A First-Timer’s Guide to Trekking in Sapa

Trekking is a must when you visit Sapa – here are some tips for first-timers so you know what to expect when trekking in Sapa, Vietnam!

When I first came to Northern Vietnam a few years ago, I rode my bicycle across the border from China (with my husband, Stephen). We had heard great things about trekking in Sapa, Vietnam, which was only a short way to the west, but it was a damp, cold February.

The air was filled with mist so thick that we may as well have been cycling through cold soup.

“Next time…” we said, not wanting to climb mountains in those conditions.

This year, I’m spending a couple of months housesitting in Hanoi while Stephen travels to teach yoga. “Next time” is officially here and I knew I couldn’t miss trekking in Sapa, Vietnam again.

Don’t miss our new guide to Travel to Vietnam.

The Rocky Past of Sapa, Vietnam

Sapa is home to Vietnam’s highest peak, Fan Si Pan, which tickles the clouds 3143m above sea level, keeping watch over the terraced rice paddies that line Sapa’s steep valley walls.

Sapa Vietnam Trekking
Gorgeous views while trekking in Sapa, Vietnam.

Home to several ethnic minorities, chiefly the H’Mong, the Dao, and the Dai, Sapa has been attracting trekkers since the early 1900s.

The French first developed Sapa town, the gateway to the region, as a hill station and cool summer escape from Hanoi’s oppressive heat.

Their dominance in the area didn’t last long, though. During the 1940s, Vietnamese independence fighters drove the colonists from the region, but not before the French bombed Sapa town, leaving nothing but ruins behind them.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that redevelopment began in earnest and tourists started to flock back to the region. Now, trekking in Sapa is one of the biggest tourist activities in Vietnam.

Is Getting To Sapa, Vietnam Half the Fun?

Hundreds of signs advertising Sapa trekking tours embellish every available space in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.

Though I usually travel independently, I soon found that organizing a trekking tour is the cheapest and most hassle-free option to go trekking to Sapa.

So with a little reticence about this whole “organized tour” thing, I started visiting travel agents to book a Sapa trekking tour.

Don’t miss our tips and advice for trekking in Sapa below!

A couple of days later and $100 lighter, I await my ride to the train station to begin my trekking tour of Sapa, Vietnam.

A man on a motorbike pulls up precisely at 8:30pm to whisk me to the Hanoi train station, where we are met by a woman who hands me my ticket and points me to the right carriage on the correct platform.

I can’t say I miss the fuss and hassle of haggling with taxi drivers and trying to negotiate the confusion of a strange train station on my own.

On the train, I am blessed with quiet cabin mates who flick off their reading lights and go to sleep just moments after the train creaks out of Hanoi.

Despite my excitement and the endless mini earthquakes from the uneven train tracks, I manage to squeak out a few hours of decent sleep before morning.

As the sun starts to rise, the train loudspeakers come on at full blast, playing ear-splitting Vietnamese pop to announce our imminent arrival in Lào Cai.

As much as I love to fully experience a culture when I travel, I’d be happy to never hear the shrill strains of Vietnamese pop again. Especially at 6 in the morning.

The train pulls into the station and a sea of tourists, both foreign and Vietnamese, pour out onto the platform. It’s totally chaotic and I am once again relieved to be on a Sapa trekking tour.

A driver with a sign bearing my name waits for me just outside the doors. I am so glad I don’t have to negotiate with a taxi driver while suffering from early morning brain haze.

Alternatively you can look at various online options at transport, such as Bookaway or doing a quick Google search.

READ MORE: Don’t miss our guide on the best things to do in Vietnam.

Into the Clouds

My driver dropped me off at the Sapa market, where a tiny H’Mong woman dressed in traditional clothing was waiting for me.

I soon learned she was our local tour guide and trekking guide, also named Jane (though presumably, that’s not what her parents call her).

In the market food court, I was given a bowl of tofu noodle soup for breakfast. It was possibly vegetarian, though the piles of mystery meat on every table in the market did make me wonder.

Sapa Vietnam Trekking

Nourishment being the priority, I slurped up the salty sour soup while my trekking tour companions arrived in small, yawning groups.

Don’t miss my complete guide to finding vegetarian food in Hanoi →

After breakfast, the gang of 15 who had gathered to go trekking in Sapa split into two groups and we set off up the backstreets and alleyways rising out of Sapa town.

After 5 minutes of hill climbing in the searing heat, we were all drenched in sweat and panting hard. After half an hour, I was questioning most of my life choices.

Why the hell did I decide to go trekking in Sapa? Will I make it over the mountain?

Is this what a heart attack feels like?

To give our guide her credit, she knew exactly when to stop to prevent fainting or major heart trauma.

As we reached the day’s first real rest break, exposing a dramatic view of Sapa town far below, the clouds rolled in and rain started to drip out of the sky.

Nobody minded. We were all hot and sticky and happy for the “free shower”, as Jane called it.

Sapa Vietnam Trekking
Hiking through the fields.

When the shower turned into a proper rainstorm, I was relieved to discover that the rain jacket I had quickly bought in the Sapa market that morning was actually waterproof as advertised.

Go With the Flow

Though we’d expected to trek all day with our group of seven, we kept crossing paths with the other trekkers we’d met at breakfast.

In contrast to the introspective vibe that had been developing in our group, the others were mostly laddish blokes on holiday from England, with posh voices and an Inbetweeners sense of humour (think sexual innuendo and fart jokes).

What had been a contemplative, cultural walk turned into a party.

Smiling Group
All smiles.

On a tour, you don’t get to choose your companions. On a tour, it’s best to leave your preconceptions behind and pack a “go with the flow” attitude instead.

More, More, More

“More rice? More rice? Have more rice? Have more rice!” It wasn’t a question so much as a command — a very forceful command from our homestay host, Mao.

She had been around the entire table of 15 trekkers twice already, wielding her plastic rice paddle like a sword.

After a meal that had consisted of great mountains of tofu, pumpkin, green beans, bean sprouts, mushroom stir fry and, for the carnivores in the group, fried pork, more rice was exactly what we didn’t want.

When it was my turn to get third helpings, I stretched my considerably long arms as far away from the tiny Mao and her plastic rice paddle as I could get.

“No,” I laughed. “No, I won’t eat it!!” A minute later, after I thought I’d escaped, Mao scooped up another half-cup of rice and plopped it into my bowl.

Once the rice was finally eaten, the rice wine came out, in a much-used plastic 1.5L water bottle. Once again, Mao could not be denied.

The 15 trekkers and our enthusiastic host downed shot after shot of the fiery clear liquid, each drink being preceded by a group chant of “Một hai ba, yo!!!” or “One, two, three, cheers”.

A messy, drunken evening ensued. But the thing about messy drunken evenings at the end of a full day of trekking is that they invariably end early.

Most of us were snugly encamped under our mosquito nets by 8:30pm. Before 11pm, even the most foolhardy drinkers among us had turned out the lights and snored themselves to sleep.

Meet Cute

Not so early the next morning, we gather for a breakfast of thin pancakes with fresh local honey, bananas, and fried eggs. I eat as much as my stomach can hold, knowing we have another day of heavy exertion ahead.

The large group sets off together, winding our way down through the village and out along a narrow muddy track onto the sparsely forested slopes of the mountain.

We pass rice terraces and tiny wooden houses where piglets, baby chicks, and puppies play in the dirt. There are plenty of village children to meet, too.

Some kids are shy or indifferent to our passing. Others shout “Hello!” or come running out for a high five.

Slightly ahead of the group, I spot an adorable girl. “Xin chao!” I shout with a grin. She returns my smile and my greeting.

With her mother and brother watching over her, I bend down to say hello again and ask to take her picture. She strikes a perfect pose.

Young Girl Peace Sign
So adorable!

Life On The Road

Just before lunch, we part ways with the one-day trekkers. Suddenly, I feel less like a tacky tourist and more like the responsible traveller I aim to be.

Our streamlined group of five long-term travellers falls into an easy rhythm as the rice fields and endless purple mountains spread out before us.

Mountain Views Trekking Sapa
Those mountain views.

Today’s trek is much less hilly and far more satisfying than yesterday’s. For a start, the clouds have rolled away and we can enjoy spectacular views of the rice terraces and orchards along the mountainside.

We are also further from Sapa town, meaning that we meet more locals and fewer tourists. Finally, without the boisterousness of the lads, we manage to have a real conversation.

Between the quiet minutes of meditative walking, we share our most remarkable travel experiences, our embarrassing moments, our favourite music and our best travel photography tips.

We chat about the various study- and volunteer-abroad experiences each of us have had, how we handle pressures from family and friends back home, and our plans (or lack thereof) for the future.

Though I enjoy the occasional party, this is what I was looking for on a group tour: meeting like-minded people with interesting observations about the world and our unceasing desire to explore it.

Back to Tourist Town

The final day’s trek is all about making fast tracks back to Sapa town. We follow a steep road that winds up out of the valley floor, taking us back the way we came.

Being on the road in a small group means we make quick time, though we still take plenty of breaks to high five the local kids, check out the views of the rice terraces. and have at least one close encounter with a buffalo.

Water Buffalos
Water buffalos will be everywhere on your trek.

Once again, we are under the blistering sun for our climb and a sticky layer of sunscreen, sweat, and rich red dirt envelops us all. I create a makeshift hat from my t-shirt to keep the sun at bay.

Trekking In Sapa Vietnam
Still smiling.

Clouds eventually roll in, threatening more rain, but doing little to cool us off.

We stop in a village cafe near our first night’s homestay for our final lunch of the trip. It’s a hub for people coming and going from Sapa, so we are once again part of a noisy gang of tourists.

Mao shows up to herd the entire cafe full of trekkers to our various destinations — some of us are getting the 4pm bus to Hanoi, others are taking the sleeper bus or the train, still others are hopping on a bus to Lao, while some are staying another night at the homestay.

The efficiency and humour Mao displays while arranging this frenzy of activity is a minor miracle.

Our shuttle bus into Sapa town gives us our first glimpse of the city itself. It is the very definition of “tacky tourist town”, with hotels, happy hour signs and souvenir shops obliterating anything real.

I’m relieved that I’ll only have to spend a few minutes here.

Still, it’s bittersweet to get on the bus back to the big city. I’m looking forward to 6 hours of napping and watching the world go by, but part of me would like to wake up every morning to the quiet beauty of Sapa.

Plus, I know that nobody will ply me with free-flowing rice wine tonight.

Tips and Advice for Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam

Trekking is one of the most popular things to do when you visit Sapa, Vietnam. Here are some helpful tips.

How Much Does Trekking in Sapa Cost?

The tour. For three days of trekking and two nights in a homestay, the lowest price I was quoted without bargaining was $65 US including sleeper bus to and from Sapa, Vietnam. The highest price for Sapa trekking tours was $117 US, including sleeper train both ways.

Break Time
Taking a break in Sapa, Vietnam.

Food and drinks. Three breakfasts, three lunches, and two dinners are also included, as is all the rice wine you can drink. Water, coffee, beer, and soft drinks are extra. Coffee and soft drinks are universally 20,000 VND each when visiting Sapa. Beer is approximately 30,000 VND for a bottle. Water is 20,000 VND for a 1.5L bottle. Altogether, I spent around 250,000 VND / $10 USD on drinks.

Tipping. Though I had read that tips are sometimes demanded on other tours, our guides never gave the slightest indication they expected a tip and to my knowledge, no one tipped them. That said, if you want to tip, I’m sure it would be welcome.

Local goods. At each meal, local women will come around to sell you their handmade bags, scarves, and jewelry. Even, if you aren’t interested, it doesn’t hurt to be friendly, make eye contact, and smile. They will persist in showing you each item they have in their bags, whether you are friendly or not — so you might as well make it a pleasant experience for everyone involved.

Trekking In Sapa Vietnam
Don’t forget to take lots of photos of the mountains and rice terraces.

Which Travel Agency is Best for a Sapa Trekking Tour?

After searching for recommendations online, I found that only one travel agency stood out: Lily’s Travel Agency at 16 Ngo Huyen, just west of Hoan Kiem Lake.

I visited Lily’s and two other agencies in town. Lily’s gave me far more information than the other agencies and they also quoted me the lowest prices.

Also, Lily’s was the only one to offer me an alternative trekking route that they say avoids the most touristy stops.

Your hostel or hotel will also happily arrange a tour for you but be aware that they get a commission and you will likely eat the extra cost.

If you would rather book your Sapa trekking adventure before you arrive in Hanoi or Sapa Vietnam, then check out these excellent tours with GetYourGuide.

Homestay or Sapa Hotel Stay with Day Treks?

Sapa town is a crazy tourist trap with hundreds of guest houses offering happy hour cocktails and $5 beds.

I would highly recommend trekking to a homestay unless drinking cheap cocktails with hordes of other tourists is your idea of a good time. A homestay is an awesome way to learn about the local culture while trekking in Sapa, Vietnam.

Trekking In Sapa Vietnam
A well-earned break.

At a homestay, everything is taken care of for you. This can be good or bad. You don’t get a choice of food or drink, and you don’t decide who your roommates are, so a go-with-the-flow attitude is a must.

Tell your Sapa trekking tour operator ahead of time if you want a private or quiet stay — they should be able to arrange that for you.

If you do want to stay in a hostel or guesthouse while trekking in Sapa, Vietnam, then check out the options on Hostelworld.

How Many Nights Should You Stay in Sapa, Vietnam?

The most common tours for Sapa trekking allow you to spend one or two nights in a homestay. You can request more, but the tour leaders may not know what to do with you on the third night.

On my Sapa trekking tour, the second day was better than the first: the views were more dramatic, the routes were not as touristy, and the homestay hosted only five of us (as opposed to 15 on the first night).

By the end of the third day’s trek, I was ready to get on a bus back to civilisation.

Train or Bus to Sapa?

You can choose the overnight train or a sleeper bus from Sapa to Hanoi. I took the overnight train to Sapa and took the evening bus coming back to Hanoi (which arrives in Hanoi at 10pm).

Overnight Train

  • Significantly more expensive than the bus.
  • Clean and quiet compared to other sleeper trains I’ve taken.
  • More comfortable than the bus, making it easier to sleep.
  • The rattle and bounce along the tracks will shake you awake at night.
  • Takes 9 hours.
  • Requires an hour-long mini-bus ride from Lào Cai train station to Sapa town.
  • Train station is farther from Hanoi’s Old Quarter, so when you return, you’ll need to find a motorbike or taxi back into town.

Sleeper Bus

  • Much cheaper than the train.
  • More efficient. It only takes 6 hours and goes all the way to Sapa.
  • The reclining seats are “not designed for tall people”, according to a 6’2″ Slovenian I met.
  • You can’t lie completely flat, so it’s harder to sleep on the bus.
  • There’s no toilet, so the bus makes toilet stops, which means major disruption in the middle of the night.
  • My Sapa trekking companions who took the train slept better than those who took the bus.
Trekking In Sapa Vietnam
Rice terraces, a common sight on Sapa trekking tours.

What Should You Pack for Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam?

Here are some helpful items that you can bring for your trekking in Sapa Vietnam adventure.

  • Bring one day pack plus a small bag. Some homestays will transport your gear while you trek, so you’ll need a bag to carry with you during the day and another for the items you don’t need until the evening.
  • Leave any big luggage in Hanoi at your guesthouse or at the tour office.
  • Lightweight rain jacket. You can buy a half-decent North Face knock-off in the Sapa market for 100,000-300,000 VND, depending on which one you choose and your bargaining skills.
  • Winter jacket. If you’re in Sapa during the winter, it can get cold and might even snow. The Sapa market sells warm North Face knock-offs, as well as scarves, gloves and other winter gear.
  • Earplugs. You don’t get to choose your housemates for the night and the rice wine flows freely, so earplugs are vital unless you’re a champion sleeper.
  • Extra shorts and t-shirts. It gets hot and sweaty in while trekking Sapa, Vietnam (except in winter, when you’ll need warm layers), so it’s nice to have some clean clothes on hand.
  • Sunscreen. Because of the high altitude, the UV index in the mountains can be especially high, so wear sunscreen for your trek in Sapa, even if it is cloudy.
  • Bug spray. Depending on the time of year, you’ll need protection from mosquitos and other flying insects during your Sapa trekking.
  • Bandaids. There’s a lot of uphill and downhill work to be done in Sa Pa, so be prepared for blisters.
  • Good hiking shoes. Many of my fellow trekkers in Sa Pa wore trainers which led to lots of slipping and sliding on the muddy paths. I was happy to have my waterproof hiking shoes for better grip on the trails and an easier time crossing streams while Sapa trekking.

Thanks for reading our first-timers guide to trekking in Sapa, Vietnam! If you have any other tips or experiences from Sapa trekking, let us know in the comments!

Sapa Is Home To Vietnam’s Highest Peak, Fan Si Pan, Which Tickles The Clouds 3143M Above Sea Level, Keeping Watch Over The Terraced Rice Paddies That Line Sapa’s Steep Valley Walls. Here's Your Complete Guide To Trekking In Sapa, Vietnam.
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Jane And Stephen

Hey, we're Jane & Stephen of My Five Acres. We're passionate about living an adventurous life – 'cause, why live a boring one? We've lived in six countries and have camped, biked, trekked, kayaked, and explored in more than 50. Stop by, say hi, and grab our free ebook 101 Travel Tips for Mindful Adventurers.

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52 thoughts on “A First-Timer’s Guide to Trekking in Sapa”

  1. Sapa is amazing. We were there a year ago. The prices mentioned in your article are very accurate. Good job! We also stayed with a Hmong guide called Mao in Hau Thao Village, just above Ta Van. Could it be the same person?
    rik aka tapir tales

    • Thank you so much. Jane just went here recently. She wrote a great guide or us. Maybe it might be the same person, but we are not too sure. 🙂

  2. Very complete guide for your travels to Sapa! Just one small remark about bus travel. Be aware that the night buses only arrive in the middle of the night. This means you sitll need to book an accommodation for the night you arrive. If you choose the travel by night it’s therefore cheaper at the end to book a night train.

    • Thank you for your tip Maarten. Happy travels

  3. I’m glad you guys had such a great experience trekking in Sapa. My wife and I also have such an amazing time. Northern Vietnam is absolutely beautiful. I would also encourage anyone going north to visit Bac Ha, Vietnam which has one of the most interesting markets I’ve ever been to (and we’ve been to more than 70 countries).

    • Hi Scott, 100% Northern Vietnam is so beautiful. We motorbiked that area for about 3 weeks. That’s great you got there for the markets. Happy travels

  4. Hello we are planning on a trip to Sapa this September and doing a 14 Km trek to a home stay – could you give me some idea of the altitude impact when hiking – I know Sapa is at 15 00 m which is the start of intermediate altitude – we have a 13 year old with us thank you

    • Hi Ruth, With the altitude everyone is effected differently. Sapa is at 1500m, so maybe getting there a couple days early to adapt (if you live a very low altitude) would be a great idea. Have a great trip.

  5. What time of year did Jane do her trek? Was it in january when this was posted or did it take place months previously? Just curious because we’renplanning A trip for December 2019. Thanks so much in advance.

    • Hi Jaecy, We are not too sure what time of year Jane went on her trip. December in Sapa will be cold so bring layers. Do not forget the rain jacket either. Sometimes it can be really foggy but this will be great for photos. Have a great time and definitely make sure your hotel has heating. Happy travels

  6. Such a nice blog with video guide of Sapa, Vietnam. where people understand all things very clear with the picture…

    • Thank you so much for reading. Glad you enjoyed it.

  7. Great and informative post!! I found this when looking for info on what to do with my not needed items while on a two day trek in Sa Pa. You mentioned leaving excess luggage with travel agency. What about electronics? iPad, camera accessories and so on? Just trying to plan ahead.

    • Hi Lori, our other recommendation is to bring a lock and lock your items in your bag, We do this a lot when we go trekking or on a multiple day tour. The bag is then in the travel agent locked up at night. If you are worried about the valuable items definitely take them with you. All the best

  8. Hi Jane,
    It’s a good read. When was your trip exactly? I plan to trek in Sa Pa sometime between Nov 18 to Nov 24.

    • Glad you enjoyed the article. Not too sure when Jane was trekking in Sapa. Have a great time in November. You will love the area.

  9. I am Vietnamese. And I am very thankful to Jane and Stephen for sharing one of Vietnam’s locations to everyone. And hope you have a great experience when it comes to sapa

    • Thank you for reading and we are glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  10. Hi, Thanks for sharing your experience, Sapa really seems to be worth a visit. In fact we will spend three days there next week and I am quite excited 🙂 However after having done some research I have some doubts: Did you take any malaria Prophylaxe and a vaccination for the Japanese encephalitits disease? For us it is too late to get a vaccination as we fly tomorrow and now I am note quite sure if its safe to trip since we also have rain season. Did you take any precaution besides long clothes and repellent? Would you still recommend us to go?
    Thanks for your support 🙂

    • Thank you for reading Niklas. You are so right, Sapa is definitely worth a visit. We were not taking maleria tablets at all in Vietnam. And we did not have a vaccination against Japanese encephalitits as we felt it was not needed. We spent 7 months travelling all over Vietnam and personally didn’t feel these were needed. Do what you think as we are not doctors. Definitely do take insect repellent as you will need that. Have a great time Nik

  11. Hello! Your experiences are very helpful and informative; thank you! I tried the link to get your guide and it says an error occurred and will not go any further. Any suggestions on how to arrange a trek and transportation ahead of time? We will only be in Sapa for 2 days and 1 night, arriving early in the morning and back to Hanoi late at night, so do not want to waste time looking at the last minute.

  12. That was an awesome and detail guide of yours. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Sapa is indeed beautiful and one of the best sites for solo travelers. Did you come back the second time?

    • Thank you so much. Jane wrote a great article for us. We loved visiting Sapa. We will definitely return one day.

  13. Hi Jane And Stephen. That’s a great trekking trip. I haven’t been to Vietnam, I think it would be my next visit. Thank you for sharing What Should You Pack for Trekking in Sapa? so I can prepare in advance. I agree that Good hiking shoes is very important, I am a sneaker lover. Thank you for your suggestions.

    • Thank you for your comment Issie. Jane wrote a great article. Glad it was helpful.

  14. Hi guys – i loved your article and have noted a few things down for our trip to sapa! We are travelling with 2 children, ages 10 and 12 who are good walkers and love a bit of adventure. Did you see any other children (aside from locals) on your trek and would you recommend that they will be able to do the trek in the terrain of Sapa and surrounds? We have done a homestay on the mekong before and they enjoyed it so i think they will like a homestay in Sapa. We plan to visit in April 2019- Thanks again, Gen

    • Thanks so much. Have your kids hiked before? When you get there talk to the company and guide and see what they think. Maybe they can customise a trek for you all when the distances are not too far everyday. Have a great time.

  15. Fantastic review. We are in the process of booking a 3 day/2 night trek. We are quoted about $150 each person ( 2 people ) . I am still in my home country, do you advise me to wait till Hanoi to check out the options? Like wise with buses, book once in Hanoi?

    • Hi Garry, it all depends on your schedule. You can definitely book it all when you get to Hanoi and Sapa. You can shop around when you get to Sapa for a trek and your accommodation in Hanoi can help you with the bus or train to Sapa.

      If you are tight on time we recommend booking it so you are not delayed or miss out on a tour you would like. Check out these treks and transport to Sapa.

      (NOTE: This is an affiliate link but you pay no more. We get a tiny commission from the company).

      If you have anymore question Garry. Let us know. Have a great trip.

  16. Hello!

    Thank you for the great content!

    Would you recommend booking a tour online, in Hanoi, or upon arrival in Sa Pa?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Pat, how exciting. Bet you are excited about your up coming trip. It is totally up to you when it comes to booking, If you have some time, shop around and get a feel and book in Sapa or if you are short on time you can book online. We hope you have a great time. 🙂

  17. Thanks for sharing. Im going to Vietnam in early April and I definetly would like to do the 3 day treeking to Sapa. What month did you so your trip to Sapa? I’ve read mixed reviews about when is the best time to go. I was going to ask about Lily’s agency but I’ve read your advice to shop around when i get there.

    • Glad Jane’s article could help. Sorry about the late reply. As you already know April would be a great time to go. We hope you had a great trip and loved the area as much as we did. The best time to visit Sapa is from March to May and from September to November. During this time the weather is stable with beautiful sunny days and cooler nights. Happy travels

  18. Hi

    I will be traveling to Vietnam on Feb 28th, cant wait.
    Sapa is on top of my list along with halong and ninh binh

    1) Do u really think that its safe to motorbike around villages in sapa without a guide tour? not sure if the path will be all muddly and narrow to do it by motoribike?

    2) U said that the train station in hanoi is far away from old quarter area? i was told that its just 15 min walk from old quarter area, I asked because I booked the train ticket from hanoi to lao cai since I want to visit Bac Ha first before going to sapa.

    Any feedback would be more than appreciated and thanks again


    • Hi Sebastian,

      Thank you for your message.

      1. It is definitely safe riding around. Do take precaution and ride with a helmet, slow and eyes in the back of your head. We rode motorbikes around Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam for 7 months and loved it. Hire your bike at a respectable rental company. Some of the rental companies will give you a little lesson if you ask. If you are still not confident, don’t do it. You can rent a driver for the day and feel safe on the back of the bike. If you do rent a scooter, never leave your passport with them. Leave a photocopy. Here is our motorbike article in Northern Vietnam where we travel through Sapa.

      Here are some tips for renting too

      2. It depends where you stay in the old quarters. It can be a 15 minute walk or a 15 minute drive. A taxi is pretty cheap or your accommodation might offer you a lift.

      Have a great trip and definitely do some hiking in the area of Sapa. Happy travels.

  19. Sapa is one of the best places to trekking in Vietnam. Great post! I really love North Vietnam, beside Sapa, we can travel to Ha Giang, Mai Chau, Moc Chau… Thank you for sharing

    • Thank you so much for your comment. We loved travelling northern Vietnam . We loved exploring it with a motorbike and visited Ha Giang, Mai Chau and more. Definitely don’t miss these places in Vietnam.

  20. Hi, will you recommend trekking SAPA free&easy? Also is it ok to bike to SAPA?

    • Hi Bennett, Jane wrote this article for us and she said she had a great time. Our recommendations is to shop around when you get there and see which agent you feel more comfortable with. Biking to Sapa will be hilly but the roads are paved. Do take care. All the best

  21. Hi;

    I’m heading to Sapa in September – would you recommend Lilys agency/ treks?

    I’m going from Cat Ba so would have to book online. Does Lily’s have a website do you know please?


    • Jane and Stephen looked like they had a great time. Sorry we are not too sure on the website. Our recommendation is to shop around and see which agent you get the best feel from. You can usually book the day before. All the best and have a great time.

  22. Hi, Thank you very for the post. We will take your tips counted for our trip next week. I wonder if there is direct to Ha Giang from Sapa without going back to Hanoi as usual. I would be more appreciated your advice!

    • Hi Rosie, Sorry about the late reply. We hope you had a great trip. How did you go with the transfer? Hope you got to Ha Giang and had a great time. Happy travels

      (for other travellers wondering) We did it on motorbike ourselves but I am sure you can ask around at travel agents when you get there.

  23. Am about to head up to Sa Pa and this has been the best guide I’ve read for people looking to escape the cookie cutter pseudo ‘hike’ some travel agencies try and sell. Will head to Lily’s immediately!

    • Thank you so much Fiona. So happy we could help. Jane wrote a great article for us. We also loved that area too. Have a great time. 🙂

  24. Thanks for the guidance…

    • Glad we could help 🙂

  25. Hello,

    Thank you for that very helpful article!
    I was wandering when you went the second time? Was it in summer?
    Thanks 🙂

    • Thank you so much for reading Dominique. Jane wrote a great article for us. In the winter it gets really cold, rainy and foggy up there so not the best time for trekking. We’d recommend going between March to May or between September to November. All the best

  26. Sapa is really nice. I went to there in last year. The atmosphere at here is great. Today, glad to hear your sharing! I like….

    • It really is, isn’t it Vicky. We loved it there. Jane wrote a great article for us. Makes us want to go back and do some more trekking. Thank you 🙂

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