Hanoi→Lang Son→Dong Dang by Train: Passengers & Motorbikes

First published November 2019 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

INTRODUCTION | GUIDE | MAP | RELATED POSTS

A train runs once daily in both directions between Hanoi, Lang Son, and Dong Dang, on the Chinese border. Linking Vietnam’s capital city with its mountainous northeastern provinces, the Hanoi→Lang Son→Dong Dang train route is a scenic rail journey and a great alternative to taking the bus. But this rail route is particularly convenient for travellers with motorbikes, as it’s one of the few train routes in Vietnam that allows passengers to take their motorbikes with them on the same train. For riders intending to explore the 5 Northeast Routes & Loops, which offer some of the best riding opportunities anywhere in Vietnam, this train route plugs you straight into the northeastern mountains, saving you a whole day of riding, and cutting out the slow crawl on congested roads and horrible highways through Hanoi’s industrial suburbs. Journey time is just over 4 hours, tickets prices are cheap and easy to purchase, and the trains are comfortable. Yet, hardly any foreign travellers utilize the Hanoi→Lang Son→Dong Dang train route.

Hanoi-Lang Son-Dong Dang by train, VietnamThis scenic rail journey between the capital & the northeast is fun & a convenient option for motorbikers

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GUIDE: HANOILANG SONDONG DANG BY TRAIN


This is a full guide to taking the Hanoi→Lang Son→Dong Dang train, for passengers and motorbikes. I’ve written and organized all the information into separate sections below, and plotted the rail route and stations on my map. As mentioned in the introduction, the Hanoi→Lang Son→Dong Dang train is particularly convenient for travellers with motorbikes intending to ride the 5 Northeast Routes & Loops, because it cuts out a day of riding, including the slow crawl through Hanoi’s industrial suburbs. For travellers without motorbikes, this train route is one of the most scenic stretches of railway in Vietnam and a much more interesting way of getting between the capital and the northeast than taking the bus, which is the only other option.

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ROUTE MAP:

Hanoi→Lang Son→Dong Dang 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 around the Northeast:

For many travellers taking the Hanoi→Lang Son→Dong Dang train, the main purpose will be to explore the wider northeastern region of Vietnam. The provinces of Lang Son, Cao Bang and Bac Kan are the focus of my Northeast Routes & Loops guide, which covers a large swathe of beautiful landscape and roads. The northeastern provinces are all highly scenic areas and, for the most part, far less touristed than other mountainous regions of the north, such as Sapa and Ha Giang. Sights like Ban Gioc Waterfall and Ba Be Lake are the most well-known destinations in the northeast, but there are incredible landscapes between these points, and lots of opportunities for off-the-beaten-track exploration. For motorbikers in particular, the Hanoi→Lang Son→Dong Dang train is a great way to get straight into the northeastern highlands, without having the face the long and often congested ride out of the capital. By putting your motorbike on the train between Hanoi and Lang Son, motorbikers can plug straight into some of the best riding anywhere in Vietnam. And the same is true of the return trip from Lang Son back to Hanoi: the train cuts out the long, miserable crawl back into the city. I’ve used this train route on several occasions with my motorbike: it was easy, convenient and fun. For passengers without two-wheels, the Hanoi→Lang Son train route is still a good point of entry to the northeast. The train ride is far more of an experience than taking the bus, and you are unlikely to see any other foreign travellers on this train.

Northeast VietnamThe northeastern provinces offer some of the best scenery & riding opportunities in Vietnam


Dong Dang train station, VietnamBoth Lang Son & Dong Dang stations are good entry points for exploring Vietnam’s northeastern region

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Train Operators & Contacts:

The Hanoi→Lang Son→Dong Dang 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. (Other northern spur lines include Hanoi→Hai Phong and Hanoi→Lao Cai.) However, the Hanoi→Lang Son→Dong Dang line is a bit different, because it actually continues into China. From Dong Dang station, on the Vietnam-China border, trains can take you all the way to Nanning and on to Beijing. But, to do this, you’d need to arrange your Chinese visa well in advance, and I don’t cover any of that information in this guide. Apart from the information on this page, you can check more details about the Hanoi→Lang Son→Dong Dang train, including times, prices, availability and booking, on the Vietnam Railways website (www.vr.com.vn) and Baolau.com.

Freight trains waiting at Dong Dang Station, VietnamThe once daily train between Hanoi, Lang Son & Dong Dang is 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 is only one train in both directions every day between Hanoi, Lang Son and Dong Dang. From Hanoi, the train departs every morning; from Dong Dang and Lang Son, the train departs every afternoon (see the full schedule below). Journey time is a little over 4 hours, and there are at least a dozen stops along the way, including Bac Giang and Bac Ninh, both of which are provincial capitals. But, for most travellers, the important stops to note are the three different stations in Hanoi. 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 are just 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]

*Note: The schedule below is accurate at the time of writing (November 2019), but is subject to change. All Hanoi times given below are for Hanoi Central Station: for Long Bien & Gia Lam stations add a 10 minutes to the times. For example, if the train departs Hanoi Central at 7.05am, it will leave Long Bien at 7.16am and Gia Lam at 7.29am. For current times you can check Baolau.com or the Vietnam Railways website (www.vr.com.vn) or ask at the stations directly:

HANOI→LANG SON→DONG DANG:

  • Train DD5: Hanoi Central: 7.05am | Lang Son: 11.18am | Dong Dang: 11.40am (daily)

DONG DANG→LANG SON→HANOI:

  • Train DD6: Dong Dang: 3.10pm | Lang Son: 3.30pm | Hanoi Central: 7.45pm (daily) 

Dong Dang Station, VietnamThere’s one train daily in each direction linking Hanoi, Lang Son & Dong Dang: journey time is 4 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→Lang Son→Dong Dang 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), should be a straightforward process. Bookings are made at the tickets counters at any of the stations. Staff are helpful so you shouldn’t have too much trouble, but not much English is spoken. If you need orientation, look for the words Phòng Vé (Ticket Office). Alternatively, you can buy tickets online at Baolau.com or the Vietnam Railways website (www.vr.com.vn). 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 (November 2019), but are subject to change:

  • Hard seat: 68,000vnd
  • Soft seat: 89,000vnd 

A Hanoi bound train at Lang Son Station, VietnamTickets can be purchased in person at the stations or online at Baolau.com or 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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Sending your Motorbike:

General Information: The Hanoi→Lang Son→Dong Dang train is one of the few rail services in Vietnam which allows passengers to carry their motorbike with them on the same train. (Three other routes that allow this are: Hanoi↔Lao Cai, Hanoi↔Hai Phong and Saigon↔Phan Thiet). This is a very convenient option, especially for riders intending to explore the Northeast Routes & Loops, which, in my opinion, currently offer some of the best riding opportunities anywhere in Vietnam. By travelling with your motorbike on the Hanoi→Lang Son→Dong Dang train, you cut out the horrible crawl through Hanoi’s industrial suburbs, and save a whole day of riding, leaving you ready and refreshed to wheel your bike off the train at either Lang Son or Dong Dang stations and start your two-wheeled road trip around the northeast immediately. Similarly, this train service is equally convenient when returning to Hanoi, meaning you don’t have to face the long ride back into the capital, with the inevitable build-up of traffic and pollution.

Ticket Prices: The ticket price for most standard automatic and semi-automatic motorbikes is 100,000vnd, plus a 25,000vnd handling fee, although this is not always collected. Larger motorbikes cost more: the price is calculated according to the bike’s weight and size. Unlike sending your motorbike on north-south trains, you don’t need to empty the gas from your fuel tank and your bike is not wrapped in any protective covering. 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 get to the station and book your tickets at least an hour in advance.

At the Stations: To load your motorbike at any of the stations make sure you are at the correct gate. The easiest way to do this is to go to the ticket counter and ask where to load your motorbike, or look for signs saying something similar to ‘Nơi nhận vận chuyển xe máy.’

*IMPORTANT NOTE: Although you can load or unload your motorbike at either Lang Son or Dong Dang train stations in the northeast, there’s a possibility that this will not be the case with all three stations in Hanoi. When I’ve taken my motorbike on this train service, I have been able to load & unload my bike at either Hanoi Central, Long Bien, or Gia Lam stations. But I’ve been advised that, in some cases, only one of the three Hanoi stations allows this. Therefore, I suggest checking at the station the day before travel to make sure. Either way, this is hardly a big concern, because all three Hanoi stations are just a 10-minute ride at most from the city centre.

My motorbike on the platform at lang Son train station, VietnamPassengers can carry their motorbikes with them on the same train between Hanoi, Lang Son & Dong Dang


Riding by motorbike in Vietnam's northeastTaking your motorbike on the train is a great way to avoid the long ride through Hanoi’s industrial sprawl

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Departure & Arrival Stations:

There are five stations that travellers need to know in order to take the Hanoi→Lang Son→Dong Dang train. These are: Hanoi Central, Hanoi Long Bien, Hanoi Gia Lam, Lang Son and Dong Dang. All five are very attractive or, at least, interesting stations, some with structures dating from French colonial times. Passengers and motorbikes can board/alight at any of these five stations. (However, if you’re sending your motorbike please read this first):

Dong Dang train station, VietnamPassengers need to be aware of 5 stations: Dong Dang, Lang Son & the three different Hanoi stations


Hanoi Stations: Passengers and motorbikes can board/alight at three different stations in Hanoi. (However, if you’re travelling with your motorbike please read this first).

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, 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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Lang Son & Dong Dang Stations: Only 15km apart, Lang Son and Dong Dang stations are both good access points to Vietnam’s northeast. However, Lang Son is a far bigger city and most travellers will alight here instead of Dong Dang. But the station at Dong Dang is one of the most interesting in Vietnam and the town itself has a fascinating edge, because it’s right on the border with China, and a major trading post between the two countries.

Lang Son Station, located in the east of the city on Le Loi Street, is a modern-looking, two-storey building. Fairly bland and unfriendly from the outside (especially in miserable weather conditions), once you climb the wide stairway into the light-filled atrium where the small ticketing office is, the station begins to exude more charm. It’s a quiet station that deals mostly with freight cars passing to/from China. A line of squat doors lead out onto an attractive, tiled platform where the trains arrive, and is also used by locals as an evening promenade and exercise area.

Dong Dang is one of the most interesting and attractive stations in Vietnam. A large, well-maintained, ochre-painted building featuring several arches and decorative motifs, such as Bronze Age Dong Son artistic symbolism, Dong Dang station is a treat to stumble upon in such a remote and seldom-visited outpost town. Just 3km from the Chinese border, the station deals with lots of freight trains due to booming trade between Vietnam and China. But Dong Dang is also an international passenger terminal. Twice a week, trains run through Dong Dang to Nanning, in China, and then on to Beijing. The station itself has a long history of over a century, when it was first constructed under French colonial rule. Dong Dang was recently revitalized when, in February 2019, the eyes of the world’s media were (albeit, briefly) on the station, as Kim Jong-un entered Vietnam by train from China and alighted at Dong Dang to much fanfare, before travelling on to Hanoi for his highly publicized summit with President Trump. A fascinating photo gallery in the station’s large waiting hall catalogues the DPRK’s (North Korean) leader’s visit, along with black-and-white photographs of the station over the last one hundred years.

Dong Dang train station, VietnamDong Dang train station is one of the most interesting & attractive train terminals in Vietnam


Lang Son train station, VietnamLang Son train station looks fairly bland from the outside, but inside it’s quite bright & pleasant


*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→Lang Son→Dong Dang service are only 3-5 carriages in length (much shorter than on any other train route I’ve ridden in Vietnam) and the level of comfort is good. Large windows let in lots of natural and are great for watching the green and hilly landscape glide by. There are toilets and sinks in each carriage, and the general condition and cleanliness is fine. The air-conditioned soft-seat carriages are comfy and spacious, the seats are reclinable, and there are some electrical sockets for charging your tech equipment. In the fan-cooled, hard-seat compartment, the carriages are filled with wooden benches, which are actually quite attractive: it feels like being in a train wagon crossing The West in the 18th century. The carriages are pulled by a large, bullish diesel engine. Some drinks and snacks are wheeled down the aisle throughout the journey, including a couple of piping hot cooked items (something which you certainly don’t get on British trains). There’s really not much to complain about in either class.

The Hanoi-Lang Son-Dong Dang train, VietnamPulled by a giant diesel locomotive, the Hanoi→Lang Son→Dong Dang train is only 3-5 carriages long


Interior of soft-seat carriage, Hanoi-Lang Son-Dong Dang trainInside, the soft-seat carriages are comfortable, clean & quiet with air-con & electrical sockets


Interior of hard-seat carriage, Hanoi-Lang Son-Dong Dang trainHard-seat carriages comprise of wooden benches & are fan-cooled & bright


*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:

Of all the northern spur line rail routes, I think Hanoi→Lang Son→Dong Dang is the most scenic. For at least half of the 4-hour journey, the train winds slowly through lush, sparsely populated mountain scenery. Crops fields, rice terraces, limestone crags, high ridges, and pleasant river valleys roll by your window as you sit in comfort in the carriage. Remember, too, that if you take this train during the winter months, from November to February, there’s a chance that weather conditions could be cold and misty, with low cloud hanging in the valleys, and farmers and animals wading in mud. I once returned on the train from Lang Son to Hanoi in conditions such as these, and it was a cozy feeling being inside the carriage. When I arrived in the evening at Hanoi’s Central Station, in the lights, life and warmth of the capital, it was hard to believe that, just a few hours ago, I had been riding in soaking, freezing conditions in the northeastern highlands. Because it’s a small train – usually just three carriages – there’s an intimate feeling on board. If you’re a foreign traveller, you’re likely to be the only one on the train, which is a great conversation starter for many of the other passengers.

The Hanoi-Lang Son-Dong Dang train, VietnamThe Hanoi→Lang Son→Dong Dang train route is the most scenic of all the northern spur lines


A view of Lang Son, northeast VietnamLang Son, near the Chinese border, is a likable city with big markets surrounded by green mountains

*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.


A train waits at Lang Son StationThe Hanoi→Lang Son→Dong Dang train route is scenic, fun & very convenient for motorbikers

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

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