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Hanoi is a charming city to visit but after some time here, you are likely to be craving some nature. There is no better place to cure this craving than by visiting Sapa from Hanoi. Sapa is the perfect destination to go to for a weekend away in nature, where you will find expansive rice terraces, local tribes, cute cozy bars and much more.
When travelling the 319 kilometer (198 mile) distance from Hanoi to Sapa, you have four options: You can take a sleeper bus or VIP bus, which takes about 9.5 hours. You can take a train to Lao Cai, 38 kilometers (24 miles) from Sapa, which takes about 8 hours, or you can take a car or minivan, each with private drivers, on your own or as shared rides, which take about 5.5 hours.
Given the long journey to Sapa from Hanoi, we recommend one of the sleeper options. You’re sure to catch some shut-eye in a bus-bed, which you will want to get in order to be prepared for your time away. Comfort is key. An added bonus: If you’re taking the bus or train at night, you’re also saving on accommodation!
The Lao Cai Province in which Sapa sits is mountainous, green, culturally unique, and worth the trek for a wide range of reasons.
What you are able to see out your window between Hanoi and Sapa depends entirely on what time of day your ride leaves. Of course, if you take a sleeper train or sleeper bus, is will be nighttime for the majority of your ride and you’ll be able to catch up on sleep. However, you will arrive to a striking sunrise in the Vietnamese countryside; an orange glow that almost acts as an umbrella over the green rice terraces. It’s a sight like no other, and one you certainly want to make sure you are awake for.
If you’re leaving earlier in the day, you will inevitably experience the traffic (AKA hustle and bustle) of Hanoi. Once you’ve left busy Hanoi, the road to Sapa is full of long, unending, lush stretches of land, which mountain views as far as the eye can see.
The fastest way to get to Sapa from Hanoi is with a Standard Car. You can organize hotel pickup and drop-off, and the ride takes around 4.5 hours.
The cheapest way to get to Sapa from Hanoi is with a Local sleeping bus which costs $10 and takes around 6 hours to arrive.
The most popular way to get to Sapa from Hanoi is with the VIP Cabin Bus. It takes about 6 hours to arrive and costs $20.
If you’re looking for a unique yet luxurious way to get to Sapa from Hanoi, you’ll want to travel by sleeper bus. You travel through the night, so you’re saving on accommodation, while simultaneously having the unique experience of riding a sleeper bus. On top of that, the buses have fantastic amenities. WiFi and food are available, but the most exciting aspect of the ride to Sapa from Hanoi with a sleeper bus is the massage seats! Yes, you read that correctly. Some sleeper buses actually have massage seats.
Keep in mind that it’s typically first come, first served, so if you want to be one of the lucky ones to get a back rub while on the go, you’ll want to arrive early since not every seat is equipped with this feature.
Taking a train from Hanoi to Sapa is as simple as can be. You leave from the Hanoi's central train station in the evening; giving you another opportunity to save on accommodation for the night. Taking a train will offer you a unique experience as well as the option to stay in a VIP or luxury bunk, second class, or in standard economy. Although the ride is long, it’s a direct train to Sapa (Lao Cai) from Hanoi.
You will arrive to a stunning sunrise at Lao Cai station, about a 20-minute drive from the Sapa city center. Sapa itself does not have a train station, so Lao Cai is the closest you can get by train. You will find a long line of minivans at the station waiting to take you straight to Sapa.
You have the option of taking either a shared minivan or a private minivan from Hanoi to Sapa, whether you go with the standard minivan, a limo minivan, a luxury or VIP minivan, or even a standard van minivan. If you’re willing to make the extra expense, you will get extra space and, of course, privacy and peace and quiet. Taking a shared minivan is basically like taking a bus, but with more flexible pickup and drop-off options.
Minivan pickups in Hanoi:
Minivan drop-offs in Sapa
Did you know that you can only drive a car in Vietnam if you are a citizen of the country? Well, now you know! If you decide to rent a car in Vietnam, it will “come with” a private driver, all of whom know at least some English. Driving through Vietnam in your own car will give you the unique ability to experience the country through the music on the radio, to speak with your private driver about life in Vietnam, and will also give you the chance to stop and go as you please. Remember those beautiful mountain views we mentioned earlier? You’ll want to stop and post that on your Instagram story.
There are around 108 total buses, minivans and trains leaving from Hanoi to Sapa each day, in addition to private transfers.