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North Vietnam, Vietnam

Hanoi-Sapa Express Train

For us, there’s nothing like a train journey to summon the excitement of travel. Our favourite way to get between Hanoi and Sapa is by the express train, which runs overnight and allows you to sleep in a cozy cabin. The train journey between Hanoi and Lao Cai (the closest train station to Sapa) takes 8 hours, and the minibus journey between Lao Cai and Sapa takes 1 hour. The minibus transfer from Lao Cai station to Sapa town is included in the train ticket.

If you're taking the train from Hanoi to Sapa, the train departs from Ga Ha Noi (Hanoi Railway Station). We would recommend hailing a Grab or a local taxi if you're coming from Hanoi Old Quarter or the airport. At Ga Ha Noi, you will need to enter through Entrance B for the private trains listed here. If you're taking the train from Sapa (Lao Cai) to Hanoi, the train departs from Lao Cai Railway Station. If you are coming from Sapa town, the train operators will provide you a bus transfer from Sapa town to Lao Cai Railway Station.

The train runs every day, all year long - so you can take it any day! If you're headed to Sapa for the trekking, you may want to consider that June to September is a little bit on the rainy side and the trails tend to be a bit muddy (some might be closed off). But it's still very much doable!

The train journey between Hanoi and Sapa (Lao Cai) will take approximately 8 hours overnight, plus a one hour minibus journey between Sapa (Lao Cai) station and Sapa town.

How it works is that the different companies commission different wagons on the same train. So, even though you book a Chapa Express ticket and will get to be in a Chapa Express room in a Chapa Express wagon, you will be on a train shared with other train companies. This means that regardless of the train company you book with, the train is still fairly old and the rooms are the same size. Key differences between Chapa Express and Livitrans:

  • They leave at different times. Chapa Express trains depart Hanoi at 10pm daily, and depart Lao Cai at 9:40pm daily. Livitrans trains depart Hanoi at 9:35pm daily, and depart Lao Cai at 8:30pm daily.
  • The Chapa rooms are slightly more premium than the Livitrans rooms - which means slightly newer rooms, better equipped toilets and more snacks.