Travelers looking to make the 200-mile (320 km) trip from bustling Hanoi to the trekking base town of Sapa (which lies at the foot of Fanispan, the highest peak in Vietnam) have two main options.
Those who would like to complete the journey as quickly as possible should book a private transfer–the drive takes about five hours without stops. For a local experience, it's possible to book a night train to the Lao Cai station, close to Sapa, a nine-hour journey.
By Private Transfer
Duration: 5 hours
The simplest and most comfortable way to get from Hanoi to Sapa is by private transfer. When the journey is completed without stops, it should take approximately five hours. The relatively new Noi-Bai Highway is well paved. While there are not major points of interest along the way that travelers will likely wish to stop the drive to explore, the drive goes through scenic countryside of villages home and rice paddies, and is quite pleasant.
Duration: 9 hours
Those who want to experience a train while in Vietnam, or would prefer to make their transfer overnight, may wish to take a sleeper train. There is no train station in Sapa itself, so travelers will be taking a train from Hanoi to Lao Cai - a journey of eight hours. From Lao Cai, a private transfer or taxi can complete the journey to Sapa, a little under an hour away.
Travelers should note that private train companies will likely offer more comfortable accommodations than national railways, which can be cramped and uncomfortable. Those opting for public trains should be sure to book first-class tickets, especially when traveling overnight.