GET­TING THERE AND AROUND MAKE IT HAP­PEN Vietnam

Lonely Planet (UK) - - Vietnam By Train -

Vietnam Air­lines flies di­rect to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City from Lon­don Heathrow (from £540; viet­na­mair­lines.com). One-way flights be­tween the two cities start at about £30 (jet­star.com).

WHEN TO GO

With its moun­tain­ous far north, cen­tral high­lands and trop­i­cal south, there’s no one stand­out sea­son to visit Vietnam. Spring and au­tumn of­fer gen­er­ally pleas­ant weather, while sum­mer brings mon­soons and win­ter can be cold in the far north.

FUR­THER READ­ING

Pick up our Vietnam guide (£15.99; lone­ly­planet.com) and visit viet­nam­tourism. com to find ideas and in­spi­ra­tion.

TRAVEL BY TRAIN

Op­er­ated by na­tional car­rier Vietnam Rail­ways, trains are cheap, com­fort­able and re­li­able. There are two cat­e­gories: smarter, faster SE trains and older, cheaper TN trains. There are four ticket classes: hard seat, soft seat, hard sleeper (with six beds per com­part­ment) and soft sleeper (with four). SE trains also have air-con op­tions. Sev­eral trains de­part daily from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The jour­ney takes 32–36 hours and costs from £11 one way. If stop­ping off, you need to book sep­a­rate tick­ets for each leg of your jour­ney. To book and check sched­ules, head to the web­sites of travel agency Bao Lau (bao­lau.com) or 12Go Asia (12go. Asia). You can book up to 90 days ahead for a long trip, though a day or two is usu­ally fine, ex­cept dur­ing peak hol­i­day times. Sleep­ing berths should be booked at least a week be­fore­hand.

WHO CAN HELP

It’s pos­si­ble to or­gan­ise this trip on your own, but a tour op­er­a­tor can smooth lo­gis­tics and or­gan­ise ex­pe­ri­ences off the train. Based in Vietnam, vet­eran South­east Asia spe­cial­ist Buffalo Tours can tai­lor-make tours with lo­cal guides. Itin­er­ar­ies range from short breaks, mas­ter­classes and treks to cross-coun­try trips and fam­ily hol­i­days. An eight-day tour of Vietnam via the Re­u­ni­fi­ca­tion Ex­press be­gins at around £1,070 (buf­falo­tours.com).

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