Livitrans Express was launched in 2007, connecting Vietnam's capital city, Hanoi, with Lao Cai, the gateway to the incredibly popular town of Sapa. Based in Hanoi, Livitrans Express runs private carriages on routes managed by Vietnam Railways and is one of the most popular operators for tourists looking to head north from Hanoi.
Routes served by Livitrans Express Train
Previously, Livitrans Express offered just one route but this service has since been expanded to cover three major routes throughout the country.
Hanoi–Lao Cai (Sapa)
Firstly, there is one train per day leaving Hanoi for Lao Cai at 21.30, arriving in the town at 05.25, so anyone looking to head to Sapa from there should arrive in the early morning. The journey to Lao Cai takes around eight hours and costs VND835,000 for a berth in a four-bed VIP sleeper carriage. The return journey is priced the same but leaves Lao Cai at 20.35, arriving in Hanoi at around 04.45.
A newer addition to the Livitrans Express schedule is the Hanoi – Hue – Da Nang route, which takes around 16 hours in total. There are two departures from Hanoi each day, at 19.30 and 22.00. The 19.30 departure arrives in Hue at 08.50 the next morning (13 hours) and arrives in Da Nang at about 11.25 (16 hours after leaving Hanoi). If you depart from Hanoi at 22.00, you'll reach Hue and Da Nang at 10.35 and 14.00 respectively. Tickets are priced at VND1,700,000 to Hue and VND2,000,000 to Da Nang.
If you're leaving Da Nang to head back to Hanoi, you have two options. Trains depart Da Nang at 12.45 and 14.13, taking around 3 hours to get to Hue and 16 hours to reach Hanoi. Prices are the same regardless of the direction you're travelling in.
Ho Chi Minh City–Nha Trang
You can also book tickets with Livitrans Express to travel between Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and the beach resort of Nha Trang. There is one train each evening, leaving HCMC at 20.30 (arrives in Nha Trang at 05.30) and departing Nha Trang at 19.10, which is scheduled to arrive in HCMC at 03.24. The journey takes around nine hours in either direction and costs VND1,100,000.
If you're travelling on the Hanoi – Da Nang route then you will be pleased with the well-scheduled arrival times, which minimises any hassle caused by arriving late at night or early in the morning, when it can be difficult to find accommodation.
There are also charging ports in all the carriages so you can ensure that your phone is fully charged in case you need to contact someone when you arrive, or to use your map to find your hotel.
All the carriages offered by Livitrans Express are four-bed VIP sleepers, so you know that you will be travelling in greater comfort than if you booked with another operator.
It can be worth getting to the station early, especially if you're boarding at the start of the route, as sometimes the carriages can be overbooked. Don't worry, you'll still get onto the train you booked but if you turn up just before the train departs then you may find someone in your seat and will have the hassle of trying to explain the problem to a guard. It's best to just get there in plenty of time.
The other major issue is that the cleanliness of the carriages isn't always up to the standard you might expect, especially as you're paying a little more than if your purchased a ticket with Vietnam Railways. The toilets on these carriages are western toilets but, again, they are not always as clean as you'd like.
Keep in mind
All the carriages on services with Livitrans Express are air-conditioned VIP sleepers so the beds are about as comfortable as it gets on an overnight train in Vietnam.
This company is primarily aimed at foreign tourists, so you are paying a bit of a premium for this service.
Also, if you're travelling between Hue and Da Nang it is probably not worth the extra cost to pay for a sleeper for just three hours, if this is the case then you should look at other operators as Livitrans Express doesn't offer seats, only sleeper berths.
The biggest complaint is the cleanliness of the toilets, unfortunately, this is likely to be the case on the vast majority of train services across the country. Livitrans Express carriages are part of a train managed by Vietnam Railways and the cleanliness on the standard carriages elsewhere in the train is likely to be just as much, if not more, of an issue.
The VIP four-bed cabins are ideal if you are travelling in a group of four as you will have a private room. Even if there are three of you, you might want to consider paying for an extra space so you can get a bit more room between you all as well as added privacy.