Mmmm ... I wouldn't take the train. Busses are far more frequent, far more flexible, there is more competition and they are easier to book. Also, not far south of Hue, just over the mountain, is a beautiful little town called Hoi An - well worth the time to get there and spending a few days there. Then you can also get busses easily on South. If you are in Hue make the time to head north to the DMZ. about 10 years ago
I took the train from Hanoi to Hue and then Hue to HCMC during a trip to Vietnam in Dec '08/Jan '09. It was certainly an experience.
It's best to book tickets in advance as they tend to book up quickly. There are a couple of types of berths, but for the Hue to HCMC trip you'll probably want a first-class sleeper cabin, which is roughly $50. The cabin has two sets of bunk beds and it's a lucky dip who you'll get. During that particular trip I ended up with a grandma and her screaming little 2-year-old.
Tickets can be booked at train stations, although I got mine through the hotel I stayed at in Hanoi. The manager there kindly organised tickets for us.
It's a 20-hour trip from Hue to HCMC. Prepare for toilets that are basically a stinky hole in the floor where you can see the train tracks passing below, and rats scampering across the floor. The blankets on the beds aren't changed between stops when people get off, so you might want to have your own thin sheet. I'd definitely advise that you take along some hand sanetiser. It helped keep me sane during the long trip. about 10 years ago
I took the second class train Hanoi - Hue a few years ago and I live to tell the tale! Actually, I thought it was kind of fun to in such close proximity to the people. However, Raelene is right...the facilities leave a lot to be desired.
Simon is also right, Hoi An is very cute. I took the bus for that section so that I could stop off there. My advice is to take earplugs! They play very loud karaoke so if you're trying to catch some zzzzzzs or maintain your sanity it can be tough. Also, I took a cable lock so I could sleep knowing my bag wasn't going to get nicked.
Have fun! about 10 years ago
I took the train from Hoi An to Hanoi in September and it took approximately 14 hours, I think it's about 10 from Hue. The difference between soft and hard sleepers isn't obvious but don't go for a seated carriage unless you want to arrive knackered into Hanoi.
Other than that I don't have much to add to that already provided by Raelene, which is really good advice.
You won't get a lot of sleep so it's worth bringing some beer and a book for the journey to make it slightly less uncomfortable. about 10 years ago