To be honest, it took months of researching beforehand as to whether we would take the overnight train from Hanoi to Da Nang (to get to Hoi An) . I went from excited, to nervous, to going, to definitely not going.
There were so many mixed reviews but after directly speaking to a few people who have taken the trip, we decided to book. If it was terrible we would just deal with it as best we could. But….it was absolutely fine – terrific to be honest. Travel by train in Vietnam is a great way to travel!
I wish I had come across a review like this when I was researching. I am still really amused reading some reviews for the train trips now we have been, knowing it was great!
Lots of people who are travelling to Hoi An are coming down from Hanoi. The majority of the transfer options are not direct to Hoi An. All travellers who have decided to travel down by train or plane will need to journey from Hanoi to Da Nang and from there look for transport options from Da Nang train station or airport to Hoi An itself. You’ll need to factor this transfer from the Da Nang train station to Hoi An into your plans.
What you can find in this post
We caught the SE1 Livitrans from Hanoi to Da Nang. The Livitrans is considered the ‘tourist’ carriage but to be honest we didn’t venture along the train into different carriages, so I am not sure how the Livitrans carriages compare to the standard carriages.
The SE trains have been updated and are apparently quicker.
There is also a second ‘tourist’ carriage option called Violette, but we didn’t have the opportunity to look at these carriages to compare. The tickets were actually on par price wise with a flight, but we really wanted the experience of an overnight train trip in Vietnam.
There are 4 main classes on all the trains –
- Hard seat
- Soft seat
- Hard sleeper
- Soft sleeper
I would definitely recommend the soft sleeper cabins if you are travelling with your family.
Arranging your tickets
There is some confusion when investigating the train options, the Livitrans are now a separate carriage on the normal SE trains (I think at one stage they were completely separate trains). It confused me for months and nobody seemed to know how these carriages and trains actually functioned!
There are a couple of ways to purchase your tickets. If you would like to arrange this easily online, please read Smiths Holidays Road’s post and it will step you through the process.
We went with the easier option (as to be honest, I was a bit scared) of having our hotel arrange this for us. All you need to let them know is the date of travel, which carriage type/class and number of people. Bear in mind that if there is only 2 of you then you will most likely be sharing with 2 other people. So you’ll need to book all four beds if you are wanting to keep it private.
Your tickets will be delivered to the hotel the day prior or the day of your trip.
Our train departed at 7.30pm and arrived in Da Nang around 11.30am – approx 16-17 hours (nothing is precise in Vietnam!).
We were at the station before 7pm and they opened the platform gates not long after.
It was very chaotic. People were running like the train was about to leave so we got a little stressed! Be warned, you’ll have people pounce on you asking to see your tickets and picking up your bags. We were almost at the carriage before we realised that our guy was not an official of the railways! It was not a problem, he wasn’t trying to run away with our bags, he just put his hand out for some money!!
This was perfect timing as it gave us time to have dinner earlier, enjoy the cabin and look out the window as it was getting dark, and then get some sleep.
Our cabin was absolutely spotless. The beds were clean and the linen was fresh (you can buy, as we did, silk sleeping sheets in Hanoi for $5/$6 – most of the little tourist shops around the Old Quarter stock them).
On the little table was a lamp, 4 waters, 4 soft drinks, banana’s and sandwiches (pre-packaged things that didn’t look that great!).
There was room to store our bags under the beds and a little shelf up the top.
Not a mouse or cockroach in sight, ha!
Ned and Olive slept in the top bunks as there was a rail on these beds and there wasn’t on the bottom beds. The beds were very (very) hard and yes, the train rocked along and was noisy, but, you are on a train afterall!!!
Have some layers within easy reach (so you don’t need to unpack your big bag), it was cold during the night as there was no way to change the air con. It was then turned off about 6.30am so it got stinking hot for a couple of hours before they turned it back on.
The blinds weren’t terrific either, so it was light as soon as the sun came up.
What to bring
There are some items you should bring with you on your train trip in Vietnam. Bring your own snacks and breakfast (or you can buy noodles etc from the trolley carts), wipes, toilet paper etc. There was drinking water at each end of the carriage, we had plenty with us.
The only time the journey felt a little long was towards the end in the morning, but it was easy to pass the time (tablet games, little toys, reading and music etc). We bought food for breakfast the night before which kept us going.
Our carriage also had a group from ‘G’ Adventures Tours, another family and another couple of Aussies and Germans. There were plenty of travelling families waiting to board at the station.
You don’t have to fear missing your station either, as music was played very loudly before the stops in the morning so there was no chance of missing it. The train was actually very long and when we got off we were disembarking onto tracks!
Once the ‘G’ Adventure tour group got off in Hue, lots of Vietnamese boarded and they used the cabins without them being cleaned…..but from the start of the trip it was all clean.
There was a western toilet (you had to sit sideways to fit though!!!) which got a little wet and stunk, but that was to be expected. Every time we used it there was no issue with the flush. There was always toilet paper, but I’d byo also just in case.
This is definitely not 5-star travel (and if you are used to 5-star train travel you will need to lower your expectations – there is no dining car or private bathrooms, wifi or meals provided etc, and if you don’t book all four beds you will be sharing with strangers).
There has been comments of drunk, rude and noisy people running up and down the carriages – that must just be pot luck as we didn’t experience this at all.
The guards will knock and try and open the door to ask if you want something to eat or drink quite early in the morning – so this might wake you up (the kids didn’t budge!).
Overall, I am so glad we went ahead! I hope this review eases some minds about taking this train trip in Vietnam from Hanoi to Da Nang with your kids. Travel by train in Vietnam is really very easy and straight forward once you know what to expect. We would definitely recommend catching an overnight train in Vietnam.
Please let me know if you have any questions re taking this train trip as I am happy to help.