I love Vietnam with all my heart. I have spent two months in this beautiful country, crossing it from South to North. I have seen its beautiful beaches in Phu Quoc, the amazing lantern city – Hoi An and the breathtaking landscapes in Dong Hoi and Ninh Binh.
Towards the end of my trip in Vietnam, I have decided to also visit Sapa since everybody seemed to be very excited about it. I was told it is a must visit, one of the most beautiful and authentic places in Vietnam. But is it?
Read below to find out if Sapa is worth visiting.
Quick jump list
Timing is crucial – the best time to visit Sapa
When we think about Sapa, we visualize infinite rice terraces with spectacular mountain views and trekking opportunities. However, if you are going in the wrong month, your dreams of seeing the picturesque landscapes will be shattered.
Too much rain? then trekking is not an option. Are you visiting Sapa during harvest time? then you won’t see any rice terraces. It does sound a bit complicated but I will break down the best months to visit Sapa below.
December, January, February
Did you know that Sapa is one of the few places in Vietnam where it snows? During these months it will be cold and snowing. Therefore, you should avoid visiting Sapa if you are looking for good weather or rice terraces.
March, April, May
The weather is pleasant – not too hot, not too cold. These months are perfect for trekking to see the ethnic minorities. However, don’t expect to see any rice terraces since this is the time when the rice is planted.
Perfect for seeing the Sapa rice terraces. However, the weather is very hot (around 30 degrees Celsius) and it rains a lot – not so great if you are planning to trek to the ethnic minorities.
The temperatures are more acceptable, there is less rain and the rice fields are still green. Towards the end of September the rice fields turn yellow but they are still beautiful. This is the best time to visit Sapa – the weather is perfect for trekking and you can also admire the famous rice terraces
Cold and mostly dry weather which is perfect for trekking. However, starting with late September the rice fields will be harvested so don’t expect seeing green terraces.
If you want to make the most out of your trip to Sapa, plan it carefully and choose the right month depending on what you want to see and do. We have visited Sapa in May and we were really disappointed that we didn’t have the chance to see the rice terraces. However, we loved our trip to Fansipan Mountain and Love Waterfall.
Avoid Sapa scams
Nothing can me make me feel more miserable during a trip than being scammed. Vietnam has a bad reputation due to all the scams around the country and I must admit that I have fallen into the scam traps a few times. This is why I am going to share with you the popular scams in Sapa. Take note and avoid them!
Hotel booking scam
With the rise of tourism in Sapa, it is getting more and more difficult for the hotel/ guesthouse owners to accommodate all the tourists. There are many hotel booking websites and hotel owners that somehow allow overbooking. This means that once you get to your hotel, you will be told that there are no more free rooms.
One option you might be given is to pay a bit more for a superior room. Another option can be to accept to go to another hotel which most of the times looks worse than the one you booked (and you won’t be refunded any money).
Booking from a trusted website is crucial if you want to avoid these type of scams. The only booking website I trust is booking.com. Never had any problems with it.
Parking scams in Vietnam are next level. There will be local people asking for money for parking almost anywhere. Although you cannot verify if they are authorized or not, you can definitely figure out the scam. Anytime you are being asked more than 10,000 VND for motorbike parking, it is a scam. Try and negotiate the price. Most of the times the real price is 5,000 VND.
Parking at Fansipan Mountain cable car is another kind of scam. When you will get to Mount Fansipan cable car entrance, you will first see a big parking. If you park there you will have to pay for it. However, if you drive to the entrance of the Fansipan cable car, the parking is free. Moreover, you won’t have to walk one kilometer until the entrance.
Trekking tour scams
Let’s get honest. You can definitely trek in Sapa by yourself, without paying for any guided tours or guides. Most guesthouses have a map of the trekking routes (just ask for it). Also, you will most certainly won’t be by yourself since many people choose the popular trekking routes every day.
Be prepared to be harassed by the ethnic minorities in Sapa
One of the major tourist attractions in Sapa are the ethnic minorities. With their unique colorful clothes, they have gained the hearts of many tourists. As you will first set foot in Sapa, you will be soon be surrounded by people from these ethnic minorities trying to sell you handmade items or trekking tours.
Most of the people from these ethnic minorities used to work their land (rice terraces). However, since tourism started to be such an important part of Sapa’s economy, they have taken advantage of this emerging opportunity to make money.
People started producing and selling jewelry, embroidered fabrics or handmade bags. However, what you will notice is that mostly children are selling these products. Instead of getting an education, children are sent to Sapa to convince tourists to buy their products. Please do not encourage this. If you want to buy something, make sure to buy from an adult.
Although I definitely don’t blame the ethnic minorities for trying to support their families by taking advantage of tourism, I believe that there is an underlying problem. I believe that these ethnic minorities should have other alternatives of making money, with the help of a good education. Tourism will only lead to the destruction of their traditions.
Is Sapa worth visiting?
As I have visited most of Vietnam, my honest opinion is that Sapa is not worth to visit. I am not arguing that some people might love it but it just didn’t do the trick for me. I believe that Sapa is overrated since there are many other amazing, untouched places in Vietnam which have incredible landscapes and rice terraces and where you can observe the authentic local minorities.
One of these places is Ha Giang Province. It was by far the highlight of my trip to Southeast Asia so far. Breathtaking landscapes, rice terraces, authentic local life, Ha Giang has it all!
May the travel bug bite you!
More about Vietnam:
- Love waterfall – a charming place for travel lovers – click here
- Hoi An must see places – click here
- Ninh Binh – an alternative to Halong Bay – click here
- One day itinerary to beautiful Da Nang – click here
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