My exposure to Vietnam has only been to places between Saigon and Nha Trang.
Plenty to offer and much to see, getting about if very easy too, just be wary of taxi drivers, especially from the airport into Saigon itself.
There is a pre-paid booth at the airport but it’s double what the meter fare should be. The first time I went we took the metered taxi and he took us on a very long detour indeed, thankfully I’d been following him on the map I had, yet a full blow argument still ensued at Saigon station when we got there.
A very nice place, and very relaxing. Again there’s plenty to do and accommodation is plentiful. Don’t be woo’d by the accommodation you find in guide books either, we were recommended a place by a local on our train journey from Saigon and it wasn’t in any guide book. It was however cheap, clean, did laundry and in an excellent location.
While in Nha Trang, for the beer lovers there is the Louisiane Brew House, which does exactly what it says on the tin, and brews beer!
For the Rail Enthusiast
There are no rail rovers and tickets must be booked individually for each train. Which can be an issue if like us you go specifically to do D13E’s as if the train is full that’s it. There’s no blagging your way on as you need tickets to get onto the platforms and will then have to get through the second wave as each door has a coach attendant who will also check you ticket. Once on board there is no getting off when trains wait for crossings as the doors are locked by padlock, which is removed by the attendant at booked stops only.
Getting tickets is quite easy, all ours were booked at Saigon. For tickets on the day use the booking counter in the middle of the booking hall. There is a queuing system but as a foreigner if you hang around the counter you will be served virtually straight away and won’t have to wait. This happened every time to us.
For advance tickets go up the stairs that lead from the booking hall, to the advance ticket hall. Take a ticket from the machine at the counter and wait your turn. We didn’t have any problems any time we used either this or the downstairs counter, however I found it paid to write down the date of travel, the train number I wanted to travel on and the stations I wanted to travel between.
Details of accommodation available on the trains can be found on Seat 61, along with fares and timetables.
D13E (Indian built and effectively YDM4) work between Saigon – Nha Trang – Dieu Tri they don’t have set diagrams and can work any of the following trains SH1/2, TN1/2, TN3/4, SNT1/2. There are 15 based at Saigon 701-715 with the remainder of the class, 716-725 based at Vinh in the north, these have been spotted on passenger trains but they don’t have any regular diagrams.
D9E (small GE’s) work the Saigon – Phan Thiet passengers
D19E (Chinese built) work the main line stuff between Saigon & Hanoi
Trains are banked somewhere between Dieu Tri & Da Nang by pairs of D12E
Details of locomotive classifications in Vietnam can be found on the Railways in Vietnam site.
There is a Vietnam Railfan Forum, obviously in Vietnamese (Google translate helps) but it can help identify what’s going on in the country if you’re planning a trip and the guys will respond to your posts.