Vietnam has a very extensive and good train network from Ho Chi Minh City (South) to Lao Cai, the station for a visit to Sapa in the north of Vietnam. Traveling by train through Vietnam is a lot easier than by bus. Although it can be slower than by bus, you have a lot more space and it is safer. The traces, and trains, are a bit outdated but it’s a great way to explore Vietnam. Certainly the night trains, with air conditioning and beds, are a better alternative than the long bus routes.
The railways of Vietnam Railways run along the coast and connect Hanoi with Ho Chi Minh City and Haiphong with branches to the Chinese border. The government is busy modernizing the network and the trains themselves. Trains designated by SE are often new and faster trains. Trains that are designated by TN are the outdated trains.
You can usually choose from hard seat, soft seat, hard sleeper and soft sleeper. And then with or without air conditioning. Hard seat, the cheapest class, is often full with locals. It is even possible to take your motorbike (or maybe bike) on the train. Like many countries, Vietnam also has the option of night trains, which saves an overnight stay in a hotel and a day of traveling and often a better alternative than a long bus journey. The fastest route from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City is about thirty hours. The train is running quite slowly; often at around 50 km/h through the landscape.
Train tickets are generally more expensive than the bus, but cheaper than a domestic flight. The price of tickets depends on your train and which class you book. Hard seat is the cheapest, and least comfortable option. Soft sleeper is suitable for long distances at night but also more expensive (recommended!). For a ride from Hanoi to Hue you pay about 492,000 Dong, which is about $ 22. Often, the sooner you book the tickets, the cheaper the price. Because the trains in Vietnam always have a limited amount of soft sleepers, it is wise to book train tickets as early as possible. Train tickets are usually available from 60 days before departure date (some 90 days in advance). Tickets can be obtained from stations and travel agencies, hotels and cafes.
You can find the most popular train stations in Vietnam here:
Train stations in north Vietnam
Train stations in central Vietnam
Train stations in south Vietnam
You can find the locations of these train stations in the map below: