The train from Hanoi to Sapa is the easiest way to reach the lush green rice terraces of Sapa. So we decided to take the overnight sleeper train from Hanoi to Sapa in Northwest Vietnam to explore the area further.
Here’s our guide on how to travel from central Hanoi to Sapa via Lao Cai on a Vietnamese sleeper train and bus.
Booking Hanoi to Sapa Train Tickets at Hanoi Train Station
After a few wonderful days spent exploring the fantastic capital city of Hanoi and living like a local, it was time for a change of scene.
As we were living a few minutes walk away, we decided to go and book our train tickets in person at the main train station in Hanoi, Ga Ha Noi. The main building is located on Le Duan Street and this is known as station A but there’s also a confusing station B around the corner on Tran Quy Cap.
Unless you are taking a train north towards the Chinese border (or beyond to Moscow or London) you’ll be using Station A which is easy to spot with it’s imposing part Soviet-style frontage. The original prettier building is hiding still behind it somewhere but suffered bomb damage during the American (Vietnam) War in 1972.
You enter through the main door and turn left for the advance ticket booking desks. There’s a special desk for tourists to buy tickets and the staff were very helpful and booked us onto the train we wanted.
Google map of Hanoi Train Station (Ga Ha Noi):
The sleeper train tickets cost us around 400,000 VND ($19 USD) per person for a bed in a 4 person carriage.
We took the Violette Trains #SP3 service which left Hanoi at 10 pm and arrived at Lao Cai at 6.20 am the next morning. That’s where we jumped onto the bus for Sapa.
The cheapest option for this journey would be a Hard Seat (yes, just a wooden bench) at around 145,000 VND overnight. If your bottom demands comfort try a Soft Seat (padded reclining chair) on the same train costs from 190,000 VND per person.
There are also various kinds of Sleeper Carriages available starting from 400,000 VND per person for a basic bed in a 4 person carriage (our choice). They scale up to 3,540,000 VND per person for a 2-bed deluxe carriage. We just hope that includes breakfast and a massage!
We used this site to book most of our journeys in Vietnam. Best of all, you can just show any ticket on your smartphone when boarding your train. That saves any running around to find a place to print your vouchers!
Try their site via the search box here. Simply pick your travel date for a full page of travel options in Vietnam and beyond!
Our Sleeper Train from Hanoi to Sapa Experience
We found our 4 person compartment to be comfortable and clean. It was a nice change from the open carriages that we had experienced on our sleeper train journey in Thailand.
We were also blessed with two lovely travel companions, Aveen and Dorina, and we were soon chatting away as the train pulled out of Ga Ha Noi spot on 10 pm.
It was soon time for some shut-eye so we climbed into our top bunk positions and settled in for the night. Towards the early hours of the morning, the carriage did begin to clunk around quite a lot and there were some loud banging noises from underneath as we climbed higher into the northern hills of Vietnam.
But overall we much preferred this to journey over a long daytime train ride to Sapa and did manage to get some sleep overnight.
The guard came to wake us up in good time before we pulled into Lao Cai around 6.20 am and offered us tea and coffee. Not being fully awake we took it, only for him to return a few minutes later asking for 10,000 VND each for the hot beverages, the cheeky bugger!
We really liked the fact that they played a gentle local folk song over the cabin speaker as we approached our final destination. It was a lovely way to arrive and we’d totally recommend a sleeper train from Hanoi.
Read More: Vietnam Travel Guide
The Onward Bus from Lao Cai to Sapa
Getting to Sapa itself is a 2 part journey as the train line runs up to the northwest border town of Lao Cai. From there you will take a bus or taxi to Sapa town itself.
Unless you book a tour package your train tickets won’t include the final 1-hour road journey to Sapa but it’s easy to grab the local bus from the train station in Lao Cai.
Be aware that the local touts for taxis and buses will come into the train carriages once it stops and ask if you need help to get to Sapa. Just tell them clearly that you have both transport and a hotel in Sapa booked or they will follow you around trying to get you into their rip off taxi or bus.
As you exit the station in Lao Cai turn left and look for the local minibus parked up in the corner of the parking area. It clearly says Lao Cai ⇔ Sapa on the front and side despite what the local taxi touts tell you.
It departs every hour on the hour and costs just 28,000 VND ($1.25 USD) per person, much cheaper than a taxi unless there is a group of you. There are a few stalls close by to grab an early morning coffee or snack while you wait.
Once the bus set off it quickly filled up with locals, stopping many times as we got to the edge of Lao Cai and began the climb up to Sapa town. Just make sure you wedge yourself in and sit on your own bags otherwise the locals will!
For some great accommodation options in Sapa, check out this helpful where to stay in Sapa post.
Arriving in the Cold and Misty Sapa Town
If like us you have been travelling in South East Asia for a few weeks, wearing shorts and enjoying the sun, then prepare yourself for a shock.
Sapa is around 1,500 meters above sea level and is often shrouded in a chilly mountain mist which sometimes won’t clear all day.
After grabbing a filling breakfast and drinking several hot chocolates to keep warm we eventually grabbed a taxi to our homestay in Ta Van village.
Next: Find out what there is to do in the lovely hilltop Alpine town of Sapa and how we got on trekking in the stunning rice fields of Ta Van nearby.
Did you take a sleeper train from Hanoi to Sapa? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below…
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Sapa where can we go to visit?
Hey Alice, there’s not a massive amount to see and do in the town itself so we’d recommend a hike out to one of the villages through the rice fields if you have time.
See this for Sapa: http://maptrotting.com/sapa-alpine-town-northwest-vietnam/
and this for the tranquil Ta Van village and hiking the rice fields: http://maptrotting.com/trekking-rice-fields-ta-van-village/
Cheers C&K 🙂
I love this post. It is incredibly helpful for tourists, planning to visit Vietnam! We went to Vietnam in June and our experience with overnight train was not that pleasant:) So I guess it depends on the train and your luck !:)
Thanks for that, we hope it’s useful to others. We had mixed sleeper train experiences in Vietnam. The Sapa one was okay but one of the coastal routes we took had a loud snorer in our compartment. Didn’t get much sleep that night!
Hi. We are a family of 4 in Ta Van now. Took the King Express sleeper train from Hanoi and enjoyed it. Overnight in the train was so much better than our overnight plane flight from Australia …we could actually sleep! Our agent had given us a voucher to exchange and like you said it was very confusing as we were meant to enter via the 2nd station over the back which caused us some problems. After much negotiating we found our cabin but it was pretty stressful as no one spoke much English.
Hey Natalie, that brings back the memories. Yeah it’s the same in many cities where you have 2 main stations close together, it happens a lot in London too but at least you can be understood there 😉 We’re pleased you liked the sleeper train, we think it’s the way to go and a decent step up from the sleeper buses which can make you feel pretty ill. Enjoy Ta Van, those limestone karts are pretty special. Are you going to continue further south? C&K.
Yes here for almost a month. Hanoi, Ta Van, Ha Long, Hue, Hoi An, Nga Trang, Can Tho then finally HCMC.
Sounds great, have fun and let us know if you need any help! 🙂
I have lived in Vietnam for 3 years and planed to go to Sapa but haven’t made it yet this post will be very helpful thank you
Hey Ron, glad you found it helpful! Enjoy your trip to Sapa and let us know how you get on with the sleeper train 🙂
Thanks a lot for your post. It may be very useful in the comig days. I just wonder if this is a good idea to go to Sapa, as I did not bring warm clothes.
Hey Vincent, glad you found it useful. It can get a little chilly in Sapa. We bought a couple of rain jackets in Hanoi to keep us dry when trekking the rice fields. It’s a beautiful part of Vietnam, hope you make it there!
This post placed Sapa in the first list to visit next year. It’s a useful post, thanks for sharing
Glad to hear you found the post helpful!
This is a perfect post as we intent to visit Vietnam next year and are open to all means of transport! I have experienced a sleeper train in Thailand from Bangkok to Surat Thani and found it to be the most comfortable way of travelling and hoped there would be options elsewhere in SE Asia! I have pinned this for the future and will referring back to it to take my notes for the journey … which leads me nicely on to say thank you soooo much for all the tips you have provided, it will be a huge help when we need it!
Hey Angie, so glad you found this post useful. We love train journeys and found trains in Vietnam pretty good. If you need any more info during your travels around Vietnam, do get in touch! It’s an incredible country, enjoy! 🙂