Hanoi Train Street – An infrastructure anomaly that’s become an Instagram sensation

Hanoi Train Street

One of the more unusual tourist attractions to emerge in Hanoi is the Hanoi train street. This “street” is more of a passageway that has a single railway line passing through it. There are houses on either side with barely enough room for the train to pass through. The railway is not fenced off, so it’s possible to walk along the railway when the train isn’t running.

This infrastructure anomaly has now become a famous site in Hanoi. Somehow word got out that this is a thing to do. It might have been a single Instagram post, just like the viral post that launched the fame of the Golden Bridge near Danang.

To get an idea of its popularity search for #hanoitrainstreet and #trainstreet on Instagram.

I’ve been seeing #trainstreet appear in my feed more often, so on this trip to Hanoi I went by to have another look. I went a few years ago but it was nowhere near as busy as it is now.

It’s become a bit of a circus since my last visit, with most of the houses along here having converted into cafes and restaurants. The last time I came here cafes were starting to put tables and chairs on the tracks, but the police have since banned that practice.

Train Street cafes

Plenty of Instagram husbands/partners working hard with their models sitting or walking along the railway.

Instagrammers

And where there are crowds of tourists there are street vendors.

Train street vendor

I was fortuitous to be walking by about 10 minutes before a train arrived so I found a cafe to watch the spectacle. When the train is approaching someone rings a bell and the tracks are cleared.

Train passing through train street

The train makes its way through the passageway with barely enough room on either side.

Train roof

After the train passed through people erupted into applause, which reminded me of how in some countries passengers would clap when the plane lands.

Clapping the train

Location of Hanoi train street

There are two sections of railway that are “train streets”, at the north and south entrance points to the main train station (Ga Ha Noi). Here is the map of the Hanoi train street locations.


[Map of Hanoi Train Street.]

I visited the train street to the north of the station, which is in the old quarter district of Hoan Kiem. This street is easy to walk to if you are staying in the old city, and this section has the most cafes along the railway. Even if there’s no train is a fun place to hang out. I started at Tran Phu Street and walked along the track. Some of the cafes have posted the timetable, or you can ask at one of the cafes.

Train times

The trains that pass through here are northern services, with trains to Haiphong and Lao Cai (the train to Sapa). As the trains in either direction are sharing a single track there is no evenly scheduled services so you will need to consult the timetable.

The train street at the south entrance of the station is at Ngo 224 Le Duan in Dong da District. Ga Ha Noi is on Le Duan Street, so if you walk south of the station you will get to the alley Ngo 224.

The future of the Hanoi train street

Watching the train pass through this narrow passageway is a spectacle from a tourists perspective, but it’s no way to run a railway for a city that is approaching a population of 10 million people.

Dangerous area

This single railway line is for trains in both directions. If a train is arriving late into Hanoi, then a train that is ready to depart has to wait until the track is clear. Thus delays beget delays.

Eventually there will need to be a dual track, and it will be upgraded to standard gauge instead of the current meter gauge. There are plans for a high-speed railway, so this routing might be removed altogether due to lack of space.

At the current rate of planning and development it will be years before this line is decommissioned, so you still have time to see this.

Like the Bamboo Railway in Battambang and the Maeklong market train in Thailand, the Hanoi train street should become a relic of the past as Southeast Asia modernises.

You can find all the planned railways for Vietnam on the map of proposed railways in Southeast Asia.

Current and proposed railways of Southeast Asia (2017)
[Click here for larger downloadable image.]

For more rail stories in Vietnam and ASEAN check out the Southeast Asia railway guide.


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Comments

  1. Graham Orbell says

    Thanks for the classic photos of the Railway Street. Unfortunately we didn’t know about it when we arrived in Hanoi several years ago but we did catch the night train to Lao Cai and then by van up the hill to Sapa.

    We did of course travel in that train along Railway Street at dusk and could look into the homes of people eating their evening meals maybe 3 metres away.

    I highly recommend the night train from Hanoi to Lao Cai which was very smooth and comfortable and has optional compartments with 4 bunks; 2 up and 2 down. Not luxurious but clean with good toilets. Also recommended is the day and a half walk down Sapa Valley with a guide and staying in a local house with a family for the night; sleeping on bags of rice in the loft. Language no problem with the guide helping over a couple of glasses of beer or rice wine with the family in the evening. Guides are often, in our experience, trained school teachers who can’t get a teaching job and want to improve their English.

  2. Hey James, I was there today, south of the station, and even though they banned putting things on the track, the restaurants are back at it, I guess, filling the tracks with tables, chairs and wood to walk on. I guess tourists just love the spectacle of sitting on railroad tracks…

  3. I’ve been following the hashtag #hanoitrainstreet for a while and I hope someday I can be there and live it in person!

  4. Hi, thanks for writing this blog post, it was really useful and interesting. Me and my boyfriend really want to visit Vietnam in the future and it’s cool to find some interesting places to visit before we go.

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