You can get there both by bus and train from Hanoi capital. The city is just 153km South of Hanoi so it take about 3 hours for travel, bus ticket sold 90,000 - 100,000 dong for a seat on air-con bus, road in good condition. Train ticket (seat) costs 88,000 to 129,000 dong.
You can also get in from Xam Nua (Sam Neua), Laos for 180,000 kip (March 2011) via the Na Meo border crossing, takes about 10-12 hours along winding mountain roads in a small bus with padded seats; the aisle will be full of rice bags. Took 8 hours as of Feb 2013, 180,000K. Get the bus in Sam Neua at main bus station in town (not Nathong as you wait for it to arrive from main station). Driver or border guards will change money, but know the exchange rate and bargain them up!
Best choice in every town in Vietnam to get around is Xe Om as the Vietnamese call a moto-taxi, cheap and convenient, negotiate price before you ride. For a trip of 5km, pay 30,000 - 50,000 dong (~ 5,000 - 7,000 VND/km). Meter taxi are available with the same price throughout the country, call +84-37-858585 or simply 858585 if you use a landline phone in the town.
There are town buses you can use to get to the bus station and other areas around town.
The most touristy attraction near Thanh Hoa is Bien Sam Son beach which is 16km away; 170,000-200,000 dong by taxi; The beach have a lot of sea waves and it's the place to enjoy swimming. The beach is only crowded in summer from April to September. There are buses from Thanh Hoa city to the town, depart each 30 minutes from the bus station, 15,000 - 20,000 dong/ticket
Ben En National Park is a good destination for ECO tours. This park is located 46km South West of Thanh Hoa city, 16,000 hectares of mountains and jungles with many kind of wild animals and tropical trees. There is a big lake in the park, covering 4,000 hectares of surface with 21 islands make an amazing landscape.
You can come to Ben Sung town by bus no.16, price 15,000 - 20,000 VND/ticket and go to Ben En by taxi (50,000 - 60,000VND)
Most commonly found foods in the central area include Pho, Bun Bo Hue and Com. For those craving fast food, a Jollibee franchise, selling fried chicken, chicken sandwiches, fries, etc, can be found in the top floor food court area of the Co-Op Supermarket.
Some restaurant owners have been known to overcharge for meals, so make sure you confirm the price in advance.
The majority of hotels are in the 200,000 VND range.
Hanoi - frequent buses from the bus station or flag down on Highway 1. Ninh Binh - a good base for visiting Tam Coc or Cuc Phuong National Park. Takes just over an hour. 40,000 VND. Sam Neua - daily bus to Laos, 180,000 kip or 500,000 dong. Departs at 8 am. Bus is frequently loaded heavily with cargo and many more people than seats and in this case moves very slowly and you may need to get out to walk up the steepest hills on foot. Scheduled to take 8 hours but in March 2014 took 16 hours.