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YOU ARE HERE: HOMEGET HERE & AROUND BY TRAIN  TRAIN TICKETS (AND TRAVEL DETAILS) ...
Train tickets (and travel details)

Train travel in Vietnam is cheap, and sleeper trains save on hotel bills, too, as well as the cost of taxis to & from airports. The old system of charging foreigners higher fares than Vietnamese citizens was abolished in 2002, and everyone now pays the cheaper Vietnamese fare. This table shows fares in 1000s of Vietnamese Dong. The English-language fares and timetable system at the Vietnamese Railways website isn't working, these fares are taken from the Vietnamese version. Higher fares are charged for the higher-quality SE trains, cheaper fares for trains TN1 & TN2.

Price rise in April 2011:  These fares don't take into account a 20% price rise in April 2011. We will update it shortly. Children aged 0 to 4 travel free, children 5 to 9 travel at half fare.  Children10 and over must pay full fare.

The hard sleeper fares shown here are for the middle bunk.  Top bunks are roughly 15% cheaper, bottom bunks roughly 5% more expensive.
The soft sleeper fares shown here are for lower berths.  Upper berths are about 1.2 % cheaper.
Livitrans tourist sleepers:  The privately-run Livitrans tourist sleepers attached to trains SE1 & SE2 cost US$49 one-way per person from Hanoi to Hue or US$59 Hanoi to Danang, travelling in 4-berth air-conditioned soft sleepers.  See http://www.vietnam-trains.com/schedule.html or www.livitrans.com for fares & online booking.

How to buy tickets...
Do I need a reservation?  Can I stop off along the way?  Can I hop on and off?

Yes, yes, and no...  All trains require a reservation, so you need a specific ticket/reservation for each individual train journey you make.  If you want to travel from Saigon to Hanoi (or vice versa) stopping off on the way, this is not a problem, but you will need to book it as a series of separate journeys, with a separate ticket for each leg either bought in advance or bought as you go along.  You cannot buy an open ticket and hop on and off trains without a reservation.

Buy tickets at the station...
It's easy to buy train tickets at the station when you get to Vietnam.  Apart from peak holiday periods such as Tet, it's not difficult to book a soft sleeper a few days in advance, but be prepared to be flexible over your exact choice of class, train number or departure date.  If you are booking for the same day or the following day, you might find the best quality trains full, but other trains will probably have berths available.  Reservations were computerised in 2002, and you can buy tickets for most train journeys within Vietnam at Saigon and Hanoi station booking offices.  So for example, you can buy both a Saigon-Hue ticket and a Hue-Hanoi ticket at Saigon station ticket office.  However, at other stations such as Hue, Danang or Nha Trang, you can only book journeys starting at the station you're at.  At ticket offices, you pay in Vietnamese Dong, US dollars are not generally accepted.  If you're sure of your itinerary and it's important to be on a specific train on a specific date in a specific class, then you can pre-book by email with a local Vietnamese travel agency, see below.

Buy tickets in advance
by emailing a travel agency:  www.vietnamimpressive.com
  Reliable Vietnamese travel agencies who will book train tickets by email include VietnamImpressive, Vietnamstay (www.vietnamstay.com/service/sapatrain.htm),  Saigon Hotel (www.saigonhotel.com).
 If you want to get some or all of your train reservations booked in advance before you get to Vietnam, there are several reputable travel agencies who will book trains for you for a small fee.  Tickets can be waiting for you at your hotel when you get to Vietnam, or couriered overseas, with payment by Visa, MasterCard or other major credit card. If you pay by Onepay there's a 3% credit card charge. They will deliver to any hotel in Vietnam or can courier your tickets to the UK by DHL for $65. Vietnamstay.com (www.vietnamstay.com) gets very good reports from travellers, although they can only book trains departing from Hanoi or Saigon, and not starting at  intermediate stations.  Their website now only seems to mention Hanoi-Sapa trains, but ask them for a quote for other routes.  Saigonhotel (www.saigonhotel.com, formerly Vietnam.net) offers a comprehensive service, charging around $137 Hanoi to Saigon or $73 Hanoi-Hue in soft sleeper.


Can I buy all 4 berths in a compartment to have a room to ourselves? 
Privacy-loving westerners often ask this.  The answer is that in theory yes you can, but it can't be guaranteed that the train staff won't allocate additional passengers to the berths they know to be empty.  Our advice is don't bother, just book 2 beds in a 4-berth soft class sleeper.  The Vietnamese may view it as selfish to take up 4 beds when you only need 2, given that places on their national transport system can be in short supply at times.  You'll be safe and comfortable sharing a 4-berth soft sleeper, and might actually meet some real Vietnamese people this way!


Rail-based tailor-made holidays in Vietnam...
Alternatively, there are travel agencies who will book Vietnamese rail travel for you as part of a tailor-made itinerary, such as www.regent-holidays.co.uk.  These agencies are usually willing to book the trains you specify, but only if one or two hotel bookings are also made through them, usually at the more expensive tourist-orientated hotels.

What are the trains like?
Trains SE1 to SE8...
The best trains are the ones with 'SE' train numbers, equipped with modern air-conditioned coaches with large picture windows, unobstructed by the wire mesh that protects other trains' windows from stones.  Choose these trains if you can.  They have:
  
   

•    soft class air-conditioned sleepers (4-berths per compartment).
    •    hard class air-conditioned sleepers (6-berths per compartment)
    •    air-conditioned soft class reclining seats.
    •    a restaurant or buffet car.
    •    trains SE1 & SE2 also have privately-run 'Livitrans' 4-berth air-conditioned tourist sleepers of a higher standard attached between Hanoi, Hue & Danang, see below and see www.livitrans.com.

Which class should you choose? 
Air-conditioned soft sleeper is the recommended choice for most western travellers, for any journey involving overnight travel.  Air-con soft sleeper cars have western-style toilets at the end of the corridor, and in the newer cars you'll find sockets for recharging your camera or mobiles.  However, air-con hard sleeper is perfectly acceptable if you're on a budget or if all the soft sleepers are sold out, so don't rule it out.  Some hard sleepers have squat-type toilets only, if that's an issue for you.  Air-con soft seat is a good choice for daytime journeys, but not for overnight trips as you can't sleep properly in a seat.



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