My wife and I are traveling by train from Saigon to Sapa in July. We will need to switch trains in Hanoi. We have 2 hours between when our train is scheduled to arrive in Hanoi, and when our train to Lao Cai? Is this enough time. If me miss our connection, will be able to take the next train. We haven't purchased any tickets yet.
#1 Davnew2 has been a member since 21/4/2012. Posts: 3
First of all that is a very very long train ride from Saigon to Sapa . I'm sure you have considered it but think again about spending some time in Hanoi. It's a beautiful city and worthy of a few days.
The trains to Sapa are of different categories and 1 of each category goes to Sapa. You haven't said about which train/time you're aiming for. For different categories different prices apply so do your research (a lot can be found on this site) and decide then
We are planning on taking the SE2 from Saigon to Hanoi . It arrives in Hanoi at 4:02. Then we are planning on catching the the LC3 which leaves Hanoi at 6:10. I am interested in spending sometime in Hanoi. We have four days on our way back to spend in Hanoi or Ha Long Bay. I am planning on purchasing my train tickets ahead of time through vietnamimpressive.com or vietnamstay.com. Does anyone have any experience with either? I am still wondering what happens if we miss our connection in Hanoi.
#3 Davnew2 has been a member since 21/4/2012. Posts: 3
Your train is the first train of the day and if you miss that one you'll have to wait about 14 hours until the next goes. The next trains are all of different category so I can not comment on price and or availability. You'll have to be flexible if you miss your train or wait till the next day.
Is this a vacation or a torture test? As Eastwest stated, Saigon to Hanoi alone is EXTREMELY long, extremely boring and none too clean! On top of that, you're going on the daylight run to Lao Cai/Sapa which is all hard seat coach.
Sorry to put a damper on your plans but I second that! Seriously, reconsider. What's your reason for taking the train all the way from Saigon to Hanoi ? It's cheaper, quicker and more comfortable to fly and you'll get the Vietnam train experience going Hanoi to Sapa anyway, so you're not missing out on that by flying. The longest train journey I've done is Hanoi to Nha Trang and that was about 25 hours. It was just about manageable, but I had a DVD player and a couple of good books. Another 12 hours on that... I'm not sure I'd've coped.
Regarding your initial question, as eastwest says, the next train is a long wait and from experience, the trains to Sapa get pretty booked up so no guarantee of you getting one that day at all. And you will need to buy a new ticket, you won't be able to use the same ticket. I would think the chances of the train being 2 hours late is quite high too.
Finally, I did the Sapa to Hanoi in a hard seat once and I wouldn't do it again if I had the choice. It would be better during the day than at night though (I did it overnight and sleeping is nigh on impossible, at least during the day you can chat, look out the window etc.)
If you're fixed on getting the train from Saigon to Hanoi then do yourself a favour and have a couple of days in Hanoi before you head up to Sapa.
Can't say I have ever read of a person considering to travel from Saigon to Hanoi direct by train. The practical option (comfort, time and cost) is to fly. I'd love to read a review about it though lol.
Well I probably wouldn't do it again, but it was an interesting cultural experience. Its a long ride for sure. IF transportation is your only goal I wouldn't recommend it, but if you are interested in seeing Vietnam as the locals see it, it might be worth considering. At times it seemed a bit of an ordeal. I didn't picture that we would would basically be confined to our sleeper room. I pictured a train where you could walk from car to car, have a snack or meal in a dinning car, and stroll through the train when you needed to stretch you legs. However, you are not allowed to move to another car. You can eat in your cabin, but only the food you bring with you. Occasionally, someone comes through selling food on a cart, but not speaking the language makes it difficult to sort out what you are buying. We enjoyed our various cabin mates who came and went. Most people speak a bit of English and are eager to practice what they know. Traveling by train is one of the few ways to actually interact with locals if you don't actually know somebody living there. The cleanliness of the train wasn't great, but I am used to travel in the third world so it wasn't a big deal to me or my wife.
#11 Davnew2 has been a member since 21/4/2012. Posts: 3
Did you make your connection?
"Traveling by train is one of the few ways to actually interact with locals if you don't actually know somebody living there."
This strikes me as strange and very different from where I live. You can't meet Vietnamese at a club or bar or market? I find it painfully easy to meet people in Thailand. Even when I don't want to everyone seems to want to be my new best friend.