Taking the Bus from Hanoi to Nanning

Julie China, Vietnam 19 Comments

To enter China from Vietnam, we chose to travel overland by taking the bus from Hanoi to Nanning.  By traveling overland we saved the huge expense of airplane travel and we got to see parts of Vietnam and China that many travelers miss.

Taking the Bus from Hanoi to Nanning

Map

Hanoi, Vietnam to Nanning, China

There are two buses that take passengers from Hanoi to Nanning, leaving at 7:30 am and 9:30 am.  We chose the 9:30 bus so we would not be rushed in the morning.  We booked our tickets through our hotel, the Hanoi Old Centre Hotel, two weeks prior to the trip.  A ticket costs $35 per person for the entire journey from Hanoi to Nanning.

Vietnam Bus

The Vietnamese bus

A taxi dropped us off at the “bus station” in Hanoi.  We were dropped off on a wide city street near the entrance to an upscale hotel.  With help of hotel staff we realized that our bus was parked across the street.  This would be the place where we would say goodbye to English.  Almost everyone here spoke Vietnamese or Mandarin, making this the first time on our one year trip where communication would be difficult.

There were no assigned seats on the bus and even though we arrived a half an hour early, most seats were already taken.  The four of us worked our way to the back of  the bus, finding four vacant seats almost in the very back.  Gradually the bus filled with people until every seat was taken.  We left right on time at 9:30.

Curtain Fix

The fix to stop the water from dripping on passengers.

As soon as we were moving, the air conditioner vents began leaking water at a few places on the bus.  Water was dripping down on the heads of several passengers, but fortunately we had chosen seats that remained dry.  The bus attendant took our curtains and those from the row in front of us, covering the vents with them and taping them in place.  Nice!  This fix really didn’t work.  Once the curtains were saturated the dripping would begin again.

At the halfway point to the border we took a half hour break at a rest stop.  For sale was warm bottled beer sitting out on tables, fresh fruit, and an assortment of packaged Vietnamese foods.  We stuck with our snack foods we purchased yesterday.

At 1:30, after exactly four hours on the bus, we arrived at Lang Son, the Vietnamese border town.  I know the people in the wet seats were happy to get off.  We were done with this bus for the day and a second bus would take us from the border to Nanning.

Golf Cart

Border shuttle

Everyone gathered up their luggage and were handed badges on lanyards.  These badges helped border personnel know where to direct us next and which bus to take once crossing over into China.  Then we were directed to shuttles that drove us the short distance to Vietnamese border control.  These shuttles are green, electric powered carts holding up to 15 people and their luggage.  Being on these reminded me of being transported from the parking lot to the entrance of Disney World.

Badge

The badge we were given to help direct us across the border.

We entered a large, air conditioned building and waited in line to be stamped out of Vietnam.  This process was slow and the line slowly inched forward.  One security guard saw that we were waiting with children and bumped us up to the front of the line.  Traveling with kids has its perks!  All four of us were stamped out of Vietnam, and even with leap frogging the line this still took forty-five minutes.

From the Vietnamese building we boarded another oversized golf cart with our backpacks and crossed the border into China.  China!!  Hooray!  We were stopped by a security guard who looked very official and even a little intimidating in his camouflage uniform, and he checked over our passports.  He proceeded to speak to us in Chinese and Tyler and I were barely catching any of it. The people behind us translated for us, which was nice.  They were very friendly and loved seeing how excited we were to be in China.

The cart dropped us off at the Chinese border post.  We filled out arrival cards, which are available upon entering the building, and quickly cleared immigrations.  This process was easy and efficient, only taking us twenty minutes.

China Bus Station

China bus station

We boarded our last golf cart to the bus station.  From here we boarded our second bus of the day and this one looked no better than the first.  It was old and dirty but at least the air conditioner did not leak water onto the passengers.  At 3:30 pm, two hours after arriving the border, we were on our way.  The distance we traveled from the border to Nanning was farther than the distance traveled in Vietnam but would go much faster.  In China, we were back on wide highways, nice smooth roads with no motorbikes, cows, or people in the way.  The bus ride was smooth, not lurching from side to side to pass obstacles, not slamming on the brakes to avoid hitting a goat in the road.  It was so nice.  Tim and I almost felt like we were home, with the wide highways, large, green street signs, power lines neatly strung along the road on tall, metal poles, and trees along the roadside.

At 6 pm Hanoi time, 7 pm Nanning time (China is one hour ahead of Vietnam) we arrived in Nanning.  Nanning is a much larger city than I was expecting and is also very modern, a pleasant surprise.  What a nice welcome to China.  We were dropped off at the Langdong Bus Station.  Another wonderful change since entering China:  there was not one single taxi or tuk tuk driver hounding us to use their service.  Thank goodness!  Everyone grabbed their bags and scattered from the bus station.  In just two minutes we were standing in the dark on our own.  Once we walked out onto the city streets there was no problem finding that taxi that we needed, and in no time at all we were checking into our next hotel.

Continue the journey with First Impressions of China.

Taking the bus from Hanoi to Nanning

Comments 19

  1. Your blog is truly fantastic. The pictures are amazing, and your travel style seems to be style. Hiking to base camp — that is my dream!!! Northern Norway is high on my bucket list too. It seems one of the most amazing places in the world. Might I suggest that you add Newfoundland to your bucketlist? In August, there are thousands, and I mean, thousands, of whales around, and some of the best hiking I’ve ever down in my life. Look up the Spout path. Google Newfoundsanders.

    On this note, I have not been to Vietnam yet, but I lived in Thailand for three years and I currently live in China, so my trip to Thailand, I was thinking of taking the bus or train back to China via Nanning. Vietnam has always been on my list.

    How did you know which bus to get on from the station in Hanoi? I hear that Hanoi is crazy on overcharging on taxis and food. Something as simple as getting from the airport to the hotel seems a bit daunting to me. I don’t know why — I’ve been to so many countries and learned language. I guess the older I’ve gotten the more exhausting I find these things.

    1. oops, sorry, I really typed that wrong. the whales are pretty scarce in August. Its more in July that you see them. and a lot of icebergs in the spring and early summer. Newfoundland is sort of home for me.

    2. Post
      Author

      Hello Sarah. We arranged our bus through our hotel in Hanoi. They drove us right to the bus, but it was not at the bus station. It was parked on the side of a random road. Without our hotel arranging it and dropping us off, we would have been lost. We have learned that hotels do so much more for you than just give you a place to sleep! Newfoundland sounds wonderful, we always like new hiking destinations! Cheers, Julie

  2. Hi, I was reading your blog and Im planning a trip from Hanoi to China ( most likely the first stop will be Nanning). I am trying to get my visa for China and I need to send them an “itinerary”. So I was wondering what the name of the bus company was? And did you switch companies at the boarder or is it just one?
    Please let me know, any info is greatly appreciated!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Adriana. I do not know the name of the bus company. We booked it through our hotel in Hanoi just a few days prior to our journey. Getting those Chinese Visas can be so difficult! For Visas from the US, I do not think we had to prove how we were getting into China. This was almost a year ago for us, but we stated on the application that we would be traveling overland by bus. We had no proof at the time since we didn’t actually have the bus tickets until we were in Hanoi. For us, just declaring our overland border crossing was sufficient. What is much more important to China is how you will be exiting the country. Without a doubt you will need to have that arranged, and having a flight out of the country is just what they want to see. For the itinerary and flights, what some people do is to purchase cheap airline flights and hotels and then cancel them once they get the Visa. Could you purchase a plane ticket from Hanoi to Nanning and cancel it later? Or, take your chances like us, and just list your plans for the overland journey. I know it can be nerve wracking, and you do not want to waste those exorbitant visa fees. Maybe give the consulate a call for clarification? I hope this helps! – Julie

  3. hi, may i know which hotel/hostel to you stay at Nanning? and how much the taxi cost for a ride to your hotel/hostel?

    1. Post
      Author

      We stayed at the Green Forest Hostel in Nanning. I do not remember the cost of the taxi, Sorry! It was not very much money because it was not very far from the bus station to the hostel.

  4. Hello,

    Thank you for information.

    I planning to go to VN trough Nanning China by bus for shopping. I guess my baggage will be excess about 4-5 bags, around 400-500 lbs 🙂 when I back from VN to China. So, is there any custom and other problem? If so what can I solve it?
    Please advice me with your expeirences,

    Thank you,
    Baggie

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Baggie,

      Unfortunately, I do not know enough about entering China with bags filled with your purchases. I do not know if there is a weight or quantity limit to what you are transferring across the border. Of course, it also matters what is inside of those bags. You might consider contacting customs personnel in China regarding your question. They would be able to answer this question much more accurately than me. -Julie

  5. Hi, first of all what a fun and adventurous family you are, congrats!
    I have a question, I’ll be doing Nanning-Hannoi route, I can’t find any website (nor companies) to book online, can you name ones, send me their websites links or can I just book it on day before the departure?
    Thanks in advance!

    Milo.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Milo,

      As far as I know, there is no way to book the bus tickets online. We had our hotel (Hanoi Old Centre Hotel) book our tickets for us ahead of time. Most hotels in Hanoi should be able to do this for you. You can even contact them and have them reserve your tickets before you arrive in Hanoi. Depending on the time of year, I don’t think I’d wait for the day before to get the tickets,as there is a limited number. If you don’t want to book the tickets through a hotel, there will also be travel companies in the city that will be able to assist you.

      -Julie

    1. Post
      Author
  6. Hi! Your blog is very interesting. My husband and I are planning a trip throughout Asia and want to take the exact journey you took (Hanoi to Nanning) but we’ve hit a stumbling block with our visas. Our Chinese consulate requires evidence of an itinerary, including a ticket showing our entry into China. As you can’t book the bus so far in advance it’s left us stumped. How did you get around this?

    Any information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello,

      Getting those Chinese Visas can be so difficult! For Visas from the US, I do not think we had to prove how we were getting into China. This was almost a year ago for us, but we stated on the application that we would be traveling overland by bus. We had no proof at the time since we didn’t actually have the bus tickets until we were in Hanoi. For us, just declaring our overland border crossing was sufficient. What is much more important to China is how you will be exiting the country. Without a doubt you will need to have that arranged, and having a flight out of the country is just what they want to see. For the itinerary and flights, what some people do is to purchase cheap airline flights and hotels and then cancel them once they get the Visa. Could you purchase a plane ticket from Hanoi to Nanning and cancel it later? Or, take your chances like us, and just list your plans for the overland journey. I know it can be nerve wracking, and you do not want to waste those exorbitant visa fees. Maybe give the consulate a call for clarification? I hope this helps!

      -Julie

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