VIDEO: Taking an overnight train in Vietnam

I’m one week in to my 4 month round the world adventure!

One thing I was really excited about was taking an overnight train. I had a friend who travels a lot and she said she usually slept really well. (Sometimes she also got stuck in weird situations like not having a bed, which seemed way less fun.)

I was ready to see how this all went down for me. Our first of three trains was from Hanoi to Hue.

What it was like

  • I slept about one million hours.
  • It was absolutely freezing. The AC could not be adjusted. We were experiencing an sudden cold snap. Most people could not sleep through it. I put on all my clothes, which includes a thick fleece and down jacket that I brought for trekking Nepal. I then slept really well.
  • The train continuously goes up and down the country from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. I have been told that the bedding is only changed once per trip up. This is several days and several rounds of passengers using the same sheets. I bought a sleep sheet here in Hoi An for the next ride!
  • There was a Western toliet and a sink with running water. There was also a plug for charging your phone by every bed. Pretty delux.
  • We were told not to eat the food being sold on the train, so we had snacks. But my new friends certainly did clean out the bar. I think there was just beer.

The uncomfortable reality

  • We were in the nicer section of the train with four beds per room. Every room that I saw only had foreigners in it. I am sure this is not 100% the case, but I bet it’s not unusual.
  • As we walked off the train the next morning, I saw that there were the same sized rooms with six beds. This means no one could sit up, unless the middle bed was folded up to the wall. There seemed to be no foreigners in those rooms.
  • Untangling cause and effect is tricky. But it did make me think about how we could be making it too expensive for many locals to travel comfortably on their own trains.
  • Or quite possibly, we are just too loud. Most of my group was up until 1 or 2 am laughing and having a fun time. I slept through it, as I knew them. They are a fun, kind and lovely bunch. I found it comforting that they were right there. I would probably be less pleased if I was just taking the train to visit my parents, or something more ordinary.

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