Want to know how to get from Hanoi to Sapa? In this post, we’ll share a summary of the five ways to get there and compare each option on duration, costs and level of comfort. For each option, we go into more detail to help you decide which transport provider to book with and where to buy your tickets.
What to expect when visiting Sapa
SaPa is a small village and popular tourist destination in northern Vietnam. Backdropped by spectacular rice terraces, the town boasts both physical and cultural beauty. Ethnic minorities make up over 80% of its population, and here you’ll get the chance to see and experience their traditional way of life.
A visit to SaPa will also reward you with views of misty mountains for as far as your eyes can see. Its town centre can be a bit touristy, but don’t let that deter you. The real charm of SaPa lies deep in the mountains — in the rice fields still farmed by the hill tribes, as they have been doing so for centuries.
Taking the train to cross the 315 km distance from Hanoi to Sapa is an adventure on its own, which is why many tourists (us included!) prefer this mode of transport when travelling this route.
There are other choices: you can take a bus or a private taxi, which we explain in detail in our complete guide on getting from Hanoi to Sapa. But if you’re looking for the most convenient option, we think that the train is the way to go.
Keep in mind that trains only operate from Hanoi to Lao Cai Railway Station. From Lao Cai, you can take a 1-hour van or bus to Sapa town.
Why travel by train from Hanoi to Sapa?
You might be asking, why take an indirect train when you can get a direct bus or private transfer?
There are a few reasons we prefer the train. First, comfort and convenience. The overnight Hanoi to Sapa train allows you to have your own bed (spacious even for tall passengers), fully stretch your legs and have a good night’s sleep. The train staff also offer light food and drinks onboard in case you didn’t bring any.
Next, safety and security. A common problem with bus travel in Vietnam is drivers going too fast, even on winding roads. With the train, you won’t have to worry about that. But we do recommend exercising caution with your belongings.
Theft isn’t common in Vietnam trains, but it sometimes happens. It’s best to have a lock for your bigger luggage. As for your valuables, keep them in a small bag that you can have close to you at all times. For more tips, check out our list of things to prepare for an overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa below!
Lastly, the train can be the cheapest way to get to Sapa from Hanoi when you factor in saving the cost of one night’s accommodation. You can’t get that on a bus transfer because all buses for this route either arrive at night or very early in the morning.
The Hanoi-Sapa night train takes 8 hours — enough time to wash up and catch up on some sleep. You’ll arrive in Sapa just in time for breakfast. After which, you can leave your luggage at your accommodation and proceed with your sightseeing for the day!
What is the best train from Hanoi to Sapa?
There are a few train companies operating on the Hanoi-Sapa route, so you’re spoilt for choice. Which one to pick? It all boils down to your budget and preferences. But to make it simpler for you, here are our top choices:
Basic: Vietnam Railways offers the most basic options for the cheapest price at 360,000 VND ($14.50). Book a 4-berth cabin with soft beds for comfort. You can also get a 6-berth sleeper, but its hard bunks are not suitable for the long journey.
Best value for money: We think you really get your money’s worth with ET-Pumpkin Express. You get a deluxe cabin, more comfy beds, a good pillow and free water. Train ticket prices start at 600,000 VND ($24.50).
Private cabin: Damitrans, Sapaly Express and Chapa Express all offer the option to book a private room for two. Tickets for private cabins start at 2,560,000 VND ($105.00) or 1,280,000 VND ($52.00) per person.
Train schedule from Hanoi to Sapa
The Hanoi-Sapa train departs at 22:00 every night from Hanoi Railway Station in the city centre. If you’re coming from Noi Bai Airport, you can take Express Bus 86 straight to Hanoi Train Station.
PRO TIP: Trains bound for Sapa depart from Tran Quy Cap (Gate B). You will find this by entering through the western side of Hanoi Railway Station.
How to prepare for an overnight train journey from Hanoi to Sapa
Taking a night train is part of the experience when visiting Sapa from Hanoi, so we want you to have a memorable one! Here are some tips for your overnight train journey:
Have a full dinner in Hanoi before boarding the train. There are not a lot of food choices on the train (mostly just light snacks) and you don’t want to eat a heavy meal late at night anyway. Much better to get your nighly hours of sleep, so you’ll be fully recharged when the train arrives early morning in Lao Cai!
Pack all the things you may need — water, snacks, toiletries, change of clothes, valuables — in a smaller bag. You can keep beside you on the bed, in hand reach.
Are you sharing the train cabin with strangers? If yes, bring a lock for your bigger bag/suitcase (if it doesn’t have one). You’ll sleep better knowing that your bigger bags are safe. Cabin doors can be locked from the inside, but that won’t be very helpful if the pincher is already inside the room!
Have a sweater handy. It can get cold overnight.
How to book train tickets from Hanoi to Sapa
We recommend booking online when travelling by train to Sapa from Hanoi. Tickets for Vietnam Railways are cheaper in Baolau. But for the more premium train cabins, you’ll find more choices at a cheaper price in BookAway.
Sure, you can also buy Hanoi to Sapa train tickets at Hanoi Railway Station on the day of your trip. But there is a limited number of soft sleeper berths on these tourist trains. Tickets for your preferred cabin may sell out fast!
5 ways to get from Hanoi to Sapa
There are five ways to travel the distance of 315 km (196 miles) from Hanoi to Sapa: by vietnam railways (8 hours), deluxe train (8 hours), luxury train (8h), first class sleeper (8h) and private cabin (8h). The journey takes between 8h and the quickest way is by vietnam railways. The lowest priced tickets start from 360,000 VND ($14.50) for the vietnam railways.
Deluxe trains offer the most value for money when travelling to Sapa from Hanoi. It’s still a 4-berth sleeper cabin, but with more amenities.
With train ticket fares from 600,000 VND ($24.50), you get soft beds, clean sheets, as well as free drinks and snacks. A bunk on a deluxe train is at least twice the price of a Vietnam Railway 1st class sleeper, but we think it’s well worth the comfort you get.
ET-Pumpkin Express, Violette Trains and Laman Express Train offer deluxe cabins for this route.
Luxury trains offer exactly what they say on the tin — luxury. The cabins give you a feeling of being in a posh Vietnamese hotel room.
From the bunks to the lighting and the overall design of the cabin, everything just feels fancy. You get a better comfort room in luxury trains, too! Sadly, a clean toilet is not always guaranteed for passengers of Vietnam Railways and the deluxe trains.
Rates for a bunk in a 4-berth luxury train start from 710,000 VND ($29.00). You get all the amenities of a deluxe train — clean sheets, a comfy bed, and food and drinks — plus a bit of glamour.
If you want to have a room all to yourself, then the private cabin is the best choice. This is one of the most luxurious trains on the Hanoi-Sapa route. It can fit two people, offers the best comfort and, most importantly, privacy.
Also, when you travel on a Chapa Express train, there’s a bonus of free access to their shower facility at the Chapa Lounge! You can find this at Lao Cai Station.
Fares for a private train cabin start from 2,560,000 VND ($105). That’s 1,280,000 VND ($54) per person.
There’s no better way to wake up than opening your curtains to a stunning view over lush rice fields. Add a delicious breakfast to that, and you’ll certainly be starting the day right. A stay at D&D Eco Lodge is an experience in itself. It might even turn out to be one of your best in Vietnam? And if you’re travelling as a couple, this is likely to be one of the best value deals you can find.
Eco Palm House offers luxury bungalows with the most incredible views. You’ll never want to leave your private balcony overlooking rolling hills and endless rice fields. Maybe their infinity pool with an equally spectacular view can convince you? You’re guaranteed to leave this place feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
If you’d like to be near the centre of Sapa, Little View Homestay is a great choice. The private rooms boast a really unique design – they’re covered top to bottom in pine wood. To add to the uniqueness of the place, instead of a traditional heating system, you’ll have a heated blanket to keep you warm at night. The friendly owners and creative sapa style decorations will make this an extraordinary stay!
The train ride from Hanoi to Sapa via Lao Cai takes around 8 hours. From Lao Cai, you will transfer to a van or bus that will take you to Sapa in about an hour.
Is Sapa worth the trip?
Sapa is one of Vietnam’s more popular destinations because of its rice terraces, hill tribes and trekking adventures. Outdoor lovers and culture buffs will love this town. Sure, it can be touristy and some locals try to take advantage of that. But as you go deeper into the mountains, you will find that Sapa is definitely worth a visit!
Is there a private cabin train from Hanoi to Sapa?
Private cabins are available on the Hanoi to Sapa trains and can fit two people. You can choose from three operators: Damitrans Express, Sapaly Express and Chapa Express. Rates for private cabin train tickets start from 2,560,000 VND ($105).
Is there a train station in Sapa?
There is no train station in Sapa. Trains on the Hanoi-Sapa route only take you as far as Lao Cai Railway Station, some 50 km north of Sapa.
Rounding it up
We hope this guide was helpful in planning how to get from Hanoi to Sapa. If there's anything else you're wondering about, drop us a comment and we'll do our best to answer you within a few days.
PS: If you've recently travelled this route, share your experience with fellow travellers and help us improve this post. Thanks for helping out our travel community!
Ela is a storyteller, content producer, solo traveller and a mermaid-in-training. When she’s not in front of her laptop, you will find her barefoot and living her best tan on some island in the Philippines… Or exploring the depths of its seas as a budding freediver. An island girl at heart, she’ll be happy anywhere there is sea, sand, sun and coffee.
Based in Bali, Maarten’s passion for travel is undeniable. In 2016, he decided to quit his job as a stock analyst and started doing what he always dreamed of: travelling through South East Asia and helping other people plan their trips. When he is not working on Gecko Routes, you’ll find him surfing in the ocean or exploring the best gems of Indonesia.