As soon as you set foot on Sapa, you’ll be bombarded on all sides by trekking opportunities. So there’s no need to book a trek in advance because resources abound.

In this guide, we will delve into the whole Sapa trekking tour process:

How to book it
Treks to choose from
Our experience at it


Booking a trek in person or by phone

Two months before arriving in Sapa, we were recommended a local guide by a Portuguese backpacker we met in Kampot.  We followed her suggestion and called Mama Mae — the local Hmong guide she told us about.




The booking process was simple: you can do it directly with the local guides as they approach you in the street, or by phone since they’ll hand out their numbers if you’re not ready to commit on the spot. You can also do it through your hotel, the Sapa tourism office or any tour operator around town.


You can book one of the following options:

• Half day trek
• Full day trek: includes one meal
• 2-day trek with homestay: includes two meals and a few drinks, a bath, and a bed for the night (usually at the guide’s family house)
Some tour operators like Buffalo Tours or Sapa Sisters offer up to 5-day trek options

Then you’ll set up the day, time and spot where the trek starts.
The payment is usually done at the end of the trek.


Price tables

Booking directly through a local guide will cost a fraction of what you’ll pay to a tour operator. Still, every guide has her own fee and these are some of the offers we got:

Mama Bau: 14€ for one day trek and 28€ for 2 days + homestay.
Mama Susu: 11,50€ for one day and 28€ for the 2 days + homestay.
Mama Mae: 11€ for one full day
Tour operator fees start at 35€ for one day




If you’re an experienced hiker you could do the trek on your own, but by hiring an experienced guide you’ll be helping the local communities and learning about them. Besides, no one knows the hillside as they do.

Let’s do this!

Nuno and I met Mama Mae at 9 in the morning, near the Gothic church in the city center. The two of us joined a group of four American girls and three other Hmong women that walked alongside us the entire trek.

Mama Mae spoke very good English but the other Hmong women did not. We figured that they must accompany tourists as a way to practice their English, so eventually, they can become guides themselves.


Hmong women showing us the way through the Sapa moutains in Vietnam


Take plenty of water

It was a beautiful warm and sunny day in opposition to the stormy days before. We were super excited to be out and about exploring nature, and having a genuine taste of the Vietnamese rural life.


Rice paddies at Sapa


However, two hours in, we realized that 1,5L water bottle wouldn’t last long for two grown men hiking a mountain and descending through muddy rice terraces. Not to mention that Mama Mae got thirsty too, so we ended up sharing our water with her—because we’re gentlemen.

Take plenty of water, you’ll need it. There aren’t any shops in the hills, only in the villages.


Mario trekking the mountain in Sapa


Soul cleansing views

The scenery was breathtaking—everywhere we looked was like a panoramic screensaver!
Not only Mama Mae took us to the best lookout spots in the mountains, but we also saw water buffaloes, piglets, tea and cannabis plantations. We talked for hours about Vietnam, her family and ours. She was like an open book.


Water buffalo and farmer at a Sapa rice paddie

Mama Mae holding cannabis leaves


Meanwhile, the other 3 Hmong women kept walking by our side asking time and again:

– Where are you from?


Vietnamese Hmong women with Mario and Nuno


At noon, we stopped for lunch at a humble restaurant where other hikers were. Mama Mae provided us with a noodle soup and some pieces of fruit, but the drinks we paid ourselves. After lunch, we walked a few more hours to her house, where the first day of trekking ended. We met the husband and granddaughters as she prepared some tea for us: Lipton, believe it or not.

After tea, she explained how she makes indigo blue dye from plants.


Hmong fabric dye

Indigo dyed fabrics drying in the sun


True colors

The other 3 Hmong women that followed us around came with a goal in mind: to sell. To sell as much as possible.

After a subtle sign from Mama Mae, they pulled out all sorts of knick-knacks from their wicker baskets: bracelets, wallets, shawls, and whistles, along with an aggressive selling tactic. They turned into unfazed vending machines that didn’t take “no” for an answer.


Back to Sapa on a motorbike

Having finished our full day trek, Mama Mae took us to the center of her village, calling two motorbike taxis to take us back to Sapa: 2.00€ each, paid by ourselves.

The ride back to Sapa alone was amazing. It’s not every day that someone can ride through valleys in Vietnam, with the sun setting behind the mountains and the last sunbeams reflecting on the rice paddies. That’s something we’ll never forget.


Mountains, Sapa Vietnam


Trekking equipment

Keep it light and simple.
All you’ll need is a comfortable pair of sturdy shoes, light clothing, and a camera. Remember to take plenty of water, snacks, sunblock and you’ll be good to go.

As a side note, Sapa has plenty of shops that both rent and sell trekking gear.


Sapa trek guide walking


Full day trek expenses

Full day trek: 11€
Motorbike taxi: 2€
Water bottle: 0.60€

If you’re planning a trekking tour on Sapa we still have Mama Mae’s, Mama Bau’s and Mama Susu’s phone numbers and will gladly share them with you. Leave a reply down here or at any of our social media outlets and we’ll send it to you via email or PM.

Here’s a photo of Mama Mae taken in September 2018 by Cristelle — one of our readers. Cristelle reached out to us and asked for Mama Mae’s phone number. Two days later she was trekking with her in Sapa!

We’re super glad to contribute (even if in a small way) to your adventures, and by doing so helping Mama Mae on the other side of the world.

Trekking Sapa Vietnam 2018

Nuno and Mario

Hi there! We’re Nuno and Mário and we share helpful tips to make travel planning easy for you.

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