Overnight Train Hanoi -> Sapa
Replies: 8 - Last Post: Aug 30, 2013 3:53 PM Last Post By: nvg
Aug 20, 2013 4:45 AM
Overnight Train Hanoi -> SapaHi all,
I've been reading a few posts about how to get to Sapa and have a few more questions:-
1) What are the security arrangements if you get a soft-sleeper carriage? Do any of the companies offer lockers or any kind of safe storage? I don't like the idea of having things like my passport loose in the carriage, certainly won't be good for my sleep anyway. I emailed the Et-Pumpkin people about this and they just said there was a lock on each cabin, which didn't really reassure me any.
2) Et-Pumpkin seem to suggest that their carriage is only for the outward journey, when you return from Sapa it's just a regular Vietnam train carriage, is this the case for all companies? If so what kind of carriage is this? If you're interested, I was reading this page:
3) Upon returning to Hanoi I want to fly to Danang the same day, how many hours do you think I should leave to get to the airport and then check in? I saw somebody else had asked about this. Flights to Danang seem pretty regular so I don't feel too stressed about that, but when I get to Danang I might try to get to Hue or Hoi An on the same day. Looks as though the Hue airport will still be out of goose by the time I am there (just over a month from now).
4) Related to the above, how far is the airport shuttle bus from Hanoi train station? Is it walkable and is that safe?
5) If anybody has any recent experience of any of the different train companies running the Hanoi-Lao Cai service I'd be grateful for any tips. Except for those Victoria guys, my pockets aren't that deep. I'm really keen to get as good a night's sleep as possible, so if there is a particular company that has a reputation for serving boring people who don't like to smoke/drink/party all night then that'd be ideal for me.
Edited by: chesneymooncalf
Aug 20, 2013 4:55 AM
1I took the King's Express to Lao Cai ($70 round-trip) and felt pretty safe. There were two locks on the door. However, some of our neighbors smoked and the A/C system is connected throughout the carriage so there was a problem with second-hand smoke. There was a train worker on our carriage but he didn't do anything about that. It was an okay ride and we caught a few hours sleep though.
Aug 21, 2013 10:35 PM
Aug 21, 2013 10:43 PM
3For safety, the cabin doors have a lock, and you sleep with your passport and you put a small bag with your valuables at your feet ; very few thefts - the doors are noisy to open -except in the cheapest trains where some cabins have a broken lock (broken by the thieves !).
I have no idea of what Et-pumkin is, but the situation is very simple : each train has numerous wagons attached, each belonging to a different operator (except the deluxe Victoria train, butit's reserved to the cleints of the hotel Victoria Sapa). So, it is a metter of which operator you schose : a "regular", which is OK (35$ OW) or a more comfortable (Livitrans or even better Sapaly - run by Best Western) ; the difference of price between the 2 is minimal, so I recommend a better one
I always take Sapaly , they even give you small sleepers and the sanitary equipment (separate toilets) are immaculate ; in fact, the wagons are ex-Victoria Train wagons bought over by Best Western and reconditioned
Aug 22, 2013 7:44 AM
4Is like #3 said each train has got several wagons. The one I took have locks at every door and i feel relatively safe has our passports and bags were beside our feet, on the matress. No safe storage or lockers.
But the cabin was for 4 persons and you don´t choose your partners....
If you have the extra money assure that your cabin is just for you. As #3 said allways paid the extra for this trip,
Aug 22, 2013 8:11 PM
5Extra-money is not enough to be alone in a cabin -and it is VERY expensive. Many operators do not offer 2-berth-only cabins (Sapaly does not but Livitrans does; cheaper wagons have none) ; on all those, to be alone, you would have to pay for the entire cabin of 4 berths.
Being with other people is not a problem ; everybody falls asleep right away, except in cabins occupied by 4 Occidentals who have decided to spend most of the night drinking (I have seen that one several times).
Aug 30, 2013 1:13 PM
6We just returned from Vietnam a week ago. We got the Livitrans train to Sapa (Lao Cai) which we heard was the best but it seems, according to an Australian Vietnamese guy we spoke to that there is only one train with different company carriages attached.
We booked 3 beds for 2 people in a soft sleeper, hoping the 4th would not be taken, but no such luck. However it was pretty much lights out straight away and try to get the best sleep you can. The door had a lock on the inside, of course if you go to the toilet in the middle of the night and no one locks it behind you then potentially there is the risk of theft. Suitcases just slide under the bunk beds, so keep them locked.
However no one loitered around, the corridors are too narrow and the train rocked so much it was all you could do to get to the toilet and back to the room.
There is a worker on the carriage serving tea early in the night, however later on he was sleeping on the floor in a doorway off the corridor.
The journey to Lao Cai wasn't so bad....sleep is minimal as the train is noisy and jerks to stops twice on the journey. It sounded like they were adding or removing carriages. The bed was comfortable enough but no room to swing a cat...just sleep in your day clothes. Bring a travel pillow if able as the flat soft pillows left me with a sore neck in the morning.
The journey back from Lao Cai was awful as both toilets on either end of our carriage blocked and the stench was so bad you could not enter the cubicle. I had to stumble outside to get on to the next carriage to use that toilet, on a madly rocking train with visions of falling off into the wilderness in the middle of the night!! Try not to drink much so you don't need to use the toilet for the whole 8 hour journey! Very unpleasant experience.
Be aware of the scams. We had men helping us with our bags onto the carriage who we thought were rail staff, until they demanded 500 000dong for their help! And were very persistent about getting their 'tip'.
Also contact your hotel in Sapa and make sure they send a courtesy bus to collect you as the private courtesy bus operators in Lao Cai will try and charge you $50 USDper person for the normally $5 trip. We refused to pay but were followed round the carpark interfering with us asking other operators for their fee (which was the same anyway).
Aug 30, 2013 2:49 PM
Aug 30, 2013 3:50 PM
8If you have an upper bunk there is a wide shelf over the corridor where you can put your personal stuff, and maybe your main bag. We only took two small daypacks and a soft carry-on size bag, so it all went up top. (I had a top bunk, my wife had a lower bunk. Our travelling companions were a European couple on the way up, and a pair of American college girls on the way down. Not once did I worry about security.)
Our hotel organised the train tickets for us, saying it would be too hard for us to do so on short notice. So we got a package - trains (Livitrains), shuttles, hotel and a good 2 day walking tour. I'm sure this is a minor scam but it was easy and relatively cheap, so why bother about it?
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