Travelling by train in Vietnam is a great way to see the country. It is one of the best ways to experience Vietnam as locals do. The train lines in the country are good and can be quite modern. Air conditioned carriages, together with the costs being quite low make travelling by train quite appealing.
You can actually travel the length of the country by train, all the way from Saigon to where Vietnam borders China at it’s very north.
Some of the routes that the trains take in Vietnam offer a way of seeing some of the spectacular scenery the country has to offer that you might not be able to see at any other time.
Take for example the Hanoi to Saigon line. Parts of this runs along the coast, with the spectacular green cliffs, small islands in the South China Sea and unspoilt beaches that you pass along the way making it unforgettable. The contrast between the blue skies and the green forested hills is quite spectacular and you will find yourself looking out of the window for most of the journey.
Planning your journey
Before you travel make sure you have made a reservation. All trains require that you have a reservation. You will be given a specific seat and carriage number that you need to stick to. You will need to have separate tickets for each part of your journey. So lets say you are wanting to travel between Hanoi and Saigon but plan on visiting different places along the way you will have to buy individual tickets for each part of the journey.
It’s a good idea to book in advance if you want to be assured of a seat or you want to get a number of seats next to each other.
Vietnamese trains are comfortable and easy to travel on. They have air conditioning and the most modern trains have plug sockets. Western style toilets can be found in the corridors. Snacks and drinks are generally served by a trolley service that moves up and down the trains.
Types of compartments
If you are sleeping on the train you will normally sleep on a soft sleeper. These are compartments that have four berths that are supplied with sheets, pillows and duvets. It is actually a comfortable way to travel during both the day and night. Western travellers may sometimes find it difficult to share a four berth sleeper with other travellers as you aren’t able to hire a whole compartment if there are less than four of you.
There are also hard sleepers that aren’t as comfortable as the soft sleepers. These compartments have six berths, compared with the four that the soft sleepers have. The hard sleepers don’t have the same facilities as the soft sleepers but are adequate for a nights travel, any longer might not be so comfortable.
For day only journeys there are soft and hard seats. The soft seats are air conditioned but aren’t adequate for sleeping, a soft sleeper would be better. The hard seats are as the name suggests, wooden seats. These don’t have air conditioning, only windows that open. Obviously prices are relative to the comfort levels you can expect.
There is an alternative, which is private sleeping cars which are only used on a small number of trains. These have more luxury including air conditioning, food and water, comfortable bedding and good toilet facilities, but they are obviously more expensive than other types of transport.