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How to get from SaPa to CatBa
When travelling the 370 km distance from SaPa to CatBa, you have 2 options: you can take a direct bus (10.5 hours) or an indirect train (12.5 hours). Rates start from $26.50 (625,000 VND) and $25.50 (610,000 VND), respectively.
|Bus||10.5 hours||$26.50 (625,000 VND)||Check bus tickets|
|Train||12.5 hours||$25.50 (610,000 VND)||Read article for more info|
The bus is the only direct way to get from SaPa to CatBa. It is neither as safe nor as comfortable as the train, but the bus conveniently takes you from the centre of SaPa to the centre of CatBa in 10.5 hours. And if you take a night bus, you also won’t lose an entire day on travelling.
Trains are generally more comfortable in Vietnam. But because there is no direct train for this route, travelling by railway from SaPa to CatBa is a bit of an adventure. This includes several transfers: a van from SaPa to Lao Cai, an overnight train to Hanoi, another train to Hai Phong, a taxi to Pha Binh Harbour and finally, a ferry to CatBa. The entire journey takes around 13 hours.
TIP: Want to visit Halong Bay instead? Check out our route guide from Hanoi to Halong Bay or consider booking a Halong Bay boat cruise including pick-up for $51 (1,212,000 VND).
SaPa to CatBa by Bus
There are three main companies offering nightly bus trips from SaPa to CatBa: Good Morning Cat Ba, Ken Doan and SaPa Grouptour.
Ken Doan offers the cheapest fares from $26.50 (625,000 VND) — this already includes free hotel pick-up in SaPa.
If you prefer to travel with the company with the best reviews, go for Good Morning Cat Ba, which is known for its friendly staff and nice buses.
Departure and arrival station
Good Morning Cat Ba departs from SaPa Bus Station, 1 km east of Sapa Lake. It offers free hotel drop-off in CatBa town centre.
Ken Doan picks up passengers from any hotel in SaPa town centre. Its last stop is at the parking lot of CatBa Night Market.
SaPa Grouptour departs from its office in Sapa town centre and arrives at its headquarters in CatBa town centre.
Bus Schedule from SaPa to CatBa
|Good Morning Cat Ba|
+ free drop-off
|$31.50 (750,000 VND)|
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+ free pick-up
|21:00-07:30||$26.50 (625,000 VND)|
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|Sapa Grouptour||21:15-07:15||$32.50 (770,000 VND)|
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SaPa to CatBa by Train
Travelling from SaPa to CatBa by train includes 3 steps and takes around 12.5 hours — but 8 hours of that will be spent on an overnight train where you can get a good night’s sleep.
Is it worth making all these transfers when you can just take a direct bus? It’s really up to your preference. Trains are an exciting way to travel in Vietnam, and they’re generally safer and more comfortable than buses.
Step 1: Sapa to Lao Cai by Bus/Van
From SaPa, you can take a 45-minute van or a 1-hour bus to Lao Cai. Because you will be taking a night train, we recommend catching the last trip from SaPa so you can still make the most of your last day here.
The last van or bus leaves SaPa around 17:00 to 18:30. Confirm this schedule with your hotel so that you don’t miss it and end up paying for a more expensive taxi.
Ticket prices start from $1.70 (40,000 VND) for a van and $1.20 (30,000 VND) for a bus.
Step 2: Lao Cai to Hanoi by Train
Starting October 2022, Vietnam Railways is back to its nightly operations from Lao Cai to Hanoi. This route previously operated with fewer weekly departures because of the pandemic.
Vietnam Railways SP4 departs every night from Lao Cai at 21:30. This arrives in Hanoi at 05:25 after an 8-hour journey.
You can get a 4-berth sleeper for $12.50 (295,000 VND). Skip the queues at the train station and buy your tickets online beforehand through Baolau.
Check Train Tickets with Baolau
Check out our page for SaPa to Hanoi for more train options.
Step 3: Hanoi to CatBa
When travelling from Hanoi to CatBa, you have 2 options: you can take a combined bus & ferry (3.5 hours) or a DIY train + taxi + ferry (4 hours). We break down both routes below.
Option 1: Hanoi to CatBa by Bus & Ferry
We recommend taking a combined bus & ferry from Hanoi to CatBa for convenience. Your tour operator takes care of your transfers so you won’t have to worry about anything.
Ticket prices start from $11.50 (275,000 VND) and travel time takes around 3.5 hours.
Check Bus Tickets with BookAway
For more info, check out our guide on how to get from Hanoi to CatBa.
Option 2: Hanoi to CatBa by Train + Taxi + Ferry
This 2nd option involves several transfers that you will have to schedule on your own. This is why we think you should take this route only if the tickets for the combined bus & ferry are already sold out.
Upon arrival in Hanoi, you’ll have around 30 minutes to spare before the first train departs for Hai Phong at 06:00. A train ticket costs $3.60 (85,000 VND) for the 2.5-hour journey.
You are to get off at Hai Phong Railway Station. From here, you can take a 10-minute taxi with fares from $2.10 (50,000 VND) to Pha Binh Harbour.
IMPORTANT: Make sure the driver understands that you want to go to Pha Binh Harbour, NOT Dinh Vu Port. Some drivers may try to scam you by taking you to Dinh Vu, which is 30 minutes away by taxi. There are no direct ferries from Dinh Vu to CatBa.
From Pha Binh Harbour, there are six direct ferries departing for CatBa daily. The ferry journey takes around 1.5 hours. A ticket costs $5.50 (140,000 VND) and you can buy them online on Baolau.
Ferries dock at CatBa Pier in CatBa town centre. From here, many hotels in town are just within walking distance.
Routes from CatBa
Most popular routes in Vietnam
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Ela is a storyteller, content producer, solo traveller and a mermaid-in-training. When she’s not in front of her laptop, you will find her barefoot and living her best tan on some island in the Philippines… Or exploring the depths of its seas as a budding freediver. An island girl at heart, she’ll be happy anywhere there is sea, sand, sun and coffee.
Based in Bali, Maarten’s passion for travel is undeniable. In 2016, he decided to quit his job as a stock analyst and started doing what he always dreamed of: travelling through South East Asia and helping other people plan their trips. When he is not working on Gecko Routes, you’ll find him surfing in the ocean or exploring the best gems of Indonesia.