Crossing from Vietnam to China by land

Friendship bridge China/Vietnam

The very first thing I did when arriving to Hanoi was to apply for a Chinese Visa as I knew that was going to be my next destination on my year of solo travel adventures and I wanted to cross from Vietnam to China by land.

Although in the Visa application process they ask for flights in/out of China, I didn’t have any. You can read my article on how to get a Chinese Visa in Vietnam for further details.

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Beautiful Sapa was my last destination when I was backpacking solo in Vietnam, and from there I wanted to cross the border to China via Hekou.

This couldn’t have been any easier! not only for the geographic proximity but also on the steps required to get to China.

Booking.com
Crossing from Vietnam to China by land from Sapa

In the centre of Sapa, next to the church, there’s a bus stop, the ticket to go to the border town of Lao Cai was 30k VND. The trip last less than an hour.

Ask the driver to leave you by the border with China and the bus will drop you right after passing a river bridge. At this point the bus route continues right but you need to go on foot left for about 1Km right to the border point to Hekou.

The bus stop at Sapa
The bus stop at Sapa, the church is at the back

TIP: Before the border control there are a couple of banks that can exchange Vietnamese Dongs for Chinese Yuan, always a good idea to have some local currency when you arrive to a new country.

Border Control

To leave from Vietnam is, as with any other country, pretty much a quick check on your visa and that’s it. There was no queue when I went and didn’t spend more than a couple of minutes at the Vietnam side of the border.

Once you pass it, it’s time to walk to China!

NOTE: if you’re planning to go to China you need a VPN to keep using the internet as you know it (with Google, Facebook, Whatsapp, etc). There are lots of VPN providers out there. Some of them free. I got mine with Surfshark after doing some research and it worked really well for me and it was pretty cheap. Feel free to contact me if you have further questions on this 🙂

The friendship bridge was closed to cars when I passed it, but it was still bustling with quite a few people pushing carts, as with any border towns, there’s always a lot of activity of small “entrepreneurs” moving goods in and out of each country.

Friendship bridge China/Vietnam
Crossing on foot to China!

The immigration control in the Chinese side of the border took a little bit longer. The queue was of only about 20 people and was moving relatively quick, nothing different from an airport control.

I don’t think many westerners enter China via this border crossing as when it was my turn, the police man kept looking at my passport and visa for longer than you normally wish for.

Politely, he asked me a few questions on what were my plans and my first destination in China. After a few minutes he finally let me in.

Crossing to China by foot
I’m in China!

I always think that border towns tend to be ugly and, in most cases, dodgy as well so I didn’t want to stay at Hekou, I had planned to spend the night at Kunming and then continue my journey towards Dali. Book in advance a hostel in Kunming as they tend to be in apartment buildings and hard to locate!

If you cross the border late, there’s one hostel in Hekou you can book on booking.com and it’s pretty cheap. Remember to sort out your VPN before arriving to China to avoid any issues when you cross the border.

After checking on maps.me that a train station was nearby, I walked 10 minutes towards it. To my surprise, the station was closed and not a single soul to be seen.

Back to maps.me I saw another train station out of town so I started walking there.

I couldn’t find any buses going there (didn’t look too much either though) but after talking with a taxi driver in my broken Chinese I got a lift there for a couple of bucks.

Everything that happened after this is a subject for more adventures about my wonderful time of solo backpacking in China!

If you’re planning to cross from Vietnam to China by land feel free to get in touch if you have any questions!

4 thoughts on “Crossing from Vietnam to China by land

  1. Again, thanks for a really helpful post about crossing the border. We are doing the same this Saturday.

    Quick questions – when you got to the open train station in Hekou, did you just buy your ticket to Kunming at the ticket office on the day? We are wondering if we need to book this one in advance.

    And were there regular trains onwards to Kunming?

    Looks like you had an amazing time in China. We’re looking forward to it!

    1. Hey Tim, my pleasure! 🙂
      I bought the ticket at the station, however it was a “standing” one (I did manage to sit on a small foldable chair though). Trains in China tend to sell out a few days in advance, you can buy tickets or check the timings in trip.com or 12go.asia (they charge a fee). IMPORTANT: When you check the times for the trains make sure to consider the time difference between Vietnam and China (+1h in China). Enjoy China! I loved it so much!!! feel free to ask anything you want!, I’m still working on some posts about Danxia and Camping on the Great Wall!

  2. Hello,

    Can you please explain me in detail how you book your flight tickets for Chinese visa.i didn’t understand how you book tickets from edream.

    1. Hi, I selected two random flights and then just filled the checkout form as if I was to actually buy it, but before adding my credit card details I just took a screenshot of the checkout page and that’s what I gave at the embassy.
      The screenshot is added on this post: https://planetofadventures.com/how-to-get-chinese-visa-in-hanoi-in-2019/
      I hope that is clear 🙂

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