Vietnam is vibrant with green rolling hills, bustling cities, and rich foods. Locals are kind, everything is cheap, the scenery is breathtaking, and the weather is ideal.
Many spend months in Vietnam, and still can’t see or do everything on their bucket list. Don’t let this deter you if you only have a week, because there is a solution….taking a sleeper train in Vietnam!
There are a few different ways to see Vietnam:
Motorbikes, planes, buses and trains, so you have lots of options.
Motorbikes are quite dangerous and have so much room for error (maintenance, getting lost/tired, accidents) that make them inefficient for short-term travel.
Planes can be expensive (but not always, so check AirAsia & Vietjet) and inconvenient in navigating transportation to/from the airport and through security with strict domestic baggage allowances.
Sleeper trains/buses are ideal for any sort of traveler from backpacker to a family vacation. Sleeper trains in Vietnam are cheap, they allow you to see more of the country at once, plus they are a really unique experience!
7 Reasons Why You Should Take a Sleeper Train in Vietnam
(and what to expect!)
1. Sleeper trains are efficient.
Although the idea of a Vietnamese sleeper train is not a super glamorous idea, it is a great way to be more efficient with your time. You are able to cover more ground and save money on accommodations. Train rides can be anywhere from 10-24 hours, and usually run overnight. This is why sleeper trains can be used as a time-saver rather than fun-sucker.
2. Sleeper trains go everywhere.
Most trains travel overnight between major cities such as Ho Chi Minh, Nha Trang, Da Nang, Hoi An, Sa Pa, and Hanoi. You can also take a sleeper train to other nearby countries such as Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand.
I personally took a sleeper train from Ho Chi Minh to Nha Trang, and then another from Da Nang to Hanoi. This allowed me to cross the entire country without stepping foot on a plane.
3. Sleeper trains are cost effective.
Tip: If you are on a sleeper train, you do not have to buy accommodation at a hostel or hotel!
If you were to travel via motorbike or plane, you would still have the expense of accommodation. Sleeper trains are also significantly cheaper than flights and the expenses associated with motorbikes (gas, insurance, maintenance, etc.).
The sleeper trains I took from Ho Chi Minh to Nha Trang, and then Da Nang to Hanoi, were only $30 USD. When I also take into account not having to pay for a hotel for those nights as well, it’s a budget-traveler dream! (Mind you, I didn't book a berth and just slept in my normal seat to save even more money.)
4. Sleeper trains are (relatively) comfortable.
In sleeper trains, you have a few options depending on what kind of traveler you are. You can book a normal seat, or you also have the option of renting a room with a bed (upper or lower berth) if you have a hard time sleeping in a chair.
Although, depending on the time of year, you might find most trains are not full and you may the entire row to yourself.
If you are travelling with a group, as a family, or even solo, you can rent an entire room. This will drive your costs up, but it will be more comfortable for some.
Food and Washrooms:
Thankfully, they have toilets on every train car.
Every couple of hours, people will come through with carts selling food, and not just concession food like potato chips and candy bars. They will come through with pho, sandwiches, and fruit. It’s like plane food on steroids.
5. Sleeper trains are easy to book.
Most sleeper trains can be booked a hotel or hostel, if you stay in one. Most companies have a partnership with the individual hostel or hotel to give you a great deal and will even come pick you up from the lobby.
If you choose to not stay in a hotel or hostel or your accommodations does not have a partnership, a simple Google search does the fix. Sites such as 12GoAsia and Baolau are reliable and easy to navigate.
6. Sleeper train stations have good wifi.
Whether you need to book an excursion, find accommodation, grab a taxi, or catch up on the Bachelorette, you can do this from the station.
This is especially recommended when you arrive to get your bearings. Once you arrive and then leave the station, you will be released to the “wolves” (aka taxi drivers) who will bombard you about taking their taxi.
Something to note about sleeper trains is they are mostly never on-time arriving or departing. So, be sure to give yourself an hour or two buffer on arriving and departing in terms of planning an excursion of some sort.
If you need wifi on the train, you should get a cheap Vietnamese SIM card for the ride.
7. Sleeper trains have the best views.
There is something romantic about riding in a train. It feels like an escape from reality, while also being completely immersed in your surroundings. You are forced to be present. Whether you have your journal open and earbuds in, chatting with your friends, or just looking out the window as the world goes by, being on a train really allows you the time to relax and not be so caught up in the rat race of life that so many of us are used to back home.
Sleeper trains weave through rice fields, cities, rural neighborhoods, and rivers. Vietnam has the most lush and beautiful landscape. It would be a shame to see Vietnam and not witness the rural parts that go unseen by most visitors.
Any downsides to booking a sleeper train?
- The washrooms started out very clean at the beginning of each journey, but near the end got pretty gross to be honest.
- If the train happens to be over-booked, it can be quite noisy and cramped. Try not to travel during holidays like Tet.
- Sleeper trains are definitely not the fastest way to get around. If you need to get somewhere in a hurry, it’s best to look at cheap airlines like VietJet.
Sleeper trains are a great solution to all of a travelers’ worries- time, efficiency, expense, and experience. Even if booking a sleeper train still worries you, do not let this discourage you from travelling through Vietnam. It simply is one of the most beautiful experiences that everyone should add to their memoir.
Originally American, I now live in Melbourne, Australia. I am an Au Pair, volunteer for a non-profit working with women refugees, yoga teacher, and blogger. I hope to share my story to inspire people to feel a sense of belonging and purpose, to expand minds and hearts through travel and mindfulness.
Other travel articles such as One Month “Down Unda” Australia.