Sa Pa Travel Guide

  • friendly faces
    friendly faces
    by davidjo
  • a group on market day
    a group on market day
    by davidjo
  • trails to follow
    trails to follow
    by davidjo

Sa Pa Things to Do


    Many tourists arrive in Sapa and sign up for an organised trek which is a great way to learn about the local tribes as you will more than likely be guided by a tribal member who will inform you of their way of life, visit villages and experience their hospitality, but if you are a budget traveler you can still have a wonderful time by wandering off...


    You will recognise the Dao Do by their red headgear which is worn by the women and you can normally see them when they come into town for the market.


    Markets are a great place for photography as the locals are usually too busy conducting their business than taking notice of tourists with a camera, and Sapa is a great place for catching the hill tribes when they come in to buy and sell.


    Just get out of town and follow any path you come across and you will meet hill tribe people busy with their business, whether it is collecting firewood, transporting their vegetables to market or children just playing you will be greeted wherever you go and will have some good photo opportunities. A day's hiking and you will really be rewarded in...

  • Visit Sapa Tourism Information & Service...

    The centre promotes sustainable tourism development in and around Sapa.Beside seeking information, you can book guides and arrange community based treks to the nearby H'mong village of Sin Chai. Overnight stay in the village to learn about their textiles, music and dance can be arranged too.There is also a branch of Craft Link not-for-profit...

  • Sapa Radio Tower

    If you have one hour or so to kill, it is worthwhile following the steps up to the Sapa Radio Tower. The views of the valley are breathtaking.


Sa Pa Restaurants

  • Good food and great view! - Gerbera...

    This restaurant serves good and reasonably-priced barbecue beef, wild boar and venison, as well as pasta, salad and a variety of Vietnamese dishes. There are some great views over town from the upstairs panorama room.

  • Cafe at Royal View Hotel

    The cafe at the Royal View Hotel serves nice breakfast as well as dinner. This is included in the price of the hotel room if you are staying here (please see my accomodation tips for more details). I particularly enjoyed the various soups and dishes served during dinner.

  • Barbeque anyone

    I was amazed by many small stalls set up where diners can sit on small stools and barbeque their own meat or corns. There are different sticks of meat and vegetables. Drinks also served. Can mingle with the sellers and other local Vietnamese diners.


Sa Pa Transportation

  • Train from Hanoi to Lao Cai (Sa Pa)

    The best way to go to Sapa from Hanoi is to take the train. There are no flights and road journey is considered uncomfortable, long and less safe.Best to book the train, both ways from a reputable travel agent from Hanoi to Lao Cai near the Chinese border and the transport by van from Lao Cai to the hill station of Sapa.The train runs along the Red...

  • Motorcycle ride

    If you think riding on a motorcycle in Hanoi is thrilling, you should try riding a motorcycle in Sapa. You could actually sit behind a motorcycle of the locals and they will charge between 15,000 to 30,000 vietnamese dong (less than US$2) for quite a long distance. I tried it twice and it was really great going up the slopes and feeling the cool...

  • Trekking in Sapa

    All the trips to Sapa include some form of trekking to visit the villages and enjoy the mountain scenery, rice terraces, farms, waterfalls etc. These range from simple trek to nearby villages to longer treks to visit several villages. The trek is worth it because it is a wonderful experience, however be warned that this is not a stroll in the park...


Sa Pa Shopping

See all 3 Shopping in Sa Pa
  • Souvenirs and local handicrafts

    Being a tourist destination, there are lots of cheap souvenirs and local handicrafts from the local ethnic minority people to choose from. Once you step out of your hotel, the women will start approaching you to buy them (and they can be very persistent especially the Hmong women). Some of them are very savvy and can speak good English. There are...

  • Blue dyed tourists

    The Montagnards have not learned to set the dye in their material…so if your buying their brightly colored clothing or scarves don’t get caught in the rain wearing it and make sure you laundry it by itself! The hill tribe people are known for their intricate embroidery, so if you don’t want to buy their material you can give them something you...

  • Shopping at the main market Sapa

    Many of the local women sell their traditional clothes, bracelets, jewelry and souvenir in the main market daily and more during weekends when larger number of foreign and local tourists arrive. Different tribes have different design. Hemp are used and indigo for natural coloring. Be careful of color running during wash. Some bargaining is...


Sa Pa Local Customs

  • Water mills

    When you are trekking to the villages of the ethnic minority people of Sapa, you will notice water mills such as those shown in the photos. Due to limitation of electricity and abundance of water, water is used as a form of energy to drive these mills which in turn will help to grind food stuff down to powder of juices.

  • Baskets

    The local ethnic minority women carry baskets behind their backs all over the place, especially to the Sapa market where they will buy various stuff to bring back to their villages. This is an important means of carrying stuff in Sapa.

  • School and education

    During trekking, you will see some schools among the various villages. The children of ethnic minority people are given a chance for education but a big percentage of them will not take it hoping to earn a living when they are young. It is a pity that they do not see the importance of education, as this is an important means for them to get a...


Sa Pa Warnings and Dangers

  • Sapa (Hanoi) train tickets

    There are many trains travel from sapa to hanoi. Some are meant for locals, some nicer and more expensive ones are specially decorated for tourists. Beware of the type os ticket your are buying (tourist/local train ticket), the price varies a lot.It is best to buy a soft bed berth night trian to sapa(4 in a room is nice). We used Ratraco or...

  • Catching a night train back to Hanoi

    When catching a train from Laocai back to Hanoi, you need to set off from Sapa as early as possible. This is because the bus or van takes one 1 hour to get from Sapa to Laocai (and sometimes this takes longer because the bus or van will wonder around the streets to get more passengers, thus wasting precious time). Once reach Laocai, most people...

  • Weather in Sapa

    Because Sapa is at a mountainous area, most of the time it is rather foggy and/or rainy. According to most people, the best months to visit are in May or September because the weather is good and the terraces are filled with rice. December to February can be very cold and foggy due to winter time (however I went in December 2006 and was very lucky...


Sa Pa Tourist Traps

  • Train Station Mini Van Scam *Beware*

    Just a heads up to sleepy weary travellers that arrive at the train station after a night on the train to watch out for the mini van scam. We arrived at 4:45 in the morning to be greated by the usual load of people wanting to take us by taxi to sapa as we just stepped off the train. After about 40m while still on the train platform there was a new...

  • Cat Cat Village

    While some will tell you need to hire a guide to go into Cat Cat Village, there is really no reason to. The village is only 3 KM South of Sapa and the path is well marked and easy to follow. Just ask someone to point you in the right directionYou will need to be in decent shape to do this (and really any trecks in this area) but this path is mostly...

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Sa Pa What to Pack

  • Bring your waterproof jacket!

    The weather in Sapa is rather unpredictable and it could start storming very suddenly. Waterproof jackets or ponchos are a must - though you could pick up disposable ones from the market at 5000 dong (US$0.35). It gets quite chilly in the evening once the sun sets and the mist descends, so do have enough warm clothes, particularly in the winter...

  • Hiking boots and rain gear

    You definately need hiking boots and rain gear to explore the area around Sapa.Except for brief periods in the summer Sapa is shrouded in fog and rain for at least part of the day so be prepared so you can enjoy your trip.The trails are steep and muddy so you'll need a good pair of hiking boots with good traction and ancle support. If your caught...

  • Don't Forget Insurance

    If your current health insurance doesn't cover you while your abroad, you should consider getting international travel insurance just in case something should go wrong.

Sa Pa Off The Beaten Path

  • victorwkf's Profile Photo

    by victorwkf Written Jan 28, 2007

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    When you are at Sapa, especially if you visiting the Cat Cat village near to Sapa, you will pass by an unique and impressive building on the edge of the slope (looks like a castle in Europe). According to my guide, this building belongs to the Department of Forestry and you are not allowed inside.

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Backpacking
    • Family Travel

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Sa Pa Sports & Outdoors

  • Community-Based Treks to Cat Cat Village

    Cat Cat Village is the nearest village within walking distance (admission was VND5000). Like everywhere in this area, it is steep and very beautiful hike down. If you are too exhausted or unfit to hike back up, there are plenty of xe om (motorbike taxi) ready and willing to cart you back to your hotel. A good pair of hiking shoes.

  • Community-Based Treks to Ta Phin Village

    This is another popular hike and the admission was VND5000. Most people take a xe om (motorbike taxi) to the starting point about 8km from Sapa and then make a 14km loop walk of the area. Most hotel offer guided day and half-day treks, depending on the number of people and if any vehicles are needed. Expect to pay somewhere between USD4 to...

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  • Photography (Part 3)

    I took a lot of photos at Sapa and attached are some photos which I would like to share with all VT members besides those already in the various tips and travelogues. More photos are at part 1 and 2 of this tip for you to enjoy.

  • Photography (Part 2)

    I took a lot of photos at Sapa and attached are some photos which I would like to share with all VT members besides those already in the various tips and travelogues. More photos are at part 1 and 3 of this tip for you to enjoy.

  • Photography (Part 1)

    I took a lot of photos at Sapa and attached are some photos which I would like to share with all VT members besides those already in the various tips and travelogues. More photos are at part 2 and 3 of this tip for you to enjoy.


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