china border gate

Crossing the China – Vietnam Border by Land

This article will guide you in crossing the China-Vietnam border, From Kunming – Hekou to Lao Cai – Hanoi by land.

Kunming Train Station, China

From Kunming, you can buy train tickets at train ticket counters around the city. We bought ours for CNY59 each (US$9) 2 days before our intended travel date which was on July 22, 2017. 10:37 AM. 15 minutes before the train’s departure, we reached the platform.

ticket on hand
our tickets from Kunming to Hekou

Though still early, everyone was already inside. The doors close a few minutes earlier than the intended departure time because trains in China are always on time.

Quick info:

  • Our seats were cushioned and comfortable, with a small table by the window, and overhead baggage compartment.
  • Booking a seat in advance will get a seat number. If all seats are sold out, you can still buy standing tickets. You may sit down if the seats are emptied in the coming train stations but you need to give way to the rightful owners.
  • There are designated smoking areas but Chinese people may still smoke just right beside you as what we experienced last 2015.
  • Air-conditioned and without windows, snacks and drinks, kid’s toys and other small items such as toothbrushes and face towels are also sold by train employees who push push carts along the aisle.
  • Bring your own food and snacks that will last you throughout the trip.


Arrival in Hekou, China


Arrival is 16:00, exactly as scheduled. Step out and walk to your right, take a bus for CNY2 (US$0.30) going to the border immigration office, it’s the last stop.


You will see a river, Red River (aka HongHe) dividing Vietnam and China, to your right. It was at this moment when the 3 of us were amazed to see another country while still in China! Walk to your left, river still at your right. You’ll reach the immigration office at in about 5 minutes. Border immigration office opening hours 08:00-23:00 (China time). Second floor is exiting China, first floor is entering China.


More photos of our crossing the border trip here.


Entering Lao Cai, Vietnam

asian backpackers
last photo in China before stepping into Vietnam


Cross the bridge to Vietnam’s immigration office. Opening hours 07:00-22:00 same as Hekou’s but there’s a 1 hour time delay which was a bit confusing for us at first. After exiting the immigration, walk to your left. There is only 1 actual road, which will lead you to the train station.

Taxi rides are priced at CNY15 (US$2.20), anything above is too expensive. The distance is walkable to Lao Cai Train and it’s a good idea to walk if your bags aren’t that much of a burden. We did just this to check out the city at the same time.


After 40 mins of walking, we reached the Lao Cai train station. There are eateries heading to the station but the closer you get, the more expensive they are. Gates open 30 mins before the train leaves. Our departure time is 21:10 and boy did we depart at that exact time. You can buy tickets online but do your research well because there are a lot of websites online, possible selling the same seat or bed for double the price. We got ours for US$19 each.


Our sleeper train ride was super comfortable, we slept through the night and the whole trip which was 8 hours. Bed was clean, toilets were okay, couldn’t complain.


Arrival in Hanoi, Vietnam

building with vietnamese words
Hanoi Train Station

At 05:00 AM the following day, we reached our destination. Old Quarter or Hoan Kiem district is just a 15 min walk away, but taxis are waiting should you prefer that.

It was our first time crossing the border and didn’t expect it to be such a breeze. Highly recommending this route if you are traveling across Asia. If you did go through this border, let us know how it went.

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Hey! Please let us know if this article was helpful for you. Comment below how your border crossing trip went, we would be happy to read about your stories!

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4 Replies to “Crossing the China – Vietnam Border by Land

    1. Hi Michelle,

      It is actually pretty cozy! Cozier than some of the hostels we’ve stayed. =) Happy you liked our video, makes me happppyyyyy. <3

  1. Hello, we have our Vietnamese visa in hand, but I was wondering if there is any other fees to pay while crossing the border from China to Vietnam ? If so, how much did you have to pay ?

    1. Hi! No need to pay for anything. If you’re coming from China, when you reach the Vietnam border, you just have to show them your Vietnamese visa to enter Lao Cai. As easy as that. 🙂

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