There once was a time when the 31-hour trip from Hanoi to Saigon by train via the 1,726 km (1,072 mi) Reunification Railway was the preserve of the hardened backpacker: slow, dirty, noisy, uncomfortable and therefore avoided by many a traveller – which is a shame, because some of the scenery that the railway cuts through is truly spectacular.
Now, all this is about to change as Vietnam unveils its first five-star trains – as reported by Thanh Nien News last Saturday. According to the article, the upgrade made to the SE3 and SE4 trains cost a total of VND 83 billion (£2.5 million), yet fares have remained unchanged. Amazing!
Each train has 31 highly trained crew members and takes 31 hours to make a full journey between Vietnam’s two main cities (was that on purpose? We’re not sure).
A soft seat in an air-conditioned car with TVs costs VND 1.2 million (£37); a bed in a six-berth sleeper cabin costs VND 1.5 million (£46); and a bed in a four-berth sleeper costs VND 1.7 million (£52.40).
Halls are well-lit, bathrooms are clean and new, and there is a dining car selling food at the same prices it was before the upgrade: VND 30,000 (92p) for noodles; VND 35,000 (£1.07) for rice dishes, and VND 12,000-25,000 (36-77p) for coffee, beer and cakes.
There is nothing not to love about this fantastic upgrade – we can’t help to hop onboard ourselves!
Photos: Thanh Nien News
For more info on Vietnamese rail and for timetables and prices, visit Seat 61.
And if you just can’t wait to travel the length of Vietnam by train, check out this fantastic video by Mark Smith, which covers the entire journey in just nine minutes!
Of course, InsideVietnam can help sort out your seat/cabin. All aboard!!!