Saigon to Hanoi
By Anton Swanepoel
Copyright © 2016 Anton Swanepoel
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Published at Shakespir by Anton Swanepoel
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Vietnam is a magnificent country. There is so much to see in Vietnam, that to see it all will require months of travelling around the country. For those that want to see a bit more about the country but have limited time, or need to travel between Saigon and Hanoi, a train ride is a good option.
The information in this booklet serves to give a bit more information on using the train between Saigon and Hanoi, to help you decide if it is for you, what class to take, and prepare for your trip.
The train between the two cities, takes around 40 hours, and although slower than flying, is a cheap and scenic option to seeing much of Vietnam, or to return to one of the cities. For a more scenic but longer and more hassle ride, you can take multiple busses from city to city. You can however book a train ticket just to the next large town, enjoy it for a bit, and then hop on the next train to the next large city.
Note that different operators have different cars on the same train, and a hard bunk from one is not always the same quality from another. If you are going only for a few hours, then a hard bench is okay, but for a trip from Saigon to Hanoi, get a hard or soft bunk. Soft bunks do sell out fast, so most of the time you will be left with a hard bunk, that in all respect is still good. (Pictured later). Your ticket will have the train car number, and also the bed number on it, and in most cases, Vietnamese people do stand around to help you, for a few dollars.
Saigon train station. Far better than Hanoi.
10°46’56.0200” N 106°40’36.6000” E
Hard bunk, not a bad option.
Typically, hard bunks come in 4 or 6 bed configerations. The bunk carriage can lock, and your valuables are more secure. For bench carriages, you sit on a hard bench in an open carriage. If you are doing along ride, then sleeping is almost impossible, and things disappearing out of your bag is a risk. If you do manage to fall asleep, then your bag disappearing entirely is a risk. Secure your bag to yourself or the bench, and lock all zippers.
At some stations, you can jump out and get a quick snack, or they will come to your window to sell you stuff. You can buy breakfast, lunch and dinner on the train, and although not much, it is good food. There is also a trolley that goes around with supplemental food, and at dinner, you can buy extra chicken pieces if you like (expensive).
A buy comes along and takes orders for if you want dinner, breakfast and lunch. I suggest taking it, unless you brought your own food. There are three carts making the rounds. One only comes along when food is served, and sells additional pieces of meat or rice. Another cart comes around on regular intervals and sells drinks, coffee, and snacks. I lived mostly on coffee and caramel glazed popcorn. The last cart comes occasionally around, and sell fresh fruit.
Fruit cart on the train. Prices are reasonable and the cart comes around about four times on the trip.
Snack and coffee cart. The glazed popcorn is a life saver. The cart comes around about eight times, normally just before breakfast, lunch time and dinner, and then a few odd times at night.
Dinner is a bit sparse on the train of you are hungry, however, you can buy additional chicken pieces and other food items from a second cart following the dinner cart. A conducter will come around earlier asking if you want dinner. Do order as you cannot buy dinner on the spot when he later comes to diliver the orders and buying lose pieces are expensive.
Breakfast is normally rice porridge, and although it is tasdty, you may need to add some fruit to breakfast to fill you up.
My staple food for the trip.
The train mostly stay close to the A1 highway, and do offer some good views as you go along.
The views are stunning, and you can see a reasonable amount of the country as you pass by.
Passing Da Nang
First class toilet. Was clean most of the time, and toilet paper was replaced during the trip. Do wipe the seat before you sit down. The toilet also has a basin where you can freshen up if you want.
Standing in the passage and admiring the view. If you are alone, do take your wallet with you when leaving to go to the toilet, especially at night, for at stops, hawkers do come on-board and roam through the train trying to sell stuff. Bunk rooms or cabins are the doors on the right of the passage. This picture is the length of one carriage. You can move between carraiges to see friends on another carriage.
Hanoi Train Station.
21°1’28.5800” N 105°50’29.5600” E
Not really a wide selection of goods, bring your own.
At least there is a wide-screen TV on the wall in the Hanoi train station.
Your train ticket will have a number of different information on it. Here are some useful translations.
Ngòi or Ghé = seat. (For hard and soft seat trains)
Nam or Giuòng = sleeper berth. (Bottom right of ticket, and is the berth or compartment in the train cart).
Mèm = soft class. (Comfy sleeping)
Cúng = hard class. (Okay)
Dièu Hòa (ÐH) = air-conditioned. (Printed normally at the top of the ticket with the class)
Toa = coach, carriage. Your train, coach or cart or wagon for some. (Middle left number on ticket).
Ga = Station, as in the French ‘Gare’.
Giò tau = train times.
Giá Vé = ticket price.
Tang = level. Tang 1 = lower: Tang 2 = middle: Tang 3 = upper berths. (Middle right of ticket)
K6 = 6-berth hard sleeper compartment.
K4 = 4-berth soft sleeper compartment.
K=khoang = compartment.
Toan vé = Full price (adult fare with no discounts)
Thank you for taking the time to read Saigon to Hanoi by train.
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Anton Swanepoel @ Pol Pot’s house on the mountains in Thailand, and on his way to Preah Vihear Temple.
For seven years, I worked as a technical diving instructor in the Cayman Islands. I am a Tri-Mix instructor in multiple agencies, and dove to over 400ft on open circuit. While on Grand Cayman, I started a passion that I always had, writing. For a number of years, I saved what I could, and in Jan 2014, I moved to Siem Reap, Cambodia, to focus full-time on my writing, while travelling. If you want to follow my adventures, see my blog www.antonswanepoelbooks.com/blog
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Vietnam is a magnificent country. There is so much to see in Vietnam, that to see it all will require months of traveling around the country. For those that want to see a bit more about the country but have limited time, or need to travel between Saigon and Hanoi, a train ride is a good option. The information in this booklet serves to give a bit more information on using the train between Saigon and Hanoi, to help you decide if it is for you, what class to take, and prepare for your trip.