This post will explain the different transportation options to travel from Hanoi to Sapa Vietnam. Hanoi is the largest city in northern Vietnam and is a central transportation hub for many outlying cities and villages.
A popular tourist destination is going to the northern village of Sapa. It is famous for its rich ethnic culture, vast rice patties and terraced mountains. It also offers many excursions and activities for travelers.
If you are planning a trip to Sapa then you need to compare the different travel options available to you, their cost, travel time and associated pros and cons. This article will evaluate the different travel options and help you decide what is best for you.
Where Is Sapa?
Sapa is nestled in northwestern Vietnam, close to the Vietnamese border. It can be accessed by car, bus, motorbike or train. These are the most common transportation options in Vietnam in addition to flight. It is roughly 5 hours north of Hanoi by car using the most direct route. Sapa is a mountain town that is situated on the border of Hoang Lien Son mountains. It is a central hub for many surrounding rural villages.
Sapa is also a great base to reach more remote areas of northern Vietnam. You will be able to easily find many restaurants, hotels, shops and travel agencies once you reach Sapa to take you on a variety of activities in the local area.
Hanoi to Sapa Bus
The most common method of travel to Sapa is by bus. This is because it is relatively inexpensive, has many available departure times, many bus operators and is the fastest transportation method. I have personally used Sapa Express bus company and have found them to be reliable, comfortable and affordable. Click here to view their bus schedule.
During most the of the year, you should not have a problem trying to book a seat as they leave multiple times per day and they are conveniently located in down-town Hanoi, near Hoan-Kiem lake in the old quarter.
The cost for a round-trip ticket is going to cost around $25 USD and up, depending on the company that you choose. Some companies offer a more comfortable riding experience by having larger seats and less passengers then what you would find on a typical passenger bus. These buses will generally be more expensive. Therefore, you can choose what kind of riding experience you want depending on your budget and travel comfort.
Sapa Express Bus Location
Most companies stop at a commercial rest stop once for a 30 minute pit stop during the trip. The rest area has bathrooms, shops and Vietnamese food available. Its a great opportunity to stretch your legs, use the bathroom and get some food on your journey.
Hanoi to Sapa by Private Car
Another transportation option is to hire a private driver to bring you to Sapa. This might be a good solution if you are traveling in a small private party and want to travel independently of other travelers. It may also be necessary during peak travel holidays as bus companies may be overbooked and your transport options become more limited.
The benefit of hiring a private driver is that you can leave at any desired time, you can stop wherever and whenever you want. It would also allow you to take a scenic, less traveled route or make stops at other destinations prior to arriving to Sapa.
The price is going to vary depending on the amount of time you want to take, whether you are going direct, the number of people, ect. Generally, it is priced per day. It is much cheaper then you may imagine.
Check out this company for pricing and private vehicle availability.
Hanoi to Sapa by Motorbike
Traveling in South East Asia by motorbike is very common for local people and depending on how adventurous you are can be a great transportation option for you! I personally live in Hanoi and have been riding in Vietnam for over 2.5 years as of writing this post.
I would strongly encourage you to learn how to drive a motorbike in an area that has limited traffic. Driving in Hanoi is very dangerous and I have had close friends get in serious, life-threatening accidents. If you choose to drive, do so with caution.
If you decide to drive to Sapa by motorbike then I suggest staying off the main highway as it will not be very scenic and would be more dangerous. Look at Google maps and try to decide on a scenic route which will be more exciting.
Be prepared for all types of weather as you are literally exposed to the elements. You can purchase a decent rain poncho which are designed specifically for motorbikes.
Depending on the time of year it can also be quite cold and you should have gloves, a water proof and wind resistant jacket. Northern Vietnam is a mountainous region and is generally cooler because it is at a higher elevation. Make sure to check the weather before your trip and bring enough clothes!
Hanoi to Sapa by Train
The last transportation option is traveling by train. Prior to the new highway being completed, this was be the best option because it was the fastest travel option. Although, it is not the fastest mode of transit, it does have other advantages. Firstly, it is a great way to see the countryside of Vietnam as the train accesses certain areas that are only accessible by train.
Another reason to leverage the train is that it has sleeper cabins so that you can sleep on your journey and save the cost of a night at a hotel. Otherwise, you have to spend a half day to get to Sapa from Hanoi via a private car or bus.
Hanoi Train Station
The Hanoi train station is located in the center of the city on the intersection of Tran Hung Dao and Le Duan. If you are arriving from the airport and need to go directly to the train station, you can take a new public bus, number 86 that stops at the airport and ends its route at the train station.
The train station in Hanoi is where you will go to get on the train and it is where you can go to reserve a train ticket. Tickets can also be purchased online but they are more expensive so if you are a budget traveler then I suggest purchasing the ticket at the train station.
If you want to learn more about the Vietnamese train system then check out seat61.com as it is an excellent resource of information pertaining to the trains.