Trains are the best option to travel throughout Vietnam
Vietnam is a country located on the Indochina Peninsula, Southeast Asia, the Pacific coast. Vietnam has a land border of 4,550 km long borders with China to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west divide, the South China Sea to the east. On the map, Vietnam looks like an S-shaped strip of land, extending from latitude 23o23′ North to 8o27′ North, 1,650 km from North to South. The largest inland distance is around 500 km and the narrowest is only 50 km.
Vietnam has a north-south rail line running along the length of the country which is called ‘The North-South Reunification Line’. You will have the opportunity to see the majestic mountains, peaceful rivers and the rustic countryside along the journey when decide to travel in Vietnam by train. Moreover, travelling by train is not only safe and comfortable but also saves your money compare to travelling by plane.
The purpose of this article is providing information and guidance for you to travel in Vietnam by train. On a Vietnam rail’s map below, you can see the rail extends from North to South with a lot of train stations.
TRAIN TRAVEL WITHIN VIETNAM
- I. What kind of train in Vietnam
- 1. The Reunification Express Train ( belong to Vietnamese Railway Administration)
Train between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh (Sai Gon ) are sometime referred to as the Reunification Express by guide books and tourist agencies, although there are now several trains on this route and no single train officially carries this name.
The North – South Reunification Line : Hanoi-Hue-DaNang-Ho Chi Minh (Sai Gon)
Nowaday there are a whole range of daily air-conditioned trains linking Hanoi,Hue,Danang,Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh (Sai Gon). Here are the principal trains and additional trains at peak times as Lunar New Year (Tet Holiday in Vietnam) inlate January or February.
- SE1, SE2, SE3, SE4: The best trains, with air-conditioned soft sleepers (4-berth), air-conditioned hard sleepers (6-berth), air-conditioned soft seats
- SE5, SE6: Air-conditioned hard sleepers, air-conditioned soft seats, air-conditioned hard seats, and ordinary hard seats, No soft sleepers.
- SE7, SE8: Only runs at busy times, air-con soft sleepers, air-con hard sleepers, air-con soft seats.
- SE19, SE20: Air-conditioned soft sleepers, air-conditioned hard sleepers, air-conditioned soft seats, air-conditioned hard seats, ordinary hard seats.
- TN1, TN2: Air-conditioned hard sleepers (6-berth) & ordinary hard seats. No soft sleepers or soft seats.
- SNT1, SNT2: Air-con soft sleepers (both older & newer types), air-con hard sleepers (both older & newer types), air-con soft seats.
- SPT1/2, PT3/4: Air-con soft seats, also has various sleepers.
- 2. Train of Vietnamese Railway for itinerary Hanoi –Sapa
The line from Hanoi to Lao Cai was built by the French and opened in 1910 as part of the Vietnam to Kunming railway. The Lao Cai to Kunming section is currently out of commission following landslides in 2002, but for onward travel from Lao Cai to Kunming by bus. From Hanoi to Lao Cai is 296 km (185 miles)
- SP1 , SP2: Recommended train with few or no stops. Air-conditioned soft sleepers only. Most of this train consists of privately-run sleeping-cars for tourists, including Fanxipan, King, Ratraco, Orient Express, Royal, TSC, Tulico and several others, see the tourist sleeper section below.
- SP3 , SP4: Recommended train with very few stops. Air-con soft sleepers and air-con hard sleepers only. Much of this train consists of privately-run sleeping-cars including the Sapaly Express Train, TSC, and the Victoria Express Train, see the tourist sleeper section below.
- SP7, SP8: Recommended train. Air-con soft sleepers, air-con hard sleepers, air-con soft seats. Conveys privately-run Livitrans sleeping-cars, see the tourist sleeper section below.
- LC3, LC4: Daytime train. One carriage of air-conditioned soft seats, many carriages of wooden-seated non-air-con hard seats. Tea, coffee & snacks are available on board.
- LC1, LC2: Slower overnight train. Air-con hard sleepers, air-con soft seats, air-con hard seats, non-air-con hard seats. No soft sleepers
- 3. Tourist Train :
Tourist Train is owned by private. Private company rent one or two tourist sleeping-cars to attach to other train which is belong to Vietnamese Railway. They have 4-berth sleepers or 2-berth sleepers (VIP cabin) of higher standard than the regular ones, but the fares is higher.
- Itinerary : Hanoi – Hue – DaNang:
Livitrans private tourist sleeping-car : One or two privately-run Livitrans sleeping-cars are attached to SE1/SE2 between Hanoi, Hue and Danang, aimed at foreign tourists. They have 4-berth compartments of a better standard than the regular Vietnamese Railways sleepers. For Tet Holiday and high summer, these Livitrans cars sometime run attached to train SE5/SE6 rather than train SE1/SE2, so check again when booking.
- Itnirerary : Ho Chi Minh (Sai Gon ) – NhaTrang
Golden Train private tourist sleeping-cars : The privately-run Golden Trains sleeping-car is a cut above the regular Vietnamese railways sleepers between Saigon (HCMC) and the beach resorts of Nha Trang Train SNT1 & SNT2 have Golden Train tourist sleeping-cars attached between SaiGon and Nha Trang.
- Itinerary : Hanoi – SaPa
Livitrans , Fanxipan, Sapaly Expresss, Orient Express,Tulico,King, Hara, Friendly, TSC…
All these private operators offer berths in shared First Class 4-berth sleepers, and a few also offer a handful of VIP 2-berth sleepers . The sleepers all have air-conditioning, fresh clean bedding, complimentary mineral water and snacks, and clean western-style toilets. These private sleepers are very comfortable. Just remember that this is still Vietnam with Vietnamese standards, you’ll enjoy the trip more if you don’t turn up with unrealistic expectations of 5-star western-style luxury! Most of these private tourist sleeping-cars run attached to train SP1/SP2, though one or two (TSC and Sapaly) are attached to SP3/SP4 and Livitrans cars are attached to SP7/SP8.
II. What are Vietnamese train like
1. Air-conditioned soft sleepers
Soft sleeper compartments have 4 berths, each supplied with pillow, sheet and duvet and an individual reading light. By day you simply sit on the lower berths. Expect even the newer cars to be a bit tatty and grubby by western standards as they are intensively used, but overall soft sleeper is a pleasant and enjoyable way to travel, especially on the best trains, SE1- SE2- SE3-SE4. You keep all your bags with you, there is luggage space beneath the bottom bunks and in the large recess above the compartment door. Lower berths are recommended if you’re tall, as the upper berth has a support chain taking up an inch or two at each end.
The most modern cars used on the trains SE1 to SE8 have a 2-pin power socket for recharging your mobile or camera.You’ll find a western-style toilet usually kept supplied with soap and toilet paper at one or both ends of the corridor.
There’s a free water dispenser at the end of the corridor for both boiling and cold water, handy if you have bought some powdered soup, instant coffee or hot chocolate with you, or have bought some dried noodles from one of the stalls at the station. A trolley service comes down the train serving coffee, snacks, soft drinks and beer, and at meal times a member of the train staff will sell you a meal ticket for around 35,000 dong (£1 or $1.60). A set meal with mineral water will then be delivered to your compartment around half an hour later from the kitchen car.
At night, you’ll find a lock and usually an additional security lock on the door.
2. Air-conditioned hard sleepers
Hard sleepers compartments have 6 berths, lower, middle and top on each side, but apart from the extra two berths, the facilities are exactly the same as for soft sleepers in terms of power sockets, water dispenser, toilets, luggage space and meals.
If the soft sleepers are full or if you’re in a group of 5 or 6 people, you can choose Hard sleepers.
3. Air-conditioned soft seats
These can be recommended for daytime journeys or short journey such as Hanoi to Vinh, Ho Chi Minh to Phan Thiet or Hue to DaNang…
Air-conditioned hard seats
These have wooden seats in modern air-conditioned cars.You can choose Air-conditioned hard seats for short journeys for a few hours.
4. Ordinary hard seats
Wooden seats in much older cars without air-con. However, these cars have windows that open, which can be an advantage for photography
III. How to buy train ticket
This is a Vietnamese train ticket
Useful Vietnamese word :
Ngồi or Ghế = Seat
Nằm or Giường = Sleeper berth
Mềm = Soft
Cứng = Hard
Điều Hòa = air-conditioned
Toa = Coach
K4 = 4-berth soft sleeper compartment
K6 = 6-berth hard sleeper
Toàn vé = Full price (adult fare with no discounts)
1. Buy ticket at the train station
You can buy train ticket for most train journey within Vietnam at Hanoi and Saigon booking office, example : you can buy both Saigon-Danang ticket and Danang-Hanoi ticket in Saigon train station or Hanoi train station. However, at others stations such as Hue, Nha Trang or Phan Thiet, you can only book journey starting at the station you are at. You pay in Vietnamesse Dong, US Dollars are not accepted. You can not use credit card to pay.
You can buy train ticket easily when you get to Vietnam, the ticket is usually available. However, on Tet Holiday or peak time, you should book train ticket before some days.
Hanoi train station office :
Hanoi main station on Le Duan Street. Enter by the main doors and turn left into the booking office. Press a button on the box at the entrance (on the right of the right-hand photo) to get a numbered queuing ticket. Take a seat, and watch the illuminated board above the ticket counters (at top right in the photo) to see which counter to go to when your number comes up
Saigon train station office :
Saigon city centre train ticket office is at 275C Pham Ngu Lao.
The smaller downstairs ticket office (shown above) is for travel today, the main ticket office for advance bookings is upstairs. A numbered queuing system may be in operation, so look out for it. Press the button and take a ticket from the small box at the entrance to the ticket office, take a seat and watch the screens which will show you which counter to go to when your number comes up.
2. Buy ticket in advance via a travel agency
If you want to book train ticket for your journey before you get to Vietnam, you can order tickets through a local Vietnam train agency. These agencies naturally charge a fee or mark-up for their service, but it’s worth it to be sure of a ticket for your first choice of date, train and class.
- Vietnam-Railway.com (www.vietnam-railway.com)
This is a prestigious website.They have good services to satisfy your requests.
III. How much does train ticket cost
Some quickly question