Unlicensed coaches can be seen cruising the streets and flouting all rules as the demand for commuting options increases over the holiday season.

These buses have been operating in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, spurred by the growing need for travel options during the period leading up to the Lunar New Year (Tet), the most important and longest annual festival in the country.

In the southern hub, illegal ticket selling points have been spotted on many streets such as Vo Thanh Trang, Hong Lac, and Dong Den.

Some coach owners run promotional programmes to attract more passengers. For example, a travel enterprise in the corner of Dong Den street offers customers a chance to win valuable prizes such as motorbikes and television sets.

These unlicensed coaches can be found in other areas such as Le Hong Phong and Tran Phu streets in District 10 and Pham Ngu Lao street in District 1, offering trips to the Central region.

The problem is not new, as these buses are reported to have existed for years, disguised as tourist vehicles. There are even cases where coach owners hire land to build bus stops where they drop off passengers and sell tickets illegally.

Illegal bus stops are also causing a major problem in Hanoi. One of them is in Yen Phu Street where a number of 16-seat passenger buses travelling along the Hanoi route to the northern provinces of Bac Ninh, Bac Giang and Lang Son regularly stop to pick up or drop off passengers.

Unregistered bus stops can also be found in Hanoi in such places as Gia Lam, Giap Bat and Nuoc Ngam. Illegal passenger coaches often operate during rush hour at the intersection of Giai Phong street and in front of the My Dinh and Gia Lam bus stations.

Several unregistered buses travel from and to Giap Bat bus terminal in Hoang Mai district every hour. They park on the side of the road to pick up passengers, causing serious traffic congestion in several areas.

Several transport service companies operating in Ho Chi Minh City have taken advantage of the rise in the need for travel during Tet by raising the price of coach fares.

For instance, the cost of a bunk on coaches to central Thua Thien-Hue province has risen to 1.2 million VND (57 USD), and a seat to central Quang Ngai province on the 27th and 28th days of the lunar calendar (January 27 and 28 this year) has gone up to 750,000 VND (36 USD).

The prices announced by official bus stops range from 300,000 VND to 500,000 VND (14-24 USD).

According to State regulations, travel businesses are not allowed to raise fares on coaches by more than 60 percent for departures on January 24 and the days that follow.

Statistical data from Ho Chi Minh City's Department of Transport shows that over 100 travel service enterprises are plying illegally in the city.

"The city wants the department to crack down on illegal passenger coaches and bus stops. The police force will be working all day at bus stations such as Mien Dong, Mien Tay, An Suong, and Nga Tu Ga during peak hours to deal with the problem of unregistered coaches and bus stops," said deputy head of Ho Chi Minh City's Traffic Safety Board Nguyen Ngoc Tuong.

Hanoi police are also tightening the inspection of traffic violations to ensure passenger safety during the Tet festival by focusing on the prevention of illegal buses and stops.

A large police force from all districts in the city will be on guard on roads and near bus stops to curtail the business of unregistered passenger coaches.-VNA