Hanoi to Hai Phong by Train: Passengers & Motorbikes

First published July 2019 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

INTRODUCTION | GUIDE | MAP | RELATED POSTS

The four times daily train between Hanoi and Haiphong is a brilliant option for travellers with motorbikes looking to get from the capital city to Cat Ba Island (or vice-versa), without having to negotiate the horrible highways. This is because the Hanoi↔Haiphong train service allows passengers to take their motorbikes with them on the same train, thus providing a direct, hassle-free route in/out of the busy capital, bypassing the horrendous industrial sprawl along the highways of the Red River Delta, and straight into the heart of Haiphong, from where there’s easy access, by road and ferry, to Cat Ba Island. Haiphong, Vietnam’s third largest city and one of its most important ports, is best known to travellers as the gateway to Cat Ba Island, whose rugged terrain and jungle-clad limestone pinnacles rise up from the Gulf of Tonkin. Although only 120km east of Hanoi, the ride to Haiphong by motorbike involves a dull, traffic-clogged crawl through endless industrial zones. By taking your motorbike on the train, you bypass all the grim factory towns, traffic jams, and carcinogenic air that you would otherwise have to contend with if going by road.

The train between Hanoi & Haiphong, VietnamThe Hanoi↔Haiphong train is an excellent option for motorbikers bound for Cat Ba Island

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GUIDE: HANOIHAI PHONG BY TRAIN


This is a full guide to taking the Hanoi↔Hai Phong train, for passengers and motorbikes. I’ve written and organized all the information into separate sections below, and plotted the rail route (and connecting road and ferry routes to Cat Ba Island) on my map. As mentioned in the introduction, the Hanoi↔Hai Phong train is an especially convenient option for travellers with motorbikes bound for Cat Ba Island. For travellers without motorbikes, there’s no particular reason to take the train (bus connections between Hanoi, Haiphong, and Cat Ba Island are fast, frequent, and cheap), other than for the pleasure of riding the rails between two of the prettiest French colonial-era train stations in Vietnam. Personally, I’d always choose the train over the bus, because the train is a more rewarding travel experience.

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ROUTE MAP:

Hanoi↔Hai Phong by Train

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*Please support Vietnam Coracle: you can search train times, prices, and make bookings directly from this page by using the Baolau.com search boxes & links throughout this guide. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.

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Onward Travel to Cat Ba Island:

For many travellers taking the Hanoi↔Hai Phong train, the main purpose will be to continue on to Cat Ba Island, whether going straight through or after a day spent exploring Hai Phong (which is very rewarding, if you have the time). If travelling on foot, take a taxi from Hai Phong Station to Ben Binh Port, from where fast boats leave several times a day to Cat Ba town, in the south of Cat Ba Island. Alternatively, if you’re travelling with your motorbike on the train, ride east out of Hai Phong toward the new Tan Vu-Lach Huyen Causeway, an impressive piece of engineering spanning 5km of open water at the mouth of the Bach Dang River, connecting Hai Phong with Cat Hai Island. Continue on the highway across Cat Hai Island, past the new VinFast car and motorbike factory, to Ben Pha Got ferry pier, at the eastern tip of the island. From here, regular car ferries cross the channel to Cai Vieng Port, on Cat Ba Island. Once on the island, it’s a beautiful 30-minute ride south along the coast road to Cat Ba town. (*There will be much more information about Cat Ba when I publish my full Guide to Cat Ba Island, scheduled for August 2019.)

The fast boat between Haiphong & Cat Ba Island, VietnamFrom Haiphong, travellers on foot can take the fast boat direct to Cat Ba Island from Ben Binh pier


The car ferry between Haiphong & Cat Ba Island, VietnamFrom Hai Phong, motorbikers can ride the new bridge to Cat Hai & then take the car ferry to Cat Ba Island

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Train Operators & Contacts:

The Hanoi↔Hai Phong rail service is operated by state-run Vietnam Railways. It’s one of several northern spur lines which fan out from Hanoi, not connected to the main north-south Hanoi-Saigon line, known as the Reunification Express. Apart from the information on this page, more details about times, tickets, prices and availability can be found on the Vietnam Railways website (www.vr.com.vn) and on Baolau.com.

The train between Hanoi & Haiphong, VietnamThe Hanoi↔Hai Phong train is a spur line operated by state-run Vietnam Railways


*Please support Vietnam Coracle: you can search train times, prices, and make bookings directly from this page by using the Baolau.com search boxes & links throughout this guide. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.

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Train Times & Schedules:

There are 4 trains in both directions every day between Hanoi and Hai Phong. The general schedule is two trains in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening (see below). Journey time is between 2.00-2.45 hours. There are a few stops along the way, including Hai Duong, an industrial city almost exactly midway. But for most travellers the important stations to note are the three different stops in Hanoi itself. These are: Hanoi Central (on Le Duan Street), Long Bien (on the west bank of the Red River, by the famous bridge of the same name), and Gia Lam (east of the river and the city centre). All three Hanoi stations aren’t much more than a 10-minute taxi ride from most popular areas of the capital, such as the Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake, and West Lake (Ho Tay). [See Stations for details]

*IMPORTANT NOTE: On weekdays, Hanoi Central Station is only served by the first train of the day (6.00am) to Hai Phong, and the last train of the day (18.40pm) from Hai Phong. All other services arrive/depart from Hanoi’s Long Bien and Gia Lam stations only. However, on weekends and public holidays, all trains do serve Hanoi Central Station. This may seem a bit convoluted, but it works out fine, and if you’re confused just go to Long Bien or Gia Lam stations, where all services, no matter what time or day it is, arrive and depart. However, for travellers with motorbikes, the only station to load and unload your motorbike is Gia Lam (see Sending your Motorbike for details).

The schedule below is accurate at the time of writing (July 2019), but is subject to change. All Hanoi times given below are for Hanoi Central Station: for Long Bien and Gia Lam stations add a few minutes to the times. For example, if the train departs Hanoi Central at 6.00am, it will leave Long Bien at 6.07am and Gia Lam at 6.14am, and so on. For current times you can pick up a copy of the timetable from any of the stations, or check Baolau.com or the Vietnam Railways website (www.vr.com.vn):

HANOI→HAI PHONG:

  • Train HP1: Depart: 6.00amArrive: 8.25am (daily)
  • Train LP3: Depart: 9.17amArrive: 12.00noon (daily)
  • Train LP5: Depart: 3.20pmArrive: 6.00pm (daily)
  • Train LP7: Depart: 6.15pmArrive: 8.55pm (daily)

HAI PHONG→HANOI:

  • Train LP2: Depart: 6.10amArrive: 8.46am (daily) 
  • Train LP6: Depart: 9.05amArrive: 11.40am (daily) 
  • Train LP8: Depart: 3.00pmArrive: 5.38pm (daily) 
  • Train HP2: Depart: 6.40pmArrive: 9.06pm (daily)

The train between Hanoi & Haiphong, VietnamThe Hanoi↔Hai Phong train runs four times daily in both directions: journey time is 2.00-2.45 hours


*Please support Vietnam Coracle: you can search train times, prices, and make bookings directly from this page by using the Baolau.com search boxes & links throughout this guide. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.

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Ticket Prices & Booking:

The Hanoi↔Haiphong train is very good value for money. Ticket prices for passengers and motorbikes are reasonable and booking is easy. There are two classes available: air-conditioned soft-seat carriages or fan-cooled hard-seat (wooden bench) carriages. Booking at the stations, at least 30 minutes before departure (preferably more, to avoid travel anxiety), is a straightforward process. Bookings are made at the tickets counters at any of the stations. Staff are very helpful so you shouldn’t have any trouble. If you need orientation, look for the words Phòng Vé (Ticket Office). Alternatively, you can buy tickets online on the Vietnam Railways website (www.vr.com.vn) or Baolau.com. However, if you’re taking your motorbike, you must buy your ticket in person at the station of departure (see Sending your Motorbike for details). The prices below are accurate at the time of writing (July 2019), but are subject to change:

  • Hard seat: 65,000vnd
  • Soft seat: 70,000vnd 
  • Motorbike: 75,000vnd (+25,000vnd handling fee) = 95,000vnd [read this]

Ticket office at Hai Phong train station, VietnamBooking tickets at Hai Phong Train Station is easy & straightforward


Ticket office at Gia Lam train station, Hanoi, VietnamTickets can be booked at any of the three Hanoi stations: Central, Long Bien & Gia Lam (pictured above)


*Please support Vietnam Coracle: you can search train times, prices, and make bookings directly from this page by using the Baolau.com search boxes & links throughout this guide. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.

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Sending your Motorbike:

General Information: The Hanoi↔Haiphong train is one of the few rail services in Vietnam which allows passengers to carry their motorbike on the same train (two other significant routes being Hanoi↔Lao Cai and Saigon↔Phan Thiet). This is very convenient, especially for riders heading between Hanoi and Cat Ba Island, which is a popular route but involves negotiating horrendous, traffic-clogged and smog-choked highways to Hai Phong, before continuing by road and ferry to Cat Ba. By travelling with your motorbike on the Hanoi↔Haiphong train, you cut out this horrible road journey, leaving you ready and refreshed to wheel your bike off the train at Hai Phong Station and make your way to the exotic landscapes and seascapes of Cat Ba Island.

The one (minor) drawback to taking your motorbike on the Hanoi↔Hai Phong train is that motorbikes can only be loaded and unloaded at Hanoi’s Gia Lam Station, which is just across the Long Bien Bridge, on the east side of the Red River. But this is hardly a big deal (especially when you’re on a motorbike), because downtown Hanoi is only a 10-minute ride away, across the river.

Ticket Prices: The ticket price for most standard motorbikes is 75,000vnd, plus a 25,000vnd handling fee (larger motorbikes will cost more). Unlike sending your motorbike on north-south trains, you don’t need to empty the gas from your fuel tank. The whole process should be relatively easy to do and generally OK up to half an hour before departure time. However, on weekends and public holidays, try to book your tickets at least an hour in advance.

At Gia Lam Station: To load your motorbike at Gia Lam Station, go to the counter on the left (as your enter the station building) to purchase your passenger and motorbike tickets. Then, 20 minutes before departure, take your motorbike to the North Gate (Cửa Phía Bắc), about 50m further west of the main station building. Ride your bike onto the platform, show your ticket to the staff, wait for the train to arrive, and watch them load it on board.

At Hai Phong Station: To load your motorbike at Hai Phong Station, go to counter No.1 to purchase your passenger and motorbike tickets. Then, ride your motorbike to the right of the station entrance (as you’re facing it from the outside). There’s a sign saying ‘Nơi nhận vận chuyển hành lý, xe đạp, xe máy. Ride along the platform to the freight car at the back of the waiting train. Here, staff will check your ticket and load your motorbike.

Sending a motorbike on the train between Hanoi & Haiphong, VietnamMotorbikes travel on the same train as passengers: it’s cheap, easy & very convenient


Sending a motorbike on the train between Hanoi & Haiphong, VietnamAfter buying your motorbike ticket, ride onto the station platform & wait for staff to load it onto the train


Sending a motorbike on the train between Hanoi & Haiphong, VietnamIn Hanoi, Gia Lam is the only station that allows passengers to load & unload motorbikes

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Departure & Arrival Stations:

There are four stations that travellers need to know in order to take the Hanoi↔Hai Phong train. These are: Hai Phong Station, Hanoi Central, Hanoi Long Bien, and Hanoi Gia Lam. All four are very attractive stations, mostly dating from French colonial times. As for which of the three Hanoi stations you need to go to, that depends on the service, day of the week, time of day, and whether or not you’re travelling with your motorbike (see Train Times & Schedules and Sending your Motorbike for details):

Haiphong Railway Station, VietnamThere are four stations travellers need to know: Hai Phong, Hanoi Central, Long Bien & Gia Lam


Hanoi Stations: You can board/alight at three different stations in Hanoi depending on which train you’re on and whether you’re taking your motorbike with you. Hanoi Central Station is located on Le Duan Street in downtown. At almost 120 years old, it’s the capital’s main station: a large, grand, French colonial building with an incongruous grey concrete box in the middle, like a growth, essentially filling-in the gap where the station was bombed during the war. The station is easy to navigate, there are plenty of ticket offices (Phòng Vé), staff are helpful, and there are refreshments and toilets. Long Bien Station is a lovely, cute little stop, just north of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. It stands near the beginning of the famous Long Bien Bridge across the Red River, constructed at the turn of the 20th century. The cosy and cramped station – in fact, the diesel locomotives dwarf the station building – is walking distance from the narrow streets of the Old Quarter. Gia Lam Station (for motorbikes), is located down a side road across the Red River, east of Hanoi’s city centre. An interesting building with Art Decor flourishes and a calm, arched waiting hall, Gia Lam is only a 10-minute ride away from downtown Hanoi.

Gia Lam Railway Station, Hanoi, VietnamThe train serves three different Hanoi Stations: Central, Long Bien & Gia Lam (pictured above)

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Hai Phong Station: A handsome, century-old, French colonial structure right in the centre of the city, Hai Phong Station is exactly the kind of place you want to start/end a good rail journey. The staff are polite and efficient, and the tiled-floor waiting hall and wood-paneled ticket kiosks are atmospheric. Tickets and information are easily obtainable from the helpful staff behind the wooden counters. There are some refreshments available at a kiosk in the waiting hall.

Hai Phong Railway Station, VietnamHai Phong Station is a handsome, grand, century-old, French colonial-era structure in the city centre


*Please support Vietnam Coracle: you can search train times, prices, and make bookings directly from this page by using the Baolau.com search boxes & links throughout this guide. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.

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The Trains:

The trains on the Hanoi↔Haiphong service are 6-8 carriages in length (much shorter than the trains that ply the north-south line) and the level of comfort is really rather good. Large windows let lots of natural light in and are great for watching the landscape (or ‘industrialscape’) glide by. There are plenty of toilets and sinks, and the general condition and cleanliness is absolutely fine. The air-conditioned soft-seat carriages are comfy and spacious, the seats are reclinable, and there are some electrical sockets for charging your various gadgets. In the fan-cooled, hard-seat compartment, the carriages are filled with wooden benches, which are actually quite attractive: it feels a bit like how I’d imagine a 19th century steamer crossing the American prairies would – the oak-furnished interiors bathed in an orange glow from the low, dry light of the vast grasslands. Some drinks and snacks are wheeled down the aisle throughout the journey, including steamed dumplings wrapped in banana leaf (would you ever get that on a train in Europe?). There’s really not much to complain about.

The train between Hanoi & Hai Phong, VietnamThe Hanoi↔Hai Phong train is 6-8 carriages long; the journey takes between 2-3 hours


Soft seat class, Hanoi-Haiphong train, VietnamSoft seat class is comfortable, clean & good value for money


Hard seat class, Hanoi-Haiphong train, VietnamHard seat class is fine for such a short journey, and the wooden benches look like an antique carriage


*Please support Vietnam Coracle: you can search train times, prices, and make bookings directly from this page by using the Baolau.com search boxes & links throughout this guide. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.

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The Journey:

In terms of scenery, the Hanoi↔Haiphong service isn’t one of Vietnam’s great rail journeys. But it’s still an interesting ride for the 2-3 hours it takes to roll between the capital city and the north’s major port. It’s also a surprisingly bumpy ride. (In fact, swinging and bumping seem to be characteristic of railway journeys in northern Vietnam: the overnight Hanoi↔Lai Cao Express is a similar experience. I can’t think why this would be, except, perhaps, as they’re both spur lines, they’re not as well maintained as the main north-south line.) There’s quite a bit of rattling and squeaking, and the train rides at a pleasant pace of around 40-50km per hour. There are several stops en route at Red River Delta towns, mostly part of the vast industrial belt stretching from Hanoi and Hai Phong. However, between these soot-filled stops, there are acres and acres of rice fields, bisected regularly by earthen dykes and irrigation channels. Stooped farmers – usually women – tend to the rice: harvesting, sowing, spraying, burning. Most of the journey is a play of flat agricultural landscapes disappearing into concrete towns and factories. Rivers and canals are a constant feature, with barges ploughing the thick brown waters. Plantations and allotments grow fruit trees, flowers and vegetables – kumquat, bananas, sweet potatoes, lotus and much more.

Soft seat class on the Hanoi-Haiphong train, VietnamThe journey is comfortable (although a bit bumpy) and interesting, but not particularly scenic


The train between Hanoi & Haiphong, VietnamMuch of the rail journey is through industrial zones, bisected by Red River tributaries & towns


Gia Lam train station, Hanoi, VietnamPulling into Gia Lam railway station in Hanoi after a relaxing 2-hour journey, avoiding riding the horrible highways


*Please support Vietnam Coracle: you can search train times, prices, and make bookings directly from this page by using the Baolau.com search boxes & links throughout this guide. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.


Disclosure: I never receive payment for anything I write: my content is always free and independent. I’ve written this guide because I want to: I like this train route and I want my readers to know about it. For more details, see my Disclosure & Disclaimer statements here

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