Vietnam Country Guide

Getting Around


By Train

Although more expensive than buses, trains are undoubtedly the most comfortable way to travel overland in Vietnam. There is one major train line in Vietnam i.e. the 1723-kilometre trunk between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, on which the Reunification Express runs. The journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City is more than 30 hours, but overnight hops between major destinations are usually possible, if not entirely convenient.
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There are shorter routes from Hanoi leading northwest and northeast, with international crossings into China. One of the most popular of the shorter routes is the overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, with bus service from Lao Cai to the tourist destination of Sapa. Riding on the train is a good way to see a cross-section of Vietnam's scenic countryside.

Air-conditioned soft or hard sleeper berths are available and purchasing as early as possible is a good idea as popular berths and routes are often bought out by tour companies and travel agents well before the departure time. Booking at the train station itself is generally the safest way, just prepare on a piece of paper the destination, date, time, number of passengers and class. However, unsold tickets can often be bought last minute from touts hanging around at the station. Commissions on these tickets will drop away as the departure time draws nearer.

Soft seat train cabin by anjci

Always try to buy your tickets at least 3 days in advance, to avoid disappointment, especially during the peak holiday season, during which you should try to book at least a week in advance. Seat or sleeper type cabins are marked on the ticket but are in Vietnamese. There is a common scam with some travel agents where you pay them to book a soft-sleeper ticket, but they book you a cheaper hard-sleeper ticket. You wouldn't know you've been scammed (unless you understand Vietnamese written on the ticket) until you board the train and your berths are in the lower class. By then with the train on the verge of departing it is too late to go back to the agent to demand compensation.

On the Reunification Express by Santi LLobet

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