Guide to Sapa
General information about Sapa
Sapa (Sa Pa, Sapa) is a town located among the Hoang Lien Son mountains, also known as the Tonkin Alps, at an altitude of 1600 metres in North-West Vietnam province of Lao Cai (Lao Cai). Sapa is located almost on the border with China and 400 kilometers from Hanoi (Sapa map Vietnam). It is a popular tourist destination, attracting with its magnificent mountain scenery, because it is surrounded by high mountain peaks, valleys, and beautiful rice fields. Also here you can meet many ethnic groups that there is a richly populated Northern part of the country.
A small note about the spelling of the city name. Often you can find spelling of "Vietnam" and not "Sapa". Moreover, such writing is found even in reputable sources and reservation systems. In fact, the name of the city is pronounced by locals as "Sapa".
The city was founded in 1910 by French colonists to break from too hot tropical climate, and attractive to tourists it was after 1993, when the decision was made about the development of tourism in the area. Until Sapa was forgotten by all the place, living only by agriculture.
Stay in Sapa
Sapa, in the first place, is a great place for Hiking, trekking, travel on Bicycle or motorbike in the area. A beach holiday here,of course not. Tourists visit Sapa to see the famous "Love Market" to visit in surrounding the town are villages, enjoy views of the famous rice terraces or climbing the highest peak of Indochina - Fansipan mountain (Fansipan). A special touch to your stay in Sapa give exotic excursions, including visits to ethnic villages, meeting families and staying in the homes of rural residents - homstead.
Surrounding Sapa was a cradle for many ethnic groups, eight of whom still live here. To distinguish one ethnic group from another by the color and patterns of traditional clothing are usually embroidered typical of a particular group patterns. Some villages are almost medieval appearance, although some people have a mobile phone and Internet access. Basically, they live a harsh and poor life. Special interest tourists and travelers cause residing in the district of the ethnic group Hmong (Hmong) and the ZAO (Dao), which are an integral part of city life. The Hmong are more numerous, the illiterate, are a way of life not using the achievements of civilization. They are the poorest ethnic group in the region. You can recognize them by the outfits in dark blue. Another group of Dzao or ZAO... But find out when I get there.
But it is not necessary to consider Sapa as a place for recreation for the whole period of your trip. Rather, it is simply a tourist destination, where you can go for a few days, but not for another week, unless you aim to study in detail surroundings. Besides, the town itself, even though it's not that small (population about 10,000), has little to offer tourists. Though the tourism infrastructure is developed and in the city, you just really have nothing to do after one or two walks along the streets, exploring several city attractions, and trip to the local market. No other entertainment here. So, first of all, Sapa is worth considering as a place to send in Hiking trekking or for climbing mount Fansipan. Visit Sapa without trekking excursions just pointless and uninteresting. By the way, to make trekking here can not only tour, but also independently, and it is even more interesting. Read more about how to do it – see here.
Another important tourist destination of Sapa is a transit point to enter Northern Laos via the border crossing at the town of Dien bien Phu (Dien Bien Phu).
Visit Sapa, easier and more convenient to tour from Hanoi (cost from $ 100, including train tickets, transfer, hotel) but easy enough to do this yourself, and it will be much more interesting. Already in the Sapa will be possible to buy trekking tour in the area and even in neighboring towns and villages. In the city there's a huge number of hotels, travel agencies, developed the hire of motorcycles and bicycles. All the necessary information for independent visit you will find in our guide to Sapa, by the way very complete and accurate in Russian:
Weather, tourist seasons in Sapa
Sapa is located on 1,600 metres above sea level, and therefore is mostly cool (mean annual temperature 15 to 18°C), and in the winter in January and a light snow falls. At the same time, the weather here is special: one day you can feel the change of four seasons: morning and afternoon cool, as in spring and autumn; in the afternoon Sunny and cloudless as summer; and at night it gets cold in the winter. Going to Sapa, don't forget to bring warm clothes, even if you go there in the summer, and this is no joke. Don't forget warm outerwear and warm underwear to comfortably sleep at night.
The dry season in Sapa - from January to June. In the winter months, cold, the temperature drops to zero and may even snow. The humidity is high and are constantly fogs (160 days a year). Summer is considered the rainy season.
However, a visit to Sapa should be tied more likely not to weather (you sunbathe here at any time of the year is not possible), and by the time of harvest of rice. Best time to visit Sapa before or during the harvest in September-November or in the spring. The rest of the time, unfortunately the weather is not particularly favorable. Often in summer, especially in August, rains fall, and splendid landscapes are hidden. Winter (November to February) are cold and always foggy, and rice terraces brown.
The tourist seasons in Sapa months*
*best time to visit;
appropriate time to visit;
not a recommended time to visit
Weather in Sapa and the forecast for the near future:
Shopping in Sapa
Sapa is not a place for shopping. There are no shopping malls, buy something only small shops and markets. There are a couple of supermarkets in the area of the lake and a shop with household appliances and if you need to buy food, water and beverages, it is best to do that here, as in the shops the prices for tourists are inflated by almost two times. For example, in a supermarket a bottle of water costs 10,000 VND, and the shop is very near you will sell it for 20 000. In General, prices in Sapa are higher than in the resort cities of Vietnam, so shopping is better to postpone.
However, it is not surprising, something you can buy. The city has many shops with clothes and trekking shoes at low prices. For example, pants-transformers are 250 000 VND; synthetic thermo-sweatshirt – 130 000 VND; windbreaker – 130 000; jacket with Gore-Tex membrane – 340 000. It is sold in the shops and the stores under the guise of Made in Vietnam and these things really are made in Vietnam and supplied in sporting stores around the world, including in Russia.
In addition, Sapa is famous for Souvenirs, hand-made by residents of ethnic villages. The clothes, toys, bracelets, wallets, jewelry made of fabric with traditional embroidery; ornaments of silver and costume jewellery; stone carvings, and much more original that can be found only here. Buy Souvenirs at the city market, the stalls near the Museum of Sapa, in the village of cat Cat, and also during trekking trekking in ethnic villages. Everywhere you have to haggle, the prices are really bring down even two times.
Food in Sapa, where and what to eat
The problems with food in Sapa will not occur, there are a lot of cafes for tourists, though the prices are higher than other resorts in the country by almost half. If you need to eat cheaper, go farther from the city centre in the lake district, where the lanes there are several cafes for the locals. Also an inexpensive food court are in the indoor market, but it works up to 18 hours, i.e. there is no dinner. Also in the lake there are a couple of supermarkets with "goscinny", and there you can buy milk, snacks, biscuits, bread, canned goods, etc.
When you go to a trekking tour, the food is usually already included in the cost. If you would rather go Hiking or go to ethnic village on your own, then there is also problems with food will not occur. Almost everywhere there are cafes, markets and shops, homestay serves Breakfast and dinner.
Banks and ATMs in Sapa, currency exchange
In Sapa for poslednii years there are many banks and ATMs. Most of them are easy to find on the main street Ngu Chi Son Street. Here's the part of banks and ATMs in Sapa with addresses:
Bank BIDV (Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam)
- 20, Ngu Chi Son street (near Sapa lake)
- 34, Cau may Street (in front of Sapa Royal Hotel)
Bank Agribank (Vietnam Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development)
- 1, Cau May street (near U Sapa Hotel)
- 2, Ngu Chi Sơn Street (next to Agribank Guest house)
Bank Vietcombank (Joint Stock Commercial Bank For Foreign Trade Of Vietnam)
- 1, Xuan Vien Street (near the school)
The Bank Saigonbank (Sai gon Bank for industry and Trade)
- 18, Ngu Chi Son (near the lake)
The post office at the address: 6, Thach Son Street
This list is not complete, and in recent years has opened at least ten new Bank branches and ATMs. You can find them using Google map for Bank or atm.
To change the currency in Sapa at banks and hotels, but be careful with the course, in hotels it can hold. Banks do not work weekends or evenings, and if visiting Sapa in this time from the airport, it is better to change money in the airport in Hanoi, especially because the exchange rate is even better than in Sapa. For example, in one day rate at the airport was 23 300 Dong per dollar, and the Bank in Sapa 22 298 dongs.
If you go to Sapa from Hanoi, it is better to exchange money is still there at a much more favorable rate in one of the jewelry shops on Hang Bac street (the tourist district) and Ha Trung (West of lake of the Returned sword).
Useful tips about Sapa
Warm to wear. Going to Sapa in winter (November to February), be sure to take warm clothes. In winter the temperature here drops to 0 and below and is under very high humidity. Not going to bother including warm underwear (thermal underwear), in which you sleep.
Map. If you go for a walk around the city or the surrounding area, be sure to take a map (you can ask at the hotel reception), and preferably a compass or Navigator. Ideally, upload to a smartphone offline maps maps.me, OSM or something like that. Getting lost here is easy: the streets are very winding, and the local population will not be able to help you, because that's absolutely not versed in the cards.
ATM and currency exchange. In Sapa you can exchange money at a Bank, hotels, travel agencies. The course is a little different, it is better to walk around and find the very best. But in General the rate is lower here than in Hanoi, so it is better to change money there. Besides, the Euro and other currencies, except dollar, undervalued and generally reluctant to change them. Also in Sapa there are several ATMs in banks, post offices. Full list with addresses see below on this page.
Photographing local residents. Before you photograph any of the locals, you should first ask permission or take pictures from afar. Local ethnic groups live only by tourists, so for photography you most likely will "beg" money standard phrase "One photo - one dollar" or ask to buy something from them. For any help rendered to you, they will also have to wait a little reward, at least in the form of buying their Souvenirs.
Shoes for exploring the area. In the wet season around pretty dirty, so Hiking is better in rubber footwear. To take such shoes can be rented in the hotel or in the shops. For long hikes it is better to have a comfortable trekking shoes or at least sneakers with a good sole. These shoes are also available for rent at local shops.
Hotels in Sapa. Despite seeming a little popularity of Sapa, in fact, the city is flooded with tourists, including those from Vietnam and especially many from China. During periods of holidays and festivals, and they are frequent, prices for accommodation can rise significantly. For example, in the "Festival in the clouds" in April-may 2013 all the hotels in Sapa in collusion raised the price 5 times! (even found a price of $ 10 rented rooms at least 50), and even with the availability it was impossible to find. So highly recommend to book your hotel in Sapa in advance.
Raincoats. Don't leave the room for a walk without a raincoat even in good weather. Clouds gather here quickly, and the rains start abruptly. In extreme cases, buy raincoat here in any shop.
"Accompanied" during the tours. During any trekking excursions with a group along the way will follow the representatives of the local ethnic tribes, tying conversations with tourists and helping them overcome difficult places along the way. This isn't part of the tour program, and in fact, these "accompanying" will expect a thanks for their help in the form of buying their souvenir. Don't be fooled by their expectations, they will be happy and even bought them a couple dollars thing, because this may be their only earnings for a few days. But don't forget to bargain a bit.
Prices. The price of food and drinks for tourists in Sapa is high and usually rounded up to 5-10 thousand Dong (currency of Vietnam). Sapa is also not the best place to buy exotic fruits: prices are very high.
The air conditioning system. Most hotels in Sapa without air conditioning. They are not needed, it's too cool at night. Probably should worry about that in the room was a warm blanket.