How to Get from Hanoi to Sapa by Bus or Train

As a resident of Hanoi, I’ve made the trip from Hanoi to Sapa multiple times at this point, so I feel I have at least some expertise.

There are two main ways to get from Hanoi to Sapa:

  1. Bus
  2. Train

In the past, most everyone recommended the train because the bus ride was long and miserable. But that all changed in 2014 when Vietnam officially opened to the Hanoi – Lao Cai Expressway. This is a brand new highway that goes directly from Hanoi to Lao Cai (the town at the bottom of Sapa’s mountain – the same place the train ends up).

Hanoi to Sapa route
Look how straight that road is!

Now that you’re traveling on a freshly paved, divided highway, I actually think the bus is a much more pleasant option. But if getting drunk with some friendly Vietnamese people on a train sounds like fun, that’s always a viable option. Here’s how you can do both:

Getting from Hanoi to Sapa By Bus

There are a lot of travel agencies in the old quarter who will sell you bus tickets to Sapa. DON’T USE THEM. Seriously. Back when I was fresh in Vietnam, I booked through one of the travel agencies. Our bus looked beautiful in the brochure, but when it came time to actually board, nothing was as advertised.

After an 8-hour tour through the countryside, randomly picking up and dropping off Vietnamese people, we finally made it to Sapa. It was miserable. Lesson learned.

The Bus Company You Want to Choose

On my next trip, I booked directly with the bus company whose brochure we were shown the first time. The trip took a little under 5 hours, had an English speaking guide and, most importantly, had a safe driver (by Vietnamese standards). It’s also a limousine style bus instead of those miserable sleepers (if you like the sleeper buses, cool! I hate them with a passion).

The company is called Sapa Express. Their buses depart from Hanoi every morning and cost ~$17 USD one way.

The bus was nice enough that I even managed to grab a bit of shuteye (not common for me when traveling in Vietnam):

Sapa Express sleep

If you want a bit more representative shot of the inside of the bus, I snagged this one from their Facebook page:

That’s pretty much exactly what the bus I was on looked like.

You’ll go straight to Sapa via the Lao Cai Expressway. The only stops are two bathroom/snack breaks – no picking up random Vietnamese people! The bus drops you off right in the heart of Sapa town, so you won’t need any type of transfer.

While tour agencies might claim to sell Sapa Express tickets, I think it’s best to book directly at the Sapa Express office at 12 Ly Thai To. As I said, when I tried to book Sapa Express at the Sinh Tourist agency, they completely lied to me.

You can also book return tickets back to Hanoi with Sapa Express – if I recall correctly, the bus departs Sapa at around 2 pm.

Another good way to book bus tickets is via Ve Xe Re (roughly translated to “Go Cheap” I think). It’s a Vietnamese start up that allows you to choose from a number of bus providers. They have an English language version of the site, so booking is easy and painless.

Book bus ticket hanoi to sapa

You can even book Sapa Express through Ve Xe Re if you want.

Getting from Hanoi to Sapa By Train

As I said, I think bus is absolutely the best option with the new expressway. But if you want to go via train, you can buy tickets from Bao Lau, another Vietnamese company that helps simplify the train ticketing process:

Book train ticket hanoi to sapa

You can choose your amenities and seat type and then book directly from the website. Everything is in English.

You can start your search using the form below:

Just remember that the train only takes you to Lao Cai. Once you get to Lao Cai, you’ll need to take a taxi or book a transfer up to Sapa (it takes about 30 minutes to an hour depending on traffic). You can also take the public bus for about 50k VND.

BUT, if you can swing it, I think it’s safer to take a taxi for ~400k VND. For the extra 350k, you’ll get a much smoother and safer journey.

What to Do Once You Get to Sapa

For activities once you arrive, check out my guide for what to do in Sapa.

18 thoughts on “How to Get from Hanoi to Sapa by Bus or Train”

      • Great article! WILL take the bus to Sapa! 🙂

        Have you written anything on HaLong/Cat Ba from Hanoi? Interested in simple cruise and fantastic beach! 🙂

        Spending 7 nights to celebrate our 35th anniversary. Any ideas?

  1. Hi,
    After reading this post, I thought of getting to Sapa by bus.
    Any advice if I’m taking the 4pm bus from Hanoi to Sapa?
    I’ve heard stories of night buses being not that safe.

  2. Hi Colin, just found your blog. Very helpful. I’ll be doing 4 weeks in Vietnam in March next year – might check out some of those roof top bars! Quick question re Sapa – most reviews I’ve seen concur with your view on SapaExpress. However, we arrive into Hanoi at 9am from BKK. I’m wondering if you recommend any bus companys that do early afternoon trips? SapaExpress seem to only do morning and evening. I found Inter Bus but then saw poor reviews and the same for Sinh Tourist bus. Any insight greatly appreciated.

    • Hey Paul,

      Sorry I don’t have any experience with that. I know that I would not recommend Inter Bus or Sinh Tourist, but I’m not sure if there are any good alternatives at that time.

      Worst case, you can take those buses and just gut it out. You’ll still get there – it just won’t be as pleasant.

  3. Hi there! I’ve just read your blog and thanks for the info 🙂 I’m going to Hanoi on December this year. I opted to take train from Hanoi to Sapa then by bus back to Hanoi. Hoping to have a great adventure/trip there :). I have some questions though, how will be the weather during December? Do I have to bring a lot of warm clothes? 🙂 :). Thank you.

    • Sapa gets pretty cold in the winter. It even snows there sometimes, so you’ll definitely want some winter gear.

      In Hanoi, people wear winter coats in the winter, as well. But as someone who comes from a place where snow is a normal occurrence, I don’t find Hanoi that cold. I usually don’t wear any more than a sweater or hoodie, even on the coldest days.

  4. Thanks Colin. I just decided against the sleeper bus after reading your blog. I am planning a trip in mid Nov. from Hanoi and then to Sapa and Fansipan. The plan will be 2 days 1 night. Take a bus from Hanoi, reach Sapa, look around and then to Fansipan the next day before heading back to Hanoi in the afternoon. Any guidance from you on where to stay and what to do? There will be 5 of us. When will you blog about what to do in Sapa? Thanks again for your tips. Warm regards and have fun with your life.

  5. would like to visit Sapa in early feb , will take your advice to get the bus Sapa Express, any hotel for a night only you would like to recommend ?

  6. Hey Colin! I found this article to be super useful but also hilarious. If you were to take the train to and from Sapa, would you have a preferential train company that you would suggest? Thanks in advance for any insight! I’m about to dig into the rest of your site for Vietnam info 🙂

  7. Hi Colin
    I’m not seeing your blog on what to do in Sapa. Great advice about the bus. Looking forward to your ideas on what to do once we get there.

  8. Hi Colin. I don’t see any guide for what to do in SAPA. I am going to SAPA this coming Friday. Can please share your guide with me? Or can please advise me what’s the activities I can do once arrive. Thanks


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