Due to its location, around 350km from Hanoi, Sapa happens to also be a region in Vietnam that a lot of tourists bypass as it requires slightly more effort to reach; however if you read our post about trekking in Sapa here, you will realize why you simply have to make the effort to go!
The only choice you have to make is whether to take the train or bus to Sapa. In this post on how to get from Hanoi to Sapa (or vice versa), we will outline which transport mode is best and most efficient.
There are various means of getting from Hanoi to Sapa. The most popular way to travel from Hanoi to Sapa is to either choose between an overnight sleeper train or an express bus (there is no airport in Sapa, so cross that Hanoi to Sapa Flight idea off your list!). I’ll be comparing both as we travelled from Hanoi to Sapa by train, but decided to go with the bus option to get from Sapa to Hanoi!
How to get from Hanoi to Sapa:
Which to choose? Bus or train to Sapa? Let us help you choose!
The Positives of the Overnight Train from Hanoi to Sapa:
- It is a great way to save ‘time’ as you travel overnight.
- If you choose to go with the train from Hanoi to Sapa option, it is important to choose the ‘soft-sleeper’ option. You either have the option on this train of sharing your cabin with other people (4 pax) or alternatively to purchase all 4 tickets for you and your partner/friend which means you now have what they call a VIP private cabin.
- We thought the cabins were beautifully decorated, soft pillows and mattresses, slippers under the bed. There were also free water, snacks, toothbrushes in each cabin.
- We were grateful for the electrical points as well so that we could charge up our electronics before hitting Bac Ha markets upon arrival in the Sapa region.
- The train also has some western style toilets for those of you who would be concerned about that! They stayed fairly clean for our train trip and had toilet paper for the whole duration of the night – although I still suggest you take some of your own just for in case!
Negatives of Traveling by Train to Sapa:
- You won’t get to see much scenery as it will be pitch black outside for the majority of your trip.
- Due to the age of the train and the railroad tracks, the ride will be anything but smooth. We struggled to sleep (despite taking sleeping pills) as the train rocked us back and forth! At various stages of the night, I could feel my heart in my throat as I thought that the train was about to derail!
- As we had a private berth, the top two beds were positioned up and against the wall out of the way. However, this left the chains that normally kept them in place loose. They were loudly clanging about all night long! I’m not sure if this is an issue if you share your cabin and all beds are occupied?? Even though I had earplugs in, I still struggled to sleep with the noise! We did try wrapping our clothes around the chains to prevent them from clanging, but tricks of the trade seemed to let us down!
- The train drops you off in Lao Cai. Lao Cai happens to be about 38 km from Sapa. Which doesn’t sound like much, but considering the roads bend and weave through mountains, the drive to get to Sapa can take around 45 min! As we made our way straight to the Bac Ha Markets, we did not mind that the final train destination was in Lao Cai instead of Sapa.
Key Information how to Get to Sapa from Hanoi by Train:
- Tickets for the train to Sapa are around $32 – $41 US per person.
- If you want a private room, you will need to purchase 4 tickets as the rooms are meant to fit 4 sleeping bodies! So a private room will cost you around $140 – $165 US.
- The journey from Hanoi to Sapa will take around 8 hours.
- There are various other companies that operate trains from Hanoi to Sapa (or vice versa) to choose from as well! We were meant to be on the Fransipan Express Train (which is another great option in comparison to the Sapaly) but missed the train due to a festival causing traffic chaos in Hanoi.
- If you decide to choose a different Sapa Hanoi train option, please do your research as you will soon find the trains are most definitely NOT equal in value or quality! We only recommend the Fransipan Train and the Sapaly Train!
Positives of choosing the bus from Hanoi to Sapa option:
- The Express bus to Sapa (or vice versa) is a very comfortable bus to travel in. The seats could slightly recline, we had our laptop with us, so watched some Anthony Bourdaine to kill the time!
- The bus travels in the day, which means you that you can see some pretty spectacular scenery on the drive! It also means that you can get some good sleep in a hotel once you arrive at your destination.
- They gave us a bottle of water and a small packet of snacks as we were climbing onto the bus.
- Blankets and neck pillows were available, on the Hanoi to Sapa by bus, for use as well.
- The Hanoi Sapa bus makes a stop halfway through the trip at a servo-type stop point. It is great to stretch the legs for 30 min and grab something cool to drink, and if you are brave, you might want to grab some food there as well! A word of warning, there are two sets of toilets here.
One of which the locals use ….. gutter on the floor, bucket-water flush system, no toilet paper. I used these toilets, they did not smell polite at all!! It was a struggle! However as we walked around the grounds, we realized that there are touristy-style toilets at the opposite end to where our bus stopped!! DOH!!!!!!! I didn’t go in to investigate as they were charging the tourists a small fee on entry, but I would suggest you have some cash on hand to pay for the better toilets.
- The roads in Sapa are pretty bendy and winding with steep cliffs, the bus goes pretty fast, so some people might get motion sickness.
- There is only one toilet break, so bladder control is important haha.
- They drop everyone off at the same location in both Sapa and Hanoi. You will need to make your own way from their to your hotel accommodation. Do not expect them to drop you off at your chosen point of location.