09 Nov 2020
Sapa and Cat Ba are among the top recommended travel locations for any tourist to Northern Vietnam.
Cat Ba Island
While Sapa offers you the breathtaking view of mountains and deep valleys, a visit to Cat Ba would take you to a dream-like world of sea, sand, mountains and winds where you can enjoy aquatic activities
Even though the two destinations are separated 379 km from each other, tourists who want to explore both places may still find it not too difficult traveling from one to the other.
In this article, we would like to provide you with the most popular and convenient ways to get from Sapa to Cat Ba.
Although travelling by train might be a little bit long and sometimes tight, it’s actually quite fun and even comfortable.
For a train trip from SaPa to Cat Ba, there would be at least 3 transitions as there is no direct line.
First, you would need to take a bus from Sapa to Lao Cai as the nearest train station in in Lao Cai city.
There is only one train from Lao Cai to Hanoi at 10 pm so it’s very important to do a good timing. Usually, it would take about 8-9 hours.
Taking a train is a good option if you aren’t pressed for time and want to have a deeper experience. A standard cabin is for 4 people and equipped with air conditioner. The price is fixed at around $17.
From Hanoi, you can take another train to Halong. The train departs from Gia Lam station at 7:05 am and returns from Halong To Gia Lam at 15:00.
The price is $5/adult for Vietnamese and $15 for foreigner but the price will be reduced to $10 if you go in a group. The travel time again is quite tedious for about 7 hours.
Generally speaking, train is good if you want to enjoy the landscape during the trip. But it’s not recommended as the schedule is always fixed and it can take too long.
Now that you have arrived in Halong, Cat Ba is near. But in order to get to Cat Ba, you would need to travel by both taxi and ferry.
First, you will need to get to Tuan Chau port from Halong train station and the only way is by booking a taxi. The price may varies according to the taxi company but it will be 200.000 vnd ($9) at maximum.
From Tuan Chau, you will get on the ferry to Gia Luan port in Cat Ba island. There are in total 5 daily ferries from Tuan Chau to Cat Ba and vice versa.
The ferry depart according to a fixed schedule so it’s important to get on on time. The price is $3/ adult/time but you will have to pay an amount of extra fee if you bring other vehicles.
Get off the ferry, you now land on Cat Ba island. But you still need to travel from Gia Luat to the central town where most of the island’s facilities are situated. To get there, it’s recommended to use the local bus.
Travelling by a motorbike would be an unforgettable experience for any tourist as you can control the motorbike and get to the place by yourself. You can explore the beauty of Vietnam as you go.
To make it most convenient for you, it’s advised to rent your motorbike in Hanoi so that it will be easier to bring it back after your trip to Cat Ba.
You can still rent one in Sapa but then when you finish you trip from Sapa to Cat Ba, you will have to get back to Sapa again.
For rental, it’s relatively easy to spot motorbike stores in the Old Quarter or West Lake area with English-speaking staff or owners.
These rental shops offer various types of automatic, semi-automatic, manual, and touring bikes with monthly, weekly, and daily rental services.
The price may vary from store to store and depend on the type of motorbike you would like to rent but usually it takes around $7 to $15 a day (an amount of earnest money is often required).
However, riding a motorbike is quite dangerous in Vietnam as the traffic condition is really bad especially during rush hours and road quality is also not very good.
In addition, you may get into trouble with the police if you don’t have a license. Last but not least, it’s important to search for the route you would take in advance if you don’t want to get lost.
Finding the right road can be tedious if you’re a foreigner and getting lost can easily happen if you don’t pay close attention to the details on the map.
In order to get to Cat Ba, ferry is of course necessary. Therefore, you should stop at Tuan Chau in Ha Long and get on the same ferry as for travelling by train.
Again, the ferry from Tuan Chau would take you to Gia Luan port in Cat Ba island. You can choose among 5 daily ferries from Tuan Chau to Cat Ba and vice versa according to your own schedule.
The price is $3/ adult/time but as you travel by motorbike, you will have to pay an additional fee for your vehicle.
Now now as you have your motorbike, you can ride your motorbike from Gia Luan Port to your hotel in Cat Ba town without having to take a bus.
The travel time may vary according to your own speed but usually, it takes for about 15-17 hours.
Bus may not the adventurous but it’s surely the safest, most comfortable and convenient.
Once you get on the bus, you don’t need to think of whether you are on the right track or whether you would need to take an additional bus or taxi as the price already includes the bus price and the ferry fee.
It will also take you to your very hotel in Cat Ba. There are two types of bus that you may opt for: Local bus and Tourist-friendly bus.
Local buses run directly from Sapa to Cat Ba and vice versa. Therefore, there will be no transition in Hanoi.
Local buses are spacious with 43 bed-seats that feature European-standard berth. Therefore, you will be guaranteed a smooth, clean and comfortable place to rest during the trip.
Besides, passengers can also enjoy the best services and amenities including two-way air conditioner, mineral water, television, wifi and blankets.
However, this type of transport has several drawbacks. First of all, these buses depart when full and therefore, often jam-packed with people and luggage.
This may cause you a lot of discomfort and ruin your dream-like travel. Also, as they drop off and pick up as many passengers as possible along the route, there will be frequent stops, which can significantly slow down the journey.
And lastly, there is no English speaking staff. Therefore, it can be very hard if you want some suggestions or need to report your problem to them.
For the schedule, there are two different turns a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The departure time is fixed so you need to show up on time if you don’t want to miss the bus.
Ideally, it will take you 11 and half an hour to get from Sapa to Cat ba and vice versa. The price is quite reasonable at $25 ( This already includes Bus ticket and Ferry fee).
Different from Local Bus, Tourist-friendly Bus would require a transition in Hanoi.
For the Sapa-Cat Ba trip, after arriving in Hanoi from Sapa, you would walk for about 2 minutes from 21 Hang Thung Street to 162 Tran Quang Khai Street to get on your second bus to Cat Ba.
During the transition time, you will have 1 hour for the morning bus and 4 hours for the night bus to have a meal or take a short walk around Hanoi old quaters.
The whole travel time will be 11 hours for the morning bus and 14 hours for the night one.
It’s almost the same with the Cat Ba- Sapa round except you will walk from 162B Tran Quang Khai Street to 21 Hang Thung Street.
The transition time will be only 30 minutes for the morning bus and one and half an hour for the night one. The whole travel time is 11 hours for the morning bus and 12 hours for the night bus.
The bus is also a very spacious one with 43 bed-seats made with comfortable berth that guarantees you a comfortable journey.
The services you receive in the Tourist-friendly Bus are also similar to the Local Bus which includes two-way air conditioner, mineral water, television, wifi and blankets.
However, one big advantage of the Tourist-friendly Bus over Local Bus is that there is an English speaking guide who will help you if some problems occur or provide information about the trip.
In case you want to get back to Hanoi, you can just pay $9 without having to take another bus. Click here for more information.
In conclusion, taking a bus is the best choice if you want to get from Sapa to Bat Ba.