Lao Cai city

Attraction Lao Cai Vietnam Published on: 16-11-2015

4 hours
08:00 AM
12:00 PM
First-time visit
0.00 USD

Lao Cai city is good for

Good for family with kids Family with kids Good
Good for senior Senior Good
Good for couple Couple Good
Good for solo Solo Good
Good for group Group Good
  • Highly recommended by fellow travellers.
Lao Cai is a destination for travellers journeying between Hanoi and Sapa, or further north to Kunming in China.

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Why Lao Cai city is special ?

If travellers are headed anywhere north of Hanoi in Vietnam, it's likely to be Lao Cai province and the hilltribe town of Sapa. The province is geographically diverse, bordered to the east by Hoang Lien Son mountain range, part of which is Hoang Lien national park, which includes Mount Fansipan (Phanxipan), Vietnam's highest peak, at 3,143 metres above sea level.

Lao Cai town, the provincial capital, is both a border town to China – the westernmost crossing open to foreigners via Hekou -- and the gateway to Sapa. If it looks kind of new to you, that's because it is. The town was largely flattened by the Chinese during their invasion of 1979 and the international border crossing here did not re-open till the early 1990s. What you see today, including many of the glorious concrete egg-carton-style buildings, is just 30 years old.


What to explore at Lao Cai city?

As its location implies, Lao Cai possess a true mountainous yet diverse topography with several valleys lying between hills and mountains. Fansipan - the most famous mountain peak in Vietnam and also the highest peak in the Indochina Peninsula, stands 3’143 m above the sea level. This is one of the most precious treasures of Asia, and one of the most visited attractions in the whole country. There are approximately 107 rivers flowing pass Lao Cai, including Red River (the one that crosses Hanoi), Chay River, and Nam Mu River. Such wondrous terrain also gives the province more than 30 types of mineral among which cooper, iron and apatite are most valuable. Mother Nature also loves this land so much that she gave it an admirable variety of biological treasures: 2000 types of flower, 442 types of bird and animal. Many of them can only be found in Lao Cai and nowhere else in Vietnam, or in the world to be exact.

Lao Cai’s climate can gives you a whole range of feelings: sometimes it is too cold to enjoy the scenery, but most of the time it is dry and cool enough to become one’s frequent getaway. Annual average temperature is about 23oC. Snow is reported to have fallen down during some winter, but they are totally the tropical type of snow! So in a nutshell, the weather can be summarized in two words: chill out! The rains only come between April and September, but they are the mild, romantic tropical rains that are worth looking for.

If you have ever heard about Vietnam tourism, you might have known a little bit about the famed Sa Pa tourism magnet. Yes it is in Lao Cai. But apart from Sa Pa, there are still hundreds of places that can amaze you in this part of Vietnam. If you want something historical, try visiting Muong Hao Valley, Pho Rang vestige, and beautiful caves in Cam Duong or Bac Ha. Those are where you can find pictures, maps, handwritings from centuries ago. If you want to try something else more entertaining, a trekking trip to the villages of the ethnic groups such as Cat Cat Village is an absolutely good idea. No matter which type of person you are, or what resource you have available, there will be something for you to explore in Lao Cai. Now get ready, let’s go!


How to get to Lao Cai city?

There are several night trains each day from and to Hanoi (about 9h, ca. 20$ for a soft sleeper depending on the train).

Buses run from Kunming and other cities in Yunnan (China) to Hekou from where it is a short walk over the border to Lao Cai. The border is open from 7am to 10pm (8am to 11pm Chinese time). Crossing the border is pretty easy and fast. Just be carefull on vietnamese side of the border you might be asked to fill in some 'health form', exchange money, book a taxi, etc... by people who seems to be immigration workers. This is scam, you will loose much money if you agree. Dont give them any bribes and dont use their services. Just ignore them, get your entry stamp and leave the immigration post building. There is a 2 km to the bus/train station, 30000 dong by car taxi.

From Hanoi

Trains run from Hanoi to Lao Cai. One train starts about 6 am and arrives about 6 pm. There's a simple restaurant in the train. People are selling food through the windows or walking through the train during stops around lunch time. There are 220 Volt / 50 Hz power outlets in the soft seat coaches.


Selling points

  • The Vietnam–China border
  • Northeastern region of Vietnam
  • Major ethnic groups
  • Pristine beauty and friendly people
  • Peaceful and beautiful land
Motorbike Sapa – Mu Cang Chai Tour 6 Days 5 Nights

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5.0 days
177.38 USD
Total travel distance
Number of places
14 places




Lao Cai Vietnam

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Tips for you

  • You can get free wifi near bus/train station at the Fansipang restaurant and Le Bordeaux restaurant, both are visible from station.
    What to know
  • Motorbike drivers usually know it and will drive you there (one-way 10'000d)
  • Bac Ha, with it's Sunday market, can be reached via public bus from the Lao Cai Bus station in around 2.5 - 3 hours for 60, 000 dong
    Things to do
  • The best place is known as Sapa ( can cau, bac ha. Sima Cai, coc ly local markets). However, to get to the local market is quite hard for travelers due to the traffic. Travelling by train from Hanoi, then getting a car might be your best solution.
    Things to do
  • There are a couple of ATMs in Lao Cai. The Techcom Bank has ATMs on the square of the train station as well as close to the border. However, they accept only some international cards. There is one ATM accepting all international cards but it's neither close to the border nor to the railway station.
  • About 40min walk from bus/train station, is the border crossing to Hekou in China. Border office is a big building next to a bridge, opposite Sapaly hotel / Biti's trade center. From here you can catch an onward bus through to Kunming for around Y120.

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