London to Vietnam 

Rail Adventure

London to Vietnam – a 26 day Private Tour from £5,555 per person.


A unique flight-free adventure from the UK to Vietnam.

For many travellers to take the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway through Russia to Mongolia and China is a bucket list experience. But did you know your epic journey can easily be extended to South East Asia? Vietnam is a land of staggering natural beauty and cultural complexities, of dynamic megacities and welcoming people. And what better way to get there than by train? Beijing to Hanoi, a distance of some 2,800km, is surprisingly well connected with a daily service which takes a leisurely two nights to reach the Vietnamese capital.

Unique Journey

Your unique journey will start from the heart of London with a hop on Eurostar over to the continent. Next it’s onto Moscow, but which route should you take? Several options are available. Most travellers will choose the traditional route via Berlin, Poland and Belarus. Or head north for stunning scenery and travel by train and ferry via Scandinavia to Saint Petersburg.

Romania 

But for those who share our passion for getting off the beaten track we have designed this itinerary to take in two of our favourite ‘undiscovered’ destinations in Europe – Romania and Moldova. Add in the bonus of a superbly scenic ride through the Swiss and Austrian Alps, and we believe that the slightly longer journey is well worthwhile. Travel through the splendid Carpathian Mountains and stop in Transylvania, before heading onto little visited Moldova.

Moldova

Explore the capital, Chişinău, before venturing into the self-proclaimed breakaway Republic of Transnistria, a relic of Leninist Russia, whose autonomous society recalls much of the old Soviet-style state.

Trans-Siberian Railway

From Moldova take the sleeper train to Moscow where you will have time to visit the Kremlin and other ‘must see’ sights. The next leg of your adventure is a truly epic four night journey on the Trans-Siberian bound for Irkutsk, jumping off point for an overnight stay on the shores of Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mongolia

Back on the train and next stop is the distant lands of Mongolia. With enough time to see the main sights including Gorkhi Terelj National Park with its beautiful alpine scenery, we think this taster of a visit won’t be your last.

Continue east and cross the Gobi Desert to Beijing. You will pass through rural China as well as mountainous river valleys, and past the amazing Great Wall of China, finally arriving in the Chinese capital. During a two night stopover join your local guide for a private tour of the Forbidden City – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Vietnam

The final part of your incredible journey will take you south to China’s Guangxi region and through the provincial capital of Nanning towards Vietnam. Within a few hours of crossing the border the train will eventually pull into Hanoi’s Gia Lam station marking the end of your truly remarkable adventure. Enjoy your stay at a comfortable boutique hotel in the city’s Old Quarter before heading home. Or take the famous Reunification Express along Vietnam’s beautiful coast and explore Saigon and the south.

 

Tour ratings.

  • Fitness
  • Off the beaten track 
  • Culture
  • History
  • Wildlife

Tour pace

Busy

Tour style

Traveller

Relaxed Pace

Relaxed tours are easy paced with plenty of leisure time built in. The tour will in all probability still be off the beaten track, with the occasional early start and there may still be occasional long drives. In general on a relaxed pace tour you can enjoy easy-going activities and experiences with opportunities to absorb the sights and immerse yourself in the local surroundings.

Moderate Pace

Moderate pace tours are ideal if you want a tour experience that combines activities and experiences with some time to relax. Typically you will be active and busy for part of the day but then also have time to rest and recharge your batteries. In general on a moderate paced tour there may be some long journeys involved but the tour is not an expedition or a road trip. On a moderate paced tour it will be necessary to have some early starts.

Busy Pace

A busy paced tour means that you can expect to be doing, seeing or experiencing something new almost every day, and moving on from place to place to pack in as much as possible. There may be early starts, long journeys and tiring days along the way, but you’ll return home feeling you’ve really experienced as much as you possibly could.

Pioneer Class Tours

On our Pioneer tours, you will be amongst an elite group of intrepid travellers and some of the first to explore a country that few have been privileged enough to discover. Of course, exploring such areas of the world will come with its challenges; it may mean several nights camping, long journeys by 4WD and the need to maintain a degree of flexibility for when carefully laid plans change. These are challenging tours in countries and areas that may have poor infrastructure, high levels of poverty and illiteracy. This can translate in to low standards in hotels, bad roads and poor driving standards among other issues. We try and smooth out as much of these issues as we can but you should be prepared to experience the bad with the good.

Traveller Class Tours

Our Traveller itineraries are at the core of our programme. These journeys are designed for travellers who still want to discover a land away from the tourist crowds but expect minimum standards. Accommodation will be primarily hotel based, although you could still find yourself camping, or the guest of a local family. Depending on the destination and itinerary, you’ll likely be travelling in a private vehicle, with occasional use of public transport. This is adventure travel with some of the rough edges smoothed out.

Itinerary.

Take a morning Eurostar to Paris. Upon arrival at Gare du Nord make your own way to Gare de Lyon, designed for the 1900 World Exposition, complete with elaborate clock-tower and indicative of the height of Parisian Belle Époque design. As you will be travelling with luggage we would recommend a taxi, rather than taking the metro, or we can pre-arrange a private car transfer. Just let us know at the time of booking. And make sure you allow plenty of time to travel across Paris; we would suggest a minimum of 1½ hours. Alternatively, allow a little longer and break your journey for lunch at the fabulous Train Bleu restaurant inside the Gare de Lyon. Opened in 1900, it is decorated in a sumptuous art nouveau style, making a great start to your adventure. Be sure to book a table in advance (www.le-train-bleu.com/en/).

TGV

Continue from Paris to Zurich on a TGV-Lyria train, a journey of just over 4 hours, passing through a patchwork of quiet French villages and open fields, briefly pausing at Dijon before reaching Basel, the Swiss border and gently rising foothills of the Alps that flank the fledgling Rhine river. Arrive in the late afternoon or early evening at the magnificent sandstone neo-Renaissance station and stay overnight. We have chosen a hotel that is just a short walk from the station. Overnight Hotel St. Gotthard, or similar.

Leave Zurich mid-morning for Vienna by a slick Austrian Railjet train via the fabulous Arlberg Pass that lances dramatically through the Alps and into the Austrian Tirol. The train runs along the Zürichsee and Walensee lakes, and then hugs the mountainside, before it snakes through a huge valley, past Swiss and Austrian scenery taken straight from the Sound of Music.  Sit back, relax and perhaps enjoy lunch (at own expense) in the dining car.

Vienna

Arrive in Vienna early evening where you will have just over an hour to make the connection for the onward train to Brasov, Romania. Board the Dacia sleeper train and settle into your private compartment. Enjoy the rare opportunity of being able to take dinner (at own expense) in the train’s dining car before retiring for the night in your sleeper. The Dacia is one of the few European sleeper trains with a dining car – in this case it is attached as far as Budapest, about three hours into the journey. Overnight train. (B)

Wake up to lovely scenery as the train travels through Transylvania. Your sleeping car attendant will provide a simple light breakfast and hot drinks or for something more substantial a bistro car is normally attached to the train from about 09:30. The line sweeps up the broad valley of the River Olt, dotted with small towns and farming villages. Keep your eyes peeled for the fortifications that tell of the turbulent past of the region before the route rises steadily into the hills, plunging into a tunnel to emerge at the start of the descent into your destination.

Upon arrival in Brasov at around lunchtime check-in at your hotel located very close to the railway station. Afternoon at leisure for you to relax, or explore Brasov’s historical centre on your own. Overnight Kronwell Brasov Hotel or similar.

Brasov

After breakfast meet your guide at the hotel and set off to visit the key sights on a private walking tour. Stops include Braşov’s historical centre, inspired by the Saxons who were invited to colonise this region in the Middle Ages, the Old Town Hall Square, Black Church – an emblematic Gothic masterpiece, Rope Street, Katherine’s Gate, and Schei District. After the tour the afternoon will be free for you to explore on your own. Overnight Kronwell Brasov Hotel or similar. (B)

Enjoy a leisurely morning before taking an afternoon train to Bucharest, a journey of about three hours through the landscape which inspired Bram Stoker’s famous gothic masterpiece. The initial part of the journey winds over a pass through the Carpathians, heavily forested, with sudden views of razor sharp mountains, small villages and lonely monasteries, before you begin to descend alongside the Prahova River towards the capital.

You will have around three hours in Bucharest before taking the overnight sleeper onto Moldova, so we suggest you take the opportunity to have an early dinner (at own expense) before boarding the train. At around 7pm board the Prietenia sleeper service for the Moldovan capital, Chişinău.

Moldova

Get some rest before the train reaches the Romanian/Moldovan frontier in the early hours of the morning as you will be woken up by the sounds of the border guards stomping up and down the corridors, knocking on compartment doors and asking to see passports. For some travellers it will feel rather nostalgic as such formalities used to be common across Europe. It all adds to the sense of rediscovering travel and adventure, even if your sleep is disturbed.  Overnight train. (B)

Arrive in Chişinău at around 9am where you will be met at the station and transferred to your hotel centrally located close to the city’s Nativity Cathedral and Parliament building. After an early check-in (subject to availability) you will have the remainder of the day to rest or to explore on your own. Overnight Radisson Blu Leogrand Hotel or similar.

Transnistria

Meet your guide at the hotel for a private tour that will delve into Soviet-era history. You will explore the hotly-contested Republic of Transnistria and learn of the struggles and conflicts taking place between competing authorities in the area, and gain insight into the region’s complex history. Visit the towns of Tiraspol and Bender — home to iconic statues of Communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin — and admire imposing Soviet-era buildings from the Communist regime.

Along the way, pass memorials to conflicts including the Soviet-Afghan War and World War II. Return to Chişinău by mid-afternoon. Overnight Radisson Blu Leogrand Hotel or similar. (B)

Mid-morning you will be transferred back to the station. You will board the train and continue our Trans-Siberian Rail Adventure with the long journey north to Moscow. As with all long-distance rail travel it is important to be prepared. Catering on the train is likely to be limited so bring some basic provisions with you such as snacks, some fruit and plenty of drinking water. Or ask your hotel to prepare a picnic.

A unique feature of many trains serving Russia and the former Soviet countries is the availability of boiling hot water. Most sleeping cars will have a boiler known as “samovar” at one end of the carriage. So this is ideal for making hot drinks and snacks such as instant noodles, soup or porridge which you should purchase before getting on the train. And of course the samovars heat water for tea, the lifeblood for many Russians.

The train will travel through Ukraine to reach Russia and you can expect further checking of passports, but unlike on the trip from Bucharest to Chişinău, it is expected you will reach the border crossings at a more sociable time. Overnight train. (B)

Moscow

Most of today will be spent on the train travelling from the Ukraine/Russian border to Moscow. Use the time to meet your fellow passengers who will no doubt be keen to practise their English. Arrive at Moscow’s Kiyevsky station at about 5pm where you will be met and transferred to your hotel located in the city’s historical centre. Overnight Hotel Arbat or similar.

After breakfast you will be met by your guide and taken on a half day tour to explore Moscow’s key sights including Red Square, with the Kremlin and St Basil’s Cathedral, Alexander Gardens and the Eternal Flame, Lenin’s mausoleum, the memorial to Soviet cosmonauts and the famous artists’ quarter of Old Arbat. Later return to your hotel with the afternoon at leisure or explore more of the city on your own. Overnight Hotel Arbat or similar. (B)

After a free morning you will be transferred to Moscow’s Yaroslavski station where a guide will advise, and assist, in purchasing provisions for the train if desired, accompany you to the platform, ensure that everyone is settled into their cabins and answer any last minute questions. Overnight train. (B and L or .D*)

*Please note that unless you are advised otherwise your rail fare will include two set meals per person, lunch (L) or dinner (D), for the entire journey from Moscow to Irkutsk (not two meals per day), which you will take in the train’s dining car.

You will spend the day on the train, heading past the cities of the Golden Ring, the great industrial city of Kirov and finally the ex-military city of Perm, at the eastern most edge of European Russia, before crossing through the Ural Mountains and into Asia. Overnight train. (L or D*)

*Please note that unless you are advised otherwise your rail fare will include two set meals per person, lunch (L) or dinner (D), for the entire journey from Moscow to Irkutsk (not two meals per day), which you will take in the train’s dining car.

The Trans-Siberian Rail Adventure continues as we pass through the previously forbidden Soviet city of Yekaterinburg. You will spend the day on the train while it leaves the eastern foothills of the Ural Mountains and heads for Novosibirsk. This is the largest city in Siberia, and the third largest in Russia, behind only Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Overnight train.

Enjoy your day on the train, travelling along the seemingly limitless tracks and through the incredible forests of Siberia. You will pass the mighty Altai region, crossing the River Yenisei at Krasnoyarsk, before heading deep into Asia. Overnight train.

Upon arrival in Irkutsk, you will be met at the station and transferred to Listvyanka village on the shores of Lake Baikal, where you will have time to freshen up and have a meal at your lakeside chalet. After some free time in the afternoon, the day is rounded off with a traditional Baikal dinner and by indulging in an optional sauna in the village ‘Banya’. Overnight Nikolay’s Homestay or similar. (D)

Irkutsk

After breakfast return to Irkutsk by car where you will take a guided tour including the key sights, including beautiful Russian Orthodox churches, the Polish Cathedral (the only Siberian Gothic-style building) and houses decorated with ‘wooden laces’ (hand-made carvings). After check-in at your centrally located hotel the remainder of the day will be free. Overnight Victory Hotel or similar. (B)

 

Ulan-Bator

Following an early morning transfer to the railway station, you will catch the train to Ulan-Bator. Once through Ulan-Ude, the home of Russian Buddhism and capital of the local Buryat Republic, the train will head towards the Mongolian border.

It should be noted that this train does not having a dining car so it essential that you travel with your own food and drink, including plenty of water. We suggest you buy these items the day before, after you have finished the city tour of Irkutsk. Your guide will be pleased to assist. Overnight train. (B)

The Trans-Siberian Rail Adventure arrives in Mongolia! After your early morning arrival at the station, you will be transferred to your hotel (early check-in guaranteed) where you will be able to freshen up and have some breakfast (at own expense) before joining your guide to visit the Gorkhi Terelj National Park.

After lunch return to the capital for a tour of Ulan Bator to see the city’s unique monuments, along with time to browse in local art, antique and cashmere shops. Time permitting your tour will end with a visit to Zaisan Hill to view a panorama of the city. Overnight Hotel Nine or similar. (L)

After an early morning transfer to the station, board the train for Beijing which travels through the famous Gobi Desert and towards the Chinese border. Later in the evening, the train will reach the Chinese border where the impressive procedure of bogie-changing takes place and the wheelsets are changed due to the different gauges of the track, before heading onto Beijing. Overnight train. (B)

Rural China

Throughout the morning and afternoon, you will pass through rural China as well as mountainous river valleys, before continuing on past the amazing Great Wall of China, finally arriving in the Chinese capital, Beijing, where you will be met and transferred to your centrally located hotel. Overnight Grand Mercure Beijing Dongcheng or similar.

As your time in Beijing will be limited we have arranged a half day tour to take in some of the key sights. Just let us know at the time of booking if you would prefer to do the tour in the morning or afternoon – the choice is yours. Your private guide will meet you at the hotel and then you will leave on the tour which will include visits to Tiananmen Square, the largest city square in the world, with space for up to one million people, followed by the famous Forbidden City. With your guide discover the largest ancient palace complex in the world and admire the palatial buildings and cultural relics that date back to the Ming and Qing dynasties. After the tour continue sightseeing on your own or return to your hotel. Overnight Grand Mercure Beijing Dongcheng or similar. (B)

Around lunchtime you will meet your driver at the hotel for a transfer to Beijing’s West Station where you will board the train that will take you south to Nanning, capital of China’s Guangxi region and onto Vietnam. Although a dining car will be available for most of the journey serving simple, but freshly cooked meals, we would always recommend that you travel with some basic provisions which can be purchased at the station. Your accommodation for the two night journey will be the exclusive use of a four berth ‘soft’ class sleeper. The service operates daily as two separate trains. The first leg is overnight from Beijing to Nanning – a journey of about 24 hours. And the second leg is a 12 hour overnight journey from Nanning, crossing the Chinese border at Pingxiang and the Vietnamese border at Dong Dang. Overnight train. (B)

Arrive late afternoon in Nanning. Twice a week through sleeper carriages operate from Beijing all the way to Hanoi and depending on when you are travelling you will be booked on the direct service, with no need to change trains in Nanning. If you are travelling on a day when the through service does not operate it will be necessary to change trains in Nanning and make a connection for Hanoi. Both trains offer the same type of ‘soft’ sleepers, and the overall journey time is the same as taking the twice weekly direct service. At around 10pm the train will reach the Chinese border where all passengers are normally required to get off the train to have their passports checked. Overnight train.

The train will reach the Vietnamese border at Dong Dang at around 1am, and again you will be asked to leave the train to have your passport checked. In addition at both border crossings you should be prepared to take your luggage off the train, as this will be checked or screened on exit from China and on entry to Vietnam. The journey from Dong Dang to Hanoi is just a few hours where you will arrive at about 6am. You will be met from the train and transferred to your hotel where your room has been booked with a guaranteed early check-in. After time to freshen-up you will have the option to enjoy breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant. Your hotel is ideally located in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter – ideal if you want to take a stroll and explore on your own. Or get some rest and relax, before meeting a local guide the next day for a private tour taking in many of the city’s highlights. Overnight La Siesta Premium Hang Be or similar. (B)

After breakfast meet your guide at the hotel for a morning tour and visit some of Hanoi’s key sights, including the Old Quarter, Ho Chi Minh Complex, One Pillar Pagoda and the Temple of Literature. After the tour enjoy the rest of the day at leisure and return to your hotel, or explore more of Hanoi on your own – your guide will be pleased to offer some suggestions. As this will be the last day of your incredible adventure ask your hotel to recommend somewhere for dinner to celebrate your achievement of having travelled all the way to Vietnam without taking a single flight. Or perhaps you are planning to extend your adventure and head south along the stunning coast on the Reunification Express to Saigon. Overnight La Siesta Premium Hang Be or similar. (B)

Check-out from your hotel before midday. A transfer will be provided to the airport or railways station. (B)

We offer the London to Vietnam Rail Adventure tour for private departures only

Prices start from £5,555 per person, based on two people travelling.

Call us to book.

Tour Notes

The Single Supplement on the London to Vietnam Rail Adventure is from £1,995.

This includes the exclusive use of private sleeping compartments on all trains. For those willing to share a sleeping compartment, but still have their own single room at hotels, the supplement will be reduced. Please contact us for further details.

A one way flight on the London to Vietnam Rail Adventure from Hanoi back to London start at £360. Contact us for a quotation.

Ask us about extending your stay in Vietnam. Take the famous ‘Reunification Express’ to Saigon and explore the south. We are experts at arranging tailormade trips in Vietnam and throughout South East Asia.

Mapped itinerary.

Want to see details of your itinerary on a map?

Download PDF.

Download the full tour dossier for this trip here.

For expert advice get in touch now with our passionate,
well-travelled team.

+44(0) 191 296 2674 from THE UK
1-800-614-2967 from THE US & CANADA
1-300-956-415 from AUSTRALIA

Tour inclusions.

  • All accommodation
  • Transfers as per itinerary with a private car or minibus
  • Rail travel based on 2nd class seats for day time journeys and private sleeping compartments for overnight journeys. Please contact us for details of first class upgrades
  • Guided sightseeing tours as per itinerary, with the services of an English-speaking guide or driver/guide
  • Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
  • Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

Tour exclusions.

  • International flights
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visas
  • Meals not stated in the itinerary
  • Drinks
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Tips (Discretionary)

Thank you for arranging our recent rail trip to Istanbul. Something we wanted to do for a long time. Good to see you’re adding more rail trips. We hope to be back on the rails soon.

 

Caroline Bennett