What is a suitable give to a home stay family?
Trekking Sapa appreciates your kindness and generosity. Gift giving is appropriate throughout Vietnam. Acceptable and appropriate gifts include: something unique from your country this could be a pin, calendar, small trinket, small sized t-shirt, a baseball cap, or a picture book). School supplies such as notebooks, pens, or a calculator are both acceptable and extremely useful. Something fun for children is always gratefully received; a kite, board game, or a soccer ball would be excellent , whilst for adults a tea set, tools, picture frame, or a bottle of wine.
Will it be cold in Sapa?
The average temperature in Sapa during the winter months (November to March) is about 10 ºC. At this time of year it is wise to bring several layers including a good jacket. We would recommended not bringing cotton clothes in the winter months if possible.
Snow falls are not unheard of during the winter time. Whilst quite rare, global climate change is making it harder for us to predict the weather. In recent years, the coldest temperature we have experienced has been 3 degrees celsius. These cold spells never last long. Usually after 2 or 3 days the sun comes out and the temperature begins to rise.
If you are trekking to the remote villages, please note that the temperature in the village is always warmer than in Sapa, about 3 – 7 degrees different.
What are the sleeping arrangements in the home stays?
For groups of 4 or less, you will be staying in one house.Larger groups will divide into smaller parties and stay with multiple neighbouring families. Most of the family members will retire early, although one will stay up until all the guests go to bed. Keep a flashlight close to your bed, as the light switches can be difficult to find. Roosters will begin to crow at about 5.00am. By 5:30 the fire to boil water will have already been lit
Do I need to prepare before going to the home stay?
Basic fitness is required for trekking in Sapa, so if you are not relatively fit, it is a good idea to get into the habit of walking.
Not much preparation is needed for the home stay. Make sure that you have packed everything need to make your stay more comfortable: a small bag for a change of clothes, a mirror, flashlight, toilet paper and possibly your favourite tea or snack, and a book, if you wish.
Some warm clothing is needed as the nights can be quite cool.
To really impress your hosts learning a short song to sing after dinner, is a big winner. It is a cultural tradition to sing after the evening meal. Starting off the singing will really impress them.
What will the food be at the home stay?
There will be a good variety of food available. For your main meal there will be a mix of traditional Dao and Vietnamese cuisine. Trekking Sapa brings a lot of food in from Sapa to share with the family. You will get a chance to share in the cooking. Breakfast consists of pancakes and bananas, this has become very popular with trekkers and home stays. If you wish to have a traditional Dao breakfast it can be arranged. It is usually rice, an egg and some vegetables.
Will we be expected to participate in any activities at the home stay?
It really is up to you how involved you wish to be. It is though, very rewarding. Some of our guests have enjoyed getting into the fields and planting rice. Others, have befriended local people and visited their houses to have tea. Sometimes the guests have been keen for some more trekking and have taken short walks in the mountains. Whilst others have preferred to just relax. Assisting with cooking and household chores is both encouraged and interesting as it provides a better understanding of local life.
You will normally enjoy dinner and stay with the same family. However as the neighbours all enjoy the company of guests, sometimes, the neighbours will share the benefits of tourism equally and cooking and eating will be at different houses.
The people at the home stay are quite introvert. Especially with their use of English. They can speak enough to have a conversation, though do need encouragement. We ask our guests to be active in communicating with the family; asking questions about their lives, helps their English skills. They are always more than happy to answer and often encourage you to be more involved in their daily life in order for you to further understand, their lifestyle.
What is meant by CBT home stay?
A CBT (Community Based Tourism) home stay simply means an overnight stay in the home of one of the local ethnic minorities. Here at Trekking Sapa, we always promote responsible travel. CBT is extremely important to the area and we will always promote CBT products. This type of tourism benefits the entire community.
What kind of footwear do you recommend for trekking in Sapa?
There are different levels of trekking in Sapa and the surrounding countryside. When booking with Trekking Sapa, you should check with our travel consultants as to what is best for your particular trip.
For light or easy trekking, we recommend good sandals or walking shoes. For intermediate and hard trekking, it is important to wear good shoes or sport shoes. These need to have a good grip for the steeper inclines. Proper hiking boots are good in the muddy conditions that accompany the wet season. Ideal footwear during heavy rain are the local rubber boots which can be acquired at local markets for approximately US$4.00. They grip in muddy conditions and do not cause blisters. They do not however, breath at all.
What do you define as easy, intermediate and hard trekking?
Trekking Is defined as a category of adventure travel. This typically involves visits to remote areas, with overnight lodging in tents or other basic accommodation. It is more strenuous then walking but less strenuous than hiking.
Compared to trekking in India or Nepal, trekking in Sapa is easy. However, due to rapid changes in the weather, and the local terrain, trekking here is classified as moderate. Please note the journey times to each destination, in order that you can confirm your suitability to the conditions.
- Easy trekking: More difficult than walking, trails are not steep, but do have inclines, often many within a short distance.
- Moderate trekking:The trail has inclines, though not too steep. Trails will become more difficult in adverse weather conditions.
- Intermediate to Hard trekking: The route has a steep inclines and often is off road in very remote areas. These will be very difficult during periods of rain.
- Each situation is dependent on the weather. This is especially true in Sapa.
- N.B. We always try to tailor the trek to adapt to changes in the weather. If you wish to hire a support vehicle to drive between certain points, this is possible at our Sapa Tours at a reasonable extra charge.
Is there anywhere locally where we can get changed, freshen up and leave luggage prior to our trek?
Yes, upon arrival in Sapa, Trekking Sapa has arranged a clean place at a local hotel. Here you may shower and take a short rest. Breakfast is in the hotel restaurant. There is a luggage room at the hotel.
In addition there are similar facilities at Lao Cai, should you decide not to travel to Sapa, for example if you are travelling to Bac Ha Sunday Market.
What happens when we arrive at Lao Cai train station?
Our guide will be waiting outside the train station with an easily recognisable Trekking Sapa sign containing your name. There will be many guides here, make sure you look for our company logo. Your guide and driver will escort you safely to Sapa. All our guides are local people from Sapa and surrounding areas.
You will be provided with telephone numbers for our guides and local tour operators, in advance of your trip.
What is the distance from Lao Cai to Sapa and what type of transport can we expect?
Whilst it is only 38 km, it is a mountainous road that rises and falls dramatically as it makes its way through the mountains. Your journey climbs from 2000 feet above sea level to well above 5000 feet. Your comfortable air-conditioned van or car, takes you through spectacular countryside and our driver will have you in Sapa in approximately one hour.
Is the train the only method of transport to Sapa?
The train certainly is the most economical and safe method. Whilst driving is possible, it will take about 10 hours without traffic jams to make the 400 km journey.
We strongly advise train travel, however if you wish to travel to Sapa by car, please check with Trekking Sapa to get a truthful assessment the road conditions. Severe wet season flooding causes roads to be washed away and construction can make the journey intolerable.
Is the overnight train to Lao Cai the only one?
There is one day train in either direction, however this is a simple commuter train with no sleeping berths and no air conditioning.
The overnight sleeper is by far the best option. Whilst the train offers a range of seating arrangements, Trekking Sapa only uses air-conditioned soft sleepers for our customers. Each cabin offers four bunk berths. The beds are comfortable, clean and come with one blanket and a pillow. Whilst beds can seem somewhat small for some Westerners, we find that our guests manage adequately.
All cabins lock from the inside for your security and contain luggage storage beneath bunks and above the door.
Your cabin is standard level and is designed for four people sharing, if you wish to reserve the whole cabin for two people, just ask and this can be arranged at an additional charge. A first class service on the Victoria Train is also available. Again please ask your Trekking Sapa consultant for more details.
This train travels slowly and takes about 9 hours to make the 330 km trip from Hanoi to Lao Cai. It is quieter than other trains, though you may consider ear plugs. Toilets are available in each coach, we recommend that you carry toilet tissue.
Whilst the train advertises a diner car, quite often this is simply replaced with another standard coach. We therefore recommend that you bring snack food with you for the journey.
Please note that Vietnamese trains can never be compared with the standard of Western trains.
Before our night train to Sapa, do you have a place where we can leave luggage?
Most hotels have a luggage room. If for any reason this is not available you can safely leave your luggage at the Trekking Sapa office.
We also recommend that you extend your stay at the hotel for the day of travel to Sapa. This gives you somewhere to use as a base before your overnight train journey
What is the best time to visit Sapa?
The best weather is from April to September. Although, each season has its merits.
At this time of year temperatures range from 15 – 25º C. This is the dry season in Sapa making routes dry and easier to use. At this time of year it is also possible to scale Mount Fansipan. During the winter months, temperatures are much cooler. It is advised to carry warmer clothing (good waterproof jacket, sweater, woollen socks etc.). In addition, during the winter months there will be periods of light rain and mists, which do though provide amazing photo opportunities.