If you’re traveling in Vietnam on a budget and you have plenty of time to spend in the country, there’s a good chance that you’ll be taking an overnight train. Taking the train is so much cheaper than having to book a domestic flight.
Just like with taking overnight trains in other Asian countries, taking an overnight train in Vietnam is such an exciting adventure. Sure, it might take a while before you can get used to the chaos. But once you get used to it, you’ll realize that taking overnight trains is actually one of the most enjoyable ways to travel in the country.
Here are some useful tips when traveling on an overnight train in Vietnam.
Book your Tickets in Advance
When traveling in Vietnam, it’s always a good idea to pre-book everything online, such as your accommodation, tours, train tickets, and even your Vietnam Visa. This is especially true if you’re traveling during the peak season and during holidays. However, this option may not be applicable to those who have a flexible plan or itinerary since some tickets are not refundable.
To book your train tickets, look for a travel agent online that can do this for you. Simply send an email to some well-known tour operators in Vietnam and see if they can acquire a ticket on your behalf. There are now plenty of websites that offer online booking services for train travels in Asia, including Vietnam, so you may want to check these websites out.
When you book online, you’ll receive a voucher through your email, which you will present at the train station. This is not the actual train ticket yet so you need to come early on your travel time and present the voucher so you’ll get your train ticket in exchange.
Plan Your Luggage Well
You need to think about your luggage when planning a train journey in Vietnam. The train’s luggage compartment is usually small and can only accommodate small sized luggage. You can choose to place the luggage beside you, but the corridors have limited spaces.
Also, if you’re carrying a backpack, you need to consider the size as well. If your backpack is too broad or large, you might have difficulty in passing through the aisles. As much as possible, travel light if you’re taking the train. Whether you are carrying a suitcase or a backpack, make sure that it is not too large so you can simply stow it in the compartment without causing hassles to other train passengers.
Choose the Lower Berth
It’s a common knowledge that the lower berth is more comfortable than the upper berth. So if you’re traveling for more than a day, you might as well take the lower berth because it can be such a hassle to have to get up and down your bed when you need to use the toilet. Also, some of the overnight trains in Vietnam don’t have a ladder that you can use to get up or down from the upper berth. This can be a problem if you’re having a knee injury or you’re a bit on the heavier side.
It May Not Arrive or Depart On Time
You need to know that trains in Vietnam are not too punctual. They either leave or arrive later than the scheduled time. Nevertheless, always come earlier than your scheduled departure time or you could miss your train. But it is not advisable to take the train on the same day that you have a flight to catch. Most of the time, the trains arrive a few hours late than the scheduled time. If you are flying out of the country, better book the train that will arrive at least a day earlier than your flight. This is to make sure that you will not miss your flight just in case your train will be delayed, or worse, be canceled.
You Can Purchase Food On Board
You don’t need to bring your own food when taking the overnight train in Vietnam because you can simply buy them on board. But if you are picky with food, you can bring your own just to be safe. Most of the foods that are being sold on board are instant noodles and some packed snacks. There are some local vendors that may sell food at some stations. However, choose your food well to avoid food poisoning. This can be a very unpleasant experience when you’re traveling on the train.
Beware of Scams
Upon arriving at the train station, look for the counter of the travel company you have booked your travel voucher from instead of asking some locals to help you find it. There are incidences where touts would offer to help unsuspecting tourists only to take you to a different travel company and be asked to purchase your ticket again. Use your common sense and always be alert at all times especially if you’re traveling on your own.