Vietnam’s major provinces are well-connected by the train system. If you have a flexible schedule and want to save a few bucks, you can try traveling by train instead of airplane. There are pros and cons of train traveling, the following guide is expected to help you consider and make the most suitable choice with your budget plan.
The joy of train traveling
Traveling by train in Vietnam is truly an unforgettable local experience. The biggest advantage of this means of transportation is the reasonable price and safety. The fare is half of airplane’s and only slightly more expensive than bus. Rustic as it is, the slow train goes along or even through mountains, forests, valleys and even ocean, which helps everyone enjoy Vietnam’s authentic natural vista. Moreover, spending a few hours on train is an interesting way to make friends with local and have a closer view about their daily life. Your travelling fellows come from every part of the society: students, workers, small business owners, and of course, tourists and you will have more chances to talk to them than when you travel on air.
In some certain routes, train is essential means to get to the destination. For example, to get from Hanoi to Sapa, the road remains rough and train provides an economic and time saving option to travel between the two. For those who want more than just the basic train amenities, there is an abundance of choices from 4 berth wooden panelled cabin to a cheap soft-seat, which can satisfy the needs of the most demanding passengers.
Even for short trips such as the 3 hour one between Hue and Hoi An (which stops in Danang station), travelling by train is still something worth considering. The hours sitting on Russian style train will expose you to breathtaking landscape of mountains and oceans on the way, and the slow speed means that you can use your camera to full.
Disadvantages of travelling by train
There are things you should be aware of.
Before heading to the station and hop on the train, you should keep in mind that train in Vietnam will not be as modern, superfast and clean as the expresses in Japan or Singapore, since Vietnam’s railway system was established more than a hundred years ago with occasional maintenance. The hard wooden seat makes it impossible for passengers to change the seat’s angle and lie down; while the soft seat, though has been covered with a layer of vinyl, is quite small and narrow. Passengers may feel uncomfortable with these two kinds of seats, especially during the long trip.
The carriage is often packed with people and sometimes too noisy, and tourists are expected to take great care of their luggage on their own, even if they buy tickets to sleep in berth in private cabin. Limited train services includes light blanket for passengers in cabin and a mobile food stall offering porridge, instant noodle and junk foods. In long routes, lunch boxes are available, but the food often gets cold and the dining space is inconvenient. There is only one toilet each carriage, so it may be overloaded or run out of water in the morning.
In other words, train travel may not be the most comfort choice for a long trip, such as those from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City and vice versa, but if you are really into an adventure, take your chances!
Tips for a train journey
• Book the ticket in advance to choose the best seat!
• Bring along some food for a late night supper if you are afraid of food quality on train. A large towel can be used as the blanket and keep you warm throughout the long trip.
• If you sleep in hard or soft seat, prepare a neck pillow.
• Do not bring too much baggage; you cannot have a good sleep while watching over your belongings all the time.
• Keep some small notes ready to pay for the taxi going to the station or buy junk food.
• Do some light exercise every couple of hour for blood circulation and getting rid of weariness.
• Do not buy food and souvenirs at transit stations along the road.
• If there is problem with your seat or food quality, do not hesitate to ask the coach’s conductor.