As Lao Cai Province is mountainous and still developing, its natural environment is relatively environmentally unspoilt. This means that its potential as an ecotourism destination among Vietnamese and foreigners is still intact. It has now become popular and a novel experience among both Chinese and Vietnamese as a tourist destination, particularly a "sexualized and sensualised" border town of Lao Cai.
Special border travel packages for tourists, arranged between China and Vietnam under the present political set up in Vietnam, has relaxed regulations permitting tourists to visit selected locations under conducted tours to places in Northern Vietnam and particularly to the provincial headquarter of Lao Cai; Lao Cai is the last stop before crossing into China on way to Cumming across the border, which lies at the end of the train line to China.
Since then the Chinese tourists visiting Lao Cai on a one day trip or two days trip including the hill station town of Sapa in the province (a popular five trip is also organized covering Lao Cai, Hanoi, Ha Long and Hai Phong) recorded a quantum jump, from 4200 in 1995 to 176,310 in 2002. Lao Cai is popular among Chinese travelers (males, in particular) who are said to be “obsessed with Zhao Xiaojie ("looking for misses") for its sex market. A male tourist from China made a mention: “There is a common saying in China: Vietnam sacrifices one generation of young women for the well-being of the next three generations.” A popular motorbiking route among tourists that covers the mountainous region of the province known as the "Tonkinese Alps", is to start from the White Thai villages, Son La, historic site of Dien Bien Phu and terminating at Sa Pa.