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How to get to Sapa from Hanoi, Ninh Binh and Cat Ba by train, bus, limousine & taxi

Are you planning a trip to Vietnam and interested in visiting Sapa? In this article, I’ll share all the details on how to travel from Hanoi city center to Sapa and Lao Cai. You’ll learn about various transportation options such as buses, taxis, trains, and transfers. Additionally, I’ll provide information on how to reach Sapa directly from Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport using buses, taxis, and shuttles.

Moreover, if you’re considering a journey to Sapa from the captivating Cat Ba Island or the stunning towns of Ninh Binh and Tam Coc, I’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of using public buses, ferries, transfers, and taxis to make your way there.

Whenever you travel abroad, it’s crucial to have reliable travel insurance that covers medical expenses, theft, and unexpected transportation or luggage issues. Plus, you can benefit from a 5% discount!

Here is what you will find:

Traveling to Sapa FULLY ORGANIZED

If you’d rather skip the hassle of planning and transportation, there are several options available to visit Sapa on well-organized multi-day tours. You can choose from a variety of alternatives, including exclusive trips to Sapa or adding other fascinating destinations like Ninh Binh or Halong.

Moreover, if you’re seeking a more comprehensive travel package, you can opt for pre-arranged 15-day journeys that are all set for you to arrive and start enjoying right from the get-go.

3-day trekking in Sapa5-day Sapa+Ninh binh+Halong
6-day Sapa+ Ninh Binh+ Halong15-day Vietnam full package

¿How to get to Sapa from HANOI?

In this section, you’ll find all the information you need to embark on the journey from Hanoi to Sapa using various modes of transportation, including minibuses or transfers, taxis, buses, and trains (via Lao Cai).

Transportation Options to Reach Sapa from Hanoi

If you’re planning a trip to Vietnam, you absolutely can’t miss the charming town of Sapa, located in the mountainous region of the north of the country. To get there from Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, you have several transportation options available, each with its own advantages and price points. Below, I’ve listed these options for you:

  • By TAXI or PRIVATE TRANSFER (👉price): If you prefer more comfort and flexibility, you can take a taxi or rent a private car with a driver to get from Hanoi to Sapa. While this option is more expensive, it’s also more practical and comfortable. You’ll also make fewer stops along the way, allowing for a faster journey.
  • By BUS or SHUTTLE (👉prices and schedules of company 1 and company 2): Getting to Sapa by bus or shuttle (like a vip bus or shared limousine) is the most common and affordable option to get to Sapa from Hanoi. Several companies offer this service throughout the day, with varying prices and schedules. The journey usually takes around 5-6 hours, depending on traffic and weather conditions.
  • By TRAIN (👉price and schedule): I only recommend this option if you plan to spend a few days in Lao Cai (which can be reached by train or bus). The train departs from Hanoi station and arrives at Lao Cai station, from where you’ll need to take a shuttle or taxi to reach Sapa, about 50 km away. The train journey takes around 8-9 hours.

How to reach to sapa by taxi or private transfer

If you’re looking for the quickest and most comfortable way to reach Sapa from Hanoi, then a taxi or private transfer might be your best bet.

Your driver will either pick you up from your hotel (👉HOTEL PICKUP) or meet you at the arrivals terminal at Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi (👉AIRPORT PICKUP), and take you straight to your hotel in Sapa.

This way, you won’t have to worry about changing transportation, sticking to strict schedules, or finding a taxi to take you from the station to your hotel. Plus, by traveling in a private vehicle, you’ll be able to avoid the possibility of theft or robbery that can happen on public transport.

There are different types of vehicles available, and prices may vary depending on capacity and amenities. You can check out the links above for prices and information about the different vehicles.

The journey from Hanoi to Sapa typically takes about 5 hours by taxi or private transfer, covering approximately 300 kilometers of Vietnamese geography.

Getting to Sapa by bus and shuttle (limousine)

One of the cheapest and most popular options for traveling from Hanoi to Sapa is by bus and shuttle. The journey takes about 5 to 6 hours and covers roughly 300 kilometers, so it can be a bit tiring, and it’s a good idea to bring water and snacks. Once you arrive in Sapa, you’ll need to walk or take a taxi to your hotel.

There are two different types of buses available: regular buses and shuttles. Shuttles (or limousines) are minivans that carry fewer passengers and usually reach their destination faster.

The road leading to Sapa has many curves, so if you’re prone to motion sickness, I suggest taking the Sleeper Bus. It’s a bus where you lie down instead of sitting, which will make you less likely to feel dizzy and make the journey more comfortable (this is actually an overnight bus, bus also work during the day).

Sleeping bus from ninh binh to sapa

¿Where do the buses depart from in Hanoi?

There are buses available both from the city of Hanoi and from Noi Bai Airport. Let’s dive into the details of each option.

In the city of Hanoi, you’ll find various points and terminals where buses depart, and chances are there’s one conveniently located near your hotel. It’s advisable to check the departure location before purchasing your ticket. For instance, there are departures from the lively Old Quarter, close to Dong Xuan Market, as well as from the My Dinh station.

You’ll find bus departures throughout the day, including minibuses and standard buses. I’ll provide you with the links to two different companies so that you can compare prices and options.

Buses and minibuses (shared transfers) from Hanoi.
Company 1Company 2

If you arrive in Hanoi by plane, you’ll find minibuses available at Noi Bai Airport, ready to take you directly to Sapa. This option is incredibly convenient as it allows you to reach Sapa without the need to spend a night in Hanoi.

In case you don’t make it in time to catch one of the minibuses, there are also larger bus companies that provide airport pickup services and transport you to the bus stop in Hanoi. However, please note that depending on your flight’s arrival time, there may be some waiting time before the bus departs from Hanoi.

Buses and minibuses from Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport
Company 1Company 2

How to go from Hanoi to Sapa via Lao Cai (train and bus)

This option is only recommended if you want to spend a few days visiting the city of Lao Cai. Otherwise, I recommend using one of the aforementioned transportation methods, as they are more direct and faster.

You can travel from Hanoi to Lao Cai by train, bus, or taxi. I’ll focus on the train, but in the following link (👉TICKETS to LAO CAI) you’ll find prices and schedules for all three options.

The train departs from Hanoi Railway Station, also known as Hanoi Central Station, and the journey to Lao Cai Railway Station takes approximately 8 hours. It’s important to note that there is no direct train to Sapa; you will always have to make a stopover at Lao Cai before continuing your journey.

How to travel from Lao Cai to Sapa?

Once you have arrived at the train station, you have two options to reach Sapa from Lao Cai. From there, you can choose between taking a SHUTTLE or TAXI (👉prices) to Sapa. Both transportation methods depart from the train station.

Sapa is situated around 50 kilometers away, and the journey typically takes approximately 1 hour and 25 minutes to complete.

What are the trains like in Vietnam?

Trains in Vietnam are a bit old-fashioned, but they still serve their purpose and provide a comfortable travel experience. What’s interesting is that they offer both seating and sleeping options, allowing passengers to travel in a lying position.

The sleeping berths come with a mattress, a pillow, and a blanket. It’s important to note that when a previous passenger leaves and you board the train, they don’t change the beddings or linens, but continue to use the same ones.

I mention this so you can decide if it’s something you’re comfortable with or if it may make you feel a bit uneasy. Additionally, there are VIP cabins available, although I’m unsure if the same practice applies or if the bedding is changed in those cases.

How to get from NINH BINH & TAM COC to Sapa?

Let’s explore how to travel from the lovely city of Ninh Binh and Tam Coc to Sapa. In this case, you have two options available: utilizing a transfer service or opting for a public bus.

How to reach Sapa from Ninh Binh by taxi or minivan

The most convenient and quickest way to travel from Ninh Binh and Tam Coc to Sapa is by taking a TRANSFER/TAXI (👉precio), or if you’re traveling with a larger group, you can opt for a MINIVAN TRASNFER (👉precio) service.

This option offers the advantage of being fully customizable in terms of pick-up times and locations. The transfer service will pick you up from your hotel in Ninh Binh and take you directly to your hotel in Sapa. The journey covers a distance of 407 km and typically takes around 8 hours to complete.

How to go to Sapa from Ninh Binh by bus

The BUS (👉prices) departs from different stops in Ninh Binh and Tam Coc, so I recommend reserving with the company that has the closest stop to your hotel.

Since this is a lengthy journey (approximately 9 hours), the type of buses that operate on this route are Sleeping or Sleeper Buses (sometimes referred to by either term). These buses allow you to travel in a lying-down position rather than sitting upright. This position helps reduce the likelihood of motion sickness and makes the journey more comfortable.

These buses are commonly used for overnight trips, but they also operate during the day.

Sleeper bus from hanoi to sapa

Upon arriving in Sapa, most buses will take you to the main terminal in Sapa; however, some buses may conclude their journey at other locations within the city that could be closer to your accommodation.

Sapa is a small town, and depending on the whereabouts of your hotel, you can either walk to your destination or hop in a taxi (there are plenty of taxis available, but be mindful of tourist prices!).

How to get from CAT BA to Sapa?

To get to Sapa from Cat Ba, you can purchase a TRANSPORT PACKAGE (👉price & schedule) that includes the buses to Sapa and the ferry ride off the island. These packages are well-organized, taking care of all the arrangements, so you won’t have to worry about making the connections on your own.

Some companies also offer complimentary hotel pickup in Cat Ba, taking you directly to the bus stop for the ferry terminal. During the purchase process, you can choose the pickup location that suits you best.

The total journey from Cat Ba to Sapa takes approximately 11 hours. During this time, there will be a layover in Hanoi, where you will switch buses to continue your journey to Sapa (there might be a waiting period). If you opt for one of these packages, the bus and ferry combinations are already organized, leaving you with nothing to worry about.

Where does the bus drop you off in Sapa?

Once you arrive in Sapa, some buses will take you directly to the main terminal in the city, while others may have additional stops at various points within the city that could be closer to your accommodation.

Sapa is a compact city, so depending on the location of your hotel, you might be able to reach it on foot or you may need to take a taxi. There are plenty of taxis available in the area, so you won’t have any trouble finding one. However, it’s advisable to keep an eye on the prices as tourists are often charged higher fares.

What are the buses to Sapa like?

For this journey, Sleeping or Sleeper Buses are commonly used. These buses provide the option to travel in a lying-down position instead of sitting upright, offering greater comfort and reducing the likelihood of motion sickness.

These types of buses are typically used for overnight trips, but they are also available during the day.

Sleeper bus from catba to sapa

Tours and activities in Sapa

Sapa is a popular tourist destination in Vietnam, renowned for its spectacular mountain landscapes and home to several ethnic minority tribes. Moreover, it offers a wide variety of ACTIVITIES AND TOURS for visitors that are sure to keep you entertained.

Where to stay in Sapa

When it comes to Sapa, choosing the right area to stay can significantly impact your overall experience during your stay.

There are three areas that are particularly interesting for accommodation in Sapa, although none is better than the other; it all depends on your preferences. The recommended hotels offer options in all three areas:

  • Right in the heart of the city, close to the lake and restaurant area.
  • In Sapa, but strategically positioned to offer breathtaking views of the surrounding rice fields.
  • A little further away from Sapa, nestled amidst the stunning rice terraces.
Cheap & dormsHeart of SapaSymphony HotelMega ViewZiZi Mekhoo
Hmong SisterAmica House
Mid rangeSapa Hotel & SpaMoc HotelBotanic Sapa
High BudgetHôtel la CoupoleKK Sapa HotelPao’s SapaSilk Path Resort

What is the best time to visit Sapa?

If you are planning a trip to Sapa, it’s important to know that the weather can vary significantly depending on the time of year. The coldest months in Sapa are from November to March, with lows of 9°C and the possibility of snow in the higher areas.

If your idea is to see the rice terraces and go trekking among the fields, the best months to see the rice paddies are from June to early August/late September, which is when the fields are harvested.

During these months, the mountain views are spectacular and the rice fields are at their best; although you should keep in mind that it tends to rain more between June and August.

Is it SAFE to travel to Vietnam?

If you’re considering traveling to Vietnam, it’s important to be aware of certain risks to ensure your safety. Additionally, as with any trip, I highly recommend obtaining a reliable TRAVEL INSURANCE (👉5% off) that provides coverage for any unexpected situations abroad.

While Vietnam is generally a safe country, theft is common in larger cities, public transportation, crowded markets, and tourist areas. Taking necessary precautions and staying vigilant can help minimize any potential risks.

It’s recommended to ask for the price before buying anything and negotiate if necessary since it’s common to be charged higher prices for taxis, souvenirs, products, or services, especially in the more touristy areas of Vietnam, if you’re a foreigner.

In addition, some areas of Vietnam, especially in the central region and near the border with Laos, have landmines that can pose a danger to travelers. If you plan to visit these places, it’s important to inform yourself in advance about the mined areas and follow the recommendations of local authorities.

Safety for Women

I spent a year and a half traveling in Vietnam and never encountered any truly unpleasant situations. It’s common for men to want to take pictures with you or even blatantly put their phone in front of your face and record videos.

That being said, Vietnam is not free from sexual assaults, verbal harassment, or unwanted groping. I recommend that you:

  • Be cautious at night, especially if you plan to drink at a bar (which is not advisable).
  • Use Grab to move around safely at night and always avoid taxis and motorbikes you find on the street.
  • If you become a victim of sexual assault, seek immediate medical assistance, contact the local police, your embassy, and make sure to file a report.

FAQ’s about traveling to Sapa

Are there flights to Sapa?

There are no direct flights to Sapa as it doesn’t have an airport. The nearest airport is Noi Bai in Hanoi. From there, you can reach Sapa by bus, transfer, taxi, or train.

Is it possible to visit Sapa on a one-day tour?

It’s technically possible, but not recommended. This is because Sapa is located around 5 hours away from Hanoi, and it would be a long and tiring journey just for a few hours of sightseeing. The best option is to spend at least one night in Sapa and go trekking to fully enjoy the mountains and rice fields.

Is it worth visiting Sapa?

Absolutely, yes! Without a doubt, Sapa offers some of the most spectacular landscapes in the country, and is home to some of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities. Not only will you enjoy the mountains and rice fields, but you will also have the opportunity to learn about their traditional clothing and customs.

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