Sure, you can fly. You can even go by boat, or rent a car. But, there’s just something about a train. And when I was traveling from Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An, Vietnam, I knew an overnight train was the best way to turn a trip into an adventure.
But, when it came to planning, this was no simple train trip. And this is coming from the travel planning queen!
In this guide, I’ve laid out exactly how I planned my trip by overnight train from Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An on the Reunification Line in Vietnam!
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase any of the products or services from the links below, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I love!
Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An Train Schedule
The very first thing you should know when designing your itinerary for central Vietnam is the train schedule for the Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An route. You’ll find the trains that travel overnight northbound from Ho Chi Minh, arriving in Da Nang (the closest train station to Hoi An) the next morning on the table below!
|Ho Chi Minh City departure||19:25||21:55||08:45||11:40||14:30|
|Da Nang arrival (for Hoi An)||12:16||13:37||02:07||06:28||09:28|
All of these trains travel daily, so you should find plenty of flexibility for your Vietnam itinerary. All of these trains have air conditioning, and each has the option to have a bed.
SE4 and SE2 are considered the best of the best within this list, and I traveled on SE4 myself!
For your viewing and planning pleasure, here’s the map of your itinerary on any of these trains:
Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An Train Fare Classes
When taking the train in Vietnam, you usually have four options for the type of seat or bed you want.
- Hard seat
- Soft seat
- Hard sleeper (6 berth)
- Soft sleeper (4 berth)
Soft sleeper is the most comfortable option for an overnight journey, so that’s what I chose. Including fees, I paid 875,000 VND, or $37.65 USD for my soft sleeper top bunk bed.
If you’d rather save money and book one of the cheaper fare classes, do so. But, if you can afford to spare it, a soft sleeper is worth the money. You’ll want as much comfort as possible on such a long train ride!
How to Book Your Train From Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An
I’ll be honest with you. This is where the planning gets tricky.
If you have a Vietnamese bank account, debit, or credit card, then you can book directly with the train company.
If you’re like me and you need to book with a foreign credit or debit card, then you’ll need to use one of four options:
- Buy your ticket a few days before in person at the train station
- Buy your ticket from a local travel agency
Baolau was by far the easiest, most cost-effective option of the four. I was able to book online, with a foreign credit card, and Baolau handled the rest for a nominal fee.
Sure, I’m cheap and I’d rather not pay fees at all. But, that’s not how it works when you book a train ticket in Vietnam as a traveler, unfortunately.
When you book with Baolau, you’re actually requesting for them to purchase a ticket in your name, on your behalf, and then they let you know if they were able to do so. This process took just a few minutes when I booked, though.
You can even choose which class you want, which train car you want, and even which bed or seat you prefer. You’ll also be able to see if other beds or seats have already been booked.
P.s. You’ll notice Baolau also offers flight booking — I only used their service for trains, and I never recommend booking a flight with anyone other than the airline. You can read my nightmare experience booking a flight with a third-party service here. You live and you learn!
How to Get to the Train Station in Ho Chi Minh
This advice is more do as I say, not as I do. Okay?
My transport from my adorable guest house in Ho Chi Minh to the city’s train station was a level 1,000 HOT. MESS.
I knew I needed food for the train, because my allergies are too bad to chance eating food that isn’t vegan. I got a Grab to drop me off at a local restaurant that Google Maps showed was a short walk to the train station.
Getting my dinner to go was easy. Walking to the train station from there was another situation entirely.
Basically, I ended up walking down a side street with loads of traffic and no safe place to walk…with my luggage…and my dinner…and my phone out to navigate. I was carrying way too much for one person down such a busy, tiny street, and I probably looked like an octopus.
Yeah, that was not wise.
What I should have done, and what I recommend you do, is get a Grab to drop you off at the train station. I don’t care how close you are. It’s not easy to find, especially in the dark.
A local to guide you will make all the difference between a stress-filled start and a relaxed beginning to your train journey.
What to Do Once You’re at the Train Station in Ho Chi Minh
Check in with the train attendants
Once you enter the station, you’ll see some places to sit, counters to buy a ticket, a few stairs up to the platforms, and, of course, a board with train departure info on it.
Since you already have your ticket on your phone, you can scan it at the turnstiles, where attendants are available to assist you. After scanning, I was able to get on board immediately.
No one asked to see my passport or tourist visa, but have them readily available in case you’re asked for them to verify your identity matches the name on your ticket.
On the platform
After you’ve scanned your ticket and gained access to the train platforms, you’ll see more helpful attendants standing on the platforms.
Even if there’s only one train there at the moment, it’s best to go ahead and show them your ticket to make sure there that’s actually your train. Technical difficulties happen in train systems all over the world, and you never know if you’re delayed!
They can also show you how far you need to walk to reach your assigned train car — it’s way easier to walk with all your stuff outside than in a teeny-tiny train corridor!
Of course, if worse comes to worse and you’re about to be left behind, then go ahead and jump on. You can figure out the rest later!
What to Expect on the Overnight Train from Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An
First and foremost, I’m sure you’re interested to know about what to expect when sleeping on a train in Vietnam. When I arrived to my room, there were four bunks there. Mine was the top left bunk.
I did notice there were other travelers who chose to book an entire room for themselves, so they wouldn’t have to share with strangers. If that would make you more comfortable, then go for it! You will have to book all four beds in the room, though.
My bed was padded and pretty comfortable, with sheets, a blanket, and a pillow waiting for me. There was ample storage space for the top bunk above the doorframe of the cabin, with enough space for a suitcase and backpack. My carry-on and personal item fit with plenty of room to spare!
There are two caveats you should know about, though.
One, I don’t know how often the sheets are washed on the trains. Mine seemed clean when I boarded, but I never saw them replaced on other people’s beds when a new passenger came on the train.
Two, I did see a cockroach crawl on the wall next to my bed. I killed it with a stray napkin. No harm, no foul — but I was glad I never saw another one!
Food + Drink Options
Train attendants will come down the hallway offering meals, drinks, coffee, snacks, etc. for purchase on a trolley car. There wasn’t anything I could eat, so I ate what I brought from the little restaurant in Saigon.
It is normal to bring your own food and snacks on the train, and there’s no pressure to buy what they’re selling. It’s just an option for passengers who would rather have the convenience of getting food on the train!
There are bathrooms at either end of the hallway on the trains. The one I used to was much more spacious than I was expecting for a train, and it was pretty clean!
I used it to change clothes the next morning and freshen up after a long night’s rest. I also used the sink to brush my teeth, which is separate from the toilet room.
Arriving to Da Nang Train Station
When the train arrives to Da Nang, you’ll want to pay attention to your location on the map and to the train announcements. You should also notice many passengers getting their things ready to leave, because Da Nang is a popular stop on the Reunification Line.
But, the entire route doesn’t end until it reaches Hanoi, in north Vietnam! You don’t want to miss your stop, because the next one is Hue, and it’ll take a long time to get back to Hoi An.
The entrance and exit of the small train station in Da Nang is visible from the platform, so you shouldn’t get lost in the train station!
You’ll immediately be offered a taxi. If you want one, negotiate a rate with the driver in advance, and have exactly what you want to pay in cash!
If you’re not interested, politely decline and keep walking. I’ve only been followed by an especially persistent driver once; the rest will find another passenger.
How to Get from Da Nang Train Station to Hoi An
After you’ve arrived to the train station in Da Nang, you have a few options to get to Hoi An:
- Hail a Grab through the app,
- Hail a taxi just outside the train station,
- Book a private transfer or shared shuttle to Hoi An in advance, or
- Ride the local bus!
How to Take the Local Bus to Hoi An
For both the cultural experience and for your budget, I highly recommend taking the local bus to Hoi An once you’ve arrived to Da Nang. It’s just an hour, and you’ll even get to a stunning view of Da Nang’s famous dragon bridge on the way!
You’ll need to walk from the train station to the bus stop located at 155 Le Duan Rd.
Here’s the walking route on Google Maps:
Buses come every 20 minutes, and they’re yellow. You want Bus #1. They run from 5:30 in the morning to 5:30 in the evening.
When the bus arrives, you’ll pay and enter the bus in the back, not the front. I made the rookie mistake of trying to get on in the front, but the driver nicely let me know to go to the back!
There will be an attendant in the back of the bus who you’ll pay your fare to and they’ll store your luggage in the allotted space. When I traveled in Vietnam in March 2020, this bus ride cost 20,000 VND, or $1 USD.
Per Gecko Routes, “Also, note that bus drivers often try to overcharge tourists. Just point politely to the correct prices on their official website and don’t let them fool you.”
I want to note that this did not happen to me. All the locals and travelers I met on this bus were very friendly, including the attendant who held the money. No one tried to overcharge me. But, if this happens to you, I recommend to use Gecko Routes’ advice above.
From there, it’s a relaxing ride to Hoi An! You’ll know when it’s time to get off, because it’s the last stop on the route.
In total, this journey took about 20 hours. From the hotel in Ho Chi Minh to my accommodations in Hoi An, I took a Grab, walked, took the overnight train, took a local bus, and finally walked a few minutes to where I was staying.
Whew! What a travel day!
Did I Feel Safe on This Journey as a Solo Female Traveler?
For the most part, yes. I know some readers will have alarm bells going off in their heads as they read I was alone on this journey and slept in the same room as a couple of strangers, but neither of them bothered me or made me feel uncomfortable in any way.
In fact, everyone who ended up in the room was very friendly, Vietnamese and foreigner alike. A couple of German guys even jokingly asked me if I was a Titans fan when we talked about where we were from. LOL. 😂
The two moments I did not feel as safe on this journey were on the bustling side street on the way to Ho Chi Minh City’s train station, and walking away from the pushy Grab motorbike driver in Da Nang.
Even after I told him several times that I was not interested in a Grab or taxi, he continued to follow me. I ignored him, and he eventually went away. But, that definitely raised the hairs on my arms a little bit. A taxi driver had never followed me that far before, and I had to stand my ground more than usual in that moment.
Places to Stay in Hoi An
I stayed at a homestay called Nem’s House in Hoi An, and absolutely loved it. The front desk manager and I became fast friends and we even went to lunch one day at a local vegan restaurant. I was the only non-Vietnamese there, and it was an awesome experience!
But, if Nem’s House doesn’t have availability, you can find another great place to stay on Agoda!
Fun Things to See and Do in Hoi An
• • •
This guide is what I wish were available in one place when I was planning my journey from Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An. I loved taking the train, even if my entire travel day was 20 hours and I had a couple of bumps along the way.
After all, if life isn’t adventurous in some way, how do we know we’ve lived?
Once I was on the train, in my bunk, my belongings put away, I finally took a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale.
I was on my own, and I was somehow making all of this work — full-time solo travel, maintaining the blog you’re reading right now, and growing my own entrepreneurial career while thousands of miles from home.
And, in this moment, I was overcome by grief. You see, my grandpa, aptly nicknamed Big Danny, is the only family member I have who’s also been to Vietnam. I missed him so much in moments that took me by surprise, and many of them came when I was traveling in Vietnam. This night was no different.
So, I did what I do best. I opened up my MacBook, created a new Word document, and started writing. I’ll cherish that poem forever, even if I never share it with the world. It’s ours.
I slept like a baby on this train ride, the clink of the wheels hitting the tracks with a constant sway. Back and forth. Back and forth. The exhaustion overcame me, and then I woke up in a new destination. That’s the beauty of an overnight train ride.
And in the morning, a new day came, ripe with possibilities. But the adventure wasn’t over yet! As you’ll find in upcoming posts about my travels in Vietnam, the adventure was just beginning. ✨