I'll be traveling through Vietnam in April. Looking to go from Hanoi down to Saigon.
From everything Ive read, the train does the whole leg, but Id like to get on and off at various spots.
I looked at this schedule provided by travelfish: http://www.travelfish.org/resources/vietnam-railways.pdf but am confused about how to book tickets/costs.
How do I calculate the cost from ex: Hanoi to Hue .. then another train from Hue to Saigon?
Im so confused :(
#1 CRASHT1224 has been a member since 4/3/2010. Posts: 10
you have to get tickets for each leg of your journey, you cannot get a hop on hop off ticket. Unless you get an agent to book tickets for you and pay a premium, the best way is to go to the station to the booking office ( don't let anyone outside tell you they are closed or have moved or the booking office is 'this way')and book your tickets for all your journey in Hanoi. have a look at what trains and times you want to go and it have it written down and it should all be easy.
but if I were you I'd fly! I thought the trains were disgusting, insects and mice everywhere, not good if you are trying to get some sleep.
#2 roynolan has been a member since 29/1/2009. Posts: 48
I'm in Hoi An right now, having taken the train from Hanoi to Hue and then on to Danang and I agree with the advice that roynolan gives on how to buy tickets, but I disagree about the last part. I also took a train from Hanoi to Sapa and back and I've yet to see a mouse or any bugs at all.
This Seat61 page describes everything really well:
My understanding is that flights are quite cheap, but trains are still definitely cheaper, especially when you factor in the airport transportation part on both ends.
On the other hand, the trains here aren't great. I just took the 2.5-hour ride from Hue to Danang in a "1st Class soft seat" and even though the legroom was okay, the seat was more like a coach airline seat. The aisle is wide and quite a few extra people on board just brought their own plastic chairs and sat between the normal seats.
From Hanoi to Hue I took a 12-hour night train and the ride was a bit bumpy so sleeping wasn't easy, and surprisingly there were also extra people sleeping in the thin corridor outside the cabins. I'm here just after Tet so maybe the system is a bit overloaded, but still it's something I never even saw in India.
Another thing to consider is that many of the longer-haul destinations end up having only overnight trains as choices (unless you take a really slow local train) so you don't get to see much scenery anyway.
So I'm finding the trains to be clean enough and I'll stick with them down to Nha Trang and then to Saigon, but the Vietnam Airways tickets you can buy when you are here are cheap enough to be a decent alternative.
Mice and bugs everywhere? Seriously?
I've taken several trains in Vietnam and while the bathrooms are not the most pleasant in the world it's certainly not nearly as bad as roynolan suggests. (I'm not saying roynolan is off base with the statement - maybe (s)he was unlucky enough to be on an unusually dirty train - but that's certainly not normal).
Thanks for your responses.
Roynolan suggested I purchase all t he legs of my journey in Hanoi. Is this a good idea if Im not sure how long I want to stay in each stop-over location? Do tickets specify a date for travel?
Im planning on spending a few days at each stop along the way.
The mice and bugs freak me out.. but Im hoping that roynolan just had a particularly dirty train as mentioned..and that we dont get stuck in a similar situation.
I am from NY so you think I'd be used to it :)
#5 CRASHT1224 has been a member since 4/3/2010. Posts: 10
Vietnam trains, WAY cleaner than NYC subways. Don't worry I've ridden the trains in Vietnam 5 or 6 times and they were always clean enough for me; def no mice/bugs (as I mentioned before the one place that can be a little gross are the bathrooms). Even so, Roynolan does make a good point that flying certain routes (generally on Jetstar) can be almost as cheap as trains, so you may want to look into that. But I don't really like the suggestion that you should purchase all your tickets in Hanoi unless you have major time restraints and know exactly how much time you'll want in each place. That said, it can be a little bit of a pain to go to the train station a couple days or a day before you want to leave a place to buy the ticket (I wouldn't recommend waiting until the same day). But I felt it was worth it to have the freedom to stay somewhere longer if I particularly enjoyed that place. If you don't want to go to the Ga (train station) yourself, guesthouses and travel companies in the tourist areas will be happy to book for you for a nominal fee. The busses are not a bad option either, especially for shorter legs. But I like the train... Just south of Hue the views over the mountains/ocean are spectacular.
There is more than one type of sleeping compartment on these trains. Not everyone knows about the Livitrans and Golden private carriages that are pulled by the state-run train - they're much nicer and cleaner (they compare to Thai first class trains). The Livitrans is attached to the SE1 overnight run from Hanoi to Danang, and the Golden runs between Nha Trang and HCMC (don't know the exact train). Between Danang and Nha Trang you have to use the soft sleeper service on the state-run cars, and this is the problem. I did it not long ago and the soft sleeper did have roaches. The entire run from Hanoi-HCMC takes about 35 hrs - really slow and it does get pretty boring. There is a dining car but it's not much more than a pho place. The best scenery is between Hue and Danang - that's early morning 8-11am on the SE1.
#7 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,083
we did have a schedule to stick to, so it made sense for us to buy our tickets at the same time, especially as we had overnight sleepers and some trains were fully booked so we had to work around that, and as for the insects and mice, they seemed to come out at night, and just by chance I happened to look down from my bed and there they were, so I got little sleep, and I did not dare to tell my partner.
Also I agree with daawgon, it does get boring, especially if you are on a sleeper and can't see anything.
This year we flew and from Danang we got a taxi to Hoi An, left our luggage and just took enough for a few days and rented bikes and rode to Hue over the Hai Van pass, stopped at elephant stream (great) stayed in Hue for a couple of days then rode back, far better than the train journey. We got a taxi for 150000vnd, and I have his number if anyone wants it.
#8 roynolan has been a member since 29/1/2009. Posts: 48
I'm really having a tough time organizing my quick sprint into Vietnam. I was originally going to attempt bkk to chiang mai for a wee 2 days and then train/bus into laos and fly to hanoi, then hanoi to danang or hue, stay a couple days there (over to hoi ahn and back) then fly danang to saigon. I think I will pass on Laos this time because I'd really want to put in some days there but I'm only going to have the 12th of March to the 29th of March to see vietnam and either laos or cambodia. I'd rather do cambodia honestly.
So, I think I'll fly from chiang mai (or Vientiane) to Hanoi --take the overnight train to Hue because I want to see this spectacular views everyone talks about, then after a couple days fly from danang to saigon.. What do you think? or should I fly to Hue/Danang and train it from Danang to Saigon??
wee stressed (time and money how I owe you)
#9 rinkerak has been a member since 29/1/2009. Posts: 2
rinkerak - I'm not sure about flights, so maybe you can fly direct from Chiang Mai to Hanoi , but otherwise why not skip CM and fly BKK to Hanoi? Given you don't have much time you're maybe making your life difficult by going through the trip to CM for just 2 days.
The best scenery is Hue to Danang, so you could fly Hanoi to Hue and then get the train to Danang for the scenery. Or if you don't want to go to Hue but still want the scenery it's probably easier to just get the train straight from Hanoi to Danang, but check the last bit of the journey is in daylight.
Re comment about overcrowding - yes, it probably is just Tet. Last year I got the train from Hanoi to Nha Trang over Tet and they had converted the bottom bunks into seats for 3 people, so there were 8+ people in my carriage. Luckily no-one tried to share my top bunk with me!
Thanks travellingsarah! I honestly want to just train it from hue to danang -just to see the scenery (actually it will be vice versa) since I will start in HCMC (Saigon) from Cambodia. And then, fly hue to hanoi. this may give me the chance to also see sapa. fly back to bkk from hanoi.. i only wish I had the ample time to do so much more!
some day in the long future I suppose!
#11 rinkerak has been a member since 29/1/2009. Posts: 2
me and my friends vill visit vietnam this july for a week. we will arrive at HCMC and planning to stay there for a couple of days, then go to hanoi and cambodia. will it be possible from HCMC to hanoi then go cambodia by train or bus??
#12 rhayanne has been a member since 25/4/2011. Posts: 3
Hanoi to Cambodia by bus - no. Well, I'm sure it is but it would take an extremely long time (as in a few days) and involve either backtracking to near HCMC or going through Laos. Best to fly or, if you can, reverse your Vietnam leg so you start in Hanoi and end up in HCMC, from where you can easily take a bus to Cambodia.
thank you for the reply on my post. ive been reading the forum and it looks like 1 week is too short to explore vietnam and cambodia. we already book your ticket and airlines here only offer flights to HCMC, were in a low budget not sure if we have excess to fly in hanoi. will it be a big loss for us if we skip hanoi and halong bay and go directly to cambodia after HCMC????
#14 rhayanne has been a member since 25/4/2011. Posts: 3
Of course it will be a loss - but so is everything! Given your limited time you're best off spending your week either in just Southern Vietnam or splitting it between HCMC / Mekong and Cambodia (for example, if you just want to see Angkor or PP). Are you flying directly home from HCMC? If so then I'd suggest sticking to Vietnam on this trip if you're on a budget.
thank you again your a big help.
#16 rhayanne has been a member since 25/4/2011. Posts: 3