Riding The Reunification Express, Vietnam

After spending one amazing night on a boat cruising Halong Bay we spent a less amazing night riding 13.5 hours on The Reunification Express.

Trains traveling between Hanoi in the North and Ho Chi Minh City in the South are often referred to as The Reunification Express although no single train actually carries this name.

Fun Flying Four Sleeper Train (1 of 8)

We pre-booked our tickets using Baolau; an online booking office, in english, which accepts credit cards (although it should be noted that a minimal fee will be charged to use this service) and we chose to pay a little extra for a soft bed with air-conditioning.

I highly recommend paying the extra for a soft bed, I can not imagine spending an entire night on a hard bed or even worse a seat!

the corridor; the sleeping compartments are on the left

the corridor; the sleeping compartments are on the left

Even though we had booked our tickets we still had to collect them from the ticket office at the train station.  There is a number system however no-one, even the staff, seemed to pay any attention to it.

In the end Matt just approached the window, with many people trying to cut in front of him and he managed to get our tickets.

Fun Flying Four Sleeper Train (4 of 8)

When we found our compartment on the train we were somewhat disappointed that we were going to be sharing it with a 2 other people; since the girls are under 6 they were free if they shared a bed with each of us.

It wasn’t that we didn’t want to share the compartment it was more that we didn’t want our girls to keep them up all night!



The couple, from Spain, were super nice.  The girl spoke great English and we chatted a lot, the guy didn’t speak any but his girlfriend translated when need be!

Thankfully they both were happy to take the top bunks allowing Matt, the girls and I to have the 2 bottom beds.

view of the corridor from the other end!

view of the corridor from the other end!

The beds, as you would expect, aren’t that big, there is space for luggage and then a rather decent sized table, a window (with curtains) and lights; and that makes up the compartment.

Eden & Clio loved the train, they spent the first hour giggling away and then amazingly they went to sleep and slept for a solid 9.5 hours!

We all enjoyed looking at the scenery & passing through villages in the morning

We all enjoyed looking at the scenery & passing through villages in the morning

Matt & I however did not sleep all that much.  Matt drew the short straw and had to share with Clio, a.k.a the biggest bed hog ever.  Not only did she insist that she needed the entire bed to herself but also the one pillow for that bunk as well as the only blanket.

I would often glimpse over and Matt would be sleeping sitting up or half off the bed.

My lack of sleep was due to a combination of things; firstly I was afraid Eden was going to fall off the bed so I wasn’t allowing myself to get into a deep sleep but also there was noise.  Noise of the train as it chugged along, at times it was quite relaxing, other times not so much!

when they got bored of that they snuggled up for a movie

when they got bored of that they snuggled up for a movie

Then of course there was the noise of other people partying it up in other compartments; Matt & I both commented how we could see us doing the same pre-kids or once the kids are older, but for this trip not so much!

Honestly though, if Matt & I didn’t have to share beds with the kids I think we would have had an alright sleep!

view of the bed!

view of the bed!

The trains have food carts being pushed around as well as a cafeteria. We sensibly ate dinner before boarding the train but when we woke in the morning we did need to buy some breakfast.

While I can not say for sure if it was the spam like meat with rice that I ate, I am pretty certain this is what gave me an upset stomach which stuck with me for the next few days.

Have you ever been on the Reunification Express or any other sleeper train? What was your experience like?

Linking up to WeekendWanderlust  & Monday Escapes 

Packing my Suitcase



36 responses to “Riding The Reunification Express, Vietnam

  1. We did 3 overnight trains. I had heard a lot of descriptions about them from friends, so we had appropriate expectations. I can only imagine how different our experience would have been if we had no idea how the train was going to be, haha! I actually slept pretty good…I brought earplugs and I didn’t have to share my bed with anyone. Only a few ‘jerks’ woke me up where I thought I’d roll off.

    We met a vacationing couple who actually bought SEATS. Not hard berths, not soft berths. SEATS. Which they said were BENCHES, with no AC, open windows, livestock, and produce. We felt pretty good about our trip after talking with them.

    I also bought Banh Mi’s on the train with us because I couldn’t go more than what seemed like 6 hours without having one. It was awesome.

    • lol love this! yes I had heard about the seats and I do recall reading about the livestock also, to funny! I can not imagine doing that with kids…although the girls would enjoy it since they both seem to love animals (just not cats & dogs, crazy!) such a GREAT idea about Banh Mi; aren’t they the best? have you mastered your own version yet?!

    • I’m one of those people! My first overnight train I bought a “seat”. It was a bench. No lie. And in the middle of the night (while I was in the bathroom) the train took a sharp turn and I dunked a foot in the squat toilet. It was MISERABLE! I learned after that!

  2. You are all so adventurous! It will be fun to see how this encourages your girls to continue this into adulthood. I laughed aloud at the description of Matt sleeping. Too funny!

  3. I remember going on the sleeper trains in Vietnam. I did one from HCMC to Nha Trang, then another one from Danang to Hanoi I think. The one from HCMC wasn’t too bad, as in the beds were the most comfortable, but the other one was a bit of a nightmare. I remember getting to our cabin to see two train conducter people sitting on our beds smoking cigarettes, then kind of just leaving, so the beds were pretty smelly and not as soft as the previous train! Not sure if I would attempt it with Griff….

  4. I took an overnight train from Lisbon to Madrid and that was an experience…! I shared the room with an old lady and the toilets are shared with the whole train – not in our room. I should have brought flip flops instead of trying to boots on each time I had to go to the loo…! I would do it again, though!! Great pictures!!

  5. Thanks for sharing your experience! It’s good to know what to expect on the Unification Express. I haven’t taken an overnight train with the family yet, but have done some overnight trips in Europe long time ago, before I was married. It could be fun. It depends 🙂

    • I would love to rail travel around Europe! I have a huge soft spot for Europe anyway but I think exploring it by trains would be really neat.

  6. That was an interesting ride! I’ve never taken a sleeper train per se, although I’ve taken a 10 hour night train from Northern Greece to Athens, where I had just a seat and stupidly didn’t bring any book with me…needless to say the moment I got home I went straight to bed!

    • that train ride sounds miserable! I rarely take books with me because I try to travel as light as possible…especially having to carry the kids stuff too, but there have definitely been times I wished I had!

      • well the funny part is that I had friends with me, so I thought that we would spend the time chatting (especially when we traveled to the destination which was a day trip), but they both had books with them. Needless to say both those train rides where boring!

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    • I was kind of nervous! I wasn’t until we realized there were others in our compartment! Thankfully they did great and in fact they really thought it was neat, would definitely consider doing it again!

  9. I used to love taking overnight trains in China when I lived there. We took various train rides with the kids in India but never an overnight one – I think they would love it! But I think I would definitely get them their own bunk 🙂 #mondayescapes

    • lol yes it was one of those ‘less sleep’ or ‘less money’ decisions we went with the less money! But I won’t complain if/when we do it again and they are too old to share with us! I need to read about your China and India experiences! I would love to go to India!

  10. I still haven’t traveled on a overnight train, but I think I also wouldn’t mind paying extra for more comfort! And sorry for getting the stomachache 😦
    Your photos are pretty cool!!

    Thank you for joining #MondayEscapes

    • I would definitely do the overnight train again, especially knowing how much the kids loved it & slept on it! We definitely contemplated paying the extra but we already knew that Clio (our youngest) would want to share with one of us anyway plus traveling on a budget we saw it as a place to save some $$’s!!

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  12. I’m impressed – I can imagine taking an overnight train with my two girls, but I cannot imagine sharing a room with them and another couple! My girls are the worst sleepers. Sounds like a fun trip though!

    • I was so nervous they were going to be monkeys all night, they are generally great sleepers but I thought being on a train etc would be to much out of the norm…guess I was wrong! It really was a fun trip!

  13. Love reading your Vietnam adventures. I would definitely pay for a bed. But to share it with fellow traveller – pretty sure my boys would keep them up! My boys are pretty boisterous, especially at night. -_- Maybe I would save everyone the torture and just take a domestic flight.

    • LOL you are too funny! I was super nervous that the girls would but they surprised us, I knew my oldest wouldn’t cause issues my little one is the rascal and I was really nervous about her! (p.s. for some reasons I can’t always reply to your comments, so if I don’t reply its not for lack of trying)

      • Yeah, somehow my blog’s comment system doesn’t work with the wordpress dashboard thingy. People need to go to my blog to leave comments and can’t do it through their WordPress dashboard. So inconvenient, but I’m not sure how to fix it. 😦

  14. I have done many overnight journeys and am probably 70/30 positive on good night’s sleep. The ones with borders are invariably the worst. You know you will be woken up at some stage in the early hours so never properly relax. I did the Hue to Hanoi section of your route and shared the carriage with two elderly local women who gratefully accepted our train meal that came with the ticket. It did look inedible but they seemed to enjoy it!

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