How to travel to Son La from Hanoi

Son La City is the capital city of Son La Province in the Northwest of Vietnam. Son La is 280km from Hanoi via Route 32+Route 37+Route 6, and 320km via Route 6. The latter route has much better road conditions but sometimes parts of the road may be flooded or there may be landslides during the rainy season (July-August).

Son La doesn’t have much to attract the visitors and is only visited on an adventure to the northwest loop of Vietnam. Still for some adventure travelers, staying at Son La may be a great experience far away from the crowd. Let’s find out how to travel from Hanoi to Son La and the means of transportation between these 2 cities.

Thai villages in Son La Province
Thai villages in Son La Province

By private car: The trip to Son La from Hanoi by car can take you a whole day. You can certainly spend a night either at Mai Chau, Moc Chau to break the long journey. The more popular but longer route is via Route 6 which travels through Hoa Binh City, Mai Chau (Hoa Binh Province), Moc Chau (Son La Province), Son La City.
The shorter route with not so good road conditions is via Phu Tho, Thu Cuc (Tan Son, Phu Tho), Phu Yen and Bac Yen (Son La), Son La City.

By local bus: There are several local buses departing Hanoi for Son La from the bus stations: My Dinh, and Yen Nghia. The bus trip takes 9-10 hours. All buses travel to Son La via Route 6. The one-way tickets cost from 220,000VND to 250,000VND.

By motorbike: Route 6 from Hanoi to Son La is in good conditions. The road is flat from Hanoi to Hoa Binh City, then it goes up mostly. The road descends briefly at Mai Chau District (Hoa Binh Province) and goes up all the way to Moc Chau Town; this leg offers the most beautiful natural landscape by the roadside. From Moc Chau, the road goes down for an hour, then it turns to be on a flat terrain till Son La City.

Alternatively you can take the less-traveled route from Hanoi to Phu Tho, then turn into Route 37 to pass through Phu Yen and Bac Yen (Son La) and join Route 6 at Co Noi T-Junction, then continue to Son La via Son La City as the former route above. This way is shorter than the former one but the road is not in good conditions. The traffic is quieter though.

By bicycle: There 2 routes that you can travel from Hanoi to Son La City by mountain bike as mentioned above. The trip is arduous with a lot of steep uphill gradients that you’ll have to get off your bike and continue on foot. Along Route 6, there are quite a few downhill gradients that you’ll have to get off your bike too, as it is too dangerous riding downhill with unexpected blind curves along the way.