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Useful Handbook To Prepare A Trip To Sapa

By Expert Author: Liliana Kim

With many original cultural activities and beautiful natural scenery, Sapa (Lao Cai) is an attractive destination for your next holiday, it's a chance to relax and enjoy the cool climate and discover the beauty of hill tribe villages.

Preparations:
Sapa is pretty cold in the early morning you should bring along warm clothes, in addition, a soft based pair or walking shoe or boots for hiking is really helpful when it rains. Apart from cameras, mobile phones with camera it is recommended that you buy a map of Sapa to learn about itinerary, canculate your timing and avoid being lost.

You should prepare some snacks, bottled water to regain strength over long distances. Sometimes the candy packages you bring can become gifts for ethnic minority children, and it won't be a waste of time to check again the necessary papers you need to bring such as ID card, driving license...in case you need to rent a motorbike or hotel room.

Transports:
Sapa trains: Round trip tickets are on sale at Hanoi railway station, fared between 20 to 40 usd depending on type of seats, hard or soft beds, first or second class, 4 or 6 berth cabins...There are some deluxe carriage trains on the Hanoi - Sapa journey with soft sleepers, spacious and airconditioned with price ranging from 60 to 80 usd round trip.

Tourist trains usually depart in the evening at 19h40, 20h35, 21h10 và 21h50. It takes approximately 9 hours from Hanoi to Lao Cai train station, from here passengers can catch a bus to Sapa with price 2 usd/person (30km, 1 hour drive)

You can also bring along your own motorbike and send it on the train, just remember to have only a sufficient amount of petrol in the tank as it will be emptied before putting in putting on the carriage. Shipping fee is between 12-14 usd for one bike

By car:
From bus stations in Hanoi such as My Dinh, Gia Lam, Giap Bat, Luong Yen you can easily catch a sleeping bus to Lao Cai, it takes about 10 hours for the trip, all day and night, fares is about 10 to 12 usd one way.

If you don't want to go to Sapa by bus from Lao Cai you can just choose car companies such as Sao Viet, Hung Thanh, Hai Van...at the cost 16 usd/person. It is recommended to make a reservation

By motorbike:
You can choose one of these routes:
Itinerary 1: From Hanoi to Vinh Phuc - Viet Tri - Phong Chau - Doan Hung - Yen Bai - Lao Cai - Sapa, total distance 360km.
Itinerary 2: From Hanoi to Hoa Lac - Son Tay - Thanh Son - Highway 32 - Sapa, total distance 420 km.

compared to 2nd option, the first itinerary is closer and easier to travel, however if you go past Lai Chau you will conquer 2 out of 4 great passes in Vietnam which have become legendary in the northwest are Khau Pha and O Quy Ho passes.

Moving around in Sapa:
In addition to the tourist attractions in the town center within walking distances, you should rent motorbikes for your own tours in Sapa. Rents range from 5 to 10 usd/day, petrol excluded.

Accommodation:
There are many choices to stay the night in Sapa. The most common is 2-3 star hotels price range 10-20 usd/room on the Fansipan, Thac Bac, Cau May streets...You can also have a bit of luxury with 4 star Chau Long or Sunny Mountain hotels, rates from 50 usd. With homestay in the villages of Ta Van, Ban Ho, Ta Phin, Lao Chai...it cost only 5 usd/person. Anything you like you are recommended to make a booking in advance, especially on the occasion of Tet.

Weekend markets
There are several markets in Lao Cai province, most famous is Bac Ha market, opens every Sunday and Can Cau market on Saturday mornings, some other markets such as Muong Khuong market, Cao Son market, Lung Khau Nhin market, Coc Ly market and especially Muong Hum market, one of the few markets still preserve it's original features. International visitors find it very interesting with throngs of people and cattle busy on their way to market. Can Cau is the only buffalo market in north Vietnam, a lot of ethnic minority groups from Flower Hmong to Black Hmong, Tay, Zhao can be seen selling or buying family produce rice, corn, wine, fruit...Weekend market is a social activity for local people in the area and even across the border from China.

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