Travelling by train can be one of the best ways to discover a new country – relaxing in your carriage, watching the scenery roll on by. And while sure, travelling through Vietnam by train might not always be a piece of cake, it’s an essential experience to have in the country.
Famous for the Reunification Express (the 1726km-long Hanoi–Saigon railway), you can traverse the entire length of the country. There’s a few key tips to know about train travel in Vietnam however, so we’ve got the essential info…
Travelling Through Vietnam by Train: What You Need to Know
1. Choose Your Seat Class Wisely
The comfort levels on trains in Vietnam vary hugely, so keep this in mind when choosing your ticket. Do you want to spend 35 hours (the time it takes on a “fast” train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh!) on a hard wooden berth? There’s four main ticket classes: hard seat, soft seat, hard sleeper and soft sleeper.
2. Don’t Expect Trains to Arrive Bang on Time
We suggest you be at the platform at least 10 minutes before the scheduled departure time, especially if it’s the first stop on the route, but delays often happen. You should just roll with the inevitable stops (and possible breakdowns) along the way, and keep plans flexible.
3. Try to Book in Advance
Keep in mind that the official Vietnam Railways website does not accept payments from international cards, so you will likely have to book your ticket via a third-party site (see below) or in person at the station. If you do book at the station, you will need a passport of official ID of every passenger.
4. You Can Bring Your Motorbike With You
This is a great way to enjoy travelling Vietnam by bike yet covering longer distances. You can bring you bike on all trains in Vietnam, but you will need to buy a ticket for it. This can cost between $30 (small moped ) up to $70 (500cc motorbike). You’ll also have to pay an unloading fee of around 50,000vnd.
5. But Try to Keep Luggage Light
The space on the trains can be tight, so try to avoid bringing large suitcases or huge, bulky backpacks. The corridors are very narrow so you might struggle to get your bag down to your carriage. If you’re in a sleeper berth, the only real space for storage is under the bottom bunk and chances are your bed partner will have nabbed this space for themselves.
6. Bring Snacks and Entertainment for Long Journeys
You can buy some snacks on longer train journeys, but it’s mostly just instant noodles. If you’re going to be taking a long journey we suggest bringing your own food and snacks. While some newer trains do have WiFi, this is still rare. So load up on those podcasts and bring a book.
7. Keep Personal Belongings Close By
Petty crimes are rare on public transport, but if you’re taking an overnight train and will be sleeping then it’s best to play it safe and keep all valuables on you at all times.