Despite the fact that where ever you ask they will tell you that a night bus from Sapa to Cat Ba does not exist, I can happily tell you that it does and this blog will explain in detail how to catch a night bus from Sapa to Cat Ba.
The total journey is a 15 hour night trip starting at 5pm in the afternoon till 8.30am the next day. The total cost for this journey is $30. If you think it is expensive, it’s not. Buses from Sapa to Hanoi are approximately $10-12 and from Hanoi to Cat ba another $18, so it’s pretty much the same. The $30 dollars include all means of transport mentioned in the steps of the journey below. This night bus from Sapa to Cat ba is the most complicated I have ever been on and the journey is as follows.
Step 1: From Sapa to the Bus station
The first step is that a van picks you up from the discussed location. We were collected from Sapa centre. This van takes you to Lao Cai centre at the bus office where you can pay for the trip and collect your ticket. It takes 1 hour to get to Lao Cai, where you get an hour free, so grab the opportunity to enjoy a decent meal. Keep this ticket somewhere safe and feasible to reach as you would need to show it to the rest of the transportation services in the steps below which are all included.
Step 2: Lao Cai to bus station
At 7pm the van takes you to the bus station outside the centre which takes around 20-30 minutes. Here you’ll catch the night bus. The night bus has lying down seats with enough leg room for an average height person, comfortable enough but not quite for someone tall.
Step 3: The night bus journey
The night bus leaves the bus station at 8pm. It doesn’t have a toilet on board however, stops are made along the way. It arrives at Hai pong at 3am, a total journey of 7 hours. However they will let you sleep on the bus till 6am.
Step 4: Taxi
From the night bus a taxi will pick you up at 6am, which is also included in the price to transfer you to another local bus. A 15 minute drive to Minh Khai.
Step 5: Local bus
This bus drives you an hour to the harbour to catch the ferry.
Step 6: The ferry
The ferry takes 20 minutes to get to Cat ba.
Step 7: Cat Ba Bus
The final step is a 30 minute drive by bus to the centre of Cat Ba through beautiful scenery. This bus takes you to the centre of Cat Ba on the promenade where you are finally at your destination at around 8.30am, with plenty of hotels and guest houses to choose from.
All the above transportation is included. This service is not known by many locals so when you ask even at travel agencies in Hanoi they will tell you need to pass through Hanoi, which as explained is not the case.
The bus is booked through Sapa Ethnic Travel. They will ask for a deposit to secure your booking. If you know when you want to catch the bus it is better to book in advance as you might not have wifi or reception to book it from your homestay wile in Sapa. You can contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org.