The Cat Ba Island to Sapa bus drives and later boards a ferry to cross water. There’s no bathroom on board but the bus makes break stops. Make sure to bring an eye mask, ear plugs, and warm clothes in order to avoid discomforts.
After enjoying the sleepy fishing village vibe of Cat Ba Island for a few days, all of your senses will start to rest and revive. It's no wonder that this northeast Vietnam coastal location is a real treat for travelers looking to escape and it's still remarkably well hidden from the typical tourist trail, even though it's just four hours from Hanoi. However, once you've had your fill of all that sand, sea and sunsets, it's time to make the most of the mountain scenes of Sapa in northern Vietnam. This is trekking country, close to the border with China, and if you're looking to put your head in the clouds, both literally and metaphorically, then Sapa's the region to do just that.
The best way to get from Cat Ba Island to Sapa is by sleeper bus. There are two buses that depart from Cat Ba Island Bus Station each day. Both include a short ferry ride to get you from the island to the mainland. The earliest is at 8am and the latest, the overnight bus, is at 4pm. The distance between Cat Ba Island to Sapa is roughly 368 kilometers (228 miles). The journey takes roughly 10 hours 30 minutes and it's a really good idea to pre-book accommodation in Sapa before you arrive. The overnight bus gets you in at two in the morning and having a friendly representative from a hotel or hostel waiting for you on arrival can be a truly joyous sight after a ten hour bus ride.
Seats onboard the bus are practically horizontal so you can really get some sleep rather than uncomfortably shuffling about all night. These types of sleeper buses are built for comfort and are for travelers looking to rest rather than stay up chatting all through the ride. To guarantee a good journey's sleep, it's always a good idea to pack a sleep mask and ear plugs. The bus will be air-conditioned and blankets are also provided to ensure optimum comfort.
Water is also available on board but it's recommended that you bring your own snacks. Don't worry if you forget to bring food for the journey, though, there will also be comfort breaks and snack stops along the way where you can purchase more provisions. Note: there's no bathroom on the bus so take pit stop opportunities whenever they're offered.
Even if you're taking the afternoon bus from Cat Ba Island to Sapa you'll still be able to see quite a lot of north Vietnam before night fall, especially if you get a window sleeper seat. The 368 kilometer (228 mile) journey takes you past small roadside communities as well as some beautiful rural scenery. The bus also boards a ferry to reach the mainland. You can wave goodbye to the luminous green limestone islands and colorful fishing boats as you leave.
Rest stops throughout the journey are fairly frequent and serve to stretch travelers' limbs and sate rumbling stomachs rather than anything else too cultural. There's no bathroom on board the bus so make sure you make the most of the facilities when you can. The majority of passengers will be looking to get some sleep along the way but rest stops to refuel are often a great way to meet other travelers and chat about where you've been on Cat Ba Island and what you plan to do on arrival in Sapa.
The closer you get to the outskirts of Sapa town, the more mountains become the main focus from your window. Arriving at night can be slightly disorientating as everything's dark, obviously. However, as soon as the sun begins to rise you'll be met with a mountain view that will really take your breath away. It's definitely advisable to have accommodation in Sapa booked in advance.
You might even be met by a representative on your arrival who'll be more than happy to help you with your bags and whisk you off to your new lodgings. Of course, if you're feeling lucky, you can always take a taxi or walk into town to find somewhere to stay. Just don't expect everything to be open at 2am. This is Sapa, not Hanoi, most travelers are here to hike rather than party so they'll be getting a good night's rest rather than partying the night away downtown.
Taking a bus
The bus ride, and short ferry trip, from Cat Ba Island to Sapa is a long one (10.5 hours) but the good news is that the bus is fully equipped with sleeper seats, sporadic Wi-Fi signal, air conditioning and complimentary blankets to ensure you get to rest as you ride. Of course, it's still a good idea to take an eye mask, pillow and ear plugs just to give yourself optimum opportunities to catch some sleep. There will also be water on board as well as comfort breaks throughout the ride so you can stretch your legs, use the facilities and purchase some snacks if you haven't bought anything from Cat Ba.
There's not a great deal of viewing space on these types of sleeper bus rides from Cat Ba Island to Sapa however, the further north you travel the more mountainous the scenery becomes. As there are two departure times, morning and afternoon, you can choose when you arrive in Sapa. Some travelers prefer to make the journey in the dark so as to get the best chance of sleep, others prefer to arrive in the afternoon and then look for accommodation.
Booking a place to stay in Sapa is always a good idea, especially if you're arriving in the small hours of the morning. Although, if you fancy taking your chances with the local cab operators and hostel representatives then it's entirely up to you to choose your own adventure.
Explore the breathtaking natural beauty of Vietnam`s coastal regions from Ha Long Bay to Da Nang to Phan Thiet to islands like Con Dao, prepare to be awed.
Ready for Ninh Binh to take your breath away with dreamy boat rides and lush scenery? Find out here how to spend 1 to 2 days in Ninh Binh.
Northern Vietnam is the perfect region for nature enthusiasts, from sightseeing to hiking and even to relaxing.