Hanoi to Sapa: By Train or Bus?

Located in the north-west of Vietnam with mountainous terrain, Sapa is expected to make a little bit more effort to reach from Hanoi than other destinations. However, this article will make your trips very easy to choose the comprehensive transportations for a 380-km road from Hanoi to Sapa.

From Hanoi, there are several means to move to Sapa, but in this article, for those who visit Sapa for the first time, I will only go into detail about two popular, efficient and convenient transportations.

1. By train

An indispensable mean of transport for Sapa is the train. This is a method chosen by many tourists because it brings interesting experience which you cannot have when traveling by car or plane. Note that by train you will only get to Lao Cai and you will have to take another bus from Lao Cai Station to Sapa with the fare VND 50,000 ~ 2 USD/one way per person. In Tet holidays (around February every year - please check Lunar calendar since this time vary annually), this fare may increase by VND 70,000 - 80,000 VND ~ 3-4 USD. After going through 40km winding mountainous roads, the bus will take you to center town of Sapa. 

Train tickets to Sapa (Hanoi - Lao Cai) have many types.

Price & Train Brands:

- For a normal train: Average from VND 130.000 - 600.000 ~ USD 6-30

SP3 is a famous normal train which you can refer the various types of ticket 

- For a tourist train: average from VND 650,000 - 1,200,000 ~ USD 30-60.

Some Train brands have good service and only for foreigner tourists such as:

Orient Express

King Express


Inside an Orient Express Train


Only go at night: the earliest is 19h40, the last trip is 23h00. It usually takes about 8 hours for the Hanoi - Lao Cai route.

Where to buy the ticket in Hanoi

- Book the ticket online through the internet (slightly more expensive than the second way below)

If you have any problem, you can access their website to get the contact, call them and directly book the ticket.

After around 30 minutes, tickets will be delivered to your hand!

- Buy ticket from Hanoi Train Station (Tran Quy Cap Gate)

You can get a cheaper ticket here but strongly keep in mind that in some peak periods of Vietnamese holidays (such as Tet holidays, 30 April - 1 May and 2 September), the tickets may run out very soon. And if you want to avoid the crowd when buying a ticket directly from the station, I suggest you book tickets via the internet like the first way.

Tips for you when choosing the types of ticket

As mentioned above, the cheapest one is VND130,000 ~ USD6 for a hard cushion seat. And believe me, this is not a smart choice for an 8-hour journey by train! Even tickets for a soft cushion seat are available but I also don't recommend you to pick this option since you legs may be painful because you cannot straighten out during 8-hour or you may not be able to sleep as well.

So, if you choose train, a berth will be a comprehensive choice for you. Please note that they offer you both soft and hard berths, just book tickets depending on your needs and budget.

2. By bus

Previously, to get to Sapa, travelers often take the train for safety and not getting car-sick, and with a berth ticket, they can sleep comfortably because they usually go at night. However, after launching the Hanoi - Lao Cao highway, the time running from Hanoi to Lao Cai - Sapa has been shortened to only half (means 4 hours), 80% of Sapa tourists change to use bus for their trips (get directly from Hanoi to Sapa, no need to transit in Lao Cai station as going by Train)

If you're hard to get car-sick, a bus is a perfect choice for you.

Price: Average VND300,000 ~ USD15 one way per person for a berth ticket.

Time: 4 hours (direct to Sapa)

Passenger Car Brands

- Schedule: Departure time: 7:30 am and 10:30 pm (mainly for tourists) at My Dinh Station

- Tips: Queen Cafe normally sold out their tickets very fast. So you should book 3-4 days in advance to make sure that there are enough available vacant for you.

For tourists who are staying in Hanoi Old Quarter, there are some reliable brands which only have service for foreign tourists:

Price & Schedule & Pick-up point: easily find on their website. Or, if you have any further concerns, contact them at the hotline.

Sapa Express

Train to Sapa

Chapa Train

Obviously, booking a ticket for a passenger car is easier than for a train with a half-time route length and even almost same price. However, the experience between these 2 methods of transportation cannot be similar. Therefore, with my short sharing, hope you can choose a suitable option. 

Possibly, you may want to come to Sapa twice 😉 if so, let's try both passenger car and train to reach that beautiful town!


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