Motorbike on the Train: Saigon to Phan Thiet

First published October 2015 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

INTRODUCTION | GUIDE | MAP | RELATED POSTS

Over the years, I’ve travelled many, many times between Saigon and Phan Thiet/Mui Ne: by bus, car, minivan, coach, but most of the time, by motorbike. I love the ride along the Ocean Road from Vietnam’s biggest city to one of its most popular beach retreats. But there is another way: put your motorbike on the train and let the rails carry your wheels. It’s cheap, easy, fun, fast, efficient and relaxing. Even if you’re not taking your motorbike with you, the train is a much better option than taking one of the buses along Highway 1.

Motorbike on the train: Saigon to Phan ThietLoad your motorbike onto the train, and let the rails carry your wheels

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SAIGON TO PHAN THIET BY TRAIN:

Trip Details:

  • Train route: Saigon to Phan Thiet / Phan Thiet to Saigon (non-stop, direct service)
  • Train times: Dep. SG: 6:40am Arr. PT: 10:25am Dep. PT: 1:10pm Arr. SG: 5:15pm (daily)
  • Ticket prices: passenger 180,000vnđ motorbike 150,000vnđ
  • Buying tickets: www.vetau.com.vn Vietnam train stations, hotels & travel companies

Take the train from Saigon to Phan ThietThe Saigon-Phan Thiet express train, about to depart from Saigon station


Need to Know:
There is one train a day in both directions between Saigon and Phan Thiet (see above for train times). The journey takes about 4 hours: trains leave exactly on time and arrive at their destinations within minutes of the published schedule. Buying tickets is easy and straightforward: book online (www.vetau.com.vn) and print your electronic ticket. However, you will also need to buy a ticket for your motorbike. So far, I have been unable to do this online. Therefore, you have two options: The first, is buy your motorbike ticket directly at Saigon or Phan Thiet train stations – either a day or two prior to departure (advisable) or on the day of travel. This should be a fairly simple and painless process for most travellers. The other option is to book your train tickets (passenger and motorbike) through your hotel or travel agent. Most hotels and tour companies can do this, and generally they only charge an insignificant commission. Ticket prices (see above) are approximate: there is some discrepancy depending on who, where, and when you buy them, but only a dollar here and there, so it’s nothing to worry about.

Put your motorbike on the train from Saigon to Phan ThietMy motorbike, Stavros, waiting to be loaded onto the freight car


At the Station:
Passengers (and motorbikes) are required to be at the station 30-40 minutes before departure. In order to put your motorbike on the train, you must drive through the station gates and onto the platform: at Saigon station the entrance is to the left of the main station building, signposted in Vietnamese as cửa đi – đón khách tàu Phan Thiết; at Phan Thiết station the entrance is on the right of the station building. Drive your motorbike along the platform (which is great fun) to the back end of the train. Here you’ll find a few other motorbikes waiting to be loaded onto the freight car. Show your ticket to the handling staff (there’s sometimes a 10,000vnđ ‘handling’ fee) and they will give you a paper receipt for your motorbike: do not lose this. Unlike longer train journeys in Vietnam – when your motorbike must be mummified in cardboard and tape, travels on a different train to you, and takes at least a couple of days to arrive – it’s all very easy. After leaving your motorbike with the staff, make your way to the passenger carriages and find your seat on the train; when you arrive at your destination, stroll along the platform to the freight car, show your receipt, and drive off.

Put your motorbike on the train from Saigon to Phan ThietVietnam Railways staff roll Stavros off the train at Phan Thiet station


On the Train:
All carriages are air-conditioned (it’s a good idea to bring a sweater) and all seats are soft and comfy with reclinable backs. There are perfectly adequate toilets and wash basins in every carriage, and the general standard of cleanliness is good. Passengers receive a complimentary snack bag containing a bottle of water and rice crackers, the best part of which is the design of the packaging – a good souvenir from Vietnam Railways.

Carriage interior on Saigon to Phan Thiet trainSoft, reclinable seats, air-con and decent bathrooms in all carriages

A dining car, towards the rear of the train, sports wooden chairs, large windows, and a surprisingly good selection of Vietnamese noodles, stir-fries, soups and drinks, all of which are reasonably priced and pretty tasty. Regardless of quality, there’s always something romantic about sitting in the dining carriage of a train, with a bite to eat and a coffee, and watching the scenery pass by.

Food and drink of the train from Saigon to Phan ThietThe dining car serves pretty good food and drink


The Journey:
After rolling out of Saigon station, the train rattles through the city. The driver leans on the horn as the train passes through crowded local neighbourhoods, across busy intersections – the traffic piled up either side of the junction – over the Saigon River and out into the dusty suburbs. Life continues just metres from the tracks, offering a fascinating cross-section of the city: markets, cafes, offices, temples, homes, schools. I used to live in a house near the railway, and each time I heard the horn and rattling carriages, I longed to be on the train.

Beyond the industrial armpit of Bien Hoa City, the train makes its way east through an extremely lush landscape of crop fields, fruit orchards, and plantations: banana, coffee, jackfruit, cassava, cashew, mango, rubber, sugar cane, corn and rice all grow within a few feet of the train. Deeper into the journey, green hills begin to rise from the folds of the rolling fields. It’s tropical, exotic, exciting – everything a good train journey should be.

View from the train: Saigon to Phan ThietView from the train: lush scenery rolls by the window between Saigon and Phan Thiet

I was surprised at how lush and scenic the journey is. When I travel between Saigon and Phan Thiet, I usually choose to ride my motorbike along the quiet, scenic route that I like to call the Ocean Road. The other alternative, which I do my best to avoid, is to take Highway 1, a horrible, truck-choked ride through an arid landscape, obscured by dust and scarred by concrete dwellings lining the road. The train line follows a similar course to the highway, so I was expecting similar scenery. But, because there is no development surrounding the railway, the landscape is green, clean, and sparsely populated. Never have I approached Phan Thiet from Saigon in such a serene, gentle and relaxed manner.

Before arriving in Phan Thiet there is a brief stop at Binh Thuan station. From here the train travels along a short spur line to Phan Thiet station, which is a small building a few kilometres west of the town centre. Once you collect your motorbike from the freight car, you can choose to continue your road trip northeast along the fabulous new coastal roads towards Nha Trang, or head up the winding passes to the Central Highlands towards Dalat (see Related Posts for more details).


MAP: Saigon to Phan Thiet rail & road routes

  • Black Line: train route
  • Red Line: road route (via Highway 1)
  • Blue Line: road route (via Ocean Road)

View Larger Map

RELATED POSTS:

DESERT, SEA, SKY: THE NINH THUAN LOOP:
Ninh Thuan Province boasts fabulous coastal scenery and new roads……read more

The Ninh Thuan Motorbike Loop


CAMPING THE OCEAN ROAD:
Pitch your tent under coconut palms just metres from the surf on the southeast coast……read more

Camping the Ocean Road, Vietnam


THE SOUTHEAST LOOP:
Take coastal and mountain backroads between Saigon, Mui Ne and Dalat……read more

The Southeast Motorbike Loop, Vietnam

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29 Responses to Motorbike on the Train: Saigon to Phan Thiet

  1. kiki says:

    hi,

    just an update, as of today (january 7th, 2017), the prices are: motorbike 170,000 vnd and passenger 186,000 vnd. For phan tiet, there is NO need to drain the gas tank, this is required for Saigon to Nha trang though.

    two trains daily each direction:
    SPT2: leaves saigon at 6:40am arrives Phan Thiet at 10:26am
    SPT4: leaves saigon 6:30pm arrives PT at 10:26pm

    SPT1: leaves PT at 1:10pm arrives Saigon at 5:14PM
    SPT3: leaves PT at 11:55 PM arrives Saigon at 4:07pm

    • Hi Kiki,

      Thanks for the information. But are you sure about the two trains a day in each direction? I took this journey just a couple of weeks ago and, although the schedule says there are two trains in each direction, when I asked the staff at Saigon ticketing office, they told me that there is only one train. Apparently, they started the additional journeys but, due to bad ticket sales, they stopped it again. Also, if there are two trains a day now, perhaps that is just to accommodate the extra flow of people during the Tet rush.

      Thanks,

      Tom

      • kiki says:

        tom,

        this was printed on a signboard on the sales counter at the saigon train station. i will ask specifically for tbese trains when i will travel next week.

        • kiki says:

          Tom,

          I stand corrected, your schedule is correct. In both railroad station they display two trains a day but in general only one is running every day.

          Also i wasn’t
          asked for a “handling fee” when storing my bike in tbe train … lucky me.

          • Hi Kiki,

            Thanks for confirming that. It’s a shame, because an evening train from Saigon to Phan Thiet would be very convenient. Oh well, maybe they’ll start the extended schedule again someday.

            Glad to hear you didn’t have to pay a handling fee 🙂

            Tom

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  4. Kyle says:

    Hello!

    Great articles that will serve my trip this week! I am planning on buying a motorcycle in Saigon and heading toward the coast. I have 3 weeks, and to save time, I am considering loading my bike in Saigon and taking the train to Phan Thiet. From there, I will make my way up the coast and pass through Mui Ne, Dalat, Nha Trang, Quy Nhon, Hoi An, Hue, Phong Nha, and then trying to take a train to somewhere near Halong Bay where I will spend 3 days and attempt to cover what northern part of Vietnam I can on this trip(weather permitting). If weather does not allow, I may hop on a plane and make my way to Phu Quoc Island and spend a couple more final days in Saigon before flying out.

    Is my thought to transport my bike out of Saigon to Phan Thiet a wise one? Do you know anything about traveling with my bike from Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park to Halong Bay?

    Thank you again for the vast material!

    -Kyle

    • Hi Kyle,

      Yes, you can put your bike on the train to Phan Thiet – it’s quite easy to do that and it means you don’t have to ride out of Saigon, which is always busy.

      From Phong Nha to Halong Bay is a very long way. I would recommend staying on the Ho Chi Minh Road as long as possible and then turning east towards Hai Phong. For example, you can stay on the Ho Chi Minh Road to Lam Son, or Ngoc Lac, or Cam Thuy then turn east.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Kyle says:

        Thank you Tom!

        After reviewing your weather article..and gathering recent weather reports, it appears as though traveling through Central Vietnam may be difficult at this time of year. I am wondering if I should stick to the south for the majority of my trip and do 5-7 days up north at the end.

        Would you see any problems if I were to continue with my original plan and attempt to cross central Vietnam on a motorbike?

        Thanks!

        • Hi Kyle,

          I don’t think you’d have any ‘problems’ – the typhoon season is ending about now. It just might be a little cold and grey. But, yes, if you want the best weather at that time of year, sticking to the south is a good idea. On the other hand, the mountainous landscape of central and northern Vietnam looks nice and mysterious in that kind of weather.

          I’m sure you’ll be happy whichever decision you make.

          Tom

  5. Andrei Clear says:

    great article

    what papers from the motorbike are required when doing this short or long shipping?

    i hear we might need:
    >I think they will ask for your passport + motobike registeration certificate (blue card) + any hire contract

    what has your experience been like?

    thank you ..

    • Hi Andrei,

      When you put your motorbike on the train you will need to show your passport and your blue card, that’s it. They will give you a receipt – don’t lose it!

      Recently, my experience of putting my motorbike on the train has been very positive: just make sure you use Door to Door (they have an office in all the big stations) when shipping your bike on long distances.

      Tom

  6. Peter says:

    Tom

    Amazing site – the best info I have seen in my research. I am arriving HCM in late may and have 8 days to bike around….Is Pho Quoc your choice or are there other destinations you would recommend first? Meeting my travelling son and he seems excited about the Delta

    thanks and great site

    peter

    • Hi Peter,

      You mean riding to Phu Quoc, right?

      Yes, that’s a pretty fun ride as it takes you through the Delta and it includes the ferry ride too.

      Or for more variety of landscape and getting a little more off the beaten path you could ride some of my Tet Classic Loop.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  7. Josh says:

    Hi Tom, thanks for all the brilliant info!

    I was planning to do this with my brother in May, but because of the recent bridge collapse they are not allowing motorbikes the train. We were planning on putting our motorbikes on the train and then driving back to Saigon along the coast.

    Doubtful, but do you know if there is anywhere in Phan Thiet where you can rent a motorbike and drive it back to Saigon and drop off there? I’ve heard of such things from Hoi-An to Hue etc. but not sure about Phan Thiet to Saigon as it’s quite far!

    Thanks!

    • Hi Josh,

      Yes, the train bridge is a nuisance. I don’t know of any rental company that can arrange the drop off in Saigon. However, you could try contacting Saigon 2 Mui and Mui Go to see if they can work something out for you. It’s worth a try. Also, I think Tigit Motorbikes (see the link to their site before this comment section) might be able to arrange it so that you pick your bike up in Phan Thiet and then drive to Saigon – again, it’s worth asking.

      I hope you get it sorted.

      Tom

      • Antek M. says:

        What’s the story with bridge collapse?
        They are not accepting motorbikes on trains anymore all over Vietnam?
        I’m stuck in Sapa due to terrible rains since few days and if it would go on like this I was considering taking a train from Lao Cai to Hanoi.

  8. This make me think about story named The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux. It tells about a journey of traveller who visit oriental country by train.
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

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