The section of train line that travels through the Hai Van Pass in Central Vietnam is generally considered to feature the best scenery any where on Vietnam’s railway network, and you don’t need to take a special tourist train to see it as it’s on the mainline that runs from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi.
About the Hai Van Pass
The Hai Van Pass is a route through the Trường Sơn mountain range that separates Central Vietnam from Northern Vietnam. This natural border has played an important part in Vietnam’s history thwarting the advance of the Chinese Han Empire into the rest of Vietnam in the 1st Century, forming a boundary between the Đại Việt and Champa Kingdoms in the the 14th Century, and as important strategic boundary during the start and middle of 20th Century between the Communist forces of Northern Vietnam and the Western allied government of Southern Vietnam. The Trường Sơn mountain range can be crossed, however, and the easiest place to do that is close to the coast between the two major cities of Da Nang (to the south) and Hue (to the north).
The road crossing over the Hai Van Pass reaches an altitude of 496 metres above sea level, to the south of the main peak of Ai Van Son, which rises to 1,172 above sea level. In more recent times a tunnel has been constructed to go under the mountain range. The tunnel, at 6.28 km long, is the longest in South East Asia and it now accommodates the majority of the road traffic travelling between Da Nang and Hue. Livestock and fuel is not permitted to be transported through the tunnel so that still travels along the windy mountain road, as do many tourists on motorbikes and bicycles particularly after the route was made famous by its appearance in a 2008 episode of the TV programme Top Gear.
Train Travel over the Hai Van Pass
The railway line follows a different route to the road. It follows the coast passing through sections of tunnels when the gradients are too steep for the a railway line to be constructed. Although the railway line doesn’t ascend and descend as much as the road, the route is nonetheless spectacular with numerous sheer drops, long sharp bends such that the train need to travel around very slowly to avoid coming off the track, and fantastic views of the mountains and secluded areas of coastline. There have been two major train disasters on the Hai Van Pass, one in 1953 when the Viet Minh denoted explosives on part of the track, and another in 2005 when a train derailed on a bend because it was going too fast. The wetness of the tracks adds to the danger.
One absolutely critical thing to remember when you are planing to travel on the Hai Van Pass is that you need to make sure that you are travelling it in the daylight. The section of track that is really spectacular run for about 20 km between Kim Lien Railway Station (southern end) and Lang Co Railway station (northern end) on route between Da Nang and Hue. It gets light at about 06:30 and dark at 18:30 every day in Vietnam without much in the way of seasonal deviation. The Hai Van Pass is about one third of distance of the complete journey from Da Nang to Hue which takes about about 2 hours 30 minutes by train. Which means in order to see the pass in all its glory you need to take a train going north which departs from Da Nang between 05:40 and 16:30. Travelling south you need to select a train which departs from Hue between 05:00 and 16:00. If you depart any earlier in the morning, or later at night, from either Hue or Da Nang it will be too dark to see the scenery in the pass.
Click on the links below for train times over the Hai Van Pass:
Buy Train Tickets over the Hai Van Pass
Use the Search Box below to buy your train tickets from Da Nang to Hue via the Hai Van Pass.
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Location of the Hai Van Pass
Hai Van Railway Station is located on the train line that crosses over the Hai Van Pass.