Is Vietnam travel by train a good idea?-ontario-passenger-train_705.jpgLocal trains

The local trains are slow (around 20 km/h) and stop at every station along the way. Since they don't have priority on the track they also spend a lot of time waiting for the express trains to come through. Seat options are hard, half, and soft seat.

Express trains

The Express train is ‘faster’ (50 km/h) and covers the railway from the north (Hanoi) to the south (HCMC).

There are different classes of ticket you can buy:

- Hard-seat or soft-seat.
- Hard sleeper berth (each cabin has 6 beds) or soft sleeper berth (each cabin has 4 beds), both with or without AC.

Booking in advance is preferable.


We didn't take the soft sleeper from Hue to Hanoi, but comments we heard were universally positive. The trip is comfortable and costs about 55 $ (don't book through your hotel, they sometimes ask steep commissions). Important note however: only book the fast express train! Someone else we met booked the slow sleeper from Hue to Hanoi (15 hours for 30 $), and they had an awful night in a dirty compartment).

Also the night trip from Nha Trang to Danang is an excellent alternative to the horrible bus ride. From Danang railway station, it's a 1 hour trip to Hoi An by taxi.

We took the hard sleeper from Hanoi to Lao Cai (no soft sleepers available), and this was reasonable. We were with 6 in our compartment and slept reasonably well. Some points to remember however:
- Go for the lower berths: they are cooler then the top berths, and the luggage can be stored underneath the bed, so stealing is impossible.
- The train from Lao Cai to Hanoi arrives in Hanoi before 5 am, which is unreasonably early.
- Some travelcafés (like Kim) provide small mattresses which make the trip a little bit more comfortable (15 $ deposit is asked for).

Prices (info as provided in 9/99) 
- Hanoi- Lao Cai: 16 to 18 US$ (hard sleeper)
- Hanoi-Hai Phong: 5 US$ (hard seat)
- Hanoi-Vinh: 28 US$ (soft sleeper)
- Hanoi – Hue : 58 USD per person (soft sleeper)
- Hanoi-Nha Trang: 120 US$ (soft sleeper)
- Hanoi- HCMC: 130 US$ (soft sleeper)
- Hue-Nha Trang: 63 US$ (soft sleeper)
- Hue-Nha Trang: 63 US$ (soft sleeper)
- Hue-HCMC: 70 US$ (soft sleeper)
- Nha Trang-HCMC: 23 US$ (soft sleeper)