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China to Vietnam Train Travel

China to Vietnam Train Travel

Written by AppleUpdated Sep. 10, 2021

If you are searching for a true adventure in Asia, a border-crossing train journey definitely fits the bill — like China to Vietnam. The real romance of the journey begins when your view changes from modern cityscapes to rolling rice paddies.

Here is information about the two most popular routes from China to Vietnam, from Beijing or Hong Kong (Guangzhou), both of which require a change of train in Nanning. First we cover the key Nanning–Hanoi leg common to both journeys, then the Beijing or Hong Kong to Nanning options.

Hong Kong to Hanoi
Hong Kong Guanghzou Nanning Hanoi ( 18h at least)
Hong Kong to Guangzhou: ( 2h)
Z812, Z824, Z820, Z804,
Z808, Z814, Z826, Z818,
Z810, Z828, Z816, Z802
Guangzhou to Nanning: ( 3h55m)
21 Bullet Trains
Nanning to Hanoi: ( 12h)
T8701 - MR2 (change to train at Pingxiang) *
Beijing to Hanoi
Suggestion 1: Beijing West Nanning Hanoi ( 20h at least) Book Now
Beijing to Nanning:
Bullet Train
( 8h)
G421, G529
Normal Train ( 23h32m, Overnight):
Z5, Z285, T289/T28
Nanning to Hanoi: ( 12h)
T8701 - MR2 (change to train at Pingxiang) *
Suggestion 2: 16:09 Beijing West 05:20 +3 Hanoi (Change trains in Nanning)
Train No.: T5 ( 41h04m) $388
(Soft Sleeper)
Book Now

* Tickets from Nanning/Beijing to Hanoi and return way can be purchased via China Highlights. Ticket delievery service is also available. Start Now

Nanning to Hanoi

A border-crossing trip from Nanning to Hanoi can be daunting, especially at night, and the choice of transportation matters. Instead of the long distance coaches that are cramped and smell unpleasant, traveling on an overnight train where the legs can be stretched, and beds are more comfortable, is more enjoyable.

Every day, train T8701 departs from Nanning at 18:45. There are two stops: border inspection and change to train MR2 at Pingxiang (凭祥), and the border inspection at Dong Dang. Train MR2 arrives in Hanoi the following morning at 03:45.

The T8701 Journey (local times)

Order Station Arrives Departs Stops
01 Nanning 南宁 --- 18:45 ---
02 Chongzuo 崇左 20:24 20:28 4 minutes
03 Pingxiang 凭祥 22:11 22:41 30 minutes
04 Dong Dang 22:22 00:00 (+1) 1 hour 38 minutes
05 Bac Giang 02:40 (+1) 02:43 (+1) 3 minutes
06 Gia Lam (north of Hanoi) 03:45 (+1) --- ---

Train schedules in China are always in Beijing time. When you are in Vietnam, make sure you wind your watch back an hour.

Buying Train Tickets at Nanning Station

Regardless of some cyber rumors that there are travel agencies or ticket offices in Nanning, Liuzhou, and Guilin who can help you purchase the tickets, the only way is to purchase them in person at Nanning Railway Station (南宁火车站28 Zhonghua Road, Xixiangtang District). Counter 1 is usually the place to go, but confirm at the Information Desk (问讯处). You will need your passport for the ticket purchase.

Considering the time it takes to buy train tickets to Hanoi in Nanning, it is wise to do things nice and slowly. Getting train tickets to Hanoi might take some time, so it is better to leave at least a couple of hours with all factors considered.

The price of the hard sleeper on T8701 starts from USD30 (RMB181); the soft sleeper starts from USD43 (RMB260).

At Nanning Railway Station, despite the “English Service” label, be prepared for the language barrier and print down what you might need to know in Chinese. For example:

  • 请问在哪个窗口买去河内的火车票? (Which counter sells train tickets to Hanoi, please?)
  • 我想买张去河内的火车票。 (I want to buy __[number of]__ train tickets to Hanoi.)

Contact our travel advisor for any help with the language.

The Vietnam Border Crossing

You might feel very sleepy when you are pulled up from the berth and told to get off the train for the customs check, so this should help you be prepared. It will be late, it will be dark, and it will seem as though you are in the middle of nowhere.

You will need:

  • Your passport, which must be valid for at least six months, with a few empty visa pages
  • China visa which is needed at Pingxiang
  • Vietnam visa (for nationalities that require one)
  • Two photos and a pen, in case of any paperwork
  • Small change for a SIM card or water, if needed
  • Train tickets, which should be with you all the time
  • A flashlight because it will be dark outside

The ticket offices at both Nanning and Hanoi will not ask to see a visa in order to purchase the tickets. Denial of entry at customs or the border due to an invalid visa or passport is entirely the traveler’s responsibility, and the train station will not take any responsibility or grant any request for a ticket refund in such a case.

Are you going to Vietnam based on an impulse? Then don’t worry, we offer an easy and fast China visa application service, and delivery is also available at a very reasonable price. Contact us to get more help. This should be done at least one week prior to heading for Vietnam.

At Pingxiang (Chinese border train change), every passenger has to leave the train with all their belongings and wait to get on the new MR2 train. The new train has smaller carriages, which are typical in Vietnam, and passengers are likely to be allocated carriages by the conductors.

Train T8701 will stop at Pingxiang Station at 22:11, giving passengers 30 minutes to unload, get through customs and the passport and visa check, and get on the new train. At 22:41, the Vietnamese train MR2, which is bound for Dong Dang, will leave Pingxiang Station.

You will arrive in Dong Dang, a small colonial-style station, after about 40 minutes. Change your watch to Vietnamese time (GMT+7). Then the second passport check is at the Vietnamese side, taking 1 hour 38 minutes. You won’t have to unload your belongings at Dong Dang Station, but please make sure your valuable items are kept safely with you.

There will be vendors selling SIM cards, water, and snacks at Dong Dang Station; they will likely accept US dollars in small bills or even Chinese yuan. You can even find money exchange agents at Dong Dang, with occasionally desirable rates.

Buying Return Tickets in Vietnam

Travelers can either buy tickets for Nanning in person at Hanoi Railway Station (20 Lê Duẩn Street, Cua Nam Ward, Hoan Kiem District) or book online using a Vietnamese travel agencies’ website. Travelers cannot purchase tickets at Nanning Railway Station. We recommend buying tickets at least one day ahead of departure. The train departs from Gia Lam Railway Station, not Hanoi Railway Station.

For a return trip on the train from Hanoi to Nanning, a soft sleeper is roughly USD36 (VND750,000).

Be aware that the Hanoi–Nanning train arrives at Nanning Railway Station, yet some Nanning (to Beijing or Guangzhou) trains depart from Nanning East Railway Station, at least one hour away by bus.

* Tickets from Nanning/Beijing to Hanoi and return way can be purchased via China Highlights. Ticket delievery service is also available. Start Now

Nanning Route 1: From Beijing

There are five trains from Beijing to Nanning daily. G421 and G529 are the 8-hour high-speed trains, and Z5, Z285, and T289/T288 are overnight trains. The following table shows details. Check here to search for available seats and price details.

Train From Departs To Arrives Duration Price
G421 Beijing West 北京西站 09:07 Nanning East 南宁东站 22:25 13h18m From USD153
G529 Beijing West 北京西站 07:27 Nanning East 南宁东站 21:06 13h39m From USD153
Z5 Beijing West 北京西站 16:09 Nanning 南宁站 15:40 (+1) 23h31m From USD84
Z285 Beijing West 北京西站 17:50 Nanning 南宁站 17:20 (+1) 23h30m From USD45
T289/T288 Beijing West 北京西站 22:10 Nanning 南宁站 05:10 (+2) 31h From USD48

Taking a high-speed train is definitely a trendy way to travel and a worthwhile experience in itself. CHR trains G421 and G529 can take you across the country at a full gallop, easily completing the 2,565 km (1,594 miles) within just half a day. The price is only half of the airfare, making it extremely budget-friendly. Nevertheless, some still consider an overnight train ride to be the real deal for serious train travel. The Z5, the most comfortable ride, offers hard and soft sleeper berths with modern and clean in-car facilities.

Example High-Speed Train Journey (G421)

Order Station Arrives Departs Stops
01 Beijing West 北京西 --- 09:07 ---
02 Shijiazhuang 石家庄 10:19 10:22 3 minutes
03 Handan East 邯郸东 11:01 11:03 2 minutes
04 Anyang East 安阳东 11:20 11:22 2 minutes
05 Xinxiang East 新乡东 11:48 11:52 4 minutes
06 Zhengzhou East 郑州东 12:15 12:23 8 minutes
07 Luohe West 漯河西 12:58 13:05 7 minutes
08 Zhumandian West 驻马店西 13:23 13:25 2 minutes
09 Xinyang East 信阳东 13:50 13:52 2 minutes
10 Wuhan 武汉 14:36 14:44 8 minutes
11 Yueyang East 岳阳东 15:33 15:35 2 minutes
12 Changsha South 长沙南 16:09 16:17 8 minutes
13 Zhuzhou West 株洲西 16:32 16:34 2 minutes
14 Hengyang East 衡阳东 17:01 17:04 3 minutes
15 Qidong 祁东 17:33 17:35 2 minutes
16 Yongzhou 永州 18:08 18:11 3 minutes
17 Dong’an East 东安东 18:28 18:30 2 minutes
18 Quanzhou South 全州南 18:53 18:55 2 minutes
19 Guilin 桂林 19:47 19:52 5 minutes
20 Liuzhou 柳州 20:54 20:57 3 minutes
21 Laibin North 来宾北 21:26 21:28 2 minutes
22 Nanning East 南宁东 22:25 --- ---

Example Overnight Train Journey (Z5, the most popular night train)

Order Station Arrives Departs Stops
01 Beijing West 北京西 --- 16:09 ---
02 Shijiazhuang 石家庄 18:38 18:41 3 minutes
03 Zhengzhou 郑州 21:55 22:01 6 minutes
04 Wuchang 武昌 02:34 (+1) 02:40 (+1) 6 minutes
05 Changsha 长沙 05:53 (+1) 05:59 (+1) 6 minutes
06 Hengyang 衡阳 07:49 (+1) 08:02 (+1) 13 minutes
07 Yongzhou 永州 09:25 (+1) 09:29 (+1) 4 minutes
08 Guilin 桂林 11:25 (+1) 11:36 (+1) 11 minutes
09 Liuzhou 柳州 13:12 (+1) 13:20 (+1) 8 minutes
10 Nanning East 南宁东 15:26 (+1) 15:30 (+1) 4 minutes
11 Nanning 南宁 15:40 --- ---

Buying Train Tickets

You can buy these in person at the train station with your passport, no matter which city you are in. Otherwise, use our easy and smart booking system to get it done within three minutes. If you prefer booking tickets as you go, you might want to try our app: / China Train Booking.

The cost, depending on what kind of train and seat you choose, varies from USD48 (for a hard seat on a night train) to USD476 (for a business class seat on a G-train).

Booking the return trip to Beijing prior to your arrival in Nanning can actually save some time and trouble since this is a busy route.

Prices of Nanning to Beijing trains differ per train and seat type. The most popular and considerably the most comfortable choice is a USD132 (RMB806) soft sleeper.

Nanning Route 2: From Hong Kong (or Guangzhou)

Hong Kong to Guangzhou

Travelers arriving at Hong Kong airport may take a train, bus, or flight to Guangzhou, but the ‘Through Train’ is the most convenient.

Twelve trains run on the Kowloon–Canton Railway, also known as the ‘Hong Kong to Guangzhou Through Train’ (Z812, Z824, Z820, Z804, Z808, Z814, Z826, Z818, Z810, Z828, Z816, Z802). They all take about 2 hours, departing from 07:25 to 19:24 at night.

Example ‘Through Train’ Journey (Z812)

Order Station Arrives Departs Stops
01 Hung Hom 红磡 --- 07:25 ---
02 Dongguan 东莞 08:32 08:36 4 minutes
03 Guangzhou East 广州东 09:20 --- ---

See more on the Guangzhou – Hong Kong Through Train

Tickets for the KowloonCanton Railway (广九线), or the ‘Through Train’, are sold at Hung Hom Station. You can buy them at the station counter, or from some agent offices situated outside the station. Booking ahead is not needed, given the frequency of the services.

Planning ahead, you can book tickets with us, and the paper tickets will be mailed to your hotel (within Mainland China or Hong Kong). Click to start.

Tickets for the Kowloon–Canton Railway that are bought in Hong Kong are not re-schedulable or cancellable in any ticket booths or stations in Mainland China.

Another option is to cross the border at Luohu Port (罗湖口岸) in Shenzhen and take a train up to Guangzhou, which requires a 40-minute bus trip and possibly a long queue. G-trains and D-trains are available from Shenzhen to Guangzhou. If you enter from Luohu Port, be prepared for a transfer to Shenzhen North Railway Station (深圳北站).

The Hong Kong Border Crossing

Hong Kong and Mainland China have an official border, which means you must be prepared for a customs check even if you enter Hong Kong without a visa. The first customs check is at the boarding stage in Hung Hom Station in Hong Kong. The Kowloon–Canton Railway, interestingly, does not stop during the journey for the customs check, even while you are actually crossing the border.

After filling out an entry form at Hong Hum Station before boarding, your passport will be stamped for Hong Kong entry.

Your passport and China visa will be checked again at the immigration point at Guangzhou East Railway Station. The Hong Kong entry form will confirm that you are taking the ‘Through Train’ from Hong Kong. Travelers who hold an invitation from any Chinese organization or company could apply for an On-Arrival Visa at the station. The Shenzhen 144-hour Convenient Visa and Guangzhou 72-hour Visa-free Stay Policy are not eligible for this China–Vietnam border-crossing trip.

Guangzhou to Nanning

With the Guangxi–Guangdong High-Speed Railway in operation, travelers can now shave nine hours off their journey. Nanning would make a nice stopover, no matter whether you go with a high-speed train or an overnight one. Weighing the two options, night trains can not only save a night’s hotel bill, but are also less rushed.

There are 21 bullet trains (20 D-trains and one G-train) running from Guangzhou to Nanning (either Nanning East or Nanning Railway Station). Travelers are advised to book tickets at least one day in advance even though the trains depart every half an hour.

D3632 — the earliest high-speed train — 3 hours 55 minutes

Order Station Arrives Departs Stops
01 Guangzhou South 广州南 --- 07:40 ---
02 Zhaoqing East 肇庆东 08:22 08:24 2 minutes
03 Yunfu East 云浮东 08:49 08:51 2 minutes
04 Wuzhou South 梧州南 09:31 09:34 3 minutes
05 Guiping 桂平 10:17 10:19 2 minutes
06 Guigang 贵港 10:43 10:45 2 minutes
07 Nanning East 南宁东 11:35 11:55 20 minutes

It costs USD29 for a second class seat and USD34 for a first class seat on a D-train; the prices are the same for a G-train, plus it costs USD85 for a business class seat.

Bear in mind Guangzhou has three stations. Make sure you leave enough time to get to the right one.

Guangzhou East to Guangzhou

Bus: Walk to Shengjunqu Station (省军区站) and take bus 30 to Guangzhou Railway Station, which takes about one hour.

Subway: Take Subway Line 1 to Yangji Station (杨箕站) and change to Subway Line 5 to Guangzhou Railway Station, and exit at D1 Exit, which takes approximately 40 minutes.

Guangzhou East to Guangzhou South

Bus: Walk 870 meters to Juntiyuan Station (军体院站) and take bus 303a to Guangzhou South Bus Station (广州南汽车客运站), then walk 300 meters to Guangzhou South Railway Station, which takes about two hours.

Subway: Take Subway Line 1 to Gongyuanqian Station (公园前站) and change to Subway Line 2 to Guangzhou South Railway Station, which takes approximately one hour.

Five K-trains can help you save a night’s accommodation. The easiest route is Guangzhou East Railway Station to Nanning Railway Station by K-train, eliminating the need to change stations in Guangzhou or Nanning.

K1208 — the most popular night train — 13 hours 13 minutes

Order Station Arrives Departs Stops
01 Guangzhou East 广州东 16:44 17:02 18 minutes
02 Foshan 佛山 17:36 17:41 5 minutes
03 Zhaoqing 肇庆 19:11 19:16 5 minutes
04 Maoming East 茂名东 23:05 23:23 18 minutes
05 Yulin 玉林 01:59 (+1) 02:10 (+1) 11 minutes
06 Nanning 南宁 06:15 (+1) 06:35 (+1) 20 minutes

Choosing a K-train, it costs USD18 for a hard seat, USD34 for a hard sleeper, and USD53 for a soft sleeper.
Enter Guangzhou and Nanning to get full train listings and book.

Getting a ticket from Guangzhou to Nanning is much easier when booking with China Highlights than at the train station, ticket agency, or Chinese website. You cannot book from a station in Hong Kong. However, you can book from anywhere using our app: China Train Booking. You can get it done within two minutes before you have crossed the Hong Kong – China border.

As part of the busiest southbound rail system, trains from Guangzhou to Nanning are often full. Please ensure you book ahead. The cost for the return trip is similar to the outgoing journey.

A Typical Journey Timeline — 2 Days

07:30 Get to Hong Hun Station and fill out a Hong Kong entry form, then get your passport stamped.
08:15 Get on the ‘Through Train’ and relax for the next couple of hours.
04 Arrive at Guangzhou East Railway Station. Get your passport and visa checked. Have a short break (maybe grab some lunch or a coffee) while waiting to get on the train to Nanning Railway Station, or transiting to another railway station (like Guangzhou Railway Station or Guangzhou South Railway Station), depending on the connection train.
05 Take the overnight train K1233 at Guangzhou East Railway Station.
06:15 (+1) Arrive in Nanning Railway Station and make sure you get the tickets before you head off to explore the city.
18:00 (+1) Wait in the Waiting Hall for the ticket check, and get on the train.
22:11 (+1) When the train pulls into Pingxiang Railway Station, you must get off the train with your luggage and get ready for the customs check.
22:22 (+2) There is another border check at Dong Dang Station in Vietnam, and an hour and a half to spend at the immigration point.
03:45 (+2) Finally, you will arrive in Hanoi! Get off the train at Gia Lam Railway Station.

Getting the Journey Right

Plan well and ensure you have everything you need, including especially enough time to get tickets and change stations. The key is not to rush anything; it is better to go slow rather than to get it wrong.

In Nanning, after you get the Nanning–Hanoi train tickets, the chances are you will have some free time to get some travel supplies, or you could even take a short trip to downtown Nanning.

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