Sapa, a trekking base located in the northwest of Vietnam, is a popular tourist destination because it is absolutely beautiful.
Getting to Sapa is easiest from Hanoi. There are mainly 3 ways for you to choose: by train, by bus, or by private car.
- Train: safer and more comfortable option, taking about 8 hours, leaving each evening from Hanoi to Lao Cai station, arriving the following morning. From there it is another hour-long bus ride to Sapa.
- Bus: cheaper and faster but less comfortable, taking about 6 hours, departing Hanoi all the way through to Sapa. You don't need to make a transit in Lao Cai.
- Private car: taking about 6 hours, flexible.
Once you're in Sapa, walking is the best way to get around in order to enjoy the scenery, but also for convenience! There are taxis and buses around too if you're looking for a ride, and motorbikes also take around those looking for a little more speed!
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By Train from Hanoi to Sapa in Vietnam
We recommend taking the train because it is the safer and more comfortable route to Sapa. Tickets cost between USD 70 and USD 250 per person, and the journey lasts 8 hours.
The best way to book a train ticket is at a travel agency like contacting Asia Highlights, or directly from the station (on Tan Quy Cap Street in Hanoi). No matter how you buy your ticket, we suggest getting it at least a week in advance, to secure your seat.
There are only a few train companies running from Hanoi to Sapa, so we looked at them all, and have selected the top two companies, that we think outperform the rest when it comes to comfort, cleanliness, and a luxury experience.
The Orient Express is often known as the Oriental Impress, because it is a popular choice for many tourists traveling to Sapa from Hanoi, offering supreme comfort. The train is hard to miss, with its artistic oriental exterior design and carved wooden interior.
The Orient Express has trains leaving daily from Hanoi at 9:40 pm and arriving in Lao Cai the following day at 5:45 am. In reverse, trains depart from Lao Cai at 8:35 pm and arrive in Hanoi at 4:45 am the following morning.
This company offers a variety of seat types. The most basic is a bed in a deluxe cabin (meaning you share the cabin with other passengers). There are also private deluxe cabins with 4 or 6 beds, a great option for small groups or families. The most luxurious is the private VIP cabin, with only 2 beds.
All cabins are wood-paneled and are equipped with air-conditioners. Water and snacks are provided free of charge to all passengers. Like most trains in Vietnam there are no bathrooms in the cabins, but restrooms are conveniently located at both ends of each train car.
The Orient Express is probably the most popular choice because of its reasonable price. Soft beds in the deluxe rooms start at US$35 per person, and VIP rooms cost US$70 per person.
Sapa Victoria Express
If you are looking for the most luxurious train service in Vietnam look no further than the Victoria Express Train to Sapa. The only rule is that to get a train ticket you also have to book a stay at the Victoria Hotel and Resort in Sapa.
There are trains every day except Saturday. They depart from Hanoi at 9:50 pm and arrive in Lao Cai at 6:15 am the following morning. Return trains depart Lao Cai at 9:00 pm and arrive in Hanoi at 5:30 am the following day.
There are two types of cabin offered: superior cabins (4 beds) and deluxe cabins (2 beds). The superior cabin is perfect for families or small groups, while the private deluxe cabin gives you privacy, comfort, and intimacy. These trains are small with only 2 deluxe and 9 superior cabins on each train.
Not only are the beds on the Victoria Express the softest, but the interior is also a feast for the eyes. Decorated with wood paneling in all the cabins and bathrooms, the theme is a fusion of Western and Eastern styles. Bathrooms are located at each end of the train. The only downside is that there is no food available onboard.
Be sure to book beds on this train well in advance, because they run out fast. This is the most luxurious and expensive train experience in Vietnam. Superior beds cost about US$110 per person, and private deluxe cabins go for about US$160 per person.
How to Get to Hanoi Train Station
To get from Hanoi to Sapa by train, you have to get to the train station first! Hanoi's train station is on Tan Quy Cap Street. It's approximately a 15-20 minute walk from Hanoi's Old Quarter, or about 10 minutes by taxi. You can use app Grab for taxi. Just say Ga Ha Noi, and you will be on your way. It is best to plan to be there an hour before your train.
From Lao Cai Train Station to Sapa
From Lao Cai train station, you can either get a taxi or a public bus to Sapa, which takes approximately 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes depending on time of day although the roads are generally clear.
The journey from Lao Cai Train Station will set you back between USD 20-30 for a taxi, or USD 1-2 per person for the local shuttle bus. The shuttle bus departs between 5am and 5pm from the bus stop right outside the train station; you'll see the bus stop when you exit and turn left, approximately 30 meters from the entrance. You can even get your tickets for the public bus online ahead of time to ensure you've booked your seat, or you can buy them there and then.
You can also ask your hotel to arrange a pick-up for you, or we can arrange a private transfer for you to ensure you don't have to think about how to get from Lao Cai Train Station to your hotel in Sapa.
Taking a Bus to Sapa from Hanoi
Alternatively, if you're traveling on a budget, you can take a bus from Hanoi all the way through to Sapa. By bus from Hanoi to Sapa, you are looking at approximately 5.5-6 hours, and a cost of USD10 upwards.
There are a huge number of buses offering services from Hanoi to Sapa, and you can get tickets online in advance for more competitive rates, or through travel agencies at your hotel or out and about.
The main difference between train and bus is that the bus isn't very comfortable, and can be very cramped if you are comparatively tall. The other thing to remember is that the driving can be a little nerve-wrecking, with cars swerving on the road to ensure they are staying on schedule and speeding along.
Taking a Private Car from Hanoi to Sapa
If neither train or bus is your type of transportation, then taking a private car will be a good option for you. Traveling by private car takes a similar amount of time as by bus (around 6 hours), but is more convenient. Here at Asia Highlights, we're happy to arange a private transfer for you with an English-speaking guide as most Vietnamese drivers don't speak English. Private cars will cost around USD350 per group or higher depending on vehicle size.
Getting Around Sapa by Foot
One of the best ways to experience Sapa is on foot. All levels of trekking are possible around Sapa, from a short hour-long excursion to long treks spanning across multiple days. Your walk will take you through picturesque, terraced mountainsides as well as through jungles where you will likely spot wildlife.
The simplest way to trek in Sapa is with the accompaniment of a local guide. Not only will you be helping the local economy, but you will also be thankful for your guide's endless knowledge of the land, culture, and cuisine; not to mention your guide's ability to short-circuit your propensity for getting lost.
While trekking, you will be able to pass through many small minority villages that specialize in different handicrafts, have their own special cuisines, and even speak their own languages.
No matter what time of year you can make it to Sapa, you will be happy with what you see. Spring offers water-filled terraces reflecting the sky. Summer has so many shades of green, but is a bit too hot for most travelers. Fall brings cooler weather and golden landscapes during the harvest season, and in winter there is sometimes a white layer of snow because of the high elevation.
If you are short on time, there are other ways of getting around Sapa than simply trekking, to experience more of the unique culture the Sapa area has to offer. There are buses, taxis, and even motorcycles ready and available to drive you to the perfect spot to appreciate the breath-taking scenery.
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