Trains chug from Hanoi to Saigon and back all day, every day delivering locals and tourists alike to their various destinations. My first journey’s on the Reunification Express, found me a new love for this efficient and comfortable form of transport. Here is a very brief glimpse into my experience…
Sipping a sharp passionfruit cocktail in a rooftop bar by the river in Saigon, I felt a slight refreshing breeze slip past my face for the first time that day. It was a relief for my clammy skin. Happy and inspired, I was also weary from exploring in the humid capital and taking a night train was the last thing I fancied doing at that moment…!
The waiting room in Saigon was filled with a mix of backpackers and locals, waiting with their provisions to get them through the night. We found a seat at the back and began to wait next to a lady sleeping on an enormous suitcase. It wasn’t obvious where the trains would be from the seats, but the room began to move as soon as the guard appeared and we followed everyone piling out.
We followed the locals crossing over the tracks to get to our platform before the train elegantly pulled in. A lady, dressed smartly in grey with an official cap shading her eyes, checked our printed e-ticket and we were on.
Greeted by flowers, bottled water, a handy wipe and a vase of flowers, our room for the night was notably inviting for my tired legs.
The guard pulled the lid off the top of the tall silver pot and steam spilled out of the top. A gloved hand went in 1… 2 … 3… 4… 5… 6 times before it finally finished stocking up the box. No less than 6 perfect boiled eggs were provided to the man in the seat to the left. A feast to keep him going over night.
The trolley in a Vietnamese train is a food adventure in itself; brimming with noodles, meat, rice, fish, vegetables, bread, cold drinks, hot drinks, children’s toys and of course the very popular boiled egg snack. Shorter journeys by train in Vietnam should always be take in a soft seater carriage – for the trolley experience and wonderfully companionable atmosphere amongst the locals.
Booking trains for your trip?
The man in seat 61 is an incredible resource for anyone wanting to travel by train anywhere in the world so this should be your first stop.
It’s not essential to book in advance, unless you definitely want soft sleepers on a specific train. I did book all my tickets before I left though via baolau.vn . It’s very easy to do and an e-ticket can be printed in advance of travel.
A few final tidbits of info
- if you get onto a sleeper carriage half way through a route, your bed may not have been changed from the previous passenger. The guard will be more than happy to give you clean sheets if you get their attention.
- Make sure you have an alarm as they don’t always wake you up!
- There are facilities to brush your teeth and use the toilets. Mostly in my experience these were of a pretty good standard of cleanliness…
- The top bunks in a hard sleeper have a lot more baggage space!
- It takes two days to travel from Saigon to Hanoi. I may be mad, but I’d love to do the whole journey all at once!
Where have you travelled by train and what was it like?