Getting to China: Lao Cai to Kunming
Getting to the border The Chinese border at the Lao Cai/Hekou border crossing is about 3km from Lao Cai train station, a journey done by xe om (motorbike taxi; around 25,000d) or taxi (around 50,000d).
At the border The border is open daily between 7am and 10pm Vietnam time. Note that China is one hour ahead of Vietnam. You’ll need to have a prearranged visa for China. China is separated from Vietnam by a road bridge and a separate rail bridge over the Song Hong (Red River). Note that travellers have reported Chinese officials confiscating Lonely Planet China guides at this border, so you may want to try masking the cover.
Moving on The new Hekou bus station is around 6km from the border post. There are regular departures to Kunming, including sleeper buses that leave at 7.20pm and 7.30pm, getting into Kunming at around 7am. There are also four daily trains.
Lao Cai's inter-provincial bus station is a whopping 10km southeast of town; a taxi there will cost about 150,000d.
Buses from Lao Cai
Dien Bien Phu
6.45am, 5pm, 5.30pm & 10pm
6am & 11.30am
Halong City (Bai Chay)
7.15pm, 6pm & 8.15pm
Yellow-and-red minibuses and larger buses for Sapa (30,000d, 30 minutes) leave at least hourly between 5.10am and 6pm from the car park in front of Lao Cai train station. Touts will try to push you to their private minibuses for an inflated 100,000d. Minibuses to Bac Ha (60,000d, 2½ hours) leave from the provincial bus station, located just west of the train station; there are frequent departures from 4.45am to 5.30pm.
A taxi to Sapa costs about US$25; it’s around US$50 to Bac Ha.
Virtually everyone travelling to and from Hanoi uses the train, the safest and most comfortable option.
There are daily services to Hanoi from Lao Cai train station at 8.35pm and 9.10pm (150,000d, 10 hours).