Vietnam’s has around 2,600 km of railway track which makes it about half the size of Myanmar’s railway network, which has over 5,400 km of track. Train services in Vietnam, however, are considerably quicker than those in Myanmar and the quality of the passenger carriages and facilities on long distance train services are markedly higher.
About Vietnam Trains
The majority of Vietnam’s railway network consists of a single railway line running from Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh city, in the south of the country to its capital, Hanoi. The line was renamed the ‘Reunification Line’ in 1976 when it reopened following the long war which resulted in North and South Vietnam joining together as single country. The Reunification Line is 1,726 km with 191 stations on route. The long distance trains which run the entire route stop only at a select number of major stations, nonetheless, the complete journey takes from 31 to 35 hours depending on the train services and frequently longer because of delays. A journey on the Reunification Line is one of the longest you can take in South East Asia and also one of the most interesting as the route follows the coastline and passes through some dramatic scenery, such as the Hi Van Pass, and some interesting historic monuments such as the Cham Towers at Thap Cham. Most tourists choose to break up the journey with stops at major destinations on route such as Hue, Da Nang and Nha Trang, and make use of the very good quality and inexpensive 1st class sleepers available on long distance train services in Vietnam. Contrary to reports from a number of foreign visitors, Vietnam trains are kept very clean and safe for foreign visitors in comparison to train services in most other South East Asian countries.
Vietnam has another 9 functional passenger train lines, which are all a lot shorter then the main north to south line. After the Reunification Line, the line which is most frequently used by foreign visitors in the 296 km route from Hanoi to Lao Cai. Lao Cai is the nearest connection point from the railway network to the popular tourist town of Sapa. By road the distance from Lao Cai to Sapa is 58.8 km which takes around 1 hour 20 minutes to travel by public bus.
Popular Train Journeys in Vietnam
Most of the popular train journeys for foreign visitors to Vietnam are on the Reunification Line using the SE Class trains, which feature a wide range of seat types and a restaurant car.
Amongst the most popular train journeys in Vietnam are:
- Hanoi to Da Nang: A 15 to 16 hour journey connecting the capital city with the exciting city of Da Nang which is famous for its beaches and Dragon Bridge that breathes fire at the weekends.
- Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang: A a manageable 7 to 9 hour journey connecting the populous Ho Chi Minh city with Vietnam’s most popular resort town, Nha Trang. During the holiday season trains on this route get packed with Vietnamese holiday makers from Ho Chi Minh city.
- Hanoi to Lao Cai: An 8 to 10 hour journey which is very popular with foreign visitors, but less so with Vietnamese travellers because it is a lot quicker and cheaper to travel by bus to from Hanoi to Sapa than it is to go by train to Lao Cai and then take a connecting bus to Sapa. The most luxurious of the passenger train carriages in regular use in Vietnam operate on this route.
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