Details of Life on the Road: Street eats, cheap sleeps, budget travel experiences

How Much It Costs: A Day In Sapa, Vietnam

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One of the favorite things of my pre-travel research included looking up long-term travel budgets. I would look up numerous different budgets for different cities and countries around Southeast Asia and then I’d be able to create a pretty realistic budget for myself. In the following post I’ll give you an idea of what it costs to travel comfortably (in my opinion) for a day in Sapa, Vietnam. Obviously, my budget isn’t necessarily going to suit yours, and so I’ll provide two options: the first option will be a budget for the more frugal backpacker trying not to spend much on sightseeing; similarly, the second option will be a low budget, but will incorporate a few more activities. Both of these budgets will be truthful to exactly how I spent two separate days of my time in Sapa.

The Cheaper Budget:

I arrived in Sapa around 4:00am. Generally, if a hostel is within few kilometers of the bus station/drop off area I’ll choose walking rather than paying for transportation. In this case, I was tired and disoriented so I chose to get a xe om (motor bike taxi) to the hostel.

Moto taxi: 11,000 Vietnamese Dong/$0.58 Canadian Dollars

I chose to stay at the cheapest hostel I could find, which was a great decision. There was a lively common area with a bar, restaurant, and pool table. The hostel offered wonderful views looking down into a rice-paddie-ladden valley, all of the beds had a heated mattress, the staff were helpful, my dorm only had a modest three beds (great if you’re tired of 12 bed dorms), and it was cheap! No breakfast was included, unfortunately.

Hostel accommodation: 63,000/$3.35

I bought an overpriced breakfast at the hostel which consisted of a vegetable omelet and half of a large baguette. Usually I would choose not to eat in the hostel, as it’s generally more expensive, and search for a cheaper restaurant. However, Sapa is very touristic and it’s food was some of the most expensive in Vietnam.

Breakfast: 35,000/$1.86

Shortly thereafter I hit up the local market – in this case the market consisted of both food (fresh, and cooked), and handicrafts. Markets are a great place to find cheap, local, delicious food. After walking around and developing a craving for some fruit, I bought some rambutan (similar to lychee) – I actually visited the market twice in a short time frame, purchasing two separate quantities of the fruit.

Fruit: 10,000/$0.53

Knowing me, lunch was right around the corner. I had a bowl of vegetarian pho. Yum!

Lunch: 35,000/$1.86

Back at the hostel I met a couple of friendly American girls and we planned to hike to the nearby local village, Cat Cat. We hiked for about 3 hours all together – one hour down switchbacks into the village, an hour and a bit through the picturesque village, and an hour walking back toward the hostel. There’s an entrance fee in order to pass through the village but luckily it included entrance to a few other surrounding villages.

Village entrance fee: 40,000/$2.13

We were all a bit tired from hiking in the hot sun, so after being pestered by a moto-taxi driver we finally did some bargaining and agreed on a price back for the ride back to town.

Moto-taxi: 20,000/$1.06

Knowing me, once more I purchased a snack. We had to pass by the market on our way back to the hostel and so I decided to purchase one of the many road-side fried snacks, a sugary doughnut.

Doughnut: 5,000/$0.27

After arriving back at the hostel, relaxing for a while, and then showing it was time to socialize. I played some pool with a few other travelers, and enjoyed a few beer before going out for dinner.

Beer (3): 60,000/$3.19

I believe I had rice with an assortment of different vegetable dishes for dinner, as well as some spring rolls, and one more beer.

Dinner: 70,000/$3.72

Once dinner was finished and we walked back to the hostel it was nearly time for bed. I bought an overpriced 1.5 liter water and called it a night.

Water: 20,000/$1.06

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DAILY TOTAL: 369,000 Vietnamese Dong/$19.62 Canadian Dollars

 

As you can see, I’ve kept a reasonably cheap budget for this day. I did some sight seeing, got some exercise, ate three full meals, had some snacks, and socialized in the evening and had a few beer all the while keeping it under $20.00 despite being in a very touristic area. If I were to have skipped on the alcohol, ate at the market, skipped on the unnecessary snacks, and chose walking over taxis I could have easily saved another $9.80, bringing my budget for this day under $10.00 (which, by the way, is how some of my days were spent)!


 

The More Expensive, Yet Still Cheap Day:

Three other friends and I decided to rent scooters and drive into a rural, non-touristic area of Sapa and find a home-stay. Most people opt for the organized tour which includes hiking and a home-stay with a local family of an ethnic minority. Since I already did some hiking in Sapa, and we all know how much fun it is to get off of the beaten path, we all agreed it would be a much more rewarding experience to drive into parts unknown and find our own home stay.

I once again ate breakfast at the hostel, this time also enjoying a delicious Vietnamese coffee.

Breakfast: 55,000/ $2.93

We decided to rent the scooters from our hostel because we all agreed on a good deal, and we were allowed to return the scooters the next day for a minimal fee. Two of us to each scooter cut the rental costs in half.

Scooter rental: 60,000/ $3.19

Of course, no scooter rental comes without having to purchase fuel. Having rented scooters in previous days, we had a good idea of how much fuel we needed.

Fuel: 40,000/ $2.13

In preparation for our trip I purchased some fruit from the market – Rambutan, some bananas, and a pomelo.

Fruit: 27,000/ $1.44

We decided to eat lunch at the market before we went adventuring. Instead of getting a meal I decided to get a few different snacks – I got a friend rice cake filled with beans, two spring rolls, a sugary doughnut ball, and some other snack that I can’t recall!

Lunch: 25,000/ $1.33

Since we were entering the villages which were home to the ethnic minorities of the area we had to once again pay the entrance fee.

Village Entrance fee: 40,000/ $2.13

Don’t forget to keep hydrated. 1.5 liter water.

Water: 15,000/ $0.80

We finally decided on a home-stay in Thanh Phu, which was only a couple hours from Sapa, but we were visibly the only travelers around. We only saw one sign for a home-stay. Since the hosts couldn’t speak any English we were hesitant, but decided to go with it which in the end was the best decision we could have made. There’s something truly special about being able to communicate solely by gesturing between people who speak different languages. Our hosts seemed genuinely happy to have company, and they were very polite and hospitable.

Home-stay: 70,000/ $3.72

Food was not included with our stay, but we wanted to eat their local food and so we ordered dinner. The lady of the house cooked us an assortment of tasty food over an open fire. There were meat dishes for the others, and a few nice vegetarian dishes which I could enjoy – tofu in tomato sauce, morning glory, gingery green vegetables, rice, a soupy tea, and then more tea. We were all gladly full, and couldn’t have been happier with the food.

Dinner: 50,000/ $2.66

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After dinner we decided to venture to the local pub – by pub I mean a small one-roomed, open-aired building which had a pool table and sold beer. We enjoyed a couple of beer and played the locals in a few friendly games of pool.

Beer: 30,000/ $1.60

DAILY TOTAL: 412,000 Vietnamese Dong/ $21.92 Canadian Dollars

Driving though narrow and winding roads with the sun shining down on my face, looking down upon pristine valleys coated in rainbows of green, waving at traditionally dressed ethnic women and happy children, all the while spending valuable time with great friends on a journey to get to an unknown destination: Priceless.

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I want to remind you that the days I’ve detailed above are lived days. Looking at my budget book for two days before and after each of the detailed days, I’ll see other costs such as laundry (30,000), ATM fee (20,000), bracelets (10,000), and an unplanned SD card purchase (350,000). Generally, my daily budget in Sapa stayed just below $20.00, but I could have lived happily for $15.00, or a little less happily for around $10.00, or more luxuriously for $20.00 – $30.00. Often the difference between sightseeing/choosing to do the touristy things rather than not sightseeing can only be a difference of a couple of dollars, as is in this case, but sometimes sightseeing and organized tour costs can really dig into your budget.

More daily budget breakdowns for other cities to come. Photo credit to Luke Pearson for the last photo.

7 Responses to “How Much It Costs: A Day In Sapa, Vietnam”

  1. Stephanie says:

    Hey! Love your post but am curious what the names of the hostels you stayed at were! My friend and I (Canadian as well!) are heading to Sapa tomorrow and are also vegetarian. If you have any restaurant names/suggestions that would be great as well! Thanks 🙂

    • EvanOnTheRoad says:

      Hey Stephanie! Thanks for your comment 🙂 I stayed (mostly) at Green Valley Hotel in Sapa. It’s to the left after going through town and down the hill a few minutes. It’s a decent place to stay – cheap, comfortable, and seemed to be popular with other travelers. As for eating, I ate at a lot of different places, vegetarian options everywhere. One memorable meal was a vegetable hotpot at the market!! Enjoy Sapa. Be sure to write if you have any other questions.

  2. Chloe says:

    Hey! I’m currently in Sapa and my boyfriend is in need of a new memory card for his camera – did you pick yours up in Hanoi? If you remember where (and it still works haha) I’d love to know! Thanks!! Also, did the power go out while you were here? It’s gone out twice in the last hour at my hotel, and also earlier in the day the power went out at a restaurant I was at.

    • EvanOnTheRoad says:

      Hey Chloe!
      Thanks for stopping by. I got my memory card in Sapa up on the main street – there are 3 or 4 camera shops there. Yes, I’m sure the power went out while I was there, it does everywhere in Vietnam, I think they even know what time it will go out. Hope this helps.

  3. Dana says:

    Hi Evan..

    How do I get in touch with the homestay family..?I am making a trip come Jan. 9

    tanx

    Dana

    • EvanOnTheRoad says:

      Hi Dana,

      You can do it through a paid tour – as easy as booking through your hostel and they’ll set you up with a family. However, we opted to just find one ourselves. We drove to a random village and found one homestay. It was a great experience.

      Thanks!

  4. Daniel says:

    Hi , do you have aby idea how much money the tours might cost from the hostel ? Are they cheap or is it just not worth it and we should probably just rent a bike ?

    Thanks for your help and info ive been trying to find some decent cheap info for hours

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