How to book train tickets to Sapa by yourself
trains to Sapa is the most convenient mode of transport
for tourists to Sapa, in this article I would share some
experience about how to book train tickets to Sapa by yourself.
There are about 20 travel companies offering train service from Hanoi to Lao Cai. Tourist trains are in fact different compartments pulled by the same engine, they are owned, maintained and operated by travel companies. Tourist trains are cleaner with wooden-paneled interior. Most cabins have 2 or 4 soft berths. Foreign travelers are recommended on this class as there is more space in the cabin, the state owned cabins offer 6 berth cabins, usually for small sized Vietnamese. If you want to have some privacy with a bit of comfort you can book the whole cabin 4 berths or a VIP cabin 2 berths.
Note that there are 2 entrances to the Hanoi railways station, the main entrance is located at 120 Le Duan street, the other entrance is at Tran Quy Cap street, most tourist trains to Sapa only provide a voucher when the booking is confirmed and on departure day passengers will bring the voucher to train station and staff from train companies will give you the actual tickets. When your booking is confirmed remember to ask where you can meet the train staff as the entrances are far apart and if you go to wrong place you have to walk a long way to the other entrance. Most trains to Sapa have their staff at entrance B on Tran Quy Cap street except Sapaly Express and Livitrans Express that receive passengers at Le Duan street entrance.
You can also buy the tickets from the booking office at the station and the tickets will be given to you once you make full payment, please check bed number, cabin numbers with the sales person or you can ask the railways staff to find out which train to get on
Not all railways staff can speak English and you may get confused as there are many trains at the platform and you don't know which one is yours.
There is a separate waiting room for international travelers at Hanoi railway station, passengers are not allowed to get on train until 30 minutes before departure and you can go to train station about 1 hour before the train leaves.
There are 3 overnight trains to Sapa running daily from Hanoi, slow trains (Code LC) depart at 20.25 including Livitrans, King Express, Orient Express...The second train departs at 21.10 with Royal Express, Ratraco Express, Tulico Express, Fansipan trains...The fastest train (Code SP) starts at 21.50 and arrive in Lao Cai station as early as 5.00 the next day. Tourist trains depart at 21.50 are Sapaly, Hoa Phuong Express and Victoria. You can check train timetable at http://www.vr.com.vn/
From Lao Cai train station, you go to Sapa by taxi (about 20 usd) or the shuttle service in Lao Cai - Sapa (usually using 16 seats), about 2.5 usd per person. Many taxis and shuttle buses park just outside the station, you don't need to book in advance but for initiative, you should arrange pickup service Lao Cai - Sapa with the hotel where you will stay. Most hotels offer this service for their guests.
Contact of some popular train companies in Hanoi:
Address 162 Ton Duc Thang street, Hanoi
Tel +84 919 653 119
Address 120 Le Duan street, Hanoi
Tel: +84 43942 9919
Address: 101 Nguyen Khuyen street, hanoi
Tel: +84 43904 0608
Address: 142 Le Duan Street, hanoi
Tel: 844 3929 0999