The north-south railway line was built by the French over 80 years ago and it stretches for 1726km between Hanoi and Saigon (formally Ho Chi Minh City). The principal trains on the line are known as “Reunification Express”. The line is quite extensively used and there are actually several daily departures. The full north-to-south trip takes 36 hours.
We reserved a sleeping compartment on a train leaving Hanoi at 7:30pm and made the 688km journey to Hue overnight. We arrived the next morning at about 9am.
After 24 hours in Hue we boarded another express at about 10:00am. For this section we sat in the “day” part of the train and enjoyed the short but extremely scenic coastal section to Da Nang (791km from Hanoi) where we arrived at 1:00pm. Da Nang was the stopping off point for Hoi An.
After time in Hoi An, we returned to Da Nang and boarded another sleeping compartment on an express that left Da Nang at 1:15pm and arrived in Saigon at 5:30am the next morning.
The trains were slow but comfortable and reasonably well equipped with relatively modern locomotives and rolling stock. We slept well on the first overnight section but less well on the final journey into Saigon.