Go: Victoria Express Train to Sapa - Vietnam

I love trains. I really do.  If I had the option of any form of travel I'd pick trains, every time, unless its across a sea, in which case I'd choose a boat.  My bucket includes some of the classic train journeys, you know, The Ghan, The Orient Express, and The Trans-Siberian.  

So, it was prerequisite for our trip to Sapa, that we take the Victoria Express. So after the long and bumpy drive from Ha Long City, we found some dinner in Hanoi and then made our way to the train station.

A Victoria employee was waiting out the front of the station to very efficiently shuttle us and our bags in the ''waiting room'' which was just the main waiting area near the ticket counter. We used our time efficiently to download the seemingly endless photos I'd taken in Ha Long Bay, before we were again efficiently whisked away and off to our waiting carriage.

For those of who are not familiar with the train to Sapa, there are a number of different companies offering train trips to Sapa.  However, all these companies simply have their own carriages attached to a government run train.  Meaning no matter which company you choose or how much you pay you are essentially on the same train.  The company/price simply determines how nice the carriage is.  And the Victoria Express carriage is the nicest, and the most expensive.

We were greeted at a red carpet (well red mat, but close enough) with cool refresher towels before being shown to our cabin.  We were sharing a four-berth cabin with what turned out to be another Australian couple.

The cabins are nicely appointed but very cosy, and climbing into the top bunk required a fair bit of coordination and a bit of flexibility.  The truth is you board around 9pm, so there's just a bit of chit chat before hitting the sack so to speak.  I really wish I had taken a photo of the toilets for you (but I'm not in the habit of taking my camera with me) because they were beautifully fitted.

We agreed with our cabin mates to leave the curtains open and I enjoyed waking every so often to peer out into the darkness and see what I could make out.  I think the journey would have been quite pretty.

The staff knocked on our door bright and early (around 5.45am, I think) with tea and coffee and a little cookie to wake us up with.  It was all very civilised.

On the way back to Hanoi we were fortunate enough to be offered a private cabin.

In addition to the extra space and privacy, the two-berth cabins also come with a complimentary gift and ear plugs (personally I think the earplugs would be more useful in the four-berth cabins, but anyhow).

The trip back also had a dining car.  The dining car, as you might expect, is expensive.  But we splurged.

The food was good, but not brilliant, and the service friendly.  I'd only recommend it if you want the experience.  We were well and truly full by the time we trundled back to our cabin.  I enjoyed the privacy of the two berth cabin and it was nice to be able to change into my PJs.  However, given the significant extra expense of a two-berth cabin and the fact that you spend almost your entire time on board asleep, I think the four-berth cabins are quite adequate.

In the morning we had to head down to the dining car for our tea and coffee.  In this respect, I actually think it's better to be on a train without a dining car as your coffee is delivered to your cabin giving you more time to come to life and sort yourself out.  Coffee in the dining car was very rushed as they only allowed around 10 mins for everyone to get in and out.  There were a few extra items on offer, but we wouldn't have had time to order them even if we had wanted to.

Overall, I'm glad we did the Victoria Express.  It certainly is reminiscent of the romance and charm of an era where travel was about more than getting from A to B.

If you want to take the Victoria Express, you must stay at least one night at the Victoria Hotel in Sapa (which I'll tell you about in another post).  You'll also need to book early, as the train does fill up.  Not all trains .have a dining car, but you can check the schedule on the Victoria Express website.

We booked through Aurora Travel which was significantly cheaper than booking direct with Victoria.

Please also note that the Sapa train terminates at Lao Cai train station, which is about 45 kms from Sapa.  You can arrange transfers through Victoria for around USD16 ++ per person or you can book a private car through a travel agent for a few dollars less.  Alternatively, when you get to the station you can arrange your own transport to Sapa directly with one of the many minivans out the front of the station (you can't miss them).  Be prepared to bargain as they may try to rip you off; the correct price is VND50,000 (USD2.50) per person. 
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  1. Hi I was just wondering if on the train without the dining carriage there were any food options?

  2. Hi J - Yes, there was a limited menu of snacks you could order to be brought to your cabin. But we didn't order anything from it and I can't remember what sort of food it had or how much they were. In the morning they'll also bring you tea or coffee with a little biscuit (complimentary).

    Sorry I couldn't be more helpful!


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