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Vietnam forum

Sapa Itinerary Advice for Non-Trekkers

Posted by tigershoot on 1/3/2016 at 17:02

Firstly, I can see that being a non-trekker does not seem to fit with a trip to Sapa . I'll explain. My wife of 49 ( I'm 50) has bad knee trouble and as such trekking for hours is not really an option. Other than that we are both fit. She could probably manage a two hour walk.

After seeing Halong Bay and then coming back to Hanoi , the plan is to catch the 2200 train to Sapa ( Lao Cai ). This would get us into Sapa at I guess about 7am on the Thursday

What we plan on doing is staying in Sapa (Hmong Sapa Hotel) and doing short walks from there as well as hiring a scooter and exploring. We are quite happy spending hours on a scooter exploring. We also want to do the cable car up Fansipan.

The great unknown is how long to stay and how to leave. I had thought there was a express bus leaving Sapa at 7am in the morning, but it seems I was reading the timetable the wrong way! It leaves Hanoi at that time. The bus leaves Sapa at 3pm.

Do you think that having all day Thursday (including recovering from the night train!), all day Friday and then leaving at 3pm on the Saturday by Express bus is enough time? We would then overnight in Hanoi and leave early for Ninh Bihn on the Sunday. Or we could leave Sapa late on Saturday and get the night train to Hanoi. Is heading down the twisty road to Lao Cai at night in the dark hair-raising stuff?

Once in Ninh Binh we would then have what's left of the Sunday, all day Monday, and all day Tuesday leaving on the night train south from there at 21:50. Is that too much time there but not enough in Sapa, or just about right?

Any help appreciated!

#1 tigershoot has been a member since 24/2/2015. Posts: 18

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Posted by adrianlopez on 1/3/2016 at 20:30

If you don't join trekking tour, 2 days in Sapa can enough, but i refer that you should spend one day in Sapa to walking around and enjoy local market of enthnic people. Have you booked tour at hotel yet? Personally, you should homestay at H'mong people because this way will help you save money and explore real daily life of local people as well as eat real local foods.

#2 adrianlopez has been a member since 27/1/2016. Posts: 55

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Posted by loveparadise on 5/3/2016 at 00:16

I never use a bus from Hanoi to Sapa as it is not safe on the highway. I prefer the night train, then a bus from Lao Cai to Sapa with 45 minutes. I did a 3 night 2 day tour from Hanoi organised by travel agent. They arranged everything for us. the trip was very nice. I did the trekking tour 2 full day in Sapa to different villages to see landscape and the locals, culture. In your case, you should rent a car bringing you to points in Sapa.


#3 loveparadise has been a member since 5/3/2016. Location: Germany. Posts: 3
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Posted by edwardrainny on 16/3/2016 at 23:48

2 days in Sapa without trekking tour, you can book tour to Bac Ha market or walking around Sapa is best idea. Further, you can rent moto or bike to travel around.
Happy travels!

#4 edwardrainny has been a member since 5/1/2016. Posts: 12

Posted by MelbourneMuzza on 19/3/2016 at 11:22

You are going to be able to do everything you want to. Trekking is for the young!!! As for you, get used to riding a moto bike, they cost $5 a day, they are Automatic and easy to ride/learn, really they want you back by 6pm (evening) to keep you away from danger so your day should be from after breakfast till 6 and you can do a lot
Each hotel you stay at will help you with anything you want.

Now, sleeping busses are the way to go for to and from Sapa. DO NOT DO THE HALONG TO SAPA. No point and bad reviews

Sapa, you can do one day using the bikes, go to the pass, the waterfall, go to cat cat (plenty of steps) and go to a village like Ta Phin. That will use up 10 or so hours

The next day go on a walking tour to 3 villages, its about $26 each but is easy enough if there is three/four with a guide and that has lunch with it

Get ready to be firm with the sellers, a polite and firm "No Thanks"

The bus goes to Ha Noi in the evening, about 6 to choose from, the 2130 I think takes you into town (Not the bus station) but be careful of the taxi drivers upon reaching Hanoi, its 0430 and you are tired. and they are not! You are not far from the old quarter here so its a nice walk at that time.

Bus to Cat Ba is $15 and takes up to 5 hours, two days there, one on a bike to do the island and the fort and another day to do the trip about the bay, You can get a good trip and you do NOT need two days if you dont want to, the day trip lasts 8 hours and you visit an island, Kayaking, a meal , a swim and plenty of islands. $15, get a boat with seats on top.

The next morning at 9 you can get a bus back to Ha Noi OR to (Nihn Bihn) nothing there but stay on the bus and go straight to Tam Coc. The bus has a bit of a kick back with a certain hotel in Tam Coc and it might kidnap you anyhow and bypass Nihm Bihm, but this may suit you here. Do two days here, on a bike, you can do 5 or 6 of the sites by yourself. Trang An is a must, suit yourself on the rest.

Only two busses leave Tam Coc early and late, get a taxi into Nihm Bihm elevenish and busses leave every hour from the bus station to Hanoi, get the 32 bus , 25 cents, into NEAR the lake then find your way to you hotel walking about 15 minutes.

Lot to digest there, but you can do the three places, if you want more detail about stuff, Ask

#5 MelbourneMuzza has been a member since 19/3/2016. Posts: 8

Posted by locadotte on 25/3/2016 at 01:55


I'm not sure if you have completed your trip yet but we were in Sapa for 3 nights (taking the sleeper train to and from Hanoi) giving us 2 full days there. We did not do any treks as we were travelling with a 5 and 9 year old. We participated in two experiences through an organization called ETHOS that allowed us to spend a day with a Black Hmong family one day and then visit a Lao Lu village in the valley on the second day. Thanks to these experiences, our visit to Sapa was the most memorable part of our journey through Vietnam. If you care to read about our visit to Sapa, I have written about it on my blog:

Enjoy your visit to Sapa!


#6 locadotte has been a member since 16/1/2015. Posts: 14

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