Sapa is one of the top places to visit in Northern Vietnam as it’s known for its luscious rice terraces and gorgeous landscapes. Unfortunately, Sapa does not have a domestic airport, so many visitors travel to Sapa from Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital.
The best way to travel from Hanoi to Sapa is by using a variety of convenient and budget-friendly transportation options – buses, vans, and trains. Private cars are available. 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.
If you need ideas on what to do in Sapa, check out our posts:
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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. We’ve taken the sleeper bus when traveling around South Vietnam to go from Ho Chi Minh City to Mui Ne, Can Tho, and Dalat and love the convenience of the bus.
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 over 50 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 of 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. 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. If you want privacy from your neighbors, you can close the curtains.
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.
Large luggage is stored in the undercarriage storage and is accessible once you reach Sapa.
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 7 hours to arrive in Sapa.
Company to consider: Fansipan Express
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.
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 nausea. 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 until for the top bunk.
Train lines to consider: Chapa Express, Oriental Impress, Pumpkin Express, Sapaly Express, Violette/Dream Express, Victoria Express (At the moment, service has been suspended. Train is only for travelers if they book the Victoria Sapa Resort.)
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.
Company to consider: Hoi An Express
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.
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. Also, this agency 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 was seamless. We chose our choice of transportation, 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 also 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 information and vehicle license plate number.
We hope you learned about the different Hanoi to Sapa transportation options.
If you have questions about any of these options, ask a question in the comment box below.
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