Getting the train in Vietnam is the classic way to see the country. The long North-South line that travels along the coast is often listed among the best train routes in the world. While the train system is old and slow, it beats taking the bus, and you will see more than flying from point to point.
This guide lists all of the current railways in Vietnam, how to buy tickets, and other frequently asked questions.
Maps of Vietnam railway lines
Vietnam railway lines
North–South Railway (Hanoi-Saigon Railway)
– Saigon-Phan Thiet (Train for Mui Ne beach resort area)
– Saigon- Quy Nhon (Train to the up-and-coming city by the sea)
Hanoi-Lao Cai Railway (Overnight train to Sapa)
Hanoi-Haiphong Railway (Visit historic Haiphong)
Hanoi-Dong Dang Railway (Train to Nanning, China)
Hanoi-Ha Long Railway (Under renovation)
Da Lat–Trại Mát Railway (Restored segment of Da Lat Railway)
The Vietage (Luxury train from Danang to Quy Nhon)
Frequently asked questions
Maps of Vietnam railway lines
All operating railway lines in Vietnam are listed on this Google Map.
[View map of Vietnam railways.]
The Vietnam railway map at Wikimedia shows all the current lines alongside some of the proposed lines.
[Vietnam Railway Map.svg by Dragfyre via Wikimedia Commons.]
[View full map.]
Where to buy tickets
[Ticket office at Hue]
Tickets can be bought for same-day travel and in advance at the station, though you would be wise to buy tickets in advance. Tickets sell out (especially for sleeper beds) so it is better to book online.
Official booking agents (for a more user-friendly booking experience):
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Vietnam railway lines
Vietnam’s long and skinny land has one main line running north to south, with a few other lines radiating from Hanoi.
The North-South Railway (also known as the Reunification Express) is the main railway of Vietnam that connects Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. it’s also called the Hanoi-Saigon railway (the station in Ho Chi Minh City is still named Ga Sai Gon).
[Ga Sai Gon]
The railway is a single-track metre-gauge railway with a length of 1,726 km. The trains are diesel locomotives, and the fastest service takes 29 hrs 30 mins at an average speed of 58.5 km/h.
Most of the railway runs on a single track, so north-south and south-north trains share the same line. The railway relies on passing loops where a train waits until the opposing train passes. With only one line for both directions, trains leave at odd hours throughout the day. If one train is late this has a knock-on effect on oncoming trains, so don’t plan anything time sensitive if you are planning to travel by rail.
[Waiting for a train to pass at a passing loop]
It’s an old and slow system, so it is no surprise that air travel has become more popular. Only the most dedicated railway fan with time on their hand is going to travel non-stop between Hanoi and Saigon. For visitors though, the railway is an ideal way to see some of the highlights of the country by breaking up the trip along the way.
The most popular stops for tourists along the way are:
– Ha Noi
– Ninh Binh (for Trang An Landscape Complex)
– Dong Hoi (for Phong Nha)
– The Hai Van Pass
– Da Nang (for Hoi An)
– Dieu Tri (for Quy Nhon)
– Nha Trang
– Binh Thuan (for Phan Thiet)
– Sai Gon
If you know the destinations that you want to visit, then use the booking sites to find a train service at a suitable hour. Mix and match ticket types. For longer journeys, a sleeper bed is a good option, while for shorter trips during the day, a seat is a better option.
For example, the train from Saigon to Nha Train has trains that are timed for sleeper services, but you can also travel during the day at a normal hour. Here is my review of the day train from Nha Trang to Saigon.
Phan Thiet Station is on a spur line off the North-South Railway. Phan Thiet is the closest beach that can be reached by train from Ho Chi Minh City. The Saigon-Phan Thiet train is a daily service that is tailored for Saigonese looking for a beach break. An extra service runs during holiday periods. Most foreigners refer to Phan Thiet as Mui Ne, which is the beach area neighbouring Phan Thiet.
The train travels along the North-South route to Binh Thuan, and from there it branches off to Phan Thiet. This branch line is about 10 km and it arrives at a station on the city outskirts. There is a public bus to the city or the Mui Ne beaches, or just get one of the taxis/order a Grab to the beach area.
If you can’t get a ticket for this train the other option is to get one of the North-South trains to Binh Thuan, and then get a taxi from there.
Here is my review of the trip from Saigon to Phan Thiet by train.
Saigon – Quy Nhon
[Quy Nhon Station]
Quy Nhon also has a station that is served by a spur line off the North-South Railway. There is a daily overnight train from Saigon to Quy Nhon. This train travels along the North-South Railway to Dieu Tri, Binh Dinh Province.
If the Quy Nhon train isn’t running or if the tickets have sold out, the alternative is the get the train to Dieu Tri (Binh Dinh) and then get a taxi to Quy Nhon (about 10 km away).
[Railway crossing in Quy Nhon]
Hanoi-Lao Cai Railway
[Lao Cai Station]
The Hanoi-Lao Cai Railway is an overnight service that runs to Lao Cai on the Vietnam-China border. Lao Cai is the closest station to the popular mountain resort town of Sapa. There are buses and minivans that wait at the station to take train passengers to Sapa, which takes about 45 minutes. There are also package tickets available from travel agencies in Hanoi that will sell train and bus transfer tickets.
The Hanoi-Lao Cai service is operated by Vietnam Railways, but there are special carriages that are added to the train that tour companies own. The online booking sites show all of the available seats.
The train used to run to Kunming in China, but that no longer operates. You can walk across the border to Hekou and get the train to Kunming.
[The closed railway bridge to China in Lao Cai]
The Hanoi-Lao Cai service only operates at night in both directions, so there is no chance to get a day train and stop somewhere along the way. There is another service that runs during the day on the same line from Hanoi to Yen Bai, though this service was suspended.
The Hanoi-Haiphong Railway is the most useful railway of all the Northern lines. Trains run throughout the day and the trip takes about 3 hours. Here is my review of the Hanoi-Haiphong train.
Haiphong is a historic port city that makes for a good side trip from Hanoi. It is a working city, but there are enough historical buildings to make it an interesting place. The fact that it is not on the main North-South lines means that it gets fewer visitors than the other cities starting with the letter “H” in Vietnam.
Book tickets for Hanoi to Hai Phong by train.
Another reason to visit Haiphong is to travel to Cat Ba Island. You could travel through Halong Bay and return to Hanoi via Halong City.
Book tickets for Hai Phong to Cat Ba by ferry..
Hanoi-Dong Dang Railway
[Nam Ninh (Nanning) – Ha Noi train]
The Hanoi-Dong Dang Railway is the line that forms part of the Hanoi-Nanning Railway service. This is the only international railway service that operates in Vietnam. The service is currently suspended until China fully reopens after the pandemic lockout.
Hanoi-Ha Long Railway
The train from Hanoi to Ha Long City is not operating at the moment. The line has been under rehabilitation for years but has been mired in delays. When the line was running it would take over 7 hours to cover 190 km, so it was truly in need of an upgrade.
Da Lat–Trại Mát Railway
[Seats in the Da Lat–Trại Mát Railway.]
Da Lat–Trại Mát Railway is an 8 km section of railway that has been restored from the former Da Lat–Thap Cham railway. The train is primarily a tourist service for visitors to Da Lat.
Tickets for the railways can be bought on the day of travel at Da Lat Station.
Read more about the Da Lat – Trai Mat Railway.
The Vietage is a luxury train service that operates between Da Nang and Quy Nhon.
Read more at thevietagetrain.com.
Frequently asked questions
Is there a train to Hoi An?
There is no train to Hoi An. The nearest station is Da Nang, which is about 30 km away.
Is the Hanoi Train Street open?
Hanoi Train Street is officially off limits for visitors and the cafes have been ordered to close.
Where is the most scenic section of the North-South Railway?
The railway between Danandg and Hue is the most scenic section of the railway. The line travels around the Hai Van Pass, offering scenic views of the coast as it travels through a forested area.
Is there a high-speed railway in Vietnam?
There is a plan to build a North–South Express Railway which will replace the current railway, but that hasn’t been approved yet.
Can you take a motorbike on the train?
Vietnam is a motorbike country, so if you are mixing your travel styles here is how to travel on the train with your bike.
Motorbike on the train: Saigon to Phan Thiet