Hanoi to Sapa: Bus or Train?

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If you ask me the perks of joining so many random groups on Facebook lately, I think one of them is the fact that I got a lot of ideas what to post on my blog, be it in English or in Indonesian. I mean, they took me to a lot of interesting posts that inspired me to write more as well, so I think that’s good for my productivity.

This time, I would like to share with you my experience in using public transportation in Vietnam. Especially for Hanoi-Sapa-Hanoi route, as one of the members on The Solo Female Traveler Network posted a question on which public transportation is better to take from Hanoi to Sapa: bus or train?

Well, I’ve got an experience to use both on my last journey to Vietnam. I know it’s been awhile since I traveled there in 2016, but I think my two cents can give you some ideas what to choose next time you’re planning to Sapa from Hanoi.

From my end, I took Orient Express from Hanoi Train Station to Lao Cai and on the way back, I chose Queen Cafe VIP Open Bus from Sapa town to Hue, with a transit in Hanoi for a few hours. Which one did I like better?

Orient Express

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My boarding pass for the train to Sapa.

For Orient Express train, I booked the ticket in advance through website HanoiSapaTrain here and chose the private 4 berth cabin that I shared with other passengers. For the train, I’ve paid USD 40 or around VND 1.200.000 through the website.

As ridiculous as it sounds, I chose to try the train from Hanoi to Sapa for exactly one silly reason: I wanted to try the train with a compartment similar like the one in Harry Potter. I mean, there’s no train like this in Indonesia so forgive me for being tacky once! 😛

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Hanoi Train Station Gate B, the one located on Tran Quy Cap street.

The departure of Orient Express from Hanoi Train Station to Lao Cai was at 21.40 from Hanoi Train Station. To avoid any confusion, for any train to Lao Cai, they depart and arrive at Gate B of Hanoi Train Station.

The gate B is located on Tran Quy Cap street, and it’s so close from Hanoi City Center so if you’re considering train as the transportation to take to Sapa and you happen to stay around Hoan Kiem Lake, you can just take Uber or Grab and it costs less than VND 15.000 to get there. 🙂

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4-berth compartment on Orient Express.

For this journey, I’ve shared the compartment with two French travelers called Jerome and Viviene with their Vietnamese tour guide, Tung. At first, like pretty much everyone who encountered me during my journey in Vietnam, Tung spoke to me in Vietnamese first until he realized that I had no clue what he was talking about.

As it was already late when the train departed, I didn’t have much time to get friendly and talk too much with three of them. But, how’s my view on the train journey to Sapa?

(+)

  • The compartment was comfortable as I could sleep well along the way.
  • Complimentary mineral water provided.
  • There’s a power plug provided for each berth, although mine didn’t work and I ended up getting no battery on my phone for the whole 12-hour trip from Hanoi to Sapa.
  • No delay.
  • There are cabin attendants in case you’re in for a midnight meals or snack with additional charge.

(-)

  • It’s rather expensive, as I don’t think I’d take the option should I have tried to get on the train with such compartment before.
  • The journey takes longer than if we take the bus. For example, from Hanoi to Lao Cai, the journey takes around 12 hours. And to get to Sapa, we need to take a minibus for another hour.
  • Although provided, the power plug on my berth didn’t work so it was rather useless.

Queen Cafe VIP Open Bus

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Sleeper bus, something that I’ve never found in Indonesia. Something that simply impressed me in Vietnam.

If I booked the train through HanoiSapaTrain, for the bus I have booked the ticket in advance through Sapa Ethnic with the price as low as USD 12. The only problem with my online booking was that I did it through instalment with USD 4 (around VND 90.000) for my first instalment and I had to complete my payment at Sapa Ethnic office.

However, when I reached Sapa I got difficulties to contact the office because the one that I spoke to through the phone couldn’t tell me the office location while he also barely spoke English.

Everything turned out well when I spoke to Ms. Emerald from Sapa Graceful Hotel and as it turned out, Ms. Emerald is the cousin of Sapa Ethnic’s owner. Long story short, I could complete the payment through Ms. Emerald at Sapa Graceful Hotel. In total, I have paid VND 210.000 for the bus ticket to Hanoi.

And since my next stop after Hanoi was Sapa, I also bought Queen Cafe VIP Open Bus through Sapa Graceful Hotel with the price of VND 360.000.

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The sleeper on Queen VIP Open Bus that I took from Sapa town to Hanoi.

If you asked me how I found the sleeper bus, my answer would be terrific! For someone whose height is as short as I am, the sleeper bus was totally comfortable. That’s exactly the reason why I cancelled the plan to take the train from Hue to Ho Chi Minh City. 🙂

(+)

  • With waaaay cheaper price for the ticket, it only took 6 hours to get to Hanoi from Sapa. Not only that you could save some money by taking the bus, you could actually save the time too!
  • I love sleeper bus in Vietnam. That’s all I could say. 🙂
  • The bus station in Sapa is not so far from the city center, it only costs VND 10.000 for the taxi to get to the bus station from Sapa Graceful Hotel.

(-)

  • Sleeper bus option might be not too comfortable if you’re tall, I guess.

So, bus or train?

If I got to choose either bus or train, I would choose bus everytime from Hanoi to Sapa. Because not only that it costs cheaper, but it takes you faster to your destination too. That, if you’re only planning to go to Sapa and not dropping by around Lao Cai whatsoever.

Are you planning to go to Sapa from Hanoi? Or you’ve ever been to Sapa from Hanoi using one of these public transportations? Drop me your comment on the two, and cheerio! 😀


Also read: 

Taking the Bus from Vietnam to Laos


 

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11 thoughts on “Hanoi to Sapa: Bus or Train?

  1. I generally prefer to travel by train over bus. But your information is really useful and makes sense to take Bus on this route. Thanks for sharing this post.

  2. Cheaper and faster sounds like what I would choose too. Those seats are pretty incredible as well, so hopefully I would be able to get some rest. Although trains can be fun, I would have to go with the bus on this route.

  3. I was amazed that the bus is quicker than the train; that’s so different from at home. And the bus itself looks really comfortable; I think I could enjoy that kind of journey. I’m imagining that the shape of the seats stops you sliding around and waking up when the bus brakes.

  4. We visited Vietnam from North to South in 2014, but didn’t make it to Sapa because we chose to explore parts of Cambodia and Laos as well. Hopefully we’ll get to go there on our next Southeast Asian trip! And we’ll probably go with the Orient Express!

  5. I’m all for taking the bus. I’d rather spend that extra money on food, plus those seats actually looker super comfortable. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  6. I usually prefer the train rides and I actually enjoyed riding the train from Hanoi to Sapa. However, your information got me thinking, as I thought that the bus ride is rather uncomfortable. But from your description it’s not as bad as I thought so maybe next time I am in Vietnam I will give the buses a chance 🙂

  7. When you said about the Harry Potter train carriage I thought “definitely better than the bus”, but that was before I saw the sleeper bus..!! I’d never heard of that before, it looks so comfy (if you’re not 2 metres tall, at least!)

    1. yes, i think the sleeper bus would be a little trouble for those who are tall. 😛
      i mean, it wasn’t really a problem for me as i’m quite short so i could sit there quite comfortable and enjoy the 6-hour trip easily. 😀

  8. I’ve never taken a train with a compartment for sleeping so this looks like a super fun adventure to me. Also that bus sleeper looks soooo comfortable! I wouldn’t mind taking that especially if it’s faster and cheaper!

  9. I’ll admit, I didn’t even know sleeper buses existed! But that’s such a cool option. However, I think I’d splurge and go for a private cabin on the train. I love train travel 🙂

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