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If you're in Hanoi and trying to make your way to Sapa, Halong Bay, or Hoi An, this article has some essential information that is sure to make your travels easier.
Catching an overnight train remains the most popular way of getting to Sapa from Hanoi.
Halong Bay is closer to the capital and by private car it takes about 3.5 hours (depending on traffic and weather).
Hoi An has no airports so you’ll have to fly to Da Nang first, and then transfer to Hoi An by private car.
Sapa is a hill station located 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) above sea level, known for its splendid scenery and rich cultural diversity and serving as Vietnam's premier trekking base.
Taking an overnight train is the recommended and most popular way of getting close to Sapa from Hanoi.
It takes about 8-9 hours by train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, the province in which Sapa is located (the train only stops in Lao Cai). It then takes an additional hour to cover the final 34 kilometers (21 miles) to Sapa from Lao Cai train station, by minibus or private transfer.
There are several tourist train companies operating the route between Hanoi and Lao Cai, but two, in particular, stand out for their exceptional service and overall quality: the Orient Express (for comfort) and the Victoria Express (for luxury).
Orient Express (Oriental Impress)
The Orient Express (also known as the Oriental Impress) is perhaps the best-known privately run train service operating the route from Hanoi to Lao Cai. Ticket prices are relatively low and value for money is very good.
If you value luxury and privacy, this is the train for you. It is important, however, for those interested in the Victoria Express to know, that as of now, tickets are reserved for in-house guests only, meaning that you have to stay at the Victoria Resort and Spa in order to purchase these train tickets.
The Victoria Express, while a little more expensive, is one of a kind. The word 'luxury' is synonymous with this company and if you wish to travel in style, you ought to choose the Victoria Express.
Here's an easy side-by-side comparison of the Orient Express and the Victoria Express, to help facilitate your decision:
|Orient Express (Comfort)||Victoria Express (Luxury)|
|Schedule||Departs Hanoi at 21:30 (9:30 p.m.) and arrives at Lao Cai at 5:30 the next morning.||Departs Hanoi at 21:50 (9:50 p.m.) and arrives at Lao Cai at 6:15 the next morning.|
|Amenities||VIP 2-berth cabins, deluxe 4-berth cabins, and 6-berth cabins. Individual reading lights, power sockets, baggage storage, and air-conditioning in each cabin.||2 deluxe cabins for families and large groups, and 11 superior cabins. Free WiFi, individual reading lights, power sockets, baggage storage, large windows, and air-conditioning in each cabin.|
|Service||Mineral water and snacks provided for free. Tea, coffee, beer, meals, and other refreshments can be purchased onboard.||Mineral water and snacks provided for free. Tea, coffee, beer, meals, and other refreshments can be purchased onboard.|
|Price||VIP 2-berth cabins: $70 (Please note that since this cabin is non-sharing, you will have to purchase the entire cabin even if there is only one person.) Deluxe 4-berth/6-berth: $35||VIP (deluxe) cabins: $160 Superior cabins: $110|
We take care of your train tickets from Hanoi to Lao Cai and book a superior or higher-standard cabin for your comfort.
Our carefully-planned itinerary includes a visit to the local market, some downtime to help you recover from a tiring overnight train journey and prepare for some trekking the next day, followed by some easy trekking in the Moung Hoa Valley and in Sapa (over 2 days). We then make our way back to Hanoi.
Your accommodation in Sapa will include 1 night at U Sapa Boutique Hotel and Spa (for comfort) or at the Sapa Victoria Resort and Spa (for luxury), and 1 night at a homestay.
Halong Bay is known for its emerald waters and towering limestone islands. Cruising past these islands — named for their shapes— can be a magical experience. The region is also popular for kayaking, swimming, rock climbing, hiking, and scuba diving.
Located about 165 kilometers (103 miles) from Hanoi, Halong Bay can be reached from the capital city via private car in about 3.5 hours. Not only is this the quickest way of getting to Halong Bay, it is also the most comfortable.
Departure from Hanoi will be in the early morning and you're likely to reach Halong Bay a little before midday. Once you're there, you will board the junk boat[Why board the junk boat? Not really clear.], settle in, and enjoy a welcome drink before you begin your tour.
The best way to take in the stunning natural landscape is to take a cruise in the bay. We recommend a 2 Days 1 Night package with one of the following cruises: Glory Legend Cruise (for Comfort) or Orchid Cruise (more luxurious).
Itineraries differ for each cruise but you will probably visit Cua Van fishing village, Vung Vieng fishing village, Me Cung Caves, Virgin Cave, and Surprise Cave, as well as passing some small islets, such as Flight Cock Islet, Human Head Islet, and Toad Islet.
Hoi An is a great place to relax and its famed Ancient Town was granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1999. The Ancient Town is known for its historic buildings and cultural legacy, and one can sign up for cooking classes and take eco-village tours here.
The recommended way of getting to Hoi An from Hanoi is by first taking a flight to Da Nang, and then transferring to Hoi An by private car.
Flights from Hanoi to Da Nang are convenient and inexpensive. Nonstop flights usually take a little under an hour-and-a-half and cost around US $100. The most popular carriers include Jetstar, VietJet Air, and Vietnam.
Traveling from Hanoi to Da Nang is also possible by train, but this takes a lot longer. Traveling by train is slightly cheaper but the average travel time is 14 hours and 12 minutes. Here's the Hanoi to Da Nang train timetable:
|Departs||Arrives||Train No.||Hard Seat||Soft Seat||Hard Berth (6)||Soft Berth (4)|
|19:30||11:26||Reunification Express Train SE1||N/A||$40||$57||$59|
|22:00||13:00||Reunification Express Train SE3||N/A||$43||$59||$61|
|09:00||01:28||Reunification Express Train SE5||$35||$40||$57||$59|
|06:00||22:25||Reunification Express Train SE7||$35||$40||$57||$59|
|20:10||12:20||Reunification Express Train SE19||N/A||$42||$55||$58|
From Da Nang, it takes a little under an hour to get to Hoi An by car. Guests will be received by our guide-cum-driver at Da Nang International Airport.
Experience the charm of Hoi An Ancient Town by taking part in a walking tour with a guide who will take you around and show you the Japanese Covered Bridge, Fujian Assembly Hall (Phuc Kien), and Old House of Tan Ky. The tour will conclude with your learning how to make a traditional lantern at a workshop.
Asia Highlights welcomes the chance to help you design your perfect trip to Vietnam. Our knowledgeable staff will assist you in selecting destinations, accommodations and activities that best suit your requirements.
Check out the following links to learn more about our tours and get a head start on planning your hassle-free vacation today!