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Ninh Binh to Hue: overnight train or fly?

Seattle
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Ninh Binh to Hue: overnight train or fly?

Hi all, my husband and I are planning our first trip to Vietnam in September 2016. We'll be staying in the North and Central areas, other than one overnight in Saigon because our flights leave from there. Our itinerary right now is:

Hanoi: 4 nights

Ninh Binh: 3 nights

Hue: 3 nights

An Bang/Hoi An: 3 nights

Saigon: 1 night

One thing I'm really struggling with is whether to take the overnight train from Ninh Binh to Hue, or transfer back up to Hanoi and then fly to Hue. Would love input. Cost isn't a huge concern for us but time is. We took an overnight train from Paris to Milan several years ago, and were a little scarred by the lack of sleep we actually got, the cramped quarters and the state of the bathrooms. My suspicion though is that the flight will actually require far more logistics than the train, and we're trying to keep things as simple as possible (hence only four destinations for our two weeks in Vietnam). Thanks in advance!

Edited: 21 April 2016, 09:51
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1. Re: Ninh Binh to Hue: overnight train or fly?

As I recall, the train departs daily in the evening from Ninh Binh to Hue, so you don't have to go back to Hanoi. Personally I would say forget the bus - not that comfy and risky to a large extent. Hiring a car and driver from Hanoi to Ninh Binh is not only doable but also the best way to go. Otherwise, you can join any of the group tours on offer in Hanoi.

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2. Re: Ninh Binh to Hue: overnight train or fly?

Taking the overnight train is the easiest way to go. Otherwise you need a train to Hanoi (2 1/2 hours), a taxi to the airport (~40 minutes), waiting at the airport plus the flight itself. You would need to leave Ninh Binh midday / afternoon for getting the flight.

Or you take either the train at 10pm or 10:30, and arrive in Hue around 10am.

However, if you cannot sleep well on trains the longer stay means you might want a little rest on the first day in Hue, and statt exploring Hue in the afternoon. I slept both well and not that well, though I would recommend trying getting lower berth.

And btw, you do not need to book any tours for Ninh Binh in Hanoi,mand you do not need a private driver to get from Hanoi to Ninh Binh. Just book a soft seat for the 2 1/2 hour journey...it will be a nice experience as there will be mainly locals in that carriage.

Hope this helps a bit

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Seattle
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3. Re: Ninh Binh to Hue: overnight train or fly?

Thank you for the help!

We have no intention of taking the night bus, have read plenty of warnings against that.

Scotsman, thank you for breaking down the flight logistics, it appears my suspicion is correct that this would be a lot more complicated than just hopping on the overnight train. Do you have any recommendations when it comes to booking the overnight tickets? We're willing to pay more for the most comfortable option, but I've had trouble discerning what that would be.

Edited: 21 April 2016, 11:13
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4. Re: Ninh Binh to Hue: overnight train or fly?

I would either head to the train station in Hanoi to buy the tickets there...for the trip to Ninh Binh and to Hue. Some agencies charge silly fees to do this (one tried to add 50% to the normal price).

Or ask your hotel.

For the carriage I would just ask for lower berth, and see if a cabin in the middle of the carriage is free (at the back entrance of the train station (for trains to Sapa) there was a tourist counter, so they spoke quite good English), it could help with a better night sleep.

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5. Re: Ninh Binh to Hue: overnight train or fly?

We go in June. We decided we will backtrack to Hanoi and fly to Hue, instead of taking the overnight train Ninh Binh to Hue. I already bought the one-way air tickets ($55US each) on Vietnam Airline for Hanoi to Hue.

An option to consider is you can arrange private car transfer from Ninh Binh directly to Hanoi airport.

Our flight departs Hanoi 4:30 pm and arrives Hue 5:40 pm. I arranged with our Hue hotel for a driver to pick us up at the Hue airport.

In Hue, we are staying at La Residence which is walking distance to the Hue train station. That was one plus for the option of taking the train from Hanoi. We would arrive nearly adjacent our hotel. Plus, scottsman makes some good points above. It was a close decision whether fly or overnight train from Hanoi.

When we depart Hue, we will walk from our La Residence to the Hue train station to take the train to Da Nang (and then taxi or car transfer to Hoi An). The train ride from Hue to Da Nang is suppose to be scenic.

Edited: 21 April 2016, 12:19
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6. Re: Ninh Binh to Hue: overnight train or fly?

Hi Kathryn,

If you're wanting to organise train tickets in advance, then there are a couple of options.

As Scotsman says, you can ask your Hanoi, or Ninh Binh, hotel to purchase them for you.

They will more than likely add, hopefully small, a commission to the ticket price.

The other option is to use an agency.

Again, as Scotsman says, the size of the commission may be high.

An agency l used a week ago (travelling in May) only charged a couple of dollars extra on the ticket price.

All went smoothly and the tickets were emailed quickly.

The agency is baolau.vn

Maybe email your hotel first to check their price, and then check the agent's price.

Cheers,

Scott

Edited: 21 April 2016, 12:53
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7. Re: Ninh Binh to Hue: overnight train or fly?

Scott, when using the online booking service for the tickets were you able to choose prefered seats or berths?

If they do it is a good option indeed if you know the exact dates you travel prior to your arrival in Vietnam

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8. Re: Ninh Binh to Hue: overnight train or fly?

"Scott, when using the online booking service for the tickets were you able to choose prefered seats or berths?"

Very good question, Scotsman!

I couldn't remember so I went and had a look at their website again.

Short answer, no, you cannot book specific seats or berths.

But.....

This is what they say on the website. (Hopefully I'm allowed to copy that here.....)

"When booking for many passengers we will try to accommodate the entire group in adjacent seats or berths in the same compartment, according to the fare selected. If we cannot satisfy this condition, we will contact you."

They also allow you to tick whether you would prefer upper, or lower berths.

Cheers,

Scott

Edited: 21 April 2016, 16:21
Seattle
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9. Re: Ninh Binh to Hue: overnight train or fly?

Thanks for all of this great info! I am definitely leaning toward the train option, just need to talk my husband into it. :) Once I have hotels booked, I'll get some quotes from them and then compare with an agent's quote (Scott, thank you for the agent info!).

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10. Re: Ninh Binh to Hue: overnight train or fly?

Why not go to Ninh Binh first for 3 nights, then Hanoi 4 nights , then fly to Hue? You will already be in Hanoi for easy access to the airport. I will be in a similar situation as yours next year except that I will be flying to Dong Hoi after visiting Ninh Binh, Sapa, Halong Bay, and Hanoi.

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