Peter's Post: Saigon to Hanoi by train
Our travel expert answers queries on routes and destinations around the world
I would like to take a train from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, with the option of stopping along the way for sightseeing. Do you have information on booking, prices and a good itinerary? - Bert Isaacs
The train from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi is known as the Reunification Express. Covering 1726km, the trip takes 30-42 hours. There are four trains every day, but you can break up the journey at any stop along the way, which will allow you to cover the main tourist destinations in the country.
The carriages are basic, with different standards available. These range from hard seats to cushioned sleeping berths. It is best to go for an air-conditioned, four-berth sleeper. Bathroom facilities are located at the end of each carriage. Tickets range from $60 (about R450) to $100 (R750) when bought in advance through an agency. Each sleeping berth has a pillow, sheet, duvet and reading light. Snacks and drinks are available and you can buy a meal ticket for around 35000 Vietnamese dong (around R12).
I suggest you stop at three stations on the route - Nha Trang, Danang and Hué. This means access to some great beach resorts as well as the riverfront town of Hoi An. If you can, allow for a day or two at each . You can get further information and make reservations at www.vietnam-trains.com and www.vietnamimpressive.com.
If you seek luxury, you can make part of the journey in privately-run Livitrans carriages. These sleeping cars are attached to the Vietnam Railways trains, but their four-berth compartments are of a higher standard. This service only runs between Hanoi and Danang. The rate is around $59 (R440) one-way. See www.livitrans.com.
Another luxury option is the shorter journey from Hanoi to the hillside town of Sapa. A number of operators, including the Orient Express, run luxury carriages on this train. Find out more at www.seat61.com. You'll also find some interesting general tips about train travel in Vietnam.
Thailand with tots
Is it safe to travel with kids to Phuket? Do they need to be immunised for anything? Where is the best place to stay with kids? And things to do? - Lucy
It is perfectly safe to travel with children to Phuket, where tourism is geared for families. Babysitters are available in most hotels and there are kids' clubs in some resorts. You do not need any immunisations but you should ensure your family is fully covered by health insurance in case of mishaps. There are excellent international hospitals on the island and hundreds of pharmacies for medicines.
As for where to stay, it depends on where you can find a good offer and whether you want a quiet beach resort or a fun resort with plenty of shopping and entertainment. All the resorts cater for children, but it may be best to skip Patong Beach, which has a particularly wild nightlife and is very busy. Kata and Karon beaches are generally favoured by families. The big resorts, like Club Med and Centara and Laguna hotels, have the best facilities, but even the cheaper resorts will cater for children. The beach will be the major attraction and you can hire umbrellas and beach loungers by the day. Trips that may appeal include an elephant ride, a snorkelling trip to the Phi Phi islands and a boat ride to James Bond island.
Think carefully, though, before you rent a jet-ski on any of the beaches, as they have a reputation for ripping off holidaymakers. Other than that, you are bound to have a wonderful time.