Travelling from Hanoi to Sapa: Step by Step Guide

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Are you planning to visit Sapa from Hanoi? Here’s our short guide on how to get from Hanoi to Sapa for the adventure of a lifetime.

If you want to read about other amazing places to visit in Vietnam, check out our detailed guide here.

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Where is Sapa?

Sapa is in the North of Vietnam, butting up against the Chinese border. It’s a fantastic place to visit in North Vietnam and was one of the highlights of our trip to Vietnam. Hikers and nature lovers enjoy Sapa, but it’s also a great place for any traveller. You can relax, or hike, by day and party at night or just enjoy some robust countryside cuisine.

You can read more about Sapa here in our guide to visiting and eating and drinking.

What is the distance from Hanoi to Sapa?

The distance between Hanoi and Sapa is around 300km.

How to get from Hanoi to Sapa by car

The distance between Hanoi and Sapa is around 300km.This is approximately a 5 hour drive in good traffic.

We did not hire a car in Vietnam and we wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. The public transport in Vietnam is excellent and driving conditions are a little chaotic.

How to get from Hanoi to Sapa by bus

Getting from Hanoi to Sapa by bus is very easy. There are regular buses going to and fro Hanoi and Sapa and they are easy to book.

The travel time varies, but expect to be on the bus for between 5 and 7 hours. Depending on which choice you make, bus prices range from $15 to $25.

The best bus from Hanoi to Sapa

The best option in our view is the VIP cabin bus operated by Sao Viet. For around $20, you get a large reclining seat. It’s much more like a bed as you can completely lay back and draw the curtain beside you for privacy. There are also some useful facilities such as phone charging sockets, air conditioning, decent toilets and water supplied.

However, there are a number of options available to you when you choose your bus from Hanoi to Sapa. In our experience, Book Away has the best range of bus companies, times and tickets to choose from.

How to get from Hanoi to Sapa overnight train

Another popular way to get from Hanoi to Sapa is by train. Many people choose this route, rather than the bus. The train does feel a little more romantic than the bus, but there are are pros and cons to this option.

The main things to be aware of if you book a train from Hanoi to Sapa is that the train only runs overnight. This may be a good option for you, if you want to enjoy a comfortable sleeper train and save money on accommodation. However, if you are short of time, the bus may be better as it is a lot quicker.

Secondly, the overnight train does not go directly into Sapa. Instead, it arrives into Lao Cai which is a few kms away from Sapa. From Lao Cai, you will need to organise a taxi to take you to Sapa.

One nice aspect of travelling this way, is that the trains are quite luxurious. You can book a bed in a four person cabin on the Chapa Express train for around $35 and they are quite comfortable. In Lao Cai you will also get access to shower facilities on arrival.

What is public transport in Vietnam like?

You can find out more about transport in Vietnam in our article here. This guide will provide details about the conditions on public transport with more detail about what buses and trains are like in Vietnam.

How to book a Hanoi to Sapa tour

If you’d prefer to organise a private transfer to get from Hanoi to Sapa, there are a few options.

Firstly, you could pre-book a hiking tour in Sapa that includes transport from Hanoi. A great example, is this two day trek which includes collection from your hotel in Hanoi and an air-conditioned vehicle to take you to Sapa. This can be arranged from $68 per person.

Secondly, you could arrange a private transfer in a car direct to get you from Hanoi to Sapa. You could do this with your hotel in Hanoi. Or, if you want the peace of mind of booking in advance, Get Your Guide will organise this for you. For around $300 for a group of 3, this private transfer can be organised here.

A third option is to to book a seat in a limo mini-van to get from Hanoi to Sapa. Although this is not a completely private travel option, it is more exclusive than a public bus and you may find the experience more comfortable. You can book this with Book Away easily for between $15 and $20 per person each way.

What to do in Sapa

Sapa is most well know for hiking and trekking. The highest mountain in Indochina, Mount Fansipan is also in Sapa and this attraction draws in a number of hikers and mountain fanatics. But, you don’t have to be a mountain goat to enjoy hiking in Sapa – there are lots of trekking options. You can book a tour in advance, find a guide when you arrive in Sapa or just take the self guided option.

We’ve provided more details on trekking in Sapa in this detailed post about visiting Sapa. Viator, the tour provider, also has some great options for those visiting Sapa who want to organise tours in advance. See some examples of selected below.

Where to stay in Sapa

In Sapa, you have a number of options about which area to stay in. The town itself has a number of high end hotels, as well as budget options including home stays. If you want to visit the spas in town as well as going out in the evening to enjoy the fun nightlife in Sapa then we would recommend staying in Sapa town itself.

If you’re planning to go on a multi-day trek, then you will most likely stay in a homestay outside of Sapa for at least one night. This is a great experience, alongside a stay in the town.

However, if you’re not planning to trek and you have only a short period in Sapa, we would recommend staying in a homestay outside of the town to ensure you get to see the surrounding areas. More details and some recommendations are available here.

If you’re ready to book, look at our detailed post on Sapa which includes a few options for accommodation here.

Would you prefer a tour of Vietnam?

We love independent travel, but sometimes a tour can be the best way to travel the country. It’s also a great way to make friends for life.

G Adventures has some excellent tours for Vietnam.

The first, is a 22 day trip which includes the highlights of Vietnam and Laos.

The second, is a great trip, but a little shorter for anyone who doesn’t have as long to spend travelling but still wants to see everything! The ten day trip travels from the North to the South of Vietnam.

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Most of our planning is done using other blogs, but you can’t beat a guide book at the bottom of your case. Find them here on Amazon.to get the travelling started!


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Long journeys don’t get any easier, here are some ideas we had to make the road more pleasant. Find them here on Amazon.

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