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Vietnam: "Slow travel" by train becomes a trend
Jenna Duong 16:51, 2024/05/12
With the rise in domestic air fares, train travel has been a new tourism trend in Vietnam.

"Travelling by train is cheaper than flying, safer than driving, free from traffic jams, and allows passengers to enjoy the natural scenery outside the window," said Thu Hoa, a tourist from Hanoi's Cau Giay District, explaining her choice of travel mode for her trip across Vietnam from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.

Leisurely immersed in nature

 The beautiful natural scenery along the railroad. Photo: Vietnam Travel Information

According to Hoa, Danang-Hue is known as the most beautiful stretch of the north-south railway. The majestic scenery of wild and beautiful nature as the train passes through Hai Van Pass and Lang Co Bay gives her unforgettable experiences.

Meanwhile, the route between Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang offers visitors an experience of poetic beauty, with pristine beaches stretching as far as the eye can see.

These are advantages that make rail tourism the choice of more and more travelers, especially young people. It is also a form of tourism that is predicted to become a trend, especially in the context of rising domestic air ticket prices.

When traveling by train from the central highland city of Dalat to Trai Mat Station, passengers can immerse themselves in the city's flower fields and rows of vibrant cherry trees. Meanwhile, tourists taking the Muong Hoa mountain train in Sapa City will be exposed to the majestic Hoang Lien Son mountain range and villages shrouded in mist.

"Traveling by train can bring different experiences that no other means of transportation can provide," Thu Hoa told The Hanoi Times.

"The most wonderful thing is not the destination, but the journey. As the train wheels roll along the tracks, travelers have the opportunity to slow down and take in the beauty of nature as well as the local life of each place they pass through," she continued.

A new trend in travel

 More and more tourists choose to travel by train. Photo: Ta Xuan Huong

With the recent emergence of luxury trains, rail tourism is increasingly demonstrating its strength in meeting both transportation and accommodation needs. It is also considered to be in line with the trend of sustainable tourism. These plus points explain why train travel is becoming more and more the choice of the tourists.

High-quality trains on short routes such as Hanoi - Haiphong, Hanoi - Lao Cai, Danang - Hue - Dong Hoi, Ho Chi Minh City - Nha Trang, or Ho Chi Minh City - Binh Thuan are often full.

According to statistics from the Vietnam National Authority of Tourism, the number of domestic tourists and inbound tourists traveling by train in 2023 reached 10 million and 1.5 million respectively, up 15% and 20% from 2022.

In particular, the recent Reunification Day (April 30) and Labor Day (May 1) holidays saw a strong increase in the number of train passengers. A report from the Danang Department of Tourism shows that in those five days alone, the number of visitors to Danang by train exceeded 16,000, a 60% increase over the same period in 2023. Many other destinations such as Hue, Nha Trang, and Haiphong also reported a surge in rail tourists.

 A snack served on the VietGate train that runs between the central provinces of Quy Nhon and Nha Trang. Photo: Arnauld Marrel 

In 2021, CNN published a list of six amazing train journeys in Asia, including a representative from Vietnam, The Vietgage - the train that runs between Danang and Quy Nhon, carries no more than 12 passengers at a time, and offers upscale amenities not unlike a five-star hotel.

In 2022, Vietnam's North-South Train made the list of the 10 most impressive overnight train journeys in the world. In 2023, Lonely Planet's "Amazing Train Journeys" guide named the Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh City line one of the most incredible train trips in the world.

This suggests that railway tourism is a potential market for Vietnam's smokeless industry, enough to create "nostalgia" for both domestic and foreign tourists.

According to Nguyen Cong Hoan, CEO of Flamingo Red Tours, the increase in domestic airfares has made the tour 10-15% more expensive, causing tourists to weigh their transportation options more carefully. This has opened up opportunities for train travel.

"Organizing sightseeing tours by rail has not only helped lower tour prices but also improved the experience, as rail services have been continuously improved and could meet the increasing demand from tourists," he said.

A new era for train services

 Foreign travelers crossing Vietnam by train. Photo: Check-in Vietnam 

There was a time when rail passenger service was lagging due to competition from low-cost airlines, the gradual perfection of the highway system, and the rise of the private automobile.

However, to diversify its customer base, the rail industry has been constantly innovating and upgrading its infrastructure and services. In particular, several luxury trains have recently entered service.

Just before this year's Reunification Day (April 30) and May Day (May 1) holidays, following the success of the high-quality Hanoi-Danang trains (SE19 and SE20), the sector launched a pair of SE21 and SE22 trains from Ho Chi Minh to Danang, offering free wifi with high-quality entertainment, culinary and services.

Earlier, Vietnam Railways Corporation (VRC), in cooperation with Thua Thien-Hue Provincial People's Committee and Danang City People's Committee, launched a tourist train route between Hue and Danang called "Central Heritage Connection". This is the result of the five-star trans-Vietnam project that Vietravel and VRC have been implementing since the end of 2023.

Thanks to the project, passengers will explore famous places through the five-star train and get to know the cultural and historical values of the Vietnamese people since ancient times. Nguyen Quoc Ky, Chairman of Vietravel Group, affirmed that the project will bring groundbreaking tourism products, contribute to the development of railway tourism in Vietnam, and create a unique cultural experience.

 The night train ride from the center of Da Lat to the Trai Mat train station in Da Lat City. Photo: VNR

At the recent Hanoi Tourism Festival 2024, Flamingo Redtours launched the "Travel along Vietnam on Rolling Train Wheels" tour, whose itinerary includes Quang Binh - Phong Nha Cave - Bang Onsen (five days), as well as Hue - Danang - Hoi An Ancient Town (five days). It allows visitors to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the central region and have an unforgettable experience on the modern, new-generation train line. Some travel agencies are also developing new products that combine travel by rail, road, and water to provide tourists with diverse experiences.

 Nguyen Tien Dat, CEO of AZA Travel, said that in addition to investing in the construction and improvement of train carriages, railway-related tourism products need to ensure a complete package, from transportation to accommodation, food and entertainment.

 Traveling by train is a great choice for families. Photo: Tin tuc Vietnam

Some have said that railway stations themselves are heritage sites with unique architecture, and therefore need investment to become impressive tourist destinations. At the same time, good coordination is essential so that services such as transportation, sightseeing, and accommodation at each location can fully satisfy tourists.

In late 2023, French Ambassador to Vietnam Olivier Brochet informed the Ministry of Transport of the intention of a number of famous French fashion brands, including Louis Vuitton, to operate a vintage luxury train between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Belmond Ltd. has also sent a request to the Vietnamese Prime Minister and Ministry of Transport for permission and support to operate the Eastern & Oriental Express luxury tourist train on a number of rail routes in Vietnam. These are the harbingers of a railway tourism boom in the S-shaped country shortly.

TAG: Travel by Train in Vietnam; Vietnam Travel; Train from North to South Vietnam
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