Aug 19 2011

Putting your motorbike on the train in Lao Cai

Published by at 9:08 am under Transport

My boyfriend and two friends recently spent nearly a week motorbiking in northwest Vietnam. Having reached Sapa they didn’t want to spend another couple of days driving back to Hanoi along a relatively boring road (compared to where they’d been) so they opted to put the bikes on the train from Lao Cai.

Make sure you go to the train station and don't end up in China

Make sure you go to the train station -- don't end up in China.

Given this wasn’t quite as straightforward as expected I thought I’d impart a few tips to make it as painless as possible. The process will be similar at most stations.

Firstly, not all trains transport motorbikes. They were booked onto the SP8  but had to put the bikes on the SP2, which left half an hour earlier. No big deal – the bikes were waiting for them when they got to Hanoi. As far as I can find out, there’s no definite pattern to which trains take bikes and which don’t, so you’ll just need to get to the station at 16:00 – see below – and find out.

On arrival at Lao Cai station, you will be accosted by people trying to persuade you that you need their help and advice. Paul was told they’d have to change their existing train tickets and travel on the same train as the bikes – this isn’t true and will end up costing ridiculous amounts. Don’t trust anyone – go straight to the booking office to buy bike tickets.

The booking office is to the right of the main ticket office/waiting room, just on the right of the tunnel through to the platform and facing the road. Do not go to the room which leads off the tunnel – it’s the staff break room and disturbing them there will not win you any brownie points. The office opens at 16:00.

As for price, it should cost around 250,000 VND per bike — much more than that and you should argue the case.

Once you’ve bought your bike ticket, take the bike onto the platform. A woman there will fill out a form with bike details such as license plate, make and engine size and will give you a receipt. Leave your bike there and it will be put on the train.

Relief at seeing your bike again

Here it comes!

Finally, at Hanoi station, go and get your bike on the platform — if you get in before it you’ll be able to wheel it off the train yourself, if you get in later it’ll be waiting for you. Be warned, they will have drained the petrol from your bike before putting it on the train. Don’t expect to get any back. If you can, switch on the reserve when you leave it in Lao Cai and you might have enough to get back to your hotel, otherwise you’ll have to push it just outside the station and find a vendor.

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5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Putting your motorbike on the train in Lao Cai”

  1. Luison 06 Jun 2013 at 11:39 am

    Hi, I’m planning to use the train to put my moto and go to Sapa. I didn’t understand about the draining my gasoline to put my bike in the train. What I should I do.

    Does all the info matches with 2013 as well as the prices?



  2. Sarah Turneron 07 Jun 2013 at 2:32 am

    Hi Luis. I don’t know for sure why you have to drain the gasoline but I assume it is for safety – not a great idea to have bikes full of gas on a moving train. They are supposed to give it back to you on arrival but in reality that is not going to happen, so make sure you don’t have much in the tank. I don’t know if the prices are still valid. I’ll be in Sapa later this month so will try to check it out then. Sarah

  3. giuseppeon 22 Jul 2013 at 6:38 am

    Hi Sarah, we are planning to do the same (opposite rout, hanoi to sapa, and back) in two days, your post was very helpfull, thanks!
    Do you, by chance, have any info on how is the procedure from hanoi, and updates on 2013?


  4. Sarah Turneron 23 Jul 2013 at 1:05 am

    Hi Giuseppe. I’m afraid I don’t know the procedure from Hanoi but it’s on my list of things to find out! Sorry, that’s probably not much help to you as you’re going tomorrow. If you bought your train ticket from an agent, they should be able to assist. Sarah

  5. JackTuxedoKaton 23 Jul 2013 at 10:11 am


    Do you have any information on the time table for the trains that take motorbikes? We will leave Sapa in the morning for Lao Cai and want to make sure we don’t have to wait several hours to catch the only train for motorbikes. Or, if we show up at 4pm, will this be enough for motorbike and our train to Hanoi? Thanks!

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