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7 Things To Know Before Riding The Vietnam Overnight Train

Everybody said it had to be done.

That it was an “experience”.

Well, sorry folks, but this was one experience I would have been ok without. I mean WTF?

I’m not one to write negative articles. In fact, I can count them on one hand. But this one is a warning for all ya’ll ready to catch the Vietnam overnight train “experience”.

Perhaps it was our choice of destination and we would have been better travelling to Sapa or perhaps it’s all the same. But here’s 7 things I wish I had known before riding the Vietnam overnight train from Hanoi to Da Nang.

Vietnam Overnight Train - Explore With Erin

1. First class doesn’t exist

When our hotel booked our tickets, we asked for the best of the best train. This meant a VIP first class premium. But from my research and understanding, the difference is very little. And certainly not worth the price tag. The room was still old and run down. The blankets holey. The curtains stained with… blood?

Vietnam Overnight Train - bloody curtains

I think the first class included amenities like food service. Which was not really a service. You could purchase a weak cup of coffee or some 2-minute noodles. Nothing to write home about and certainly nothing we decided to order.

One of the other amenities was that instead of a wood bench you got a mattress. The mattress was actually a couch cushion, that was still hard as rocks. But we got to lie down so I guess that was a bonus.

Vietnam Overnight Train - tickets

2. Booking the whole cabin

I’d heard horror stories of people sharing train cabins on the Vietnam overnight train with strangers. Missing passports, wallets, assault. As much as I love mankind that was crap I just didn’t want to deal with, so my partner and I decided to book the whole cabin. This meant instead of $50 each, it was $100 each and suddenly the overnight train cost us over $200.

But just because you buy the whole cabin doesn’t mean you will not have unwanted visitors. Several times during the night our door was rattled from its locked position as people attempted to find a comfier spot on the train. We had pretty much spread out with bags on top bunks and our bodies on bottom bunks so were pretty adamant about keeping that door locked.

Beware it is very easy to unlock from the outside so you are not 100% safe, but the noise it takes to open it should be loud enough to wake you.

Vietnam Overnight Train - room

3. Consider flying

At $200 for 2 people, you may want to consider flying. A flight was $60 each and less than an hour. We flew back to Hanoi and definitely thought it would have been less wasteful and a better experience to have flown Hanoi to Da Nang as well.

Vietnam Overnight Train - train

4. Bring toilet paper

The toilets are little to be desired and you may consider stopping all fluids until you’re off if you are picky. I am not so picky and annoyingly found I had to drink and pee even more than usual for the evening.

Stainless steel bowls with no toilet seat in a plain bathroom. Your business drops straight onto the tracks. The smell is horrendous. I attempted to open the window, just be sure to check before peeing at a station because you can see straight in.

There’s no toilet paper. Be sure to bring a spare roll with you. Enough to cover the seat too.

Most of the taps didn’t work either and forget soap. Lucky I always travel with my disinfectant hand wash.

Vietnam Overnight Train - blog

5. Bring food

The snack cart on the Vietnam overnight train to Da Nang doesn’t offer very much variety. We used it for a morning coffee that is all. Thankfully we were actually prepared for this since my experience on the overnight train Croatia to Greece, which had no food at all.

We shopped at a mini market before getting on the train. Take a Banh Mi with you, some drinks and snacks to tide you over for some 15 hours.

Vietnam Overnight Train - food and view

6. Consider your own sheets and blankets

Most people don’t carry these so it may be difficult. A sarong may work on top of the sheets or on your body before the blanket. Fingers crossed they actually wash the items after each use. They looked neat on the ebbed when we arrived, however, we were dubious. Despite your first-class ticket don’t be expecting any 500-cotton thread here. Threadbare would be more accurate.

Tip: We used a blanket under our sheet to make the beds softer. We also used a blanket to cover the door. It had no curtains and anyone could see right in. But more than that the lights outside stayed on and flooded the entire room. We managed to hook the blanket up to have a relatively dark room.

Vietnam Overnight Train - sleeping

7. Enjoy the scenery

Now that we’ve got all the unpleasantries out of the way I can safely say be prepared for some incredible scenery. Beautiful forests, captivating coastline, and some pretty backcountry Vietnamese villages. Of course, it doesn’t last long since the majority of your travels are during the night, but in the morning you wake up and the views before arriving in Da Nang was especially scenic.

Vietnam Overnight Train

Vietnam Overnight Train view

I’d like to say number #7 on the Vietnam overnight train made it all worth the “experience”, but I can’t. Sorry. Next time I’m taking the plane.

For something more uplifting check out our 5 favourite places to visit in Vietnam.

Or cruise the delightful Halong Bay.

Mapping Megan also has 7 tips too if you are looking for further reading.

 

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The Vietnam Overnight Train - an experience you may want to miss.a  The Vietnam Overnight Train - an experience you may want to miss.

 

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Showing 12 comments
  • Voyage vietnam
    Reply

    You have sent me a message on your twitter about your intended trip. (https://twitter.com/visitsvietnam)
    I’m glad you had a trip to my country.
    Hopefully we can welcome you back Vietnam

  • Amber Hill
    Reply

    Hi Erin, it was amusing reading this! We took our 5 and 3 year old on the overnight train and it was a highlight of our Vietnam trip! I did go back and forth a number of times as to whether we should go but I am glad we did. Bummer you didn’t enjoy the experience – but this is what makes traveling memorable also! Cheers, Amber x

    • Erin
      Reply

      I am so glad your experience was different. And maybe the kids would have found it exciting and fun for sure. But you are right, it’s a memory and a story I’ll always have haha

  • Amanda
    Reply

    Pretty sure I took the same train from Hanoi to Hue a few years back. I knew it was going to be an “experience,” and it sure was! I brought my silk sleep sheet with me, which was great – I didn’t have to touch the sheets or pillow haha. (And on that train at least, they didn’t change the sheets for people getting on the train after it left Hanoi…). We also had some nighttime visitors in the form of mice – one guy in my group had his breakfast pastry eaten, which he had kept at the foot of his bed. Eek!

    • Erin
      Reply

      I just heard about this silk sheet, wish I had known about it then! But mice, hell no omg!

  • Tivanne
    Reply

    I think it depends on the journey.
    We had a Nha Trang to Saigon night train and we had a good experience, in terms on cleanliness, noise and confort. Actually i can even say all was above my expectations.
    But then again it must depend on the journeys.

    • Erin
      Reply

      I thought so, because the Sapa trains looked nice. Glad to hear they are not all the same. Thanks Tivanne.

  • Margaret Breuer
    Reply

    We have done the overnight train from Hanoi to Hue and Danang twice in the 4 berth sleepers, 2014 and 2016. We love the trip. We have shared with locals and backpackers, and made amazing friends with both. We will probably be doing it again in a couple of weeks.
    To be fair, we knew to take our own food, the food service that is in the soft seat section does not come down to the foreign sleepers as no one buys the food anyway. We have travelled a lot in the Balkans on trains, so we always have wet wipes, toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
    We have just done the soft seats from HCMC to Mui Ne and Nha Trang to Danang a few weeks ago, the food carts are great but we were the only tourists eating the food.
    We are sorry you had this experience, I advise you let the government know here so they can stop the scam you fell for.
    BTW we always buy train tickets from the stations in Vietnam. All the trains are government trains, with occasional private carriages for tour groups. The private are 2 berth.

    • Erin
      Reply

      I love that you had this experience. I love to hear the other side. Thanks for the tip on the train tickets, I had no idea people were running scams there!

  • Gautier
    Reply

    thanks for the heads up. I have learnt not to expect anything while traveling in Vietnam and set my expectations low. Enjoy Sa Pa

    • Erin
      Reply

      vietnam is amazing, I’d go back for sure. I’d just take the plane 😉

  • Ruth Johnston
    Reply

    I’m sorry you had a bad experience but I thought the train was horrible too. Won’t tell you some of the horror stories I’ve heard. But gee. Those beds are like bricks covered in vinyl and I didn’t even get to see a food cart! We had a better night train in Bolivia called the Death Train!

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