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Lao Cai Travel Guide

Lao Cai is one of the northwest province of Vietnam having so many beautiful places to visit in a Vietnam tour packages. Lao Cai was totally destroyed in the Vietnam - China war in 1979, but this province has been rebuilt quickly and become the centre for economy and tourism of the northwest Vietnam.

How to get there

By train: It is classic way to get to Lao Cai, there are overnight trains from Le Duan train station in Hanoi offering 3-4 trains per night to Lao Cai. Eventhough the train cabin is clean, comfotable and air-conditioning, but the railway is too old so the train trip to Lao Cai wil take around 8 hours and tourists normally complain that they can not sleep much. Traveling by train is still advised if you travel Vietnam on a tight budget or would like to experience Vietnam by train.

By road: The new superhighway from Noi Bai international airport to Lao Cai is around 265 km and it takes around 3-4 hours by private car or bus. Lots of backpackers are choosing overnight sleeping bus to get to Lao Cai as it is cheap and quick. If you are traving with family or want comfort, it is advised to book a tour package to be escorted with a private tour guide and driver.

sapa tour packages

Best time to visit

There is nothing to visit in Lao Cai and the town is just the base to continue your Vietnam tour packages to beautiful places in the province such as Sapa, Y Ty, Bac Ha Market, Coc Ly Market, Can Cau market. The best time to visit is during July - September when it is right time to see amazing rice terraces. Dry season is from October to December is good when it is dry and cool, but there is no more rices on the fields.

Things to do

Sapa is one of the districts of Lao Cai and just around 35km away. Sapa is the stunning mountain town offering fantastic view to Hoang Lien Son mountain range. The Muong Hoa valley at the foot of the highest mount- the Fansipan offers one of the world's most amazing rice terraces and dotted with picturesque ethnic villages of the Black H' Mong, Red Dao, Day, Tay and Xa Pho. Sapa is best place in Vietnam for trekking tour and homestay experience.

Y Ty is located in Bat Xat district of Lao Cai and listed as one of the most magical destinations on earth. Unexplored area with charming villages nested in stunning rice terraces can be seen in Y Ty. Lao Cai have the plan to develop this area to become another tourist attraction of the province in 2017. Roads to be upgraded, hotels will be built, but until then motorcycling tour is the best way to magical Y Ty.

Weekly markets in the mountainous areas of Lao Cai have long been known as the unique experience for tourists. The markets are the places for differenet ethnic groups to gather to exchange local and home-made products. Men to drink, women to talk, friends to meet, etc. The markets are colorful and taking place in the traditional way for centuries. Tourists come to the markets and find it a feast for the eyes!

The list of markets to visit:

Bac Ha market - the most famous one is on every Sunday
Can Can market - similar to Bac Ha market but smaller is on every Saturday
Coc Ly market - on every Tuesday
Cao Son market - on Wednesday
Lung Khau Nhin market - on every Thursday

A tour to Lao Cai is actually the combined tour to visit Sapa and one of the markets as mentioned above. The best Sapa tour packages should be organised by a local tour operator in Hanoi who arrange your transportation from Hanoi, book your hotel in Sapa, choose the best Sapa tours and activities for you to enjoy specious time in this beautiful destination of Vietnam.

bac ha market

Accommodation in Lao Cai

There are many hotels in Lao Cai city but mainly for businessmen and Chinese tourists. As western tourists, Sapa should be your destination and there are numerous hotels from budget to luxury there. May to Auguest is peak season as it is school holiday in Vietnam, the hotels in Sapa will be fully booked very soon and the room rates increase sharply.

If you visit Bac Ha market and would like to stay there, there are few mini hotels to stay which are just basic but comfortable enough for just one night.

Travel tips

Lao Cai is mountainous area and it is not recommended to visit in flooding season in case of landsides. In winter time, it is very cold so bring warm jacket, good trekking shoes.

When trekking in Sapa, it is not a good idea to give money to small kids or buy things from them which encourages them not to go to school.

When taking photos, please ask first. Being taken photos can bring bad luck to them (their thinking)