Hanoi to Sapa Vietnam: how to get there and how far

From Vietnam capital, where I am living, I’ve been to Sapa about 8 times, at many different times a year. Each time gives me different feelings about the magic beauty of this small town - Sapa.

Sa Pa - How to get there
Sa Pa - How to get there. Photo: Viet Ha

Sapa is a small town and located about 340 kilometers from Hanoi to Northwest of Vietnam. Please read more: Distance from Hanoi to Sapa and How long does it take from Hanoi to Sapa. Every time I come back here, I also try to find something new and exciting.

I will meticulously recount the times I have been to Sapa for you. However, I understand that you're looking for the most basic information about Sapa, example what compelling is? How much total cost is? Or how to be able to get there without any travel company, ect…

So, before telling you the journey of discovery Sapa, I want to share to you the most important information so you can plan for your trip.

Where is Sapa?

Sapa is a tourist area, also is a district situated in the Lao Cai mountainous province in Northwest Vietnam, 335km to the Northwest of Hanoi and quite close to the Vietnam-China border. Not only millions of young Vietnamese people want once to arrive here to see Sapa’s terraces - mountains and landscape but also foreign visitors want to go to Sapa, where is a popular destination on the world tourism map, along with other destinations like Bac Ha, Hoang Su Phi, Son La, Cao Bang...

Around the town of Sapa is the mysterious village
Around the town of Sapa is the mysterious village. Photo: Hung Dang

Why do many people want to got to Sapa? Because so far it still has the wilderness of the Northwestern mountainous forests of Vietnam. It has cool weather all year round. Winters are usually snowy, which is quite rare in tropical country like Vietnam. For me, there was another reason which is that Sapa has a lot of delicious foods.

Images of terraced rice fields in Sapa
Images of terraced rice fields in Sapa Vietnam. Photo: Pham Ngoc Bang

With foreign tourists, there are two other reasons for them as well as you want to come here, which is to conquer the highest mountain peak in Indochina called Fansipan and meet beautiful ethnic minority H’mong and Dao women.

How to get to Sapa?

Sapa is one of the famous tourist destinations of Northwest Vietnam so there are 4 types of transports that you can use to go to Sapa:

1. Go to Sapa from Hanoi by train: Trains are the choice of many travelers to Sapa as it is both cheap and safe.

However, if you go to Sapa by train, it just takes you to Lao Cai city, where is 35km to Sapa. From Lao Cai city, you need to catch a cab or take a bus to Sapa (cost 60,000 VND extra bus ride).

H'Mong women in Sapa Vietnam
H'Mong women in Sapa Vietnam. Photo: vnexpress.net

Hanoi train ticket to Sapa (actually the Hanoi-Lao Cai) has many types. The average prices for the Vietnamese people  are from 130,000-600,000 VND/ticket. But private travel train ticket is more expensive: about 650,000-750,000 VND/ticket. Some good train agencies I can name are Orient Express, King Express, Fanxipan, Sapaly 2. Please read more: Train from Hanoi to Sapa

2. Go to Sapa from Hanoi by bus: If you intend to travel by high quality bus to Sapa, I recommend choosing sleeper buses, you need to book tickets in advance and buy return tickets for it is difficult to get a ticket from Hanoi to Sapa in the weekend.

The road leading into Cat Cat village in Sapa dictrict
The road leading into Cat Cat village in Sapa dictrict

Bus fare from Hanoi to Sapa is 300,000 VND/ticket. You can find drinking water, free wifi on the bus. Some reputable bus companies for your reference are Hung Thanh, Hai Van, Sen Viet... in the center of Hanoi city. I often choose Hai Van sleeper bus. Please contact me to receive its number phone. Please read more: Bus from Hanoi to Sapa

3. Go to Sapa by motorbikes and private cars: If you want to go to Sapa by motorbike from Hanoi, you can buy or lease a Honda at large stores in the Old Quarter of Hanoi.

There are many roads to travel from Hanoi to Sapa. In particular, the route that many Vietnamese travelers often choose is Hanoi - Vinh Yen – Viet Tri - Yen Bai - Lao Cai – Sapa

Sapa town engulfed in clouds throughout the year
Sapa town engulfed in clouds throughout the year

However if you want to see beautiful sceneries, I recommend that you take the following route: Ha Noi - Son Tay - Thanh Son (Phú Thọ) - Van Chan (Yen Bai) – Mu Cang Chai (Yen Bai) - Lai Chau – O Quy Ho - Sapa.

Some motorcycle hire experience in Sapa town

If you take the train or bus overnight up straight Sapa town, from where you can hire a motorcycles - motobikes to move to other places and villages situated around this town.

4D road - the road leading from Lao Cai city into Sapa town
4D road - the road leading from Lao Cai city into Sapa town. Photo: Nguyen Loan

Motorcycle rental in Sapa consists of many types, from 80,000 to 240,000 VND/one. I want to suggest to you some cheap motorcycle rental shops with good quality as:
Thanh Dat Hotel – Address: Thach Son Street- Ham Rong

Hoang Ha Hotel- Address: 08B Thac Bac Street, Sapa town

Tourist Information Centre of Lao Cai - Address: No. 02 Fansipan. Phone: 020 387197

Take note when you pick up your motorblike

When receiving your motorbike, you must check the horn, lights, brake lock, stock... Check the scratches of the motobike and have an appointment with the owner of the motobike to avoid compensation when you return.

Sapa in the winter with snow
Sapa in the winter with snow. Photo: Tuan Khanh

After you got a motobike, you should go to the nearest gas station to refuel, since gas stations there are quite far from the villages.

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If you don’t want to rent a motorbike in Sapa town, you should walk from the centre of Sapa town to the villages, the farthest venue is about 15-20 km.