When travelling the 370km distance from SaPa to CatBa, you have 2 options: you can take a direct bus (10.5 hours) or the train (16.5 hours, excluding transfers). Rates range between $25 and $35.
Taking a direct bus from SaPa to CatBa is the best option if you don’t mind being on the road for more than 10 hours. The advantage of the bus is that you will travel by night, so you won’t lose a day travelling.
When you prefer more comfort and don’t mind to switch transport a few times, you can also travel by night train from Lao Cai to Hanoi, where you can transfer to the train going to Hai Phong. Then, take a taxi from Hai Phong railway station to the harbour and continue by ferry to CatBa Island.
Traveling from SaPa to CatBa by train includes 5 steps and takes 16.5 hours, excluding transfers. If you still prefer this option, you can see a detailed guide below. For more information, we refer to the pages from SaPa to Hanoi and Hanoi to CatBa.
Step 1: Sapa to Lao Cai by Bus/Van
Duration: 45min Cost: 60,000 VND ($2.60)
In SaPa, you can arrange a van or take the public bus which brings you to Lao Cai train station (45min).
Step 2: Lao Cai to Hanoi by Train
Duration: 7h 50min Cost: 385,000 VND ($17)
From Lao Cai, you can take train SP2 (20:55-04:32) or SP4 (21:40-05:30) to Hanoi.
When you arrive in the early morning in Hanoi, you can switch trains to Hai Phong leaving at 6:00. With this train, you can continue your sleep in a soft seat during the 2.5-hour journey to Hai Phong.
Although the trains from SaPa normally run on time, it happens from time to time that the train has some delay. In case the delay is more than 30min, you will miss the connecting train at 6:00.
For this reason, we advise you to wait with buying the train ticket to Hai Phong till you arrive at the railway station in Hanoi. You can buy your ticket at the station instead. In case you miss the 6:00 train, you can either take a bus to Hai Phong or take train LP3 leaving at 9:28.
From Hai Phong railway station, you can arrange a taxi to the ferry station (10min) and book a ticket at the port for the ferry to Cat Ba Island (45min).
Step 5: Pha Binh Harbour to Cat Ba by Ferry
Duration: 45min Cost: 240,000 VND ($10.50)
Hai Phong has several harbours, but we recommend to take the ferry from Pha Binh harbour. This harbour is the closest to the railway station and has reliable ferries. Check the page of Hanoi to CatBa for a detailed schedule and instructions on how to get there.