Neighbouring Vietnam has a larger, busier and more developed passenger railway service than Cambodia. The two railway systems are not yet connected, however, there are plans to connect the two countries with high speed services which opens up the possibility of through connections from Thailand, which is final stages of completed a rail connection with Cambodia, to China which already has has a rail connection with Vietnam.
Train Services in Vietnam
Vietnam has over 2,600 km of railway track across 10 functional passenger lines and operates a total of 365 locomotives, 34 of which are steam locomotives used on heritage services. This is far larger than Cambodia railway operation which has 612 km of railway track across 3 passenger lines serviced by 19 functional locomotives. The main line on the Vietnam Railway Network is the 1,726 km long Reunification Line which connects the two main cities in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City in the South and the capital Hanoi in the North. By train the journey from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi is scheduled to take 31 to 35 hours, depending on the train, making it one of the longest scheduled train journeys you can take in South East Asia. Other lines include the 296 km railway line from Hanoi to Lao Cai, near the town of Sapa, and the 162 km Hanoi to Dong Dang line which takes passengers to the border with China.
There are 5 basic seat types on Vietnam trains:
- Hard seat: Wooden seat in a carriage without climate control.
- A/C Hard Seat: Wooden seat in an air-conditioned carriage.
- Soft Seat: Modern reclining seat in an air-conditioned carriage.
- Hard Sleeper: 6 bunk beds in a compartment with a very thin mattress.
- Soft Sleeper: 4 bunk beds in a compartment with softer mattresses.
Within these categories the standard of the seat or sleeper berth varies depending on the train service. On some services, particularly the Hanoi to Lao Cai line, there are special more luxurious carriages are added to regular train services with tickets sold at higher prices than those charged for standard carriages.
Popular Train Journeys in Vietnam
The busiest train line in Vietnam is the north-south Reunification Line which connects major cities like Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang, Hue, Nha Trang and Hanoi. This train line largely follows the coastline which means that there are countless places of interest on the Reunification Line for visitors to reach by train in Vietnam. Most of Vietnam’s major towns and cities are on the coast and this makes the Reunification Line an important part of the country’s passenger and freight transport infrastructure.
Some of the more popular trains services for holiday makers in Vietnam include:
- Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang: A 7 to 9 hour journey connecting Vietnam’s most populous city with its most popular beach resort town.
- Hanoi to Lao Cai: An 8 to 10 hour journey connecting the capital city to the nearest railway station to the popular tourist destination of Sapa, which is famous for its mountains and rice terraces.
- Hanoi to Ninh Binh: A 2 hour journey to the the city of Ninh Binh which is close to areas of outstanding natural beauty such as Tam Coc and Trang An.