Those who are building an itinerary for a trip to northern Vietnam, if the season allows, will certainly want to include a trekking in Sapa among the scenic rice fields and authentic (sometimes little) villages in its surroundings.
During a planning of a trip is a very important chapter, a quick move saves time and optimizes the experiences to be had.
What you will find in this article about the overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa (and vice versa).
How to get from Hanoi to Sapa? Best way.
To answer this question before I left, I had set out to read numerous forums, often in English, and did not always find congruent news. The main diatribe was: overnight train or bus/minivan?
Many argued (and argue) that the train is safer since the driving skills of Vietnamese are not the best. Although on this I disagree because they drive anywhere and everywhere in any situation. Others argued that, on the other hand, the train takes too long and the buses are faster and cheaper, in fact they take between 5.5 and 6.5 hours to reach Sapa and cost between 10 and 15 euros.
In addition, bus rides are also there during the day while trains only run at night. They leave between 8:55 p. m. and 10 p. m. and arrive in Lao Chai between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. respectively, with costs ranging between 34 and 150 euros depending on the cabin chosen.
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How did I come up with the right answer?
I actually made a decision based on what I had done during my trip to Thailand, where, to reach the north I had taken a beautiful Overnight VIP bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai . An experience within an experience. Having never used night trains in Southeast Asia, I wanted to try it and I am really glad I did. Now I will explain more about it.
Please note: the train is actually going to Lao Chai; it is not correct to say that the train arrives in Sapa. In fact, in Lao Chai you will find minibuses waiting for trains early in the morning and loading travelers to take them to Sapa in about 30 minutes.
How and when to buy a train ticket from Hanoi to Sapa?
The dispassionate advice is: buy it before you leave from Italy through platforms such as 12go Asia, I have already set up the application for you -> CLICK HERE to access the platform already configured on trains. You will only need to change the arrival, departure dates and the number of people. At the train level you can choose different options and different companies.
Or you can also use this search form to find the best travel solutions for you, and you can also purchase them directly on the site without having to go to the ticket office.
The when depends on the season in which you visit Vietnam. You are unlikely to go to Sapa in winter because of the cold temperatures and scenery, although it is a good season to visit other parts of Vietnam. I visited sapa in August and applied for tickets about a month and a half before I left.
Alternatives for buying a train ticket to Sapa?
If you are going to Sapa without having contacted a local tour agency to arrange a trek, then you will also have to do the ticket purchase on your own. In case you have already made arrangements or need to make arrangements with one of these local agencies, I recommend that you have them purchase the train ticket and then have them email it to you. When you ask them this question, ask for a choice of several train companies so that you can choose the one that best suits your way of traveling.
What compartment and company to choose?
This is another good question, the most plausible answer to which would be a nice “Bho.” There are endless companies that leave at about the same time, between 9 and 10 p.m.
As a company, I have been very happy with Chapa Express. The other companies you will be able to see departing are: Victoria, King, Sapaly, the Pumpking and Fanxipan.
If anything, the discussion focuses on the type of compartment. I recommend the 4-bed or 2-bed Luxury compartment. My choice fell on the 4-bed and I paid 35 euros per person each way. If I had to “go back” I would evaluate the 2-bed at least for one of the two routes. Not so much for a matter of living with strangers, but just for a matter of convenience.
Is the train to Sapa clean?
The answer is always: it depends. It depends on the compartment you will have chosen. The luxury was spotlessly clean complete with a travel kit consisting of a few snacks and a toothbrush with toothpaste. The beds were clean and I did not find any bugs.
If you choose a cheaper compartment you may find the degree of cleanliness not so high. In any case, these are trains that always stay in outdoor stations in an Asian country, it is physiological that there may be small insects. In this regard, as a matter of prevention I always advise everyone, when traveling to a state different from ours, to take out travel insurance. Various inconveniences can happen while traveling and I can confirm (unfortunately) that taking out insurance is the best thing to do to experience the trip with peace of mind.
What station does the train to Sapa leave from in Hanoi?
The train to Sapa leaves from a different terminal than the main terminal, it is located in a peripheral area of the station. It is the Ga Trần Quý Cáp as you can see in the attached google map.
If you take a cab, simply tell it to take you to where the trains leave for Sapa. If you will use Grab instead, set it to the street you find in the map.
This part of Hanoi is not very lived in, just outside the station area there are some little shacks to buy something for dinner. Near the tracks there is nothing unless you want to buy some snacks from the street vendors.
How does the trip work? What time does the night train leave?
Okay, we have come to the crucial part, the part of the train journey from Hanoi to Sapa. When you arrive at the station, you will have to approach the assistant who works for the company you have chosen. Once you find her, you will show her the paper ticket and she will provide you with the ticket that identifies the platform, carriage, coach, and sleeping berths.
As you board the train, you will feel like you are on the Orient Express, the corridor to the side and the rooms to the side. Having chosen the option (4 beds – 1 class), a kit consisting of water, snacks, toothbrush and mini toothpaste was provided for each traveler.
Speaking of the bathrooms, they are definitely clean. There are two sinks per carriage and they are “communal,” meaning there is no door to access them. If you brush your teeth, anyone passing by can see you. Nothing so catastrophic.
If you have chosen the 4-bed compartment, they will obviously be bunk beds and 2 on each side. Each with its own blanket.
At the appointed time, the train departs, the cabins close and virtually no one passes through the aisle anymore. Shortly afterwards the main light is turned off in the compartment as well.
From Hanoi to Sapa: how do you spend the night on the train?
The night is a continuous hovering sleep. The train jerks all the time but it is pleasant, not too annoying. Certainly, however, you cannot say that you arrive at your destination nicely rested, far from it, but the experience is worth it nonetheless.
Small note about waking up: the train to Sapa ends its run in Lao Chai around 5 a.m. Almost certainly the awakening will be due to the coffee lady knocking insistently on the door to ask if you want coffee (for a fee, not included in the train ticket). Not a very soft awakening.
Tip on the overnight trip: since you will be on a moving train, since you will be sharing the compartment with other people, I suggest you take earplugs with you. Cold discussion, on the other hand, before I left I had read about people who had brought tape from home to plug holes in the air conditioning. I did not get cold, however, rather than finding yourself getting cold, the idea of bringing something to limit the air conditioning is not such a stupid idea.
The journey to Sapa then continues via ready-made vans outside Lao Chai station. In about 30 minutes they will take you to Sapa. If you will have booked through an agency, the point where they will drop you off will be the agency itself (it is the agencies that will send you the vans). If, however, you will not have booked through an agency, the transfer fee will be 3 euros per person (2018 prices). In that case ask the minivan guys.
Although I did not sleep particularly well, I think the overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa (and back) is a trip within a trip. It is special and will add a little something extra to your trip to Vietnam.