Where is Train Street located? When does the train pass by? And where is the best place to experience it? In this guide, we have collected practical tips on how to visit Train Street in Hanoi. And yes, it’s still open. You just need to know how to get in there.
By Mette & Martin
Translated from Danish
When experiencing Hanoi, it’s difficult to ignore perhaps the most iconic and over a hundred-year-old street: Train Street.
When we visited Hanoi first time in December 2022, we were therefore surprised to learn that it has become prohibited for tourists to roam freely around on the train street. Fortunately, you can still visit the cafés along the railway and feel the rush when the train passes close by.
Despite the fact that the street has become a bit of a tourist magnet, Train Street is still one of our favorite things to do in the Hanoi. Here is all you need to know before visiting.
The story behind Hanoi Train Street
Hanoi’s old railway cuts through the heart of the city, connecting the Vietnamese capital with the rest of the country. But it is only a small part of the railway where you can sit right next to the tracks and experience the train going through a narrow passage with clustered houses.
The special thing about Train Street is that the road does not consist of asphalt, but of train tracks. The railway was built by the French colonists in 1902, and ever since it has functioned as an ordinary street. With shops, coffee bars, and everyday life.
Here, families live side by side with the train that rumbles through their backyard every day. Parents pull playful children to the side, chickens and dogs are chased off the rails, and laundry flutters on the balconies as the long row of train cars rolls past.
Train Street has been among Hanoi’s most famous tourist attractions for many years, and in 2017 one of the locals recognized a good business idea and opened a cafe. It quickly became a success, after which several cafés sprouted along the rails. At least that’s the story we were told, which explains why most of the buildings in Train Street today house small cafés with open facades.
Closed for tourists
In September 2022, the entrances to Train Street were closed to tourists. According to the authorities, the street became too dangerous to visit as they could not guarantee the safety of the growing numbers of tourists all trying to capture that Instagrammable moment.
Today, only locals are officially allowed to walk freely on Train Street, and cafes are fined if their guests do not comply with the safety rules.
When we visited Train Street, an officer was guarding the entrance at the railway crossing on Trần Phú. All tourists were sent away from the barricade. At first, we were therefore in doubt as to whether the train was still running through the street? Or if it was now illegal to enter?
It turned out that the iron fence is simply moved aside and acts as a mobile barrier, preventing pedestrians, motorbikes, and cars from crossing the tracks when the train arrives – and that you, as a tourist, have to find other entrances to gain access to Train Street.
How to find Train Street
Train Street in Hanoi is located on the stretch between the two train stations: Ga Hà Nội Central Station and Long Bien Station.
The short and most famous stretch of the railway in Old Quarter – with cafés on either side – begins right where the tracks cross Trần Phú Street and continue approx. 100 meters along Phùng Hưng.
We have marked the two entrances to each end of ‘Hanoi Train Street’ on our Google Map (here we have pinned locations for all our best experiences in Hanoi). However, please notice that only one of the two marked entrances is currently open to tourists. See info further down.
How to enter Train Street
It might feel a bit shady, but there are several ways to legally enter Train Street. The cafes along the tracks still have permission to stay open. You just need to get in touch with one of the waiters, who will then accompany you to their café. You do not have to pay an entrance fee.
For example, you can stand in the square at the T-junction at Phùng Hung and Nguyễn Vân Tô streets, and a waiter will almost certainly approach you. (We have marked the place as ‘Hanoi Train Street – Entrance’ on our Google Map). You don’t have to stand long before a local comes and asks if you want coffee? Obviously, the correct answer is “yes, please”. The waiter will then lead you past the barricade without any problems.
Once you’re inside, it is possible to walk around on the railway tracks. But be considerate of the locals and respect their directions if they ask you to step to the side or go back to the cafe.
Cafe with a secret entrance
We found a back entrance for two cafés, which gave us the freedom of going in and out as we liked. The cafes are called Ga Dông Duong and Eisenbahn Kaffe. Both have a serving area on the street and the first floor.
We chose to sit up on the balcony at Ga Dông Duong, which gave us a good view of Train Street in both directions. The coffee was good, and the waiter was nice. She called out excitedly to us when the train was on its way. You will find the back entrance via the bicycle shop on Trần Phú Street, a few meters east of the barrier. Look for the Eisenbahn Kaffe sign (see photo, here).
Other cafes along the railway
We only managed to visit Train Street at Trần Phú. It is the most famous, but not the only place where you can enjoy the show along the tracks. If you follow the railway on Google Maps, you can see several crossings where you can walk onto the tracks and find small train cafes.
A section of the railway that we were recommended to visit is on the stretch between Lê Duẩn and Khâm Thiên streets. The cafe 65 Railway Coffee comes highly recommended. So maybe it’s worth checking out if you’re in the neighbourhood.
The train schedule
Rumour has it that the train no longer runs through Train Street as often as it once did. So, if you want to be sure to experience the street when the train arrives, it’s a good idea to check the timetable beforehand. Some of the cafes along the tracks can help you with an updated overview. You can also check the website of Vietnam Railway.
Arrive approx. 15-20 minutes early if you want to be sure of getting a good spot. With that said, expect to hang around a little longer. The trains in Vietnam are notoriously late.
When we visited Train Street in December 2022, we found the below timetable in a cafe. The train actually arrived on time (Saturday 08.50 AM), and another train arrived 10 minutes later, which was not on the timetable. We suppose one can interpret that as both a bonus and a sign of an unpredictable timetable.
Monday – Friday
NOTE: Remember that the above timetable is from December 2022. Moreover, we have since heard from others that the timetable only covers the passenger trains. The freight trains run through the street at all times of the day, which is why there are more trains than the schedule dictates.
Tourist trap at Train Street
When you stand at the entrance to Train Street, there may be locals trying to trick you into doing things for their financial benefit. Our hotel was close to Train Street, so we often passed by and experienced harmless tricks by locals who drove tourists around in traditional rickshaws.
They seem very helpful when they inform you that “the train no longer runs through Train Street. But they will gladly cycle you to the place where you can see the train.” The location is Long Bien Station, which the train going through Hanoi Train Street either runs to or from. Long Bien Station is right next to Long Bien Bridge – a great-looking metal bridge that you should definitely experience, but not what you are aiming for at this very moment, so make that a separate excursion afterwards.
Long Bien Bridge
One time we chose to jump on a rickshaw to Long Bien, since we were going that way anyway. It’s a fun and different way to experience the chaotic traffic in Hanoi, but obviously a very expensive means of transportation for Hanoi standards.
The direct cycle ride from Train Street to Long Bien Station takes approx. 10 minutes and is offered at a premium of VDN 3-400,000. As a baseline, you can negotiate the price from the standard, which is between 100-200,000 for an hour’s drive. Read more about exploring Hanoi by rickshaw here.
Uncertain future for Train Street
We asked around a bit, and we can’t quite figure out whether there is any truth to the rumour: “That the authorities are planning to completely shut down train traffic on Train Street.” The plan is probably connected with the construction of a new railway bridge, which will replace the historic Long Bien bridge, whereby the train will have a different route through the city. But we wonder if Train Street will be allowed to continue in some form?