How to get from Hanoi to Sapa – Complete guide

Welcome to the gateway of stunning Sapa, nestled in the highlands of northern Vietnam. Sapa’s lush valleys and vibrant cultural tapestry make it an enchanting destination for travelers seeking awe-inspiring landscapes and rich local experiences. The journey from Hanoi to Sapa is an integral part of this adventure, and we’re here to guide you through it. 

Whether you’re on a shoestring budget or seeking a more luxurious route, we’ll provide a comprehensive transportation guide. Discover the best ways to travel from Hanoi to Sapa, ensuring your expedition into this breathtaking region is as seamless and enjoyable as the destination itself.

Hanoi to Sapa map – Overview of the trip

Sapa Mountain View in spring
Sapa Mountain View in spring

Like Hanoi to Halong, Hanoi to Sapa is also one of the major route in North Vietnam. Sapa, nestled in Vietnam’s northern province of Lao Cai, is a picturesque town. It’s about 38 km west of Lao Cai city, with an elevation ranging from 1500 to 1650 meters. Situated in the Hoang Lien Son mountains, overlooking the stunning Muong Hoa Valley, this area includes the region’s highest peak, Fansipan.

The ideal time to explore Sapa is from February to May, offering delightful weather conditions. Against the backdrop of breathtaking rice terraces, Sapa showcases a unique blend of natural beauty and diverse cultures. Over 80% of its population comprises ethnic minorities, making it an extraordinary cultural experience.

When traveling to Sapa, the most common starting points include Hanoi, Cat Ba, and Ninh Binh. It’s important to note that most routes pass through Hanoi. You can travel from Hanoi to Sapa by bus or take the train to Lao Cai. Covering a distance of approximately 320 km, since there isn’t an airport in this region, the most accessible means are bus travel, private transfers, or a combination of train and van.

You can refer to the chart below for a better understanding of the distance from some of the most popular locations to Sapa.

RouteDistanceTravel time
Hanoi to Sapa311 km (193 mi)5 hours
Cat Ba to Sapa475 km (296 mi)7 hours 50 minutes
Ninh Binh to Sapa403 km (205 mi)6 hours 15 minutes

Everything you need to know about each travel method from Hanoi to Sapa

Traveling from Hanoi to Sapa offers three distinct routes. The first, via the new Noi Bai – Lao Cai highway, covers 320 km and takes approximately 5.5 hours, or 290 km if departing directly from Noi Bai International Airport. The second route, involving the old 70 highway, spans 376 km, with a travel time of about 9 hours by car. The third, a more extensive but incredibly scenic journey of 455 km, ventures through Yen Bai and Lai Chau provinces, requiring around 11 hours of driving. Despite the greater distance, many Vietnamese travelers opt for this route to immerse themselves in the Northwest mountain’s natural beauty. For adventurous tourists, there are also multi-day options exploring the northwest or northeast regions of Vietnam.

Can’t choose a method to travel from Hanoi to Sapa just yet? Let us help you with the complete guide below!

Train from Hanoi to Sapa

Many travelers choose the Hanoi to Sapa train as their ultimate transportation, appreciated for its affordability and safety. Sapa, although lacking its own railway station, is easily accessible from the nearby Lao Cai railway station, located around 38 km (24 miles) away. From Lao Cai, you can reach Sapa by bus, jeep, or taxi in approximately 50 minutes. There are both daytime and overnight sleeper trains connecting Hanoi and Lao Cai. Most of these trains depart from Hanoi around 9 or 10 pm and arrive at Lao Cai station at 5-6 am. In Vietnam, you can choose from the standard Vietnamese railways or privately-run sleeper trains of higher quality targeted at tourists. 

However, it’s essential to consider that the train journey from Hanoi to Sapa takes extra time due to the need to catch a bus to Sapa town. Moreover, train tickets for weekends are in high demand and often need to be reserved several weeks in advance. The cost of a train ticket varies depending on the type of seat selected, ranging from $6 to $60 per person. 

Travel duration: 8 hours (+50 to 90min to transport to Sapa from the station)

Cost: from 330,000VND ~ 13 USD/ pax

For those interested in experiencing a Hanoi to Sapa sleeper train, the table below provides details about the train name so that you can plan your schedule accordingly:

Train NameRouteDeparture timeArrival time
SP1Hanoi – Lao Cai21:355:15
SP2Lao Cai – Hanoi20:554:32
SP3Hanoi – Lao Cai22:005:55
SP4Lao Cai – Hanoi21:305:25

When traveling by train from Hanoi to Sapa, there are numerous companies to choose from, each offering varying levels of comfort, amenities, and prices. These amenities encompass a range of features, including the mattress quality, complimentary refreshments, and the number of berths per cabin. For a brief overview of your train options between Hanoi and Sapa, refer to the information below:

  • Vietnam Railways provides the most economical options, commencing at 330,000 VND ($13.50) for a 1st class sleeper (4-berth cabin with soft bunks).
  • Opting for a deluxe train offers better value for your money, featuring more comfortable beds, quality pillows, and complimentary food and beverages. Rates begin at 611,000 VND ($25.00) with Pumpkin Express.
  • Luxury trains, while more upscale, don’t significantly differ from deluxe trains in terms of amenities. Fares start from 887,000 VND ($36.50) with Chapa Express, 715,000 VND ($29.50) with Livitrans Express, and 720,000 VND ($29.50) with Sapaly Express.
  • For those seeking a private cabin, Damitrans Express, Chapa Express, and Sapaly Express offer VIP cabins for two, priced from 2,552,000 VND ($105.00) per private cabin or 1,276,000 VND ($52.00) per person.

After arriving in Lao Cai station, you can choose to get from Lao Cai to Sapa by van or public:

  • Traveling from Lao Cai to Sapa, vans offer a swift option with minimal stops, completing the journey in approximately 45 minutes. A seat typically costs around 40,000 VND ($1.60). You can easily find these vans outside the train station without the need for prior booking. However, be mindful of ticket prices, as some drivers may overcharge tourists. Most vans don’t depart until they’re full. They drop passengers at Sapa’s main square, conveniently close to many hotels. Taxis are also readily available here for accommodations located outside the town center.
  • Opting for the public bus from Lao Cai allows you to embark on your Sapa adventure while experiencing local travel. These buses are relatively comfortable, but if you have large bags, consider purchasing an extra seat for your luggage. Take Bus #1 when heading to Sapa. You’ll find the public (yellow-red) buses located across from the railway station at the end of the parking area. Buses start running as early as 5:40 in the morning, departing every 20-30 minutes. The drop-off point is the Sapa Yellow Bus Station, near the Old Church. It’s important to note that these public buses make frequent stops, extending the journey to at least an hour. Be cautious of locals who may mislead you into believing there’s no public bus, as they might point to a fake blue timetable next to the minivans. Stand your ground and continue to the end of the parking area.

Numerous bus companies operate daily services from Hanoi to Sapa, with some of the most reputable options being Sao Viet, Interbuslines, Sapa Dragon Express, Sapa Express, and Good Morning Sapa. The key advantage of choosing a bus is its direct route. Most buses depart from the heart of Hanoi and arrive at Sapa’s town center, eliminating the need for additional transfers.

For travelers looking to save on accommodation costs, we recommend selecting a late-night departure bus, such as the one provided by Sao Viet, which arrives in Sapa around 6:00 in the morning. Sapa Express and Good Morning Sapa also offer this overnight option. Despite arriving in Sapa during the late hours, these operators permit passengers to remain on the bus and sleep until 6:00. The journey taken by a Hanoi to Sapa bus typically takes 5-6 hours. Various companies have distinct departure and arrival stations, often situated at their own offices in Hanoi and Sapa. We advise selecting a company with bus stations that best suit your needs. Even better, opt for one that provides complimentary hotel pickup and drop-off services.

When travel on a Hanoi to Sapa bus, you have three bus options to choose from, each catering to your preferred comfort level on the 6-hour trip:

  • Sleeping Bus: Offering the most basic amenities, these buses typically provide sleeper bunks, blankets, and complimentary food and drinks. Fares commence at 264,000 VND ($10.50).
  • VIP Cabin Bus: An upgrade from the standard sleeping bus, these feature cabin-type bunks with curtains for added privacy. Rates start at 412,000 VND ($17.00).
  • Limo Bus: These air-conditioned buses are equipped with reclining seats, ideal if you prefer not to have sleeper bunks. Prices begin at 312,000 VND ($12.50).

Travel duration: 5 to 6 hours

Cost: 264,000VND ~ 10.5 USD

Below are some of the operator that are highly recommended:

Sao Viet16x a day from 05:45 to 22:056 h50′463,000 VND ($19.00)
Interbus Lines3x a day from 06:30-21:306h287,000 VND ($11.50)
Sapa Dragon Express2x a day from 07:00-22:004 h50′264,000 VND ($10.50)
Sapa ExpressOnce a day from 22:00-03:305.5 h286,000 VND ($11.50)
Good Morning Sapa3x a day from 06:30-22:006 h304,000 VND ($12.50)

Private car – The utmost comfort choice

For a comfortable and highly flexible travel experience, opting for a private car from Hanoi to Sapa is the ideal choice. This service allows you to handpick your preferred pick-up and drop-off locations and even take short breaks en route for photo opportunities. Moreover, you have the freedom to customize the itinerary based on your specific destinations of interest.

Despite being somewhat more expensive than other transportation options, private car services are still reasonably priced given the cost of travel in Vietnam. The table below offers an overview of the average rates for private car services from Hanoi to Sapa, with pricing variations based on your choice of car brand and quality. These options span from refurbished standard cabins to luxurious five-star vehicles with a colonial Indochina-style ambience.

Generally, there are three private car options for you to choose when travel from Hanoi to Sapa: 4-seaters, 7-seaters, and 16-seater minivans: 

  • Private 4-seater cars: These vehicles, like Corolla Altis, Toyota Vios, Mazda 3, etc., come with amenities such as air conditioning, comfortable seating, and complimentary water. They offer ample legroom and are ideal for groups of 2.
  • Private 7-seater cars: Models like Innova, Ford Everest, Toyota Fortuner, and more are available. These cars are equipped with air conditioning, comfortable seating, and water, and they also provide generous legroom. They are suitable for groups of 3.
  • Private 16-seater minivans: Options like Ford Transit, Hyundai Solati, and others offer air conditioning, comfortable seating, and water. They feature spacious legroom, making them well-suited for groups ranging from 4 to 10 people.

You can choose the one that best matches your group size, but consider opting for a 7-seater if you require a larger vehicle.

Travel duration: 5 hours and 30 minutes to 6 hours.

Cost: from 4,400,000 VND ~ 175 USD

Below are the prices for your reference:

Car typesRate (per car)/ 1 wayRate (per car)/ 2 daysRate (per car)/ 3 days
4 seaters175 USD195 USD225 USD
7 seaters189 USD215 USD249 USD
16 seaters239 USD269 USD309 USD

Final thoughts

Embarking on the journey from Hanoi to Sapa is a thrilling adventure filled with breathtaking landscapes and cultural richness. With this transportation complete guide, you’re ready to explore this incredible route. 

Whether you opt for the scenic train ride, a bus journey filled with panoramic views, or a personalized tour with Viland Travel, the path to Sapa is brimming with possibilities. Discover the terraced rice fields, ethnic hill tribes, and stunning vistas that await. Viland Travel’s customized tours add an extra layer of convenience and tailor-made experiences, ensuring your trip from Hanoi to Sapa is unforgettable. 

Start your journey now, and let the exploration begin!