I just wanted to share with you my experience buying train tickets directly at the Ga Ha Noi train station in Ha Noi.
We wanted to buy the tickets directly at the counter. When you arrive from the North outside of the station, you will notice big signs with "TICKET OFFICE", we went inside (in the North aisle of the building) and found a lady wearing the official uniform, she was just behind a desk next to other ladies selling tickets for tourists VIP trains.
She asked us to pay in cash and to wait 10min in order to prepare our voucher, this was suspicious. After 5min, she gave us a printed voucher (just a simple A4 paper with a few details on it, not a real ticket. It has a Livitrans header on it, a travel agency for tourists or something... We said no and asked for our money back.
We then went into the main hall of the sation which we didn't see at first. There was counter there so we tried our luck. The lady, who also has the blue official uniform had a computer screen and showed us the tickets and the price on it, it looked more legit. She also asked us to pay in cash and to wait 10min so she can prepare our tickets. After 5min, she gave us another voucher (printed A4 sheet) with this time a Violette Train header on it. We said no and we said we wanted a real ticket from Vietnam Railways !
She finally decided to give us real tickets ! And gave us back our change (first price with 900.000 dong / pers for Hanoi to Dong Hoi, then the 2nd lady asked for 650.000/pers for the Violette Train and finally, the real ticket was "only" 557.000 dong / pers for soft bed).
So, conclusion, be careful !! Even the "official" employees want to sell you tourists tickets !
The tickets look like a printed receipt (like credit card receipts) and there is a big QR code on it.
You can read the bad reviews of those Violette trains here (you pay 25$ more to have a Kit KAt and pink sheets haha) : https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-…
And finally, the official website to buy train tickets is : https://dsvn.vn/
You can see the real prices ! I read somewhere that non vietnam cards don't work but there is an option to buy the tickets at the counter. Be careful, Google give a wrong website (an agency website) when you search for "vietnam railways" : https://vietnam-railway.com/ They have a strong SEO but they charge extra fees !