The Vietnamese railway system was first established by the French and has been sustainably developed over the years. The train connecting different regions is one of the popular means of transportation in Vietnam for the locals. If you choose the train as a part of your adventure, you can prepare yourself with the following notes on taking trains in Vietnam.
History of the Railway System in Vietnam
To boost the trade during colonization, the French started their railway construction in Vietnam with the first route from Saigon to My Tho (Tien Giang Province) in 1881. The first train departed in 1885, as a foundation of the Vietnamese railway industry. Then based on the French railway technology, the other routes of 1 meter in width were constructed. Since 1945, after the establishment of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Department of Transportation and Public Works has been in charge of this system. However, the railway suffered from serious damage during the Vietnam War (1955-1975). Since the war ended, the Vietnamese government has carried on the restoration, and until today, the very first routes are still there, connecting the lands and the people.
The first railway route in Vietnam
Classes and Ticket Pricing of Trains in Vietnam
In the Vietnam railway system, there are international routes (going to China, Laos, and Cambodia), and domestic routes including the Reunification Railway from North to South (Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon) and local ones like the route from Hanoi to Lao Cai. On the Reunification Railway, there are 2 kinds of trains, the fast trains (SE – Super Express) and the slow trains (TN – Thong Nhat). The price for SE trains is generally higher, but it also depends on the type of seat.
The seats are classified into soft seats, hard seats, soft beds, and hard beds, in cabins with or without air-conditioners. However, there are certain discounts applied to some passengers. Seniors ages over 65 get a 5% discount, kids from 5 to 10 years old pay half of the normal ticket, and free for kids aged under 5. There are also discounts when people go in groups like 2% for groups of 20-29 people and 10% for groups of over 50 people.
Moreover, the price dramatically changes based on demand. It often goes up during Vietnamese national holidays like Tet and the Vietnamese Independence Day on April, 30th. The tickets are often sold out during these seasons from city dwellers trying to go back to their hometowns. If you plan to travel around the holiday, it is best that you book the tickets as early as possible some months in advance. And for booking, you can go to the station where you want to depart, book online through the Vietnam railway website, or go to the railway branch offices (in the South; in the North).
The hard seat with air-conditioner on a train in Vietnam
Regarding the luggage, you can bring up to 20 kilograms of carry-on, and no extra fee is charged. But you will have to buy tickets or make arrangements with a package service provider for checked baggage, bicycles, motorbikes, and luggage exceeding 20 kilograms. The fees depend on the service providers and the dimensions of your oversized items.
Vietnam Railway Stations
The 2,600-kilometer railway has many stations from the North to the South and some of the busiest ones include Giap Bat and Hanoi Station in Hanoi Capital, Da Nang Station (Da Nang), Ninh Hoa Station (Khanh Hoa) and Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City.
One of the biggest stations in the North, Giap Bat Station
Saigon Station, the central station in the South
Advantages and Disadvantages of Taking the Trains in Vietnam
There are some advantages when taking trains in Vietnam, such as:
- Going by train can be cheaper than by airplane
- You enjoy Vietnam’s scenic views not accessible by automobiles
- Taking the train can be safer compared to auto transfers through certain mountainous cities
Getting Vietnam’s nature views from the train’s windows is amazing
On the other hand, there are disadvantages of traveling by train as well.
- You may encounter problems like pickpockets or scams on trains
- There are many people and luggage on the train, the luggage storage can be unorganized with limited space
- It can take longer to travel by train than other means of transportation in Vietnam
Tips for Passengers Taking the Trains in Vietnam
- Get up early to do personal hygiene
- You should not worry about meals. The trains have a canteen cabin or you can purchase food and snacks at the stations
- Remember to dress comfortably for a long ride
- If you travel in a sleeping cabin, they provide a pillow and blanket. There are also electrical sockets inside the cabin for a recharge of devices
- Bring books or have conversations with other passengers to kill your time on a long trip. But talking with others could get you more insight into the local life in Vietnam.
- Travel safer with travel insurance
Conclusion on Taking the Trains in Vietnam
When you are trying to make your travel an adventure and have time to spare, taking the trains in Vietnam to get around the country is a great option to discover many local scenes. Make sure to take advantage of them for an unforgettable trip to Vietnam. For other transportation-related guides, you may also want to read more on our guides about taking the bus and taxi in Ho Chi Minh City.