A sign on a train from Hanoi to Nam Ninh

Trains in South East Asia

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Ever wanted to spend 29 hours on a train? Us neither, but we survived and maybe even enjoyed it! Travelling across Asia can be a daunting thought but the train systems are easy to use and using them adds a little bit of adventure to your trip!

On a recent trip we took through South East Asia we decided to take the train as much as possible. Our theory was we could experience the beautiful scenery only on offer by taking ground-level transport. Buses and cars are slower than trains, hence the train being the ‘obvious’ choice.

If you are looking for train deals then use 12Go or the handy search box below!

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Read More: 11 Things To Know About Travelling From Beijing To Bangkok Without Flying

A man pretending to be asleep with a small smile on the top bunk
snug as a bug

Everything You Need To Know About Trains In South East Asia

Before you read any further, if you are thinking about travelling around South East Asia and you have a bit of funding behind you then stop reading, book flights and do yourself a favour. No matter how cultural you want to be, you only look out of the window on a train for a maximum of 5 minutes. Then you realise that you’ve seen the scenery, crack out a film or 8 and experience some nice broken sleep.

We had absolutely no horror stories at all whilst on the train. This is not a post about how bad the trains are. In fact, they are absolutely fine and quite fun!

A set of bunk beds with white bedding on a train
these beds are actually really comfortable!

The number one problem is TIME. A 1-2 hour flight can take up to 30 hours on a train (we were on one for 29 hours). If you want to maximise your time then that’s a whole day of exploring gone.


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In our 4 week holiday we spent nearly a week travelling. I can say that the experience we gained from going native was not massively worth this time.

Blue counters with 2 sinks and a large mirror in front
loving the nice touch of sunflowers!

Anyway, if you’re on a budget then read away.


Overnight Trains in China

I would recommend booking your tickets on 12Go.

From what I have seen the prices are reasonable and it’s bloody easy to do. We used them from Beijing – Xian and all we had to do was pick up the train tickets from the station upon arrival and board the train. Anything longer than 8 hours then get a soft sleeper and relax.

Woman's legs in brown trousers wearing blue plastic slippers and white socks
i know, i know, she’s incredibly sexy

We’re both 6’1” (I’m a bit taller) and the beds fit us no problem. There were electrical sockets in every carriage and free boiling water was available for all your instant cooking needs.

Read More: Your Ultimate Guide To Backpacking China


Overnight Trains in Vietnam

We used Baolau for all of our trains and buses in Vietnam and Cambodia. This is by far the best website I have used in my life for transport. Again after research, the prices look reasonable.

If you are travelling from Hanoi and going south you may read posts telling you to avoid the TN trains. We thought ‘screw you’ and went on one anyway. It was basically the same as all the other sleeper trains, the only thing is that it’s a bit slower. But if any of you reading were worried about the time, you would already have booked your flights.

Click here to check out the best deals on your train tickets in Vietnam.

Man sitting on a fold down chair in the train aisle
LOL
A foothold to climb up to the top bunk
these footholds are really handy but also quite difficult to use! Jade couldn’t get on with them and I had to give her a leg up instead

Read More: The Essential Guide To Backpacking Vietnam

Have you had any positive or negative experiences with trains in South East Asia? Please comment below to help out all those other travellers like you!

Comments

  1. Cool post. I have been on trains in India, Thailand and Vietnam. The ones in Vietnam that I went on were nicest and almost luxurious! It was a night train though so I didn’t get to see any of the scenery. One thing I did find when travelling on the train was that they all seem so noisy. And if you wanted to sleep you need to be good at switching off to the clickety clackety from the train going over the tracks.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. Some times the noise was so bad I thought we were going to fall off the rails. A light sleeper isn’t going to ahve much fun…

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