Sapa is a mountainous town located in Lao Cai province, in the Northwest of Vietnam. There is no airport in this region, so it’s only possible to get there on foot, by bike/motorbike, by bus or a combination of train and bus/van. If you are looking for a choice among those, skim below for a quick summary. If you are looking for details about traveling by train or bus from Hanoi to Sapa, skip to the end of the article for it.
What is the easiest way to get from Hanoi to Sapa?
By bus is the easiest choice here, the bus take you to Sapa directly. Those buses are from different companies, however the departure time is similar. They depart from Hanoi from 7:00 to 7:30 in the morning & from 22:00 to 22:30 at night. The bus arrives Sapa town from 13:00 to 13:30 in the afternoon & 3:30 to 4:00, respectively.
If you take the morning bus, you could check in the hotel/homestay in Sapa right after you arrive. If you take the night bus, you’ll have the whole day, however you’ll have to wait in the bus until 6 AM or go around before the check in time. It takes around 5.5 to 6 hours from Hanoi to Sapa by bus. However you should count in the pick-up time (if the bus company pick you up from your place) or the travel time from your place to the bus station. So total around 7 hours. How to get picked up by the bus company instead of walking to their office or bus station? You should check with the bus company or the agency for that.
Best alternative choice beside the bus?
Alternatively, you can also take a train from Hanoi to Sapa, but there is no train station in Sapa? You will have to take a train from Hanoi to Lao Cai city (8 hours), then a bus/van from Lao Cai city to Sapa town (1-1.5 hours). The train ticket is more expensive than a bus. Longer trip & pricier ticket? But you actually could get a real deal here.
There are two night trains depart from Hanoi at 21:35 & 22:00. They arrive Lao Cai at 5:30 & 6:05, respectively. Plus an hour of bus/van to Sapa town, you’ll arrive Sapa at around 6:30 or 7:05. The different thing compared to the bus is that, you’ll have quite a decent bed on the train, if you could sleep well, you can save a hotel night here, the price of the train ticket is just as the same as a hotel room. Besides, sleep on the train is also an experience you should not miss in Vietnam. Of course, you can do that with a bus, too, if you are not a light sleeper. Check the comparison table below & you can decide which one is best for you.
TIP: There is a day train from Hanoi to Sapa also, it takes a longer trip (about 10 hours). It’s also a choice if you want some strange experience. However we could not buy ticket online or anywhere except for some agencies. Contact Tweely agency if you want to try.
How much is the ticket & how to buy it?
There are multiple bus & train companies provide Hanoi to Sapa transportation. Below are some verified companies that I divide into two tables: bus table & train table. You can book the ticket yourself at Baolau or 12go.asia (click the name for the link) or you can book with a trusted travel agency here. The difference between the two options you can find in this article. The cost provided is the typical cost I can get through an agency or from online ticket websites like Baolau.
|Bus Company||Departure||Cost (VND)||Cost (USD)||Note|
|Sapa Express Bus||7:30/22:00||230k to 250k||$10-$11||Pick-up included|
|Sapa Express Limo Bus 28 seats||7:00||320k||$14||Pick-up included|
|Sapa Express Limo Bus 16 seats||15:00||360k||$15.5||Pick-up included|
|Fansipan Express Bus||7:00/22:00||230k to 250k||$10-$11||Pick-up included|
|Fansipan Express Cabin Bus||7:00/14:00/22:00||430k to 450k||$19-$20||Pick-up included|
|Green Bus||7:00/22:00||230k||$10||Pick-up included|
|Interbus Line Bus||7:00/22:00||200k||$9||No pick-up included|
|Sao Viet Bus||5:30 to 24:00||230k||$10||No pick-up included, no English guide|
|Sao Viet VIP cabin Bus||6:00 to 23:45||350k||$15||No pick-up included, no English guide|
|Dragon Express||7:00/22:00||230k||$10||Pick-up included|
|Train company||Departure||Cost (VND)||Cost (USD)||Note|
|National Railways||21:35/22:00||450k||$20||Basic 4 beds/cabin|
|Dream Train||21:35/22:00||500k||$22||Basic 4 beds/cabin|
|Livitrans||21:35/22:00||500k||$22||Basic 4 beds/cabin|
|King Express||21:35/22:00||500k||$22||Basic 4 beds/cabin|
|Pumpkin Express||21:35/22:00||550k||$24||Decorated 4 beds/cabin|
|Orient Express||21:35/22:00||550k||$24||Decorated 4 beds/cabin|
|Chapa Express||21:35/22:00||650k-700k||$28-$30||Decorated 4 beds/cabin, drink + snack|
|Sapaly Train||21:35/22:00||650k-700k||$28-$30||Decorated 4 beds/cabin, drink + snack|
|Victoria Train||21:35/22:00||2300k||$100||In package with hotel|
Other types of transportation from Hanoi to Sapa
By bicycle or by walking
Yes I’m no joking. I had met a dude walked from Ho Chi Minh city to Hanoi, a woman rode a bicycle from Belgium to Vietnam. If you are one of those types who fear no nothing, check out the map below.
By taxi/private car
It’s 316km from Hanoi to Sapa by taxi or car through the Hanoi – Lao Cai high way. It takes around 5 hours for the trip. The taxi would cost around USD $150. The rental car would cost about $35 to $40 a day. You can follow Google Maps to find the way.
This is a more interesting option. And I know many of you are looking for this. Since motorbike is not allowed in high way in Vietnam yet, we will go by national public roads. You can check the map below. I had tested the route myself. The traffic is clean in the very early morning, in the mid day (12:00 to 14:00) & at night. The quality of those roads is good enough for motorbike. However you should lookout for big trucks. The speed limit is 50 km/h in town & 60 km/h out of town. Don’t forget to check out this article about riding a motorbike in Vietnam. I customized the map for you already, all you need is to follow it. It would take you around 8 hours from Hanoi to Sapa by motorcycle.
TIP: You can visit Mu Cang Chai on the way to Sapa by motorcycle
Details about train/bus from Hanoi to Sapa
How to get to Hanoi railway station?
Hanoi Railway Station is a 15-minute walk or 10-minute taxi ride from the Old Quarter. The easiest way to reach this train station is to order a Grab taxi (Uber in Vietnam had been acquired by Grab), which won’t cost more than 2 or 3 dollars. You should book the Grab to Tran Quy Cap station, this is where you’ll find those trains to Lao Cai. If you accidentally come to Le Duan gate, no worries, just show the e-ticket to the reception, they’ll show you the way to the train also. If you come early, you’ll wait at the lounge, they’ll open the gate to the train 30 minutes before the departure.
How to get to Sapa from Lao Cai station?
If your trip is arranged by an agency, they probably have someone at the station to pick you up, then take you to their hotel/homestay by their van.
Otherwise, no worries, there are multiple vans/buses waiting for you in front of the station. Those vans by Vietnam Railways cost 46k (2 USD), vans by private companies cost about 50k. Public buses (yellow buses) cost 30k. There are higher quality vans with higher price. But it’s just a 45 minutes ride, any is okay. Most of those vans only departure when they are full, so cherry pick this time. And, no need to book the van in advance, if you are confused.
If you come in group or your budget is allowed, just catch a taxi. It costs about 500k (22 USD) for a 4 seat, 700k (30 USD) for a 7 seat. The cost maybe higher or lower a little bit depending on the taxi companies you pick.
TIP: If you book a accommodation in Sapa town, those vans/buses would drop you at the center, you can walk to it in 5-10 minutes. However, if you book a homestay in a remote village, not in the town, you should contact them in advance for pick-up or you’ll have to catch a taxi.
A local sim card is recommended when you visit Sapa. You should buy it earlier, in case you get lost on the way. Buy sim card in my shop to support me, free delivery in Hanoi, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh city.
Which train to book?
The cheapest train tickets are sold by Vietnam Railways or National Railways (450k or $20). However, I would not recommend this. This option is very basic, the bed is designed for Vietnamese, maybe it would be a little short for you. If you have no other choices, at least pick a 4 bed cabin, you’ll have more space. The 6 bed cabin is “bad”, just my personal reference. Just 5 USD more, check out below options.
Check again my train table, Dream Train, Livitrans, King Express or Pumpkin, they are almost similar. With redesigned 4 bed cabin for tourists. Clean, soft bed is enough for almost all of us. The other options with few dollar more, you’ll have soft drink, snack set up in the cabin. Remember the price is for 1 bed in a 4 bed cabin. That comes to a luxury option, you can buy the whole cabin for a private space.
TIP: Consider a journey to Ha Giang after visiting Sapa. Ha Giang is famous for its magnificent views on the highlands of Northern Vietnam. Check how to get to Ha Giang from Sapa here. Check out Ha Giang information here.
What bus to go to Sapa?
Most of the time, when they say bus to Sapa, it means a sleeper bus. This is cheap, quite comfortable for a long ride. When they say limousine bus, ask them again if they give you a seat or a bed. In my experience, 6 hours on a “limousine bus” with a seat is quite tiring though I paid more for that. Most of those companies have English speaking guide to pick you up from your hotel if you book through a agency. You can pick any of them, they are almost similar, except for Sao Viet. They are a big company providing services for locals, so don’t expect them to speak English with you.
Below are three types of bus. The first is a VIP cabin with a TV & curtain. The second is seat in a “limousine bus” & the last is the normal sleeper bus with beds.
There are many other bus companies in My Dinh bus station have buses to Sapa, I recommend you skip this option. They might drop you outside of the town, they do not speak English and the price is even higher consider a taxi to My Dinh station from the Old Quarter.
That’s it, if you have any other questions, feel free to send me a message. Don’t forget to check my article about Sapa here.