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Getting around

Getting around the Northern Highlands can be an experience within itself. By rail, travellers can travel to Sapa on the overnight sleeper train. Rattling your way up to Lao Cai and sharing a beer with fellow travellers along the way is a right of passage for anyone visiting the North. From Lao Cai, mini buses and taxis await to shuttle weary travellers up to the clouds of Sapa.Another option for the intrepid traveller is to join the locals on a public bus. With all the major towns in the North West being serviced, this is a great way to get off the beaten track and make a lot of local friends along the way.

An increasingly popular way of travelling around the North West is by motorbike. A number of tour operators offer guided motor motorbike trips from Hanoi with the spectacular mountainous roads of Ha Giang being on the top of many people’s list. If you take this option make sure your tour company arranges a local motor bike drivier’s licence and your insurance policy covers this form of travel.

The North West is serviced by one airport in Dien Bien Phu. The 1 hour flight from Hanoi makes visiting the historical town a popular and easy short break .From here travellers can explore the western frontier and head through the wild forests of Lai Chau to the mountains of Sapa before returning to Hanoi via the overnight train from Lao Cai.For short trips around the towns of the North West taxis and xe om(motorbike taxis) are also widely available, and with a little bargaining can work out to be a cheap option – even for overnight journeys.

Climate

The weather in the Northern Highlands can be cooler than the more humid low lands so remember to bring and extra layer or two. On average, the warmest months in the North West are generally from April to August, and the wettest months are from May to November.

Banking

Most provincial capital cities of the North West have major banks and ATMs, however the more remote the destination, this becomes less likely, so always be sure to take enough Vietnamese currency along with you if travelling off the beaten track. Many of the banks in the cities and some towns will exchange US dollars but the exchange rate is not usually favourable.

Internet

Internet services are available even in smaller towns and the connection speed is generally good. Many cafes have free unsecured wi-fi connections. Local pre-paid 3G wireless USB can also be purchased for a reasonable price from tel-com stores in most major cities. Computer game ‘dens’ are also fairly widespread with many also providing internet access.

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