Hi all, Plan to visit Hanoi next Apr (back packing) and need some feedback from travellers. I plan to spend more time in Ninh Binh and Sapa instead of Hanoi city. I have worked out basic plan below and hope to hear some advice please.
Flight ETA Hanoi 9am. Take bus to Ninh Binh since I will only ETA Hanoi after the morning train departure time. Afternoon tour around Ninh Binh. Overnight at Ninh Binh.
Morning tour around Ninh Binh. Catch afternoon train to Hanoi. Short afternoon tour around Hanoi city (old quarters maybe?). Catch overnight train to Lao Cai.
ETA Lao Cai 6am. Then 1 hr to Sapa and spend whole day trekking and shooting. Do I need a guide?
Still tour around Lao Cai. Maybe go to Bac Ha? Catch overnight train to Hanoi (ETA 5am++).
Catch morning flight out of Hanoi (ETD 9am).
1) I found Vietnam train website, is it reliable to book online, or I can just book when I arrive at the train station?
2) Is the train service reliable? (on time ETD and ETA, or prone to breakdowns, delays etc)
3) How early do I need to arrive at Hanoi airport for departures?
4) I am Malaysian, do I need visa?
5) I will only buy train/ bus tickets and also look for accommodation (home stay or cheap hotel) when I reach there. So things will be quite spontaneous. Don't intend to pre book everything so that it is more flexible. Is this ok?
Thanks for reading.