How to get to Sapa
Gone are the days that a rickety train was the only way to Sapa. Now with a new(ish) highway connecting Hanoi with the Chinese border, traveling north by road is more appealing than ever.
Keep in mind that almost everyone reaches Sapa from Hanoi, so this guide details your options from Vietnam’s capital, as even other destinations within the north (such as Ninh Binh or Halong Bay) do not have direct lines to Sapa. Prices are in USD for convenience, but payment will need to be made in the local currency, VND.
Train to Sapa
The train remains the most atmospheric and romantic way to get to the northern mountains. It’s also one of the safest as there is no traffic or curvy roads to contend with. But at eight hours spent on the train alone, it’s also the longest.
There are 8 different trains to choose from, with public ones running daily and offering cabins of four soft-berth beds outfitted with air conditioning, mattresses, small pillows, and thin sheets. We recommend to bring your own blanket if possible, and to pack your own snacks and water to last the duration of the ride. Once you arrive in Lao Cai, hop into a mini-van that is mostly full to take you the remaining 45 minutes up the mountain to Sapa.
- Orient Express Train – modern-styled train with air-conditioning and wood-paneled cabins. Deluxe cabins have 4 soft or 6 hard berths while the VIP has 2 soft beds. Expect to pay USD25-70 per berth, and similar to the Sapaly Express Train, one-way tickets are not possible during the high season. Trains depart from Hanoi at 21:35 and arrive to Lao Cai at 5:30. The return trip starts from Lao Cai at 20:55, making its way to Hanoi in the wee morning hours, around 4:30.
- Chapa Express Train – one of the newest trains in Vietnam, Chapa Train has one coach with 7 cabins. Each passenger is provided with drinks, snacks, cold towels, and toothpaste in the cabin in addition to the comfy bed’s mattress, pillow, and blanket. Chapa also has its own lounge in Hanoi as well as Lao Cai, so you have a nice place to wait before making your way to any booked accommodation. Trains depart Hanoi at 22:00, arriving to Lao Cai 6:10, while the return journey departs Lao Cai at 21:40, arriving to Hanoi at 5:30. Tickets cost between USD40-80 per person, one-way.
- Victoria Express Train – the most luxurious train available to book and only reserved for guests of Victoria Sapa Resort and Spa. Round-trip fare for one person in a shared cabin of four berths is USD130, while a round-trip private cabin with two berths will cost USD400 for two people. This train is also possible to book one-way except for Fridays and Sundays, and does not run at all on Saturdays. Complimentary breakfast is provided at the resort the next day. Otherwise, the schedules are the same as the Chapa Express Train listed above.
Book directly at the ticket office within Hanoi Train Station to avoid added expenses from middle-men. Most of the workers selling tickets can speak English and it’s relatively quick and easy! Otherwise, it’s possible to book online on the official site here for most local and private trains, although it will be more expensive than just going to the station in advance and booking in person. If you wish to book the Victoria Express Train, book it from here for best rates.