Below is the list of FAQs for Sapa, check it before you go to have an enjoyable trip

What should I bring as a gift to the homestay family?

We appreciate your kindness and generosity. Gift giving is appropriate all over Vietnam. Good small gifts that are appropriate include: something special from your country (for example: a pin, calendar, small trinket, small t-shirts, a baseball cap, or a picture book); school supplies (for example: notebooks, pens, calculator); something fun for the kids (for example: a kite, board game, or a soccer ball); or something for the adults (for example: a tea set, tools, picture frame, or a bottle of special wine).

Feel free to ask your travel consultant any questions regarding what to give, tips, etc. so you can best prepare for your Vietnam tour with us.

Will it be cold in Sapa?

The average temperature in Sapa during the winter months (November to March) is about 10 degrees celsius. During this time it would be wise to bring a good jacket and be well-layered. It is highly recommended to not bring cotton clothes in the winter months if possible.

We have experienced Sapa even with snow during the winter time. This is quite rare, however global climate change is making it harder for us to predict the weather. In recent years, the coldest temperature we have experienced has been 3 degrees celsius. These cold days never last long. Usually in about 2 – 3 days the sun comes out and the temperature begins to rise.

If you are trekking to the remote villages, please note that the temperature in the village is always warmer than in Sapa, about 3 – 7 degrees different.

How does sleeping work in the homestays?

Most of the family goes to bed early although one will stay up until everyone goes to bed. Having your flashlight close to your bed is a good a idea as the light switches are sometimes in odd place. Expect roosters to begin the day at about five o’clcok in the morning. By 5:30 a fire has already been lit to boil water.

How do I prepare before going to the homestay?

First off, you should go for a few walks before going trekking as it will help you get your legs back.

For the homestay, there is not much preparation. Making sure that you have packed everything you need to make your stay more confortamble is most important. Bring a small bag with the clothes change of clothes. You should bring something warm, as the nights will cool off, sometimes dropping as mush as ten degrees. Other things you might want to bring with you are a mirror, toilet paper, your favorite tea or snack, flashlight, and a book.

Further preparations to make your stay even more special would include learning a short song to sing after dinner. It is a cultural tradition to sing after dinner, and if you start off by saying you would like to sing a song, then all the better. You can bring gifts for the homestay owner, things like pens, pencils, and books. Other great things to bring with you to the homestay, and all over asia, are pictures of your home, you and your family. The pictures always become a great conversation piece.

What kind of food will we eat at the homestay?

There will be a range of food at the homestay. For dinner there will be a mix of traditional Dao and Vietnamese. We bring a lot of food in from Sapa to share with the family and everyone gets a chance to share in the cooking. For breakfast, pancakes and bananas have become very poplular among the trekkers and homestays, although if you wish to have a traditional Dao breakfast that can be arranged. It is usually rice, and an egg and some vegetables.

When is the best time to visit Sapa?

The best time to visit Sapa is from April to September. Although, each season has its own special qualities and surprises.

During this period the temperature ranges from 15 – 25 degree Celsius. It is not rainy season in Sapa so the trekking routes are dry and bear which means added opportunity to do longer treks, and possibly conquer Mount Fansipan. During the winter months, the temperature is much cooler and it is advised to bring a some warmer clothing (good waterproof jacket, sweater, wool socks). Also, during the winter months there are periods of light rain and heavy fog. This puts Sapa in the clouds and allows for some fantastic photo opportunities.

Tip: If you can’t visit Sapa during the optimum months, we have some alternatives near Hanoi, such as our trekking and homestay tours in Mai Chau, offering the same excellent value.

What types of activities should we expect to be participating in at the homestay?

There is a wide range of activities that we have participated in. Some of our guests have gone out in the fields and actually got into the mud and planted rice. Others, have befriended one of the young women and was taken to her house to have tea. Sometimes the guest are up for some more trekking and we go for a short walk in the mountains.

And, others prefer to just sit and relax. Helping out with the cooking and some of the chores is encouraged so that you can get a better understanding of local life.

The people at the homestay are quite shy. Especially with their English. They can speak a little English and actually it is enough to have a conversation. Although, they do need some encouragement. We ask you to be active in communicating with the family, asking them questions about their lives. They are always happy to answer, often showing you and getting you involved in order for you to better understand.

Are we sleeping with the family at the village in the same house? Do we eat with the locals at the homestay?

Yes we will stay with the family in the same house providing we are a group of less less than 4. If we are more than four we will divide into smaller groups and stay with multiple neighboring families with homestays.

We will normally enjoy dinner and sleep with one family, but sometimes, the neighbors want to share the tourism benefits equally, then cooking and eating is at one house but sleeping is at another.

What kind of shoes should we use for trekking in Sapa?

There are different types of trekking in Sapa and its surrounding mountains, so when booking Sapa tours or Vietnam tours including Sapa, you will need to check with our travel consultants to see which kind of shoes will work best.

For the light or easy trek, we recommend using good sandals or walking shoes, but for intermediate and hard trekking trips, we have to use really good shoes or sport shoes which must have really strong grips for hiking up and down. Many of our past clients use their expert hiking boots which often become very muddy in rainy weather. The best footwear during periods of rain are definitely the local rubber boots bought at the local market for about 60 000 VND or $4 USD. They grip in mud and do not cause blisters. Although, these boots do not breath at all.

How do you define: easy trek, medium & hard trek?

Trekking: Is a category of adventure travel, typically involving visits to remote areas, with overnight lodging in tents or other minimal accommodation. It is less strenuous than hiking but more strenuous then walking.

In comparison to trekking in Nepal or India, the trekking in Sapa is easy. But, because of the rapid weather changes, and the severe ups and downs on some of the trails; we have to classify the trekking as moderate. Please be aware of the time it takes to reach each destination so that you can confirm that it will suit your abilities.

Easy trekking: Harder than walking, trekking trail is not steep, has some ups and downs, often in a short time.

Medium trekking: Trekking trail has ups and downs, but not so steep. Trail will become more difficult in poor weather.

Intermediate to Hard trekking: Trekking route has a steep incline and often is off road in remote areas, very difficult during periods of rain.

Every situation depends on weather, especially in Sapa.

Tip: We can always tailor the trek to adapt to the weather changes, sometimes you would like to hire the support jeep / vehicle to bring you from point to point, and this is possible with our service at a reasonable extra.

Is there anywhere in Sapa or Lao Cai, that we can get changed, have a shower, and leave our luggage before our trek?

Yes, for your comfort, we have arranged a clean place at a Sapa hotel for you to shower and take a short rest. Breakfast is at the restaurant in the same place. For your convenience you may also store your bags at the hotel. We will check out of the room you use to shower the same day – unless otherwise planned in your itinerary.

There is also a good place in Lao Cai for a shower and breakfast in case you have decided to not travel to Sapa that day (e.g. travel to Bac Ha Sunday market).

Tip: The place for shower and changing is not for sleeping the whole day, it’s just available for a short rest and shower before you start your trek.

Will your local guide be waiting for us at the train station of Lao Cai?

Yes, your guide will be waiting outside the train station with a sign with your name on it. Together with your driver they will take you safely to Sapa. The guide that we use is a local guide from the Sapa area.

We provide telephone numbers of our local guides and tour operators in advance, just in case.

How far is it from Lao Cai to Sapa and by what means of transport?

It is 38 km from Lao Cai to Sapa. The road constantly zigzgs its way uphill as soon as you leave Lao Cai. We gain about 1000 m in elevation and reach Sapa town at 1600 m. On route the views are spectacular.

The entire journey is comfortable by AC van or car. Our driver will have you in Sapa in about one hour.

Any other means of travel to Sapa except train?

The best mean of transport to Lao Cai and Sapa is still the train, however, a car or van is also good option to reach this beautiful mountain town.

It will take about 10 hours (not including possible traffic jams) covering a distance of 400 km from Hanoi. Unfortunately, there is not much in the way of sightseeing we can make en route.

We strongly recommend to travel by train, but for some reasons, if you wish to travel to Sapa by car, please check with one of our travel consultants to see the road conditions since it sometimes is under construction making your journey to Sapa longer than 10 hours. Also, road travel should be at day time.

Tip: We hardly see people traveling by road to Sapa, night train simply is the best option.

Is there a day train to Lao Cai (Sapa)?

There is one train that journeys from Hanoi to Lao Cai and vise-versa in the day, but there is no sleeper train during the day. It only has seats and no air-conditioning. We recommend to not take this train.

Tip: We highly recommend taking the night train as it will save you time better spent visiting more places in Sapa.

Is there a sleeper train to Sapa? What is it like?

Yes, there is a night train to Sapa. The train offers a range of seating types but we at Sapa Trekking Homestay only use the air-conditioned soft sleepers for our guests. There are four berths in each cabin, two lower and two upper. The beds are soft, clean and come with a blanket and pillow. The beds are sometimes a bit small for some Westerners, but all of our guests have managed fine.

Each cabin locks on the inside for security and has a fair amount of room for luggage storage under the beds and above the door.

This cabin is standard level and used for 4 people sharing. If you would like to splurge and go first class or VIP cabin for 2 people, please ask your travel consultant for more details.

The train itself does not go fast and takes about 9 hours from Hanoi to Lao Cai (about 330 km). In comparison to other trains it is not too noisy, although some people bring earplugs, especially if they are in the hard-sleeper class. Toilets are available on each coach. It is advised to bring your own toilet paper.

About half the time there is a dining car on the train. Just recently we have noticed that they have replaced the dining car with another passenger coach. Thus, it is advised to bring water, snacks, or anything else you may want to eat for the journey.

Note: Please be aware that Vietnamese train is just standard level; it can never be compared with Western trains.

Before our night train to Sapa, do you have a place where we can leave luggage?

Most hotels will offer a place for you to keep you luggage. It is recommended that you also extend you stay at your hotel for the day that you leave to Sapa. It is great to have a little rest and a shower before getting on the night train!

Tip: If you are heading to Sapa for trekking, we suggest that you travel light for an enjoyable time.