Traveling Vietnam by train or bus
Taking the train or bus in Vietnam?
We recommend to take a train whenever this option is available and doesn’t take much extra time compared to the bus. Trains in Vietnam are safer than buses and offer quite a good standard with extras like on-board catering, charging points and clean toilets.
For certain routes, train rides take much longer than buses or require extra transport between the railway station and the city center. In this case, taking the bus will save 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 sleep well on these buses. You can adjust the seats downwards and you have extended leg space. For tall people, this extended leg space is not enough. So if this is you, you will have to raise your knees to find a good sleeping position.
Safety of buses in Vietnam
Although most bus rides will arrive safely at their destinations, buses get into accidents from time to time. Bus drivers in Vietnam are not the safest drivers and some people even report drunk drivers.
For long journeys, consider paying a few bucks more for train travel, even though it might take longer. For other journeys, there are no trains available or the journey takes twice as long. In that case, we recommend to take the bus. But note that buses are never the safest option.
Bottom-line: Bus rides in Vietnam are not as safe as in Western countries. Although the chance of getting into an accident is small, you will take extra risk here. It’s up to you if you want to take this risk.
Traveling by train in Vietnam
Depending on 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 links for the train booking.
Should you book a soft-seat or hard-seat?
We always recommend booking a soft-seat instead of a hard-seat. This offers more comfort and won’t cost you more than one dollar extra.
Sleeper-berth in Vietnamese trains
In case the train ride is at night, we recommend booking a sleeper-berth to get a decent night of sleep. The beds are comfortable and most people can sleep well in them (even Dutchmen being 1.85 tall like me).
The advantage of night trains is that you don’t lose time on travelling and even saves you the costs of accommodation. Additionally, you will have a few power sockets in your cabin to charge your phone or other electronic devices. Other facilities include a water dispenser, toilets, luggage space and ‘cabin-service’ for drinks and meals.
4-berth or 6-berth?
Price indications on this website 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-berth cabins, you will find 3 beds on top of each other and the mattresses are harder. The 4-berth cabins have ‘soft beds’ and also offer more space with just 2 beds on each side. This option is also perfect when you are travelling with 4 people.
How many days to book in advance?
It is best to book your train tickets at least 5 to 7 days in advance. For trains with more than 3 departure times a day (often shorter rides), you can also book your ticket the same day or buy the ticket at the railway station. Buying your ticket at the railway station gives you more freedom, but wouldn’t save you any money compared to booking on Baolau.
Note that during holidays (like Tet) you have to book AT LEAST 7 days in advance!
Unique tip! Are you worried that the train you want to take might sell out soon? Check how many seats are still available on this Vietnamese Railway website! You won’t be able to book your ticket on this website though. That’s because they cannot process international payment cards.
Where to book your tickets?
We recommend booking train tickets via Baolau or BookAway. These websites have the most routes and availability for train rides in Vietnam. Also, do they both accept international payments. In some cases Baolau might offer cheaper tickets, but their website is often slow what means the booking process can get stuck.
The advantage of booking with BookAway is that they provide a lot of information about each available option. You can, for example, see the picture that shows you the difference per train, a list of amenities you get and always ask questions about the transportation options thanks to their excellent customer support.
Another popular booking website is 12go.asia, but the ticket prices on this website are often much higher and their customer service is behind the support of BookAway.
Tip: Book train tickets at least a few days in advance on regular days 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.
Also take in mind that train ticket prices will rise around national holidays!
For bus tickets, we highly recommend to book with BookAway. They have the widest choice of bus and van companies, provide detailed info about the companies, show the exact departure and arrival point, have reliable reviews and often offer several extras like free pick-up/drop-off and free cancellation.
Note: If you book with free-cancellation, always check carefully if you have the right to get back the full amount of your booking. Sometimes you can only get back 70%, even when you cancel within the allowed time.
You can also check Baolau and 12go.asia for bus tickets. This are also reliable websites of which Baolau is often the cheaper one and 12go.asia the more expensive. However, we review all booking options every few months and update the links to the best available and cheapest options. This way you don’t have to search on every platform to find the best rates or options.
When to book your bus ticket?
Buses usually don’t sell out as fast as train tickets. This is because they can often add more 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 be fine, except for holidays like Tet. During the holidays, we recommend to book at least three-five days in advance. Also, be aware that bus tickets can cost up to double the price during national holidays!