Violette Express Train
Quick company Intro
Violette Express Train began offering services from Hanoi in 2016. Like many other private transport operators in Vietnam, the carriages on all routes are purchased from Vietnam Railways, the national company which manages the country's rail network.
All carriages on the Violette Express Train are air-conditioned four-bed VIP sleepers so you can rest assured that you will be travelling in the most comfortable surroundings.
Routes served by Violette Express Train
Hanoi–Lao Cai (Sapa)
Initially, Violette Express Train only connected Hanoi with the northern town of Lao Cai, a key stop on the route to the ever-popular mountain town of Sapa. As Sapa doesn't have a train station, if you are heading there by train you'll have to travel to Lao Cai before then catching a bus to Sapa, which should take around an hour.
There is one train each evening leaving Hanoi at 22.00 for Lao Cai, a journey that should take around 8 ½ hours, arriving into Lao Cai at 06.20 the following morning. At 21.10 each evening you can catch a train from Lao Cai headed to Hanoi, arriving at 05.25. The tickets will cost VND1,030,000 regardless of which way you're headed.
A newer route introduced by the Violette Express Train, connects Hanoi with the popular tourist cities of Hue and Da Nang.
There are two departures each day from Hanoi to Da Nang, leaving at 19.30 and 22.00 (scheduled to arrive at 11.30 and 13.00 respectively). There are also two trains heading in the opposite direction every day, at 12.45 and 14.15, which arrive in Hanoi at 04.50 and 05.40. The 15 hour journey costs VND2,005,000 each way.
Travellers wishing to visit Hue can catch services that are headed for either Hanoi or Da Nang. Hue is around 13 hours from Hanoi with a single ticket priced at VND1,750,000. If you're travelling from Hanoi to Hue, then jump on the train headed for Da Nang (at 19.30 or 22.00 every day).
Alternatively, if you're already in Hue and want to travel to Hanoi you can purchase a ticket for trains leaving Da Nang that will stop at Hue at 15.30 and 16.45 and then take you all the way to Hanoi.
The route connecting Hanoi and Lao Cai is incredibly scenic and you'll enjoy stunning views. Train travel really is the best way to see this part of the country and although it may be a bit slow, the journey will fly by.
The VIP sleepers on these routes are usually pretty comfortable and all have charging ports so you should be able to keep yourself entertained for the duration of the journey.
Unfortunately, the arrival times in Hanoi from Lao Cai, Hue and Da Nang are not ideal. It can sometimes be difficult arriving early in the morning or late at night as you may not be able to get to your accommodation easily if you have booked somewhere specifically. If you haven't booked any accommodation then you might have to carry your bags around for a few hours at least.
Although the cabins are usually fairly clean, there can be issues with the bathrooms on board these trains. Western toilets are available but they may not be cleaned thoroughly during the journey so probably won't be up to the standard you used to.
Keep in mind
It's worth bearing in mind that Violette Express Train only offers berths in sleeper carriages and there are no seats. This means that if you're travelling the short distance between Hue and Da Nang then you'll probably want to consider an alternative operator.
What travellers say
The biggest complaint on board these trains is typically the cleanliness of the bathrooms. Unfortunately, this is likely to be an issue on most forms of transport throughout Vietnam.
The noise levels on these routes can also be a bit of a surprise and take some getting used but is part of the experience of train travel in Vietnam. In truth, tickets are slightly more expensive in these privately-run carriages so they are likely to be less noisy than the cheaper carriages managed by Vietnam Railways.