From around the beginning of 2018 until October 2019 a new and wildly popular attraction emerged in Hanoi which became known as ‘Train Street’, which is where large long distance trains pass through very narrow residential streets.
The strange rise and fall of Train Street
In 1902 the French colonial government built a railway line to Hanoi. Since that time the city has grown and buildings have been constructed close to the train tracks, and nowhere more so than on what has been termed ‘Train Street’. Train Street is not street at all and there are two of them. The most popular part of Train Street for tourists is a short distance to the west of the popular Old Quarter district. This 350 metre long stretch of train track is intersected by the Tran Phu Road at its central point and the Dien Phu Road at the south end. Long distance trains on this part of the line pass through a gap between two rows of houses facing each other which is little more than 4 metres wide in most places. There are established communities of people who have lived there for decades and are used to moving themselves, their pets, their vehicles and other possessions out of their thoroughfare and community space several times a day to allow slow moving trains to pass through. The same arrangement of tightly packed accommodation is also found on another 250 metre long stretch of train tack to the south of Hanoi Railway Station on Ngõ 224 Lê Duẩn, which is a another narrow alleyway.
Until late 2017 Train Street was nothing more than a good example of bad city planning until that is an enterprising young local woman decided to open the Hanoi Railway Cafe on the northern section of Train Street. She advertised her cafe well, along with the curious phenomenon of the train passing close to the houses, and found that her business became very successful attracting both foreign and domestic tourists in large numbers. What they came for was principally to take pictures of themselves on the train tracks, particularly with trains approaching in the distance, and particularly with the objective of posting these pictures on their social media accounts. Then more cafes and restaurants opened, and more and more tourists came. By October 2019 matters came to a head as the less than amused train drivers starting reporting that they had to make frequent emergency stops because selfie seeking tourists where leaving it very late to move to one side to let the trains pass. At this point the local authorities decided to put an end to Train Street and local police where stationed at either send of both sections of train station to stop anyone but local residents entering.
The future of Train Street
The strict closure of Train Street got a lot more relaxed in early 2020. Less and less tourists started coming as a consequence of the pandemic and the police got a lot less strict about visitors. The authorities still aren’t non-residents open access to either section of Train Street, but they are now letting people in if they have a booking at one of the restaurants or cafes. How long this arrangement will continue when travel starts opening up again is something we don’t know at the moment.
Train Travel through Train Street in the Old Quarter
There are three train routes travelling north from Hanoi Railway Station where trains pass through the section of Train Street in the Old Quarter:
- Hanoi to Lao Cai (for Sapa)
- Hanoi to Hai Phong
- Hanoi to Dong Dang (China border)
Click on the links below for train times through Train Street in the Old Quarter:
- Train times from Hanoi to Lao Cai
- Train times from Lao Cai to Hanoi
- Train times from Hai Phong to Hanoi
Buy Train Tickets through Train Street
Use the Search Box below to buy your train tickets from Hanoi to Sapa via Train Street.
For the journey in the other direction change the start of finish points in the Search Box.
Location of Train Street in the Old Quarter
This section of Train Street is located a short distance to the north of Hanoi Railway Station.
Location of the Lê Duẩn section of Train Street
This section of Train Street is located a short distance to the south of Hanoi Railway Station.