The North-South Railway of Vietnam follows the coast for much of its journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. There are some sections that travel along the sea, offering spectacular views. The most famous section of the railway is the Hai Van Pass.
The Hai Van Pass is between Da Nang and Lang Co, though most people take the trip from Da Nang to Hue. This section is often listed among the top train journeys in the world.
The Hai Van Pass was built to get around the headland on the coast that forms one side of Da Nang Bay. This mountainous section separates Thua Thien Hue province from Da Nang City. While the Hải Vân Tunnel has shortened the trip for vehicle traffic, the train still follows the same alignment from when it was first built over 100 years ago.
Da Nang is the nearest station to Hoi An, and getting the train on this scenic section is a memorable way to travel between two of the most historic cities in Vietnam. The trip takes about 3 hours, so it’s an easy travel day.
Hai Van Pass railway map
[Map of Hai Van Pass railway.]
How to get the train on the Hai Van Pass
The Hai Van Pass train is the normal Vietnam Railways train that travels from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. There are only 5 scheduled trains a day in each direction (and extra trains during holidays), so picking the right train is important. Some trains goes through the night, so they are useless for sightseeing purposes.
Tickets can be booked in advance via Vietnam Railways or local booking agent Baolau.
Seat options include soft seats or sleeper beds (4 or 6 in a cabin). When booking a soft seat, the best seats are on the side facing the sea.
Seats on the other side will give you a view of the jungle.
Going north from Da Nang the seats are on the right. Going south from Hue the seas are on the left. If you are getting the northbound train before Da Nang, your seats will be reversed at Da Nang. The train station in Da Nang is a dead end and the engines are switched to the other end of the train.
The train travels through thick jungle as it winds its way around the coast.
There are glimpses of secret beaches through the forest.
When the train has climbed high enough there are great views of the Modern Da Nang skyline across the Bay of Danang.
There is a Hai Van Station midway on the route, but there is nothing to do there.
An architectural landmark is the Vom Don Ca Bridge. You will see some of the bridge when the train turns, so refer to the Google Map for the location.
The train comes back down to sea level at Lang Co, which is a fishing port town that is an emerging tourist destination.
The train then travels through rice fields and wetlands.
Future train services
Vietnam is planning to build a high-speed railway that will replace the current service. A tunnel through the mountain so there will be no more sea views, but that is years away from happening.
This section will probably be kept for tourist trains. One train service that is being planned is the Revolution Express. This is a steam train service that will run from Da Nang to Lang Co.