‘Sleeping’ on the Overnight Trains in Vietnam

I took two overnight sleeper trains in Vietnam. Both were interesting experiences that were as equally exciting as they were nerve wracking, and I definitely wouldn’t be able to call them ‘sleeper’ trains – there certainly wasn’t much of that going on. I travelled with my boyfriend in August 2013.

Ho Chi Minh City – Nha Trang

22:55 – 6:30 (7 hours and 35 minutes)

We had two beds in a four-berth soft sleeper to get from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang overnight. I booked the tickets through Vietnam Impressive after doing quite a bit of research online. Vietnam doesn’t actually have an official rail site, despite some pretty official looking impostors and I’d read warnings of dodgy sellers taking your money and running.

The two tickets were $105 (£65) including postage and packing and these were sent to our hotel in Ho Chi Minh City for us to pick up on arrival. The guys at Vietnam impressive were friendly and helpful in their emails and I’d definitely recommend them.

The train pulled in about 30 minutes before we were due to leave as Ho Chi Minh City was the start of the line. We jumped on as soon as possible: eager beavers that we were. The film Darjeeling Limited, set on a train in India, is one of our favourites so we were both very excited to get stuck into some long-distance train travel in Vietnam.

The room was cool. My boyfriend had the top bunk and me the lower one directly underneath. There was space below my bunk for our rucksacks and we both slept with our smaller bags attached to us. I wore my rucksack actually on my front the whole time, we obviously both had travel insurance, but still feared the Vietnam train travel horror stories we’d heard.

Travelling overnight in Vietnam

We were soon joined by a little Chinese guy who was pretty much glued to his iPad from the second he took his shoes off. I sized him up and decided I’d definitely win in a fight: should there be any reason to have one, and I was comforted by that.

We were all settled in and then just before we pulled off a rowdy, drunk Vietnamese man stumbled into our cabin and took the spare bed diagonally from me. When the ticket master came round it was obvious he didn’t have a ticket, but he bribed him to be allowed to stay. They chatted for a while, obviously I had no idea what they said but saw money change hands and no ticket before the conductor slinked off.

The train pulled away and we decided to get in bed, seeing as there wasn’t much else to do. I lay there listening to the chugging and the low noise of our fellow passengers down the hallway. It was great. The gentle motion made me sleepy so I turned the light off and locked the door. I’d read stories of intruders that would get on board and come in the carriages, so decided we were better off locked in with these little guys rather than being open to anyone from the outside. The drunk man murmured something in Vietnamese when I flicked the light and I froze still. Nothing more, so I got myself comfy back in bed.

I feel asleep immediately. Two hours later though, I woke to go to the toilet and just could not get back to sleep. My mind was racing with bad thoughts. Would the drunk man get in my bed? How could I defend myself? What if he had some sort of drugged cloth and held it over my mouth? And so it went on, each thought more dramatic and ridiculous than the last.

The light coming in wasn’t helping, but I was too scared to use my airline-issue eye mask as I decided it could be used as a weapon against me. I was spooked and in my mind I was planning how I would defend myself if the drunk guy should try to get me. Of course, he was fast asleep, as was the Chinese guy and W. above me. But in my sleep deprived state every worst case scenario came to my mind.

I eventually managed to drop off and get about one more hour’s sleep before the commotion of everyone else waking up woke me up. I admitted defeat and went to see the sunrise from the window. I may have only had three hours sleep and spent another five torturing my mind, but experiencing train travel overnight in Vietnam and the beautiful colours lighting up the and made the trip and sleep deprivation worth it.

Scenes from the overnight trains in Vietnam

Nha Trang – Da Nang

20:30 – 6:45 (10 hours and 15 minutes)

Just two days later and we ended up with a six-bed hard sleeper this time. Meaning for $105 (£65) we were treated to the two top bunks on the top level of a run of three for the ten hour plus train journey. The train was the same height as the previous one though, so if your maths is as good as mine, you’ll have worked out we had a lot less space. We’d bought a few beers for the journey beforehand but couldn’t actually tip our heads back enough to drink the dregs.

And hard sleeper pretty much says what it is, hard to sleep.

Six-bed sleeper train

We were sharing with a group of four little Vietnamese men over the age of 50. Again, sizing them up I decided I’d definitely win so I was happy enough to stay in the room. There was space up top for our big bags and I stacked mine is such a way I could hide my essentials one at the back, safe in the knowledge that no one would be finding that. My things felt safe here.

On both trips I wore soft trousers and a t-shirt. No chance of any big reveals if I wriggled in my sleep and it was respectful enough for me and my cabin mates.


Pin me


And so I tried to sleep. I read a whole book during my overnight train from Nha Trang to Danang as there was no chance of getting any shut eye on the shelf I was on. I now know what unused toys feel like. Mainly though, it was thanks to my cabin mates who were silent for no more than two hours of the 10-hour journey. It was around 2am when one of the guys got a phone call that the the whole lot of them decided to join in on. Christ, it seriously went on for hours. The man diagonally opposite me also had his little bed light on all night long, yet made every attempt possible to cover his eyes with his sheet. I desperately wanted to explain to him he could turn it off, but somehow it didn’t seem right to talk to him in the middle of the night. And I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to explain it to him without reaching across his bed anyway. I decided to deep breathe and let it go instead.

And on top of that, the announcement system kept crackling and announcing every station we pulled into as loud as possible. I finally arrived in Danang absolutely exhausted and thankful that our next leg, from Danang to Hanoi, would just be a two-hour flight.

Overnight train in Vietnam

Despite all my moaning here – I would absolutely, definitely recommend trying the trains in Vietnam, although maybe not so many, so close together. It was an experience I won’t forget.

Safety tips for travelling by overnight trains in Vietnam

  • Connect the opening of your rucksack to you somehow, maybe with your laces if you have nothing else.
  • Lock the door as soon as the final person is in.
  • When you order your tickets ask for a top bunk, I felt a lot safer.
  • Don’t drink too much before you get in – going for a wee is not fun.
  • Have an alarm with you although they will come and wake you up. If this is your phone, make sure it’s well hidden.
  • If you’re sensitive to cleanliness take your own pillow – the black hairs on mine didn’t bode well against my blonde.
  • Make sure you have some music with good earphones – again, keep this well hidden.
  • You can’t go to the toilets when the train is in the station so make sure you’re prepared for the long stops.
  • There is a powerpoint in every bunk, so there’s no need to worry about charging everything.
  • There were no food or drink facilities on board so take some snacks with you.

One last top tip: don’t lose your train ticket as ticket inspectors come around regularly and you’ll definitely be asked for it on the way out. I’d tucked mine in my bra ready in case they came round. Obviously I totally forgot about it when I went to take my bra off in the bathroom ready for sleeps and it was only in the morning I realised I didn’t have it. I managed to scrounge it off the bathroom floor though, disgustingly wet. I washed it and stowed it away in my pocket. I didn’t trust it, and neither did the woman collecting tickets on the way out. She actually refused to collect it and just ushered me on. I threw it away at the first opportunity, ewww.


Pin Me

Vietnam overnight trains


More on Vietnam

Beautiful Halong BayEating in Vietnam
An Awesome Two-Week Itinerary for Vietnam
9 Hour Stopover in Qatar: Is It Worth Exploring?

49 Comments

  1. by Beverley | Pack Your Passport on September 30, 2013  6:54 pm Reply

    Love these stories! And some awesome tips :)

  2. by Anna | Eat See Do on October 1, 2013  8:23 am Reply

    Awesome post. This just brings Vietnam trains back for me. We did the overnight from Hanoi to Hue and then the short (3 hr) ride from Hue to Danang which was stunning even though we had the worst seats on the train. We did the opposite and took a plane down to HCMC as we'd had our train experience! ;)

  3. by Greg on October 1, 2013  9:05 am Reply

    Nice post. I wanted to try the trains in Vietnam but we travelled over Tet and everything was booked up so we were forced to use sleeper buses. Which were SO boring.

    Also I'm impressed you like the Darjeeling Limited, its my favourite film and everyone else seems to hate it!

  4. by Raymond Waruhari on October 1, 2013  9:13 am Reply

    Very interesting story you got me hooked there. It is funny to see that many men believe that they need to be drunk before jumping on train.

  5. by trevor on October 15, 2013  2:00 pm Reply

    mmmmm big mistake.... dt think u would win a fight with fellow vietnamese traveller in ur cabin..... the americans thought that they would be an easy push over.... and we all know how that ended up....

  6. Pingback : An Awesome Two-Week Itinerary for Vietnam - VickyFlipFlopTravels.com

  7. by Annie on August 21, 2014  6:24 am Reply

    This is such great reading, thanks for the great blog. I'm wondering about booking out the whole cabin ie 4 berths for 2 people, to assure privacy/security. What do you think? It's still a pretty cheap way of travel. Or maybe the conductor would just let someone in anyway, if they bribed their way in ...

    • by Vicky on August 21, 2014  8:55 am Reply

      Hi Annie, yeah I don't think it would be worth it because as soon as the conductor sees there's a space he'll try to make money out of it. Just be confident in yourself and that you'll be fine. Attach yourself to your luggage somehow and you'll be alright – really it's just like staying in a hostel and having the same trust in the people around you.

      • by Diane on September 11, 2015  9:09 pm Reply

        My friend and I payed for the entire can of 4 seats and we had it entirely to ourselves. I have taken the train 3 times in Vietnam and it is a great way to travel. Just pick up one of those silk sleeping sacks they see in the markets for about $5 and your all set.

        • by Vicky on September 18, 2015  1:25 pm Reply

          Ooo that's a good idea! I'd feel bad though if someone came along and wanted to sit down. I think a sleeping sack is a great idea – I was feeling pretty dirty after sleeping on the trains :).

  8. Pingback : VickyFlipFlopTravels » Cool Festivals and Epic HolidaysHow to Do the Rajdhani Express Train Overnight

  9. by Justin on October 15, 2015  3:44 pm Reply

    This has actually helped make up my mind when I was feeling indecisive, so thanks!

    Mostly because of the bladder-related insight!

    • by Vicky on October 20, 2015  4:30 pm Reply

      Ah glad I could help Justin! Let me know if you have any questions about Vietnam or anything, I loved it there!

  10. by Sarah on March 20, 2016  10:26 am Reply

    Awesome! I'm doing this in a week or two so great to get advice!

    • by Vicky on March 20, 2016  6:21 pm Reply

      Hi Sarah, hope you enjoy it!

  11. by Louise on April 3, 2016  9:30 am Reply

    Hi Vicky. I'm off to Vietnam later this year also for 14 days. Would you recommend booking any trains or hotels beforehand because of the short amount of time? Or is it pretty easy to sort when you're there? Thanks

    • by Vicky on April 3, 2016  9:24 pm Reply

      If you know your dates I'd definitely recommend booking the trains beforehand. That way you know you'll definitely get the trains you want. As for hotels you can probably be a bit more flexible. Hope you have fun!

  12. by Emily on April 24, 2016  4:31 pm Reply

    Hiya, I am off to Vietnam in August and need to get from Hanoi to Ho chi Minh. I wanted to take the train the whole way down. Any advice? Thanks!

    • by Vicky on May 1, 2016  3:04 am Reply

      Hi Emily, are you looking to do it all in one go?

  13. by Leong Yeoung on June 5, 2016  12:49 pm Reply

    We booked the soft sleeper train tickets from Hanoi to Hue and from Hue to Ho Chi Minh City via Impressive Travel Vietnam number 9 Hang Voi Street. Mr. Kenny Lee helped us to handle the journey and it was an great experienced. We are confident to highly recommend Impressive Travel Vietnam to whom looking for the train tickets.

  14. by kashif on June 16, 2016  11:53 am Reply

    hi there thanks for the post
    i am planning on arriving in mid July in Hanoi, then plan to fly to HUE and from there Train to HCMC.

    Questions:

    I am travelling with my wife and two kids (4yrs&6yrs) and although it would be nice to take in the experience and scenic journey would you recommend this train ride from Hue to HCMC with the family? or is it better to fly? i will be staying in Hanoi for 4d and HUE/Hoi An for 6d

    thanks.

    • by Vicky on June 21, 2016  11:15 am Reply

      Hi Kashif, as you can see from the photos the train isn't the most comfortable, but then neither are planes. I'd take kids, depending on how you think they'd cope in such circumstances. The train was fun!

  15. by kyla on June 21, 2016  10:24 pm Reply

    Hi Vicky.

    After reading your advice I will be using Vietnam Impressive to book the train, however we were planning on booking an overnight train South when we got there (arriving 25th June in Hanoi) as we wanted to be flexible about how much time/how many nights we spent in Hanoi and Halong bay before heading south.
    Do you think it would be ok to leave it until arriving to book through Vietnam Impressive in person 2-3 days ahead of travel, or would you always book in advance?
    Thanks

    Kyla

  16. by Vicky on June 22, 2016  8:28 pm Reply

    Hi Kyla, if I was definite on the date and you were on a budget, I'd just book it. Trains work differently in different countries and sometimes you're not able to get a train when you want it. Up to you though, I mean, if you have the cash there's always taxis if you need. Which can be a lot quicker. Hope that helps.

  17. by Tamara on July 15, 2016  2:32 pm Reply

    Hi Vicky. My husband and I are planning a month long trip to Southeast Asia next February. We were planning to do the Vietnam portion as a tour to break things up and meet some new people but have found that most tours have you travelling by train. The internet is littered with horror stories of train travel in Vietnam so it was nice to hear that you had an ok experience. I understand the train isn't a 5 star hotel and I'm not concerned with a little dirt or noise. What does concern me is reports that the cars are full of cockroaches. A couple is not a problem but I know I can't handle a steady stream running through our room. What was your experience with insects and rodents on the train?

    • by Vicky on July 15, 2016  3:06 pm Reply

      Hi Tamara, I didn't see one bug on my journeys! The only thing that was vaguely grim was the wet floor in the toilet by the end of the journey, but some closed toe shoes would help. I'd definitely recommend it!

  18. by Deborah on July 19, 2016  7:39 am Reply

    Vicky -- I only have 8 days to be in Vietnam and thus can't do both Nha Trang and Hoi An. If I have to choose between the two, what would you recommend choosing?

    • by Vicky on July 20, 2016  9:16 pm Reply

      Hoi An, absolutely definitely!

  19. by James livingston on August 2, 2016  6:22 am Reply

    Hi Vicky, my partner and I are off Veitnam soon, great advice about railways thanks. we are doing Hanoi to Hoi an via Danang, what's the best way to get into Hoi an from station, any no no's?

    • by Vicky on August 2, 2016  4:18 pm Reply

      It's pretty far. We ended up getting a taxi, which was pretty expensive by Vietnam standards, but we had no other option. I'm sure it wasn't really that bad, between two.

  20. by Phil on August 18, 2016  4:41 am Reply

    Hi there,

    FYI, now you can book the train tickets directly on the official rail site http://dsvn.vn/, it's much more cheaper than when you buy the tickets via agents :)

    Best,
    Phil

    • by Vicky on August 23, 2016  10:35 am Reply

      Ah ok, thanks for that tip Phil.

  21. by Darren on September 3, 2016  10:17 am Reply

    Hi Phil not sure exactly what happened but I used the official rail site to buy 1 ticket. Just so happens that my payment didnt go through and now I have 2 tickets booked instead of 1. Would you know anything about booked ticktets how they can be canceled, collected and paid for?

    • by Vicky on January 5, 2017  11:17 am Reply

      Oh dear, maybe see if you can sell it on?

  22. by Katie on January 4, 2017  10:04 pm Reply

    Hi Vicky,

    Love love your blogs, off to Vietnam in April for two weeks and will follow some of your advice!

    Quick question- which sites did you use to book flights? Did they feel safe?

    Would you recommend trains over flying?

    Thanks!

  23. by Vicky on January 5, 2017  11:18 am Reply

    I'm off again on Sunday! Well excited. Here's my route! https://vickyflipfloptravels.com/month-in-vietnam/

    Yeah, if you have the time I'd definitely recommend the trains, they're so good :)

    I've used Jetstar this time – yep, all good. No worries.

  24. by Sharon Cotton on March 5, 2017  1:40 pm Reply

    What's your opinion on travelling alone as a woman through Vietnam especially on the trains

    • by Vicky on March 5, 2017  2:19 pm Reply

      Hi Sharon, I always felt very safe in Vietnam and would happily do the train too. Try and get an upper bunk, just so you can put your stuff on top, but I'd day your personal safety will be fine.

  25. by Sharon Cotton on March 6, 2017  12:30 am Reply

    Thanks for your reply. I'm guessing suitcases are not good for travel to Vietnam in this instance

    • by Vicky on March 7, 2017  11:50 am Reply

      I wouldn't take a hard case suitcase but one of the only types would be fine I think.

  26. by George on March 24, 2017  8:46 am Reply

    Oh my goodness this is he worst blog I've ever read! Nobody is going to steal your iPhone 5 full of pointless selfies.

    If anyone decided to rape you (which, they won't) then you won't be able to "take them", you give westerners a bad name.

    Good luck finding "my selfie" on your journeys. Please forget the propaganda though.

    • by Vicky on March 24, 2017  8:52 am Reply

      Thanks for your comment. Very thoughtful. As a female travelling alone unfortunately I often have to think of the worst case scenario, and plan and adjust accordingly. I didn't for one minute think they'd want my iPhone for my selfies, more for the fact you could get a few hundred quid for it at the time of writing that post. That's an odd reasoning you have there. And obviously I would feel more comfortable with a guy that's smaller and slighter than me than some big guy who could totally over power me.

      If this is the worst blog you've ever read, you must be reading some damn good blogs. I applaud you.

      If you'd bothered to do any research before you accuse, you'll see that I love Vietnam and promote it heavily on my blog. This post is full of reassurance that if I can do it, so can my readers.

      • by SoloFemaleTraveller on April 1, 2017  9:07 am Reply

        I need to start off by saying that this is the FIRST time I have eve felt the need to respond to a blog/forum/etc. I just spent an angry 10 minutes reading through this blog and I have to say that it is one of the most uninformed posts you can find in regards to a Vietnam night train. I hope that people do not take you seriously and think your advice accurately represents taking a night train. At first I though the post was meant to be sarcastic and satiricle but this does not seem to be the case. I too am a solo female traveler and am of a slight build. I have taken multiple night trains and have never felt uneasy about my safety. This post projects negative characteristics against Vietnamese men, which is not fair.

        Yes it is common sense to keep an eye on your belongings while travelling but wearing your bag on your chest and locking the doors in case of intruders is just delesional paranoia, in fact most of your post is just that. Yes, as you said your thoughts were ridiculous; the man getting in bed with you, someone using your mask as a weapon against you, having a drugged cloth put over your mouth and so on, wow. Being drunk and Vietnamese does not make someone a rapist.

        It is one thing to offer your opinion, we all have that right, but for you to now give advice to other travellers based on these these thoughts is purely self-righteous. You give other travelers a false sense of insecurity and take away from them experiencing it for themselves. I am not suggested that people don't watch their belonging and do their research on common travel safety issues for a country, but this post is extreme. I seriously hope anyone who reads your post sees right through you.

        Like your last reply to criticism I expect you will justify this as "I'm a single female traveler". In your own words your boyfriend was with you for at least one trip and you still acted like everyone was only there to work against you.

        Nice work with the false projections of insecurity towards a wonderful experience and wonderful people.

        • by Vicky on April 1, 2017  7:52 pm Reply

          Hello, I'm very sorry you feel like that. I've now taken four night trains in Vietnam, so I have some experience. This post was written after my first trip to Asia, and my first time on a night train. In my admittedly over paranoid mind at the time this post is totally justified. I was nervous about taking a train and falling asleep. Since then, four years of travel later, I probably wouldn't be quite so scared, but these were my feelings at the time. As I've said in the post, nothing bad happened so they weren't justified, but that's how I felt.

          Ever been nervous travelling? I didn't travel till I was 18 and I have an over active imagination. I stand by everything I say in this post in regards to safety. Still now, if a drunk man came into where I was sleeping I would be nervous – train or not.

          I love Vietnam, and the Vietnamese people – nowhere in this post did I say I didn't. All I said was a drunk man made me uncomfortable and I was nervous about the train. As many people who've never been on an overnight train or to Asia before could well be.

          I went back again in January this year for a month – and took trains – and I'm going back again in April. I don't think anyone needs to 'see right through me'.

          Thanks for reading. Sorry you don't like my safety advice.

        • by Max on January 22, 2018  4:19 pm Reply

          I couldn’t agree with you more. Vietnam is MUCH safer than USA 🇺🇸 or Europe could ever hope to be. This insecure girl has no credibility but if it’s on the net then it must be true, will be some people’s take on things. I’ve lived in Thailand some time now and along with Vietnam 🇻🇳 these are some of the most decent people. Just respectll their culture and don’t exp3ct a western solution to every problem.

          • by VickyFlipFlop on January 23, 2018  3:24 am

            I'm clearly not insecure.

  27. by Nancy on May 16, 2017  2:56 pm Reply

    What were these horror stories you speak of? I took the train once in Vietnam and it wasn't that bad. Mind you, I was in a berth with travel mates so I slept well and completely passed out despite being a light sleeper. I think I'd be scared if there were strangers, but I'm also scared of everything haha. I did have a few ant friends crawling on my bed but my standards for bugs and stuff change when I'm in Asia. I was just happy there weren't any mosquitoes!

    Btw about your post...I didn't read it as someone who was projecting a bad image of Vietnam but can see how people may feel that way only after I read some of the comments left in this post. I hope new readers won't think that and see this story differently. We all have active imaginations and will think of worse case scenarios but in the end, things will turn out ok :)

  28. by Matt on July 19, 2017  4:20 pm Reply

    Racist and sexist blog. No one was attempting anything. Playing the victim...

    • by Vicky on July 20, 2017  7:17 am Reply

      Hardly. Read it again and get your facts right. I'm just saying to watch yourself and your stuff when you sleep in a room with strangers. Ever been a solo female traveller? You gotta be careful out there...

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

Theme developed by TouchSize - Premium WordPress Themes and Websites