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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!