Overnight trains in Vietnam
To get from Nha Trang to Hoi An we decided to take an overnight train. I say "we" decided, however I think my fellow travellers were a bit more dubious about this method of travel than I was! I thought it would be fun! An adventure! A way to see more of Vietnam! I'm not sure they were convinced, but everyone went along with it anyway.
There is no train station (or airport) in Hoi An. The nearest city is Danang, where you can get a bus to Hoi An, I think. It's about a half hour drive away. We took the very middle class option of having the hotel we were staying at pick us up, for about $25 US.
We booked our tickets through Vietnam Impressive, who I would recommend. Originally we booked a 4 berth soft sleeper, costing $214 US total for all four beds. I thought this was reasonable, but apparently its way more than it would cost you if you went to the train station and purchased your tickets yourself, although of course you risk the trains being sold out. The train was to depart Danang at 8pm, arriving at 6am the following morning. Not the best time to arrive, but our hotel was willing to pick us up then and said we could still use the pool and everything until our rooms were ready.
Unfortunately, about a month before our trip we got an email from Vietnam Impressive saying that they would not be able to give us those tickets anymore, as government officials had decided to book out the same train! After a lot of back and forth, they offered us all 6 beds in a 6 bed hard sleeper on a later train that evening. Reluctantly we took this, as the only other option would have been to fly, and flights were over $300 each at that point.
The only difference between the 4 bed soft sleeper and the 6 bed hard sleeper is, as you can probably work out, that there are 6 beds instead of 4 in each compartment, and the mattresses are much thinner on the hard sleepers. Other than that they are the same, and both berths are air-conditioned, which was my main concern. Our train was now at a more reasonable time, leaving Nha Trang at 9:30pm and arriving the next morning in Danang at 8:30am.
Vietnam Impressive delivered our tickets to our hotel in Nha Trang. They came with a note warning us about a few things: mainly to not let anyone (conductors) tell us that we owed them more money, to lock the door to our berth, and if anyone was already in our berth when we got on the train to kick them out. Yikes! I actually hid this warning from Andy, thinking it would just stress him out. He found it about an hour before we were to get on the train and he was not happy!
The train station in Nha Trang is pretty boring, just a waiting room with a small kiosk where you can buy a few snacks and water. Everyone we spoke to said NOT to eat the food on the train, so we had brought a few granola bars with us to get us through the night. We got there about 45 minutes early, although there is absolutely no need to be this early for your train unless you still need to purchase tickets. When the train came we got on and not surprisingly there was a guy in our compartment. I was the first one in and told him (loudly) to leave, and he did, without much fuss. I think he was drunk, there seemed to be a lot of drunk men on the train with us. We then had to get all clean linen from the conductors as people had already been sleeping in our berths - ew!
Once we had all new linen we locked ourselves in our compartment, and as it was already past 10pm we decided to just try and sleep. Claire pretty much slept the whole way, I was super jealous, that girl can sleep anywhere, anytime! She even slept through three separate occasions where drunk men managed to open our (supposedly locked) door and try to get in. Each time they were met with Andy jumping up and yelling at them to get out. They didn't seem aggressive, I think they were just drunk and didn't know where their berth was, but it was still annoying and a bit unnerving that someone could get in past the locked door. The toilets were pretty gross, and being pregnant I had to go a few times in the night. There were squatting toilets and Western toilets, and in this case squatting was definitely the better option. The smell was pretty terrible though!
Other than our drunk visitors the rest of the train ride was pretty uneventful. I felt like I was awake a lot, but it went by pretty quickly so I must have got some sleep in. I'd take the train again if we travel around Vietnam another time, but I would really have rather been in the 4 bed soft sleeper! We arrived in Danang on time, with our driver there waiting to take us to our amazing hotel in Hoi An.