The best way for tourists to travel to Sapa – one of the most attractive destinations in Vietnam – is to travel by train, thanks to its advantage of both time and money. Departing from Hanoi station during night time, the train arrives at Lao Cai station, a city adjacent to Chinese border, in early morning and vice versa. (Starting in early 2015, travelers can also visit Sapa by taking day bus. One way travel time is approximately 6 hours).
To meet the needs of tourists, service providers have upgraded the train with full amenities such as air-conditioner, clean bathroom, and comfortable beds with different names for each type of cars. When you hear Sapaly Express or Livitrans Epxress, they are not actual trains but just different cars attached to the same train operated by national railways.
Generally, it can be divided into three types of cabins: 4-berth cabin, 6-berth cabin and soft-seat cabin. Tourist trains also run VIP cabin where the upper berths are removed, allowing for more space and privacy for just 2 people. The price per person in a 4-berth room ranges from $35 to $45 and 6-berth cabin is between $20-$25. A return ticket can also be bought right from Hanoi. Children less than five years old will not be charged any ticket fee and will share beds with their parents.
Train Schedule Fare:
|Depart Hanoi||Arrive Lao Cai|
|Orient Express||9:40 pm||05:25 am|
|Fanxipan Express||9:40 pm||05:25 am|
|Livitrans Express||9:40 pm||05:25 am|
|Pumpkin Express||9:40 pm||05:25 am|
|Sapaly Express||10:00 pm||06:15 am|
|King Express||10:00 pm||06:15 am|
|Chapa Express||10:00 pm||06:15 am|
From Lao Cai:
|Depart Lao Cai||Arrive Hanoi|
|Orient Express||8:15 pm||04:15 am|
|Fanxipan Express||8:15 pm||04:15 am|
|Livitrans Express||8:15 pm||04:15 am|
|Pumpkin Express||8:15 pm||04:15 am|
|Sapaly Express||9:05 pm||05:15 am|
|King Express||9:05 pm||05:15 am|
|Chapa Express||9:05 pm||05:15 am|
Each ride takes approximately eight to nine hours per way. There are also two morning trains that depart at 6:10 and 8:20 and arrive in the afternoon at 15:40 and 17:05 though it is not recommended that you take these trains as they make many stops along the way.
Lao Cai station is about 38 kilometers from Sapa, which takes about one hour going by bus or by car. The bus cost from Lao Cai – Sapa is $2-3 and ticket is available for purchase at the train station gate. Normally the bus stop is right in front of Sapa church, but tourists can also ask the bus driver to drop them off at their booked hotel.
How to book:
You can book your train tickets online in advance through many webs or through a local agent when you get to Hanoi. During peak season (December and January), train tickets may run out fast so it’s recommended you reserve well in advance.