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Vietnam forum

Northern Entry to Sapa Via China?

Posted by mrbump on 5/1/2012 at 15:31

Hi we are looking to travel down towards Hanoi from China after visiting Yangshou and Guilin. However after studying a map and where I would like to visit i notice Sapa is a bit of a detour from Hanoi and it might make sense for us to continue on into China and head south at somwhere like Kunming?
Can anyone advise if this route is passable and if it is possible for a decent Visa/Boarder crossing this way.
Dont mind travelling off the beaten track but it might make life easier to head straight to Hanoi and make the detour?
Many Thanks

#1 mrbump has been a member since 16/12/2011. Posts: 11

Posted by caseyprich on 5/1/2012 at 19:35

You have to apply for advance for a Vietnam Visa - and I think that Visa on arrival may only work for airports (and you still need a letter that you'll get by ordering it through the internet). The closest border to Kunming & Sapa is Lao Cai /Hekou.

If you are just taking a train from Guilin to Kunming in order to enter via Lao Cai, I think that isn't worth it. If, however, there are things you want to see in Yunnan and Western Guizhou/Guangxi other than just Kunming it may be worth the hassel. I've never loved Kumnimg and see it more as a place to cross through on my way somewhere else. There are really nice rice-terraces in YuanYang on the way to Lao Cai - but you can also see those north of Guilin (Longsheng).

My advice would be that Kunming is actually much more of a detour if you consider the train there and then heading south - plus the visa hassle that you'd have to try and sort out in Kunming. You can also take a much shorter train ride to Nanning and they have a Vietnam Consulate there ( and then take a bus to cross into Vietnam and stop in Hanoi (I haven't been but I hear far more interesting than Kunming anyway).

#2 caseyprich has been a member since 3/3/2010. Location: China. Posts: 1,281
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Posted by travellingsarah on 5/1/2012 at 20:51 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

I agree with Casey in that going to Kunming from Guilin just to get across the border at Lao Cai is not worth it - as well as the lengthy travel to Kunming (about 20 hours from Guilin on a train from memory) it's then a long bus journey (another 20 hours or am I imagining that??) to the border. So it will actually take you longer than going to Nanning and on to Hanoi and then travelling from there to Lau Cai / Sapa. However, if, as we did, you want to go up to Dali / Tiger Leaping Gorge etc. you will go through Kunming anyway so would be worth considering in that instance. But sort your visa out before you even get to China.

#3 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 684
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Posted by mrbump on 6/1/2012 at 12:20

Amazing! Thanks to both of you, just the advice i needed.
As you said I think now we would only go via Kunming if we were travel up to Leaping Tiger Gorge. We are not sure if its worth the extra time traveling up there. I know this is a Vietnam Page but is the Gorge/Dali worth the trip, looks stunning but from what I have ready I can get a real good feel for the area round Yangshou and Guilin.
Personally now im happy to cross the border at Nanning sort the Visa there and then travel to Hanoi to get a proper bus ride up to Sapa.
Thanks again!

#4 mrbump has been a member since 16/12/2011. Posts: 11

Posted by caseyprich on 6/1/2012 at 18:05

Two points to make about Tiger Leaping Gorge - (1) it will be cold this time of year, (2) it will start to get very crowded in Dali in a week or two. Chinese Spring Festival starts on the 14th for schools, and even though it is chilly in Northern Yunnan, there will be a massive number of tourists going there to see Dali and Lijiang. Even buying train tickets in Shanghai right now is extremely difficulty - so I'm not sure how you'll handle the transport. As well, if you wait too long to get into Vietnam then you'll be crossing in around Tet (same as Spring Festival), and that could make transport and accommodation more difficult.

#5 caseyprich has been a member since 3/3/2010. Location: China. Posts: 1,281
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Posted by tf_geckozy on 8/1/2012 at 00:10

For recentl several years i travelled Chian-VN-Laos continuosly 5 times from Shanghai(CN) to Ha Noi(VN) via Guillin & Yanshuo & Nanning and every time i finally travelled northern part of Yunnan province from Laos before being back to Shanghai for returning to my country so maybe i can cover all of your routes you are thinking but i cannot describe all of them so if you need some informations i have, i describe it in detail.

Border crossing for entering into VN

If you don't travel northen part of Yunnang and want to enter into VN first, Nanning is the best point for it because you can cross border and enter into VN very fast and very easily in a day with no hasstle(really very easy and fast) .
And you have another option for entering into VN crossing Hekou/Lao Cai border without going to Ha Noi first by taking a sleeper bus from Nanning to Hekou(one bus a day from Be Dai bus station in Nanning--5-6km west and opposite side of the Naning railway station) but this sleeper bus dosen't use Highway for going to Hekou so it takes about 16 hours.

Visa for entering VN and accommodation in Nanning

If you go to Nanning and stay at "Lotus land Hostel"(adress: 64 Shanghai Road/Tel:86-771-2439592, 86-771-5922280)--every time i stayed here before or after going/coming back to/from VN), this hostel get your VN Visa with no charge for you and that is one of their very good services and many western tourists use this hostel whole a year but it's capacity is small(about 29 persons) so reservatin is surely required on line or by telephone before going there. (really very good hostel! i recommend)
* ---(map)

Now i have plenty of informations about VN and Laos and also about this route from Yangshuo(Guilin) to Ha Noi, Ha Noi to Sapa( & inreverse) etc so if you need my informations i'll describe about it in detail (ie: bus service from Yangshuo to Nanning, Nanning to Ha Noi = by bus and train--but i recommend "by bus", timetable etc)

PS) please check my recent post in LP as below

Good luck, bye!

#6 tf_geckozy has been a member since 2/9/2008. Posts: 82

Posted by mrbump on 9/1/2012 at 17:00

That is great information! Thanks that has really helped me out.

Not sure I fancy a 16hour bus ride off of main roads so I think a boarder crossing via Nanning is the best way.
I will leave Tiger gorge this time around, I believe we will have plenty to do around Yangshou and Guilin.
Geckozy I will be sure to contact you if I have any questions about the region!
Thanks again, saved me alot of trouble!

#7 mrbump has been a member since 16/12/2011. Posts: 11

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