If you are visiting Northern Vietnam and you are planning an amazing adventure-filled unforgettable experience then look no further. I highly recommend touring the Ha Giang Loop on a motorbike. This was absolutely the highlight of my trip to Vietnam. This do-it-yourself guide to the Ha Giang Motorbike Loop will give you tips on how to do a multiday motorbike loop by yourself or with a group. I’ll give you insights on what to expect, points of interest, and who this may or may not be fit for. This is my first-hand experience of renting a motorbike and seeing what the Ha Giang Loop had to offer all by myself as a solo traveler.
So what is the Ha Giang Motorbike Loop?
The Ha Giang Loop is a scenic route in the Northern part of Vietnam that borders China. The loop has many amazing viewpoints of skyscraper high mountain ranges, gorgeous mountainside rice terraces, quaint small villages, historical landmarks, lush valleys, and rivers.
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What to consider first before deciding wether or not the Ha Gaing Motorbike Loop is right for you?
Motorbike Comfort Level
Your motorbike comfort level is a very important aspect to consider when planning a Ha Giang Motorbike Loop trip. Whether you are planning for yourself or for a group. Outlined below are some things to consider and something I would recommend against depending on your motorbike skill level.
Have you ever driven a motorbike or motorscooter?
If the answer is no, then I can NOT recommend your first attempt at driving a motorbike to be along the Ha Giang Loop.
The reasoning is because the Ha Giang Loop is full of very steep terrain, sharp turns, large vehicles passing by, and at times rain and fog. If you are not comfortable driving a motorbike then you simply would not have fun, and the Ha Giang Loop is no place to start practicing. This is just my personal opinion, so proceed at your own risk.
So what motorbike skill level do I personally recommend.
Once again, this is just my personal opinion. But I recommend you have a least a couple of months experience driving a motorscooter or a motorbike in regular traffic with experience changing lanes in traffic. The steep inclines and getting used to riding down winding roads with tour buses will be a little daunting at first, but you will get used to them the more you participate. If you stay aware of your surroundings, take it slow, and practice good safety measures you should be fine.
My personal experience with riding a motorbike
How to experience the Ha Giang motorbike Loop with little to no experience riding a motorbike?
The good news is that you can still experience the Ha Giang Motorbike loop even if you have no experience driving a motorbike.
In this case, I would recommend taking what is sometimes referred to as an “Easy Rider Tour” These tours will allow you to ride on the back of a motorbike with a motorbike driver with years of experience. Alternatively, you can also hire a car to drive you on the loop.
How to get to Ha Gaing
Most people start in the small city of Ha Giang. Ha Giang city is where you will find many hostels and hotels catering specifically to tourists seeking to drive the Ha Giang Loop on a motorbike. Ha Giang itself is a relatively small city with a population of around 71 thousand people from 22 different ethnic groups. ATM’s and restaurants will be easy to find in Ha Giang as well as a couple of the cities along the Ha Giang Loop.
Getting to Ha Gaing City by Bus
For about 415k VND ($18 USD) you can take a charter bus from Hanoi, the trip will take around 6 hours and the buses are pretty comfortable with occasional bathroom stops. If you are traveling from somewhere further like Ha Long Bay or Cat Ba the trip will take closer to 10 hrs and you can take a semi-sleeper bus for around 512k VND ($22 USD). These overnight sleeper buses are quite common all throughout Vietnam, and you can find routes from many different cities within Vietnam. Most of these longer duration buses will leave from a bus station a little further away from the dense downtown city areas and you will have to take a taxi or grab to the pick-up point. Traveling from Sapa will take around 5hrs and 30 mins and cost around 396k – 489k VND ($17-21 USD) by shuttle van.
Getting to Ha Giang from Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Cat Ba, or Sapa
- My best experience is asking your hostel/hotel what bus service they use. They can usually call and have pickup arranged from your hotel.
- The other option would be to find a local tour agency or bus ticket office and book with them in person.
Booking a bus ticket online
We all love having the convenience of booking online, and in this modern-day and age, there is nothing like instant gratification. In Southeast Asia, they sometimes do things a little differently. At times it can feel a little chaotic and disorganized. Traveling in Vietnam will be no different. There are so many small, medium, and large transportation companies in Vietnam that most of the smaller and medium ones do not have an online presence, so they are essentially not equipped to deal with online bookings themselves and rely on using a 3rd party web portal to sell for them. In most cases, they are relying on an employee from the 3rd party booking service to confirm the reservation with the transportation company. So if you decide to go with and online vendor like 12goasia, Bookaway or Baolau then please read the fine print as not all of the tickets sold will offer instant booking confirmation.
My 1st, 2nd, and 3rd pick for Online Booking. (Note: that none of these are perfect solutions)
Tips for booking a bus ticket in Vietnam online
Fing your bus ticket with 12GoAsia
Motorbike Rental and Tour Companies
QT Motorbike Rental – They offer exceptional customer service and good quality bikes in both manual and semi-automatic. Prices range from 150k-650k VND (USD 6.51-28.21) before insurance cost. Price is based on what type of motorbike you get. The insurance is worth the cost in my opinion. This is the company I can personally vouch for and I had absolutely no problems with the semi-auto motorbike I rented. I rented a 110cc Honda for 150k VND ($6.51 USD) per day and for my body weight (150lbs) was adequate although at times struggled up the very steep parts of the Ha Giang Loop. But, that could have been me not being in a low enough gear. All in all, I am very happy with the bike and if I did the loop again I would probably still opt for the 110cc bike because the 125cc motorbikes cost around 300k VND ($13 USD), and I’m not sure the extra 15cc would make that much of a difference in performance to value ratio.
- Dependable motorbikes and customer service
- Offers guided multiday tours or choose to do-it-yourself
- Free hostel dorm bed if you are renting a motorbike with them and arriving in Ha Giang early from an overnight bus.
- Located about 300meters from Ha Giang Bus Station
- They have a hostel with private rooms or dorm rooms
- You can leave some luggage at their facility if you plan on returning motorbike to Ha Giang Branch
- They also have a branch in Cao Bang and instead of riding the complete route, you can opt to do part of the Ha Giang Loop and continue to Cao Bang to drop off the bike at that branch. Of course, this will come at a fee since they have to have someone return the bike to their Ha Giang location.
- They provide helmet, rain gear, rain bag cover, and straps for your backpack.
Lila Inn & Travel Service – I can not vouch for this motorbike tour operator because I did not personally use them, but I had friends that have used them and they had a good experience. They also have a good reputation online.
International Drivers Permits
You may be required to provide a Passport, a valid driver’s license, and an international driving permit. These items may or may not be required with any motorbike rental company, so it is best to check with the rental company of your choice. An International Drivers Permit is documentation that verifies you have a valid driver’s license and is accepted and recognized by 150 countries. They are easy to get at most Automobile Associations like AAA in the United States. I purchased one for $20 USD from AAA and it only took about 15minutes to get. Your country should have an accredited Automobile Association where you can get an International Drivers Permit.
In my case, I was not asked to show my International Drivers Permit.
Planning the route along the Ha Giang Motorbike Loop
The Ha Giang Loop is approximately 350km and will take anywhere from 2-5 days to complete. I completed the route in 3 days. However, there were a couple of sights I missed, and at times I felt like I rushed through the experience. So I would recommend giving yourself 4 days to complete the loop.
- Most people start the Ha Giang Motorbike Loop in Ha Giang city and go clockwise.
- The average driving time will be 3-6 hours depending on your start and endpoints.
- Common overnight stops are Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Dong Van, Meo Vac, Du Gia
- Motorbike Rental Companies should be able to give you a map with points of interest.
Ha Giang Loop Overview Map
The yellow highlighted line is the particular route I chose. I stayed in Dong Van, Du Gia, and Quan Ba before heading back to Ha Giang to return my motorbike.
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Road conditions on Ha Giang Loop
The main roads along the Ha Giang Motorbike Loop when I drove it in November of 2019 were around 90 percent paved asphalt, 5 percent gravel, and the other 5 percent loose gravel or being worked on. If you choose to see any points of interest off the main roads you may experience smaller trails that are not paved and a bit rocky.
Accommodation and ATMs
Accommodation will be easy to find along the route, but ATMs will be a little more scarce. Just keep in mind that it will take around 2-3 hours before you will pass a city that has accommodation and ATMs along the Ha Giang Loop. Credit cards in almost all of the cities and small villages are not widely accepted so plan accordingly. I recommend having at least enough cash to pay for 2 days of accommodation, food, and gas at the very least. I found Booking.com had the most listings for accommodation around the Ha Giang loop, and Airbnb had some listings but not as much.
- Quan Ba – Plenty of accommodation but only one ATM that I am aware of.
- Yen Minh -Some accommodation but NO ATMs that I am aware of.
- Dong Van – Plenty of accommodation but only one ATM that I am aware of.
- Meo Vac – Some accommodation but NO ATMs that I am aware of.
- Ha Giang – Will have the most options for accommodation and ATMs.
Recommended 3-Day Budget Accommodation
Ha Giang – Day 1
For a budget friendly and social option, this hostel came highly recommended by friends. They also do tours and you can rent motorbikes.
Dong Van – Day 2
A budget friendly homestay in Dong Van would be a good resting spot along the route. Private Rooms only, so best for groups.
Du Gia – Day 3
In Du Gia this is a great budget option. Very friendly staff and nice place. Private rooms and dorms available.
- Accommodation per night – 138k to 691k VND ($6-30 USD)
- Motorscooter/Dirtbike per day – 150k to 650k VND ($6.51-28.21 USD)
- Food per meal – 30 to 120k VND ($1.30-5.21 USD)
- Fuel per tank – 40k VND ($1.74 USD)
- Water – 6k VND ($0.20 USD)
Essentials to bring on your Ha Giang Loop adventure
Your motorbike will typically have a small rack on the back where you can fit a medium to large camping backpack on. Your motorbike rental company should be able to provide you with straps and a clear plastic bag for your bag. At times especially in the higher elevations, the weather will be rather cold and sometimes wet. The motorbikes usually come with a rain poncho, but I recommend bringing a jacket and some long pants at the very least to help protect you from the elements.
- Backpack for clothes
- Drybag (If you have a laptop, tablet, or any other important electronics)
- Jacket preferably waterproof or water-resistant.
- Hiking Shoes or boots
- Camera or Action Camera (Optional to record your journey)
- First Aid Kit (Preferred, but I did not have one)
- Unlocked Cellphone with SIM plan (I like Viettel around 150k-300k VND or $6.50-15 USD) I had coverage around 85 percent of ride
- If your phone has eSim, you can use an app like Airalo to buy cell service virtually.
- Google Maps or Maps.me (Download Offline version of maps)
- Passport and Valid Drivers License
- International Drivers Permit ( May not be required, but check with whatever rental company you choose)
110 cc Honda Blake Motorbike while waiting for gas in Dong Van
Final Thoughts about Ha Giang Loop
The Ha Giang Motorbike Loop is a great way to see the Northern part of Vietnam that still feels off the beaten path and authentic. Although it has gotten more popular with adventure seeking tourist it is still one the the most memorable experiences I have ever had and would do the journey again in a heartbeat.