Vietnam’s air-conditioned trains are safe, inexpensive and comfortable. They are the perfect way for travelers to see the countryside at ground level while traveling between the cities of their choice. Train travel is a genuine way to experience Vietnam and can be an important part of your visit to this beautiful country.
Trains can actually be faster than flying when you take everything into consideration. And they are always much cheaper. In addition, sleeper trains will save you one night’s hotel bill as well. Air-conditioned trains with sleepers link the most popular Vietnamese cities of Danang, Hue, and Hanoi as well as Nha Trang and HCMC. There are also Hanoi trains to Lao Cai for connecting Sapa and to Haiphong for connecting Halong Bay.
Taking an overnight train in Vietnam is quite an adventure and if your at all flexible it’s one you should look forward to and anticipate with great expectation. On longer trips, trains are really far superior and much safer than cars with cramped seats and the crowded buses which can be very dangerous especially at night. When on the train you can stretch out, relax and hopefully sleep, causing the time to pass much quicker.
The View from the train
You will get a real insight into Vietnam—palm trees, rice fields, water buffalo, Vietnamese towns and villages. You will also experience another insight into the country that you will not have in a plane at 40,000 feet—you can experience the real Vietnam as much inside the train as you can by looking through a window at the countryside.
Passing the East Vietnam Sea the train snakes its way from the sea cliffs to the jungle covered cliffs past beaches and islands then turns up to the lush green mountains, passing through the Hai Van Pass to reach Danang. The route is known as “Deo Hai Van”, meaning, appropriately “Ocean Cloud Pass”.
Six things to know about trains – Plus two extras
- Book your trip in advance. Use either a travel agent or an online operator where it’s possible to use your credit card. You will receive a travel voucher which you print out and exchange for a ticket at the station. Look for the counter with the same name as the name on your voucher.
- Try not to travel on the train with large bags or oversized backpacks. It will make your travel much easier. The aisles on Vietnamese trains are quite small so carrying large bags through the train can be extremely difficult.
- If you have a sore knee try to book the lower berths, as the upper births on Vietnamese trains do not have ladders and can be difficult to enter, especially for elderly travelers. Not only are the lower berths easy to access but they are usually more comfortable for sleeping.
- While the bathrooms are clean, to be safe you should be sure and carry your own toilet paper.
- Expect the trains to arrive late—up to an hour or two.
- Bring extra food and water for snacking on your trip to supplement the train food which can be unsafe.
- As usual beware of scammers. Especially touts that will try to exchange your vouchers for false tickets.
- Enjoy the fantastic views of the Vietnam countryside.
Classes of Seats
Trains classified as SE are the smartest and fastest way to go while those referred to as TN are slower and older.
The four main classes are: hard seat, soft seat, hard sleeper and soft sleeper. They are further split into air-condition and non-air-conditioned. The hard seat class is usually packed with plenty of cigarette smokers.
The sleepers may include coaches with 2, 4 or 6 berths. If you want a coach without strangers you must purchase all the berths in the coach.
Not only is train travel much safer, I repeat, much, much safer than traveling on the road in a bus or car but it is also faster and much more comfortable. It can also be the cheapest when considering the various pricing options available on a train.
The Victoria Express Train
The premiere example of luxury train travel in Vietnam is The Victoria Express Train between Hanoi and Lao Cai and back. This 9-hour overnight trip is the best way for luxury travelers to get to the famous mountain trekking village of Sapa. The two luxury carriages attached to the regular ten o’clock Lao Cai train are both reserved exclusively for guests of the Sapa luxurious Victoria Hotel.
These two carriages may just be the most luxurious train experience in all of Southeast Asia. Travelers have a choice between a coach with two berths and a coach with four berths. Both are richly paneled in natural dark wood and exude a feeling of elegant luxury. In order to occupy the two-berth coach you must book both berths. Every thing here is good. The only thing to find objectionable is the price: between $200-$300 per person round trip depending on the time of year and the number of berths in the coach.
As you can see, train travel beats bus travel nine times out of ten. So…
Are you ready for a train ride?
If you are than call your favorite travel agent today and book your vacation of a life time. Vietnam here you come!
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