To travel to Sapa I bought a “Delux” class ticket on an overnight train. This gave me a “soft”
bunk bed berth in a 4 x berth cabin.
Several companies travel this route and most of them seem on a similar par with one another. I chose the Fanzipan Express. If you’ve been staying in Hanoi, the hotel you’re staying with will do the booking for you. My ticket cost a mere $39.
The train journey doesn’t go all the way to Sapa but stops at Lao Cai, and most travellers take a 40 minute bus ride over the mountainous route to Sapa Town. I had a private car meet me at the Lao Cai station.
The mattress wasn’t so “soft” but quite “normal” for Vietnam. (Mattresses in all hotels are notoriously hard; a cause for complaint for many travelers, although I don’t mind them at all.) The cheaper tickets would be much less comfortable.
The berth itself is pleasant enough. I said a little prayer beforehand that I would get quiet companions who wanted to sleep, as I did, and my prayer was answered. A Vietnamese couple with their teenage son and their baby shared my cabin. They were returning home from a few days in Hanoi. I slept like a baby for much of the journey, and so, it seemed, did they.
On the return journey a few days later, my cabin mates were a middle-aged couple from Kuala Lumpur and a young German girl, also traveling solo. We all shared our adventures with one another into the evening before tucking in for the night.
Of course, you don’t want to be taking much luggage with you. There is a small storage space at the foot of the (top) bunk in which to store a backpack or similar size bag, and if you’re on the bottom bunk, storage is under the bunk itself. It’s likely you’ll be trekking in the mountains around Sapa anyway, so the lighter the load you have to carry the better. If the mountain tracks are wet from rain (as they often are) you’ll need both hands as you slip and slide your way across this beautiful mountainous terrain.
My hotel stored my large bag for me while I was away for three days, and you’ll find that most hotels will do the same.