There are 3 different overnight trains between Hanoi and Sapa. I booked our train through Train to Sapa and received incredible service. Ms Ngoc Ha gave me good advice, helped me change tickets when I messed up the booking and did my 2nd booking on Whats Ap which was super convenient.
We took the Chapa Express and it was clean, with cute sinks, free water, toothbrushes, nuts and slippers and a bed side lamp. The toilets were clean.
We noticed the train felt like it was rocking much more on the upper bunks and it was colder with a strong air con vent at the top of the cabin. It's worth taking some snacks as the food they sell on the train is not great and overpriced (by Vietnam standards).
We really enjoyed the train ride overall and I especially loved the service and advice from Ms NGOC HA at Train to Sapa.
n fact there is only one train from Hanoi to Lao Cai at 10.00 p.m. and there are different couches with different names/
Basically are the same very old train coaches with some minimal redecoration. We booked Chapa Express and the mattresses and bed linen were fairly new and comfortable but it can not cancel the smell of the old train.
Also don't accept a booking without reserved places then they will put you at the end of corridor just near the toilet and above the wheels and it's terribly noisy.
If you are in the middle of the coach you will get a much better sleep.
This is supposed to be the newest of all the tourist trains so I booked a 4 berth cabin for 35 usd per person per trip inclusive of transport to Sapa from the manager of Sapa Unique Hotel. The bed and pillow is firm and quite comfy and the toilet is decent. However since it is a shared toilet it gets worse as the journey goes on. The air con in my cabin for the return trip did not work properly so it is quite warm. I followed the advice of other travellers to book a lower berth for more stability and put on ear plugs so I could sleep with all the usual rocking motion of the train and started trekking right away at 9 am upon arrival at Sapa.
We took the Chapa Express train from Hanoi Station to Lao Cai. We booked the 4 berths cabin through Tonkin Travel. The train left Hanoi Station punctually at 10.00 pm and arrived at Lao Cai at 6 am. As we do not have big luggages, we feels its comfortable and cosy. The bed is hard but comfortable and the sheets are clean and white. Some of us forgot to bring our toothbrushes but surprisingly they even provide it on the train together with some snacks. We all slept well throughout the journey although we heard the train made some stops. There are toilets and wash basin at each end of the coach. I was skeptical about the train ride after reading so many negative reviews. But now I have tried it i will say "Go Fot It".
What need attention is Hanoi Train Station. Many tourists and local used this station everyday. It is dated and in desperate need of upgrading and renovation. There is only 1 toilet and its filty and flooded. The wash basin is small and cramp. There's no shower or changing facilities.
We had an excellent experience with Chapa Express for an overnight train to Sapa, though we did splurge for the VIP private room. They provided snack and beer or wine. The beds were very comfortable. We requested a room towards the middle of the train and got it and have no complaints about noise or smells (well you are still on a train so it is somewhat loud). We enjoyed the buffet breakfast at U Sapa Hotel when we arrived in Sapa. I am unsure if our enjoyment would have been greatly affected if we had not done the VIP private room, but we did enjoy the VIP private room.