How to get to Sapa ? By bus or by train ?
Sapa town is at 370 km northwest from Hanoi. Sapa was a French climatic health resort located just over 1000m above sea level in front of Mount Fansipan (the highest peak of ancient Indochina).
At this altitude, the air is cooler than in Hanoi. Sapa offers incredible scenery with many rice terraces, rivers, mountains and many ethnic minority villages all around Sapa.
As it is one of the most touristic destination in northern Vietnam, access to Sapa is easy, by bus or train.
A few years ago, the best way to reach Sapa was to take the night train from Hanoi to Lao Cai. Then take the bus or minibus to reach Sapa after 1 hour drive.
However, after the inauguration of the Hanoi – Lao Cai highway in 2014, the drive to Sapa decreased half the journey time, about 5 hours away.
Sapa by train
Most tourists choose to take the night train to reach Sapa town.
In fact, the train does not reach Sapa directly but stops only at Lao Cai station. Then take a bus or taxi to Sapa, which is a 45-minute drive away.
Trains depart from Hanoi around 20-21h and arrive at Lao Cai station around 5-6h the next morning.
A bunk in a compartment of 4 is recommended to have more space to sit. One sleeping berth costs from 35 usd/pax.
Several railway companies allow to go to Sapa. The comfort between the different companies can be different. We recommend taking Chapa train which is good value for money.
In Hanoi, trains for Sapa depart from Tran Quy Cap Station, near Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
It takes around 8 hours night train to reach Sapa from Hanoi.
At the exit of Lao Cai station, it is easy to find a shared bus for Sapa, which costs only about 50,000 vnd. You can also take a taxi.
Sapa by bus
There are several bus departures for Sapa every day.
These are very comfortable buses with air conditioning. You can book a sleeping bus or a limousine which is more comfortable and more convenient for elderly.
The bus ticket costs between 10 USD and 20 USD.
The bus will take the new highway to reach Sapa. It takes around 6 hours drive with 2 comfort stops.
Most of the buses departure is around 6h30-7H in the morning. The tourists will arrive around 13h in Sapa town which is quite faster than by train.
Our advise : Sapa by bus or by train ?
In general, tourists choose to take the night train rather than the bus in order to save 2 nights of hotels. Also, people want to spend the maximum time in Sapa to enjoy the fresh air longer.
However, the price of the night train remains quite high. If we add the intermediate costs such as moving to the station and the journey from Lao Cai station to Sapa, the train is not at all the most economical solution.
Indeed, staying at the hotel in Hanoi and taking the sleeper bus, the total price is equivalent to that of the night train.
Likewise, most people have trouble sleeping on the night train because of stops and shaking. It is difficult to fully enjoy Sapa after a sleepless night on the night train.
Finally, arriving at 6am at Lao Cai station, there is still 1 hour drive to reach Sapa. Most people arrive around 7am in Sapa. Then, they shower and breakfast before starting their treck. The departure of the treck is not done before 8:30 in the morning.
For the return by night train, it is necessary to leave Sapa around 16H in order to have the time to go down to the station of Lao Cai then to take the dinner. In the end, the time saved in Sapa is not significant.
Rather, we recommend that our travelers take the sleeper bus or limousine bus to travel comfortably and enjoy Sapa. It is also possible to take the night train one way and take the sleeper bus back to experience the Sapa night train.