From Sapa To Halong Bay, Taking A Train Or Bus?

Located in the northeast of Vietnam, Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is well- known all over world for its emerald waters, thousands of limestone karst islands and beautiful overnight boats. On the other side, in the northwest, Sapa, a charming highland region, is popular for most tourists thanks to the attraction from the terraced rice fields, Mt. Fansipan, Ham Rong Mountain, the ethnic minorities, and many things more. A package of Halong and Sapa is an ideal trip for any traveler to Northern Vietnam. How to travel between two destinations is the most common question from travelers: by train, by bus or private car? Let’s consider these options and pick a suitable one for you.


1. From Sapa to Halong Bay

Distance & Timing

The distance between Sapa and Halong Bay is about 480km by road and there are a few choices for the transfer: by bus, a combination of bus and train, or by private car. However, please note that the check-in time for most cruises in Halong is at 11:30 am- 12:00 pm (afternoon time) so whatever option you choose, be on time at Halong Harbor. In addition, there are two main harbors in Halong: Bai Chay International and Tuan Chau Harbor so make sure that you are at the right one. Some of the boats start at Hon Gai Harbor.

By bus, train, private transfer

  • By bus: with this means of transportation, there are two options: a direct bus from Sapa to Halong and a bus via Hanoi: Sapa- Hanoi- Halong.
  • A combination of train and bus: catch a train from Lao Cai Station to Hanoi Station and then a bus from Hanoi to Halong Bay.
  • Private transfer: depending on the number of people in your group, you can hire a 4 to 45 seat car and choose the direct way or via Hanoi.

We will find out the details for each way below:

2. Transfer by bus

Direct bus from Sapa to Halong Bay

There is only one supplier running the sleeper bus from Sapa to Halong and vice versa that we recommend, Phuc Xuyen bus for about 8-hour transfer. The schedules as below:

Departure time

Expected arrival time



8:00 am

16:00- 16:30

8.0- 8.5 hours

Sapa- Halong- Van Don

11:00 am

19.00- 19:30

Sapa- Halong- Van Don


0:00- 0:30 (next day)

Sapa- Halong- Mong Cai


2.00- 2.30 (next day)

Sapa- Lao Cai- Halong

Useful information:

  • Price: VND370,000VND (about US$16.00/ticket)
  • Pick- up point: Phuc Xuyen Sapa office, 573 Dien Bien Phu
  • Drop- off point in Halong: Bai Chay Bus station (you should catch a taxi from here to the right harbor of your cruise).
  • For the trip at 8:00 am, 11:00 am and 16:00, Halong is not the last stop so you should advise the driver assistant about your drop- off, he will announce when you arrive.
  • Type of car: Hyundai Express and Samco, 42 soft sleeping seats.
  • Inclusion: DVD, Wifi, blanket, cold handkerchief, and mineral water.

For further update schedule, please visit:

Bus Sapa - Hanoi + Bus Hanoi - Halong Bay:

This option is one of the two popular choices from the passengers. Instead of taking a long ride, people choose to take 2 buses: one from Sapa to Hanoi, overnight in Hanoi, and another from Hanoi to Halong the next morning.

Sapa to Hanoi buses: travel on the freeway (a part of the route), about 5 hours (1 stopover about 20-minute break).

Firstly, let’s find the information about the first route from Sapa to Hanoi. There are 2 options that you can consider and we recommend:

      • By a luxury Limousine bus: this kind of bus is more modern, well- equipped and much more comfortable than the normal van, with just 9 seats. Therefore, it is also more privacy than the bigger buses. We suggest you, 2 operators, to choose:


Pick- up time

Expected arrival time


Eco Sapa

15:05- 15:30

21:00- 21:30


8:00- 8:30 am

13:30- 14:00

Green Lion

15:00- 15:30

21:00- 21:30

Note: pick- up at your hotel in Sapa, and drop- off at your hotel in the Old Quarter Hanoi.

      • By bus with sleeper seats: Different from Limousine bus, this bus is often the big one, has 35- 42 seats. The sleeper seats are on 2 floors. If you don’t like seating for hours, a sleeper bus is a good choice. We recommend 2 options as below:


Pick- up time

Expected arrival time


Sapa Express (38 beds)

13:00- 13:30


US$12- 15.00/ticket

15:00- 15:30


Good Morning Sapa (from Go Asia Travel), 40 beds



US$17- 20.00/ticket


  • Pick- up/ drop- off at fixed places (at the office in Sapa and Hanoi)
  • Inclusion: mineral water, travel blanket, wifi, and English- speaking guide
  • With Good Morning Sapa, you can choose the seat and pay a little more for some beds in the front.
  • You will have a 30-minute break on the way.

Hanoi- Halong buses: when you book a cruise in Halong, the cruise company will offer you the transfer with them. We suggest you take this offer because you will have good care from the company, and if there is anything happening on the way like a traffic jam, you don’t have to worry about it.

In case you need to go to Halong earlier than your date of the cruise, or leave there later, you can negotiate with the cruise operator; they will arrange it for you, but the transfer to and from the harbor is from your side.

The buses from the cruises are diverse: a normal van (16 seats, 35 seats) or Limousine van (7-9 seats, 16 seats) and some run on the freeway, some stick to the normal route and the pick- up/ drop- off is at your hotel in the Old Quarter, fixed time at 8:00 or 9:00 am.

For any reason that you can’t take the above suggestion, for example, you want to leave Hanoi in the afternoon and go to Halong Bay, stay in a hotel for a few nights, you still have another choice: traveling by a joining luxury van on the freeway with pick- up/ drop- off at your requested places (even if it is not close to the city center), a number of trips per day from early in the morning till late evening, affordable price of US$12.00/ticket/way.

Please visit the site for details:

  • Pros & Cons

Direct bus Sapa- Halong

2 buses Sapa- Hanoi & Hanoi- Halong


+ You don’t have to change the transfer during the travel

+ Save your time (don’t need to spend a night in Hanoi)

+ More economic

+ Various modes of transportation and schedules to choose

+ Have time to relax and visit Hanoi city before going to Halong

+ Feel healthier


+ Long ride so you may be tired after that

+ You may need to spend a night in Halong

+ Change the transfer

+ Takes time if your schedule is rush

By private car

For any group size from 1 person and any time, you can hire a private car, which follows your schedule, more privacy, stop often for photo taking, etc. but the price for this option is much higher than joining transfer and more suitable for a bigger group.

A combination of train & by bus

This is the most popular option chosen by passengers because of its comfortable, time, and experience and somehow likes the option above with 2 buses, but here, it is one by train and continues by bus.

Train from Sapa to Hanoi

The train departs from Lao Cai station and arrives in Hanoi station. You can find train numbers starting with LC (stands for Lao Cai) or SP (stands for Sapa, but starts from Lao Cai). We strongly recommend you pick SP2 or SP4, as it has comfortable sleeping berths and fewer stops on the way while the LC train has more than 10 stops and fitter for local people.

The timetable of SP2 and SP4:

Departure time

Expected arrival time



04:32 am the next day



05:30 am the next day


+ Price for train tickets: from US$30.00/ticket/way in the joining 4- berth soft sleeping cabin.

+ You can require a private cabin for just 2 people and pay for full cabin price, the train staff will arrange from 4- berth cabin into 2- berth cabin for you. Some carriers have a luxury cabin designed for only two people like Chapa Express.

+ You should be at the train station 45 minutes before the departure time

+ Be careful with your belongings when at the station

Our suggestion for the train carriers:

SP2 train: Orient Express, ET Pumpkin Train

SP4 train: Victoria Express (no train on Saturday); Sapaly Express, Chapa Express

Bus from Hanoi to Halong Bay

Please find the details above (in transfer by 2 buses)

  • Pros & Cons



+ Experience a new kind of transfer: train with sleeping berths

+ Overnight in the train so it saves the cost for 1-night stay in Hanoi hotel

+ Suitable time for a trip to Halong after Sapa

+ Cabins are clean, comfortable, 2 toilets in each cabin

+ the train tickets cost more than a bus seat

+ should be considered for insomnia people

3. Tour suggestion for Sapa to Halong Bay

Basing on your timetable and interest whether you like the mountainous or sea activities, several options for this package is suggested:

+ 4 days 3 nights (by bus): 1 night in Sapa, 1 night in Hanoi and 1 night on Halong boat

+ 5 days 4 nights (by bus): 2 nights in Sapa, 1 night in Hanoi and 1 night on Halong boat/ or 1 night in Sapa, 1 night in Hanoi and 2 nights on Halong boat

+ 5 days 4 nights (by train): 2 nights in the train, 1 night in Sapa and 1 night on boat Halong (the most wanted package)

+ 6 days 5 nights: 2 nights in the train, 2 nights in Sapa and 1 night on boat Halong/ or 2 nights in the train, 1 night in Sapa, 2 night on board in Halong.

We hope that the information above can be the answers to your questions. For the detailed itinerary and further support related to Hanoi- Halong- Sapa, please feel free to drop us an email.