Photo: Canals of Ca Mau, Mekong Delta.

Vietnam forum

Sapa/Bac Ha Trip- Handspan or on our Own?

Posted by Elih500 on 17/10/2008 at 13:17

Hello,
We are from the US and traveling to Vietnam in a week. I've never considered a tour, but everyone suggested doing some pre-booking for the north. For a "private tour" through one of the reputable tour companies in Hanoi we were quoted $714 for train, 1 night hotel in Bac ha, 2 in Sapa, guide/car for 4 days. When I asked if I could just book a train, 2 day guide and 1 Bac ha night so we could be free the rest of the time, the price only went down $13 and I was informed that the 2 berth round trip train ticket portion was be $450! for 2 people and 2 day guide and car was $160. I've had many emails back and forth.. I can't figure it out.

We would prefer to book on our own and use local guides, but we want to visit Can Cau market on Saturday, stay in Bac Ha and see Bac Ha on Sunday. Since we arrive on the train Sat am, it seems hard to arrange, since we'll have all of our bags, which we can't carry around all day.

Does anyone have any advice/thoughts either on these prices, whether we should use a tour company or how to get to can cau with a guide in a car directly from Lao Cai on Sat am without pre-booking through a tour company?


Thanks in advance!

#1 Elih500 has been a member since 17/10/2008. Posts: 1

Posted by somtam2000 on 17/10/2008 at 13:29 admin

First off, those prices seem very high to me.

The train leg from Hanoi to Sapa has a bunch of different train cars running on it, many of which have their own pricing structure. You do not need to pay $450 for two people for a train to Sapa believe me!

What I would suggest is not to pre-book anything. As soon as you arrive in Hanoi , either go to the train station yourself or go to a travel agent (there's around 17,543,762 travel agents in Hanoi ) and have them book the trains for you. As long as you're booking a couple of days in advance, you should be set. Then, spend a couple of days exploring Hanoi , or Ha long Bay or whatever, then get the train.

The vast majority of people visiting Can Cau and Bac Ha do so on a tour out of Sapa -- it's inexpensive and there's a bucketload of agencies. You can also do it yourself (see the relevant sections on this site for more info), or perhaps hire a driver in Sapa and make it up as you go.

If you want to get a car from Lao Cai, again, I'd walk into the first travel agent you see from the train station and ask for a car with driver -- they should be able to set you up.

More questions, ask away!

#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,563
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Posted by daawgon on 21/10/2008 at 04:30

Take if from someone who's done it, this area is very easy to arrange either in Hanoi or in Sapa. First of all, your luggage - you should not be taking large amounts of luggage on the train at all. Most people leave the bulk of theirs at a Hanoi hotel, and only take a small backpack/whatever to the Highlands. I can give you the name of a very reliable travel agent in Hanoi who can handle just train or an entire package for you, whatever. Vietnam is a very easy country, and believe me, they "saw you coming" when they quoted you that ridiculous quote!!! Mr. Diep in Hanoi at Adventure Indochina helped me out, he speaks great English, is quite funny and honest, and more than willing to aid. You can call/text on Skype or email - see his website for details adventureindochina.com

#3 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,111

Posted by daawgon on 21/10/2008 at 04:33

I take issue with the TT label of Tout - I am a retired tourist, age 65, from Portland, Oregon, who once worked for an international airline myself, and now enjoy helping others travel. If TT has an issue with me or my posts, why haven't they contacted me about this???

#4 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,111

Posted by daawgon on 21/10/2008 at 04:36

By the way, tourists are far better off avoiding TT entirely and relying on the likes of Travellerspoint, Tripadvisor or Travelfish (SEA only)!

#5 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,111

Posted by somtam2000 on 21/10/2008 at 07:18 admin

Hi daawgon,

If you're refering to the "tout" tag in the left column, ahh, they're a joke!

The labels change according to the number of posts made... others include:
newbie, longtail driver, backpacker, motodop, flashpacker, noodle lady, tourist, hippy and beach masseuse

#6 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,563
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