Surviving A Vietnam Sleeper Train: How To Have The Best Journey

taking a vietnam sleeper train and seeing the country on a sleeper train in vietnam

Find out all about taking a Vietnam sleeper train. Let’s talk about whether it is worth it, how to book, tips to survive, different berth types, my journeys, and what to expect on your sleeper train in Vietnam!


If you are planning to travel around Vietnam then you have no doubt thought about taking a Vietnam sleeper train. Nearly covering the length of the country, a sleeper train in Vietnam is an excellent way to travel from point A to point B.

We nearly used them all through our backpacking Vietnam adventure. Though obviously we were limited to where the train actually goes so had to take a couple of sleeper buses. Personally, we thoroughly enjoyed taking a sleeper train around Vietnam. Though I have certainly seen and heard of some crazy horror stories.

Personally, our horror stories went the opposite way, they were on the sleeper buses. So, ultimately that’s why we decided to take a sleeper train in Vietnam wherever possible. This is the more expensive option, but for the sake of our sanity, we decided it would be worth it. It wasn’t an easy decision to come to. Though after much research, scary TripAdvisor reviews, and overanalyzing blog posts we took the plunge and purchased a train ticket using the Baolau online ticketing services.

So read on to find out everything you need to know about taking a Vietnam sleeper train. This includes what to expect, how comfortable it is, booking a sleeper train in Vietnam, costs, berth types, and more.


Booking a Vietnam Sleeper Train: What You Need To Know Before You Sleeper Train In Vietnam Journey


How To Book A Vietnam Sleeper Train

You’ll be surprised how easy it is to book a sleeper train in Vietnam. It used to be a bit more complicated back in the day. Though with the advancement of technology it has now become a painless experience.

Buy Tickets Online: You can now purchase tickets online. It is a bit confusing as some websites still say you need to print out your ticket and swap it at the train station. Though no one wants to be stuck doing this! As a result, I booked all of my train journeys in Vietnam with Baolau. Their website says you don’t need to print off the ticket and instead just show it ticket on your phone to the attendant on the train. This is what I did and never once had an issue. Though being a third-party agent there is a small additional fee built into the ticket cost, but this is way easier, and cheaper than having to go to the train station! I often use 12.Go Asia in other parts of Asia, but not in Vietnam for the above reason.

Buy Tickets From Vietnam Railways: Another option is buying your tickets directly with Vietnam Railways. You often can’t find the cheaper hard/soft seater tickets available on third-party websites as they are not a popular choice for travelers. Though if you are on a budget you can book direct with Vietnam Railways. Just make sure you use the Vietnam Railways legit website as there are plenty of knockoffs floating around. Alternatively, you can also purchase tickets at your nearest train station. You will find the tickets are slightly cheaper when you purchase directly because there isn’t a third party involved in marking up their share for processing the ticket.

vietnam sleeper train on railway tracks
the train traveling through the center of hanoi

Where To Take The Sleeper Train In Vietnam

Apart from operating the route between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City the sleeper trains in Vietnam also travel to many other parts of the country which can be seen on the map below. Though to keep this post relatively short we will be concentrating on The Reunification Express which is the route from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City and vice versa.

map of the train route in vietnam
map of the train routes in vietnam

The Reunification Express (Hanoi To Ho Chi Minh And Vice Versa

The following is the timetable from Hanoi To Ho Chi Minh City and the stops it makes along the way:

Southbound Timetable Departing Hanoi

City SE3 Train SE19 Train SE1 Train SE7 Train SE5 Train SE9 Train
Hanoi 19:25 (day 1) 20:00 (day 1) 22:20 (day 1) 06:00 (day 1) 08:50 (day 1) 14:25 (day 1)
Ninh Binh 21:42 (day 1) 22:12 (day 1) 08:17 (day 1) 11:07 (day 1) 16:59 (day 1)
Thanh Hoa 22:53 (day 1) 23:26 (day 1) 01:29 (day 2) 09:28 (day 1) 12:24 (day 1) 18:13 (day 1)
Vinh 01:24 (day 2) 02:11 (day 2) 03:50 (day 2) 11:59 (day 1) 14:58 (day 1) 20:46 (day 1)
Dong Hoi 05:30 (day 2) 06:26 (day 2) 07:57 (day 2) 16:23 (day 1) 19:30 (day 1) 01:34 (day 2)
Hue 08:25 (day 2) 09:34 (day 2) 10:47 (day 2) 19:51 (day 1) 22:23 (day 1) 04:39 (day 2)
Da Nang 11:03 (day 2) 12:22 (day 2) 13:22 (day 2) 22:27 (day 1) 01:01 (day 2) 07:37 (day 2)
Quang Ngai 14:26 (day 2) 16:03 (day 2) 01:16 (day 2) 03:48 (day 2) 11:18 (day 2)
Dieu Tri 17:33 (day 2) 18:53 (day 2) 04:14 (day 2) 06:49 (day 2) 14:27 (day 2)
Nha Trang 21:14 (day 2) 22:28 (day 2) 08:31 (day 2) 10:51 (day 2) 19:02 (day 2)
Binh Thuan 01:07 (day 3) 02:34 (day 3) 12:55 (day 2) 15:19 (day 2) 23:42 (day 2)
Ho Chi Minh City 04:38 (day 3) 05:45 (day 3) 16:30 (day 2) 18:55 (day 2) 03:25 (day 3)

The following is the timetable from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi and the stops it makes along the way:

Northbound Timetable Departing Ho Chi Minh City

City SE4 Train SE2 Train SE20 Train SE8 Train SE6 Train SE10 Train
Ho Chi Minh City 19:25 (day 1) 21:55 (day 1) 06:00 (day 1) 08:50 (day 1) 14:30 (day 1)
Binh Thuan 22:58 (day 1) 01:10 (day 2) 09:36 (day 1) 12:13 (day 1) 18:26 (day 1)
Nha Trang 03:02 (day 2) 04:55 (day 2) 13:28 (day 1) 16:06 (day 1) 23:13 (day 1)
Dieu Tri 06:52 (day 2) 08:39 (day 2) 17:29 (day 1) 20:31 (day 1) 03:11 (day 2)
Quang Ngai 09:46 (day 2) 11:20 (day 2) 20:28 (day 1) 23:20 (day 1) 06:34 (day 2)
Da Nang 12:16 (day 2) 13:37 (day 2) 18:45 (day 1) 23:01 (day 1) 02:07 (day 2) 09:28 (day 2)
Hue 15:20 (day 2) 16:28 (day 2) 21:27 (day 1) 02:04 (day 1) 04:53 (day 2) 12:53 (day 2)
Dong Hoi 18:35 (day 2) 19:39 (day 2) 00:53 (day 2) 05:21 (day 2) 08:35 (day 2) 16:14(day 2)
Vinh 22:44 (day 2) 23:41 (day 2) 05:37 (day 2) 09:45 (day 2) 12:57 (day 2) 20:43 (day 2)
Thanh Hoa 01:26 (day 3) 02:18 (day 3) 07:58 (day 2) 12:27 (day 2) 15:41 (day 2) 23:28 (day 2)
Ninh Binh 03:21 (day 3) 09:26 (day 2) 13:37 (day 2) 16:56 (day 2)
Hanoi 04:48 (day 3) 05:30 (day 3) 12:00 (day 2) 15:54 (day 2) 19:12 (day 2) 03:08 (day 3)

Other Sleeper Train Routes In Vietnam

Apart from the Reunification Express, there are a few other train routes you may find yourself taking on your journeys in Vietnam.

Hanoi To Lao Cai / Sapa: The sleeper train from Hanoi to Lao Cai for Sapa is a popular journey in Vietnam. For the most comfortable trip, I recommend booking a 4-berth soft sleeper, or if you have the funds, one of the luxury trains. This will ensure you get a good night’s sleep ready for a day of trekking in Sapa. The main thing to remember when booking the train from Hanoi to Sapa is that the journey finishes in Lao Cai rather than Sapa. This means you will need to take some sort of transport for the remainder to Sapa town. The distance from Lao Cai to Sapa is 35 kilometers which will take you around 50 to 90 minutes to travel to Sapa depending on whether you book a minivan or a bus.

Ho Chi Minh To Phan Thiet / Mui Ne: Rather than getting off the train at Binh Thuan on the Reunification line, nearly 40 kilometers away from Mui Ne, you can instead take the train from Ho Chi Minh to Phan Thiet. Phan Thiet is just 24 kilometers away from Mui Ne and there will be plenty of taxis around at the station who can take you the distance.

Hanoi To Haiphong: Haiphong is the perfect gateway to exploring the amazing Cat Ba Island. You can travel this way by taking the train from Hanoi to Haiphong. Onboard there are air-conditioned soft seats, air-conditioned seats, and ordinary seats. Tickets cost a few dollars and the journey takes just over 2 hours.

Hanoi To Halong Bay: Even though Halong is a tourist hotspot then train from Hanoi to Halong bay is a more local experience. This is the perfect journey if you are wanting to get off the beaten track and experience local life. The trains are not anything fancy with just hard seats available, though when you arrive in Halong Bay there is a fancy new train station.

the front of the train going over a bridge in vietnam
the front of the train going over a bridge in vietnam

Costs Of A Sleeper Train In Vietnam

Depending on who you book through will affect the costs of a sleeper train in Vietnam. Obviously, your cheaper option is booking directly through Vietnam Railways online or you can also purchase tickets at your nearest train station. Booking through a third party such as Baolau can be a couple of extra dollars, but can save a lot of hassle when it comes to printing your tickets.

You will find the majority of overnight journeys will cost you approximately $30.00 or so per person if you book the air conditioning soft sleeper lower berth, which is one of the best beds. This can be quite a bit of money, considering buses can be found for about half this price. Though taking the train is a much more comfortable way to travel around Vietnam.

To get a better idea of pricing below are the approximate ticket costs from Hanoi to particular stops along the Reunification line depending on what type of ticket you decide to book. Prices are in USD rounded to the nearest 10 cents.

Fares from
Hanoi to:

Soft seat

air-con

Hard sleeper

air-con

lower

Hard sleeper

air-con

middle

Hard sleeper

air-con

top

Soft sleeper

air-con

lower

Soft sleeper

air-con 

top

 Ninh Binh $3.30 $4.80 $4.70 $3.80 $5.50 $5.10
 Thanh Hoa $5.40 $8.20 $7.65 $6.50 $8.40 $8.00
 Vinh $9.30 $13.80 $12.90 $10.70 $14.70 $13.60
 Dong Hoi $15.70 $24.10 $22.60 $18.60 $24.10 $23.00
 Hue $20.10 $32.80 $30.70 $25.50 $36.90 $34.60
 Danang $24.00 $35.20 $32.90 $27.30 $39.50 $37.10
 Quang Ngai $27.10 $37.90 $35.50 $29.40 $42.60 $39.90
 Dieu Tri $32.30 $45.20 $42.30 $35.10 $50.70 $47.60
 Nha Trang $35.00 $51.30 $48.10 $39.90 $57.70 $54.20
 Saigon $39.40 $55.00 $51.50 $42.80 $61.80 $58.00

What Berth To Book

As above in our price table, you will see all the different types of tickets you can book. Be aware that even though you may book the same class twice it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be the same. Quite a few trains have been refurbished in recent years making them a lot more comfortable. Though this isn’t the case with all of the trains.


Hard Seat Or Soft Seat

The seats are the cheapest you will find, with a hard seat being one of the cheapest options available. This is good for shorter journeys, though I would think twice before booking one for an overnight train in Vietnam.

The hard seats are exactly as they sound. Usually, they are simply just wooden benches on the train. Your soft seats are cushioned chairs, a lot more comfortable on journeys.

Personally, I would only book this option for journeys less than a few hours long. Though if you are on a tight budget you may find this to be the best option for you. You will also have a lot more opportunities to interact with the locals on board as you are not in cabins.

soft seats in vietnam sleeper train
soft seats are good for shorter journeys

Hard Sleeper Or Soft Sleeper

The majority of traveling will choose a soft sleeper when taking a sleeper train in Vietnam, especially when their journey is overnight. This is definitely the most comfortable way to travel. Also, it is the safest with a smaller amount of people around you and lockable doors.

The only difference between the hard sleeper and soft sleeper berths is the amount of people you will be sharing with. A hard sleeper sleeps 6 people whereas a soft sleeper sleeps, 4 people. So contrary to the name you won’t be sleeping on a hard surface, you will just have less headroom if you are wanting to sit upright.

Whichever sleeper you choose you will have an individual reading light, pillow, sheet, and duvet. You can either store your luggage under the lower bunk or in the compartment above the door.


Lower or Upper Berth

Lastly is the choice of booking a lower or upper berth. Most people seem to have a preference for this, including myself.

Lower Berth: The appeal of the lower berth is simply that it is a lot easier to get into. There is no climbing an awkward ladder, trying not to fall off while the train moves. The lower ones are also generally slightly bigger as they are permanent fixtures. The downside is there is a lot less privacy and you may find your upper bunk mates join you during the day so they can sit at the table.

Upper Berth: The upper berth is a lot more private and there will be no one trying to encroach on your space. You may also have the air conditioning blowing straight onto you so bring an extra jacket on board to keep warm!

Top tip: If you book your train via Baolau you can pick in advance whether you want a lower or upper berth.

soft sleeper train in vietnam
the soft sleeper berth the most comofrtable way to travel when taking the Vietnam sleeper train

Types Of Trains And Classes Onboard

The following are a list of trains that operate in Vietnam and the types of classes onboard which you can book tickets for:

SE1, SE2, SE3, and SE4: These are the best trains with air-conditioned 4 berth soft sleepers, air-conditioned 6 berth hard sleepers, and air-conditioned soft seats. SE3 and SE4 were refurbished in 2015 and SE1 and SE2 were refurbished in 2016. You will also find these trains offer privately run luxury sleeper beds by companies such as Livitrans and Violette.

SE5, SE6, SE9, and SE10: Onboard you will find air-conditioned 4 berth soft sleepers, air-conditioned 6 berth hard sleepers, air-conditioned soft seats, air-conditioned hard seats, and ordinary seats.

SE7 and SE8: These two trains only run at busy times such as Tet. Onboard you can find air-conditioned soft sleepers, air-conditioned hard sleepers, and air-conditioned soft seats.

SE19 and SE20: Onboard you will find air-conditioned soft sleepers, air-conditioned hard sleepers, air-conditioned soft seats, air-conditioned hard seats, and ordinary hard seats.

SE21 and SE22: Onboard you will find air-conditioned soft sleepers, air-conditioned hard sleepers, air-conditioned soft seats, and air-conditioned hard seats.

SE11, SE12, SE25, and SE26: You will only find these trains running on particular dates because they are a seasonal operation.


Facilities On Board

In terms of facilities onboard the sleeper train in Vietnam you have access to everything you need for an overnight journey. There are two toilets in each carriage, one western-style and one squatter. Though be aware these will be clean at the start of your journey, but we can’t promise the same the following day. There are no showers on board.

There is Wifi onboard. Though do not expect it to work 100% of the way. Same thing if you have a local sim card with data. In some parts of the country, you will have a hard time getting reception.

There is hot water on each carriage. This means cup noodles provide the perfect meal. You can buy food onboard as the cart walks around. Though in all honesty, I would recommend skipping this. As a result, you are best off purchasing food beforehand. Many of the train stations have food vendors offering snacks like chips, lollies, and drinks. Though best to head to a restaurant beforehand and grab a few things takeaway. A banh mi is a great choice.


Can You Actually Sleep

Now if you are booking a Vietnam sleeper train you would presume that is in the hope that you can sleep on board. That way you wake up refreshed and ready to explore a new destination.

Personally, I had excellent nights of sleep on all of my Vietnam sleeper train journeys. Though I am that type of person who generally sleeps well on moving transport as I find the rocking puts me to sleep. We always made sure to book the forward-facing sleeper bed to prevent motion sickness as well.

It is relatively dark onboard and you can turn the announcement speaker down so you don’t get woken up. As you can see from the above timetable the train doesn’t actually stop that often. Though you will notice it speeding up and slowing down as you head in and out of towns.

sunset as the train goes over a bridge on the outskirts of the city
sunset as the train goes over a bridge on the outskirts of the city

Safety On The Train

Taking a train in Vietnam is probably one of the safest ways you can travel around. I mean the roads here are absolutely crazy so no surprises there. Though taking overnight bus journeys are particularly risky. Therefore take the train for the safest option for traveling from point A to point B.

The only time you really need to be concerned is theft onboard the actual train. Unfortunately, this is common in Vietnam so you will want to keep your valuables close to you. Chuck a lock on your bag to keep it safe and remember to lock the door to your cabin if you happen to book one.

Personally, I didn’t have any issues on the sleeper train in Vietnam. Though I did take the above precautions to keep safe. Sometimes common sense can make a big difference and prevents you from being a target.


Do’s And Don’ts Of The Vietnam Sleeper Train

Yes, there are rules you should follow when booking a sleeper train in Vietnam. This will ensure you respect the culture and have an excellent journey. A lot of things we normally do in Western cultures aren’t acceptable in others. So read on to find out the dos’ and don’ts of taking a Vietnam sleeper train.


Vietnam Sleeper Train Do’s

  • Dress comfortably when traveling. I mean you don’t want to try to climb up to the upper berth wearing tight skinny jeans.
  • Take all your essentials on board with just a day pack. Your main bag will be packed away and you don’t want to upset the other people in your cabin by having to pull everything out of your bag. So you will need your everyday items and valuables close.
  • Keep your bags as safe as possible because petty theft is relatively common in Vietnam. This is especially the case if you are sleeping.
  • The air conditioning can be super cold! Though this is pretty normal when traveling all around Southeast Asia, not just in Vietnam. Bring along that one hoodie or jacket you packed because trust me you will need it.
  • Feel free to bring your own pillowcase or cover it in a T-shirt if you are concerned about cleanliness. The trains are only cleaned in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. Therefore if you jump on halfway through you may discover your bed has already been slept in.
  • Bring with you plenty of snacks, earplugs, eyemask, water, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer. You will want these kept in your day bag for emergencies.
  • Make sure you have some sort of entertainment. This will make your journey a lot less painful. Ensure devices are fully charged and if you have a power bank bring that along as well. If you are really onto it download some episodes of your favorite Netflix show. Just anything to kill time.

Vietnam Sleeper Train Dont’s

  • Not to sound like your mother, but don’t leave valuables lying around. As I said above petty theft is a common occurrence throughout Vietnam and if you are unaware or sleeping you quickly become the perfect victim.
  • Research your journey and how long it will take. You will want enough food and water on board the bus to keep you going. I always found food vendors in Vietnam always happy to package items for takeaway.
  • The name sleeper train doesn’t necessarily mean you need to take it at night. Plenty of sleeper trains in Vietnam operate during the daytime. Bonus, the daytime trips are generally a bit cheaper as well!
  • Don’t give in to those pushy taxi drivers when you arrive at your next destination. Research in advance how much a taxi should cost and even walk slightly away from the train station where you are more likely to get a cheaper rate.
  • Make sure not to leave booking your sleeper train last minute. They generally get booked up a few days in advance. This can change to a few weeks in advance during busy periods such as Tet new year.
arriving at the train station after taking the sleeper train in vietnam
disemarking at the train station after a long journey

My Sleeper Train Experiences

The following are a couple of my experiences taking a sleeper train in Vietnam. Hopefully, this will give you a good idea of what to expect and tips so you can have an easy and stress-free journey.


Hanoi To Hue

The first leg of our journey would take us from Hanoi to Hue. A 14-hour ride, departing at 8pm and arriving at 10am. The Baolau website had a variety of options to choose from and you can even pick your seats on a lot of trains. We decided on a  four-berth soft sleeper, lower bunks, on train SE19 seeing as it would be a long journey which cost 720000 VND and a small booking fee. An online ticket on a mobile phone can be used which also saved the hassle of printing one out.

The Hanoi Railway Station is located a twenty-minute or so walk away from the Old Quarter. So we strapped on our bags and began navigating our way between motorbikes, busy footpaths, and dodging cars. Soon enough we arrived and managed to figure our way to our train and carriage with no help whatsoever, super proud.

When arriving at the station on the lower level head straight through where there will be a sign displaying what gate the train is departing from. Once you have found that head up the escalator on the left to the second floor, then through the door on either side of the building. There should be electronic signs stating what carriages are in which direction and it is all quite easy to figure out.

Entering the carriage it was obvious it was not the most flash, but also it was not run down as all those horror stories I had previously read online made it sound. The four-berth cabin was simple, with basic wooden fixings, a small table, power sockets, and two lights. When we arrived our two cabinmates were already there. They were two Vietnamese girls who literally said nothing and barely made a noise during the whole time they were on board.

The train departed at the exact minute stated and we soon enough fell asleep to the rocking movements. At approximately 10pm loud music started playing and a woman came over the loudspeaker stating we had arrived in Ninh Binh. It went quiet after that and we all fell back to sleep. Then, at 2am the noise started again having arrived in Vinh and our two cabinmates departed, leaving James and me by ourselves for the remaining 8 hours.

After that I fell asleep quickly, dreaming of trains and buses obviously caused by the rocking sensations. It was a really good sleep, likely the same amount I would have had at a hostel. I slept without earplugs or headphones and was only waken at the stations. We purchased snacks at a supermarket in Hanoi so never tried the train food.

The bathrooms were kept clean throughout the trip, most visits stocked with toilet paper, though take your own supply just to be safe. The only bathroom major was the smell once in there, but you will want to get out of there as quickly as possible anyway.

The four berths soft sleeper cabin was extremely comfortable and had everything you would need, except wifi. It was clean and the only bug I saw was a lone mosquito, so no cockroaches, thank god. The sheets, duvet, and pillow were all clean and nicely folded up when we arrived.

arriving on our sleeper train in vietnam from hanoi to hue
arriving on our first sleeper train in vietnam from hanoi to hue

Hue To Danang

We booked the tickets from Hue to Da Nang through the same ticketing website, costing 128000 VND. The train would depart at 10.35am and arrive at 1pm. So it was a fairly short ride. The reason why we booked the train was that I had read that it was the most scenic leg of the Vietnam Railway system. Through coastlines, forests, and rice fields.

After a brisk walk to the train station, we had to stay in the waiting room for about twenty minutes until they opened the door. We had booked 2 beds in a 4 berth soft sleeper booth. Train SE3, carriage 8, bed 13 & 14.

The train was only a mere ten minutes late and its arrival was announced with loud whistles and men waving yellow flags near the track. The SE3 train was one of those which had been refurbished, slightly more expensive than the older, original trains. Appearing the same from the outside but quite different on the inside. A lighter, fresher color scheme made the areas feel larger. The bathroom areas were also redone, with two basins and a separate toilet area. Fake flowers sat on the table and we were handed a bottle of water each.

The main disappointment with this train was that there was mesh covering the window. This meant that to see the most scenic part of the Vietnam railway system we had to also stare at small black dots, limiting the chance of getting any photos greatly.

Also, the rumored wifi available was nonexistent, so don’t bother booking the nicer trains just on the chance you will get internet.


Should I Book A Sleeper Train In Vietnam

Honestly, I personally recommend a sleeper train as an excellent way to travel around Vietnam. You will get a comfortable and well-rested night’s sleep ensuring you arrive at your next destination refreshed and ready to explore. The one downside would be the price attached. Therefore if you are on a tight budget taking a sleeper bus would be the best option for you.

I also recommend using Baolau to book sleeper trains in Vietnam. You can book the exact ticket you want and the type of sleeper which is best for your needs. There is also no need to print your ticket off as you can just show it on your phone.


Any Questions? Let me know in the comments!


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Find out all about taking a Vietnam sleeper train. Let’s talk about whether it is worth it, how to book, tips to survive, different berth types, my journeys, and what to expect on your sleeper train in Vietnam!


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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. So, if you click on it and purchase something, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you. As always all opinions are my own and your support is much appreciated.

Photo credit: “20180313_151952” (CC BY 2.0) by Rob Glover. “Train to Hue” (CC BY 2.0) by Nick

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