How is train travel in Vietnam?
Traveling by train is a good option to see the whole of Vietnam. There is a direct line from North (Hanoi) to South (Saigon). We can not compare trains here in Vietnam with trains in Europe, but the trains are in good condition, with the newer trains equipped with modern air-conditioned coaches and sleeper cabins for the popular overnight routes. Running not faster than the bus, but much safer, Footprint suggests, whenever there is an option with the train, take it!
The major routes is the North to South train that links Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, serving most popular destinations along the way, and the Northern line from Hanoi to Sapa. There are also trains that go beyond to Beijing and China.
Travel between Hanoi and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)
Vietnam’s Reunification Express (Thong Nhat) is the main train line running between North and South, connecting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and stopping at many destinations along the coast, including Hue, Danang, and Nha Trang. The train trip from Hanoi to HCMC is 1,726 km (1,070 miles), taking more than 30 hours, although few people do it in one long journey without stopping along the way.
The two major types of trains are the: SE (SE1-SE6) and TN (TN3-TN10). In general, the SE trains are the better trains with modern air-conditioned coaches and larger windows, as well as a restaurant car.
Travel between Hanoi and Lao Cai (Sapa), and beyond
From Hanoi, there are also trains that run northwest or northeast with border crossings into China (please click here for more information on trains to and from China).
A popular route is between Hanoi and Lao Cai, which is the closest train station to the tourist destination of Sapa. The trip from Hanoi to Lao Cai takes about 10 hours, with most choosing to do an overnight trip. There is a number of tourist trains that run daily from Hanoi to Lao Cai and back, including Viet Royal, Tulico, Ratraco, all with air-conditioned soft sleeper cabins which are comfortable, although not luxurious. For a luxury option, the Victoria Sapa has its own luxury cabins on the train for those that will stay at their hotel.