hanoi to sapa train

How to Go from Hanoi to Sapa

The remote mountain village of Sapa is known for some of the best trekking in Vietnam.  Located in the north of Vietnam close to the border with China, this is an area landscaped by rice fields.   There’s a hugely diverse population of minorities here in Sapa and some stunning views available for free as you venture outside the village.  Vietnam’s highest point is here, Fan Si Pan Peak, it’s also known as the roof of Indochina and since 2016 you’ve been able to take a cable car there!  Sapa is also much cooler than most of the rest of Vietnam, because of the altitude, it’s about 1500 meters (492 feet) above sea level. This guide covers whether you’re going from Hanoi to Sapa or Sapa to Hanoi as you’ll need to know the best way to travel between these two destinations.  There are several options for transport between Hanoi and Sapa, but what’s the best way to go from Hanoi to Sapa?  And what are the options for traveling to Sapa from Hanoi?  Here’s our guide on how to get to Sapa from Hanoi

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Travel Tips for Exploring Vietnam

Where is Sapa

The village of Sapa is located in North Vietnam, close to the Chinese Border.  When borders are open it’s often used as a stopping off point for those heading to Yunnan province in China (as we did in 2014 – and our guide to crossing the border from Lao Cai to Hekou is here).  Sapa, though, is itself famous for trekking and for the glorious rice fields here.  It is 320 kilometers (200 miles) from Hanoi to Sapa by road and as there are no airports nearby you’ll either have to travel by road or rail.  There’s no train station in Sapa either, so you’ll need to take the train to the Vietnamese border town of Lao Cai.

How to Go from Hanoi to Sapa – Transport Options

In this guide on how to go from Hanoi to Sapa, we’ll cover the fastest way to travel go from Hanoi to Sapa, the easiest way to go to Sapa from Hanoi, and the cheapest way to get to Sapa from Hanoi, as well as the most comfortable way to go from Hanoi to Sapa

How to get to Sapa from Hanoi

For transport from Sapa to Hanoi, then you have several options.  You can take a minivan from Hanoi to Sapa, and there are also large buses that go to Sapa from Hanoi.  You can also take the train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, and then a bus to Sapa or you can take a taxi to Sapa from Hanoi.  If you’re short on time, then you can also take a two-day trip from Hanoi to Sapa with an overnight stay in an ethnic homestay (read more about that here).  Read on for all the details on how to go from Hanoi to Sapa or take a look at your options for taking overnight trips to Sapa from Hanoi

Train + Bus from Hanoi to Sapa

Taking the train to Sapa from Hanoi is, for me, the best way of traveling to Sapa.  You’ll actually take the train to the terminus at Lao Cai and then transfer to a minivan to go up the winding mountain road to Sapa, but the overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai is a great way to maximize your time in Vietnam and also save on accommodation costs.

Train from Hanoi to Lao Cai

It takes about 8 hours to go by train from Hanoi to Lao Cai and you have different ticket options from hard seats, soft seats, hard berth, and soft berth sleeper, to luxury coaches.  Most trains to Lao Cai from Hanoi arrive in Lao Cai at around 6 am.  From Lao Cai to Sapa it’s a further 35 kilometers (22 miles) and this part of the journey takes 60-90 minutes.  Minivans will wait to meet the train and depart when full.

Trains leave Hanoi Railway Station – the Tran Quy Cap station, which is 1.7 kilometers (1 mile) from Hanoi’s Old Quarter.

The train from Hanoi to Lao Cai takes about 8 hours and this is a popular tourist route, you’ll want to book your preferred dates ASAP.  Check train times and availability here.  There are at least 6 trains each night from Hanoi to Lao Cai, they all leave Hanoi from around 10 pm to 10:30 pm and arrive in Lao Cai around 8 hours later.

hanoi to sapa 4 berth cabin

Tickets for trains to Lao Cai from Hanoi cost as little as 331,000 VND.  While the majority of the trains have four to six-berth cabins, you can also reserve a two-berth cabin, but you’ll need to do that asap.  Check two-berth cabins on the Hanoi to Sapa train here.

The first night train from Hanoi to Lao Cai is at 10 pm and the last train leaves Hanoi at 10:36 pm.

Check the times for the overnight trains to Sapa from Hanoi here.

Once you arrive in Lao Cai, you’ll need to either take a minivan or the local bus from Lao Cai to Sapa

hanoi to sapa 6 berth train

Minivan or Bus from Lao Cai to Sapa

Minivans wait at the Lao Cai Railways station for the inbound train from Hanoi.  They depart when full.  It takes about 60-90 minutes to go from Lao Cai to Sapa.  A ticket in a shared van will cost about 50,000 VND.  Alternatively, you can pre-book a van for up to 6 people here.

Lao Cai to Sapa minivans at station

There’s also a local public bus, which is run by the Lao Cai Public Bus company and it also departs from the railway station, it costs 30,000 VND per person.

Bus from Hanoi to Sapa

There are several types of buses available from Hanoi to Sapa.  The benefit of the bus over the train is that you’ll get all the way to Sapa, rather than having to take a minivan or local bus from Lao Cai. 

It’s about 320 kilometers (200 miles) by road from Hanoi to Sapa and the bus from Hanoi to Sapa is one of the easiest ways to go from Hanoi to Sapa.  It takes about 6.5 hours to go from Hanoi to Sapa by bus and there are lots of buses a day from Hanoi to Sapa.

You can take a sleeper bus or a VIP Cabin bus as your options for buses to Sapa from Hanoi.   These buses will leave from their offices in Hanoi, but most are close to the Old Quarter or will include a pick up for you from your accommodation (it’s usually in a minivan to get you to the large bus depot).  They’ll drop you at a central location in Sapa.

Hanoi to Sapa VIP Cabin Bus

All the buses are air-conditioned (and are usually freezing, so bring your sweater or sleep sheet).  Sleeper buses are generally safe, but protect yourself and your belongings by sleeping on any valuables or by locking your valuables in a Pacsafe (read more about them here), while you sleep.  Your big bags go in the hold underneath the bus.

Check morning bus times and prices from Hanoi to Sapa here.

Check afternoon bus times from Hanoi to Sapa here

Check evening bus times to Sapa from Hanoi here

These buses to Sapa from Hanoi are air-conditioned and by booking online here you can select your seats. 

You don’t need to print a ticket for the bus from Hanoi to Sapa, you can use an electronic ticket from your online booking from Hanoi to Sapa.

Check availability, prices, and book seats on buses from Hanoi to Sapa here.

Minivans from Hanoi to Sapa

It’s about 320 kilometers (200 miles) by road from Hanoi to Sapa and the minivans from Hanoi to Sapa are one of the quickest and easiest ways to go from Hanoi to Sapa.  It takes about 5 hours to go from Hanoi to Sapa by van. Vans have air conditioning and most have WiFi.  Minivans from Hanoi to Sapa depart throughout the day, with varying times of departure from 6:45 am until 3 pm.  The earliest arrival time from Hanoi to Sapa is 11:45 am and the latest is 8 pm.  This luxury mini-van service provides blankets, WiFi, drinks, and snacks.  You can check availability for your dates here.  It departs from the Hanoi Opera House and will drop you in central Sapa.

Check availability, prices, and book seats on minivans from Hanoi to Sapa here.

Taxi from Hanoi to Sapa

Taking a private taxi to Sapa from Hanoi is the fastest ways to go to Sapa.  It is the most comfortable way to travel. It takes about 4 hours to drive to Sapa from Hanoi and if you have a group of 4-6 people this might just be the most convenient way to go from Hanoi to Sapa.  You can check prices for Hanoi to Sapa taxis here.

While you’ll want more than a day to visit Sapa, we do count visiting Sapa as a great trip to take from Hanoi. Here’s some other recommendations.

The quickest way to get from Hanoi to Sapa

The time it will take you to get to Sapa from Hanoi depends on the transport that you take. The quickest way to go to Sapa from Hanoi is to take a direct transfer or taxi, it takes about 4 hours to drive to Sapa from Hanoi, depending, of course, on where you are in Hanoi and how long it takes you to escape the city traffic!  Buses take around 6 hours.  Minivans take about 5 hours and the train and minivan combo takes about 9 hours. You can book tickets from Hanoi to Sapa here.

The easiest way to go to Sapa from Hanoi

The easiest way to get from Hanoi to Sapa depends on how you want to travel.  We took the overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa in a sleeper, arrived in Lao Cai, and took a minivan from Lao Cai to Sapa, as we wanted a last full day and night in Hanoi before heading to Sapa.  Our train departed at around 10 pm and we were headed off into the rice fields of Sapa after breakfast the next day.

Buses and minivans are comfortable, and you’ll get some sleep on the train is incredibly atmospheric, but if you’re short on time, then a two-day trip to Sapa from Hanoi is an easy way to travel.

The cheapest way to go from Hanoi to Sapa

The cheapest way to get to Sapa from Hanoi is to take a bus – reserve your seats here.

The best way to go from Hanoi to Sapa

Well, now this depends.  I love traveling on trains, and this trip, for me should be done by train.  We took the train from Hanoi to Lao Cai and then a minivan Sapa. We didn’t do the return route, as we left Vietnam through the border to China.

Other key routes to travel in Vietnam

Want to know more about different forms of transport in Vietnam? Our guide to Vietnam transport is here. And here’s how to travel some of the popular routes around Vietnam, your options, and how we did it.

Final Words on How to Go from Hanoi to Sapa

The route from Hanoi to Sapa is well-traveled and there are some great transport options.  Pick whether you want to travel during the day or overnight.  And then select whether you want to travel on the roads or the rails.  You’ll likely get a night of better sleep on the train, but you might want to opt for a 2-person cabin, to avoid noisy snoring neighbors!

Stock images in this article are courtesy Deposit Photos.

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