Watch the video:  Hanoi-Saigon by train

Train SE1 from Hanoi to Saigon, boarding in Hanoi

 

Buy Vietnamese train tickets

 

Click for SE Asia interactive route map

Click for train route map for Vietnam & SE Asia

See suggested hotels in Hanoi, Hue, Sapa, Saigon

Train travel within Vietnam

small bullet point  The reunification Line: Hanoi-Hue-Danang-Saigon

 - Southbound timetable, Hanoi to Saigon

 - Northbound timetable, Saigon to Hanoi

 - Fares

 - How to buy tickets

 - What are the trains like?

 - Luggage, bikes & motorbikes on trains

 - Video guide: Hanoi to Saigon by train

small bullet point  Hanoi to Lao Cai & Sapa - times, fares, tickets

small bullet point  Hanoi to Haiphong, for Cat Ba Island

small bullet point  Hanoi to Halong Bay

small bullet point  Hoi An - how to reach this UNESCO-listed town

small bullet point  Phan Thiet & Mui Ne - the train to the beach

small bullet point  Hanoi's train street

small bullet point  Useful country information - currency, visas etc.

small bullet point  Insurance, mobile data, VPN & other tips

small bullet point  Suggested hotels in Hanoi, Hue, Saigon, Sapa

small bullet point  Tour packages which include train travel

International travel to/from Vietnam

small bullet point  Hanoi - Nanning, Guilin, Beijing by train

small bullet point  Hanoi - Hong Kong by train

small bullet point  Hanoi - Kunming by train

small bullet point  Hanoi - Vientiane by bus, for train to Bangkok

small bullet point  Saigon - Phnom Penh - Bangkok by bus + train

small bullet point  Europe to Vietnam by Trans-Siberian Railway

Why trains are the way to go

Vietnam's air-conditioned trains are the best way for independent travellers to get around Vietnam.  You might even meet some Vietnamese people!  Inexperienced travellers think they'll save time using internal flights, but an overnight train from Hanoi to Hué or Danang actually saves time, because the train leaves Hanoi in the evening and arrives in Hué next morning, city centre to city centre.  It saves a hotel bill too.  But more than this, the train is a genuine Vietnamese experience, an integral part of your trip.

Air-conditioned trains link Hanoi, Hué, Danang, Nha Trang & Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).  The historic UNESCO-listed town of Hoi An is just 30 km by bus or taxi from Danang.  There are also trains from Hanoi to Haiphong (for Halong Bay) and Hanoi to Lao Cai (for the hill resort at Sapa).  See interactive route map of trains in Southeast Asia.

The view from the train

Rice fields, palm trees, water buffalo, Vietnamese towns and villages.  You get a real insight into Vietnam when you travel by train which you don't get from 35,000 feet.  If you people watch you'll get insights on board the train, too - the real Vietnam is as much inside as outside the train.  The most magical part of a Hanoi to Saigon train journey is between Hué & Danang where the train runs along the South China Sea, snaking from cliff to jungle-covered cliff past beaches and islands, then heads through the lush green mountains via the Hai Van Pass to reach Danang.  World class scenic!  In Vietnamese it's Đèo Hải Vân meaning Ocean Cloud Pass, and I can't think of a better name.  In the bright Vietnamese sun, the vivid blue skies, green waters and yellow beaches will take your breath away.  See the video, Hanoi-Saigon by train.

Scenery from the train between Hue and Danang
Coastal scenery between Hué and Danang seen from train SE1   Scenery from train SE1 between Hue and Danang
Water buffalo and rice fields seen from the train   Train SE3 between Danang and Nha Trang

Ho Chi Minh or Saigon?

Since the end of the Vietnamese war, the official name for the conurbation as a whole has been Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC).  However, the city centre is still officially called Saigon, which is the city's traditional historic name.  In fact, the city appears as Sai Gon in all Vietnamese railway timetables, it will say Sai Gon on your train ticket and as you can see from the photo, it actually says Sai Gon in big letters on the station itself.  The ruling elite may toe the line and call it Ho Chi Minh, but everyone else calls it Saigon.  So do what the locals do, call it Saigon!

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) railway station

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Useful country information

Train operator

in Vietnam:

DSVN (Duong Sat Viet Nam), dsvn.vn

Online booking in English with overseas credit cards accepted:  www.baolau.com or 12Go.Asia.

Map of train routes in SE Asia

 

Time zone:

GMT+7 all year.      Cheap flights UK to Vietnam

Currency:

£1 = approx 30,000 Dong.  $1 = 24,000 Dong.  Currency converter

Dialling code:

 

Dial code +84.       

Tourist information:

www.vietnamtourism.com   Guidebooks   Health & vaccination advice

Flights:

 

Scan multiple airlines for the cheapest flights to Vietnam

Hotels:

Recommended hotels in Hanoi, Hue, Saigon, Sapa     Find backpacker hostels

Scan multiple hotel providers to find the cheapest hotel rates

Visas:

Required by most western citizens, unless you qualify for the exemption.

If you need a visa, you can get an e-visa at evisa.xuatnhapcanh.gov.vn/web/guest/trang-chu-ttdt.

Note that e-visas aren't valid for entering or leaving Vietnam by rail via Dong Dang, only by road via Doing Dang, you either need a regular visa or use the 15-day visa exempt arrangement as below.  But they work at the land borders of Lao Cai (for Kunming) and Moc Bai (for Cambodia).

Visa exemption:  Citizens of UK, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Denmark & Finland can now visit Vietnam visa-free for stays of up to 45 days.

Page last updated:

2 February 2024


The Reunification Line

Trains between Hanoi & Saigon are often referred to as the Reunification Express, although there are a range of trains on this route and no single train officially carries this title.  The line was completed by the French in 1936 and trains linked Hanoi with Saigon until 1954, when Vietnam was divided into north and south.  Trains resumed on 31 December 1976, unifying the country.  You too can travel the length of Vietnam on the reunification railway, an experience in itself.  Over the last decade the Hanoi-Saigon train service has steadily improved with more trains & newer more comfortable rolling stock.  Here are the principal trains, there are additional trains at peak times such as the Tet holiday period.

Schematic map of Vietnamese Railways routes.

Interactive map of Hanoi-Saigon Reunification Railway

Interactive map of train, bus & ferry routes in SE Asia.

Quick linksFares    Ticket advice    Buy tickets online    What are the trains like?     Recommended hotels

Timetable southbound 2024

 Hanoi ► Hué ► Danang ► Nha Trang ► Saigon (HCMC)

Km

Train number:

SE3

SE19

SE1

SE7

SE5

SE21

SNT1

0

Hanoi depart:

19:20 day 1

19:50 day 1

20:55 day 1

06:10 day 1

15:30 day 1

-

-

115

Ninh Binh 

21:34 day 1

21:58 day 1

23:10 day 1

08:26 day 1

17:46 day 1

-

-

175

Thanh Hoa 

22:41 day 1

23:05 day 1

00:15 day 2

09:38 day 1

18:58 day 1

-

-

319

Vinh

01:24 day 2

01:45 day 2

02:41 day 2

12:17 day 1

21:37 day 1

-

-

522

Dong Hoi

05:41 day 2

06:05 day 2

07:05 day 2

16:56 day 1

02:30 day 2

-

-

688

Hué arrive

08:40 day 2

09:13 day 2

09:59 day 2

20:33 day 1

05:37 day 2

-

-

688

Hué depart

08:45 day 2

09:18 day 2

10:04 day 2

20:38 day 1

05:42 day 2

-

-

791

Danang (for Hoi An) arrive

11:14 day 2

11:50 day 2

12:32 day 2

23:05 day 1

08:30 day 2

-

-

791

Danang (for Hoi An) depart

11:29 day 2

-

12:47 day 2

23:25 day 1

08:50 day 2

08:15

-

928

Quang Ngai

14:22 day 2

-

15:29 day 2

02:03 day 2

12:15 day 2

11:37

-

1,095

Dieu Tri (for Qui Nhon)

17:29 day 2

-

18:35 day 2

05:02 day 2

15:26 day 2

14:54

-

1,315

Nha Trang

21:41 day 2

-

22:44 day 2

09:45 day 2

20:27 day 2

19:18

20:00 day 1

1,551

Binh Thuan for Phan Thiet

01:58 day 3

-

03:11 day 3

14:01 day 2

01:19 day 3

00:01

|

1,726

Saigon arrive:

05:45 day 3

-

06:50 day 3

18:10 day 2

05:10 day 3

04:15

04:45 day 2

Timetable northbound 2024

 Saigon (HCMC) ► Nha Trang ► Danang ► Hué ► Hanoi

Train number:

SE4

SE2

SE20

SE8

SE6

SE22

SNT2

 Saigon depart:

19:00 day 1

20:35 day 1

-

06:00 day 1

15:00 day 1

11:00

21:05 day 1

 Binh Thuan (for Phan Thiet)

22:41 day 1

00:04 day 2

-

09:46 day 1

18:46 day 1

14:49

|

 Nha Trang

02:37 day 2

03:56 day 2

-

13:46 day 1

23:30 day 2

19:12

05:30 day 2

 Dieu Tri (for Qui Nhon)

06:52 day 2

08:17 day 2

-

18:52 day 1

03:51 day 2

00:06

-

 Quang Ngai

09:54 day 2

11:07 day 2

-

21:54 day 1

07:09 day 2

03:21

-

 Danang (for Hoi An) arrive

12:42 day 2

13:36 day 2

-

00:36 day 2

10:02 day 2

06:05

-

 Danang (for Hoi An) depart

12:57 day 2

13:51 day 2

18:05 day 1

00:56 day 2

10:22 day 2

-

-

 Hué arrive

15:27 day 2

16:17 day 2

20:36 day 1

03:26 day 2

13:38 day 2

-

-

 Hué depart

15:32 day 2

16:22 day 2

20:41 day 1

03:31 day 2

13:43 day 2

-

-

 Dong Hoi

18:49 day 2

19:30 day 2

23:56 day 1

07:02 day 2

17:05 day 2

-

-

 Vinh

23:11 day 2

23:47 day 2

05:01 day 2

11:29 day 2

21:33 day 2

-

-

 Thanh Hoa

02:01 day 3

02:29 day 3

07:39 day 2

14:39 day 2

00:47 day 3

-

-

 Ninh Binh

03:10 day 3

03:37 day 3

08:58 day 2

16:13 day 2

02:01 day 3

-

-

 Hanoi arrive:

05:30 day 3

05:55 day 3

11:20 day 2

19:12 day 2

04:25 day 3

-

-

Notes by train number

These trains run every day, additional trains may run at busy periods.  You can check these times using dsvn.vn.

Hanoi to Saigon is 1,726km or 1,070 miles.  Map showing Saigon station Map showing Hanoi station.

If a 5am arrival in Saigon or Hanoi seems early, remember that in Southeast Asia it's usual to rise early and you'll find plenty of taxis available at this time.

SE1, SE2, SE3, SE4:  The best trains, with air-conditioned soft sleepers (4-berth), air-conditioned hard sleepers (6-berth), air-conditioned soft seats.

Trains SE3 & SE4 were equipped with smart refurbished cars in 2015, trains SE1 & SE2 got similar refurbished cars in 2016.  Trains SE1 & SE2 also have a handful of VIP 2-berth compartments (only about 4 per train).  SE1 & SE2 also convey privately-run Livitrans tourist sleepers between Hanoi, Hue & Danang.  Trains SE3 & SE4 also convey privately-run Violette Trains tourist sleepers between Hanoi, Hue & Danang, see the Livitrans & Violette section below.

SE5, SE6, SE9, SE10:  Air-conditioned soft sleepers (4-berth), air-conditioned hard sleepers (6-berth), air-conditioned soft seats, air-conditioned hard seats, ordinary hard seats.  Trains SE5 & SE6 were re-equipped with some of the latest modern seats cars & sleeping-cars in 2018.

SE7, SE8: Only runs at busy times, check online if it's running a month or two ahead.  Air-con soft sleepers, air-con hard sleepers, air-con soft seats.

SE19, SE20: Air-conditioned soft sleepers, air-conditioned hard sleepers, air-conditioned soft seats, air-conditioned hard seats, ordinary hard seats.

SE21, SE22: Air-conditioned soft sleepers, air-conditioned hard sleepers, air-conditioned soft seats, air-conditioned hard seats.

SE11, SE12, SE25, SE26:  On certain dates you'll find additional seasonal trains.  I have not shown them here.

SNT1, SNT2:  Air-con soft sleepers (both older & newer types), air-con hard sleepers (both older & newer types), air-con soft seats.  Ask for a 'chat luong cao' (newer higher quality) sleeper.  Also has privately-run Golden Trains sleepers attached.  If you use this train and get photos, please get in touch!

SPT1/2, PT3/4:  Air-con soft seats, also has various sleepers.

Livitrans, Violette, Lotus Train tourist sleepers, Hanoi-Hué-Danang:  Private company Violette Trains sells its own 4-berth soft sleepers on train SE1/SE2/SE3/SE4, private company Livitrans does the same on train SE3/SE4, private company Lotus Train doers so on SE19/SE20.  These cost around twice the price of normal Vietnamese Railways soft sleepers, although they are identical to the regular sleepers with some free snacks and different colour blankets, see the photos, information & advice below.

Livitrans and Golden Trains tourist sleepers, Saigon-Nha Trang on trains SNT1 & SNT2, see the photo below Private companies Livitrans and Golden Trains offer their own soft sleepers between Saigon & Nha Trang on trains SNT1 & SNT2.  Fare $38 for a bed in a 4-berth sleeper, bookable at www.baolau.com or 12Go.Asia - look for the Golden Trains or Livitrans logo rather than VR logo in the search results.

How to get to Hoi AnSee the Hoi An section

How to get to Phan Thiet & Mui Ne:  See the Phan Thiet section

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How much does it cost?

Train fares in Vietnam are cheap, and sleeper trains save hotel bills and the cost of taxis to/from airports way outside the cities.  The fares shown below are typical fares for the best carriages on the best trains, SE1, SE2, SE3 & SE4.

Fares vary by season, by train number (the less prestigious SE 5/6/7/8/21/22 are slightly cheaper) and by carriage type (fares for seats or berths in older car types are a bit cheaper).  The old system of charging foreigners higher fares than Vietnamese citizens was abolished way back in 2002.

For Livitrans & Violette Trains tourist sleeper fares, see the Livitrans & Violette section.

Children aged 0 to 4 travel free, children 5 to 9 travel at 25% off.  Children 10 and over pay full fare.

Fares are shown in 1000s of Vietnamese Dong.  £1 = approx 30,000 Dong.  $1 = 24,000 Dong.

 Fares from

 Hanoi to:

Soft seat

Hard sleeper

Soft sleeper

air-con

air-con

lower berth

air-con

middle berth

air-con

top berth

air-con

lower berth

air-con

upper berth

 Hue

515

1009

937

830

1109

1063

 Danang

567

1034

958

849

1137

1090

 Nha Trang

830

1260

1170

 1035

 1386

1328

 Saigon

980

1295

1204

1088

 1503

1340

 Fares from

 Saigon to:

Soft seat

Hard sleeper

Soft sleeper

air-con

air-con

lower berth

air-con

middle berth

air-con

top berth

air-con

lower berth

air-con

upper berth

 Nha Trang

369

722

670

593

779

746

 Danang

581

882

819

725

969

929

 Hue

790

1087

957

878

1230

1147

 Hanoi

980

1295

1204

1088

1503

1340

 Fares from

 Hué to:

Soft seat

Hard sleeper

Soft sleeper

air-con

air-con

lower berth

air-con

middle berth

air-con

top berth

air-con

lower berth

air-con

upper berth

 Hanoi

515

1009

937

830

1109

1063

 Saigon

790

1087

957

878

1230

1147

 Danang

97

158

147

130

174

168

 Nha Trang

433

712

689

583

781

748

 Fares from

 Danang to:

Soft seat

Hard sleeper

Soft sleeper

air-con

air-con

lower berth

air-con

middle berth

air-con

top berth

air-con

lower berth

air-con

upper berth

 Hanoi

567

1034

 958

849

1137

 1090

 Saigon

581

882

819

725

969

929

 Hue

97

158

147

130

174

168

 Nha Trang

483

705

621

569

805

751

 Fares from

 Nha Trang:

Soft seat

Hard sleeper

Soft sleeper

air-con

air-con

lower berth

air-con

middle berth

air-con

top berth

air-con

lower berth

air-con

upper berth

 Hanoi

830

1260

1170

 1035

 1386

1328

 Saigon

369

722

670

593

779

746

 Danang

483

705

621

569

805

751

 Hue

433

712

689

583

781

748

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Tickets & reservations

Do I need a reservation?  Can I stop off?

Do I need to book in advance?

Can I buy all 4 berths to have a compartment to ourselves?

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How to buy tickets online

 

Buy train tickets from 12go.asia

Powered by 12Go Asia system

Option 1, buy from 12Go.Asia

 

Buy tickets from Baolau

  Buy train tickets from Baolau.com

Option 2, buy from www.baolau.com

Choosing your seat or berth on the train

www.baolau.com now lets you choose your exact seats or berths from a graphic like this so you can see what's available and make sure you'll all be in the same compartment together.  This works for most Vietnamese Railways seats & sleepers, although not for privately-run sleepers such as Livitrans or Violette.

Option 3, order from these agencies

You can also  order tickets through one of these reliable Vietnamese train booking agencies, obviously with a small fee or mark-up for their service:

Option 4, buy from Vietnamese Railways

Option 5, let Railbookers arrange a tour

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How to buy tickets at the station

It's easy to buy train tickets at the station when you get to Vietnam.  Trains are busy, but except at peak holiday times such as Tet, if you book a day or two ahead you'll usually find tickets available, even if your first choice of class or train is sold out.  Reservations were computerised in 2002 and you can buy tickets for most train journeys in Vietnam at Saigon and Hanoi booking offices.  So you can buy both a Saigon-Hue ticket and a Hue-Hanoi ticket in Saigon, for example.  However, at other stations such as Hue, Danang or Nha Trang, you may only be able to book journeys starting at that station.  At ticket offices, you pay in Vietnamese Dong, US dollars are not generally accepted, nor are non-Vietnamese credit cards.

Tip:  If you have internet access such as hotel WiFi, see for yourself what trains & classes are available on the Vietnamese Railways website dsvn.vn.  Then book online, selecting the option to collect tickets & pay at the station within 24 hours.  This avoids long conversations at the ticket counter about what trains & classes remain available and hurried decisions about which to choose.

Buying tickets in Hanoi

At Hanoi main station on Le Duan Street, enter by the main central doors and turn right through a narrow passageway to the ticket office, see the photo bottom right.  Go to the window marked Tourist.

Hanoi station

Hanoi main station.  The ugly concrete central section of an otherwise attractive French colonial station is the result of American bombs which flattened this part of the station on 21 December 1972.  Photo courtesy of David Smith.

Inside Hanoi railway station   Hanoi station ticket office

Hanoi station, main hall inside the main entrance.  Note the ticket gates at the entrance to the platforms.

 

To your right after you enter the main doors is a clearly-marked passageway to the ticket office.

Buying tickets in Saigon

At Saigon station, the smaller downstairs ticket office (shown below, centre picture) used to be for travel today, but now seems to handle advance bookings too.  There is a larger ticket office is upstairs, but recent reports suggest this is now only handling booking changes and you may even find it closed.  A numbered queuing system may be in operation, so look out for it.  Press the button and take a ticket from the small box at the entrance to the ticket office, take a seat and watch the screens which will show you which counter to go to when your number comes up.  Feedback on ticket purchase in Saigon is always appreciated!

Tip:  If you don't mind a 50,000 dong ($2.50) fee per ticket, buying at the city centre ticket agency at 275C Pham Ngu Lao saves you going to the station.  It's open 08:00-17:00 every day.  It can be tricky to spot, see the photo below on the far right.

Saigon railway station   Saigon station ticket office   The train booking office in central Saigon

Useful Vietnamese words

Ngòi or Ghé = seat. 

Năm or Giuòng = sleeper berth.

Mèm = soft class

Cúng = hard class.

Dièu Hòa (ÐH) = air-conditioned.

Toa = coach, carriage.

 

Ga = Station, as in the French 'Gare'.

Giò tau = train times. Giá Vé = ticket prices.

T1, T2, T3 = Tang 1, Tang 2, Tang 3 = lower, middle or upper berths.

K6 = 6-berth hard sleeper compartment. 

K4 = 4-berth soft sleeper compartment.  K=khoang = compartment.

Toan vé = Full price (adult fare with no discounts)

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Luggage, bikes & motorbikes

You take your bags - of whatever size - onto the train with you and store them near your seat or berth, so you have access to them throughout the journey.

Bikes and even motorbikes can be transported on Vietnamese trains for a fee, although they don't necessarily on the same train as you.  You take your bike or motorbike to the luggage office, pay the fee and hand it in.  If it's a motorbike, the fuel tank must be drained and empty.  They'll put a label on your bike and give you a receipt.  You travel on the train as normal.  At the other end you collect your bike from the station luggage office when it arrives, it usually travels on a separate train and it may take a day or two before it can be collected.  Feedback appreciated.

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What are Vietnamese trains like?

Air-conditioned soft sleepers

Most visitors to Vietnam choose soft sleeper if their journey involves overnight travel.  Soft sleeper is a safe, pleasant and enjoyable way to go, especially on the best trains, SE1, SE2, SE3, SE4, SE5 & SE6 - although you should expect even newer cars to be a little tatty by western standards as they are intensively used.

Each soft sleeping-car has a corridor running down one side with seven 4-berth compartments opening off it, each of which can be securely locked from the inside. Each compartment has 4 berths, two upper and two lower.  Each berth has an individual reading light and is supplied with pillow, sheet and duvet.  By day you simply sit on the lower berths. You keep all your bags with you, there is luggage space beneath the bottom bunks and in the large recess above the compartment door.

The most modern cars used on trains SE1 to SE8 have a 2-pin power socket for recharging your mobile or camera, and you'll find a western-style toilet usually kept supplied with soap and toilet paper at one or both ends of the corridor.  Several windows on the corridor side open which is useful for photography, but the compartment windows don't open.  At night, there's a lock and usually an additional security catch on the door - flip out the security catch and the door can't be opened more than an inch or two even with a staff key.

There's a free water dispenser at the end of the corridor for both boiling and cold water, handy if you bring some powdered soup, instant coffee or hot chocolate with you, or buy some dried noodles from one of the stalls at the station.  A trolley service comes down the train serving snacks, coffee, soft drinks and beer, and at meal times a member of the train staff will sell you a meal ticket for around 35,000 dong (£1 or $1.60).  A set meal with mineral water will then be delivered to your compartment around half an hour later from the kitchen car.

See the section below about the Livitrans & Viollete tourist sleeping-cars attached to SE1 & SE2 between Hanoi, Hué & Danang.

Which trains have the best cars? Trains SE3 & SE4 received smartly-refurbished air-conditioned carriages branded '5-star' in January 2015, in red & blue with a broad white stripe.  Trains  SE1, SE2, SE5, SE6, SE7 & SE8 received similar refurbished cars in 2016.  Though there is no sign of any WiFi as originally reported in the press.  Newly-built '5-star' cars were delivered in 2017, in white with a thin red stripe & blue around the windows, these are now making their appearance on trains SE1 to SE6, see the photos below.  Vietnam Railways charge a fraction more to travel in the nicer, newer cars.

2-berth VIP soft sleepers on trains SE1 & SE2:  Soft sleepers usually have 4-berths per compartment, but since 2018 one of the most modern soft sleeper cars on trains SE1 & SE2 has two 2-berth VIP sleeper compartments, with two lower berths.  The fare includes non-alcoholic drinks and meals, served in your compartment.  The fare is round twice the price of normal 4-berth soft sleeper.  However, with only 2 such compartments on the whole train (just 4 beds) you need to book early -and be very lucky - to get one.

Train SE1 from Hanoi to Saigon, at Danang

Hanoi-Saigon train SE1 calls at Danang in early 2018.  The SE1/SE2 is now a mix of air-conditioned cars refurbished in 2015-2016 such as the blue & red soft sleeper car in the foreground and new cars delivered in roof.  Photo courtesy of Nathaniel Perkins.

4-berth soft sleeper   Soft sleeper on train SE1   Relaxing in a soft sleeper on train SE3

4-berth soft sleeper of the latest '5-star' type delivered in 2017.  Courtesy of Nathaniel Perkins.  Larger photo.

 

4-berth soft sleeper refurbished to '5-star' in 2015-2016.  Courtesy of Alan Trinder.  Larger photo.

 

4-berth soft sleeper, unrefurbished.  My father in law is reading the paper. Larger photo.

Train SE3 at Danang   Meal served on train SE3

Train SE3 from Hanoi to Saigon at Danang in early 2018.  The car in the foreground with the white roof is one of the new 5-star cars delivered in 2017.  The other cars on the SE3/SE4 are modern cars refurbished in 2015 & 2016.  Courtesy of Nathaniel Perkins.

 

A hot meal served in your sleeper from the kitchen car for around $2.

Air-conditioned hard sleepers

If the soft sleepers are full, or if you're in a group of 5 or 6 people, there's no reason why you shouldn't travel hard sleeper, especially if it's an overnight journey such as Hanoi to Hue with relatively little daytime element so you'll spend most of the time in your berth.  Hard sleeper compartments have 6 berths, lower, middle and top on each side, but apart from the extra two berths, the facilities are exactly the same as for soft sleepers in terms of power sockets, water dispenser, toilets, luggage space and meals.

6-berth hard sleeper on train SE1   Train SE1 at Hanoi   Refreshment trolley!

6-berth hard sleeper.

 

Boarding train SE1 from Hanoi to Danang & Saigon.

 

Refreshment trolley!

Air-conditioned soft seats

These can be recommended for daytime journeys such as Hue to Danang or Hanoi to Vinh, but for overnight trips always book a soft or hard sleeper so you can sleep properly.  In the most modern cars used on the SE-numbered trains, you'll find power sockets in the wall for charging mobiles or cameras.

Air-conditioned soft seats on train SE3   Air-con soft seats car on train SE1 at Hanoi

Soft seats on train SE3.  Click for larger photo.

 

A soft seats car on train SE1 at Hanoi...

Air-conditioned hard seats

These have wooden seats in modern air-conditioned cars.  A bit hard on the rear for a long journey, but perfectly acceptable for a few hours.

Air-con hard seats car on train SE5 at Hanoi   Air-conditioned hard seats

Air-conditioned hard seats car on train SE5 at Hanoi.

 

Air-conditioned hard seats See larger photo.

Ordinary hard seats

Wooden seats in much older cars without air-con.  However, these cars have windows that open, which can be an advantage for photography. The photos below show an ordinary hard seats car on train LC3 from Hanoi to Lao Cai, similar cars operate on trains LC4, TN1 & TN2.

Ordinary hard seats on train LC3 from Hanoi to Lao Cai   Ordinary hard seats caron train LC3 from Hanoi to Lao Cai

Livitrans, Violette, Lotus Train

Several private companies sell their own 4-berth soft sleeper compartments on trains SE1/SE2/SE3/SE4/SE19 between Hanoi, Hue & Danang, aimed at foreign tourists.  Livitrans offer soft sleepers on SE1/SE2, Violette offer soft sleepers on SE1/SE2/SE3/SE4, Lotus Train on SE19/SE20.

You can book 4 places to have sole or dual occupancy on a whole 4-berth compartment if you like.  All these companies are fine with very little to choose between them, as their prices, sleeper compartments and service are very similar.

How much does it cost?

These privately-run soft sleepers cost roughly double the price of normal Vietnamese Railways soft sleepers.  Livitrans, Violette & Lotus Train charge similar prices.

Hanoi to Hue costs around US$75 one-way per person in a 4-berth air-conditioned soft sleeper.

Hanoi to Danang costs around US$85 one way per person in a 4-berth air-conditioned soft sleeper.

Is it worth paying double the price?

Not really.  Originally, these private companies used special carriages painted in their their own colour scheme, fitted with an interior superior to the regular sleeping-cars which DSVN (Vietnamese Railways) used at the time.  A few years ago, DSVN upgraded trains SE1/2/3/4 trains with comfortable modern sleeping-cars and it stopped these private companies using their own (older) cars.  Livitrans, Violette & Lotus now rent out one or more 4-berth compartments in one of DSVN's regular sleeping-cars and resell these berths with some free snacks and different bedding at much higher prices.  In high-season these companies might lease a whole car, on low-season departures the Violette accommodation can be as little as one 4-berth compartment within a standard DSVN sleeping-car full of Vietnamese travellers who are amused that a westerner has paid double to travel in an identical compartment in the same car, simply with purple blankets rather than brown ones and a few packets of free crisps.  If all the regular DSVN sleepers have sold out, these more expensive tourist cars can be useful, but don't expect them to be vastly superior to the regular Vietnamese Railways soft sleepers, as they are the same.

How to buy tickets

You can book Livitrans, Violette & Lotus Train tickets online at www.baolau.com & 12Go.Asia, look for the Livitrans, Violette or Lotus logos in the search results.

The Man in Seat 61 says, :Livitrans, Violette & Lotus Train now use exactly the same '5-star' air-conditioned soft sleepers that Vietnamese Railways (DSVN) themselves use on the SE1/2/3/4 trains, just compare the photos below with the photo of a refurbished regular DSVN soft sleeper above.  On some departures, it's not even a separate sleeping-car, just one or more 4-berth compartments in a standard DSVN sleeping-car occupied by normal Vietnamese travellers, with literally the only difference to justify the extra cost being the colour of the blankets and a few free snacks."

4-berth sleeper in the private Viollete sleeping-car from Hanoi to Hue & Danang   4-berth sleeper in the private Viollete sleeping-car from Hanoi to Hue & Danang

Lotus Train car.  Photos courtesy of Lotus Train.

 

Lotus train 4-berth soft sleeperLarger photo

4-berth sleeper in the private Livitrans sleeping-car from Hanoi to Hue & Danang   4-berth sleeper in the private Viollete sleeping-car from Hanoi to Hue & Danang

Livitrans 4-berth soft sleeperPhoto courtesy of www.baolau.comLarger photo.

 

Violette 4-berth soft sleeper.  Courtesy of N MacKenzie.  Larger photo

Golden Trains, Saigon to Nha Trang

The privately-run Golden Trains sleeping-car is a cut above the regular Vietnamese railways sleepers between Saigon (HCMC) and the beach resorts of Nha Trang.  It runs attached to the regular SNT1/SNT2 overnight train, see the timetable above.  It is similar to the Livitrans & Violette 4-berth sleepers shown above.

How to buy tickets:  You can buy Golden Trains tickets at www.baolau.com or 12Go.Asia - look for the Golden Trains logo rather than the VR logo in the search results.

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Video: Hanoi to Saigon by train

This 9-minute video shows the 1,079 mile journey from Hanoi to Hue, Danang & Saigon on trains SE1 and SE3, showing the scenery, the food, the Livitrans sleeper from Hanoi to Danang and the regular DSVN soft sleeper from Danang to Saigon.  The video was made before the SE1 & SE3 were re-equipped with the smartly-refurbished cars in 2015-2016.

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Getting to Hoi An

Hoi An is a historic UNESCO-listed town featuring on most visitor's itineraries, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hội_An.

Hoi An is 30 km south of Danang, but has no station of its own.  See location map.  To reach it, first take a train to Danang, see the Reunification Line section above,

Then take a taxi or minivan from Danang to Hoi An taking 30-45 minutes.  There are several options:

Option 1, pre-book a minivan or taxi from Danang city centre to Hoi An at 12Go.Asia.  Shared minivans from USD 3 upwards, taxis from USD 15 upwards.

Option 2, take a taxi from Danang station to Hoi An, this costs around 350,000 dong (USD 15) depending on your negotiation skills.  There are always taxis waiting.

Option 3, local bus 01 used to link Danang and Hoi An before the pandemic, but it was then diverted away from the city centre and has not so far resumed.  But for the record in case it resumes, here is the original pre-pandemic information:  Bus 01 runs (or rather, ran) every 20 minutes between 05:00 & 17:30 every day, fare 20,000 dong + 10,000 dong for bags over 10Kg.  To take the bus, leave Danang station, cross the square and go into Hoang Hoa Tham road.  At the next intersection, turn left into Le Duan street.  The bus stop will be on your right, ignore the old bus stop next to house number 299, it is currently (temporarily?) moved to outside the shop at number 151 Le Duan street, indicated by a blue bus sign (See location map).  Bus number 1 is coloured yellow & runs to Hoi An every 20-30 minutes.  Board through the back door and take a seat.  The conductor will come through to collect your fare.  Have a 20,000 dong note handy (or 30,000 if you've luggage) as he won’t give change - the official price in May 2017 is 20,000 dong.  Smile and ignore any further requests for money as there is no difference in ticket price for locals and tourists - it's just 20,000 dong + 10,000 dong for a bag over 10Kg!  The bus reaches Hoi An bus station in about 1 hour, you can walk the remaining 2 km to Hoi An town centre.  Further feedback always appreciated.

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Hanoi to Lao Cai & Sapa

Sapa is a hill station established by the French in 1922, and its beautiful scenery and colourful local tribal people make it popular with overseas visitors.  The best way to get there is by overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, then transfer by bus, car or taxi the final 38 km (24 miles) to Sapa.  There are 2 or 3 overnight sleeper trains between Hanoi & Lao Cai, you can book a regular Vietnamese Railways soft or hard sleeper or choose from a wide range of privately-run tourist sleeping-cars of a higher standard.  The line from Hanoi to Lao Cai was built by the French and opened in 1910 as part of the metre-gauge Vietnam to Kunming railway.  The Lao Cai to Kunming section was destroyed landslides in 2002, but onward train travel from Lao Cai to Kunming is possible again on a new standard-gauge railway opened in 2014, see the Hanoi to Kunming section below.  Hanoi to Lao Cai is 296 km (185 miles).  The timetables below are compiled from the timetables on Vietnamese Railways websites dsvn.vn & www.gahanoi.com.vn (in Vietnamese only).  Click here for a Vietnamese Railways route map.

Train timetable

 Hanoi ► Lao Cai (for Sapa)

 

 Lao Cai ► Hanoi

 Train number: 

SP1

SP3

Train number:

SP2

SP4

Km

Days of running:

*

daily

Days of running:

*

daily

0

 Hanoi

depart 

21:35

22:00

 Lao Cai

depart

20:55

21:30

296

 Lao Cai

arrive

05:15

05:55

 Hanoi

arrive

04:35

05:25

* Train SP1/SP2 used to run every day, post-pandemic it's only running on peak dates.

SP1 & SP2:  Vietnamese Railways air-conditioned 4-berth soft sleepers, also offers a limited number of 2-berth VIP soft sleeper compartments with two lower berths.  This train also conveys various privately-run sleeping-cars for tourists, see the tourist sleeper section below.

SP3 & SP4:  Vietnamese Railways air-conditioned 4-berth soft sleepers, may also offer a handful of 2-berth VIP soft sleeper compartments with two lower berths.  Also conveys various privately-run sleeping-cars for tourists including Livitrans, Violette, Sapaly, Fanxipan, Chapa, Laman, Damitrans, see the tourist sleeper section below.

Since 2017 there is no daytime train on this route.

How much does it cost?

Here are the fares are for the regular Vietnam Railways carriages.  For the privately-run tourist sleeping-cars, see the next section

 One-way fares in 000 dong  

Air-conditioned soft sleeper

4-berth

 lower

4-berth

upper

 Hanoi to Lao Cai

430

410

£1 = approx 30,000 Dong.  $1 = 24,000 Dong

Children aged 0 to 4 travel free, children 5 to 9 get 25% off.  Children 10 & over pay full fare.

Upper berths cost slightly less than lower berths, but for simplicity only one price per class is shown above.

Which station in Hanoi?  

How to buy tickets

Buying at the station

Arranging a transfer from Lao Cai to Sapa

The train to Lao Cai & Sapa in pictures

Hanoi 'B' station   Soft sleeper, as used on SP trains to Lao Cai for Sapa

Hanoi 'B' station on the far side of the tracks from Hanoi main ('A') station, accessed from Tran Quay Cap street.  In the evening the B station comes alive as several busy sleeper trains carrying both Vietnamese and western tourists head north to Lao Cai.

 

4-berth soft sleeper as used on trains SP1/2, SP3/4.  See the section above for more info.

Scenery on the road transfer from Lao Cai to Sapa   Sapa church

Scenery on the road from Lao Cai to Sapa.

 

Sapa church.

Hanoi to Sapa by tourist sleeping-car

4-berth sleeper in the private Livitrans sleeping-car from Hanoi to Hue & Danang   4-berth sleeper in the private Viollete sleeping-car from Hanoi to Hue & Danang

A rather nice Livitrans 4-berth soft sleeperPhotos courtesy of www.baolau.com.

 

Violette 4-berth soft sleeper.  Look closely - it's identical to Livitrans apart from extras & bedding.

Video: Hanoi to Lao Cai by Orient Express

Note that this shows the earlier wood-panelled incarnation of the Orient Express, before the introduction of the new standard sleeping-cars across all private operators as well as Vietnamese Railways themselves.  But it gives you a good idea of the trip.

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Phan Thiet & Miu Ne

The seaside resort of Phan Thiet is at the end of a 15 km branch line from Binh Thuan, a junction station on the main Saigon-Danang-Hue-Hanoi Reunification line, formerly known as Muong Man.  One or two direct trains run from Saigon to Phan Thiet, shown in the timetable below.  When you arrive at Phan Thiet station you'll find plenty of buses & taxis waiting to take you to the popular resort of Mui Né, 24 km northeast of Phan Thiet, a 25-30 minute drive.  Alternatively, you can take any mainline train from Saigon to Binh Thuan station and then a taxi to Pan Thiet (15.7 km) or Mui Né (38 km).  See Phan Thiet & Mui Ne map.  See Vietnam train route map.

 Saigon ► Phan Thiet

 

 Phan Thiet Saigon

 Train number:

SPT2

SPT4*

Train number:

SPT1

SPT3*

 Saigon station

depart 

06:30

07:15

 Phan Thiet

depart

13:10

14:30

 Bin Thuan

arr/dep

10:28

11:23

 Bin Thuan

arr/dep

13:26

14:46

 Phan Thiet

arrive

10:40

 

 Saigon station

arrive

17:10

19:20

* Train SPT3/SPT4 only runs on key holiday dates, check if it's running on a given date using www.baolau.com.

Train SPT1/SPT2 runs every day, with these classes:

- air-con soft seats in a regular car with 64 seats, shown as NML or A64LV at www.dsvn.vn or when booking on www.baolau.com.

- air-con soft seats in a VIP car with only 48 seats, shown as NML48 or A48LV at www.dsvn.vn or when booking on www.baolau.com.

- air-con soft sleeper used in day mode.

Bus or taxi connection Phan Thiet station to Mui Né:  Bus number 9 (the red bus) runs from the road outside Phan Thiet station to Mui Né every 20 minutes from 05:30 until 20:00, bus fare 6,000 dong ($0.30)  The bus runs the length of Mui Né stopping at various points all across the resort.  Alternatively, there are plenty of taxis, it's a 25-35 minute drive and will cost in the region of 230,000 dong ($12)

 How much does it cost?

 Saigon to Phan Thiet by train

 Air-con regular soft seat 161,000 dong

 Air-con VIP deluxe seat 187,000 dong

 Air-con soft sleeper upper 222,000 dong

 Air-con soft sleeper lower 250,000 dong

 Phan Thiet to Mui Ne by bus

 Minimal, exact fare not known.

 Phan Thiet to Mui Ne by taxi

 Around 260,000 dong (£9 or $11)

How to buy tickets:  Buy tickets at the station or at Saigon's city centre ticket office as shown here or book online at www.baolau.com.  If Baolau won't show the direct train, try booking online at the Vietnamese Railways site www.dsvn.vn, it may work or may reject your credit card, give it a go.

Alternative:  If the times of these direct trains don't suit you, simply take any mainline train between Saigon & Bin Thuan shown in the main Reunification line timetable above for around 170,000 dong (£6 or $8), then catch a taxi between Bin Thuan & Phan Thiet (15.7 km) or Mui Ne (38 km), cost to Mui Ne around 500,000 dong (£15 or $24), taxi journey around 1 hour.  You can book a Saigon to Phan Thiet train+taxi journey at www.baolau.com.

Traveller Andrew Stewart took the train from Phan Thiet back to Saigon and comments:  "It was a nice trip. Much better than the bus that I took to get there. So many roadworks on that road. It took 8hrs and 30mins from Saigon on the bus."

Air-con soft seats car on train SPT1 to Phan Thiet   Air-conditioned soft seats on the train from Saigon to Phan Thiet

Soft seats on train SPT2 from Saigon to Phan Thiet.  Photos courtesy of Molly McCahan.

Bus number 9 from Phan Thiet to Mui Ne   Bus stop at Phan Thiet station

Bus number 9 links Phan Thiet & Mui Né every 20 minutes.  Be prepared for the bus to stop some 20m away from the bus stop sign! Photos courtesy of Alistair Weaver.

Hanoi, Hue or Danang to/from Phan Thiet or Mui Né

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Hanoi to Haiphong & Cat Ba

Trains link Hanoi with Haiphong, for ferries to Cat Ba island.  See route map.

 Hanoi ► Haiphong

Km

Train number:

HP1

LP3

LP5

LP7

0

 Hanoi Main station

depart 

06:00

09:20

15:15

18:10

2

 Hanoi Long Bien station

depart

|

09:30

15:26

18:21

5

 Hanoi Gia Lam station

depart

06:23

09:56

15:47

18:47

102

 Haiphong

arrive

08:25

12:00

18:00

20:55

All these Hanoi-Haiphong trains have air-conditioned soft seats.  Hanoi to Haiphong is 102 km (63 miles).

 Haiphong ► Hanoi

 

Saturday & Sunday

Train number:

LP2

LP6

LP8

HP2

 Haiphong

depart

06:10

09:10

15:00

18:40

 Hanoi Gia Lam station

arrive

08:17

11:20

17:08

20:52

 Hanoi Long Bien station

arrive

08:38

11:41

17:29

|

 Hanoi Main station

arrive

08:49

11:52

17:40

21:15

 How much does it cost?

 Hanoi to Haiphong  

Air-con soft seat 85,000 dong (£3 or $5)

Hanoi Long Bien station is 3 km northeast of Hanoi main station, immediately south of the huge steel Long Bien bridge over the Red River (which was a target for American bombers on several occasions during the Vietnamese war).  The small road outside the station is only accessible to pedestrians, bicycles and motorbikes, not cars, so if your taxi drops you on the main road by the river, don't worry, it's just a 100m walk up the side road and round the bend to the station.  Map of Hanoi showing main & Long Bien stations

Hanoi's 'Train Street' These trains pass through Hanoi's famous train street between Hanoi main station & Long Bien.

How to buy tickets:  You can book online at www.baolau.com or 12Go.Asia.  Or buy at the station.

Ferries to Cat Ba Island:  There are various ferries from Haiphong to Cat Ba island.  You can book one of up to 6 departures per day at www.baolau.com.  This starts with a bus transfer from 41 Ben Bính, Minh Khai, Hong Bang in Haiphong which is 1.5 km 18-minute walk from Haiphong station, see walking route.

Hanoi Long Bien station   Poster advertising trains from Hanoi to Haiphong

Hanoi's Long Bien station, complete with poster advertising the air-conditioned carriages on the Hanoi to Haiphong trains.  Map of Hanoi showing main & Long Bien stations.

The Hanoi to Haiphong express...   Haiphong station

An air-con soft seat car on a Hanoi to Haiphong Express train.  Photo courtesy of Lewis Baston.

 

Haiphong's distinctively French colonial railway station.  Photo courtesy of Lewis Baston.

Hanoi's train street

Northern train street:  You may hear of a narrow street in Hanoi where trains squeeze through and street life magically makes way, while intrepid tourists sit in trackside cafes and take photos.  There have been occasional accidents and at times the street has been closed off with warning signs - you'll have to check whether it's currently open or not.  But of course you can always see it safely by train!  The street is between Hanoi main station and Hanoi's Long Bien station on the railway from Hanoi to Haiphong.  So you'll pass through this street if you take any train to or from Haiphong that starts/terminates at Hanoi main station, or you could simply take a train one stop between Hanoi main station and Long Bien station, see the timetable above Map of Hanoi showing location of both 'train streets'.

Southern train street:  There is also a less touristy, less well-know 'train street' to the south of Hanoi station, on the reunification line from Hanoi to Saigon.  All trains between Hanoi and all points south pass through this train street 1 minute after leaving or 1 minute before arriving at Hanoi main station.  You'll also find a selection of trackside cafes here.  Map of Hanoi showing stations & location of both 'train streets'.

Train LP6 on Train Street

Hanoi's famous northern 'train street'Photo courtesy of David Smith.

Train LP6 on Train Street   Train LP6 on Train Street

A train passes through Hanoi's northern 'train street'.  This is train LP6 from Haiphong to Hanoi, it has just called at Hanoi's Long Bien station and is on the last leg into Hanoi main station.  Photos courtesy of David Smith.

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Hanoi to Halong Bay by train

The beautiful Halong Bay is on many visitors' lists of Vietnam highlights to visit.  There are two ways to travel there from Hanoi:

Option 1, take a train from Hanoi to Haiphong as shown above, then use local buses between Haiphong and Halong. 

Option 2, a direct train runs between Hanoi and Halong as shown below.  This is a regular Vietnamese Railways train, not a tourist train, although there have been abortive attempts to run a tourist train between Hanoi & Halong in the last few years.  This loss-making regular train was reported in the Vietnamese media as slated for withdrawal in December 2013, but it's still in operation, a rustic 4-carriage train used by the locals and an experience!  Feedback would be appreciated.

 Hanoi ► Halong

 

 Halong ► Hanoi

Train number:

51501

Train number:

51502

Days of running:

*

Days of running:

*

 Hanoi Yen Vien station

depart 

04:55

 Halong

depart

13:45

 Halong

arrive

11:45

 Hanoi Yen Vien station

arrive

20:31

* UPDATE 2024:  This train has not resumed post-pandemic.

Yen Vien station is in the suburbs of Hanoi, you'll need a taxi given the early start from Hanoi, although buses 10 or 54 run there from Long Bien bus station during the day.  Map showing location of Yen Vien station.

Fare:  70,000 dong (£2.50, $3), hard class seats only.

How to buy tickets:  You can easily check these times & buy tickets online in English at reliable ticketing agency www.baolau.com.

Feedback would be appreciated!

Traveller Matthias Meuller report (December 2016):  "The train runs!  It was one of my best trips ever.  It's a train for women who buy fruits, vegetables, tomatoes, herbs, chicken and so on cheap in the mountains and sell it on at a little market in Halong.  They take the goods by train from Mao Khe to Halong.  No tourists there!  You sit for two hours in the market and they want that you eat, drink, hold their babies.  It's wonderful, yet none of the travel agencies in Hanoi want to believe that this train exists.  I rode back to Hanoi with the train.  It takes 6 hours but it's wonderful, slung in a hammock, talking with the girls from the market, who count their money and play cards.  Buses link central Hanoi with Yen Vien station every 10 minutes."

Traveller Graham Phelan reports (October 2016):  "I took this train in October as I love train travel and didn’t want to take the tourist bus to Halong City - I would do anything to avoid tourists!  I took a taxi in the morning to Yen Vien station from my place in Hanoi, it wasn’t expensive just 166,000 VND (about €7) and cheaper if you’re leaving from Hanoi Old Town.  I was absolutely wrecked getting the morning train so I missed a lot of the landscapes on the way to Halong City but I enjoyed them on the way back!  People have to be aware that this train is not a comfortable train, you have to sit on a wooden seat!  So make sure you bring some entertainment, a small cushion if you can find one, some toilet roll and most importantly food!  This trip showed me the real Vietnam and it was a massive culture shock but I don’t regret it at all.  Also make sure to get your hotel or wherever you’re staying to book a taxi for you at the station as there are absolutely none there. On arrival back into Hanoi buses do run to go to the main city bus station, the cost is 7,000 VND, about €0.25. Or you can just do as I did and find a taxi on the street since they’re so cheap."

Traveller Ferry Quast reports (September 2016):  "Yes, the Hanoi-Halong train is running. It consists of 4 standard-gauge cars.  These cars are some of the oldest I've ever taken.  One had bench seats, the other 3 were empty and aimed at passengers with loads of vegetables and fruit [see the photo below].  For the first 2-3 hours the train was quite busy, but for the rest of the trip we were almost alone on the train.  It was very slow and we think that we never had more than 25 or 30 km/h.  Great experience if you want to get in touch with locals.  In contrast to the train, Ha Long's train station was the newest I've seen in Vietnam.  Reaching downtown Hanoi after arrival in Hanoi Vien Yen station shouldn't be a problem, there are still buses - until 10pm or so as locals told us."

The Hanoi to Halong train   Halong railway station

One of the 3 cargo cars on the Hanoi to Halong train.  Be assured one car does have seats!

 

The very modern Halong station.

Photos courtesy of Ferry Quast.

Seats on the Hanoi-Halong train   Unloading market goods

The seats car.  Courtesy Matthias Mueller.

 

Unloading market goods.  Courtesy Matthias Mueller

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Beijing & Nanning to Hanoi by train

There is a safe, comfortable & affordable overnight sleeper train between Beijing & Nanning every day, connecting with an equally safe & comfortable daily sleeper train between Nanning, Guilin & Beijing.  Twice a week, these two trains convey a direct soft sleeping-car between Hanoi & Beijing.  You can also use the Hanoi-Nanning sleeper train in conjunction with Nanning-Shanghai or Nanning-Guangzhou (for Hong Kong) trains.  After a brief spell in early 2015 reduced to twice a week, the Hanoi-Nanning train went back to running every day, and Beijing-Hanoi through cars have been restored, twice a week.

Update 2024:  International trains between China & Vietnam remain suspended post-pandemic.

 Beijing, Nanning Hanoi

   

 

 Hanoi ► Nanning, Beijing

Train Z5, runs every day, soft & hard sleepers, restaurant

Through cars:

Train MR1 / T8702, runs every day, soft sleepers only.

Through cars:

 Beijing West

depart

15:45 day 1

Thur & Sun

 Hanoi Gia Lam station

depart

21:20  day 1

Tue & Fri

 Guilin 

depart

11:36 day 2

Fri & Mon

 Dong Dang, Vietnam border

arrive

01:55  day 2

Wed & Sat

 Nanning 

arrive

15:40 day 2

Fri & Mon

 Dong Dang

depart

02:50  day 2

Wed & Sat

 Train T8701 / MR2, runs every day, soft sleepers only.

|      

 Pingxiang, Chinese border

arrive

04:31  day 2

Wed & Sat

 Nanning 

depart

18:10  day 2

Fri & Mon

 Pingxiang

depart

06:20  day 2

Wed & Sat

 Pingxiang, Chinese border

arrive

22:01  day 2

Fri & Mon

 Nanning

arrive

10:10  day 2

Wed & Sat

 Pingxiang

depart

22:41  day 2

Fri & Mon

 Train Z6, runs every day, soft & hard sleepers & restaurant

|      

 Dong Dang, Vietnam border

arrive

23:22  day 2

Fri & Mon

 Nanning

depart

11:00  day 2

Wed & Sat

 Dong Dang

depart

01:00  day 3

Sat & Tues

 Guilin

arrive

14:22  day 2

Wed & Sat

 Hanoi Gia Lam station

arrive

05:20  day 3

Sat & Tues

 Beijing West

arrive

09:55  day 3

Thur & Sun

Beijing to Hanoi is 2,996 km or 1,861 miles.  Nanning to Hanoi is 396km.   How to buy tickets.

Gia Lam station is 6km from Hanoi's main station, across the river.  Map of Hanoi showing Gia Lam station.

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets online

What's the journey like?

The daily Z-category sleeper train between Beijing & Nanning has air-conditioned 4-berth soft sleepers, air-conditioned hard sleepers and a restaurant car serving freshly-cooked Chinese dishes.  It passes through some excellent scenery in southern China.  Exterior photo courtesy of Nandakumar Narasimhan, interior & scenery photos courtesy of Chris "Mzungu" Holden.

Beijing to Hanoi by train.  This is the Chinese sleeper train between Beijing and Dong Dang.   A soft sleeper on the Chinese train from Beijing to Dong Dang, connecting for Hanoi in Vietnam
Scenery from the train from Beijing to Hanoi   More scenery seen from the train from Beijing to Hanoi

The sleeper train between Nanning & Hanoi

This is the Nanning to Hanoi train at Nanning station.  Below right, a comfortable 4-berth soft sleeper compartment, with two upper and two lower berths, curtains, fresh clean sheets & pillows, and small table.  Interior photo courtesy of Philip Spittle.   See more photos of this train here.  If you get any photos of this train, inside or out, please get in touch.

The Hanoi to Nanning train at Nanning station   4-berth soft sleeper on the Hanoi to Nanning train

Nanning to Hanoi train boarding at Nanning station.  Courtesy of Sumio Toyama

4-berth soft sleeper.  Larger photo.

Hanoi Gia Lam station

Gia Lam station (see location map) is a tiny suburban station across the river in northern Hanoi, a 20 minute taxi ride from the main station.  Why does the train to Nanning start here?  Its Chinese carriages are standard gauge 4' 8½", as used in Europe, China & North America.  Vietnam's railways are metre gauge, just over 3'.  A third rail has been laid as far as Gia Lam station, making the tracks dual gauge, allowing the Chinese train to run that far but no further.  You can see the three rails in the photo above.

Hanoi Gia Lam station

Buying tickets in Hanoi

Buying tickets in Beijing

  Buying your train ticket from Beijing to Hanoi
 

Buying a train ticket to Hanoi in Beijing.  This is the agency in Beijing where Laurent & Chris both bought their train tickets to Hanoi

Buying tickets in Nanning

Travellers reports

Nanning - Hanoi by bus

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Hong Kong to Hanoi by train

It's easy to travel between Hanoi & Hong Kong by train with a change of train in Nanning & Guangzhou. You can choose to make the journey in 2 nights & 1 day using the Hanoi-Nanning sleeper train and a Nanning-Guangzhou sleeper train, with a day exploring Nanning in between.  Or you can make the whole trip in under 24 hours using the Hanoi-Nanning sleeper train then a 300km/h high-speed train to Guangzhou and another high-speed train to Hong Kong.  It costs as little as $86 or so in total one-way, and it's a genuine overland travel experience.  Remember that you'll need a visa for China, so you'll need to satisfy any return/onward ticket requirements, which is usually more of a logistical headache than the actual travelling.  If you have any more information including fares for travelling via this route, please e-mail me.

Covid-19 update:  Travel to China remains restricted, international trains are suspended.

Hanoi ► Hong Kong classic option

Hanoi ► Hong Kong high-speed option

Hong Kong ► Hanoi classic option

Hong Kong ► Hanoi high-speed option

How to buy tickets

Chinese visas

What are the trains like?

The Hanoi to Nanning train at Nanning station   4-berth soft sleeper

Above left:  This is the Nanning to Hanoi train.  The Guangzhou to Nanning train is very similar  Above right:  A comfortable 4-berth soft sleeper compartment on the Nanning to Hanoi train, the compartments on the Guangzhou to Nanning train are similar.  It has two upper and two lower berths, curtains, fresh clean sheets & pillows, and small table.  Cheaper hard sleepers are also available.  Interior photo courtesy of  Chris at www.myeggnoodles.com.

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Travellers' reports

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Kunming to Hanoi by train

  Hekou to Kunming train in the mountains of Yunnan Province
 

The Hekou to Kunming train passing through the mountains of Yunnan Province.  Photo courtesy of Jan Bockaert.

Until 2002 a twice-weekly metre-gauge sleeper train linked Kunming in China with Hanoi, but floods and landslides damaged the Chinese part of the line and it was discontinued.  However, a brand new standard-gauge Kunming-Hekou railway line was completed and in December 2014 trains ran once more between Kunming and the border town of Hekou.  It's possible once again to travel between Kunming and Hanoi by train, safely, comfortably and affordably, using a Chinese train from Kunming to the Chinese border town of Hekou, then a taxi a few km to the border post, walking across the border and on to Lao Cai station in Vietnam for a Vietnamese sleeper train to Hanoi.  Here's how.

Update 2024:  International trains between China & Vietnam remain suspended post-pandemic.

Kunming ► Hanoi

Hanoi ► Kunming

What's the journey like?

For photos of the Hanoi to Lao Cai trains, see the section abovePhotos below courtesy of Jan Bockaert.

Hekou North (Hekoubei) railway station   Boarding the train to Kunming at Hekou North

Hekou North station.

 

Boarding the train to Kunming.

Hard seats on Hekou to Kunming train   Mountains seen from the train to Kunming

Hard class seats.

 

Mountains seen from the Hekou-Kunming train.

Traveller's reports

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  Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi, Vietnam
 

Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum, Hanoi.

Europe to Vietnam by Trans-Siberian Railway

If you have the time (we're talking around two weeks), you can travel from London to Vietnam by train.

How to plan & book this trip

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Guidebooks

Amazon logoPaying for a guidebook may seem an unnecessary expense, but it's a tiny fraction of what you're spending on your whole trip.  You will see so much more, and know so much more about what you're looking at, if you have a decent guidebook.  The best guidebooks for independent travel are the Lonely Planet or Rough Guide.  You won't regret buying one of these guides!

Buy at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Alternatively, you can download just the chapters or areas you need in .PDF format from the Lonely Planet Website, from around £2.99 or US$4.95 a chapter.

Lonely Planet Vietnam - click to buy online   Lonely Planet South East Asia on a Shoestring - click to buy online   Rough Guide to Southeast Asia - click to buy online

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Hotels in Vietnam

In Saigon: Continental Hotel

The famous and historic Continental Hotel is one of my favourite hotels worldwide, not merely a place to stay but a Saigon landmark since 1880.  Indeed, the Continental is the backdrop for much of the action in Graham Greene's novel 'The Quiet American', set in Saigon during the Franco-Vietnamese war.  If it's in your price range or if you can stretch your budget, the Continental is superbly located, right next to the Opera House in the centre of Saigon and a stone's throw from Saigon's distinctive town hall, post office and cathedral.  It's quiet, understated, clean and comfortable with high ceilings, marble floors and wood panelling, and not a corporate clone like so many chain hotels.  The breakfast buffet is good, and it has a pleasant central courtyard and bar if you prefer to eat or enjoy a beer al fresco.  There's free WiFi, too.  A double room costs around $140 (£88) per night.  Tripadvisor reviews.  Nearby, the famous Rex Hotel was where many American officers stayed during the Vietnam war.  If you prefer something more glitzy and glamorous, try the impressive Majestic Hotel, a mere parvenu dating from 1925 with many art nouveau features, located across the road from the Mekong river.

The Continental Hotel, Saigon   Double room in Contiental Hotel, Saigon

The Continental Hotel, a Saigon landmark since 1880, next to the Opera House with simple, spacious rooms.

In Hanoi: Budget: Hanoi Trendy Hotel.  Top end: Sofitel Metropole

A little budget gem, the Hanoi Trendy Hotel & Spa (formerly the Hanoi Art Hotel) may not be historic or grand, but it's an excellent low-cost choice from $45 a night for a room with toilet & shower, tea & coffee making facilities, free WiFi, safe, free mineral water, a great breakfast, and great staff at reception who really put themselves out to help you.  It's well located in central Hanoi, a short walk from the War Remnants Museum, a 10-15 minute taxi ride from Hanoi's main station.  Of course, at the luxury end of the scale we have Hanoi's most venerable and upmarket hotel, the luxurious and expensive Sofitel Metropole, which comes complete with outdoor swimming pool and lido bar.

Room at the Art Hotel, Hanoi   The Sofitel Metropole, Hanoi

A room at the inexpensive Hanoi Trendy Hotel.

 

The Sofitel Metropole.  Note the vintage Citroen!

In Hué: Budget Than Thien Hotel, top end La Residence Hotel & Spa.

At the top end, look no further than La Residence Hotel & Spa, located in the former French governor's residence on the banks of the Perfume River.  For the budget-conscious, try the equally central Than Thien Hotel.  Both get great reviews.

In Sapa: Victoria Hotel

The best hotel in Sapa, now renamed BB Resort & Spa, which even runs its own train from Hanoi, see the section here.  You'll find a real log fire burning in the lobby and restaurant, and they do an excellent breakfast buffet.  The hotel features an indoor swimming pool and adjacent spa, too.  If your budget can stretch, this is the place to stay!

Victoria Hotel, Sapa   A deluxe room at the Victoria Hotel, Sapa

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search: www.booking.com

Booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally use it to book all my hotels in one place.  I've come to trust booking.com's review scores, you won't be disappointed with any hotel that scores 8.0 or more.  Crucially, booking.com usually lets you book with free cancellation, which means you can confirm accommodation risk-free before train booking opens and/or you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when planning a trip.  I never book hotels non-refundably!

You might also want to check Tripadvisor's recommendations:  Tripadvisor Vietnam hotels.

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Flights to Vietnam

Overland travel by train & bus around Vietnam is an essential part of the experience, so once there, don't cheat and fly, stay on the ground!  But if a long-haul flight is unavoidable to reach Vietnam in the first place, check Opodo and also try the Skyscanner search tool to compare flight prices & routes worldwide across 600 airlines.

1)  Check flight prices at Opodo, www.opodo.com

2)  Use Skyscanner to compare flight prices & routes worldwide across 600 airlines

skyscanner generic 728x90

3)  Lounge passes

Make the airport experience a little more bearable with a VIP lounge pass, it's not as expensive as you think!  See www.loungepass.com

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Travel insurance & other tips

 

Staysure travel insurance

 

Columbus Direct logo

Always take out travel insurance

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy with Staysure.co.uk myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

UK flag  www.staysure.co.uk offers enhanced Covid-19 protection & gets 4.7 out of 5 on Trustpilot.

UK flag  www.columbusdirect.com is also a well-know brand.

US flag  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

 

Maya.net logo

Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a mobile data package for the country you're visiting and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM card so you don't need to buy a physical SIM, including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility listMaya.net is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data.

 

Curve card

Curve card

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month at time of writing.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.

How it works:  1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than digging a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card, they'll give you £5 cashback through that link.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  Why you need a VPN

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I get a small commission to help support this site.

 

Anker Powerrbank

Carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, vaccination records and Interrail or Eurail passes are often held digitally on your mobile phone, so it's vital to keep it charged.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over if I can't get to a power outlet.  Buy from Amazon.co.uk or from Buy from Amazon.com.

 


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