Guests on Vacation By Rail's new Vietnam project might visit Temple of Literature in Hanoi. // © 2015 Vacations By Rail
Feature image (above): Vietnam Railways recently renovated train cars and added Wi-Fi connectivity. // © 2015 Vacations By Rail
Vietnam is spending money to improve its railway infrastructure, and Chicago-based tour operator Vacations By Rail is taking advantage with three new itineraries designed for U.S. travelers.
Each of the new Vacations By Rail Vietnam itineraries includes at least one train travel component, but the company’s new 10-day product combines a range of visits in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi linked by a 31-hour rail journey.
“There’s really no other experience like sleeping on a train,” said Todd Powell, CEO and co-founder of Vacations By Rail. “One of the great elements of that trip is that you’re on a Vietnam Railway train, so there are going to be locals onboard. And that’s going to give you a great opportunity to connect with people.”
Other highlights of the 10-day Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi by Rail itinerary include an overnight cruise to Bai Tu Long Bay, where travelers can snorkel, kayak, visit hidden caves and explore isolated beaches. There’s also a chance to visit the 11th-century Temple of Literature in Hanoi and bike through the city’s streets.
Vacations By Rail has also introduced a 17-day Best of Vietnam itinerary, featuring time on the Mekong Delta and at the country’s beach capital of Nha Trang along with a chance to see the Imperial City of Hue. Meanwhile, the tour operator’s 13-day Discover Vietnam trip offers travelers a visit to the roughly 10,000-year-old Me Cung Cave, time to sample cuisine on floating markets, an introduction to a community-farming project and a stay in the photogenic Sapa region.
“If you look at the three different itineraries, they’re really a framework for what can be done,” Powell said, noting that his company his happy to customize all the trips to meet a consumer’s specific expectations. “If clients have a culinary interest or if they want to do more relaxing, more hiking or soft adventure, that’s all stuff we’re happy to put together for them.”
When asked about what type of traveler would be the best fit for the new products, Powell said the itineraries are geared toward a somewhat older crowd.
“A sweet spot for Vacations By Rail is 50-plus,” he explained. “We’re an AARP-preferred rail provider, so we really have these packages put together for that group.”
Commissionable to travel agents at 10 percent, the Vacations By Rail Vietnam itineraries start at $1,410 per person for what Powell described as “more of a deluxe experience” rather than a high-end luxury product.
“People are going to Vietnam to see Vietnam,” he added. “The rail is a part of it and that’s what makes it a unique product, but it’s all about the destination and whether they are more into adventure or maybe the history or the culture. We’ll work to make this a unique trip for the agent’s clients.”
Vietnam Railways has recently spent $3.8 million upgrading its trains, renovating carriages as well as adding dining cafeterias, televisions and free Wi-Fi connectivity.