Buying Train Tickets
After having spent 11 days in Hanoi, we’ve decided to drag our lazy selves up to Sapa, Vietnam. I’’ve heard a lot of good things about Sapa and I was so eager to see the place myself. The picturesque mountain views and the green rice terraces made me even more curious to see the place. I have a fascination with Rice Terraces after I saw the ones they have in Banaue and Sagada.
Most tourist agencies charge $13 for a hard seat and $20 for a hard sleeper which I thought was really expensive. The best bet to save money on a train ride is to go to Hanoi Railway station and book it yourself. It’s not really that far from St. Joseph Church in the Old Quarters so I suggest that you just walk, but of course it depends on where you’re staying.
Grab the FREE MAP provided by your hostel and use it as your guide. Once you arrive at the Hanoi railway station, go to the ticketing office which should be on your left side if you’re facing the station.
The hard seat only cost $6 per person while the hard sleeper cost $13. Since we’re working on a very tight budget, we chose the hard seat despite of the thought that it’ll be an uncomfortable eight hour journey.
Before you leave the train station, confirm first if your train will depart from that station or from another. Some trains going to Lao Cai departs from a different train station.
Tip: Bring a bottle of water and enough food. Take out your jacket from your backpack as well because it gets quite cold at night and early in the morning.
From Lao Cai to Sapa
The train arrives around 6 or 7AM at Lao Cai station and there are a lot of minivans waiting for passengers outside the station. The cost of a tourist minivan should not cost you more than 50,000 Dong ($2.5) for an hour ride to Sapa. We paid 50,00 Dong and inside the van we found out that some passengers paid only 42,000 Dong.
Tip: Bargain!!! We started at a price of 100,000, and almost agreed at 60,000 but bargained harder until we agreed on 50,000 Dong per person. You might get it even cheaper as what I’ve said above.
Arrival in Sapa
I noticed that a lot of minivans stop at a hostel that they’re recommending (maybe because of commission). As soon as you get off the van, you could just start walking around and find a hostel that suits your budget.
Tip: A lot of hostels are offering a huge room with private bathrooms for $5 (for two persons) when I was there. I know some people who got a private room for only $4. Again, Bargain hard!
Sapa is a nice place to relax after experiencing the urban chaos of Hanoi. It’s also a popular stopover for people travelling further to Northern Laos.
Photo Credits: Rice Terraces of Sapa by Sander Scheers