Hanoi to SaPa

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How to get from Hanoi to Sapa

SaPa is a remote village located in North Vietnam. The best time to visit is from Februrary to May, when the weather is both sunny and cool.

Backdropped by spectacular rice terraces, SaPa boasts of both physical and cultural beauty. Ethnic minorities make up over 80% of its population. And just getting to know their culture and lifestyle is already an amazing experience.

Located close to the Chinese border, 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.

4 ways to get from Hanoi to SaPa

Transport modeDurationCostsAvailability
Train9 hours370,000 VND ($15.50)Check Train Tickets
Luxury Train9 hours691,000 VND ($29)Check Luxury Train Tickets
Bus5 hours264,000 VND ($11)Check Bus Tickets
Private transfer5.5 hours3,112,000 VND ($130)Check Private Transfers

There are 4 ways to travel the 315 km distance from Hanoi to Sapa: a 9-hour combined train and van; a 6-hour bus, or a 5.5-hour private transfer. Rates range from 264,000 VND ($11) to 3,112,000 VND ($130).

We recommend taking a combined train and van to get from Hanoi to SaPa. The overnight train is a very time-efficient way to travel and is an experience you shouldn’t miss when in Vietnam. It will allow you to save both on valuable day time as well as a night on accommodation.

You can choose from many different kinds of trains depending on your budget and preference. Note that the train can only take you up to Lao Cai, from where you will transfer to a van or a bus to get to SaPa.

The bus is a more direct way to travel from Hanoi to Sapa, but not as comfortable. Also, although it is cheaper than the train, most buses arrive in the middle of the night in SaPa. This means you’ll still have to get an accommodation for that night, ergo additional costs.

Another way to get from Hanoi to SaPa is via a private transfer. We think that this is an option to consider only if you’re travelling with a big group, coming from Hanoi Airport, or carrying a lot of luggage. Rates start at 3,112,000 VND ($130) for a 5-seater car.

Concluding, we think that taking the train is a more cost-efficient, safer, and more exciting way to travel from Hanoi to Sapa!

Train, direct bus or taxi?

  • The journey from Hanoi to Sapa by train via Lao Cai takes 8 hours with rates starting from 330,000 VND ($14). From Lao Cai to Sapa takes only 45 minutes by van and costs 40,000 VND ($1.70).
  • Taking a direct bus from Hanoi to Sapa takes about 6 hours and ticket prices start from 264,000 VND ($11).
  • Taking a taxi from Hanoi to Sapa is slightly faster than the bus (about 5.5 hours) and costs around 3,112,000 VND ($130).

PRO TIP: Consider to continue your journey to Ha Giang after visiting SaPa. Ha Giang is famous for its magnificent views on the highlands of Northern Vietnam.

Where to stay in Sa Pa?

Still looking for accommodation? Don’t forget to check out our favourite places to stay in SaPa at the bottom of this page.

Itinerary from Hanoi to SaPa

Hanoi to Sapa travelroute

Hanoi to SaPa by Train*

Duration: 9 hours
Cost: 370,000 VND ($15.50)
Duration: 9 hours
Cost: 370,000 VND ($15.50)
A 4-berth train cabin on the way from Hanoi to Sapa via Lao Cai
A 4-berth cabin in the train from Hanoi to Lao Cai

*COVID-19 UPDATE: Vietnam Railways reduced the number of train departures from Hanoi to Lao Cai to 3x a week due to the pandemic, but the last time we checked (October 2022), trains from Hanoi to Lao Cai are once again available every night.

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 take the train to the closest railway station which is in Lao Cai. From Lao Cai, you can continue by van or bus to SaPa.

The total train journey from Hanoi to Sapa takes about 9 hours.

All trains depart at night, quite convenient as they allow you to have a good night’s sleep. And upon arrival in Sapa, you’ll have enough time to freshen up and get ready to join one of the many groups going on a trek, which usually starts around 08:00-08:30.

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 of 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 hours
Cost: 330,000 VND ($14)
Duration: 8 hours
Cost: 330,000 VND ($14)

Trains operating from Hanoi to Lao Cai depart every night at 22:00.

You can board the train from Hanoi Railway Station, a 20-minute walk or a 10-minute taxi ride from the Old Quarter. The easiest way to reach this train station is to order a Grab (taxi), which shouldn’t cost more than a few dollars.

Once you arrive at the station, you should enter on the western side (Tran Quy Cap). This is the platform for trains operating from Hanoi to Sapa.

Which train to book from Hanoi to Sapa?

There are many different train companies you can book with from Hanoi to Sapa. They vary in comfort level, amenities offered, and of course, price.

Amenities differ per company – like the quality of mattresses, inclusion of free drinks and snacks, as well as the number of bunks per cabin.

See below a quick breakdown of train choices from Hanoi to Sapa.

  • Vietnam Railways offers the most basic options but also for the cheapest price. Fares start at 330,000 VND ($14) for a 1st class sleeper (4-berth cabin).
  • We think that you will get more value for money with a deluxe train, which has more comfy beds, a good pillow and free food & drinks. Rates start from 611,000 VND ($26) with Pumpkin Express.
  • Luxury trains offer an overall more luxurious ambiance. But we think they don’t have much difference with deluxe trains in terms of amenities. Fares start from 651,000 VND ($27.50) with Chapa Express and 689,000 VND ($29) with Sapaly Express.
  • Looking for a private cabin? Laman Express, Orient Express, ET-Pumpkin, Chapa and Sapaly all offer the option to book a private cabin for 2 people. Rates start at 2,295,000 VND ($97) per private cabin or $48.50 per person.

Train schedules from Hanoi to SaPa

TrainScheduleCosts
SP1*21:35-05:15330,000 VND ($14)
Check Train Tickets
SP322:00-05:55330,000 VND ($14)
Check Train Tickets
*COVID-19 UPDATE: The last time we checked (October 2022), the SP1 train is unavailable. Please check the provided link to see if anything has changed.

All deluxe, luxury and VIP trains also depart from Hanoi at 22:00. Tickets for these upgraded trains are available online on BookAway.

But if you’re travelling with the basic trains of Vietnam Railways, we recommend booking your tickets through Baolau for cheaper fares.

Step 2: Lao Cai to SaPa by Van or Public Bus

Duration: 45 minutes
Cost: 40,000 VND ($1.70)
Duration: 45 minutes
Cost: 40,000 VND ($1.70)

You are to get off the train at Lao Cai Railway Station, located 35 km northeast of Sapa. From here, you can take either a van or a bus to get to Sapa town centre.

Option 1: Lao Cai to Sapa by Van

Duration: 45 minutes
Cost: 40,000 VND ($1.70)
Duration: 45 minutes
Cost: 40,000 VND ($1.70)

The van is a quick way to get from Lao Cai to Sapa. They don’t make unnecessary stops so the journey takes just around 45 minutes. You can get a seat for around 40,000 VND ($1.70).

Vans are easily available outside the train station so you don’t need to book them in advance. Keep in mind the ticket price though, because some drivers tend to overcharge tourists. Also, bear in mind that most vans do not leave until they are full.

You will be dropped off around the main square in SaPa, which is within walking distance of many hotels in town. You will also find a lot of taxis here, and they can take you to your accommodation if it’s located outside the town centre.

Option 2: Lao Cai to Sapa by Public Bus

Duration: 1 hour
Cost: 30,000 VND ($1.25)
Duration: 1 hour
Cost: 30,000 VND ($1.25)

The bus is a great way to already kick off your SaPa adventure while travelling like a local. These buses are quite comfortable, although you might want to pay for an extra seat for your luggage if you’re carrying big bags.

Take Bus #1 when heading to SaPa. You can find the public (yellow-red) buses across the railway station, at the end of the parking area. Buses are available as early as 05:40 in the morning.

Buses depart every 20-30 minutes and will drop you off at SaPa Yellow Bus Station, near the Old Church. Note that these public buses make a lot of stops so the journey will take at least an hour.

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: 5 hours
Cost: 264,000 VND ($11)
Duration: 5 hours
Cost: 264,000 VND ($11)
Interbuslines Sleeper Bus from Hanoi to Sapa
Interbuslines Sleeper Bus from Hanoi to Sapa (Source: BookAway)

There are plenty of companies operating buses from Hanoi to Sapa daily. Some of the most highly-rated operators include Sao Viet, Interbuslines, Sapa Dragon Express, Sapa Express, and Good Morning Sapa.

The advantage of taking the bus is that they are direct. Most buses depart from Hanoi city centre and arrive at Sapa town centre, so you won’t have to worry about getting additional transfers.

We recommend taking a late-night bus with Sao Viet that arrives in Sapa around 06:00 in the morning so that you can save on accommodation.

Sapa Express and Good Morning Sapa are also good options. Although they arrive in Sapa in the middle of the night, the drivers allow passengers to stay and sleep on the bus until 06:00.

Which bus to take?

There are 3 types of buses you can choose from when travelling from Hanoi to Sapa. It’s a 6-hour ride, so it’s important to pick a bus depending on your preferred level of comfort.

  • Sleeping Bus: The most basic, these usually come with sleeper bunks, blankets, as well as food & drinks. Rates start from 264,000 VND ($11).
  • VIP Cabin Bus: An upgrade to the sleeping bus, this comes with cabin-type bunks with curtains that you can close for privacy. Fares are from 412,000 VND ($17.50).
  • Limo Bus: Airconditioned buses with reclining seats – an alternative if you don’t want sleeper bunks. Prices start from 312,000 VND ($13).

Departure and arrival station

Different bus stations have varying departure and arrival stations – usually, that’s at their own offices in Hanoi and Sapa.

We recommend booking with a company with the most convenient bus stations for you. Better yet, pick one that offers free hotel pick-up and drop-off.

Bus schedules from Hanoi to SaPa

Bus CompanySchedulesDurationCosts
Sao Viet16x a day from
05:45 to 22:05
6hrs 50m463,000 VND ($19.50)
Check Bus Tickets
Interbus Lines3x a day from
06:30-21:30
6 hours287,000 VND ($12)
Check Bus Tickets
Sapa Dragon Express2x a day from
07:00-22:00
4hrs 50m264,000 VND ($11)
Check Bus Tickets
Sapa ExpressOnce a day from
22:00-03:30
5.5 hours286,000 VND ($12)
Check Bus Tickets
Good Morning Sapa3x a day from
06:30-22:00
6 hours304,000 VND ($12.50)
Check Bus Tickets

It’s best to book your ride online beforehand through BookAway to get a better overview of bus schedules, rates, and departure & arrival points.

Alternative: Van from Hanoi to Sapa

Vans offer a more spacious and luxurious ride from Hanoi to Sapa. Some companies also offer free hotel pick-up if you’re staying within Hanoi’s Old Quarter.

Note that only daytime trips are available with the minivans.

Prices for a van seat from Hanoi to Sapa start at 415,000 VND ($17.50). You can pre-book your ride through BookAway.

Check Van Tickets with BookAway

Hanoi to SaPa by Private Transfer

Duration: 5.5 hours
Cost: 3,112,000 VND ($130)
Duration: 5.5 hours
Cost: 3,112,000 VND ($130)
Private transfer from Hanoi to Sapa
Private transfer from Hanoi to Sapa (Source: BookAway)

If you’re travelling in a group, or if you want a direct ride from Hanoi Airport, you can also consider getting a private transfer.

Rates for a 5-seater car from Hanoi to Sapa start at 3,112,000 VND ($130). That’s about 622,400 VND ($26.50) per person for a group of 5. Not a bad rate for a door-to-door transfer!

Book a Private Transfer with BookAway

FAQ How to get there

Frequently asked questions


Hanoi to SaPa?

We recommend travelling 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 its 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-minute van ride 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-minute van ride). The journey by bus takes about 6 hours.

Where can I book my tickets?

It’s best to book your tickets online beforehand for guaranteed seats. The Hanoi to SaPa route can get very busy, and you don’t want to arrive at the train or bus station with tickets for your desired trip already sold out.

 

Our favourite places to stay in Sapa

D&D Eco Lodge Sapa

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.

Read More

Eco Palms House – Mountain Retreat

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.

Read More

Little View Homestay Sapa

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!

Read More

   

More routes to Sapa

Ninh Binh to Sapa

CatBa to Sapa

More routes from Hanoi

Hanoi to CatBa

Hanoi to Da Nang

Hanoi to Ha Giang

Hanoi to Halong Bay

Hanoi to Hanoi Airport

Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh

Hanoi to Hoi An

Hanoi to Hue

Hanoi to Ninh Binh

Hanoi to Phong Nha

Halong Bay to Hanoi

Hanoi to Halong Bay

Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi

Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An

Ho Chi Minh to Phu Quoc

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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.

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