The Hanoi-Haiphong railway is one of the few railway lines in Vietnam that is not part of the main north-south railway.
Originally this line was part of the Yunnan-Haiphong Railway that was built by France between 1904–1910. Haiphong is the closest seaport to Hanoi so it’s always been an important access point for Hanoi.
Haiphong is worthy of a visit in itself, so having the option of getting there by train from Hanoi is a bonus.
Unfortunately, the railway is absurdly slow when you consider the distance and relatively easy terrain it covers. The trip takes 2h 35m for the 102 km journey, averaging approximately 40km/h.
By comparison, the bus takes just 1h 10m, though it loses a competitive advantage by departing from Gia Lam Bus Station on the other side of the Red River, opposite the old city. For the casual traveller, the convenience and comfort of taking the train will outweigh the benefits of bus travel.
Book Hanoi – Haiphong train tickets
I booked online at booking agent Baolau, where I was presented with a hard seat or soft seat option.
I went with the soft seat for an extra 10,000 VND.
The total ticket price was 138,000 VND ($5.90 USD).
I booked online but for this short line you could buy the ticket on the day. For longer trips and when you want a sleeper I recommend booking Vietnam rail tickets in advance.
There are four trains a day in either direction so getting a seat on the same day shouldn’t be a problem.
Haiphong Station is conveniently located within the old city area, and the station building is one of the nicest in Vietnam.
I arrived a bit earlier so I could have my first coffee of the day without rushing. There is an outdoor cafe opposite the station where you can sit on little plastic seats while having a Vietnamese iced coffee.
Haiphong to Hanoi – trip review
The train departed on time, which shouldn’t be too hard given the relatively short route.
My ticket had an assigned seat so I went to my carriage. There were a lot of people getting onboard so I was surprised to find that I had the whole carriage to myself.
The train is slower than the bus, so my guess is that if people are going to get the train they will be getting it for price. With the soft seat ticket being not much different than a bus, passengers will more likely get the bus.
The carriage was air conditioned and the seats were indeed soft. The wooden panels and lamp shades gave the carriage a 70’s lounge feel.
Hopefully I don’t have to crack this box open.
There was no food and drink cart like you see on the north-south line, unless there was but they couldn’t be bothered to visit the sole passenger in the last carriage. There was a hot water unit, though I don’t know if it was in service.
I don’t remember how old I was when I discovered that “WC” stands for “water closet”, but I was well into my adulthood. It’s always used as a polite way of saying toilet, and I just thought that it stood for “waste compartment”. I was thinking about this when I went to the toilet as it was the size of a closet.
I had to step to the side to let myself in and out. Despite the cramped space, it still beats a bus with no toilet. And like the trains in Malaysia and Thailand, every self respecting toilet in Southeast Asia has a bum gun.
Haiphong to Hanoi is not the most scenic route. It’s flat the whole way, with a mix of agriculture and industry. The railway line runs alongside a road for much of the way.
On the other side there are stretches of scenic countryside.
One day I imagine that Hanoi and Haiphong will merge into one urban area, but for now there is still rural beauty along the line,
The train runs on a single line of 1-metre gauge, and there are occasional passing loops to let opposing trains pass.
Trains are timed to pass at the station stops. Here we pass an opposing train at Cam Giang Station.
Getting closer to Hanoi and the neighbouring provinces start to merge into Greater Hanoi. If you had momentarily forgotten what country you are in these skinny buildings would remind you that you’re in Vietnam.
The train stops at Gia Lam railway station in Gia Lam district of Hanoi, east of the Red River. This station is the terminus of Hanoi-Nanning railway service. The train from China operates on a standard gauge, while the main Hanoi railway station only has metre gauge tracks.
The Red River Railway Bridge is a grand entrance into Hanoi, and you can see motorbikes riding alongside the train.
Getting closer to the station the train passes through the built-up urban area of Hanoi via a single track. The Hanoi Train Street is now an Instagram-famous location, and you will see people lined along the narrow passageway taking photos of the train.
Ga Ha Noi (Hanoi railway station) is also located close to the old town so it makes a for a good entry into Hanoi. In contrast to the colonial-style building of Haiphong, the central hall of Ga Ha Noi was rebuilt in a modern style in 1976 due to being damaged in the war.
Taxis are my least favourite aspect of visiting Hanoi, but fortunately there is Grab like in Saigon.
Map of Hanoi – Haiphong railway
This map shows Hanoi and Haiphong, as well as stations on the way to Kunming in China.
View map of Hanoi – Haiphong railway
Future prospects of the Hanoi – Haiphong railway
With Hanoi and Haiphong being the second and third largest cities in Vietnam, this city pair would be an ideal candidate to have a railway upgrade. There should be commuter trains here, where people can live and work in either city.
An intercity train travelling at 160 km/h would do the journey in about 38 minutes, and 200 km/h would take about 30 minutes.
There have been talks to upgrade the railway from Haiphong to Lao Cai on the Chinese border. Under the plan the railway would be converted to standard gauge, which would then connect with the railway at Hekou, thus restoring the original Kunming Haiphong railway.
This proposal is covered in the current and proposed railways in Southeast Asia.