How do I get from Banlung to Hoi An?
(Answered by friends' experience, April, 2011)
Sent a couple awesome Brits across the border. Here's their story (reprinted with their permission)...
As promised im just popping you an email to let you know how our border crossing went.
It was a long day but we managed to get much further than we thought we would. As you know we left the hotel at 7am. We got to the border pretty quickly and after the usual checks from the border patrol folks we were allowed into Vietnam with no fuss at all. It fully believe that my pretty face alone got us through (Jared's comment: Jimmy is in fact a very pretty man). The driver of the share taxi you guys arranged for us seemed to have some arrangement with a driver on the 'Nam side and put us in another taxi for a fee of $5 each. We had to wait for this taxi to fill up and then we were off to Pleiku. I did as you said and made sure I let one of the guys we were sat with know that we wanted to get to Pleiku bus station. I did this by pointing at the map a lot as no one spoke English (Jared's comment: To be honest though, Jimmy's English ain't that great either). They dropped us at the station and at this point we spent a little while working out where we could go next...
We decided on Hoi An! This was based on convenience of minibus times so I think anyone that does this trip can just figure it out with the booking people at the bus station and see what's available.
Hoi An seemed a little ambitious for one days travelling but we figured we might as well get the bulk of the trip out of the way as soon as possible! We'd arrived in Pleiku at roughly 11am and had to hang around until 1pm to leave. The other option was to head to Danang but the bus wasn't leaving until 7pm so that didn't work for us. So the first leg of our trip to Hoi An was a minibus/share taxi (whatever these things are called) to Quy Nhon. It cost 85,000 Dong each which we thought was reasonable. We met a Belgian couple who we'd chatted to briefly on the bus to Ban Lung earlier in the week (these were the guys you directed to the Tree Top Lodge when you came to pick us up from the bus station when we arrived in town). They were on the same minibus as us so this gave us some conversation on the trip! This section of our journey was fine with the usual stops to pick up anyone who was willing to squeeze inside with us.
It was at this point that I realised that Vietnam drivers are insane! Nothing more needs to be said on this matter.
After about 3 and a half hours the minibus was approaching a traffic light on the outskirts of Quy Nhon when the minibus to Hoi An turned up flashing it's headlights at the other side of the road. We were prompted to run across the road with our bags in hand and get on board. Easier said than done as there were so many people inside that there wasn't even room on the floor. They managed to put all four of us with the bags right at the bag. This was painful! We then had to argue with the bus people about the price of this part of the trip. We were told it would be another 85,000 Dong but they charged us $10 each. After a while we gave up arguing and paid up. I hope the driver treats himself to a few beers on us with the extra monies! We were sat back with the bags for another couple of hours (with beers!) before the minibus slowly began to empty at which point we had the luxury of a seat! It was at about 9pm that we were ushered off the bus and pushed on board a proper big minibus.
This was out fifth automobile of the day! We were on this for about 45 minutes and were then dropped off at what we were told was the Hoi An stop. It was in fact a stop next to a sign saying 'Hoi An 10km'. Luckily a meter taxi was parked nearby and we managed to wake up the driver and share the taxi with the two Belgians and a Vietnamese guy who had got off the bus at the same stop. This set us back about 140,000 dong split between five.
It was about 10pm that we arrived so all in all 15 hours of travelling. I'm not a big fan of arriving at night in a place but Hoi An is a really mellow place and looks rather lovely in the evening. The four of us strolled around for 20 minutes searching out a cheap hotel. We found a place for $10 a night which seemed reasonable, although i'm sure there are cheaper places further out from the main strip. (Jared's note: That's not bad)
We then enjoyed a cold beer and some dinner. Good times! Despite the multiple vehicle changes the trip was relatively stress free and the border crossing itself was no trouble at all.
Hope this is of some use and feel free to quote me...
Thanks again for the good times in Ban Lung - we have quite a few tales to tell after our stay and you and the other guys at the hotel were awesome!
Keep in touch and make sure you look us up if you ever make it to London town.
Jimmy and Joannie! xx
Jared's comments: This is a pretty long trip. Jimmy and Joannie weren't afraid of a little discomfort and paying a few extra bucks here and there and so turned it into a memorable experience. Thanks for letting me post this and happy travels...