Most tourists arrive in Sapa by a combination of trains and buses. Daily trains from Hanoi arrive in Lao Cai station early in the morning and from there, it is another hour bus ride to Sapa.
The trains- SP1 and SP3 are overnight trains with full options from hard sheet to soft air-conditioned sleepers. Prices vary accordingly from 90,000 ($4.5) to $750,000 ($35) for the 8 hour trip. You can book your train ticket by visiting a travel agency in Hanoi Old quarter, contacting a ticket sale agent or buying directly from the station (on Tran Quy Cap street). Whichever option, it is suggested that you buy your ticket at least 1-2 days in advance to secure your sheet.
Hanoi- Lao Cai
SP1 leaves Hanoi station at 9:40 p.m. arrives in Lao Cai at 6:00 a.m. (Fanxipan Express, Orient Express, Livitrans, Pumpkin)
SP3 leaves Hanoi station at 10:00 p.m. arrives in Lao Cai at 6:15 a.m.(King Express, Sapaly Express, Chapa Express)
SP5 leaves Hanoi station at 7:40 p.m. arrives in Lao Cai at 4:22 a.m. (now stop offering service)
SP7 leaves Hanoi station at 8:35 p.m. arrives in Lao Cai at 4:55 a.m. (now stop offering service)
Lao Cai- Hanoi
SP2 leaves Lao Cai station at 20:35 p.m. arrives in Hanoi at 4:35 a.m.(Fanxipan Express, Orient Express, Livitrans, Pumpkin)
SP4 leaves Lao Cai station at 21:00 p.m. arrives in Hanoi at 5:10 a.m.(King Express, Sapaly Express, Chapa Express)
SP6 leaves Lao Cai station at 6:55 p.m. arrives in Hanoi at 3:40 a.m.(now stop offering service)
SP8 leaves Lao Cai station at 7:30 p.m. arrives in Hanoi at 4:05 a.m.(now stop offering service)
As you exit the station, bus transfer ticket is available for sale. The public bus costs you 3-50,000 ($2-2.5) per person and a taxi is about 250,000 ($12). Both arrive in Sapa within the hour and the ride is one of the most photogenic in the country. To get from Sapa to Lao Cai, you can book a bus ticket from your hotel or any travel agency nearby.
Another way to get back and forth from Sapa to Hanoi is by bus.
In October 2014, the new highway connecting Hanoi and Lao Cai has made traveling to Sapa by road much easier. Tickets are inexpensive and the travel time is cut short to about 5-6 hours. There are a number of reputable bus companies such as Sapa Express, Good Morning Sapa and EcoSapa Limousine. There are daily departure from Hanoi at 7-7:30am and from Sapa at 3-4:00pm.
If you decide that you want more adventure and confident of your motorbike skills, you can rent one and ride from Hanoi. It usually takes 8 hours to arrive so start your trip early. The road condition is generally acceptable, but the traffic is unpredictable.