This article explain the types of seats and facilities on public train services in Vietnam. Public trains services in Vietnam are those whose number starts with an SE, LC, SNT or TN. There are other private trains services in Vietnam, such as Golden Train or the Victoria Express train to Lao Cai, whose carriages are attached to regular trains and the standard of the carriages on these private services is much higher and the tickets vastly more expensive.
Trains in Vietnam
Trains in Vietnam are a pleasant and efficient way to travel the long distance between the northern and southern end of Vietnam. Trains on the north to south Reunification Line complete the 1,726 km journey in between 31 hours and 35 hours depending on which train you take, which means they travel at an average speed of between 49 and 55 kilometre per hour.
Trains in Vietnam are therefore about as quick as trains in Thailand, slower than trains in Malaysia, but a lot faster than trains in Myanmar and Cambodia.
Trains on the main Reunification Line have lots of carriages and a full range of the four different seat types on public trains in Vietnam. They also have restaurant cars and extensive on board catering facilities. Some carriages are air-conditioned and some are fan cooled in which the windows are normally left open.
Trains in Vietnam are not designed to be wheelchair friendly. Getting on and off a train in Vietnam means getting up a step and through a narrow door. Wheelchair users would need to leave the chair to reach the inside of a Vietnam train although once on the train a wheelchair could easily negotiate the passageways through the carriages which are fairly wide on trains in Vietnam.
At the present time the only train services in mainland South East Asia which are wheelchair friendly are trains on Malaysia’s West Coast train line, trains in Singapore and the newer train carriages in use in Thailand.
Buy Vietnam Train Tickets
Use the Search Box below to buy your Vietnam train tickets.
For other journeys in Vietnam change the starting point and destination by typing in the Search Box. After typing the first few letters of the start and point for your journey use the drop down list to select the train stations where your journey will start and end.
Hard Seats on Vietnam Trains
Hard seats are the cheapest of the four types of seat available on trains in Vietnam. Hard seats are wooden benches with no arm rests between passengers.
Tickets for hard seats on trains in Vietnam are sold on the basis that 3 people share each bench. On busy trains this can mean it becomes very cramped in hard seat carriages.
Hard seat carriages are air-conditioned on some trains, and fan cooled with the windows open on others. People tend to travel in hard seats out of economic necessity as they are cheap. We don’t recommend travelling in a hard seat except for journeys of under 2 hours. This said you can always go and sit in the restaurant car if you order food and/or drinks.
Soft Seats on Vietnam Trains
Soft seats are the next most expensive seat type on Vietnam trains after hard seats. Soft seats are a bit like seats on a plane with an armrest and fold down tray table.
Soft seats come in a variety of styles depending on the train you take, but all are arranged two each side of the aisle and recline to a greater or lesser degree.
A soft seat is the best option for day time travel by train in Vietnam. You can choose to travel by day in a sleeper seat but unless you want to lie down during your journey a sleeper seat is waste of money for travel in the day time.
Hard Sleeper on Vietnam Trains
A hard sleeper on a Vietnam train is cabin with six bunks, three on each side on top of each other. The mattresses used on hard sleepers in Vietnam is thin rubber on top of which a sheet is placed at night along with a pillow. Some hard sleeper cabin have doors, others do not, it depends on the train you take.
We do not recommend a hard sleeper for anyone who is claustrophobic as the space between the bed and the bunk above or the roof is fairly narrow. We also do not recommend taking the top bunk on a hard sleeper for anyone is not agile as reaching the top bunk involves using a fold down foothold rather than a ladder (see below) and then swinging your leg and body into the bunk.
Soft Sleeper on Vietnam Trains
A soft sleeper is the most expensive type of seat on a Vietnam train. Soft sleepers have 4 bunks in a cabin. The mattresses are thicker than those in hard sleepers and a clean sheet and pillow is provided. All soft sleeper cabins come with a lockable door.
There are a variety of different styles of soft sleeper on trains in Vietnam and the quality of the soft sleeper you take depends on the type of train carriage you travel in. The newest and best quality soft sleeper sleepers are on the carriages branded as Livitrans or Violette carriages.
Getting these carriages tends to be a matter of luck if you buy a ticket at a train station. However, if you book through the Search Box above the option of booking these seat types is available on applicable trains.
Unlike trains in Thailand, sleeper cabins in Vietnam are not fitted with ladders to access the upper bunks in either hard or soft sleeper carriages. Instead Vietnam trains provide passengers with a fold down foothold to use. There is a technique to using these footholds which requires leg strength and agility. If you have some mobility problems due to age or injury or disability book a lower bunk as you may struggle to reach the upper bunk on a Vietnam train.
Soft sleeper carriages have electric points you can use to charge phones and laptops. In the more modern types of train carriage each sleeper berth has its own USB charging point and reading light as well.
Soft sleepers are the best option for overnight travel on trains in Vietnam and for this reason they are popular with both Vietnamese travellers as well as foreign visitors. Unless you have a flexible schedule we recommend booking your soft sleeper in advance either at a train station in Vietnam or online using the Search Box above.
Food on Vietnam Trains
Trains on the Reunification Line running from Hanoi in the north to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the south have a lot of staff and they they cook a lot of food on route. A Vietnamese train is quite literally a ‘kitchen on wheels’ with fresh food appearing every hour or two during the day with an ever changing menu, some of which will appeal to Western tastes and some of which will not.
There are two options for eating on Vietnam trains. Your first option is to go to the restaurant car. The menu in the restaurant car is fairly short and mostly consists of noodles. The restaurant car on a Vietnam train is, for the greater part, a place for men to go to drink drink beer and smoke cigarettes. The other option is to take advantage of the trolley service.
There are two types of trolley service: the snack food trolley and the fresh food trolley. Frequent travellers on Vietnam trains tend to wait until the fresh food trolley comes out with something they want to eat. Expect to pay between 25,000 and 35,000 VND for a meal on a tray like the one pictured below.
For more information see our article about food on Vietnam trains.
Toilets on Vietnam Trains
Trains in Vietnam have both squat toilets, basically a hole in the floor of the train, and Western style toilets. The type of toilet depends upon which carriage the toilet is located in. Hard seat carriages will have a squat toilet. If you want to use a Western style toilet then go a soft seat or soft sleeper carriage, which will have a Western style toilet at both ends of the carriage.
Toilets on Vietnam trains tend to get dirty very quickly and get cleaned almost as frequently. If you find a toilet is very dirty use another toilet or wait a while and go back again when it has been cleaned.