The experience to travel by train in Vietnam
What is the railway like in Vietnam?
In Vietnam, all railways are government run but they have allowed private companies to furnish and service luxury cars which are attached to the state trains.
Tracks span the length of the country and generally run near the coast which can make for nice views.
Nearly all major tourist destinations can be reached by train and in most cases it is faster than taking the bus and certainly more relaxing.
One of the only popular places unreachable by train is Dalat in the central highlands which one can get to by train or plane. Short delays are not uncommon but often trains are able to make up the lost time and arrive on time.
Where can I find train schedules?
All information and scheduling can be found on our website and if you believe something is missing please let us know.
We get our information updated in real time from the railway to ensure accuracy and you can find train schedules, costs, travel times and train types by entering your desired origin and destination into the search bar.
Please note that for some routes we do not display results for the 3rd Class hard seats. If you really want to travel via hard seat, you may contact us and we will check availability.
What are railway stations like in Vietnam?
Vietnamese train stations often consist of little more than a ticket office and a waiting room which many European travelers will find quite bare and basic in terms of amenities (for American travelers it will not be all that different from your average Amtrak station).
Recently free wifi has been deployed to most major stations and ticket QR codes are often being scanned directly from smart phones, so the process is rapidly modernizing.
With the exceptions of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, few stations have food or convenience stores inside but you should be able to find anything you need in the area directly surrounding the station.
Trains stop only shortly at most stations so your chances to purchase items once on board will be limited. The railway is not known it either its gourmet or affordable food and drink.
Can we leave things at the station for storage?
Luggage storage varies from station to station and at many the “luggage storage” is handled by the women selling drinks in the corner.
When organizing your travel we would not recommend on planning to store your luggage at the station for any significant amount of time.
How does the boarding work?
Boarding procedures are subject to many variables such as station, staff, time of day, etc.
At times you may have to show your e-ticket to access the platform and then the conductor will scan it onboard the train and at other times you can board without showing your ticket before having it scanned once you are underway.
It is possible to board at a station that comes after your initial departure point and you can get off the train at an earlier station but please note that no tickets are ‘hop on, hop off’ tickets.
The process for private trains is a bit different. We will send you a PDF voucher with your confirmation code and you need to present that at the operator's window at the station or office near by.
The voucher will contain directions to the ticket pick up location.
How long in advance can I book a ticket?
Most routes on Vietnam Railways open 60 to 30 days before departure.
Longer routes such as Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City will open closer to 60 days in advance while shorter routes such as Hue to Danang may open closer to 30 days prior to departure.
This can vary by the type of seat/berth you wish to book. Private trains are open 60 days in advance.
In the future, we plan to offer advanced reservations to allow you to book before the routes are open and then we will complete the booking for you as soon as they are available but at the moment we are not able to do this.
If you plan on traveling in Vietnam around the Tet holidays which will take place during the last week of January and first week of February, tickets sales may open as early as the first week of November and we recommend booking as soon as possible.
When will I receive my tickets?
If you made your booking more than 96 hours prior to departure your tickets will be automatically reserved for Vietnam Railways and the booking will be completed by our staff as soon as possible.
Bookings on Vietnam Railways made within 96 hours and bookings for all private trains are sent directly to our staff for completion.
Please keep in mind that there is likely a 7-8 hour time difference between where you are reading this and Vietnam, so it could be several hours before your tickets are sent.
If you have not recieved your tickets after 12 hours it would be wise to check your spam folder before contacting us.
What if my tickets are unavailable after I pay?
During the summer high season and a few other times throughout the year, tickets booked at the last minute can become sold out before we have a chance to complete your order.
It happens in less than 1% of cases. For Vietnam Railways we will email you a list of possible options and as soon as you reply we will book your alternative.
If there is no alternative we will refund you in full. For the private railways we will automatically switch you to a provider of equal price and comfort level should your desired train become unavailable.
There is nothing you need to do in this case, we will simply book the available train for you and send you an email notifying of the change. We promise that there will be no noticeable difference in quality of service for the new booking.
Traveling with Children
Children under 6 free, aged 6 to 9 get a 25% discount for sleeping berths and seats, 10 and over full price. Children are only free if they share a seat/berth with you.
For this case you do not need a ticket for the child just be prepared to show their passport to prove age when boarding. If you want the child to have their own seat you will need to book a ticket for them as normal and we will apply a discount of 25%.
Where is the luggage kept in the train?
You can carry your luggage onto the cars and keep it above you or on special racks or underneath your seat. Some travelers secure their bags to the rack with a bicycle lock.
Is there a baggage limitation?
There is no hard limit to the amount of baggage you can bring on the train and you may be surprised by the amount that some Vietnamese families will take with them but be reasonable.
Boarding and disembarking from the train can be quite rushed and hectic and unlike other countries, there are no carts and no one to help you with your luggage.
Is it possible to transport a bicycle/motorbike?
Yes, on many trains it is possible to transport a bicycle or motorbike. It is best if you can go the station the day prior to departure to make the arrangements at the luggage office.
We can not give reliable advice on the cost of transport as it depends on the size of the bike and the mood of the staff. In most cases the price will be very negotiable.
Should you arrive at the station and find that it is not possible to transport your motorbike on the train for which you have already booked you will need to buy a new ticket on a train that can do the transport and cancel your booking in person at the station.
After canceling please inform us as the refund can only be sent to the agent who made the booking and then we will send to you.
Will the train arrive on time?
Vietnamese trains are not always on time. Often there is a delay, sometimes several hours. Do not plan your connecting flight without a significant break between train arrival and your next departure.
What kinds of classes are available?
There are 3 main types of carriages: 1st Class Sleeper, 2nd Class Sleeper AC and 2nd Class AC Seats Only. Hard seats are available upon special request but it is not advisable for most journeys.
1st Class Sleeper
First Class Sleeper is the highest class on Vietnam Railways and each car is made up of 7 cabins with four berths.
You will be provided with pillows and sheets and the cabin should have ample reading lights and electrical outlets.
The berths are hardly luxury mattresses but you should be able to sleep without discomfort.
During the day, it’s usual for people to sit on the bottom beds and trolleys with food and drinks will come by from time to time.
There is luggage storage under the bottom bunk and a large space above the door for additional items.
First class cars will have restrooms at one or both ends and they should be stocked with toilet paper and relatively clean at least for the initial departure.
2nd Class Sleeper AC
The 2nd Class Sleeper AC cars on Vietnam Railways have all of the same amenities as the First Class Sleepers except that instead of 4 soft berths in each cabin there are 6 hard berths.
The hard berths might be a bit uncomfortable for some and there is not a lot of space between them which may lead to taller travelers feeling a bit cramped.
As with 1st Class Sleepers, 2nd Class is always air conditioned, possibly too well air conditioned, so be prepared for that.
2nd Class AC Seats Only
2nd Class AC Seats Only are soft seats which can best be described as well used airplane seats.
There will be limited luggage space under your seat or overhead and often tickets are sold for “seats” on the floor of the isle where people will sit on small stools.
We do not recommend booking a soft seat for an overnight journey but for daytime trips they are perfectly acceptable.
The cars will have a couple of power outlets spaced along the walls and toilets at either end.
The toilets are separated from the air-conditioned part of the car and the area outside of them serves as a default smoking section.
The bathroom is an Asian style squat toilet which is basically a hole in the floor. There will not be toilette paper so bring your own.
Disabled passengers are invited to contact us directly as the availability of services varies between routes and is generally inconsistent. We are happy to check with the railway upon request.
For further requests, please contact us: Info@catbaexpress.com ; hotline: +84 976951999
Read more →