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Train Travel in Vietnam for a Change of Pace

train travel in Vietnam

Humdrum flights or unpleasant experiences being cramped in a tiny bus may make your journey less interesting than it should be. It’s time to slow down and enjoy things in a laid-back way. Train travel in Vietnam is the best way to get around Vietnam if you want gaze out in awe at stunning landscapes across the country.

The fact is, not many locals prefer taking the train through the country for sightseeing these days. Obviously, train travel sounds extremely old-fashioned and even weird to those who have to reach their destination as fast as possible. On the other hand, sitting on a train is a good chance for an interesting change of pace and experiences.

On board, we will discover how Vietnam’s hidden gems slowly reveal their beauty from one stop to another.

Train travel in Vietnam

The Vietnamese railway system was opened by the French in the 1930s, with a stretch of more than 2,600km from the North (Hanoi) to the South (Ho Chi Minh). The trains run through almost all main cities and tourist attractions in the country.

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Different types of trains are indicated by initials SE and TN.

  • From the North to the South, there are SE1, SE3, SE5, SE7, SE9, SE11, TN3, TN5.
  • From the South to the North, there are SE2, SE4, SE6, SE8, SE10, SE12, TN2, TN4.

All these trains depart every day with different schedules. The seating and sleeping options also vary. You can consider the best options that match personal interests and the length of your trip.

  • Hard seat: the cheapest ones, with rather uncomfortable wooden seats, suitable for short distances.
  • Soft seat: reclinable seats which are slightly more comfortable, good for daytime travel.
  • Soft sleeper (with lower and upper berth): usually provided with thick mattresses and four bunk beds.
  • Hard sleeper (with lower, middle and top berth): the same as soft sleepers, but come with six bunks.

All options come with air-conditioners, except for the hard seat which you can choose either air-conditioned or non air-conditioned ones.

How to book train ticket in Vietnam

You can book a train ticket directly at your hotel, travel agency or buy one at a train station. During the peak season like Tet holiday, it is highly recommended to book your ticket in advance to secure the best seat and time.

Visit Vietnam Railways website, Bao Lau or 12go.asia for online tickets. After successfully booking, your e-ticket will be sent to your email. You just need to present it for a QR check before boarding.

Read refunds policy carefully before you confirm payment.

A ticket from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh will cost you $62 (soft seat), $84 (hard sleeper) and $88 (soft sleeper).

Most popular train routes

train travel in vietnam
Photo by SenuScape from Pexels

The trains pass by mesmerizing tourist spots, letting passengers enjoy Vietnam’s unique scenery in comfort and tranquility. All aboard and feel the relaxing vibes while traveling by train in Vietnam now.

From Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh

The railway from the North to the South of Vietnam named the Reunification Express is the most relaxing way to marvel at the beauty of the country. The line connecting Hanoi and Saigon was once pending as Vietnam was divided into north and south. The railway’s reopening in 1976 marked the reunification as its name suggests.

The travel length is around 34 hours, departing earliest at 6 a.m. The ticket price starts from $50. You can depart from Hanoi Train Station which is at the western end of Tran Hung Dao Street. The Saigon Railway Station is located on Nguyen Thong Street in District 3, near Ky Dong Church. The staff can speak English and accept both VND and USD.

From Hanoi to Sapa

Sapa is a celebrated tourist attraction in Vietnam with Mount Fansipan, the tallest peak in Indochina. If you plan to travel between the end of the year and March, it is highly recommended to book your train in advance to secure your seat.

It takes about 8 hours to travel from Hanoi to Lao Cai Station, the end of the line. Then you have to transfer to the city center by a minibus or taxi. Most tourists opt for overnight train Hanoi to Sapa so that they can sleep on the train and start their sightseeing tour the following day. The ideal schedule is to depart at 10 p.m. and arrive in Lao Cai at about 6 a.m.

Here are some train options for you to choose: Dream Express, Fanxipan Express, Livitrans Express, King Express, and Orient Express. They are quite similar in terms of price and services.

Each cabin is air-conditioned and provided with soft pillows, matresses and slippers. There are also electrical sockets and free water.

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From Hanoi to Halong Bay

Among many ways to get to Halong Bay, one of the most fascinating UNESCO World Heritage sites in Vietnam, taking a train from Hanoi to Halong Bay is the cheapest one with just less than $4.5 for a one-way ticket.

You can catch the train at Yen Vien Station in Hanoi at 4:55 a.m. and arrive in Halong at 11:41 a.m. The train to and from Halong City will take more than 6 hours for each leg. If you don’t mind traveling for long hours for a day trip in Halong, this is a safe, budget-friendly means of transport that gives you a wonderful view.

From Danang to Hue

There are 4 trains belonging to the Reunification Express on this route. The 4-hour train running across 103km will take you past Hai Van Pass where the scenic ocean meets gigantic mountains. That’s a view you will never forget whether it is your first trip to Vietnam or not.

The best thing is trains usually slow down when passing through Hai Van Pass, and that will be a great opportunity to take in the most beautiful landscapes that nature has to offer. From Lang Co Bay to Chan May Beach, the allure of azure waters will treat your eyes and your soul nothing less than perfection.

If you reach the end of this route to Hue Station, there will be another 5-minute transfer to Hue’s fabulous Imperial City and get lost in the ancient vibes of the former capital of Vietnam.

From Danang to Qui Nhon

Luxury railway journeys connecting Danang and Qui Nhon are brought to you by The Vietage, the Indochinese-style train carriage passing by lush fields and stunning coastlines of the Central Coast.

During the 6-hour ride, 12-reservation-only seats ensure the best privacy and comfort that can be described as home away from home. In addition to polished interiors, a sit-up bar offers fantastic sensations with a range of local craft beers and wines. Spa treatments are also available.

The one-way ticket will cost you $185 including some special services. The trains depart from Danang at 9:31 a.m. and arrive at Dieu Tri Station in Qui Nhon at 3:43 p.m. You can now soak up the culture, nature and history at the destination.

From Ho Chi Minh to Phan Thiet

One of the most beautiful train routes that many locals love is the Saigon-Binh Thuan (Phan Thiet). The length of this journey is 4 hours with the earliest departure at 6:40 a.m. There are soft seats and hard seats as always along with air-conditioned compartments.

As Binh Thuan is famous for wonderful gardens of dragon fruit, there is no better way to admire how vast these gardens are than to see them through a window of your train. The peaceful atmosphere here is a great introduction to the typical countryside in Vietnam.

When you arrive at Binh Thuan Railway Station, it’s time to catch your breath a little bit before discovering hidden gems throughout the land like Ke Ga Lighthouse, Ta Cu Pagoda or Po Sah Inu Towers.

For your next journey traveling by train in Vietnam, sit back and get astonishing views of Vietnam’s most pristine beaches and tranquil fields. Let the sights slowly melt into your memory.

© Maika Tours

Written by Trinh Tran

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