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Train or Bus – Choose the best way to get to Sapa

No matter which route you take, it is such a time-consuming exercise to cover the distance of only 380 kilometers from Hanoi capital city to Sapa, which is one of the most popular destinations in Vietnam, as there is no nearby airport, the only option to get there is to travel by rail or road, so choose carefully. You can visit Sapa with tours Indochina Vietnam

Most travelers choose to go from Hanoi to Sapa by overnight train, which is a lot cheaper than hiring a car and safer and more comfortable than a bus or motorbike.

Sapaly train to Sapa

Sapaly train to Sapa-source: Internet

Every evening, there are three sleeper trains leaving Hanoi’s Main Station, at 21:10 (SP1), 21:50 (SP3) and 20:35 (SP7). It takes around 8.5 hours to get to Lao Cai. Then, you will have to travel by private transfer or minibus for the final 34 kilometers to Sapa. 17:30 (SP8), 20:15 (SP2) and 21:00 (SP4) are the return journey departure times (even in the return direction, trains also have numbers). Near the Sapa church, buses leave at 5PM. The trains SP1, SP2, SP3 and SP4 mainly consist of privately run sleeper cabins while the trains SP7 and SP8 also own soft seats. Private operators include Tulico, ET Pumpkin, Orient Express, Hara and Livitrans. Tours in Vietnam

Express train to Sapa

Express train to Sapa-source: Internet

What to expect on board? Generally, the clean and comfortable privately operated soft-sleeper cabins are certainly adequate for the whole length of the journey. Every air-conditioned cabin has four berths, two lower and two upper. Bedding is clean and mattresses are thick enough to be comfortable. All beds have their own light and storage shelf and luggage can be stored on a large shelf at the end of the upper bunks or under the bottom bunk. Even though doors are lockable, it is still wise to keep your valuables on your person, or especially if you do not know your cabin mates well, sleep with them under your pillow. In spite of Western-style, toilets are not always fully functioning; it is necessary to shop around between carriages to find the one with running water and don’t forget to pack hand-wipes.

Victoria Express Train

Victoria Express Train-source: Internet

On planning your trip, bear this in mind that many people find it difficult to get any decent rest on-board and therefore waste the next day catching up on sleep although the overnight sleeper trains can be good fun, while also saving time and hotel bills.

You can book seats/beds through travel agents either in Hanoi or in advance, but they do fill up so if you are on a tight schedule, it is advisable to book in advance. Theoretically, even though it is also possible to book the regular carriages at the train station, don’t be surprised to find that nothing is available: buying tickets at the train station is not as easy as you might hope because of private operators taking over, agents buying tickets beforehand and the increasing popularity of Sapa among locals.

Sapa express

Sapa express-source: Internet

Bus is a less safe and less comfortable alternative for those who cannot get booked on the train or want a cheaper option. Sleeper buses come in two formats: the one has two rows of twin beds or double size bunk beds while the most common is three rows of bunk beds running from the front to the back of the bus with a wide bed at the back. Beds are much smaller than those on the trains, don’t go flat with limited storage: the under-bus storage is where bags are kept.

Managed by private operators, overnight sleeper buses run between Lao Cai and Hanoi. There are two daily sleeper buses run by Hung Thanh, from Hanoi’s Gia Lam bus station to Lao Cai train station, at 7PM and 8PM. The ticket price is VND 300,000 ($13).

Bus to Sapa

Bus to Sapa-source: Internet

Hereunder is a comparison of bus and train – which shows both their pros and cons to make it easier for you to decide:

  By bus By train
Pros – Take less time: around 5 hours


– Arrive directly in Sapa


– Usually cost less: $15-25/person/way

– Offer unique experience on Vietnam’s railway


– Most trains are overnight thus saves travel time


– Train travel will save you a hotel night

Cons –   Travel is done mostly during the day so it takes out sightseeing time in Sapa


– Because of standard ride, experience may not be as unique as the train

– Cost more than traveling by bus, around $35-45/person/way


– Need to take a minibus to Sapa after arrival at Lao Cai

Travel lovers.

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