Just to give you some insights, Sapa is a little mountainous town (think Fan Si Pan mountain, Vietnam’s highest peak) located in Lao Cai Province, far away from the buzz of the main city areas. It’s filled with greenery, and is the home to many different ethnic tribal groups.
Over the last few years, Sapa has definitely picked up more tourism, attracting visitors to their rice paddies, mountains, forest treks, and overall breathtaking scenery.
In today’s blog, our fellow solo male traveler, Desmond, gives you further insights from his trip covering Sapa.
We asked: Which place in Sapa Valley gave you the best solo experience?
1. The Fansipan summit.
You have to hop on the Funicular at Sun Plaza / Sapa Station and then onto a cable car from Sapa town for this. The cable car ride is about 20 minutes long with an amazing view. It may be quite a mission, but it’s most definitely worth it because you’ll be on the highest mountain in the whole Indochinese Peninsula. You should space out at least half a day for your trip to Fansipan. There’ll be mist and clouds when you’re high up on the peak, but the view is majestic nonetheless. It won’t be too cold all the way up, but you can always bring a wind breaker or a light jacket. The climbing of all the stairs should end up keeping you warm.
Note: You can also choose to hike up Fansipan instead of taking the cable car, but you’ll need a guide for that, it’s up to your budget.
2. Going on a trekking tour
There are many tours for you to pick from based on the variety of locations including villages, bamboo forests, paddy fields, and more. But following a tour sure helps elevate your experience, with the help of a knowledgeable local guide.
3. Cat Cat village
This place is one of a kind. It’s nestled away at the bottom of Muong Hoa Valley — formed in the 19th century, after various ethnic families came together from other mountainous areas in northern Vietnam. They started growing rice and corn within the region, weaving fabric, and creating handicrafts. There’s a whole trail for you to follow, you can end up at Mount Fansipan, or the Cat Cat waterfall —¸ the entire village is picturesque. You can even rent one of their traditional outfits for a photoshoot!
Other places that you shouldn’t miss out on are Love Waterfall, Heaven Gate, and Ham Rong Mountain.
We asked: Were there any safety concerns? (throughout your trip in general)
The only thing that’s slightly concerning is the traffic. If you happen to rent a motorbike, try not to be on the go when it’s raining or drizzling, even if you’re an experienced rider. Traffic in Vietnam is more hectic than you think, and it’s better to take precautions.
We asked: Was communication with the locals manageable?
The locals were nice and helpful. Yes, the language barrier was quite evident — locals often used hand gestures as they don’t communicate in English. But you’ll be able to get by, especially with the help of Google Translate or by just showing pictures. Also, chances are that places with more tourists would have locals who are able to speak more than just a word or two of English, so it’s not something that you should worry much about.
We asked: What’s a good solo trip length to Sapa Valley?
About 6 days and 5 nights. Another thing to take note of is that the weather in Sapa is very uncertain, so you might want to have extra days for exploring the mountains just in case it rains.
We asked: Do you have any tips for solo travelers wanting to go there?
You should definitely plan out your transportation properly as there are no direct flights from Hanoi to Sapa — you can only get there by bus or by train.
If you take the bus, it’s cheap (around RM37). And it’ll take you up to 6 or 7 hours to reach Sapa Town.
The train ride is more expensive (around RM225) but more comfortable. There’s only a night train to Sapa, and after you arrive, you’ll have to take a bus from Lào Cai to Sapa Town — which is about 9 hours in total for the whole journey from Hanoi.
My recommendation: Take a bus from Hanoi to Sapa town, then take the train back to Hanoi. This way you’ll get to experience both.
That’s just the journey of getting there. The best way to get around town is by renting a motorbike. You can use Grab, but it’s not always promising. When it comes to renting a motorbike, make sure to check the brakes, the gears, and the alignment (I was unlucky with one of the bikes and almost got into an accident). Try your best to negotiate for a decent price, it can go as low as RM10 a day.
As for the weather, the cold days last from November to early January.
Feel like going on a solo trip to Vietnam too? Visit Traveloka to inspire your trip.