Sapa Vietnam Travel Guide

Sapa Vietnam Travel Guide

I had high hopes for Sapa Vietnam and it was just OK. A lot of little things added up to it not being that great. Sapa is at the very north of Vietnam, you could probably see China from here if you got up high enough and it wasn’t foggy (but it’s always foggy). Hiking through the H’mong and Xia villages was a highlight of our entire Vietnam trip, but the rest of the town just didn’t do it for us. Then being offered drugs by an elderly ethnic minority woman was the tipping point for me, it just felt over ‘tour-ized’ if that’s even a word.

Related Article: Best Vietnam Destinations

Sapa Vietnam Basics | FAQs

Does Sapa have an ATM?: Yes, several

Highs:

Trekking through the local villages – We spent a day with a local guide hiking through 3 villages and along the beautiful rice terraces.

Sapa - Vietnam - Trek day tip village-3 Sapa - Vietnam - Trek day tip village-6 Sapa - Vietnam - Trek day tip village-21

Lows:

Sapa - Vietnam - Trek day tip village-18The weather – I have never been to a foggier place. The humidity in Sapa was so bad it broke one of our computers. As the sun would set the fog would roll in so heavy that by dinner time you couldn’t see more than 30 ft (10M) in front of you.

sapa fog vietnamThe time of the year – because of the climate Sapa only gets one rice harvest and if you don’t time it right the picture perfect fields of green rice are just muddy water terraces. Still pretty impressive, but it would be ridiculously pretty if they were bright green. The best time according to locals is July-August, but that’s also rainy season. The other downside of our time in Sapa was caused by the time of year, it was apparently so dry the government close access to most for the hiking in the area due to fire risk.

The Food – Every restaurant in town is significantly more expensive than everywhere else in Vietnam. It was difficult to find a meal for under 100,000 dong ($5 USD) which I know in the rest of the country I can get fat for that much per day! The worst part, even for the elevated prices the food was just bad. I had few meals that were actually decent, but it was very disappointing because overall I really like the food in Vietnam.

Related Article: Getting Fat For $5 A Day In Vietnam

Ham Rong (The Radio Tower) – The views are decent from up here but the rest of the park is extremely confused. Large fiberglass cartoon statues, paths to nowhere, and other strange sights just left us wondering why we paid 70,000 dong per person to climb up here. Sapa - Vietnam - radio tower hike - hilltop-2 Sapa - Vietnam - radio tower hike - hilltop-13 Sapa - Vietnam - radio tower hike - hilltop-20

Being asked offered drugs from a little old H’mong lady – That’s when you know tourism has gone wrong, when you get asked to purchase drugs from old lady.

It’s a pain to get here – The only way to Sapa is but a long train or bus journey. The train takes 8 hours + (depending on rail construction work) from Hanoi, then you need to catch a shuttle from the town Loa Chi (the closest ‘big’ city to Sapa to make it the rest of the way. You will pay minimum $35USD for a basic overnight sleeper train and the shuttle to Sapa.

sapa train vietnamTips:

sapa train ticket vietnam

Book your tickets in advance for the train – The nicer cars fill up especially around the weekends. On the way up to Sapa we were in the caboose, people sleeping on the bathroom floor, and a rat scampered through our cabin as we woke up in the morning.

Don’t over pay for the shuttle to/from Sapa – The fair price is 50,000 Dong per person. The drivers will start at 200,000+ but stick to your guns they will eventually give in and then ask you not to tell the other passengers that didn’t negotiate as well as you.

Go to the Supermarket – The convenience stores in town are very over priced. We walked every other day up to the supermarket across from the lake to get water, snacks, and bread. Their baguettes are very nice and only 5,000 dong.

Related Article: Things To Do In Hoi An

8 Comments
  • Erin
    Posted at 19:04h, 09 May Reply

    That’s a shame that Sapa wasn’t all you expected, we were really disappointed that we couldn’t fit Sapa in when we went to Vietnam, but maybe it was for the best! It is a disappointment when locals feel they need to compromise their own culture to cater for tourists, by doing this a lot of the time they are actually not attracting the type of tourists they would want to visit.

    • Hannah
      Posted at 02:09h, 12 May Reply

      I think you didn’t miss anything, but lots of people love Sapa. The village trek was amazing, through the rice fields and all. But overall it just seemed too touristy for our liking.

  • Hannah
    Posted at 02:25h, 12 May Reply

    We will have to check out Ba Be National park next year if we head back to Vietnam. We really loved Hoi An and would like to return next year. Thanks for the tip

  • Jo (The Blonde)
    Posted at 07:06h, 04 April Reply

    I did the trek, too. The first day was so hot and humid that we sweated like there was not tomorrow. The second day was so foggy! It was just a wall of fog and we couldn’t see anything. We slept in the local village and it was the coolest experience ever! I love your photos. Really impressive.

  • Marianne Heilman
    Posted at 06:36h, 21 November Reply

    Just want to give you a heads up and any other travelers who read your blog before they go to Sa Pa… there’s a local bus that’s only 28,000 dong per person. The other taxi and minibus drivers will try and get you right off the train before you find out about the local bus. Thankfully we researched before heading there and knew not to hire one of those guys. The local bus is parked outside of the train station to the left. It’s a red, yellow and white bus. The bus driver was waiting outside for anyone coming from the trains. We were just there a few weeks ago.

    • Hannah
      Posted at 06:51h, 26 November Reply

      Thank you so much for letting us know!

  • Maria Scarinci
    Posted at 05:18h, 30 January Reply

    Thanks for the tips on Sapa…we are going for 10 days in May to Vietnam and we were organising to stay in Hoi An for at least 4 days….but we would love to go somewhere else….our goal is to experience their culture, beautiful people and food as well as relaxing.
    Our flights are in and out of HCM and we don’t want to spend time in this hectic city…would you suggest another place to spend the rest of our 10 days? Thanks!

    • Adam
      Posted at 07:02h, 31 January Reply

      Hue is nice just a little bit north of Danang. We spent 2-3 nights there checking out the old citadel. There is also the marble mountain nearby. Or if you are more adventurous maybe check out the world’s largest cave Hang Sơn Đoòng, we haven’t been but it’s at the top of our Vietnam list! Have a great trip!

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