Sapa is a beautiful region in North Vietnam, renowned for it’s rice paddies and stunning landscapes. If you’re on a backpacker budget and want to trek in Sapa, don’t fall prey to the idea that you need to hire a guide! You can absolutely do it yourself, without the help of a guide, by following a few simple tips:
- Start your trek early in the day
This is key to make sure you give yourself enough time to roam around Sapa, taking in the amazing views along the way. If you’re staying in Sapa for a few days, you can spread your trekking over a longer period of time. If, like us, you are cramming your trekking into one full day, I’d advise setting off early (around 8am/9am) to make sure you have enough time – and don’t have to find your way back in the dark!
2. Find a trekking map / download maps.me offline maps…
BUT don’t be scared to get lost, you may see some unexpected sights
This may be seen as cheating, but having a map to hand, either offline or online, really helps to give a rough plan to your trekking. Don’t be scared to go off track a little however, as you will likely stumble across other tourists/ locals who can direct you to nearby sights along the way.
For us, the maps.me app was really useful for times when we had a couple of options for which path to take – it’s a good back up to keep you headed in the right direction!
3. Do your research
Before your trek, have a think about what in Sapa it is that you would like to see. We didn’t have any specific sights in mind, so we just followed a loose route. Unlike us, you may be coming to Sapa to see Fansipan; in which case you should research the weather conditions before you go. We read reviews about tourists buying tickets to Fansipan (about 700,000 VND), being told that the weather was too misty to see anything at the top, then not being refunded their ticket money. We were in Sapa when the weather was pretty poor, so we didn’t want to risk this happening to us.
4. Pack snacks and water
If you’re planning to trek for a half day or a full day, fill your backpack up with enough snacks and water to keep you energised. Restaurants in the outskirts of Sapa are few and far between, so having enough food along the way will keep you going until your next pit stop.
5. Accept that you may get followed by the locals/ asked to buy from them
The local ladies and children we came across when we were trekking were absolutely lovely, giving us tips and routes along the way. These women rely on tourists to make a living, so be aware that they may follow you and ask you lots of questions, in the hope that you will buy from them. If you don’t want anything, be persistent and say ‘no thank you’ with a smile and after a while they should let you go on your way.
Should you want to buy something, you will inevitably be swarmed by many other women and children asking you to buy from them too – just something to be aware of.