The northwest market town of Sapa is colorful and charming, providing the perfect oasis in the midst of a strenuous mountain trek or rice-paddy tour. The Gothic stone church at the center of town is a bull’s-eye in the center of shops and stalls, serving as a reminder of the town’s French missionary influence. Dine on Vietnamese or European-inspired cuisine downtown, and don’t miss the Saturday night "love market," one of the most potent—and strictest—single’s nights imaginable.
If you’re planning this same drive and want to know all about it – how long it is, how long it takes, and where to stop along the way – read on. By the end of this post, you’ll know everything about the drive between Ho Chi Minh City and Sapa.
As the crow flies, it’s roughly 817 miles between Ho Chi Minh City and Sapa. Luckily, we can’t skip over all the good stuff and have to drive – that means seeing some of the sights and countryside between these two points.
For driving, it is roughly 1172 miles or 1886 km between Ho Chi Minh City and Sapa. This may vary slightly depending on your start and end points.
In terms of travel time by car, the 1172 miles drive from Ho Chi Minh City to Sapa takes 25 hours 55 minutes. Again, your final drive time depends on where you start in Ho Chi Minh City and end in Sapa.
This is a really long drive, so it's not very realistic to drive nonstop. To get a better idea of how long this road trip would actually take, scroll down to calculate how many hours it would be if you drive with stops.
Realistically, you're not going to want to drive without stopping all the way from Ho Chi Minh City to Sapa, especially if you're the main driver. So let's say you're actually planning a road trip to Sapa, and you need to stop along the way to rest. Plus if it's a real road trip, you might want to check out interesting stops along the way, eat at great restaurants, and find a hotel to stay overnight. That's what we are perfect for, helping you figure out travel plans in detail.
Based on the length of this trip, we think you could spread out this fun road trip over a number of days.
Road trip: 4 days of driving
With the full itinerary planned out, we can estimate your total travel time for this trip.
Travel time: 25 hours 55 minutes hours on the road with 4 overnights
Start at Ho Chi Minh City.
Drive for about 3 hours, then stop in Quốc lộ 14, QL.14, DHCM and stay for about 2 hours.
Next, drive for another 4 hours then stop in Quốc lộ 19, QL.19. Stay overnight.
The next day, drive for about 3 hours, then stop in Đường Hồ Chí Minh, QL.14, DHCM and stay for about 2 hours. Next, drive for another 4 hours then stop in Cách Mạng Tháng 8, QL.1A. Stay overnight.
The next day, drive for about 3 hours, then stop in Quốc lộ 1A, Kỳ Nam and stay for about 2 hours. Next, drive for another 4 hours then stop in Đường Nguyễn Chí Thanh. Stay overnight.
The next day, drive for about 3 hours, then stop in and stay for about 2 hours.
Finally, drive for about 1.9 hours and arrive in Sapa.
To give you a better estimate of real-life travel, we've put together a flight itinerary with actual airports. Eventually you'll be able to customize this plan, choosing your own airports and flights. But for now, here's an example we've selected to give you an idea of how traveling might work between airports.
Departure airport: Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN)
Arrival airport: Dien Bien Phu Airport (DIN)
With the airports selected, we can estimate the travel time to and from the airport, based on how far the airport is from downtown.
Getting to the airport: 5 minutes
Getting to your destination: 3 hours 55 minutes
Now finally, let's look at an example flight from SGN to DIN and figure out how long it would take to fly including take-off and landing, and time to taxi on the runway.
Commercial flight time: 1 hour 33 minutes
So now we can finally get an idea of the total travel time from Ho Chi Minh City to Sapa including time spent getting to/from the airports, an estimated wait time of 2 hours at the airport for TSA security lines and waiting at the gate, and the actual flight itself.
Total travel time: 7 hours 34 minutes
Now let's assume you have a private jet and you can fly in the fastest possible straight line between Ho Chi Minh City and Sapa. Because of the curvature of the Earth, the shortest distance is actually the "great circle" distance, or "as the crow flies" which is calculated using an iterative Vincenty formula.
Flight time from Ho Chi Minh City to Sapa, Lao Cai Province is 1 hour 39 minutes under avarage conditions.
Our flight time calculator assumes an average flight speed for a commercial airliner of 500 mph, which is equivalent to 805 km/hr or 434 knots.
Actual flight times may vary depending on aircraft type, cruise speed, routing, weather conditions, passenger load, and other factors.