At the end of August we were due to depart from the city of Hue to head to the coastal city of Da Nang. After spending a few weeks inland I was really excited to make my way to the nearest beach to relax and wash away some of the traffic induced fumes that follow you around when ever you visit a busy city.
In order to get to said beach, we needed to decide on a method of transport. Flying was out of budget for us meaning that we could either go for a bus or we could opt for the train and get a glimpse of the Hoi Van pass. Being one for favouring a scenic route we went for the train. Prices in Vietnam never fail to astound me, it was 60K VND (roughly £2) for a 3 hour journey! At home, for the train from Cardiff to London (a 2 hour journey) it would usually cost me close to £100 and that’s with a railcard!
A particularly useful website to look at when considering train tickets in Vietnam is ‘DSVN.vn‘. This is the official Vietnamese train service website and although it may seem like an obvious site to find, it is definitely not.
Be warned that a lot of hotels will try and sell you train (and bus) tickets in advance of your journey. These will usually cost a lot more than if you buy the tickets yourself at the station. It’s not that the hotels are trying to scam you, they are simply aware that a lot of people who are travelling the country like the convenience of having their transport arranged for them (most busses will usually pick you up from the hotel for example) and are happy to pay a little extra for it to be sorted on their behalf. Our hotel offered to arrange our train tickets for us for the cost of 200K VDN each but being on a tight budget, we were more than happy to buy our tickets at the station for a reduced price.
The trains come with two types of seating- soft seats and sleeper cabins. I was a bit apprehensive of the sleeper cabins and wanted to sit in a soft seated area. The lady serving us (who had obviously had a lot experience with travellers) took one look at the large backpacks we were carrying and told us that soft seats would be no good. With that in mind she took our passports off us to note down the details for the tickets and then we were on our way to the platform to wait for our train.
On reflection, I think the reason that I was nervous about going into a sleeper cabin on the train was that I was imagining a comedy film scenario where it would be myself, James a family of 20 and all their cattle stuffed into a pokey, rusty room. In reality, one of the biggest trains that I have ever seen in my life pulled into the station and we had to walk past the station, onto a grass field before we found the carriage that we would be staying in. We were directed into a clean four berth cabin which we shared with an older Vietnamese lady. There was plenty of room and sheets and blankets were even placed on top of one of the top bunks for us to use if we wished to make the journey more comfortable. James and I were assigned a top and bottom bunk on one side of the cabin. We ditched our bags on the top bunk and I felt some immediate gratitude towards the lady who had sold us our tickets, I would not have been able to do a 3 hour trip with my bag on my lap.
We got comfortable and watched as the city of Hue slipped away and green foliage began to take its place. We saw mountains and greenery and after a couple of hours, became exited when we could see the ocean.
The Hoi Van pass was beautiful and a wonderful way to make our entrance into Da Nang. One thing to note, if you are hoping to see the Hoi Van pass and make your way to Da Nang via bus you will need to hire a moped and make your way there independantly as the bus enters the city via a tunnel, missing the pass completely.
I would recommend the sleeper train to anyone travelling through Vietnam. It’s a little more expensive than the bus but certainly more secure as you keep your luggage with you at all times. The train was fairly slow moving and at times could be bumpy but I found it comfortable enough. Staff even move up and down the corridors of the carriages selling snacks and beverages. Perhaps one downside to be considered is the state of the toilets but hey, where in the world are train toilets not manky?! I’ve seen some horrendous Arriva ones back home in the UK!
We are soon due to go on a much longer train journey to the south of Vietnam so I’ll keep you updated via Twitter if I still think they are lovely method of transport after 12 hours!
I keep up to date on all of my social media channels so if you’d like to follow along with my adventure, here’s my Instagram.