When we decided to visit Hanoi, of course we started to look at the various sights and attractions in the city. One thing jumped out at us as being a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience – Hanoi Train Street.
What is Hanoi Train Street?
To us as Europeans, this really is a kind of urban phenomenon. Hanoi Train Street is a narrow street within the centre of Hanoi. Rather than being a normal road with car or motorbike traffic, it has actual real railway lines running through it. Homes and businesses literally open out onto the railway lines.
For the most part, the locals who live and move through there go about their day as with any other Hanoi street. Motorbikes zoom up and down the side of the railway lines. Local ladies cook delicious smelling foods, crouched over their seasoned cooking pots and surrounded by bundles of herbs and other fresh ingredients. Kids run around, crossing the tracks to each others houses. Animals snooze peacefully in the daytime sun.
However, at certain times of the day, everything gets cleared away from the tracks and all the locals disappear indoors, or stand pressed back from the track. The train will zoom through at high speed, and then everything goes back to normal as if nothing had happened.
Where to find Hanoi Train Street
We had to ask at our hostel and luckily the Vietnamese receptionist knew what we were talking about. The map below shows you where you can find Hanoi Train Street. We walked along Phùng Hưng from the north where we could see the railway line. At one point along the way we saw some steps up to the lines, and from there you can walk along until you reach the narrow part of the street.
How to see the trains at Hanoi Train Street
First time – no joy!
We had read online that the trains come around 3pm and 7pm each day. Either we were unlucky, or the information was wrong. We had turned up at about 2:45pm on a Friday afternoon. We waited for about an hour. Most of the time was spent watching some very relaxed local builders throwing random stuff onto the tracks, and telling ourselves that if the train was really coming, they wouldn’t be doing that!
Eventually some other tourists told us that there would be no train today. They said that had been told that we could come back at 7pm in the evening, or 3pm the next day. As it would be dark by 7pm, we decided to give that a miss.
Second time – we saw the train on Hanoi Train Street!
So at 2:45pm the next day, we took ourselves back to the same spot to wait it out again. This was the last day we were spending in Hanoi, as we would take the overnight train ourselves that evening. So we had all fingers and toes crossed that we would finally see the train.
3pm came and went, but somehow there was a different sense of anticipation in the air on this day. So we waited it out.
A little after 3:30pm, a local guy started frantically shooing all the local tourists away from the tracks. A few seconds later, the train whooshed by!
It is a truly exhilarating experience. The train was towering above us, because we were standing at ground level and not on a platform. The engine itself is loud, but the train horn makes it all seem even more dramatic.
If you want to see for yourself how this is, watch our short vlog on Hanoi Train Street embedded below.
Train times for Hanoi Train Street
I have searched and searched online to try and find a definitive timetable for the trains passing through Hanoi Train Street. I would love it if our readers could see this and not have to waste the time we did on the first day. However, I have had no luck. All I can say is that popular wisdom says the trains pass through around 3pm and around 7pm each day.
If any of our readers can contribute any definitive timetable for the trains passing through Hanoi Train Street then please leave a comment below or use our contact form to let us know directly. We would be happy to update this post accordingly!
Safety note for visiting Hanoi Train Street
There were a lot of other tourists there with us. Some felt the need to be on the tracks until the last possible minute, when the local guy starting urging them away. This is a real train, it is not going to stop for silly Western tourists who cannot play by normal rules. If you want to experience Hanoi Train Street, then make sure that you are off the tracks in good time if you value your life.
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