I hope this little post will help you with at least the basics of getting ready for your trip. We travelled as a couple, not on a mega budget, and didn’t plan too much in advance – you’re not allowed to. (SUMMARIZED TIPS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POST)


12go.asia was our choice, a very user-friendly site which accepts all sorts of payment options, and you just need to print your ticket; unlike in China where you have to jump through hoops just to collect, validate, confirm, reconfirm and revalidate your official ticket. Buy in advance though as sleepers sell fast. I advise to check seat61.com for very useful up-to-date information. The official Vietnam railways website showed seats as available for well over a month in advance, but the purchasing buttons were greyed out until the seats were later marked as sold. I worried for a bit, but then found 12go.asia had the same seats and I bought them there.


Hanoi train station is super small and straightforward. One lady at the counter was funny though, I gave her 3 printed papers and she looked so puzzled for a good half a minute but then she looked at another sheet, and straight away confirmed the printed voucher was good to use. The vouchers were pretty poor-quality prints and the checking was way more relaxed than in Thailand, nobody even checked our passports or anything.

Timewise, we had 5 hours to spend so went out to look for a supermarket, even though there was a big one inside the station – oops. There isn’t much around the area, so we ended up walking further away and spent a few hours at a niiiiice modern café (the KAFE) with a lovely veggie meal (dare I say the nicest one we’ve had in Vietnam so far), charging all our gear and checking Facebook things like we all do.


Right before departing there was a lady with a cart parked on the platform selling snacks and cold beer. How do I know it was cold? Because she took a can and pressed it against my arm while I was walking past! Then she followed us until we got on the train, and even then she found our cabin and stood there for a while knocking on the window. You know, just in case we got persuaded by her sales skills.



We got into our soft –sleeper cabin and a guy came in to check the tickets, or at least that’s what you’d assume. He pulled out his phone with google translate showing something like ”You reserve full cabin two?”, meaning do we want to reserve the two other beds  to enjoy privacy. I asked how much and he showed 300,000 dong, which is reasonable, about 10 pounds.

Another translation he showed us was “Maybe you are very comfortable together alone?” We politely refused thinking no one booked the other two beds and he wants to make some extra dollar.

He came in one more time showing “200,000 you agree or not?” – the translation indicated the astronomical level of politeness, I think! We refused again, now feeling more uneasy about him actually bringing some loud Chinese tourists into our cabin on purpose.

5 minutes later a young woman comes in, having only a small purse as possession, climbs up to the upper berth and sleeps. SO FAKE. Then a moment later the same conductor guy peeks through the door and says something to her, she says something back in a jokey-tone and that’s when we both agreed that she’s probably his girlfriend or at least a friend. What, how, when and why – we don’t know. She left in the middle of the night and we had the cabin for ourselves. We couldn’t see much of the view because we slept a lot, and the train stopped in small towns a lot, too. During the day we saw nice foggy hills in the distance, that was cool.

The train itself is a pretty standard 50 kph wooden thing (not the outside obv) with a boiling water station and Chinese neighbors next door. Nothing against Chinese, they just love being loud in groups, wherever, whenever. In the morning there was a coffee trolley but we had already reached self-sufficiency level 9000 having our own!



So four hours past the arrival time we were still stationary in the middle of rice fields. We also met these Vietnamese students in the hallway who confirmed that the train tracks 1km behind us were flooded, we can’t go forward because there’s some kind of accident ahead, and that we may have to wait longer. So we just sat there on the railroad tracks in our private vintage cabin eating instant mashed potatoes. Can’t complain, can you?

STRANDED ON A TRAIN: flooded train tracks, landslides, chaos in the train cabins, and waiting in the never-ending storm.(read about this experience here)



Trains are late. Silly late. Our Hanoi-Hue train departed on time, but arrived way over 24 hours late.

Buy tickets in advance, sleepers get full quicker than regular seats.

Bring a cup/bowl. There are hot water machines on the train.

Sleep hugging your important stuff/have a travel wallet. We had read about common theft on trains and even hotels!

Bring food, the food cart only has instant pork noodles, and a couple of other things – not much choice even for non-vegetarians. AND, we got stranded so luckily we had packed lots of protein bars and stuff.

Pack coffee and tea. Asians love their sweet ice teas and super sweet coffees. Forget the concept of ubiquitous European hot coffees.

This one is pretty obvious – no wifi on the train (it’s old)

There are electric sockets to charge stuff.