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Sapa To Cat Ba Island: Guide To Find The Best Transfer

October 19, 2023 - 934 views

Sapa is quite far from Cat Ba Island, which is about 450 km distance, which raises the question of whether it is possible to get from Sapa to Cat Ba Island. Yes, surely, it does. Let’s see how it works below.

In this article, I will show you how to find the best transfer and consider between the options. There are also useful tips for your trip to go smoothly. I also suggest an ideal itinerary of the package trip to Sapa and Halong bay – Cat Ba Island at the end.

Sapa to Cat Ba distance & travel time

From Sapa to Cat Ba Island, it is not less than the distance between Paris and London and is about 450km. On such a long trip, it costs your ~ 11 hours by direct bus, which starts from Sapa and drops you off at Cat Ba town.

If you don’t mind stopping or would like to pick up your luggage in Hanoi, the combination of 2 buses or 2 trains are the available options. You will spend about 17 hours by these. By train option, you must take a taxi from Sapa town to Lao Cai train station, then take a train from Lao Cai to Hanoi, then go by another train from Hanoi to Hai Phong city. After arriving at Hai Phong railway station, you proceed to go to Binh Pier then take a speed boat from there to Cat Ba Island.

Besides, you can travel by private car (4 seaters, 7 seaters, 16 seaters - minivan), which costs a lot of money. However, you control your time and journey, and you get less tired than the other ways.

Sapa to Cat Ba

How to get from Sapa to Cat Ba

There are 3 main options to travel from Sapa to Cat Ba which easier for you to choose below:

  • Bus: normally 45 seaters/sleeper bus with AC, free wifi and water, a clean and comfortable seat/bed, smooth blanket, big space for legroom, and English Speaking tour guide.
  • Train: tourist train from Vietnam Railways Company with AC, water, complimentary tea, fruit, and food, clean and comfortable bed with a light blanket.
  • Private car: the fastest and the most expensive option, which suits a group of people. It varies from 4 seater car, 7 seater car to a minivan (16 seaters). Depending on how big your group and your luggage, you can choose the suitable option.

Now it time for you to learn detail about each option:


Sapa to Cat Ba by bus

  • Duration: 11 hours
  • Ticket fee: 22 - 25  USD

Despite the long trip from Sapa to Cat Ba Island, many bus companies provide an itinerary that helps guests save time on traveling. Moreover, which the buses schedule to depart late at night and arrive at Cat Ba town in the morning, then you will not lose a day because when the bus is going on the way, you are sleeping.

Bus company Departure time Arrival time Ticket fee
Group Tour 8:00 18:30 25 USD
20:30 7:00
Cat Ba Discovery 8:30 18:30 500 000 VND ~ 21.5 USD
20:00 7:30
Good morning Cat Ba 21:00 7:30 600 000 VND ~ 25.8 USD

In this way, the bus company will pick you up at your hotel in Sapa town and drop you off at your hotel in Cat Ba Island. You should take the bus which leaves in the evening (20:00 pm, 20:30 pm, 21: 00 pm). In this way, you can sleep on the bus, recharge your energy and say “hello” to Cat Ba Island in the early morning of the next day.

Pros and cons

Pros Cons
  • You save time and money.
  • You do not have to be on a tough plan to arrange the next transportation method or you have to rush at chasing the bus/ train.
  • Your luggage is safe in the storage area, you do not have to move it time by time.
The bus schedules to stop on the way, therefore, if the bus stops and other people are moving around, which may disturb you while you are sleeping.

Sapa to Cat Ba Bus


Sapa to Cat Ba by train

  • Duration: ~ 17 hours
  • Ticket fee: ~ 47 USD

Traveling from Sapa to Cat Ba Island by train requires a lot of steps, which makes you plan your time well. You schedule to stop in Hanoi, Hai Phong city before arriving at Cat Ba Island.

Step 1: Sapa town to Lao Cai train station

  • Duration: 40 minutes
  • Ticket fee: 30 000 VND ~ 1.29 USD

The first step is taking a local bus from Sapa town to Lao Cai train station. Ask your hotel receptionists for the bus stop. The bus departs every 20 – 40 minutes from 6:20 am. The bus one is at 18:50 pm. For a safe option, I advise you to get the bus at 18:00 pm and remember to have dinner before saying goodbye to Sapa town.

Step 2: Lao Cai train station to Hanoi train station

  • Duration: 7 hours
  • Ticket fee: ~ 25 USD (soft bed)

From Lao Cai train station, you take the train to Hanoi. Choose between train SP2 or SP4:

SP2: dep. 20:55 – arr. 4:32 (Date +1)

SP4: dep. 21:40 – arr. 5:30 (Date +1)

Choosing SP4 is suggested if it arrives on time at 5:30 am, which is not too early and you sleep enough. However, it is a “dangerous” option that the train from Lao Cai to Hanoi sometimes delays, which makes you miss the first train from Hanoi to Hai Phong at 6:00. The next one departs in the afternoon.

Step 3: Hanoi to Hai Phong by train

  • Duration: 2.5 hours
  • Ticket fee: ~ 8 USD (soft seat)

HP1: dep. 6:00 – arr. 8:22

LP5: dep. 15:20 – arr. 18:00

LP7: dep. 18:15 – arr. 21:05

Train HP1 departing at 6 am is suggested to save your time. In case, you miss it, do not book in advance but buy the ticket when you arrive at Hanoi train station. Train LP5 and LP7 are just for reference. You should not book these if you would like to go straight ahead to Cat Ba Island. The thing is that if you reserve one out of these trains, you will miss the last speed boat which departs at 15:00 pm from Binh Pier to Cat Ba Island.

Step 4: Hai Phong to Cat Ba town

  • Duration: 50 minutes
  • Ticket fee: ~ 11 - 13 USD

If you are on time and there is no delay in your plan, you are at Hai Phong at about 8:30 am. You should take a taxi from there to Binh Pier, which costs you about 2 USD for 2 km. Try your feet if you want to join a walking tour to see the city. From Binh Pier, you take a speed boat to Cat Ba town. It will drop off at Cat Ba Town center.

Binh Pier to Cat Ba town Ferry Departure time Duration
Speedboat 9:00 40 minutes

The speedboat from Binh Pier in Hai Phong city starts several times, so choose the one you see as the best time for your trip. After a long trip by train from Sapa, you should choose the earliest one so that you arrive at your hotel as soon as possible.

A summary of the train schedule:

Schedule Departure time (Suggested) Duration
Public bus from Sapa to Lao Cai station 18:00 45 minutes
Train from Lao Cai to Hanoi (SP4) 21:40 7 hours
Train from Hanoi to Hai Phong (HP1) 6:00 2.5 hours
Taxi from Hai Phong city to Binh Pier 8:30 10 minutes
Speedboat from Binh Pier to Cat Ba town 9:00 40 minutes


Pros and cons 

Pros: You can enjoy the great landscapes on the way and relax by reading books on the trains. The train is much safer by its own route.

Cons: Money and time cost a lot in this option. You are tough for time if you do not wish to miss the next train and have to wait for a long time.

Sapa to Cat Ba Train


Sapa to Cat Ba by private car

Car types Sapa to Cat Ba Island Hanoi to Cat Ba Island
4 seaters 255 USD 110 USD
7 seaters 265 USD 120 USD
16 seaters (minivan) 290 USD 140 USD

Private car costs a lot of money but it is very comfortable and you can enjoy the scenery along the way. This suits the group from 3 people because you guys can share money. It is more or less 85 USD/ pax (group of 3 people, 4 seater car) for the option of going from Sapa to Cat Island.

Besides, you can take a bus/ train from Sapa to Hanoi, then go by private car to Cat Ba Island, which is 37 USD/ pax (group of 3 people, 4 seater car). The price includes all tolls, you do not have to pay any extra fees. Discuss with your friends if you are enough people for this option.

Pros and cons

Pros: it is a comfortable way, you enjoy it.

Cons: it costs a lot of money but it is worth trying with a group of 3 people.

Sapa to Cat Ba Private car

Best Sapa and Cat Ba Itinerary

The nice combination of Sapa (the mountain) and Halong bay – Cat Ba Island (the sea) attracts many tourists. The itinerary below is strongly recommended by our guests because it is unique, relaxing, and adventurous. For Sapa, you sleep 1 night at a hotel, and the other is at a homestay. For the Halong bay trip, you sleep on a cruise and visit Cat Ba Island on the second day.

The detailed itinerary is as below. Check it out:

Night 1: Train/ Bus from Hanoi to Sapa

By train, about 21:10 pm, our private car picks you up at your hotel and drives you to Hanoi Train station. Please finish your dinner before 21:00 pm.

By bus, about 21:20 pm (depending on your hotel location, the pickup time is from 21:20 – 22:10 pm), our tour guide picks you up at your hotel. You join the luxury sleeper bus from Hanoi to Sapa town. Please finish your dinner before 21:00 pm.


Day 1: Go trekking from Sapa to Y Linh Ho, Lao Chai, Ta Van

By train, you arrive at Lao Cai train station at about 5:00 am. Our driver (he will bring the sign with your name) is waiting for and then drive you to our hotel in Sapa town.

By bus, you arrive at Sapa bus station in Sapa town at about 4 am. Do not worry, we will not wake you up at that time. At 6 am, our driver picks you up and drives you to our hotel in Sapa town.

When you arrive at our hotel, we will provide a free room for your shower or changing clothes if you would like to do.

Buffet breakfast is served from 6:30 am.

At 7:30, you meet the local tour guide and discuss the itinerary. You start your trekking trip at 8:00 am. You should put your big luggage at our hotel before going. You visit Y Linh Ho, Lao Chai, Ta Van through the way.

Lunch is served at a local restaurant in Lao Chai village.


Day 2: Go trekking to Giang Ta Chai village, sleep at a hotel in Sapa You do trekking to visit Giang Ta Chai village.

Night 3: Our minivan comes to pick you up and drive you back to the luxury hotel in Sapa town.


Day 3: Visit Cat Cat village

After breakfast, you start going to visit Cat Cat village. Lunch is served at our hotel or a local restaurant. In the afternoon, you have free time to buy souvenirs and walk in Sapa town. Dinner is served at our hotel. After dinner, we drive you to Lao Cai train station if you go by train. By bus, the tour guide picks you up at the hotel.

Night 4: You sleep on the bus/ train.


Day 4: Cat Ba Overnight Cruise (kayaking + swimming)

Our driver picks it up at Hanoi train station/ bus station when it arrives. We drive you back to your hotel. Please enjoy breakfast before the Halong bay tour guide picks you up at 9:00 am. Lunch is served on a boat while the cruise is passing the beautiful limestone islands in the bay.

You join the boat trip activities (kayaking and swimming) after lunch and sleep on a Cat Ba Cruise at night. Do not worry about your sea-sick because the cruise is big and gets its balance very well, moreover, the bay is covered by the limestone islands, therefore, it is not strongly windy.


Day 5: Visit Hospital Cave in Cat Ba Island

After breakfast, our tour guide leads you to see the Military Hospital Cave in Cat Ba Island. Join the trip and see the history there. Lunch is served on boat after your Cat Ba trip. Then the bus drives you back to Hanoi at 15:00 pm. Tour ends.

The itinerary is flexible and we are willing to listen if you would like to discuss and change some things. I designed a plan to sleep on a boat to let you enjoy the climax and see the stars in the evening, which are not behind the modern buildings.

Sapa & Cat Ba Itinerary

Sapa & Cat Ba Itinerary


Local tips for your trip from Sapa to Cat Ba Island

Choose a good partner at booking and planning: The advice from local people is always useful for visitors. Let’s find a partner who understands your needs and plan your trip well with a great deal. BestPrice Travel is a good example.

Do not book the train from Hanoi to Hai Phong in advance: The train (from Lao Cai to Hanoi) sometimes does not arrive on time because of delays. Therefore, reserving the ticket from Hanoi to Hai Phong costs you money for nothing.

Inform your hotel: If you do not go by direct bus, you will stop and arrive in Hanoi in the early morning. Try to tell your hotel about your plan and your morning arrival. Many hostels are willing to offer a free breakfast, shower, and dormitory bed if you used to stay with them. And do not forget to pay back by some tips or good reviews for them.

Put your luggage in Hanoi: If you plan to go back to Hanoi for flying, ask the hotel receptionists for a place to put your big luggage. You should bring some clothes, which are enough for a 3 – 5 day trip.

Above is some idea for your great trip from Sapa to Cat Ba Island. The decision is on your side and why you are waiting! Book and check from today to get the best deal from BestPrice Travel.

Mr. River

Image source: Internet

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