Unfortunately, Sapa does not have a domestic airport, so many visitors travel to Sapa from Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital.
The good news is that all vehicles have air conditioning for a comfortable ride.
The distance from Hanoi to Sapa is 315 kilometers (196 miles), so you can arrive in Sapa in 6+ hours with breaks and little traffic.
The transportation cost varies depending on the choice of transportation, time of departure (7:00am, 2:00pm, 8:00pm, or 10:00pm), and how much time you have to travel.
Since it can be confusing which options to use, here are various ways to get from Hanoi to Sapa and recommended companies for you to make a reservation.
We’ve been to Sapa twice and have used various options such as luxury VIP buses and limousine vans.
If you need ideas on what to do in Sapa, check out our posts:
- Hike Fansipan in One Day, or take the Fansipan Cable Car and Funicular
- Sapa Itinerary for 3 Days
- Ultimate Sapa Trekking Guide
- 2 Days Sapa Trekking
- Visit Silver Waterfall and Love Waterfall
- Visit Sapa’s Heaven Gate
*Disclaimer: Visiting Sapa, Vietnam? We have affiliate links in this post. If you click on the links and make a purchase, we receive a small commission. There is no cost to you. Appreciate the support.
Before Traveling to Sapa
Book your Hanoi-Sapa and Sapa-Hanoi transportation in advance. We suggest making a reservation at least 2 weeks in advance. During the peak season and holiday weekends, it can be challenging to get a seat, so you may want to book a seat even earlier.
Ensure that you have a data plan to receive text messages and emails from the transportation companies. We recommend that you buy a SIM Card at Hanoi Airport (Noi Ba International Airport) or set up a Vietnam eSIM before your arrival.
For those in the U.S. who are looking for an international phone plan, consider Google Fi (formerly Google Project Fi). We love this phone plan and have used it since 2016. We get access to data and text in 200+ countries, including Vietnam. There are no additional roaming costs. Learn more and try it for free here.
1. From Hanoi to Sapa by Sleeper Bus
Taking the sleeper bus is one of the best ways to travel around Vietnam.
Many locals use this form of transportation since it’s cheap and comfortable. Riders can extend their legs and recline the seat to a 150° angle and rest during the ride.
The sleeper buses have an upper and lower level and three rows of seating (two on the sides and one in the middle). There are 40 seats onboard.
We prefer sitting next to the windows so our small backpack or duffel bag leans against the window.
The larger luggage is stored in the undercarriage storage unit and cannot be accessed until the ride is over.
All riders are given a water bottle and a wet napkin. Eating on the bus is not allowed, yet people still do it.
The bus is a bit noisy with the driver constantly honking and people chatting.
If you plan to sleep on the bus, it’s recommended to bring an eye mask and earplugs and/or noise-canceling headphones.
Cost: $11-$12 USD per person
Pick-up: Hanoi Old Quarter or Airport (for an extra fee)
Drop-off: In Sapa town
Other tips: Riders must take off their shoes before entering the bus. There are two breaks during the journey.
2. From Hanoi to Sapa by Luxury VIP Bus
Want to stay in your own “private room” on a bus? Consider taking the luxury VIP bus. It’s the Business Class sleeper buses since it has lie-flat seats. You can stretch out your legs and body to rest during your ride.
This bus only has 20 seats, an upper and lower level. The lower level holds two people, while the upper level holds one person.
Each of the private rooms is equipped with USB plugs to charge your devices, a TV, reading lights, a pillow, and a blanket. When we took this option, we didn’t test if the TV worked or not. Some of the buses offer wifi onboard.
If you want privacy from your neighbors, you can close the curtains at any time.
Everyone receives a bottle of water and a wet napkin.
Food is not allowed on the bus and the driver will ask you to put the snack in the undercarriage storage. Otherwise, hide your snacks in your bag/backpack to carry onto the bus. You can eat your snacks at the rest stops.
Large luggage is stored in the undercarriage storage and is accessible once you reach Sapa.
The amenities are similar for all bus operators. Just expect any communication over the PA system to be done by Vietnamese
What we enjoyed about this VIP bus ride was that the bus was quiet.
The cost is higher than the sleeper bus, so riders are more respectful of the noise. It could also be due to the early morning start as we waited at the meeting point at 6:30am and the bus departed at 6:45am.
As a heads up, it took almost 6-7 hours to arrive in Sapa and has two rest stops.
We took this VIP bus with three different bus operators, and we preferred taking the Kadham Bus. The bus was newer and the workers on the bus spoke English. Therefore, we always knew how much time we had for our rest stops.
Also, we took Kadham Bus from Sapa to Hanoi International Airport. We loved how the bus dropped us off in front of the departure terminal. It was super convenient as we didn’t need to backtrack by going to Hanoi and then take a taxi to return to the airport.
Cost: $20-$22 per person
Pick-up: Hanoi Old Quarter or Airport
Drop-off: In Sapa town
Other tips: Riders must take off their shoes before entering the bus. There are two breaks during the ride.
3. From Hanoi to Sapa by Limousine Van
A limousine van is another fantastic way to get to Sapa from Hanoi. Since the vehicle is smaller, the driver will get you to Sapa in the quickest time.
You can either choose a van that holds 9, 11, or up to 28 seats (this one is more of a minibus).
We chose the limousine van that held 9 seats on a return trip from Sapa to Hanoi. The vehicle is set up where there are 2 seats next to the driver, 4 VIP seats in the middle, and 3 seats in the back.
The VIP seats are larger, cushioned seats that recline slightly. It costs a few dollars more for these seats and they are comfortable.
The seats in the front and back of the van do not recline. Each of the seats has USB plugs to charge devices.
Everyone received a paper bag with a bottle of water and pre-packaged bread. Eating in the van is allowed, but just be considerate of strong-scented foods and crumbs.
All luggage is placed in the back of the van. If you have a small bag, there is enough space next to your seat to store it.
Companies to consider: Arrange Limousine Van through Klook
Cost: $13-$22 per person
Pick-up: Hanoi Old Quarter or Airport
Drop-off: At your hotel in Sapa town. For hotels outside of the city, the drop-off is at the company’s bus stop in Sapa town.
Other tips: Along the windy roads, the van swerves a lot so you may get nauseous. Bring motion sickness medicine. There are also two breaks along the way.
4. From Hanoi to Sapa by Overnight Train
Taking an overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa is a popular choice for travelers and backpackers.
You get the chance to hang out in a clean room, sleep in a bed with a pillow and blanket, save money on accommodation, and potentially meet new travelers.
Depending on the type of train you’re taking, you can also have a luxury experience with premium snacks, fruit, and drinks.
The trains hold 2 or 4 people.
If you’re sharing a cabin with other travelers, we recommend that you choose the lower berth so it’s easier to leave the room to use the restroom or to walk around.
Out of the transportation options mentioned, the overnight train takes the longest and isn’t the cheapest.
It takes about 8+ hours to get from Hanoi to Lao Cai. Sapa does not have a train station so Lao Cai is the nearest city before heading to Sapa.
The Hanoi train departs around 10:00pm and arrives in Lao Cai around 6:00am.
Then, you’ll need another transportation to get to Sapa (more information below.)
If you’re a light sleeper or are sensitive to noises, you may need to bring an eye mask and earplugs and/or noise-canceling headphones.
Luggage is stored either underneath the bottom bed or in the upper storage for the top bunk.
Train lines to consider: Sapaly Express and Vic Sapa Train
Cost: $28-$33 per person for a shared cabin (4 people per room) or $100 per person for a private cabin
Pick-up: Hanoi train station, Station B
Drop-off: Lao Cai train station. Afterward, you’ll need to take a 1-hour taxi to Sapa town which is 38 kilometers (23 miles) away.
5. From Hanoi to Sapa by Private Car
Hiring a driver to get from Hanoi to Sapa is one of the most expensive transportation options to choose from. The driver will meet you at your Hanoi hotel and will take you directly to Sapa.
One benefit of hiring a driver is that you can depart Hanoi at any time. You don’t need to worry about getting up early to catch a bus at 7:00am.
Plus, you have a private car so you can stop at a rest stop multiple times (versus the two times on the bus or limousine van).
Taking a car is a faster option as you’ll arrive in Sapa in 5-5.5 hours. Since the vehicle is smaller, the driver can speed by buses and large vehicles on the road.
Cost: Starting at $300 for 2 people to share a car
Pick-up: In front of your hotel in Hanoi
Drop-off: At your hotel in Sapa
If You Have Difficulties with Reserving Seats
In each of the transportation options, we provided websites for you to contact and make reservations. However, sometimes the websites are glitchy or won’t accept your payment.
Option 1: Try Using Vexere.com
Vexere.com is an online booking platform for Vietnam transportation such as overnight sleeper buses, limousine vans, and VIP Luxury buses. The website is available in Vietnamese and English.
The platform is easy to use. Input your starting and ending location, date of departure, and then a list of transportation options and costs appears. You can sort through the options based on guest ratings, departure times, and amenities.
Payment is done in Vietnamese currency through the platform. International credit cards are accepted.
Once the payment goes through, you’ll receive an email and text confirmation of the order. On the day of the trip, check Vexere or your email to see if there are any updates to your transportation.
We used this platform on our second trip to Sapa and didn’t have any issues. On the day of our departure, we ensured that we arrived at the bus stop 30 minutes before the scheduled time as we didn’t want to miss the bus.
Note: There is also a Vexere app if you prefer to be flexible with your schedule and book tickets at the last minute.
Option 2: Use An Agency
If you’re having difficulties, you can consider using an agency to book your reservation. We used A21 Tours.
This agency is based in Hanoi and has transfer options for four-wheeled vehicles and trains. It was recommended in the Ho Chi Minh City Female Expat Facebook group. (Note: This is not a sponsored post but we enjoyed the service.)
The process to reserve tickets on A21 was seamless. We chose our choice of transportation, and time of departure, and paid online with a U.S.-based credit card over their secured payment system.
The price and payment are in US Dollars. There is an extra convenience fee of a few dollars added to the total price.
We received a confirmation email and a message on WhatsApp on the day before departure to remind us about our transportation.
The bus companies also sent a text message to our Vietnam phone number with the driver’s information and vehicle license plate number.
We hope you learned about the different ways to get from Hanoi to Sapa.
Depending on your budget and the amount of time on your trip, you can try different transportation options to see what you liked best from Hanoi to Sapa and Sapa to Hanoi.
If you have questions about any of these options, ask a question in the comment box below.
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