crossed the border into Vietnam, avoiding the Khmer New Year in Cambodia, we had thinking about where next?
In the end we bought a flight to Japan, aiming for the relatively cheap period before Golden Week.
The flight departed from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), so we had to travel from Ha Tien to Ho Chi Minh City.
Getting from Ha Tien to Ho Chi Minh City
Ha Tien is a border town with Cambodia and it is also a gateway to Phu Quoc Island. It therefore attracts many tourists. Access to the big city of Ho Chi Minh City is also convenient, with buses operated by several bus companies.
We decided to go to the bus terminal with the intention of using FUTA (Phương Trang in Vietnamese), one of the largest and most reliable bus companies in Vietnam.
The bus terminal in Ha Tien is located on the south side across the Grand Bridge. I was a little confused because the bridge was busy and there were no footpaths, but the only way to get to the other side was to cross the bridge. We walked across and arrived at the bus terminal, which is 2 km from the city centre.
Once inside the building, there is a row of bus company counters, but there were not many people about.
At the end of the row of booths was a FUTA counter. However, no one is inside although there was a notice.
The FUTA ticket counter appears to be located elsewhere – out the back of the Terminal.
Passing through the bus terminal building and onto the square where the buses are parked, we saw the orange FUTA buses. Nearby, in a separate building, is the FUTA office.
On the wall was a bus timetable to Ho Chi Minh City. The ticket price was VND205,000 per person and the journey time is clearly stated as 8 hours.
When I told the counter that I wanted to take the bus at 8.30am the next day, I was told that the bus would be at 8.20am, not 8.30am. This is a daytime bus, but it will be a sleeper.
We asked for lower berths for our bed seats.
Furthermore, when we asked about a pick-up to our guesthouse the next morning, we were told that this would be arranged free of charge. When I showed her the business card of the guesthouse where I was staying, the woman at the reception desk seemed to know it immediately.
I paid the fare and was issued a ticket. The name of the guesthouse was written on the left side of the ticket. They would pick us up at the guesthouse at 7:40am the next morning. Excellent service!
Transfer from guesthouse to bus terminal
The next morning, after checking out and waiting at the hotel entrance, a minivan with the FUTA company logo arrived at around 7:45am.
With only one other local guest on board, the minivan crossed the main bridge to the bus station.
The minivan ride took a few minutes and we arrived at the bus station. This was the office where we had bought our tickets the day before.
When we entered the office and presented our tickets at the counter, the official took a piece of paper with the guesthouse’s name on it and replaced it with a piece of paper with the bus vehicle number instead.
The vehicle with the vehicle number was parked right in front of the office.
Boarding a sleeper bus from Ha Tien to Ho Chi Minh City
After a short wait in the waiting area, a woman from reception came and checked our tickets. We were told to get on the bus.
Sleeper buses do not allow shoes, so you have to take off your shoes to get on. The woman handed out plastic bags at the entrance and we put our shoes in them and boarded the bus.
The sleeping berths are three rows of bunk beds. The space between them is quite small, but as they were not full they did not feel so cramped.
The beds can recline, but are not designed to be totally flat.
We were able to place our daypacks on the upper bed because we could tell the bus would not be full to start with (or end with).
Small bottles of drinking water and wet wipes were given out before the bus departed.
Departure on time for Ho Chi Minh City
The scheduled departure time was 8:20 am and indeed the bus departed on time.
There were three passengers including us, as well as two bus company employees and the driver. Bottled drinking water was placed on several empty bed seats, so there must be people coming on board on the way.
Toilet and lunch breaks
After leaving Ha Tien bus station, the bus headed southeast along the coast, stopping at Rach Gia bus station just after 10.30 am.
We thought that the stop was for a toilet break, but the bus waited until 11am to leave.
The next stop was a lunch break, around 12.30am, at a rest stop lined with small shops selling mainly take-away food.
It was not a restaurant, but sold a variety of local food at normal prices.
The banh mi was small but filling. We also bought coconut-flavoured steamed sticky rice cake (VND15,000) and purple sticky rice with coconut (VND10,000). The bus stopped for about 15 minutes and then left.
Arrival in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
The bus arrived at the FUTA Bus Company garage in Ho Chi Minh City at around 4pm. We wanted to go to the South Bus Terminal, so we stayed on the bus.
After a short wait, the bus started moving again and arrived at the Ho Chi Minh City South Bus Terminal (Ben Xe Mien Tay) at around 4:30pm.