Sapa is a beautiful mountain town in the north western Vietnam that used to be a French hill station. Now, it's a popular destination for local and foreign tourist alike to beat off the summer heat. The weather is cool and pleasant (except winter when it gets really cold) unlike the other cities and towns in the central and southern Vietnam.
At first glance, it may look expensive because the streets seem to be full of restaurants catering to tourists but if you dig further, you'll find a lot of cheap alternatives too.
Here are seven things that I think might help you travel cheaply in Sapa.
1. Bargain with the hotel: We stayed in a hostel for only $5 for two. Yup it's like $2.5 each person and it's not even a dorm. They have huge rooms with your own T&B and hot water. A lot more hotels in the same price range abound in P Tue Tinh. If you ask around, you'll even get your own room for just $4.
2. Buy 5L of water: If you're going to stay for acuople of days, buy the 5L instead of buying 1.5L that costs around 15000 dong each, and just refill your smaller water bottles. The 5L cost around 25000 Dong.
3. Drink and party at the HMong Sisters Bar during Happy Hour (5PM-7PM) where beer only cost 15000 Dong.
4. If you don't have any budget for guided treks then DIY. Cat Cat Village is just nearby and the entrance is just 30000 Dong. For other villages, you could hire a motorbike instead so you could explore on your own. Although I do advise getting a guide if you want to venture to farther villages for your own safety.
5. Buy from a Hmong instead of the shops. These Hmong are the ones who made the beautiful purses, bags etc that are being sold in stores and shops around Sapa. Buy your souvenirs directly from them. Check out the prices in the market first so you'll have an idea of how much it is. Buying directly from a Hmong will also help them generate an income for their family.
6. Buy your fruits in the market instead from a restaurant. Buy your cup noodles, soda etc in the supermarket (near the lake) instead from a store shop.
7. Bakeries are abundant too. I've seen two bakeries offering the same bread but with different prices. Compare prices before buying. The bakeries near Cau May offer a more reasonable price. Or better yet, buy your breads from the market (cheapest I've found).
Sapa should not be missed in your itinerary when you go to Vietnam. It's also a gateway to Laos for those who are travelling the Indochina circuit. Check out my post about how to go to Luang Prabang from Sapa if you're heading this route and check this one if you're travelling to Sapa from Hanoi. Travelling does not need to be that expensive to enjoy it.