Top 6 best budget trains Hanoi to Sapa
are about 20 companies providing
trains from Hanoi to Lao Cai and vice versa. Actually they are only carriages pulled by
the same engine. Except for the supercilious Victoria Express
which serves only the guests staying at their hotel most other
trains are not very different. In this entry I want to mention 6
trains of middle class I like the most. Yeah, don't waste your
money for the expesive trains, don't waste your time searching
around the net as you will get confused with the lengthy list of
train. Note that the trains offer 2,4 and 6 berth cabins however
I just talk about 4 berth cabins which are most popular to
1 - Livitrans Express
Used to be the best option for mid range travelers when it was launched in September 2007. Livitrans is still my first choice for a train trip to Sapa, the train belongs to Lien Viet corporation and fares is quite reasonable, about 38 usd a ticket in a 4 berth cabin. What makes me like this train is that it is available most of the time because there are up to more than 10 carriages and price never change even in peak time, please note that most other trains have only 1 or 2 carriages and they offer a very high price for weekends when there are many people go to Sapa. On Livitrans you can choose 4 berth cabins, 6 berth cabins or VIP cabins with 2 berths if you want to have some privacy. Unfortunately the real VIP cabins were no longer available in Livitrans since 2012, the reason was few people could afford it. Eventhough many new trains have come out in recent years I still prefer Livitrans
2 - Hoa Phuong Express
Not famous as other trains as it came out only a couple of years. Actually I was not interested in this train until last year when I booked it for some friends of mine as the other trains were fully booked on Labour day. To my surprise Hoa Phuong Express is by no means inferior to other famous trains. The cabins are designed with wooden panelled wall, bedding facilities and lighting system are very good, the toilet is clean and very well attended. Please note that toilet on Vietnam trains is always a problem for international passengers as it is dirty and smelly. Hoa Phuong does a really good job. The only thing I don't like about this train is it departs quite late at 9.50pm Imagine you are traveler who have checked out the hotel at noon or come back from Halong bay trip at 4pm and you have to hang around nearly 5 hours at the train station.
3 - Dong A Express
Not many people have heard of this train however I myself have been on it a couple of times and was satisfied with it. Like most other trains Dong A has first class cabins with 4 beds, wooden wall and clean bedding facilities but basic, service on train is pretty good, helpful and friendly staff and you don't need to ask for the right train as their staff will escort you to your own cabins, you get a free drink with a bottle of water and a napkin. My tip is when we you arrive at Lao Cai station early in the morning all the lights will turned off in the train and very dark. So make sure to have all your belongings with you.
4 - King Express
One of the first companies offering overnight train service to Sapa with sleepers. The cabins are clean but basic following the wooden decorated form making it feels warm, you have a free drink lplaced on the table. King Express has light yellow old-fashioned decor, toothbrushes and toothpaste are provided with disposable slippers. The problem is the beds are too narrow, mattress are thin and maybe difficult for the big guys.
5 - Green Express
Green Express set off from Hanoi quite late at 21.50 and arrives in Lao Cai at 5.30 early next morning, this is the last train departing for Lao Cai in the day. The cabins were refurbished and they look new however a bit small than average, the linen is adequate with soft beds, blanket, pillow and a fizzy drink, the aircon was too cold for me on the first trip and got turned off middle of the night on way back so was really sweaty and hot, anyway with 38 usd/ticket it was well worth the cost. After all, don't expect too much and you will be ok
6 - Cao Son Express
A good choice if you want to keep the cost down, Cao Son Express train is recommended for passengers traveling with tight budget. The cabins are basic with soft mattress and pillow, not comfortable but clean. Make sure you just take a backpack or small bag as there isn't much room in the carriage. There is no meal service on board so take your own provisions. One plus for Cao Son train is staff on train are very frienly. Ah, make sure if you have to use the bathroom to go right when the train departs or it will get dirty later and you need to bring toilet paper.