GETTING THERE AND AROUND MAKE IT HAPPEN Vietnam
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.
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).