Train travel in Vietnam: From Hanoi to Hue by night train

From Hanoi, I planned to continue to Hue to see the imperial city. Travelling through Vietnam by train seemed like a nice idea to see a bit from the countryside on the way. Train travel is easy in Vietnam: The best option was to take the night train that runs from the north of Vietnam down to the south, from Hanoi to Saigon. But when I got lost in the noisy and crowded with streets of Hanoi, I noticed these apparently old railroad tracks right in the middle of the city, in a quiet alley: The Hanoi train street!

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Hanoi train street railway track between houses
The train street is a major tourist attraction in Hanoi: The railway track passes between the houses in a narrow alley.

In the middle of the city, between houses, this rail track runs through Hanoi, it’s unbelievable! Probably from a small train, an old streetcar or similar, I thought. Right through the middle of the densely populated city, this track cut its way, regardless of the people living nearby. Which train still passed along here? Or maybe the line had been closed years ago. That was my first thought. But in fact, long-distance trains run along here every day. The residents have arranged themselves with the train, there are no safety precautions, you just pay a little more attention as soon as the train is passing through. In the meantime, the curious track has also become a permanent tourist attraction in Hanoi – there are now also cafés and shops with seats directly next to the track (where there is still some space).

Train travel in Vietnam: Train from Hanoi to Hue

In the evening, I boarded the big night train to Hue (SE3) at the station in Hanoi. The train rolled off, picked up speed, I looked out of the window – and straight into the living rooms. The train took exactly the same railway track in Hanoi I had been marvelling at the day before. A very special experience.

Night Train Hanoi Hue Vietnam Station
About to leave to South Vietnam: The night train at the main station in Hanoi.

I didn’t regret to take the train instead of a bus: There was no rush, no stress at the main station. Such a pleasant form of traveling! The night train leaves for the south – all the way down to Saigon. I don’t remember ever taking a night train in my life and I wondered why. Because the train ride through half of Vietnam was really great. A compartment consists of four beds, two upper beds and two lower beds. Luckily the receptionist from my hostel in Hanoi managed to book one of the lower beds for me, which are a bit more comfortable.

Sleeping on the night train in Vietnam

Pillows and blankets were provided for every traveller, although I my own sleeping equipment of pillows and a sleeping bag. Definitely recommended – on my travels my sleeping bag has always served me well as I am an extremely picky hotel guest ;) From time to time there is also a small snack cart passing by with instant soup and coffee, so if you forgot to bring your own snacks, you don’t need to worry.

Night Train Hanoi to Hue SE3
There’s even a Vietnamese newspaper and water for free: In the compartments of the sleeper car with four beds you will have a comfortable train ride.

Traveling through Vietnam by train: Arriving in Hue

So the train rolled through Vietnam at night and I slept like a baby in the sleeper. I really loved the train ride! Contrary to my expectations, the gentle motion of the train was not so disturbing and rather soothing. In Hue I finally left the train – and Vietnam had me back. Despite my firm intention not to fall for shady taxi drivers lurking for travelers from the night train at the station, that’s exactly what happened. And minutes later, I sat with my luggage in an unlicensed, shabby “taxi” paying an overpriced fare to get to my hotel. So beware of those tourist traps!

Train rides in Vietnam: Information, tickets and helpful tips

Many tourists are travelling in Vietnam from north to south or vice versa, from Hanoi to Saigon or vice versa. Vietnam has a well-developed long-distance bus network and cheap flights to larger cities such as Da Nang, so it’s usually not a problem to get from A to B. But I highly recommend to include a route by train! The train journey was really comfortable (Book 1st class!) and very relaxing. For those, who are on the road with a tight budget, there is also a financial advantage, when you are taking an overnight train: You will save one night at a hotel or hostel!

Of course there are also night buses, but as a solo traveller I always try to avoid them. Night buses seem to me to be more insecure regarding potential pickpockets/luggage theft etc.. On the train, however, I didn’t think about it. The train doesn’t stop often on the way, and you can keep your luggage always near you in the compartment.

Tickets for the train can be bought at the station, but also in hotels and the usual travel agencies, which can also be found at every corner in Vietnam. Reservation is recommended (I bought my ticket the day before at the hotel).

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