After travelling from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi on overnight sleeper trains (three trains, to be exact) or buses. I feel like now I am relatively experienced on giving a little guide on what to expect at least from the sleeper trains in Vietnam. I also wanted to bring your expectations down a little. They’re not bad, but they are also not as great as some influencer’s are making them out to be and I don’t want you to be disappointed!
There are two options for sleeper carriages, these are: the “Hard berth x6” and “Soft berth x4”. The 6 and the 4 is how many beds will be in one single carriage. The carriages are quite small and I would recommend paying a few dollars/pounds more to remove those two additional beds. If you are by yourself or in a group less than 4 or 6, expect to share the cabin with strangers! I was in a big group of around 17 people, so I always had 4 girls I was on the tour with in my cabin.
Depending on where you start your journey, this is dependent on what to expect in terms of cleanliness in the carriage you’re sleeping in. I would recommend buying a silk sleeping bag sheet to slip in to underneath the quilt you are provided with, as this is not guaranteed to be changed if you’re hopping on/off different trains. This should be around $3 / £3 or less (70,000 VND). I wouldn’t bother to buy one if you are taking the full 37 hour journey from HCMC to Hanoi, as you’ll be sleeping in the same bed the whole way!
Our journey started in 1. Ho Chi Minh City > Nha Trang, 2. Nha Trang > Da Nang > (bus to Hoi An & Hue), 3. Hue > Hanoi. You cannot buy one ticket and hop on and off, you do have to buy separate tickets if you want to get off earlier. This was included in our tour package but I have placed a price guide below for you. Our guide informed us that in our situation, the first train would be the best in terms of cleanliness, the second would be the worst and the third could be either way and how true her words ended up being!
Guide from: Vietnam – Railway (where you can buy tickets too)
Also, make sure you buy snacks/dinner before you board! Apparently you can *maybe* buy food on the train from locals but I never saw this and I would not recommend to as Vietnam is hot and there is no fridge on board.
The First Train Experience
Upon boarding, we found that our carriage was spotlessly clean (besides from the overhead luggage storage which is forgiving). We had fresh bed sheets and were given water, fruit and wet wipes in the basket on our table. We also had a USB port to charge our phones. All carriages come with a plug anyway but if you’re sharing with strangers, this might be difficult!
All of us were relatively inexperienced with overnight trains too and honestly? we all didn’t sleep well at all. The train rocks, A LOT. You might find that comforting and be rocked to sleep but for those who suffer with travel sickness like me, take pills! There is also frequent train announcements through out the night. You can switch these off but if you are getting off, make sure you wake up early and listen. One of the girls sharing my room was bitten a lot too! which we think might of been bed bugs but us other 3 didn’t get bitten at all. We left at around 8.30pm and we pulled in to Nha Trang at 5.30am-ish.
There is obviously no showers on board and only a standard train bathroom (toilet & sink). This is also a roulette in terms of if it is a squat toilet or westernised toilet. Luckily on all 3 trains we were on, we had a western toilet. I’d say the cleanliness and what to expect is just a standard train toilet in Europe. Remember to not put toilet roll in the toilet as this blocks it up and is absolutely disgusting in the morning (yeah I unfortunately experienced this!)
Second Train Experience:
Hands down the worst in terms of cleanliness which was predicted by my guide! There were several cockroaches, no where to charge our phones and the sheets were (badly) slept in. The toilet was blocked early too which wasn’t very nice. The journey really was not as bad as it sounds though. When you’re in this position you kind of just crack on with it. The sleep was better on this train as well which really helped. We did have a loud speaker right outside our room though. The train was a little bit delayed this time too but not a problem, as we didn’t have to wake up in a rush.
Third Train Experience:
The hit or miss train and it wasn’t that bad to be honest! I had no cockroaches on this one! Woo! The rockiness was still just as bad and we were right by the front of the train so we did hear the horn going all night. I slept so much better by this point though and think I even got 4 hours in a row!
This journey was the longest of the three. The train was supposed to depart at 3pm (delayed by 2 hours) but we left at 5pm and arrived in Hanoi about 7.30am. I got up early for this ride. I hopped out of my cabin (quietly) and enjoyed the countryside views (which were incredible on all journeys by the way!)
So, What did I think?
Honestly I really enjoyed the experience and would 100% do it all over again. I’d never experienced anything like this and by a couple of minutes in to the first train I was really like “Hell yes! lets do this!” I’d packed all my toiletries and sickness pills and was ready to go. The girls I shared with were all fab and we ended up sleeping in the cabin together on all three journeys. We just turned it into a sleepover with snacks & Netflix documentaries!
Have you ever travelled on a sleeper train? Would you ever? Let me know in the comments!