A Little Nomad's Traveling Diary

I am not a writer. I am just the person who is addicted to travels and has passion for capturing every single piece of traveling memories in words

[Sapa] – the city hidden in the cloud

I intend to visit Sapa soon. Thus, I find some travel information and share them here, will correct or update after my trip.

1.Where is Sapa?

(Image: Internet)

(Image: Internet)

Sapa, located in Lao Cai province, a part of northwest Vietnam is at about 1600m above the sea level. It, therefore, seems that Sapa does not have a real summer. The average temperature is always lower than 18 degree celsius.

This land welcomes tourists throughout the year, but is a bit more quiet from May to September which deems to be the time of rainy season. As I said before, the Vietnamese tourist season is from June to July, you could go between March and May, and between October and November. December is not on the recommended month list because it will probably be pretty cold during that time. (It may be not an useful tip to those who live in countries with extremely cold weather => Don’t worry much about the weather. It may be so cold to us, the Vietnamese but could possibly be perfectly normal to you guys). Sometimes it even snows. Since I am so big on snow, I truly wish to capture it in Sapa one day.

Some websites recommend the tourists to go on weekdays rather than weekend as Saturday and Sunday are well-known for local markets which are always overcrowded.

Since Sapa markets are such a typical feature of this place that I love to see. The only thing I care is that the hotel or hostel or guesthouse rates are always pushed up at weekend, though.

2. How to get there?

(Image: Internet)

(Image: Internet)

Sapa can be easily reached by public transportation, either bus or train. I prefer traveling by train because it is safer regarding the mountainous roads. A Vietnamese travel website claims that “Almost all sleeper seats are controlled by travel agents. It is impossible to buy them. The seat tickets are available and a few 2nd class sleeper may be available at the train station without makeup” Not sure about that, I will check it soon when I go to train station go get a ticket.

It takes about 8 hours (starting at 9h20pm (or later) and arriving at Lao Cai at 5h30 am (or later) the next day)

Website to check train timetable: here

Website to check ticket price: here

There is no English version of this website: I’ll note down here some levels of price:

(Unit: thousand VND)

–      Hard Seat without air conditioner: 135

–      Hard Seat with air conditioner: 225

–      Soft Seat without air conditioner: 165

–      Soft Seat with air conditioner: 240

–      Hard bed (the first level) without air conditioner: 260

–      Hard bed (the second level) without air conditioner: 245

–      Hard bed (the third level) without air conditioner: 215

–      Hard bed (the first level) with air conditioner: 400

–      Hard bed (the second level) with air conditioner: 375

–      Hard bed (the third level) with air conditioner:  330

–      Soft bed (the first level) without air conditioner: 300

–      Soft bed (the second level) without air conditioner: 300

–      Soft bed (the first level) with air conditioner: 485

–      Soft bed (the second level) with air conditioner: 485

You should buy the ticket by yourself in order not to get ripped off or overcharged. The railway station is not much far from Old Quarter (where almost tourists stay)

From Lao Cai train station to Sapa, it is about 35 km. We will have to take minibus which usually costs 3USD$/ person.

I got this information about the route of minibus which I find useful.

Your minibus stops at the area where many hotels are clustered. This is not the center. The minibus continues to travel. You may ask the driver to take you to the market , both are good starting points to look for a room. The entrance of the market is Cau May Street, where most budget accommodation can be found. More GHs are behind the market.

3. What to do and to see?

(Image: Internet)

(Tourist Map of Sapa (Image: Internet))

  •  Fansipan peak
(Source: Internet)

(Source: Internet)

It is a place worth trying to reach. It is considered as the roof of Indochina which is at the height of 3143m. In the past, you have to spend days climbing up. However, there are some paths quite easy to follow which take you only 2 days and 1 night (with about 1.500.000 VND ~ 75 USD$) to achieve the feeling of reaching the peak. I am not recommending you to take it, though. Because, in order to climb up, you should be sure that you are strong and healthy enough.

Some of my friends went hiking to Fansipan already and they all practiced walking and cycling everyday for a while before the real trip. 3143 m is not a long way. But try to imagine that you are going up and getting difficult breathing. So tired, right?

There are some offered tours climbing up Fansipan peak varying from 1.400.000 VND to 4.000.000 VND ( depending on time, tour guide, quality,…)

  • Local villages: Where you could see rice terraced fields, streams, local houses,…

+ Cat Cat village

+Sin Chai village

+ Lao Chai – Ta Van – Ban Ho villages

+ Ma Tra – Ta Phin villages

  • Ham Rong mountain
  • Old Stone Church (built in the 1980s with French-styled architecture)
  • Bac (Silver) Waterfall
  • Tinh Yeu (Love) Waterfall
  •  Cong Troi (The gate to Heaven) looking over O Quy Ho mountain pass
(O Quy Ho - Source: Internet)

(O Quy Ho – Source: Internet)

4. Where to stay

I think I will check out when getting there. But here is one recommendation I got from other backpackers.

Sapa backpackers

I have just gone through websites of some hostels and guesthouses. To my mind, I should find some travel fellows to share the rates.

5. Some tips

(Source: Internet)

(Sapa – Source: Internet)

– Prepare cash. There are few banks there (So far, I notice that there is only Agribank) but so few ATMs are available. Some cards (debit card, visa card,…) are accepted, though)

– Don’t give money to the local children or the local elderly. Only give some candy (suggested)

– Should not buy ginseng or mushroom… because most of them are from China.

– Bring some warm clothes.

– If you suddenly want to climb the Fansipan peak, you could buy the hiking shoes and clothes with brand The NorthFace at reasonable price over there. One backpacker recommends to contact Mr Hung (+84989730688) to get a good deal. In order not to buy something unexpectedly, prepare them before departure.

Estimated cost for a 3-day-4-night trip:

– Train ticket: 500.000VND/ round trip ticket.

– 3 meals per day in 3 days: about 500.000 VND

– Accommodation: about 500.000 VND (if we can get a budget hotel at about 8 USD/day)

– Rent a motorbike: about 200.000 VND/day and 70.000VND/ day for petrol

– Tickets get admission to places: about 200.000 VND totally.

+ Ham Rong mountain: 70.000 VND

+ Cat Cat village: 40.000 VND

+Sin Chai village: 20.000 VND

+ Lao Chai – Ta Van – Ban Ho villages: 40.000 VND

+ Ma Tra – Ta Phin villages: 30.000 VND

+ Bac (Silver) Waterfall : 10.000 VND

+ Tinh Yeu (Love) Waterfall: 35.000 VND

+ Ticket to climb Fansipan peak (exclusive of insurance and fee): 150.000

Minimum estimated cost is about 2.000.000 VND (about 100 USD). We can reduce it by not using a motorbike, staying at guesthouse and eating more modestly.

My intended plan: (3nights and 2 days which will cost about 1.500.000 VND)

– Spend the first night on train

– Reach Lao Cai province at the early morning of the first day then move to Sapa by minibus (Remember to bargain!!!)

– Travel around Sapa and spend the second night in hostel or guesthouse.

– Continue to explore Sapa the second day (Remember to ask about time to check in and check out before deciding to stay)

– Spend the third night on train back to Hanoi.

7 comments on “[Sapa] – the city hidden in the cloud

  1. Fei xD~
    Tháng Mười Một 13, 2013

    And I thought I could go to Vietnam and Cambodia in one trip @_@..
    Looks like it’s not gonna be enough even if I stayed for three months hahaha.

  2. alittlenomad
    Tháng Mười Một 13, 2013

    Haha. When do you intend to get here?

    • Fei xD~
      Tháng Mười Một 14, 2013

      When it’s cheap enough T__T.. (still scan for the best ticket price from day to day now..). Since in september I have an obligatory travel to Thailand and in June I might go to another remote place in Indonesia.. well probably around march to may.

      Btw do you use YM or Skype? You seems to be a nice friend :).

      • alittlenomad
        Tháng Mười Một 14, 2013

        Find me at Skype: alittlenomad 🙂

  3. B.T. (@Tea2Tu)
    Tháng Mười Một 15, 2013

    Thanks so much for sharing!
    Sapa is definitely on my list of places to visit.

  4. Pingback: [Ha Giang] – a mountain of stories | The travelling diary of a Vietnamese little nomad

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This entry was posted on Tháng Mười Một 12, 2013 by in English, My Vietnam and tagged , , , , .

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