As many travelers would think, taking a train in Asia is quite an adventure. In fact, this kind of transportation is safe, comfortable, and affordable.
We have listed some travel tips here to help you have a smooth train trip in Vietnam.
Reservations on domestic Vietnam trains open 60 days prior to departure. Tickets for a couple of long-distance trains, such as the Hanoi to Saigon train, are released 90 days in advance.
International train tickets from Hanoi to Nanning and Hanoi to Beijing are released 20 days before departure.
Booking tickets in advance is recommended, especially during peak seasons and holidays. Sleeper tickets are usually sold out weeks in advance. Purchasing tickets online with a reliable travel agency like Train Spread is the most convenient option.
For a long-distance train journey, such as Hanoi to Saigon, a soft sleeper is the best recommendation. It is safe, comfortable, and provides great privacy.
A lower berth is more expensive than an upper berth. If you are traveling with children, ask for a lower berth to prevent them from falling off an upper berth.
Upper berths can be very cold as they face the air-conditioning outlets. It is a good idea to take warm clothes with you.
A hard sleeper is more cost-effective than a soft sleeper but there will be two more people sharing your compartment. It’s a good choice if you are in a group of six people or the soft sleeper is fully booked.
Soft seats and hard seats are only suitable for short train journeys that are less than 6 hours.
Railways in Vietnam are predominantly meter gauge. Trains are shaky and noisy when running. If you are a light sleeper, you might have trouble getting to sleep.
You can board your train 40 minutes before departure. Pay attention to which platform your train is on. Most of the stations only have signs in Vietnamese.
1. Train ticket: Domestic trains in Vietnam have an e-ticket service. After your booking is confirmed, you will have a reserved seat or berth, and the e-ticket will be sent to your email address.
For boarding, you can either print out the email or exchange the e-ticket for a paper ticket at a ticketing machine in the station.
For an international train, there is no e-ticket service. A paper ticket is needed to take a train.
2. ID documents: All the passengers’ ID documents (passports) are needed.
According to the Vietnam Railways policy, the free luggage allowance is 32 kg per ticket, and the total dimensions (width + height + depth) of an item of baggage must not exceed 203 cm. This policy is not strictly enforced though.
However, it would be more convenient to pack your things into small luggage because the railways in Vietnam use meter gauge and the trains are quite small with narrow corridors.
Small baggage also makes it easier to move on the train and avoid getting stuck.
There are dining cars attached to the trains in Vietnam but the food on board is limited in choice and is usually overpriced. It is a good idea to buy your own food before you get on the train.
A food trolley goes back and forth selling pots of noodles, soup, snacks, and water. Take a cup with you as boiling water is available at the end of each car.
A food ordering service is provided in the soft sleeper class. The attendant takes a menu for you to order and will bring the food to your berth. An extra service fee will be added to the price.
Facilities vary according to the type of train. Some trains have Western-style toilets while others only have Asian-style toilets. Toilet paper is provided but always runs out so always take your own toilet paper.
Trains are a safe form of transportation in Vietnam but there are always scams at the train stations. Keep your luggage close and always keep your valuables in a bag that you carry with you at all times.
Trains in Vietnam are always delayed. To avoid getting off at the wrong station, if you are going to get off at an intermediate station, ask the conductor to remind you upon arrival.
There are four ways of buying Vietnamese train tickets.
There are two trains running between China and Russia including Trans-Mongolian Railway.