The Sapa tour guides are fantastic. There is an incredible ethnic mix of young, talented, enthusiastic guides including Black Hmong, Red Dao, Giay and Kinh (ethnic Vietnamese). The Black Hmong are known to have a great sense of humour and excellent English skills and the Red Dao have incredibly warm personalities. Many of the Kinh guides have University degrees in tour guiding, while ethnic minority guides have a lifetime of knowledge. Both the Kinh and ethnic minorities have their advantages and unique perspectives. 

Your best bet is to get a map, track out your trekking routes and look into some possible extra little jaunts and explorations to some neighbouring villages along your route. As you village-hop it is recommended that you reflect on where your money is going. Even small decisions such as where you purchase bottled water can make a big difference and spread economic benefits more equitably.  Additionally, try to purchase souvenirs from a member of every ethnic minority. These steps can help create a more equitable tourism economy and ensure that you are doing your part to be a respectful and sustainable visitor. 

Here a few thoughtful questions to ask when booking your tour.

1. Will the tour be led by a local ethnic minority guide? Can I request a guide from the village I am staying in? What are the ethnic minorities I will be meeting? Will I be able to interact with my homestay hosts and what minority are they?

2. What are some cross-cultural considerations I should be aware of (e.g. wearing white)? Should I bring gifts with me for my tour guide, my tour guide's family, my host family (e.g. wine, school supplies, household tools)?

3. What proportion of the tour price is going to the guides and/or the homestay family? What are some ways I can increase these amounts (e.g. purchasing brocade/batik products or beverages)?

4. What is the current weather in Sapa? Do I have the right footwear? Can I buy rubber boots in Sapa if the weather is wet?

When you finally decide on a tour and arrive in Sapa, be sure that you have arranged for an extra 'free' day. The free day will be extremely beneficial for getting acclimatized (to the town and to the altitude), getting sufficient rest after the night train, and adjusting to the weather. Take some of this time to meet with some of the people from the different ethnic minorities (Red Dao and Black Hmong to start), and to get acquainted with the geography.

Your best bet is to get a map, track out your trekking routes and look into some possible extra little jaunts and explorations to some neighboring villages along your route. You might even be able to talk to your guide and adjust your route!

As you trek and village-hop it is recommended that you reflect on where your money is going. Even small decisions such as where you purchase bottled water can make a big difference and spread the economic benefits out amongst the villagers. Additionally, try and purchase souvenirs from a member of every ethnic minority. These steps can help create a more equitable tourism economy and ensure that you are doing your part to be a respectful and sustainable visitor. 

THINGS TO ASK WHEN BOOKING YOUR TOUR

Here a few thoughtful questions to ask when booking your tour, or when on your tour to help you on your way:

1. Will the tour be led by a local ethnic minority guide? Can I request a guide from the village I am staying in? What are the ethnic minorities I will be meeting? Will I be able to interact with my homestay hosts? What minority are they?

2. What are some cross-cultural considerations I should be aware of? (E.g.: wearing white) Should I bring gifts with me for my tour guide, my tour guide's family, my host family? (E.g.: wine, school supplies, household tools)

3. What proportion of the tour price is going to the guides and/or the homestay family? What are some ways I can increase these amounts? (E.g.: buying brocade/batik products or beverages)

4. What is the current weather in Sapa? Do I have the right footwear? Can I buy rubber boots in Sapa if the weather is wet?

The Sapa tour guides are fantastic! There is an incredible ethnic mix of young, talented, enthusiastic guides including Black Hmong, Red Dao, Kinh, and Giay. The Black Hmong are known to have a great sense of humour and excellent English skills and the Red Dao have incredibly warm personalities. Many of the Kinh (Vietnamese) guides have University degrees in tour guiding, while ethnic minority guides have a lifetime of knowledge from their villages and the surrounding mountains. Both the Kinh and ethnic minorities have their advantages and the perspectives from them are both quite valuable. Take full advantage of whomever leads you with lots of insightful questions or activity requests.

Finally, don't be afraid to get your hands dirty. The culture of the area does not usually ask you to come help with things like the cooking or the daily chores of feeding the animals and working in the field. You will have to be the one to wake up a little earlier and take the initiative. It will be well worth it!