There are 4 different classes of tickets you can purchase to get to Sapa from Hanoi:
1. Hard Sleeper (very hard, we’ve heard that it can be just a board that you lie on) – $18
2. Soft Sleeper – softer bed but not much difference – $25
3. Business Class Sleeper – nicer compartment than soft sleeper – $28
4. Deluxe Soft Sleeper – best cabin with wood walls – $30
(We purchased our tickets through our hotel, so there is a small fee added to the prices, so you might be able to get them cheaper at the train station.)
Beware of the scams!
Make sure that you purchase your ticket from a reputable seller. Check with your hotel as they can usually provide valuable information (that is if you trust them). From the Old Quarter we paid 30,000 dong to get to the station and if you are in this area you should not pay more than 40,000 dong. Once you get to the Tran Quy Cap Train Station it will probably seem very chaotic. Just head towards the building on the right as that is where you board the trains. Do not give your ticket to anyone who may come up to you offering to help or pretending to be an employee. We have heard that there are scammers that will take your tickets and return with lower class tickets for you and sell your tickets to others. Instead, go straight to the counter where they will attach the actual ticket to your voucher that shows your carriage and cabin number. Once you have this you can proceed to the train platform.
All cabins house 4 people, so it’s best if you have a group of 4; otherwise, you will have to share a compartment with 3 strangers. Or chances are, you will be the stranger with three locals and these compartments are very small (maybe 6.5’ for bed length x 6’ wide). Also, even if no one smokes in your cabin, the smoke from the next cabin and especially the hall way can seep through the cracks.
We opted for the Delux sleeper since the business class was full and lucky for us, there was 4 of us! The wood looks more like wood laminate flooring that is used for the walls instead of a floor. Also, there is a small table with some complimentary snacks and bottles of water for each of us. As a bonus underneath the table there is an electric outlet, which is why I was able to write this on the train!
Overall the ride wasn’t smooth with many stops and jerking movements of the train all night. But 2 out of 4 of us were able to sleep through it. This was also my first experience on a sleeper train so I don’t know if this is normal and it may even be good??
The train left at about 8:40pm and we arrived in Lao Cai Station at about 5:00 am. When you depart the train make sure that you have your ticket stub available because you will not be allowed to leave the station without it! Lao Cai is a border town that is right next to China. To get to Sapa you need to hire a van or taxi. We pre-hired a van to pick us up at the station for $3 a person and the winding ride up the mountain to Sapa is about 1 hour. Upon arrival at our hotel (Thai Binh Hotel – nice and quiet, with electric blankets, heater, hot water, free breakfast plus free wi-fi) we were exhausted, and check-in time is usually at 12:00 pm. Fortunately, there were empty rooms and the hotel let us check-in immediately so we were all able to get some rest before beginning our trek for the day!
We met Mariana and Filipa in our cooking class in Chiang Mai and arranged to meet up again for our trips to Sapa and Halong Bay. They are great travel companions and very impressive people!
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