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Traveling by train in Vietnam

Traveling by train is a commonly affordable way in Vietnam. It generally costs you less than flying or renting car and that too, it is safe and comfortable. What's more, impressive sightseeing from train will make your trips the most fascinating. But please be advised that you can not use Vietnam visa on arrival if you enter Vietnam by train.

Vietnam railway system
Vietnam Railways Corporation (VRC)-Duong Sat Vietnam is the national railroad carrier with dozens of trains.

Train & routes
VRC has two main types of trains, S/E express and TN, in which the latter are much faster and equipped with more modern coaches. The major route is Hanoi- Saigon with stops along the way in Hue, Da Nang, Nha Trang and other smaller provincial cities. Every train traveling on this journey is called the Reunification Express.

Trains S/E1 to S/E6 have air-conditioned restaurant cars and soft-sleeping berths with western toilet facilities. They have 3 classes: air-con soft sleeper, air-con hard sleeper and air-con soft seat. Some S/E trains are attached with high-quality sleeping cars (run by private companies) for tourist to Lao Cai, Hue and Da Nang (see below).

Trains TN1 & TN2 are older, slow and very basic with only hard sleepers and hard seats.

Trains TN3-TN10 have 6 classes: air-con soft sleepers, air-con hard sleepers, hard sleepers, air-con soft seats, soft seats & hard seats.

Trains LC1- LC4 and Sp1-Sp4 ply the route Hanoi-Lao Cai. SP trains sell 6 types of tickets like TN3-TN10 and have some deluxe sleeping berths attached. LC1 and LC2 have 5 classes (no air-con soft seats) while LC3 and LC4 only have soft seats and hard seats like TN1 and TN2.

For long distances, it is most advisable for you to choose air-con soft sleeper of S/E trains. Soft seats are tolerable for short distance only. If your time budget is generous and your trips involve no night travel, or when S/E tickets are sold out, then try soft sleeper/seat of TN3-TN10 and save some dollars. Some non-air-conditioned trains reward you better chance for sightseeing or photographing with their open windows though they are rather hot in summer. Hard sleepers and hard seats should be ignored all together as they are very uncomfortable and usually crowded.

Fares
Children 1-4 travel free and 5-9 half fare. Others older than 10 must pay full fares which change every 6 months. Cost varies among the train types (express/slow) and ticket types (hard/soft, air-con/fan, sleep/seat). In addition, for sleepers, top bunks are cheaper than bottom bunks. Here are major routes and fares (for air-con soft sleeper class of S/E trains -
TN trains often cost US$2 less):
Saigon – Hanoi.......... (1,726 km, 36-40 hours).......... US$62
Saigon – Danang....... (935 km)............................... US$36
Saigon – Hué............ (1,027 km)............................ US$42
Saigon - Nha Trang... (411 km)...............................
US$17
Hanoi – Saigon.......... (1,726 km)............................ US$62
Hanoi – Hué............. (688 km)............................... US$28
Hanoi-Da Nang......... (791 km)............................... US$32
Hue-Da Nang............ (103km)................................ US$4
Da Nang- Nha Trang.. (524 km)............................... US$20
Hanoi-Lao Cai........... (294 km)............................... US$17

Reservation
In peak season (around Tet Holiday), it is wise to have your ticket booked in advance by local travel agents (and expect to pay a bit more). Otherwise, you should buy ticket directly at special counters for foreigners in stations. Note that at Hanoi or Saigon station, you can buy journeys of all itineraries while in others, only journeys starting at that particular station can be booked. Passport and Vietnam visa is required on booking, payment is preferable in VND and credit cards are yet to be accepted.

Ha Noi stations: No 120 Le Duan St (Tel: 84.24.39422770 or 84.24.39423949)
Hue station: No 573 Bui Thi Xuan St (Tel: 84.234.3822175)
Da Nang station: No 202 Hai Phong St (Tel: 84.236.3823810)
Sai Gon station: No 01 Nguyen Thong St (Tel: 84.28.38436524 or 84.28.38436528)
Nha Trang station: No 17 Thai Nguyen street - Nha Trang city (Tel: 84.258.3822113)
Note: Online booking is reported to be already available, yet it is not working now. You may check it at the Website of Vietnam Railways Corporation: www.vr.com.vn

Also, please note that VRC trains to Lao Cai depart at Hanoi sub-station on Chan Quy Cap Street, opposite to main station on Le Duan St. Hanoi-Sapa deluxe trains. These luxurious trains are run by private companies with the target at tourists traveling in style. Actually, they are special cars attached to the SP3 and SP4 trains of VRC. Currently, you cannot book for them at the stations but through travel agencies. Vietnam Victoria Express travels daily (except Saturdays). This is private service of Victoria Sapa Hotel for its guests only. Cost is from US$145 for a round trip, much higher than VRC trains.Livitrans, Tulico, Ratraco, Friendly, Royal or King Express generally cost you a bit less than Victoria. For more information and booking visit: www.livitrantrain.com

Saigon-Nha Trang Golden Train (old name Five Star Express)
These high-quality trains, owned by a private company, ply the routes Saigon-Nha Trang, Saigon-Phan Thiet and Saigon-Quy Nhon. It also boasts with luxurious sleeping compartments as well as modern and comfortable sofa style seats. Golden Train's sleepers cost around US$20 for the Saigon-Nha Trang journey and US$25 for Saigon-Quy Nhon.

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