Railway System

 The Railway System in Vietnam was established over a hundred years ago by the French colonist in the past century, and then recovered and further developed by the Vietnamese Government after the Reunification in 1975. The Vietnamese railway system now has the total length of about 2.600km, connecting most cities and provinces all over Vietnam, including many cultural, societal and tourism destinations from the North to the South of Vietnam. The domestic railway system is also linked with the Chinese railway that allows the train to come across the borderline and reach stations in Yunnan and Guangxi.


If you want an inexpensive yet exciting trip to travel along Vietnam from the North to the South, train could be a perfect choice. Many parts of the railways system in Vietnam go along or even through mountains, forests, valleys, plain and sea, so you would certainly have chance to contemplate the incredibly magnificent and fascinating scenery. Also, the speed of the train is not too high, just enough for you to enjoy breathtaking views outside the windows, taking some pictures or videos and having memorable moments in your trips. But one thing that you should keep in mind is to watch out all of your properties and luggage because there might be some robbers on the train who wait for the carelessness of the passengers to steal their belongings (read Safety guide for Vietnam).

North-South Train

The North – South Express Railway is the interprovincial train route under the management of Vietnam Railways Corporation. It begins in Hanoi and end in Ho Chi Minh City. As the purpose of this railway is to connect the North and the South of Vietnam, in particular Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, it is also called Reunification Express


This railway is one of the longest train routes in Vietnam with the total length of 1,729 km. Moreover, it passes by most provinces that lie between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, including Ha Nam, Nam Dinh, Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Thua Thien-Hue, Da Nang, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, Khanh Hoa, Ninh Thuan, Binh Thuan, Dong Nai and Binh Dương. A trip from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City on this railway will allow you to enjoy many breathtaking landscapes of Vietnam such as  Hai Van Pass, Van Phong Bay and especially Truong Son Mountain ranges.

Generally, most of Express trains in Vietnam are sleeper trains with many napping carriages, however, some trains on the North – South Express Railway also have sitting carriage.

There are two main trains that are most frequently used. The SE trains are more suitable for tourists thanks to its modern carriages and facilities. Moreover, it provides both hard and soft sleepers to passengers with air conditioners on each cabin. The time for the whole trip from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City takes about 30 hours. Train SE1 and SE3 depart from Hanoi at 19:00 and 23:00 and make fewer stops along the way than train SE5 and SE7. Train SE2 and SE4 depart at the same time from Ho Chi Minh City and stop at way fewer points than SE6 and SE8.

Another kind is TN trains. It serves customers with old carriage and hard sleepers, and not all of the cabins have air conditioners. These trains also stop in all stations that it passes by, which makes the trip 10 hours longer compared with SE trains.

In addition, each sleeper carriage of the Reunification Train often contains 5 to 7 cabins, and one toilet with shower room at the end of the carriage. There are mainly two types of cabins: 4-beds and 6 beds. Both of these types have similar equipment including pillow and blankets, TV, fans or air conditioner yet with 4-bed cabin option, you have more space and privacy. Luggage can be stored under the bottom bunks of the cabin.

With SE train, there is a service carriage that serves light meals to customers and provides some other convenient products such as canned foods, cigarettes, beverage, shampoo/soap, tooth paste and brush.

Night Trains 

Believe it or not, more than half of your trip time will be spent on transportation. Using night train or overnight flights will thus become a great solution for those who have a short holiday. Popular train routes from Hanoi to Sapa, Hanoi to Hue and Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi all offer night train options. It is mostly a comfortable trip and relatively safer than using coach or open tour bus, though the price can be higher.

Currently, Vietnam Railways System (VRS) monopolize on all routes. The North-South train (formally named as Tau Thong Nhat or Reunification Railways) stops in almost all provinces, except for the Central Highland area. VRS also collaborates with private businesses to organize luxurious cabin option to tourists travelling from Hanoi to Sa Pa. There are almost every price level for your pocket and travel needs. 

Safety and Security

There is no major warning about safety on train. However, if you go with a budget option of travelling overnight with a soft or hard-seat, hold on tight to your valuable possessions instead of placing them on the compartment above your head or under your seat. Pickpockets get in and out of the train, in between the stations. With the berth option, the only concern is about the level of noise from next door cabin- you never know who you share your compartment with.

Hanoi - Sapa Train

The best way for tourists to travel to Sapa - one of the most attractive destinations in Vietnam - is to travel by train, thanks to its advantage of both time and money. Departing from Hanoi station during night time, the train arrives at Lao Cai station, a city adjacent to Chinese border, in early morning

To meet the needs of tourists, service providers have upgraded the train with full amenities such as air-conditioner, clean bathroom, and comfortable beds with different names for each type of cars.  There are total of seven trains from Hanoi to Lao Cai, namely Livitran Express, Tulico, Panipan Express, Pumpkin, TSC, Ratraco and Royal.

Sapa Train

Luxury four berth cabin from Hanoi to Sapa and back

Generally, it can be divided into three types of cabins: 4-berth cabin, 6-berth cabin and soft-chair cabin. The VIP rooms which costs $80 in Tulico and $100 in Livitran Express, the 4-berth wood panel cabin are the best choice for tourists for their cleanliness, spaciousness and convenience. The price per person in a 4-berth room ranges from $30 to $40 and 6-berth cabin is between $30-$35. A return ticket can also be bought right from Hanoi. Notably, children less than five years old will not be charged any ticket fee and will share beds with their parents.

Train Schedule and Sample Fare


                              SP1                   SP3               SP7


Hanoi (D)         9:10 P.M.         9:50 P.M.         8:35 P.M.

Sapa (A)          5:25 A.M.        6:15 A.M.        4:55 A.M.


                             SP2                 SP4                SP8


Sapa (D)          8:05 P.M.         8:45 P.M.         7:30 P.M.

Hanoi (A)         4:35 A.M.        5:10 A.M.        4:05 A.M.


Type            Hard seat             Soft seat           Hard berth        Soft berth

One way          $18                      $22                 $30                  $35

* Train named SP (or Sapa) are more popular option for travellers and make fewer stops on the way

As for train schedule, most trains depart from 20:40, 21:50 or 22:05 and arrive in Lao Cai at 4:35, 5:25 or 7:10, which means that it takes approximately eight to nine hours per ride. There are also two morning trains that depart at 6:10 and 8:20 and arrive in the afternoon at 15:40 and 17:05 though it is not recommended that you take these trains. 

Lao Cai station is about 38 kilometers from Sapa, which takes about one hour going by bus or by car. The bus cost from Lao Cai – Sapa is $5 and ticket is available for purchase at the train station gate. Normally the bus stop is right in front of Sapa church, but tourists can also ask the bus driver to drop them off at their booked hotel.

Train Stations


Address: 120 Le Duan Street, Hanoi

Tel: (+84-43) 825-3949

Ticket Hours: 7:30 - 19:30   

Hanoi Train Station has many alternate names – Tran Quy Cap, Hang Co or Le Duan Train Station (since this place use to be grass selling area for horse). It was established in 1902 by the French Colonial, originally to serve the French Government in transporting coal and other minerals to Haiphong port, and from there to deliver to France. After 1945, the station became the place to transfer soldiers to the South.

In 1976, Hanoi Train Station was rebuilt the last time and now become one of the most important stations of Vietnam Railway System. Now it has 2 areas: Area A (located on Le Duan street) is for the Thong Nhat railways, from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh city. Area B (located on Tran Quy Cap street) is for others railways (to North highlands, for example). Nowadays the station are modernized and upgraded with free Wifi, and railroad infrastructure sees frequent maintenance services. Read more about Hanoi train station.


Address: 2 Bui Thi Xuan Street, Hue

Tel: (+84-543) 822-175

Ticket Hours: 7:30 - 19:30   

Hue Train Station lays on the straight railways from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh city, built by the French Colonials in 1906 to transfer goods from the South to the North, and vice versa. This is a historical place, where patriots used to connect together through the secret areas around the station. In 1945, the station earned the name Tran Cao Van station, and from that time to 1975, the Station has carried thousands of young people to the South to fight for the Liberation. Nowadays Hue Train Station, based on Bui Thi Xuan Street, is one of important station of the country, a big transit point of the Center of Vietnam.


Address: 1 Nguyen Thong Street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh city

Tel: (+84-83) 843-6528

Ticket Hours: 7:30 - 19:30

Ho Chi Minh city Train Station is located in District 3, the most crucial economic and social center in the South of Vietnam. Its location makes this place an important node in the North –South railways system of Vietnam. The station serves more than a million passengers and thousands tons of goods annually, and this number is expected to increase rapidly in the foreseeable future. Back to the past, this station has been built on the base of the former Hoa Hung train station since 1978 after the North and South of Vietnam had been integrated. The construction of the new Saigon train station lasted for 5 years until 1983, an after that, this train station has become the main hub for train in the area that serves both people and goods. At present, Ga Saigon (Ho Chi Minh's train station) is also the most modern train station in the South of Vietnam, with high quality facility and well equipped waiting room. These services do not only aim to satisfy the passengers, but also reflect the accelerative development of Vietnam’s railways industry.

 Train Timetables

Following are the timetable and ticket information for North-south trains and Hanoi - Sapa trains. We will keep them updated as frequently as we can. If you want to see what train berths and seats image

 Train Seats and Berths

* Hard-seat

* Hard-berth has three tiers of beds (six berths per cabin). The upper berth is cheapest and the lower is most expensive and their level of comfort ascends by the price.

* Soft-seat includes vinyl-covered seats.

* Soft-berth has two tiers of beds (four berths per cabin). Within this soft-berth option, the cabin quality also varies, ranging from wood-paneled one to harsh plastic one.

From Hanoi to Sa Pa, there is a supremely luxurious option, which have two berths per room with luxurious facilities as found in 4 or 5 star hotels. This includes  Livitrans Train, King Express, Sapaly and Victoria trains. 

Ticket Reservation

There are many ways for you to buy a train ticket in Vietnam.

The traditional method is to buy directly at train stations. You can check the information about your desired trips in the board and then buy tickets from the tickets sellers. The disadvantage with this way of purchase is the sometimes long queue. Also, train ticket sale agents do not always understand English so you should write down of your desired destination just in case. Our travel company can help you reservation your ticket before you arrival in case Holiday dates in Vietnam so busy traveling.

A more convenient method is to book online through tourism websites: www.vietnamhiddencharm.info. But if you have no plan before so you can ask your tour agency for booking train tickets when you arrival.

 Vietnam train travel

Vietnam’s major provinces are well-connected by the train system. If you have a flexible schedule and want to save a few bucks, you can try travelling by train instead of airplane. There are pros and cons of train travelling, the following guide is expected to help you consider and make the most suitable choice with your budget plan

1) The joy of train travelling

Travelling by train in Vietnam is truly an unforgettable local experience. The biggest advantage of this means of transportation is the reasonable price and safety. The fare is half of airplane’s and only slightly more expensive than bus. Rustic as it is, the slow train goes along or even through mountains, forests, valleys and even ocean, which helps everyone enjoy Vietnam’s authentic natural vista. Moreover, spending a few hours on train is an interesting way to make friends with local and have a closer view about their daily life. Your travelling fellows come from every part of the society: students, workers, small business owners, and of course, tourists and you will have more chances to talk to them than when you travel on air.

In some certain routes, train is essential means to get to the destination. For example, to get from Hanoi to Sapa, the road remains rough and train provides an economic and time saving option to travel between the two. For those who want more than just the basic train amenities, there is an abundance of choices from 4 berth wooden panelled cabin to a cheap soft-seat, which can satisfy the needs of the most demanding passengers.

Even for short trips such as the 3 hour one between Hue and Hoi An (which stops in Danang station), travelling by train is still something worth considering. The hours sitting on Russian style train will expose you to breathtaking landscape of mountains and oceans on the way, and the slow speed means that you can use your camera to full.

2) Disadvantages of travelling by train

There are things you should be aware of.

Before heading to the station and hop on the train, you should keep in mind that train in Vietnam will not be as modern, superfast and clean as the expresses in Japan or Singapore, since Vietnam’s railway system was established more than a hundred years ago with occasional maintenance. The hard wooden seat makes it impossible for passengers to change the seat’s angle and lie down; while the soft seat, though has been covered with a layer of vinyl, is quite small and narrow. Passengers may feel uncomfortable with these two kinds of seats, especially during the long trip.

The carriage is often packed with people and sometimes too noisy, and tourists are expected to take great care of their luggage on their own, even if they buy tickets to sleep in berth in private cabin. Limited train services includes light blanket for passengers in cabin and a mobile food stall offering porridge, instant noodle and junk foods. In long routes, lunch boxes are available, but the food often gets cold and the dining space is inconvenient. There is only one toilet each carriage, so it may be overloaded or run out of water in the morning.

In other words, train travel may not be the most comfort choice for a long trip, such as those from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City and vice versa, but if you are really into an adventure, take your chances!

3) Tips for a train journey

• Book the ticket in advance to choose the best seat!

• Bring along some food for a late night supper if you are afraid of food quality on train. A large towel can be used as the blanket and keep you warm throughout the long trip.

• If you sleep in hard or soft seat, prepare a neck pillow.

• Do not bring too much baggage; you cannot have a good sleep while watching over your belongings all the time.

• Keep some small notes ready to pay for the taxi going to the station or buy junk food.

• Do some light exercise every couple of hour for blood circulation and getting rid of weariness.

• Do not buy food and souvenirs at transit stations along the road.

• If there is problem with your seat or food quality, do not hesitate to ask the coach’s conductor.