Buses to Sapa leave from outside the train station but all other buses leave from Lien Tinh bus station, which you can literally see straight ahead of you, if you look down the street standing on the front steps of Quoc Te Lao Cai train station. You'll also notice that this street, Phan Dinh Phung, is packed with places to eat and sleep, so if you're not staying long, you might as well stay here.
ATMs that accept foreign cards are scattered throughout town. There's a convenient BIDV ATM near the station, next to the Pho Nui Guest House and an Agribank a stone's throw from the border.
Internet is in ample supply: the nearest place to the train station is a few doors down from Le Bordeaux on Nguyen Hue and charges 5,000 per hour.
The main post office is on the west side of the river and not very conveniently located for visitors. Those next to the train station or near the border are likely to be better options. All have long distance phone services available.
Although it is possible to book tours in Lao Cai, they're still based out of Sapa so you might get a better deal if you wait until you get there. We did find one independent guide, Bui Duc Thinh, who is based here though — he is operating tours out of the Pineapple Restaurant on Phan Dinh Phung. His English is quite impressive for someone who's never set foot outside the country.
Alternatively you can hire a motorbike — try Hai Nhi Restaurant by the station — or taxi and make it up yourself.
BIDV Bank: 80 Ho Tung Mao, next to the Pho Nui Guest House, near the train station, Lao Cai. T: (020) 383 2946
Agribank: 5 Nguyen Hue, near the border, Lao Cai. T: (020) 383 2270, F: (020) 3830 765
Binh Minh Travel: 39 Nguyen Hue, Lao Cai. T: (020) 383 6666, F: (020) 383 0403. www.binhminhtravel.com.vn.
Bui Duc Thinh: T: (0912) 587 606, E-mail: email@example.com
Post office: Just north of the train station, Lao Cai. T: (020) 832 652, F: (020) 832 650. Hours: Summer 06:30 to 12:00 and 13:00 to 19:00 Winter: 07:30 to 12:00 and 13:00 to 18:30
Post office: 13 Nguyen Hue, near the border, Lao Cai. T:(020) 830 414, F: (020) 830 020. Hours: As for train station branch.
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