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Side trip to SAPA for $500. A good deal or waste of money?

Side trip to SAPA for $500. A good deal or waste of money?

Sep 29th, 2007, 08:20 AM
  #1  
Lev
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Side trip to SAPA for $500. A good deal or waste of money?

Hi,
I am thinking of taking an organized tour to Cambodia and Vietnam.
They offer the following extension to the Sapa region. The cost is $500.
1. Is it a good deal to spend $500 for overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai?
2. Do you recommend visiting Sapa?

Here is the itinerary:

Day 1: Lao Cai/Sapa. Arrive early this morning at Lao Cai. Disembark from the train and transfer to Sapa, where you'll enjoy breakfast at a local restaurant. Drive on to Bac Ha Sunday market, located in the mountainous area, where you'll enjoy exploring the fascinating and treasure-laden market and enjoy the chance to shop for wonderful (and inexpensive) souvenirs. Later, visit the ancient palace of a H'Mong King. Return to Sapa and check in at your hotel. Victoria Sapa Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 2: Sapa/Hill Tribe Villages/Overnight Train. After breakfast, travel by jeep to Lao Chai village, home of the Black H'mong, one of the largest ethnic minorities in Vietnam. The name Hmong means “free people" and they are found in different regions throughout Vietnam. You can distinguish among the various subgroups of Hmong by looking at the colors of the clothing they wear. Hence, the Black Hmong, who typically wear black clothing. Next you'll visit the village of Ta Van, home of the Giay tribe, and where you'll enjoy a delicious lunch prepared by your guide inn a local home.
After lunch visit Taphin, a village just outside Sapa, where Black Hmong and Red Dao minorities live according to their traditional beliefs and customs without changing each other. Unlike the Black Hmong women who wear black, the women of the Red Dao tribes shave their heads and eyebrows, wear bright red turbans and are known for their embroidery skills. Later, drive to Lao Cai and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant before boarding the overnight train for your return trip to Hanoi. (B,L,D).

Thanks. Lev.

Lev is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 08:45 AM
  #2  
 
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Wow! $500!! I've never heard of anyone paying that much for a side trip to Sapa. You can do this trip for less than half of what you are being quoted. (This should tell you something about the profit margins for organized tours.)
Kathie is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 09:00 AM
  #3  
Lev
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Thanks Kathie.
I had the same first reaction. $500 for 2 days in Sapa? Way too expensive..
What about the itinerary?
Do they cover everything significant in Sapa being there for 2 days?
Do you recommend visiting Sapa?

Lev.
Lev is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 10:14 AM
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That is a big price. The info you gave doesn't say which train you are taking or what type of accommodations will be provided. Considering that you will be spending two nights on the train the details are important, esp. with a high price.

It does say jeep, which means riding around in a jeep all day and not a Mercedes sedan (which I don't think you will find anywhere, but for $500 you might expect it).

Doesn't say what hotel you are staying at or what kind of room. If you've got the Premier's suite with a private swimming pool then it might command that kind of price, in the package.

I thought that most tours that arrive Lao Cai on Sunday morning go to Bac Ha straight away. IIRC, Sapa is west of Lao Cai and Bac Ha is to the east. So you'd ride from Lao Cai to Bac Ha (30 minutes?} to have breakfast then back thru Lao Cai to Bac Ha. Then return.

There's no mention of a guide, so no English speaking professor of ethnic studies will be there. Maybe no guide. Or could be a driver and an English speaking local guide.

I recommend going to a couple of other tour websites to see what their itins are like. handspan, buffalo tours, etc.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 10:18 AM
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I just read two tour descriptions. One said 33km and 90 minutes from Lao Cai to Sapa. The other said 40km and 150 minutes. Train arrives at 6 or 6:30, Bac Ha market starts at 8.

Both tours go to Sapa on Day 1. Then on day 2 go to Bac Ha and then to Lao Cai for the train.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 12:08 PM
  #6  
 
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That's a crazy price for Vietnam. www.seat61.com lists the price for an air-con sleeper from Hanoi to Lao Cai as $15, so that would be $30 round trip, leaving $470 for everything else.

However, I noticed that you would be staying at the Victoria Hotel, and I believe the Victoria runs its own, fancy train. While the Vietnamese railways trains aren't as comfortable as the Chinese, they are certainly not bad. I'd check which train you'll be on, and then decide how much a fancier train is worth.
thursdaysd is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 12:34 PM
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Since the itinerary states he'll be staying at the Victoria, I expect he'll ride the Victoria train as well. So one would expect that it would be more expensive than the regular train, but $500 is a LOT of money in VN.
Kathie is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 03:43 PM
  #8  
Lev
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Thanks!
What about the Sapa area?
Something so special that cannot be found anywhere in the world?
Lev is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 03:51 PM
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The Victoria Train can be as much as $280/per person round trip. Depends on whether you take superious (4 people) or deluxe (2 people) accommodation, dining car or not, weekend or weekday. The hotel charge starts at $126.00 per night per room...so the train and hotel could be about $350.00 per person. Another $150.00 per person on a few meals and a group tour is not good value though imo.

http://www.victoriahotels-asia.com/e...-express-train is about the train.

The Victoria offers packages that seem to be a better value than what is offered by your tour company. http://www.victoriahotels-asia.com/e...esort/packages

KimJapan is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 05:08 PM
  #10  
Lev
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I just checked. It is first class sleeper to Sapa, known as the "Tonkinese Alps." The train features private sleeping compartments and dining car.. Is it the Victoria train?
Lev is offline  
Sep 29th, 2007, 05:15 PM
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Kim - you left off the 10% tax and 5% service charge, making the most expensive train fare over $300 round trip - more than 10 times the regular train! Even the cheapest rate is over $100. Personally, I'd rather spend the money on more time in Vietnam. The Victoria train's not going to get there any faster, and you can be pretty sure you'll only meet other tourists.
thursdaysd is offline  
Sep 30th, 2007, 02:30 AM
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The math is wrong KimJapan. You said $350 "per person" for hotel and train and then it must be $150 for the tour, since 350+150=500. But the pp rate would be $700 for two, without the tour. So the $500 is not so bad, comared to that.

Lev, did you follow the links that Kim gave you? The train that the Victoria Hotel uses is the Victoria Express.

thursdaysd it is not all about price.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Sep 30th, 2007, 02:45 AM
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Oh well. Good thing I gave the links then. Math wizard I am not, especially when in a hurry. I just don't understand how you get $700 per person though...

And maybe I wasn't good at explaining my convoluted logic. The train's high price is $280, then a room is 1/2 of $126.00 for a double, so +$65.00. That gives you $345.00 for train and 1/2 of a double room (since we are talking per person), leaving $155 (about $150) left over for the tour you get, per person, which is very high considering it's a group thing, not private.

The Victoria also offers various packages if you want to take the Victoria train. It's the same train, but in the special and luxurious Victoria car. You still get there riding in another car or even on another train, but if you want to be as comfortable as you can, the Victoria train is the way to go. Also, note that the price changes considerably for weekends vs. weekdays and dining car or not.
KimJapan is offline  
Sep 30th, 2007, 02:52 AM
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This package offers the 2 nights on the Victoria Express train, 2 nights at the Victoria Sapa, with various inclusions for $384.00 high season per person (single sup $145). Price included tax and service.http://www.victoriahotels-asia.com/e...sday-to-friday
KimJapan is offline  
Sep 30th, 2007, 04:40 AM
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Good find, Kim.

"it is not all about price." - first answer. True. I prefer to use local transport, it gives me a better chance of connecting with the locals, instead of building a bigger wall.

Second answer - depends on how much of it you have. When I was working I had more money than time, now I'm retired I have more time than money, and I look at a sum like this in terms of how many days travel it will buy me. Plus, the idea of splashing this kind of money around in a country that's still as poor as Vietnam doesn't feel good to me - I'd sooner give it to offwego for theplf.org.

Finally, the OP asked if this was a good deal. Kim found a better deal keeping the same train and hotel. I'm suggesting that he could do very much better if he took the regular train and stayed in smaller hotel.
thursdaysd is offline  
Oct 4th, 2007, 08:52 PM
  #16  
Lev
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Question:
What is 'high season' in Sapa?
I believe it is April and May.
I am thinking of going to Vietnam in December. Probably not the best time to visit Sapa. I was trying to find the info on the weather in Sapa in December, but could not find anything..
I suspect it will be cold and rainy..
So.. I think it may make sense to skip Sapa. What do you think?
Lev is offline  
Oct 4th, 2007, 08:57 PM
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It is very likely to be cold and rainy. If it were me (and it isn't) I'd skip Sapa.
Kathie is offline  
Oct 4th, 2007, 09:02 PM
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Lev - you could do some research at www.wunderground.com, but I think the answer is "it depends". You might get lucky. One year I was in Hanoi in December and it was so cold and wet I headed south earlier than I intended. The next year friends of mine were there at the same time, and it was warm and sunny!
thursdaysd is offline  
Oct 5th, 2007, 03:57 AM
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Please visit our web site:http://smileytours.com. We organize private tours only. Reasonable price but great smiles!
writetome_smiley is offline  
Oct 5th, 2007, 06:03 AM
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Smiley, no advertising is allowed in the forum. Your post will be deleted by the editors.
Kathie is offline  

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