GETTING TO SAPA: A DETAILED GUIDE

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VIETNAM GUIDE

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.

There’s no time better than the present to start planning your escape to the mountains. Browse our favorite Sapa getaway packages here for the adventure of a lifetime!

Bus to Sapa

With the highway, Sapa is just five to six hours from Hanoi. Buses leave throughout the day from My Dinh Bus Station hourly, so just choose what works best for you. Some opt to overnight on the bus, leaving at midnight and arriving early in the morning. Others prefer to travel during the day, though there isn’t a great deal to see on the road.

The bus usually stops at least once at a halfway mark for a snack and bathroom break. It’s advised to bring your own snacks and water, as well as toilet paper and hand sanitizer if using the local bathrooms. Most of these stops require you to pay a fee of 1-5000 VND to use the bathroom facilities, so save some of your small change for this moment.

There is a vast selection of buses offering seats and beds, and the price is around USD10. Most hotels and agencies sell tickets for buses, or you can book with a reputable bus company direct like this one. This is a great way to save money but the ride can be a bit scary depending on the skill of your bus driver, which is why it’s better to travel by other methods if you have the cash.

 

Luxury Limousine to Sapa

VIP limousines like this are the most comfortable way to get to Sapa. It takes the same amount of time as the bus, but they also take you door to door so that saves time either side of the journey. The limousines are actually transit vans that have been refitted to hold six to eight lounge seats, with various conveniences including USB charging sockets and Wi-Fi. Limousines from Hanoi usually leave early in the morning, and cost between USD15-20 per person.

Topas Ecolodge has its very own luxury limousine called the Topas Mountain Express. Get picked up at your home or hotel in Hanoi (as long as it’s in the Old Quarter or Tay Ho) and dropped off directly at Topas Ecolodge or your hotel in Sapa. All drivers are experienced and follow international safety guidelines that many local companies don’t, ensuring a safe and comfortable 5-hour transfer.

Private Car or Motorbike to Sapa

Private cars and motorbikes may not be as comfortable as the train or as fast as the bus or van, but there are still two big benefits. First is of course the freedom to go anywhere or to do anything you want without time constraints. The second is it’s cost-effective for families or groups of friends as a private car can cost around USD100 per day for up to four people, while a motorbike is even less.

Just make sure you have an International Driver’s License recognized by the Vietnamese government, and you drive slowly and carefully, as the traffic and driving regulations here are much different than other countries.

Let your travel designer know if you want to include a stay at “ecoxury” Topas Ecolodge or the boutique Topas Riverside Lodge homestay below during your Vietnam adventure! 

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