Riding the Reunification Express in Vietnam

The people over at Momondo asked me and fellow travel bloggers to write about authentic experiences abroad as part of the momondo experience series For people in the late teens and twenties, Vietnam might easily be seen as simply the most raw of the various Southeast Asian destinations along the world’s most well trot backpacker trail. It features some of the worlds best food, loads of beautiful sights, and some exciting adventures. However, anyone much older likely remembers the numerous wars fought in the country, either against Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, or the civil war that engulfed the country spilling it north and south.

Today, most of the signs of war are long gone, but a division remains. The north, still feels much more militaristic, less developed, and certainly more raw. The south is growing and become more and more metropolitan each year. But there is peace, and Vietnam is definitely and undeniable one united country. On my trip through the east side of Southeast Asia, I took the famous train from north to south known as the reunification express.

The reunification express isn’t exactly cheap, but it has serious value. It’s a chance to see the country evolve from the north to south. It’s a chance to watch the brilliantly green countryside slowly float away as you travel. This is a bit of a guide to travelling the reunification express.

Reunification Express

What to Bring

You honestly don’t need to bring much, either than some entertainment. The newer trains have electrical plugins in the sleeper cars, but the older ones do not, so you may or may not be able to run your laptop or charge your cell phone. You’ll likely want to buy some snacks to eat on the train as you go. They do serve typical Vietnamese Soup, some rice and meat dishes, and all sorts of beverages on the train though. If you’re a vegetarian, I recommend you pack your food though, as it’s not easy getting meat-free foods on the train.

Different Classes of Trains

There are three types of cars that are attached heading up or down the reunification express. The soft-sleepers are the most expensive and offer 4-bed cabins with soft-ish beds to sleep on. They also have linens. The hard sleepers have 6 beds, 3 bunks stacked high, and the beds aren’t as comfortable. The last option is the seats, which is the cheapest, but I can’t imagine you wanting to travel that way for too long.

Reunification Express

This is one of the soft-sleeper rooms.

How Much is the train in Vietnam

Obviously it depends on the distance, class, and time of year. It’s best to book a week or so in advance too as prices go up as the train fills. During the high season, it can book up completely quite early as well.

These are some of the sample fares and times:

  • Hanoi –> Hue: 13 hours (800,000 dong for soft-sleeper, 500,000 for a soft seat)
  • Hue –> Nha Trang: 14 hours (650,000 dong for soft-sleeper, 400,000 for a soft seat)
  • Hanoi –> Saigon: 28 hours (1.7 million dong for soft-sleeper, 1.2 million for a soft seat)

How do you Book trains in Vietnam?

You can’t actually book online. You’ll really have two options. The first option is to go to a train station and book yourself. Be warned, it can take quite a bit of waiting to buy if you’re at a big station like the one in Saigon or Hanoi. The second option is to have your hotel book for you. In this case, they’ll likely charge you a booking fee, so the price may be slightly elevated. It’s usually only a couple dollars, and is worth the hassle it saves you.

Where to Stop off

If you’re looking for some recommendations of places to stop while riding the reunification express, here are a couple.

  • Hue: The ancient city is busy and a bit touristy, but there are some amazing temples. Rent a scooter and explore some of them.
  • HoiAn: It’s not on the train itself, but you can get of in Da Nang and catch a taxi. The old capital is quite charming, and one of the most popular tourism destinations in all of Vietnam.
  • Nha Trang: Vietnam’s most popular beach town, if it’s sun your searching for, you’ll find it here.
Reunification Express

The town of Hoian.


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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4 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing Brendan! I am a massive train nerd and have been dreaming of doing this journey for a long time.

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  2. It’s true. You read a lot about Vietnam nowadays … about it being one of the fastest growing cities in Southeast Asia. Thanks for giving us a look-see into what to expect in riding the Re-unification Express. Must have been quite an adventure for you.

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  3. That’s great information Brendan. I am just wondering if you can tell me if you got much sleep on the soft sleeper and what condition the toilets were in.

    Thanks very much,

    Nicole

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    • I slept pretty well in the soft-sleepers. Just see if you can get a cabin farther from the engine as it likes to toot the horn all night. The bathrooms are surprisingly good.

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