Besides bus, the train is the perfect choice to travel Vietnam from North to South. After 30 years of war, the rail line connected Hanoi to Saigon was re-opened on day 31st of December 1976. The event marked a new period of peace and developing for the country. Nowadays, the 1730km long system of the “North-South Reunification Line” has become one of the most common means of transportation to travel not only for the safety but also for the beautiful scenery of magnificent mountains, poetic rivers and rustic villages you can witness from the train.
Travelling by train also costs you much less than travelling by plane even though it can be so quite slower. One more advantage is that you can bring along your motorbike or bike with you to the destination by paying a reasonable charge without worrying about damages while most of the coach brands aren’t able to do this.
The North-South Reunification Line
Schedule: Hanoi – Hue – Da Nang – HCMC
SE1 (19:30), SE2 (19:30), SE3 (22:00), SE4 (22:00): these are the best, equipped with air-conditioned soft sleepers (4-berth), air-conditioned hard sleepers (6-berth), air-conditioned soft seats.
SE5 (9:00), SE6 (9:00): Air-conditioned hard sleepers, air-conditioned soft seats, air-conditioned hard seats, and ordinary hard seats, no soft sleepers.
SE7 (6:00), SE8 (6:00): Only runs at busy times, air-con soft sleepers, air-con hard sleepers, air-con soft seats.
SE19 (20:10), SE20(18:40): Air-conditioned soft sleepers, air-conditioned hard sleepers, air-conditioned soft seats, air-conditioned hard seats, ordinary hard seats.
TN1 (13:10), TN2 (13:10): Air-conditioned hard sleepers (6-berth) & ordinary hard seats. No soft sleepers or soft seats.
SNT1 (19:00), SNT2 (20:30): Air-con soft sleepers (both older & newer types), air-con hard sleepers (both older & newer types), air-con soft seats.
SPT1/2 (13:10), PT3/4 (17:05): Air-con soft seats, also have various sleepers.
Hanoi – Lao Cai (Sapa)
There is no train to Sapa but only to Lao Cai city, from the city you can catch a local bus, or a coach or rent a motorbike to Sapa
Schedule: Hanoi – Yen Bai – Lao Cai
SP1 (21:40), SP2 (20:35): Tourist trains with air-conditioned soft sleepers only. Most of these train consists of privately-run sleeping-cars for tourists, including Fanxipan, King, Ratraco, Orient Express, Royal, TSC, Tulico, etc.
SP3 (22:00), SP4 (21:10): Recommended train with very few stops. Air-con soft sleepers and air-con hard sleepers only. These trains consist of privately-run sleeping-cars including the Sapaly Express Train, TSC, and the Victoria Express Train.
SP7 (20:30), SP8 (19:40): Earlier trains. Air-con soft sleepers, air-con hard sleepers, air-con soft seats. Conveys privately-run Livitrans sleeping-cars.
LC3 (6:10), LC4 (10:05): Daytime trains. Tea, coffee & snacks are available onboard.
LC1, LC2: Slower overnight trains. Air-con hard sleepers, air-con soft seats, air-con hard seats, non-air-con hard seats. No soft sleepers.
How to buy train tickets
Buy at the railway station
You can buy a railway ticket in two ways, directly at train stations or online.
Hanoi train station office: Le Duan St.
Saigon train station office: 275C Pham Ngu Lao St.
Because the ticket’s information is only available in Vietnamese, ask the staff carefully to avoid mistakes. On holidays or Tet, you should book your tickets as soon as possible. You pay in Vietnamese Dong, US Dollars are not accepted. You can not use a credit card to pay.
Buy tickets online
If you want to buy a ticket before entering Vietnam, you can buy through a local train agency. In Vietnam, you can book tickets yourself directly through this website Vietnam-Railway.com www.vietnam-railway.com