SaPa is located in North Vietnam, close to the Chinese border. Because there is no airport in this region, it’s only possible to reach SaPa by bus or a combination of train and van.
The most popular destinations to reach SaPa are from Hanoi, Cat Ba and Ninh Binh. Note that most routes will pass Hanoi first. From Hanoi, you will continue by bus to Sapa or by train to Lao Cai.
Taking the 8-hour overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai is the easiest way to travel the 300km distance to the north of Vietnam. The express train departs around 9:30pm from Hanoi and arrives around 5:30am in Lao Cai. From Lao Cai railway station, you can take a 45minute bus or van drive to Sapa.
This overnight train is a very time-efficient way to travel and is an experience you shouldn’t miss when in Vietnam. It will not only save you time because you are travelling during the night, but also save you a night on accommodation.
Alternatively, you can also take a direct bus from Hanoi to Sapa, but then you will have to travel during the day. The journey by bus only takes 6 hours. However, most buses depart from Hanoi during the day and arrive in the middle of the night in Sapa. That also means travel time can take longer because of traffic.
Besides that, we think that taking the train is more cost-efficient, safer, and more exciting way to travel from Hanoi to Sapa!
Looking for more info? Don’t worry, we got you covered!
Because Sapa is only a small hill town up in the mountains, it doesn’t have its own railway station. If you want to travel from Hanoi to Sapa by train, you’ll need to take the train to the closest railway station which is in Lao Cai. From Lao Cai you can continue by mini-bus/van or public bus to SaPa.
There are two sleeper trains that depart from Hanoi daily at 21:35 and 22:00 and they arrive in Lao Cai at 05:30 and 6:05 respectively. Since you will arrive in the early morning in SaPa, you can still join a day tour on the day of arrival. The total journey from Hanoi to Sapa will take about 9 hours.
If you contact your hotel beforehand, you might even be allowed to check in early and take a shower before setting off to see the beautiful Sapa.
PRO-TIP: If you are short in time, you can book the night train back to Hanoi for the next day. When doing this, you can do one day tour on the day of arrival (day 1), sleep one night in SaPa and do another day tour the next day (day 2). On the second day, you can take the night train back to Hanoi.
Step 1: Hanoi to Lao Cai by Train
Duration: 8 hrs Cost: 528,000 VND ($23)
To travel the journey from Hanoi to SaPa, you can take one of the two night trains to Lao Cai.
Notice that there are many different train companies you can book with, but they all depart from Hanoi at either 21:35 or 22:00. The difference between the companies are the comfort level and the amenities offered, like the quality of the mattresses, inclusion of free drinks and snacks, and even breakfast upon arrival in Lao Cai.
We recommend to get the train leaving at 21:35 so you can be in SaPa by 06:30. This gives you enough time to freshen up and get ready to join one of the many groups going on a trek, which usually starts around 8:00-8:30.
How to get to Hanoi railway station?
Hanoi Railway Station is a 20-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), which won’t cost more than a few dollars.
Once you arrive at the station, you should enter the station on the western side (Tran Quy Cap). This is the platform from which the trains from Hanoi to Sapa depart.
Which train to book?
The cheapest train tickets are sold by Vietnam Railways ($23). However, keep in mind that this is the most basic option. If you want to travel with Vietnam Railways on the journey from Hanoi to Sapa, we recommend to pick a 4-berth cabin for more comfort. These beds are softer and you’ll have more space in the cabin.
A much better option in our opinion is to book with Pumpkin Express train ($27). Tickets cost only $4 more compared to Vietnam Railways, but they offer more comfort and better amenities.
Besides the Pumpkin Express train, there are several other luxury trains you can book. See the comparison below to give you an idea of the differences between these trains form Hanoi to Sapa.
Quick comparison of luxury train tickets from Hanoi to Sapa
We think the Pumpkin Express ($27) train offers the best value for money, with more comfy beds, a good pillow and free water.
Looking for a private cabin? King Express, Orient Express, Et-Pumpkin and Sapaly all offer the option to book a private cabin. Tickets for private cabins start at 2,450,000 VND ($105), or $52.50 pp.
More info on the trains from Hanoi to Sapa
Looking for more info? See below a more detailed description about travelling with the train or jump straight to the next option to get to know how to travel by Bus from Hanoi to Sapa.
Vietnam Railways (SP1 and SP4) from Hanoi to Sapa
Costs: 528,000 VND ($23)
The Vietnam Railways trains are basic, but not a bad choice if you want to save some money.
If you book with one of these SP1 or SP3 trains, we recommend to book a 4-berth cabin instead of a 6-berth The beds of these 4-berth cabins are more comfortable as they have thicker matrasses.
21:35 – 05:30
528,000 VND ($23)
22:00 – 06:05
528,000 VND ($23)
Indicated prices are for 4-berth sleeper cabins but you can also book soft seats from 230,000 VND ($10).
Sometimes there are small differences in departure times. The SP1, for example, leaves 20 minutes later on some days. Use the button below to check if there are any changes from the schedule from Hanoi to Sapa.
King Express offers two different trains: A luxury version (which isn’t really luxury in our opinion) and a VIP train.
The VIP train, is where the luxury really starts. For 720,000 VND ($31) you get a nice cabin with comfy beds, free drinks (incl beer!) and snacks.
Keep in mind that you don’t get these extras with the non-VIP (luxury train). That’s also why we don’t think the King Expres luxury train offers extra value compared to the Pumpkin Express (the first option).
Another benefit of King Express is that they offer free cancellation up to 72 hrs in advance for the Hanoi to Sapa route.
This is the most luxurious train you can travel with when going from Hanoi to SaPa. If you want to travel like a real VIP you can go for this train. However, you have to put some money aside as tickets costs 2,366,000 VND ($103) per person.
Luxury trains (2 pers cabins)
Most companies also offer you the option to book a private cabin for 2 persons.
These cabins are actually the same as 4 berth cabins, but have the 2 upper beds turned up to provide more space.
You can book a private cabin with King Express, Orient Express, Et-Pumpkin and Sapaly, with tickets starting from 2,412,000 VND ($105), or $52,50 pp.
The second part of the journey from Hanoi to Sapa is to get from the railway station in Lao Cai to Sapa.
The easiest option to travel this 35km distance from Lao Cai to Sapa is by taking one of the vans in front of the train station.
These vans cost only 40,000 VND ($1.70) and the drive won’t take more than 45 minutes.
Sometimes you have to wait a long time till the van is full and there are some drivers that might try to overcharge you. In that case, you can also take the public bus which leaves every 20-30 mins.
Buses or vans will drop you off around the square in SaPa, which is only a 5-minute walk to the main street where most hotels are located.
When you arrive at this square, there will also be many taxis waiting to bring you to your accommodation in case your hotel is located outside SaPa center.
Lao Cai to Sapa by Van/mini-bus
Cost: 40,000 VND ($1.70)
Vans are waiting at the train station so you don’t need to book them in advance. The ride from Lao Cai railway station to SaPa costs 40,000 VND ($1.70).
Bear in mind that most vans do not leave until they are full.
Lao Cai to Sapa by Public bus
Cost: 29,000 VND ($1.30)
You can find the public (yellow-red) buses on the opposite of the railway station, at the end of the parking area.
Buses leave every 20-30 minutes and will drop you off at SaPa bus station. The ride costs 29,000 VND ($1.30).
At this bus stop, you will also find a big blue timetable. Make sure to always ask if the bus is going to SaPa and not the other direction!
Be aware! Locals might tell you there is no public bus and point to the fake blue timetable next to the minivans. Don’t let them fool you and just continue to the end of the parking area.
Hanoi to SaPa by Bus
Duration: 6 hours Cost: 276,000 VND ($12)
A cheaper and faster option to travel from Hanoi to Sapa is by taking the bus during day time.
The advantage of the bus is that you don’t need to change transportation in Lao Cai as buses go straight to SaPa.
However, we do not recommend to take a day bus as these buses leave by daytime and arrive in the middle of the night in SaPa.
This means you still need to search for your accommodation in the middle of the night.
Still want to travel by bus?
You can choose among several bus companies when you want to travel from Hanoi to SaPa. Be aware though that some bus companies drop passengers outside SaPa centre, which means you still need to take a taxi from there to your accommodation.
Two companies which we recommend are Green SaPa Bus and Goodmorning SaPa as they are both known for their great service.
Both buses include pick-up in Hanoi and drop you off in or at the border of the centre in SaPa.
Tickets for Green SaPa costs only 276,000 VND ($12), including pick-up. Goodmorning SaPa is one dollar more expensive and is a good option if Green SaPa is already fully booked.
Depending on the traffic, travelling from Hanoi to Sapa by bus takes about 5 to 6 hours.
Other companies you can book with are SaPa Express, Fansipan Express, and Interbuslines. If you are travelling with a larger group you can also book a private van with Vietnam Tourist.
We recommend to travel by train from Hanoi to SaPa. A direct bus is also an option, but buses only go by day or arrive in the middle of the night. This means you still need to book an accommodation when arriving in SaPa. Booking the train will save you a night on accommodation and won’t waste your valuable day time.
Does SaPa have it’s own train station?
SaPa is a little mountain village that doesn’t have a railway station. Luckily, the nearby town Lao Cai has a railway station that connects directly with SaPa. From here it’s only a 45 mins van drive to SaPa.
How long does it take to travel from Hanoi to Sa Pa?
The journey from Hanoi to SaPa takes about 9 hours by train (including a 45 mins van ride). The journey by bus takes about 6 hrs.
Where can I book my tickets?
You can book the tickets for trains and buses with the buttons below each transport option.
When visiting Sapa, there is no better way than waking up with a stunning view over the rice-fields while enjoying an outstanding breakfast. An experience not to miss and probably one of the best during your trip in Vietnam! The adorable bungalows of Lodge D&D cost only $32 a night, including a fantastic breakfast! When you are travelling as a couple, this will probably be one of the best value deals you can find!
Still not convinced with the previous listing? Eco Palm House offers even more luxious bungalows, starting from $90. But don't let this scare you of! Eco Palms House also offer something for travellers on a lower budget. For solo traveller, you can already stay in a dormitory for just $17 or when travelling as a couple, you can book a double bed in the open area for $33.
Want to stay around the center but prefer a homestay instead of a hotel? The rooms of Little View Homestay are all made from pine wood and instead of a heating system, you will get a heated blanked that keeps you warm at night. The friendly owners and creative sapa style decorations will make this an extraordinary stay!