Taking the train or bus?
In general we recommend to take a train when this option is available and doesn’t take much more time than the bus. Trains in Vietnam are much safer than buses and offer quite a good standard with extra’s like on-board catering, charging points and (in general) clean toilets.
For certain routes, train rides can be too long, or require some extra transport to and from the railway station from the city center. In this case, taking the bus will safe you time and the hassle of arranging transport from and to the railway station. Luckily, most buses in Vietnam offer a good standard and many people can easily sleep in these buses. The seats can be adjusted downwards and you have extended leg space. However for tall people this is often not enough so you will have to raise your knees to find a good sleeping position.
Safety of buses
Although most bus rides will arrive safely at their destinations, it happens from time to time that buses get in an accident. Bus drivers in Vietnam are not necessarily the safest drivers and some people even report drunk drivers. Especially for long journeys, consider paying a few bucks more for train travel, even though it might take slightly longer. For other journeys, you sometimes don’t have the option to take the train or it take double the time. In that case we still recommend to take the bus, but take in mind that this is never the safest option.
Bottom-line: Bus rides in Vietnam are not as safe as in Western countries. Although the chance of getting in an accident is quite small, you will be taking some extra risk here. It’s up to you if you want to take this risk.
Traveling by train in Vietnam
Depending if it is a day or night train, the price indications below the page title are always based on either a soft seat or 6-berth sleeper. You can find the prices for hard seats or 4-berths via the provided link for the train booking.
Soft-seat or hard-seat?
We always recommend to book a soft-seat instead of a hard-seat as this offers much more comfort and won’t cost you more than one euro extra.
In case the train ride is at night, we recommend to book a sleeper-berth to get a decent night of sleep. The beds are quite comfortable and most people can sleep quite well in these beds (even Dutch men being 1,85 tall like me). The advantage of night trains is obviously that you don’t loose time on travelling and even saves you the costs of an accommodation. Additionally, you will have a few power sockets in your cabin to charge your phone or other electronic devices. Other facilities are a water dispenser, toilets, luggage space and ‘cabin-service’ for drinks and meals.
4-berth or 6 berth?
Price indications in our recommendations are based on 6-berth sleeper beds, but paying a little extra money for a 4-berth sleeper will offer you more comfort. In 6 berths cabins you will find 3 beds on top of each other and the matrasses are harder. The 4-berth cabins have ‘soft-beds’ and also offer more space, since there are just 2 beds on each side. This option is also perfect when you are travelling with exactly 4 people.
How many days to book in advance?
In general, it is best to book train rides 5 to 7 days in advance, However, for trains with more than 3 departure times a day (often shorter rides), you can normally book your ticket the same day or buy the ticket at the train station. Buying your ticket at the train station gives you more freedom, but wouldn’t safe you any money compared to booking on Baolau.
Note that during holidays like Tet (around February), you should book AT LEAST 7 days in advance!
Tip! If you are worried that the train you want to take will sell out soon, you can check how many seats are still available on this Vietnamese Railway website. However, you won’t be able to book your ticket on this website, since they cannot process international credit cards.
Where to book your tickets?
Our recommendation is to book train tickets via Baolau. On this website you can find all routes and availability for train rides in Vietnam and it also accepts international payments. Baolau is a trustworthy website owned by a company from Singapore, so you don’t have to worry about scams. Another trustworthy website is 12go.asia, however the ticket prices on this website are often much higher.
We advise to book train tickets at least a few days in advance and at least 1-2 weeks in advance around holidays like Tet in February (Vietnamese New Year). Train bookings normally open 60 or 90 days before departure.
Buses normally don’t sell out as fast as train tickets, since they can often add additional buses when demand is high. However, in most cases buses will be fully booked on the day of departure. When you book at least one day in advance you will normally be fine, except for holidays like Tet, when we recommend to book at least three days in advance.