Photo: Canals of Ca Mau, Mekong Delta.

Vietnam forum


Posted by vuh on 21/8/2007 at 20:10

Posted from within Vietnam.

From Sapa, there are a lot of trekking possibilities and we decided to go directly to tribes to stay overnight without going through travel agencies.

Most of travel agencies in Sapa offer trekking tours to several villages with overnights at tribes villages and the cheapest price is 18 USD per day per person.
Unfortunately, most of these travel agencies under pay the inhabitants of these villages. It can even be considered as “ Ripping off tribal people”.
For exemple, instead of paying 30’000 VND per person per night, they pay 20’000 or 25’000 and sometimes, if it is a big group, they even pay less.
Travel agencies send food for their group directly to the family who will cook for the trekkers. But they do not give money to the family for this service (cooking & doing the washing up) even if usually, people give them at least 20’000 VND.
Of course, the family cannot complain because they are afraid that the travel agencies will select an another family and not come to their house any more.

So, I truly think that the travel agencies are abusing of their position and you should not take a tour with them. There is a way to do it.

You will need a permit to stay overnight at the village and to obtain it, go to the Sapa tourism information center (located at the beginning of the main street, Cau May) and they will give it for free. It is important to obtain it because if there is a police control, you can be fined (1 million of VND for foreigners and 500’000 VND for Vietnamese ).
At your arrival in the family at the village, give this permission to the family who will announce your presence to the police of the village.

It is usual to give to the family 30’000 VND for the night per person and you have to bring your food and they will cook for you. There is no obligation to give them money for that but it is quite common to give 20’000 VND considering the fact that they cook and do the washing up, it is very fair.

Please, if you really want to help these villagers, go by yourself to their house without booking through travel agencies.

#1 vuh has been a member since 1/5/2007. Posts: 24

Posted by CatBa on 22/8/2007 at 00:29

Posted from within Vietnam.

I am happy that someone else has decided to speak out about the cowboys of the travel industry in Ha Noi.

This bunch of rogues are nothing like travel agents you know in your own country, even if they are licensed they regard every Traveller as a potential ATM to be emptied.

The worst of this breed are a growing number of ex-pat 'travel agents' who just pick up on a lucrative line of income. One guy, an Australian, whose trade name begins with T, uses the 'trust me, I'm white' to generate business (and appears in chatrooms all over).

For others wanting to D-I-Y:
Some guides are SO or TUNG (a Black H'Mong) located through Sa Pa Goldsea Hotel, < >, 58 Fanxipan Road, Tel: 84-(0)-20-872-180 / 84-(0)-20-871-869.

Villages worth visiting are Cat Cat, GiangTaChai, TaPhin, YLinhHo, HauThao, SuPan (easily the most beautiful village in Sapa area).

Another excellent guide is "Thanh-Sa Pa" < >, guiding for over 6 years and has good English. An enterprising guy, he has a tour that includes night 1 in Tavan, Dzay People, night 2 in Seo Trung Ho, Red Dzao, night 3 Ban Ho, Tay People, night 4,5 in Sa Pa, day 6 is for the Montagnard market.

At the Mountain View Hotel there is a Mrs. Hong there who runs a guide service. Many of them are female and young but are very experienced in showing visitors around. For Mount PhanXiPan climbers she has a man named Chang - he is strong enough to assist the weary climbers. Always ask for the long route to the top - the short one is too steep.

But on ALL accounts avoid guides from the Victoria! (expensive - and the Victoria Hotel itself - aging).

Note: You MUST employ a guide if you climb Mount FanSiPan as ONLY they can obtain the required climbing permit from the police. Do NOT worry if the guide appears young, or female, as they all have excellent guiding skills and are likely stronger than you!

And ALL your money helps the locals rather than enriching some cowboy in Ha Noi.

There is regular Sunday bus to Bac Ha from Sa Pa but you can get there by local bus from Lao Cai. There are over 600 hotel rooms of all types in Bac Ha - just make sure you are not too near a street loudspeaker as the chair of the Lao Cai Peoples Committee believes in only setting the volume at high!

Remember Friday and Saturday rates for hotels, etc are higher than the rest of the week. Book your rail reservation at least two days ahead at 120 La Duane - and avoid Ha Noi agent markups and the chance of a different class of service.


#2 CatBa has been a member since 5/3/2007. Posts: 349

Agoda coupon: Get an extra 7% off selected properties with the coupon code

Posted by rakhee2108 on 22/8/2007 at 16:21

For trips to Sapa, avoid Hanoi travel agents, who charge inflated prices. The trip is so easy to organise yourself.

Book train tickets at 120 La Duane in Hanoi.
Soft sleeper w/AC (single ticket)costs $14 when booked at the train station. Guesthouses/travel agents in Hanoi charge $20 for the same ticket! Book in advance to be sure of a sleeper.

We booked too late and ended up taking a soft seat in AC carriage from Hanoi to Sapa - only $8 from the train station ($13 from guesthouses/travel agents). Taking a soft seat was in fact comfortable (blankets are provided for free). Not only is it cheaper but also a great way to meet and interact with local people. We opted for this method when traveling back from Sapa to Hanoi!

(Minibus ticket from Lao Cai to Sapa is 25,000VND - fixed price)

In Sapa, it's easy to book a local guide. We booked with Mrs Hong at Mountain View Hotel, who employs local Black H'mong tribal women as guides. The guides are young but extremely strong. Ask for guides called Dong and Me, who were both excellent.

We opted for the easy 2day/1night walk, which is suitable for all fitness ranges. The walk is easy but is made tricky by the wet red clay, which is v.slippery. Our guide, called Dong, was excellent at helping & making sure that we didn't slip too much!

Group of 3people - $25 per person incl guide, all meals, overnight stay. Start in Sapa town, trek to Lao Cai, lunch in village. Then to Ta Van village for dinner and overnight stay with Red Zao family. Breakfast next morning, then trek to waterfall. Lunch in another village, then trek and jeep back to Sapa. We had such a brilliant time - a highlight of our trip to Vietnam!

Hiring guides in Sapa from local tribes ensures that local people profit from tourist dollars, instead of travel agents in Hanoi.

#3 rakhee2108 has been a member since 8/3/2007. Posts: 55

Posted by IsaacLam on 19/7/2009 at 13:37


Can someone update on the price? I will travel to Sapa and BacHa in the middle of August and would know more about the updated price.

Besides of Queen Hotel in Sapa, would you recommend few more for us in Sapa as well as BacHa.


#4 IsaacLam has been a member since 17/7/2009. Posts: 13

Posted by IsaacLam on 19/7/2009 at 13:38


Can someone update on the price? I will travel to Sapa and BacHa in the middle of August and would know more about the updated price.

Besides of Queen Hotel in Sapa, would you recommend few more for us in Sapa as well as BacHa.


#5 IsaacLam has been a member since 17/7/2009. Posts: 13

Posted by BruceMoon on 20/7/2009 at 05:54


The minibus SaPa - Lao Cai is 50,000 VND, but few sell to tourists for less than 70,000 VND.

But, I've suggested to you to go to a good travel agent. While the price will be more than a seasoned traveller who can speak Vietnamese will be able to get, it will still be OK.


#6 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by captainpants on 29/4/2011 at 10:52

Posted from within Vietnam.

We paid 40,000VND for the minibus this morning, but he did start at 50,000VND so there is some leeway but you just got to barter for it like everything else!

#7 captainpants has been a member since 4/1/2011. Posts: 4

Posted by MADMAC on 29/4/2011 at 22:10

I didn't know they had cowboys in Hanoi. They do a lot of herding there?

#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
 Send MADMAC a private message 

Posted by travellingsarah on 30/4/2011 at 10:35 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

Cowboys would be useful for herding the motorbikes.

Re Lao Cai to Sapa - I went a few times last year and it was 30,000 (official price if you buy at the desk in the station). The last time I went was in October though and I know prices are going up due to the high inflation here, so 40,000 might be the going rate now. But when you get off the train look for the ticket desk on the platform and even if you don't buy a ticket there it'll give you an idea of the fair price.

#9 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 684
 Send travellingsarah a private message   Where has travellingsarah been? 

Posted by MADMAC on 30/4/2011 at 11:16

Herding motorbikes here would be like trying to herd cats. Good luck.

#10 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
 Send MADMAC a private message 

Posted by seatraveler on 16/9/2011 at 14:12

I plan on visiting Sapa towards the end of November ~24/11. I would like to support the local guides but the recommendations here are about 4 years old. Does anyone have updated guide recommendations?

#11 seatraveler has been a member since 30/8/2011. Location: United States. Posts: 5
 Send seatraveler a private message 

Please login to add a reply

You need to be a Travelfish member to be able to add a reply to this post. Please use the button below to log in. After logging in you'll be returned to this page automatically to add your post. Not a member? Join up here.