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In today’s entry, I will look at different forms of transport available for the backpackers in Vietnam, and I will explain why, in my opinion, overnight sleeper train is by far the best way to travel. Other options are plane, bus and motorbike.

Let’s start with the smallest one; nippy motorbike seems like a great tool for a job. There are millions of bikes and mopeds here. Each family got at least one if not more.

Leszek and his machine! 

Some travellers buy a bike in Hanoi, then travel all way done to Saigon where they sell the bike back. Guys from Top Gear done it as well.

Sounds like fun? I don’t think so. Let me tell you why.

First of all, the condition of roads. A lot of holes and bumps and gravel on the side of the road. Secondly NO rules on the roads. Well, there is one rule: bigger your vehicle bigger your chances to survive. Big lorries and buses are kings of the road.

It is normal to see mopeds and bicycles going against the traffic on any road. No one use indicators. Red light? Who cares! Why checking mirrors or blind spot if I can use the horn, anytime, all the time!

I felt much safer riding 220km per hour on the german motorway than 40km in Vietnam.

Hundreds of mopeds 

And finally – bikes itself. There are no bigger ones than 125-150cc. They are old and painfully slowly. Not fun at all. They are suitable for short travels, nipping to the shop or just strolling around the city. The 1500km trip, no thanks.

Let’s look at the bus now. Slow and not very comfortable but very cheap. You can get an open ticket for sleeper bus from Hanoi to Saigon for 50 dollars. But again, because of poor road condition, any trip longer than 2-3 hours is a real pain. What’s even worse, buses are mainly used by backpackers so you can end up travelling all month with the same bunch of people. It can be a good or a bad thing, all depends on what you want from your trip.

So we are left with the last two, train vs. plane.

Travelling by air is very fast and convenient. In less than 2 hours you can reach any destination in Vietnam. Tickets are quite cheap, and the service is excellent. There is only one problem. Air travelling is lacking the soul. Too fast, too quick.

So despite the clear benefits of the plane, I am choosing a train for the best way of travelling in Vietnam.

What is so great about trains? Aren’t they always late, waggons are overcrowded and ticket expensive? Yes, but this is a part of the experience!

There is only one railway line in Vietnam, between Hanoi and Saigon, calling in many major cities. Trains are old but are very well kept. Each waggon has one service person who makes sure it’s clean. The same person will let you know when is your stop and will deal with any problems.

You can get a different type of seat, price rise accordingly; hard seat, soft seat, hard sleeper 6 persons, soft sleeper and soft sleeper with AC.

Hard sleeper, the one we have travelled, has 6 beds, 3 on each side. Lower beds are more expensive. You get a thin mattress, pillow and a blanket. It’s all you need for a ride of your life!

Joanna’s studying guidebook. 

The biggest advantage of the train is the fact they are widely used by Vietnamese people. Because trips are long, it is a fantastic opportunity to make to know local habits, observe their interaction with others, learn, talk a little bit. This what travelling should be about.

Leszek playing with kids on the train. 

In general people in Vietnam are very friendly and always willing to help. They smile a lot. It is a little bit different in “tourist traps” where everyone wants to sell you something. The “special” environment of the train helps to get to know people in their best.

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