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Sapa is Vietnam’s premier trekking base, famous for housing Mount Fansipan, the tallest peak in Indochina among its many mountains, valleys full of beautiful terraced rice fields, ethnic minority villages, and of course, the picturesque little town of Sapa itself. It is extremely popular among tourists, more so than other mountainous provinces of the north, such as Ha Giang and Cao Bang.
Due to mass tourism, more methods of transport have become available, compared to other regions. In addition to buses, there is now a night train option that is increasingly popular with travelers. Of course, you can also opt to do the whole journey on motorbike. As of now, there is no nearby airport.
Many bus companies have routes to Sapa, and you can arrange to be picked up from your hotel without any hassle. The journey takes around six hours and the final stop will be right at Sapa town. A bus will cost you around 20 USD, depending on the company, and you are able to choose if you want to go on sleeper buses with reclining chairs or just a normal-seated bus. We recommend Futa or Phuong Nam.
The trains are way more comfortable! They depart from Tran Quy Cap (Hanoi Station B), and the whole journey takes around eight hours. The end station is also not at Sapa, but rather at Lao Cai, a town 24 miles (38 kilometers) away. From Lao Cai, you can easily catch a taxi or bus to Sapa, or perhaps your accommodation can arrange a pick up. These trains also depart at night, at 10:00 p.m., arriving in Lao Cai at around 6:00 a.m. You just have to get to the station an hour before scheduled departure.
Booking your tickets is easy. Just do it online—this guarantees you a seat rather than going to the station and getting told everything is full. Just head over to Vietnam Railway’s website.
You have 12 choices of trains, and the popular ones are Victoria Express, Sapaly Express, Chapa Express, Dream Express, Fanxipan Express, Livitrans Express, King Express, and Orient Express. They all have good reviews and offer similar services for similar prices. Out of them all, we recommend King Express. You can either choose a cabin for four people at 36 USD, or a VIP option for two people, at 148 USD. You can book online or via phone. Some of these companies offer other routes as well.
The cabins are luxuriously designed, and the train exudes a cozy atmosphere, feeling a little like a mobile hotel. In each cabin of the King Express, there are 26 berths grouped into the two types mentioned above. For groups, the deluxe cabins with four berths are perfect, and for couples, it goes without saying, the Private Deluxe with two berths brings more privacy and intimacy for travelers.
Soft pillows and mattresses, slippers under the bed, refreshing wipes, free water, snacks, and toothbrushes are offered. Each cabin is air-conditioned and paneled with wooden materials and has large windows overlooking the landscape on the way. Even the toilets are great. There are also plenty of electrical sockets for you to charge your electronics, in preparation for your coming adventures the next day. The staff will try their best to make sure your journey is as comfortable as possible. What makes King Express stand out even more is that passengers are given free transport to and from the train station.
The only downside is that it is a night train, and you don’t get to appreciate the landscape as you would, when opting for other means of transport. However, the comfort and the ease make up for this issue, and it is a unique opportunity that you should try at least once. It’s a fun experience—hanging out with your friends in the cabins, gossiping, and enjoying some drinks before enjoying a good night’s sleep and waking up refreshed, so your adventure can continue in Sapa. The amazing landscapes that surround the city will more than make up for what you miss on the way.