About Vietnam Railways
Vietnam Railways is the national train carrier of Vietnam. It runs the country's major railway line, the 1600 km-long Reunification Line, also known as North-South express railway Vietnam, as well as minor lines around the country, including Lao Cai, and Haiphong lines.
The main line connects Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam's two major cities. The Reunification Line was completed in 1936, with services running until 1954 when war divided the country. It was not then possible to catch a train from Hanoi to HCMC until 1976.
Note that some VNR trains feature carriages reserved by private transport operators widely known as luxury trains.
Vietnam railway system and most popular routes
Trains in Vietnam are a cheap, convenient and comfortable way to travel the country. The main train route in Vietnam goes north–south with almost all the major tourist destinations lying on, or close to, the Reunification Line so it's easy to get anywhere you might want to go in Vietnam by train.
Other reasons to consider train travel in Vietnam:
Taking an overnight train saves you the precious daytime of your vacation and some bucks for accommodation
Scenery from your railway carriage window, both urban and rural, is terrific and gives you a wonderful insight into the local life
Vietnam has a wide network of railway stations – you can get almost anywhere by rail
A train trip is a quintessentially Vietnamese experience not to be skipped
Here are some of the most popular Vietnam train journeys to take:
The most popular stops along this line include
This is arguably the most popular Vietnam train line with international tourists. It brings you to Lao Cai, which is the closest railway station to the hill station of Sapa. Sapa town itself does not have its own train station, but there are plenty of buses and taxis heading to Sapa from Lao Cai, around 40 km away.
Getting from Hanoi to Lao Cai takes around nine hours.
To travel onward to Ha Long Bay and Cat Ba Island, catch the Hanoi to Hai Phong train. A journey to Hai Phong takes around three hours.
Vietnam train schedule
There are at least 6 trains plying the Reunification Line every day with the extended train timetable during peak seasons like Tet festival (Vietnamese New Year) in January or February.
Odd numbered trains travel from north to south and even numbered ones – in the opposite direction.
For the most comfortable train travel choose SE1, SE2, SE3 and SE4 trains, which are the best trains in Vietnam equipped with AC soft and hard sleepers.
Classes in Vietnam trains
There is a wide range of berths and seats classes for all trips from which you can choose depending or whether you want a seat or a sleeper, air-conditioning or not.
There is no such thing as a ‘tourist train’ in Vietnam railways rolling stock. Usually, the term refers to private luxury carriages that are added to standard Vietnam Railways trains on certain routes, e.g. from Hanoi to Sapa or from Hanoi to Da Nang.
The best choice for long-distance travel in Vietnam is sleeper trains. They can be both day and night trains.
First class sleeper trains in Vietnam are called soft-sleepers.
1st class sleeper trains can be of two varieties: VIP soft sleepers with 2-berths compartments and ordinary soft-sleepers featuring seven 4-berths compartments with 2 upper and 2 lower berths. They are all air-conditioned and were refurbished to ‘5 star’ trains a couple years ago.
Second class sleepers are called hard sleepers.
These are a great and budget-friendly way for overnight train journey, too. Each compartment in a hard sleeper is equipped with 6 berths – 2 lower, 2 middle and 2 upper. They are air-conditioned, too.
Seats come in three varieties:
AC soft seats ideal for daytime journeys like from Da Nang to Hue. They usually have power sockets for charging your mobile devices.
AC hard seats are wooden seats, which may not be the best choice for longer journeys but work perfectly well on shorter distances.
Ordinary hard seats are exactly the same as the previous option but there is no air-conditioning. Yet windows can be open along the way to enjoy the view and some fresh air.
Vietnam Railway tickets
Vietnam train tickets can be bought online or at any railway station in the country.
Vietnam railways open booking 60 days before the departure date (for certain routes – 90 days before) and it is highly advisable to buy train tickets in advance for longer routes and if you need to travel on a specific date in a soft or hard sleeper.
There are no open-date tickets – you have to specify the date and the route for each segment you wish to travel.
Train tickets in Vietnam cost the same for locals and foreigners – there is no dual-pricing policy.
For online booking you have several options including buying directly from Vietnam Railways website. The difficulty here is that only Vietnamese credit cards are accepted, so if you do not have one, you won’t be able to pay for your ticket.
Our website accepts all types of credit cards and offers seamless online Vietnam train tickets booking process. We charge a small booking and processing fee.
Both day and overnight trains in Vietnam are a more convenient and comfortable way to get around Vietnam than buses.
VN railways offer brilliant value for money. Vietnam train prices are surprisingly low – e.g. there is no other way to travel from Hanoi to Saigon for less than 1 million dong.
Trains in Vietnam are pretty comfortable. The majority of them were given a facelift several years ago and now are of a very good standard.
Traditional Vietnamese food sold by vendors in the carriages is super tasty and all part of the experience.
There are charging ports throughout the carriages.
Families travelling with children will be pleased to hear that children aged below four years old can travel for free, whilst those between five and nine years old get a 25% discounted fare.
Delays are common and the journey is often very long and slow so you should take this into consideration when planning your trip.
The air-conditioning is not always the best quality; it can be too hot or too cold.
Cleanliness of the carriages – especially bathrooms – may sometimes be an issue though the situation has improved considerably lately.
Check the bedding if you board a train mid-way between Hanoi and HCMC as it may not have been changed after the previous traveller.
There are no announcements when you are arriving into a station so make sure you pay attention or find out when you are due to arrive so you can set an alarm to wake you up.