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Sapa in Late February

  • chopin

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2007
    Posts: 154
    Total reviews: 2

    Hi all, my wife and I plan to go to Sapa from Hanoi from 18 to 26 in February. Would like some advice for the following:

    1. Is it a good timing for travelling there?
    2. We checked that this is the cold season there. Is there a possibility of snwoing? Is it going to be windy? How many layers of clothing are needed?
    3. Would it be peak season? Hard to find hotels?
    4. Is it recommended if we rent a motobike and move about on our own there?
    5. We plan to travel from Hanoi by train. Is the scenery worth it to travel at day time?
    6. Recommendation of a mid-range hotel/guest house below USD 20, which is clean and comfortable (but no need to be luxurious).

    #1 Posted: 23/1/2012 - 21:24

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    arah

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    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Hi. Here are some answers, hope they help.

    1. Is it a good timing for travelling there? No reason why not! Apart from the weather being cold - see next question.
    2. We checked that this is the cold season there. Is there a possibility of snwoing? Is it going to be windy? How many layers of clothing are needed? It won't snow. I hear that sometimes there's a bit of snow on the top of Fansipan mountain but it won't reach you. It could be windy and it will certainly be cold, especially in the evenings. I can't say how many layers you'll need as the temperature is unpredictable and everyone has different tolerance of temperature (for example, we've lived in Hanoi through 3 winters and my boyfriend still hasn't bought a coat, whilst I'm snuggled up in a chunky jacket) but I'd suggest a jumper and a jacket would be necessary.
    3. Would it be peak season? Hard to find hotels? I don't know for sure but I would think you'll be OK. I'd suggest booking in advance though - trekking round looking for somewhere when you're just off the overnight train isn't much fun and you won't save much, if anything, but waiting until you get there.
    4. Is it recommended if we rent a motobike and move about on our own there? I can't recommend it (because it can be dangerous) but a motorbike does give you the freedom to head out of Hanoi and explore a bit and the scenery is fantastic. But it depends what you're after and how long you have - you get some great views and experiences from a trek too.
    5. We plan to travel from Hanoi by train. Is the scenery worth it to travel at day time? I don't know - I've only ever travelled at night! Seriously, the best trains (SP) are all overnight. I'd suggest getting the latest one out of Hanoi and then it's light for the last hour, giving you some time to watch the scenery pass by.
    6. Recommendation of a mid-range hotel/guest house below USD 20, which is clean and comfortable (but no need to be luxurious). Check out the recommendations on this site but my favourite low cost place is Cat Cat Hotel, 42 Fansipan.

    #2 Posted: 23/1/2012 - 22:40

  • chopin

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2007
    Posts: 154
    Total reviews: 2

    Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for your suggestions, they help a lot. About the bike, what I meant was whether it is feasible to rent one when we reach Sapa, for moving about the area, not for the trip from Hano to Sapa-it would be too tiring.

    Another question is regarding the train fare, I found the following lines:

    Fansipan Express Train
    Friendly Express Train
    Livitrans Express Train
    Pumpkin express train
    Orient Express Train
    Royal Express Train
    Tulico Express Train

    Almost all their soft sleepers cost around USD150 round trip. We found these prices not cheap, are they for foreigners only? Are there lower prices for soft sleepers that we don't know of?

    #3 Posted: 24/1/2012 - 03:41

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    arah

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    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Yes, it is possible to rent one in Sapa. There are quite a few places, mostly around the main two tourist streets.

    As far as I know, the trains you have listed are not trains, they are private carriages - they are attached to the main trains (the SP trains - I'm not sure which carriages are on which trains though) and operated by private companies. They are a bit more comfortable and clean than the standard carriages so are worth paying more for if you have the money and like your comfort, but the $150 you are being quoted sounds utterly ridiculous. So I've looked on the Livitrans website and they're quoting $78 return per person, that's if you share a cabin with 4 people (so you and your wife would book 2 beds) but of course if you want a cabin to yourselves, yes, it goes up to $155 or $170.

    If you buy from the train station, air conditioned soft sleepers (adequate enough for the journey) are $40 return per person. If you go through an agent you'll pay over $50. They're your choices I'm afraid.

    #4 Posted: 24/1/2012 - 05:04

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    arah

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    Or did you mean $150 for the both of you? In which case that's about right.

    #5 Posted: 24/1/2012 - 05:06

  • daawgon

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    Actually, Sapa is so neat that it don't really matter when you go, and when it's a little colder there the advantage is fewer tourists! Just bring a few layers - the worst you'll probably see is a little cold fog in the am. Have to disagree with Sara - my room at the Cat Cat had roaches! I like the Anh Dao Hotel down at the bottom of the main street - nice rooms and great restaurant. I would not rent a motorbike - really bad roads in that part of the Highlands (common to see blood on the road from accidents). Besides, the best thing about Sapa is the beautiful rice terraces and the colorful local people - enjoy both by trekking or just hanging out in Sapa town. You don't want the day train - nothing to see, and the night train is rather fun in my opinion. I usually use Livitrans booked through my friend the travel agent in Hanoi.

    Enjoy Sapa - one of the best (you'll love the local ladies).

    #6 Posted: 25/1/2012 - 13:07

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    arah

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    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Maybe I'm acclimatised to roaches! Never had any problems there but there's always the chance of them I guess.

    From a personal perspective I completely agree about it being too dangerous to rent a motorbike up there, but I appreciate that for some people it's very appealing and they're a bit more optimisitic and adventurous than me. I certainly wouldn't recommend it to a novice rider though - you need to be able to respond quickly and safely to bad road surfaces and traffic.

    #7 Posted: 25/1/2012 - 20:16

  • daawgon

    Joined Travelfish
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    Just to clarify about the hotel, Sarah - do you mean the Cat Cat View Hotel or the one across the street - the Cat Cat Hotel. I'm talking about the larger of the two - the one with the cafe at the stop of the elevator - the Cat Cat View.

    By the way, I think the new Hanoi Blog is really super!

    #8 Posted: 26/1/2012 - 19:47

  • chopin

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2007
    Posts: 154
    Total reviews: 2

    We are on a tight budget, so the $40 return tickects for the soft sleeper that Sarah mentioned are quite attractive to us. I read from http://www.seat61.com/Vietnam.htm that the price is 420,000 dong one-way.

    I'd like to know if this class safe for tourist? I don't really mind about the lack of the added comfort (if any) from the tourist cars, since I will always have problem sleeping in trains anyway, but the most important thing is safety, esp. since we've never been to veitnam before.

    And, if we choose to buy this ticket from the station in Hanoi by ourselves, will the tickets for the night train be availble if we buy it on the day of travel itself, since our plane will reach Hanoi in the early morning? Or can we buy the tickets from out of vietnam?

    As for the bike, maybe we'll give it a miss since the town is quite small, and we can hire moto taxis if needed.

    What's the prices for Anh Dao Hotel and Cat Cat Hotel? And, what's the difference between Cat Cat and Cat Cat View?

    Is it doable if we visit the tribal village on our own, or is it mandatory to hire guides? I read about the ripoff done by the tour operators to the tribal people, what can i do so that my expenses go directly to the villagers instead of through the agents?

    #9 Posted: 26/1/2012 - 20:04

  • chopin

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2007
    Posts: 154
    Total reviews: 2

    We are on a tight budget, so the $40 return tickects for the soft sleeper that Sarah mentioned are quite attractive to us. I read from http://www.seat61.com/Vietnam.htm that the price is 420,000 dong one-way.

    I'd like to know if this class safe for tourist? I don't really mind about the lack of the added comfort (if any) from the tourist cars, since I will always have problem sleeping in trains anyway, but the most important thing is safety, esp. since we've never been to veitnam before.

    And, if we choose to buy this ticket from the station in Hanoi by ourselves, will the tickets for the night train be availble if we buy it on the day of travel itself, since our plane will reach Hanoi in the early morning? Or can we buy the tickets from out of vietnam?

    As for the bike, maybe we'll give it a miss since the town is quite small, and we can hire moto taxis if needed.

    What's the prices for Anh Dao Hotel and Cat Cat Hotel? And, what's the difference between Cat Cat and Cat Cat View?

    Is it doable if we visit the tribal village on our own, or is it mandatory to hire guides? I read about the ripoff done by the tour operators to the tribal people, what can i do so that my expenses go directly to the villagers instead of through the agents?

    #10 Posted: 26/1/2012 - 20:22

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    arah

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    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Thanks daawgon!

    I mean the Cat Cat - the smaller one just along from Cat Cat View (there's also a Cat Cat something else over the road - not the most imaginative naming I've ever seen!). I've seen you've made some negative posts about Cat Cat View before - I had a look at the rooms there but haven't stayed there, it seemed overpriced.

    chopin - Cat Cat and Cat Cat View are on the same street, more or less next to each other. Cat Cat View is a large hotel over many levels and has amazing views from the upper levels in particular, whilst Cat Cat is much smaller, more like a family run place. They are both in the Sapa listings on this site - have a look. That will tell you rough prices as well.

    The standard sleeper trains are perfectly safe for tourists - I've used them many times - as long as you apply some basic precautions: keep any valuables on your body and if you can, chain up your cases or at least put them on the top shelf.

    I can't guarantee availability but to be honest I think it unlikely that you will be able to buy tickets for the night you arrive. I would suggest you pay the extra and book in advance via a travel agent in Hanoi. Try the one daawgon recommends above or try Lai on cozyhotel@gmail.com.

    On your final question, you can easily get to Cat Cat village on your own but that's not really what you'll be after. I guess you could do it on your own but you'd need to get hold of a decent map. Or go with one of the H'mong women and girls who will constantly accost you on the streets of Sapa!

    #11 Posted: 26/1/2012 - 21:54

  • trails

    Joined Travelfish
    11th February, 2012
    Posts: 5

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    i have been 3 times in sapa, it's excellent. you don't worry about the weather in February it will not snow but there maybe is foggy or very windy, sometime it still be very cold, so you should bring a coat.
    from Ha Noi to sapa by train you should go at night because daytime train goes very slow and dirty, there are only hard seats on this train.
    about the hotels under $ 20 you can check some hotel as: cat cat, Pinochio. cat cat twilight hotel, their sevices are good, friendly
    i did a very good trip with a local tour guide her name's MAY she is from black H'mong tribe i have enjoyed so much and I've got unforgettable experiences, i booked it through a local company" Vietnam nomad trails". they are very professional. i hope, this information is helpful.
    Enjoy your travel

    #12 Posted: 11/2/2012 - 08:51

  • messyfish

    Joined Travelfish
    26th January, 2012
    Posts: 2

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    If it's cold are there coats for sale in Sapa? What about warm children's clothes?

    #13 Posted: 12/2/2012 - 05:57

  • trails

    Joined Travelfish
    11th February, 2012
    Posts: 5

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    sapa many clothes shop, the brand "North Face", a children's clothing you can buy at the supermarket. it is not expensive as you buy at other places.

    #14 Posted: 13/2/2012 - 07:11

  • chopin

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2007
    Posts: 154
    Total reviews: 2

    Thanks guys for the great input!

    I will arrive Lao Cai by train on this Sunday morning (4:30 to 5:30 AM). Would it be good if I go to the Bac Ha market first, and then at noon only go to check in at our hotel in Sapa? Is it worth the effort?

    #15 Posted: 22/2/2012 - 17:58

  • trails

    Joined Travelfish
    11th February, 2012
    Posts: 5

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    bac ha market on Sundays. will have 2 options for you
    1, if you go as a group tour you must contact a travel agency first, group tour price will be cheaper than if you book private tour. group tour starting from sapa at 7.30 so about 8:30 to 9:00 AM you will depart from Lao Cai and arrive Bac Ha 10:30AM. back to Sapa 4:30PM
    2, If you set your own tour guide and driver will pick you up at Lao Cai station takes you into the restaurant for breakfast and then takes you to visit Bac Ha, Ban Pho village of flower Hmong, Phu la tribes and return to Sapa 3:00Pm (including breakfast , lunch, transports, entrance fee, guide)

    #16 Posted: 22/2/2012 - 22:08

  • chopin

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2007
    Posts: 154
    Total reviews: 2

    is it possible for us to take a local bus from Lao Cai to Bac Ha without joining a group? and do the same from Bac Ha back to Lao Cai or even Sapa?

    #17 Posted: 22/2/2012 - 23:29

  • trails

    Joined Travelfish
    11th February, 2012
    Posts: 5

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    You go from Lao Cai to bac Ha only local bus it's very old and uncomfortable and they will stop anywhere to pick up locals. journey back to Sapa 2 times you have to switch buses.
    1, Bac Ha - Lao Cai
    2, Lao Cai - Sa Pa
    I give you some information to help you with the best option.
    group tour cost about $ 15/ 1 person = 310,000 vnd (Lao Cai - Bac Ha - Sapa)
    if you go by local bus will be as follows:
    Lao Cai - Bac Ha (about $ 4 / person)
    Bac Ha - Lao Cai ($ 4 / person)
    Lao Cai - Sa Pa (2.5 $ / person)
    this is the price for locals. For foreigners who are not easy. you are not a Vietnam person if not careful you will have to pay very expensive.

    #18 Posted: 23/2/2012 - 06:56

  • travworld

    Joined Travelfish
    9th July, 2007
    Location United States
    Posts: 23
    Total reviews: 2

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    I read in the national English paper . If you book your tickets in advance the fare could be half price . However the tickets will then be non refundable .

    #19 Posted: 3/7/2014 - 18:27

  • larsay

    Joined Travelfish
    20th July, 2014
    Posts: 37

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Februray is definitely NOT a good month to go to Sapa ! Cold, fogy, etc. I have known 5° during the day and zero at nihght (in a not-heated homestay). I would not book a tour in advance and just check the weather once in Hanoi to make sure there is no fog, which can stay "stuck" in the valley for several days.

    Train definitely do not cost 175$ RT ! A normal train with soft mattresses cots 35$ one way, and the best train (SAPALY run by Best Western) 40$. Livitrans and Tulipo are good trains. Good trains or not, one does not sleep too well because of the poor state of the rails ; you arrive in Lao Cai at 5h30 and in Sapa around 8, not in a great shape to start a 15-km trekking ! I always recommend 3 days minimum in Sapa, with the first day relax (vist market, church, Belvedere, and you can walk down the valley in the afternoon to the village of Sin Chai - No guide necessary- and 2-day trekking after (to Ta Phin ; stay away from Ta Van, the group destination where I have even seen people waiting on line to have the planned lunch on a restaurant (with "group food") in the middle of the rice fields

    #20 Posted: 20/7/2014 - 02:49

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