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.
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 had suffered from serious damages 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
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 the soft seat, hard seat, soft bed, hard bed, in cabins with or without air-conditioner. However, there are certain discounts applied to some passengers. The senior ages over 65 get 5% discount, kids from 5 to 10 years old pay half of the normal ticket, and free for kids age 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 demands. 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 hometown. 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 in 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 making arrangements with a package service provider for checked baggage, bicycle, motorbikes, and luggage exceeding 20 kilograms. The fees depend on the service providers and the dimensions of your oversized items.
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
There are some advantages when taking trains in Vietnam, such as:
Getting Vietnam’s nature views from the train’s windows is amazing
On the other hand, there are disadvantages of traveling by trains as well.
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.
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I took the train to go to Phan Thiet once. It is nicez especially if you're taking your motorcycle on the train, too