By far and away the most popular page I’ve had on the blog is the one regarding my climb up Fansipan in Vietnam. I get a ton of comments on it, all asking the same questions. Hopefully this post will answer a lot of them to save me being asked them over and over! If there’s anything I missed, then please do ask and I’ll update this post.
Do note that I last visited Sapa in April 2007, so prices and so forth may have changed since then.
I booked my trip through the Hanoi Backpacker’s Hostel. I’ve been told they’re not the cheapest to go with, but they generally get you a really good deal, with a reputable company at the other en. This goes for their other excursions as well. The trip included all of the following:
- 1st class return train travel to Lao Cai
- return bus trip to Sapa from Lao Cai
- accommodation (train is overnight so includes bunks)
- meals while on the trek
- transport to the start point of the trek, and back to town after
- transport to / from Hanoi railway station from the hostel
- use of shower facilities back in town after the trek
The above cost me around $120 – I can’t recall the exact amount, sorry, but that’s about right. Note also that I did the trek in two days. The norm is three and I have met one person who did it in a single day and who heartily recommended against this.
I can’t recommend a good company to book with in Sapa as I didn’t do things that way. Likewise I can’t tell you the name of the company I went through as it was all booked via the hostel. Sorry.
It is possible to book the trip in Sapa itself, or in Hanoi or many other places in Vietnam. One thing to watch for is booking the train tickets – do not expect to get any “on the day”. Train tickets in Vietnam sell very quickly, especially on the major routes. They’re also usually bought up very quickly on release by various agencies, and Vietnamese do get preference over foreigners. Simply put – try and book a package from somewhere or at least book well in advance (a week or so).
The guide carries the food you’ll need. At the small village we stopped at, food was provided there. The next rest stop (the one I didn’t use) is just a shack / campsite higher up with no locals living there. The guy I went with wasn’t the best guide as he split the two-day trip in a bad place. Very short first day, VERY long second! I think it was just the 2-day rather than 3-day that threw him out of whack. He certainly knew the route and was great company in the evening.
The first stage of the walk is very light. Therefore if you want, you could carry packs to the village and then leave a lot of things there for collection the next day once you’ve done the peak. Again, though, I’d check with the agencies in town. Many will look after your kit there so you don’t even have to get it anywhere near the mountain. The one I used let me shower in the hotel next door when I returned as well – no extra charge – as my next stop was the train station to return to Hanoi.
You shouldn’t need any more equipment. I didn’t take my sleeping bag or anything. Again, I can’t vouch for the accommodation nearer the peak, but the village provides a wooden hut with bamboo “bedding” and blankets. It was bloody cold, so an extra sleeping bag may not be a bad idea. An inflatable mattress for comfort is personal choice, but if you’re used to sleeping on foam camping mats, then the bamboo suspended bed is about as “comfortable” 😉
Overall, just enjoy the trip. It’s hard work but well worth it.