The state ticket office times at Lao Cai train station are 08:00 to 10:00 and 14:00 to 16:00, although the desks appear to be open until the last train departs.
Tickets to Hanoi can be bought at the station or from one of the private operators, such as Livitrains on Phan Dinh Phung. If you're on a trip from Hanoi then it's best to get a return ticket sorted in Hanoi as trains get busy and you might find yourself stranded or paying big money for a private carriage. Note though that even buying at the train station in Hanoi won't guarantee you the ticket you want — we're guessing that travel agents buy up all the tickets so those of us not willing to pay the commission might not have much luck.
These prices are for the regular, public cars, not the ones run by private companies — and unless you buy direct from the station you will end up paying quite a lot more.
Special express trains
SP2 departs at 20:15, arrives 04:55
SP4 departs at 21:00, arrives 05:15
SP6 departs at 21:30, arrives at 06:55
SP8 departs at 19:30, arrives 04:20
LC2 departs at 18:40, arrives 04:05
LC4 departs at 09:15, arrives 20:15 (numerous stops)
Soft sleepers (2 bed cabin) from 1,095,000 to 1,205,000 VND
Soft sleepers (4 bed cabin) from 545,000 to 600,000 VND
Hard sleepers from 380,000 to 500,000 VND
Soft seats from 250,000 to 265,000 VND.
Book your train tickets now!
Check prices and availability then buy your tickets online straight away to be sure of getting a seat.
Sapa to Hanoi
Buses to Sapa depart from the car park in front of the train station – they're privately operated so if you look lost enough it won't be long before someone approaches you offering a seat on a bus. A fair price at time of writing (July 2013) was 50,000 VND -- pay on the bus -- but with no official ticket booth you may find yourself haggling. Note that prices are subject to increase so if you're reading this in 2014 the price may have gone up. Alternatively book a pick-up with your hotel in advance – it may cost you slightly more but will save you any stress. The journey takes around an hour and is very scenic on a clear day.
It's also possible to pick up an overnight bus to Hanoi from outside the train station.
For other departures head to the bus station. Note that bus times and prices are prone to variation and are only approximate – especially the Bac Ha bus, which seems to run whenever the driver feels like it.
Lao Cai bus station
End of Phan Ding Phung Road, east bank of the Hong river, Lao Cai.
Ticket office hours 05:30 to 17:00
T: (020) 383 5310.
Departures to all points but Sapa are available here.
Bac Ha: Departs at 06:30, 07:30, 09:30, 10:30, 13:00, 15:00 (possibly), costs 60,000 VND.
Dien Bien Phu: Departs at 06:30, 07:00 and 17:30, costs 235,000 or 265,000 VND.
Ha Noi (My Dinh): Departures all day from 08:00 to 21:00, costs 270,000 VND.
Ha Noi (Giap Bat): Departs at 19:00, costs 270,000 VND.
Ha Giang: Departs at 05:30, costs 100,000VND.
Lai Chau: Eleven departures daily between 05:30 and 16:30, costs 80,000 VND.
Muong Lay: Departs at 07:30, costs 130,000 VND.
Son La: Departs at 07:00 and 17:00, costs 187,000 VND.
Thai Nguyen: Departs at 07:30, 10:00 and 18:15, costs 220,000 VND.
Motorbike taxi drivers are easy to find – or they'll find you. In particular they hang around near the bus and train station, the border gate and near the bridge. A ride from the border to the train station or vice versa will cost around 30,000 to 40,000 VND.