Complete guide to the Ha Giang loop 50+ photos

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Ha Giang. A Vietnamese province bordering China, made up of 7,946 square kilometres of unparalleled beauty, true indigenous culture, tradition and best of all… For the moment anyway, still unravaged by hordes of us tourists and the infrastructure that our travel demands.

 

So what is the Ha Giang motorbike loop?

In many ways, a chance to travel back in time and see the true Vietnamese culture/tradition before it was tainted by the mass tourism of today. Until recently, tourism in the Ha Giang province was minimal but it’s now on a steady increase and I fear it won’t be long until even this, one of the most remote parts of Vietnam is turned into just another “tourist town”.

So to answer the question. The Ha Giang motorbike Loop is one of the last chances to straddle a motorbike, hit the open road and see the most beautiful, rugged and awe-inspiring terrain South East Asia has to offer. All the while being totally immersed “local culture”.

In all fairness, there is quite a bit of variation when it comes to which route to take. The most popular route is roughly 320km long and takes between 2 and 5 days. It starts in Ha Giang and takes you through Tam Son, Yen Minh, Dong Van, Meo Vac, back through Yen Minh, Tam Son and back to the start at Ha Giang.

Alternatively, there’s the larger loop that travels south from Meo Vac. Incorporating, Cho Ra, Ba Be Lake, Chua Hang Che and then back north to Ha Giang. At roughly 720km, it takes 5-9 days and is really only for the hardcore bikers.

We didn’t do either of these of these routes, as we planned to try and squeeze in Cao Bang mid route but that didn’t work out for reasons I’ll discuss further down this post.

Anyways, now you’ve got an idea of what the loop is all about, let’s crack on and get into what you’ll need to know….



Ha Giang motorbike loop guide, broken down

Here’s a rough outline of what this article will encompass:

  • Best time to complete the Ha Giang loop
  • Getting from Hanoi to Ha Giang
  • Renting yourself a trusty steed
  • Getting your permit
  • Adventure on the Ha Giang loop
  • Budget for completing the Ha Giang loop
  • Alternatives to riding a motorbike
  • Lasting impressions of the Ha Giang loop 


Best time to complete the Ha Giang loop

 

Without a doubt, when embarking on a monumental adventure like this, weather matters!! As well as the weather, if at all possible, you should try and time your trip to coincide with the rice harvest.

The hottest weather in the Ha Giang region is during the summer months between May and August. Although a very mountainous region, temperatures can still soar to a blistering 35C. Unfortunately for you heat lovers out there, this is also the time year that has the most rainfall. Riding a motorbike around potholed, mountainous switchback roads in the torrential rain of the Vietnamese wet season just inches from a 500ft drop!? NO THANKYOU!! This is not the time of year to go!

According to the typical weather stats, September to March are the driest months. That being said, also the coldest months. Looking at the information here , the best all round weather is in September and October. Luckily this also coincides with the annual rice harvest in the province. Win! Win!

We went at the beginning of October and the rice harvest was in full swing. Also, the route was pretty busy with other backpackers so if you’re a solo traveller, you won’t be alone.



What to pack for the loop

 

Obviously, you can’t really go flying around the mountain roads with a full size suitcase strapped to the back of your moped. Although, I have see a Vietnamese guy with a cow on the back of his Honda Win…. Travelling as light as possible is the aim here. To an extent this depends a lot on you!

Are you the type of person wake up in the morning, pick up yesterdays t-shirt, give it the “smell test” and if it doesn’t smell like rotten Durian fruit then it’s good for another day. OR are you the person that needs to different outfit for brunch and afternoon tea!?

However, there are a few essentials…

  • Waterproofs – On a cold, cloudy day riding a motorbike, it can be cold. Add some wet clothes and the trip of a lifetime quickly turns into misery!
  • Gloves – Oh, how I wished I’d took a pair of gloves. one, to keep your hands warm and two, if you fall the first thing you’ll do is put your hands out…
  • A decent but lightweight camera – Not taking a good camera on this journey would be a definite regret.
  • Sunglasses – Trust me! on these dangerous roads you want good visibility.
  • Smartphone with maps.me downloaded – There aren’t too many roads but you can still take the wrong road.


Getting from Hanoi to Ha Giang

 

Sleeper bus to Ha Giang

 

Most people heading to do the Ha Giang loop start off in Hanoi, as did we. There are plenty of bus operators running a service from Hanoi to Ha Giang. Walking into one of the numerous tour agencies in the city centre pretty much all of them charge 300, 000 VND per person including hotel pickup.

Or, you can book on this website starting from 160,000 VND per person without hotel pick up and make your own way to the bus station which is about 10km north of the city centre. The journey takes around 6 hours and has one 30 minute break for food and toilet.

We took the 8.30am for 200,000VND per person and used a grab taxi for which we paid 100,000 VND saving us 100,000 VND/ 10 beers.

As well as the no hotel pick up, the bus its self was a bit older and more tired looking that every other sleeper bus I’ve been on in Vietnam. Pay cheap, get cheap I guess.


 


Renting yourself a trusty steed

 

Honda Wave S motorbike
The trusty steed!

 

Now you know a little about what the loop is, when to tour the Ha Giang province and how to get there, it’s now time to talk about the motorbike. Particularly the logistics of travelling for days around unfamiliar and dangerous roads. With the added bonus of the crazy Vietnamese bus drivers….

Is it safe for a complete novice?

In a word, NO!

Even if there were no crazy Vietnamese bus drivers and the roads were smooth as glass you’d still have to contend with the hairpin switchback roads, buffalo, dogs, children and just generally anything you can conceive getting in your way.

Admittedly, I’m no motorcycle expert. Up until 6 months ago I’d never really ridden a motorcycle. Pai was the first time I tried it. Believe me, that quiet, sleepy little town was scary enough. Since then, I’ve ridden a motorbike Langkawi, Penang and pretty much everywhere I’ve been since. Travelling cheap, it really is the only way to see Asia without dropping a fortune on a crappy day trip in every destination you visit.

So, even with my reasonably limited experience, I have to be honest there were a few close calls. Mainly with the crazy bus drivers bulling their way through and pushing you off the road and onto the rocky gravel. They Honk at you for no reason other than to say “GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY WAY!!!”

I’m never one discourage one to do what they want to do but these are not roads to learn on. Sheer cliff on one side, rock wall on the other and the crazy bus driver barrelling towards you at 70km/h…..

To put all this into context. Literally 5 hours before I posted this article two tourists were hit by a wagon just 8kms outside of Ha Giang. Unfortunately, Pena Laigesia Alvaro, 30, from Spain and Moreaux Ophelie, 32, from France did not survive the accident. One person dies almost every hour from a road traffic accident in Vietnam.

So yeh, think about it before attempting the Ha Giang loop.

Can two people ride on one motorbike with gear?

YES!

This is the way we did it. Daypack strapped to the little rack between my legs and larger backpack on Agne’s back. For many reasons riding a motorbike with someone on the back is definitely harder than riding alone:

  • Every time you break harshly, you get head-butted in the back of the head.
  • Going around tight bends at low speeds means you both have to balance the bike at the same time.
  • Twice the weight, it’s much harder on the breaks and suspension.
  • Takes longer to change direction to avoid potholes and hazards.
  • Going up 10 degree inclines with 2 people can be a very slow process.

All that aside, it’s definitely possible. I’d say half the backpackers travel the route this way and for the locals up to 4 on a bike is the norm.

What type of motorbike to rent

Here you have 3 choices. Automatic, Semi-automatic and Manual.

  • Automatic – All well and good for pottering around town but not so good on these steep, twisty roads. Crappy suspension and noisy at speed. Bloody awful on fuel too compared to the other two. Not the choice I’d make but if you do go this direction try and rent one of the bigger engine ones, like say, a 135cc Yamaha Nuovo.

 

  • Semi-automatic – Just like the automatic but also has 2 foot levers to change gear. Front leaver for up, back leaver for down with no clutch to worry about. Simple. Quieter than the automatic, better suspension, much better on fuel and cheaper to rent. Also, with the ability to change down a gear if going up a steep hill for more power and do the same going down hill to use engine breaking so you don’t burn out the breaks. Remember, second gear is your friend! This was the first time I’d ridden a semi-automatic and to be honest, apart from a few jerky gear changes at the beginning, within an hour or so it was second nature.

 

  • Manual – Pretty much the same as the Semi-automatic but with a clutch to worry about. I wouldn’t recommend renting one of these if you have no experience riding a manual bike. This is not the place to learn!

 

Where to rent a motorbike from

As always looking for the best deal we trawled around some of Ha Giang’s many bike rental shops trying to find the best quality bike for the best price. Most places wanted between 150,000-200’000VND per day for a semi-automatic and then we stumbled across Bay hostel and motorbike rental. 100,000VND per day. Sweet!! Right next to the bus station and they have accommodation too.

The guy that runs the place is really helpful. He’ll let you take the bike for as many days as you like and pay afterwards. He also has a place to leave all the gear that you’re not taking with you. Handy when you travel as heavy as we do.

Before taking off onto the roads he’ll walk round the bike with you encouraging you to take photo’s before you leave. They have a choice of decent quality helmets. From half helmet type ones to full head ones like you get in the UK. Much better than some of the ones I’ve been given that feel like you’d be safer just putting an empty crisp packet on your head.

The bike we rented was a Honda Wave S 110cc with less than 3000kms on the clock. worked perfectly throughout our trip.


 


Getting your permit

Admittedly, I didn’t know that it was necessary to obtain a permit to complete the loop until I got back and someone asked about it. So, naturally I’ve done a bit of digging and according to different sources it is a requirement to obtain a special permit to travel around the route.

The best place to obtain your permit is in Ha Giang. Head down to the Immigration office armed with your passport, bike registration number and 210,000 VND, within 10 minutes you’ll be all ready to go.

Address for the immigration office is:

415a, Tran Phu Street, Ha Giang. Open from 8am – 4pm.

For those of you that want to risk it without spending the $9.50, here’s the consequences…. If you get pulled over by the police, of which there are a few dotted around the loop and we did see them pull tourists over, you could face a fine. Or even worse, be sent back to Ha Giang to get the permit. Maybe even both!?

Well there’s the info you make up your own mind…


 


Adventure on the Ha Giang loop

Most people complete the Ha Giang loop between 2-5 days. we took 7 days. Pretty slow by everyone else’s standards but well, who cares. I don’t believe in rushing round everywhere just to take a selfie to prove you were there for all your friends back home. Apart from that, the amount of times we stopped, dismounted the bike to take photos of the breath-taking terrain slowed us down considerably.

Normally, when travelling to a new place I use the maps.me app that works offline and has been filled with icons that show where the best viewpoints are. Everywhere else I’ve been this is the case. Not here, no Sir! The whole Ha Giang loop is one big view point.

Here’s a simple breakdown of each day. Road conditions, best scenery, where to sleep, eat and what there is to do in each town along the route.

Day 1: Ha Giang to Tam Son

First things first, fill the bike up. Every motorbike I have rented in Vietnam has around half a litre of petrol in it to allow you to reach a petrol station. 50,000 VND of petrol and we are good to go!

From Ha Giang to Tam Son is roughly 60KM. Now, if you put that into maps.me it will tell you that it should take around 1 hour. Unless your name is Valentino Rossi and you’re straddling a 900cc Ducati, there’s no chance!! At a slow, leisurely pace with plenty of photo stops it took us nearly 3 hours.

To get to Tam Son you’ll head north on the QL4C highway. The first part of the journey is fairly straight with decent smooth tarmac. Once you get around two thirds of the way there it starts to get pretty twisty. On the whole, the route is good. well, apart from the odd section of road works, where you may have to wait 5 minutes for the steam rollers to get out of the way. My guess is though, by the time you read this the works will be completed and the road good.

Here’s a couple of photos from the route:

 

Road from Ha giang to Tam Son

View point between ha giang and tam son

Where to eat

food in tam son

After a few hours on the road, you’ll be ready for some food. Check out the Yen Ngoc restaurant on the main street in town. Not a bad little place. Most of the people with guides are brought here to eat. 40,000 VND for fried rice with chicken.

 

Where to stay in Tam Son

 

Accommodation Tam Son

When it comes to accommodation, we normally use booking.com as we find they have the best selection of hostels, homestays and hotels in Vietnam, along with the best prices. We stayed at the Atnha Nghi Hoa Sim hotel. 230,000 VND for a decent double room. Slightly out of town maybe a kilometre or so. It’s ok you have a motorbike. Word of warning though if you decide to walk into town to after sunset, beware of the irate dogs the lurk in the shadows on the towns edge.

Is there anything to do in Tam Son?

After only a 3 hour ride from Ha Giang we had a little time to explore Tam Son. Quick google of what there is in the area came up with visiting Lung Khuy cave a couple of kilometres out of town. The road to the cave is just before you arrive in Tam Son on the right, in fact it was pretty much across the road from our hotel.

After maybe a 2 kilometre ride up the side of a mountain into the next valley you’ll arrive at a very small village where you can park the bike for 5000 VND. This was our first taste of real Vietnamese rural culture. No hotels, bars and restaurants here… Once off the bike it around a 30 minute walk up one of the most scenic paths I’d ever been on, through the village and up a steep hill/mountain to the mouth of the cave.

Path to the cave in Tam Son
Walk to the cave

 

Once at the cave, there is a little ticket booth where you’ll be charged 50,000 VND per person and given a little (sweaty) head lamp to navigate round the darker bits of the cave. Maybe just hold it and use like a torch!? The cave its self is fairly impressive. It takes around 30-45 minutes to explore and see all of the stalactite structures hanging from the ceiling.

For 50,000 VND it’s definitely worth a crack it you’ve got a few hours to burn. Here’s a couple of photos:

 

Tam son cave

 

Day 2: Tam Son to Yen Minh

Today we’re off to Yen Minh. First to find breakfast. Headed back to the Hoan Hoa local restaurant/crazy lady’s place as we call it. We don’t know her name but what we do know is she could possibly be the happiest, kindest woman in the whole of Vietnam. Oh, and we also know she does 2 egg banh mi and 2 coffees for 60,000 VND.

food in tam son

food in tam son
Dinner here the night before.

 

Once again fill up the bike, this time only costing 30,000 VND.

From Tam Son to Yen Minh is around 50km in total.

Once you’re out of Tam Son it won’t be long until you’re riding through a beautiful valley along the stunning Song Lo river (translates to the clear river) that originates in Yunnan, China and flows 430kms through the Ha Giang province until it meets the Red River. This is where the Ha Giang loop starts to get good.

 

song lo river

Road to yen minh

road to yen minh

In the pursuit of having a sneak peak at real rural life in Vietnam we decided to try and go north to a village called Thang Mo. completely off the tourist trail. And for good reason. After leaving the QL4C highway at Ban Muong to head north to Thang Mo it wasn’t long before the smooth tarmac transformed into rough boulder laden dirt track. Although, this wasn’t enough to put us off continuing our endeavour, the two angry Vietnamese men that chased us down on their bike was! Apparently we’re not allowed to go to Thang Mo. Sorry Vietnam!!

Road to Thang Mo
On the way to Thang Mo.
Pig on the back of a motorbike
One happy local!

 

Back to the tourist route then!? Back onto the QL4C and on to Yen Minh. Stopped at the hilltop café for a quick, cheap Vietnamese coffee. Including our detour, we were on the bike for around 3 and a half hours.

Where to eat in Yen Minh

August restaurant yen minh

 

Remember the nice chap we rented the bike off!? Well, his cousin owns August restaurant in Yen Minh. I think it goes without saying he recommended it to us. Considering he seemed a nice, honest person we went with his recommendation and went for food at the August restaurant. Cheese burger and fries for 85,000 VND. Not at all traditional Vietnamese but a nice change from rice and noodles!

 

Where to sleep in Yen Minh

Accommodation in yen minh

 

Again to booking.com. Being budget conscious we stayed at Nha Nghi Hai Linh. An ok double room for 160,000 VND. If you do decide to stay here it’s not where google maps show it, it’s on the left hand side as soon as you enter Yen minh town.

 

Things to in Yen Minh

To be completely honest nothing much. There’s no tourist hotspots just a local sleepy town with not much going on. Maybe just grab a beer, watch the world go by and plan tomorrows adventure!?

 

Day 3: Yen Minh to Mau Due to Lung Phin back to Yen Minh

Being in no rush, we decided to stay an extra day in Yen Minh to give us time to explore the surrounding area. Also, we wanted to visit Lung Phin as we had planned to extend this trip all the way to Cao Bang and travel a different route back to Ha Giang. Which meant it would be our only chance to visit.

So again to the petrol station. 40,000 VND to fill her up this time.

After a 10km ride south down the DT182 I must say that Mau Due was quite underwhelming. Not too much going on here. So back on the bike for a 16km ride up the DT176. The terrain that surrounds the DT176 is visually stunning but a little more dangerous. Switchback roads, 10 degree inclines, potholes and the all important angry Vietnamese bus drivers make for a hellish experience. With that said the views are worth it.

road to lung phin
Steep switchbacks

road to lung phin

road to lung phin

road to lung phin

Pretty much all there is to see in Lung Phin is the unique market that is held ever 6 days of the lunar calendar on the days of the monkey and the tiger. On market days, people from up to 15 different tribes descend from the mountains to trade goods from around 5am until just after noon. Unfortunately the day we arrived there was no market.

 

Day 4: Yen Minh to Dong Van via Lung Cu

Today the weather was crap! Having checked the weather forecast and already staying in Yen minh for two nights already we decided to push on regardless. Following what was now standard procedure, off to the petrol station we went. 30,000 VND today.

Back on the QL4C, heading the 60kms to Lung Cu, Vietnam’s most northern point. For the first 8km or so out of Yen Minh the roads are quite lumpy with a fair share of potholes. After the first 8kms the roads widens up considerably, with less potholes on only a few crazy bus drivers. Its not too bad.

 

road to lung cu
Cold and misty

road to lung cu

road to lung cu

 

Just before you turn of the QL4C towards Lung Cu there a nice little roadside café with a spectacular view. Worth a quick coffee stop, especially on a cold wet miserable day like today. 25,000 VND per cup.

coffee stop on the way to lung cu
Agne trying to warm her hands up on the Vietnamese coffee filter

 

The moment you turn off the QL4C north towards Lung Cu the road is perfect. Wide, two lanes and not a single bus in sight! Happy Days!

A bikers paradise!
A bikers paradise!

rice paddies lung cu

 

Unfortunately by the time you enter the village of Lung Cu the “road” has turned back to the dreaded cobbled dirt track. Again, not being deterred, we pressed on to the northern point of Vietnam. Only to be stopped in out tracks again! This time by a deranged donkey thrashing around on its back in the middle of the trail. Chained to a tree for too long the poor donkey seemed extremely distressed. As risky as trying to pass the deranged donkey could be. There was no way past the rockslide 50m behind it.

Rock slide Ha giang
As far as we were going today!

Once again we were beaten and headed back to the QL4C defeated.

On the way back we discovered a tower that you could climb to get a good view of the surrounding landscape. 25,000 VND per person. With the terrible weather conditions it wasn’t worth the hike. Visibility was shite!

Lung cu town
Lung Cu. Viewing tower is on the left.
Where to eat in Dong Van

food in dong van

Finding food in Dong Van is pretty easy. There’s plenty of choice. We ate at the 116 restaurant. Located on the main street through town, bright blue and yellow, you can’t miss it! Lot’s of seating, (not those red plastic, toddler table and chairs that are so prolific throughout Vietnam) clean, nice staff and decent food. 40,000 VND for chicken fried rice. Job done!

Where to sleep in Dong Van

CND hostel dong van

CND hostel room dong van

 

Again, right on the edge as you enter town from the Yen Minh side is the CND Hostel. You can’t miss it! 190,000 VND for a private double with bathroom, free pool table, friendly staff, good atmosphere and an amazing view of the surrounding mountains. You can’t go wrong with CND hostel.

Things to do in Dong Van

There’s a few things to do in Dong Van. First off, if you do end up staying in the CND Hostel there is a nice scenic walk that starts right next to the hostel and around a stunning rice field behind the town itself. On this walk you’ll head past the cave/temple of the water gods. Not sure if you’re allowed in the cave as when we were just looking at it the locals didn’t seem in the happiest of moods. Guess it’s a sacred place to the locals and without wanting to be the typical tourists stomping all over their beliefs for a selfie, we moved on!

 

Trail around dong van

rice harvest dong van
Bringing in the harvest…

On the other side of town there is the old French fort (Don Cao) perched high on the Karst peak right behind the Hollywood-esque sign that is clearly visible from town. From here you get a spectacular view of Dong Van town and surrounding mountains. Although we did see a couple of motorbikes near the top of the trail to Don Cao it is not advisable that you try and ride up there as it is incredibly steep.

View of dong van town
View from the fort

One the day we trekked the 30 minutes to Don Cao, just 5 minutes from the top the heavens opened and soggy we got. Luckily part of the fort is still intact and offered good shelter for an hour until the torrential rain stopped. All in all the view is worth the hike.

Day 5: Dong Van to Meo Vac

Once again off to the petrol station. With all the riding around yesterday, trying to reach the northern most part of Vietnam the tank was empty. 50,000 VND to fill it up from empty.

Heading off to Meo Vac meant once again heading east on the QL4C. This time for 22km. The road from Dong Van to Meo Vac is smooth and pretty wide without too much traffic. With that said, there are some of the sharpest, steepest hairpin turns on the whole route, all alongside the largest cliffs.

road to meo vac

road to meo vac

road to meo vac

 

Around halfway through the journey you’ll reach the Ma Pi Leng pass. Regarded by most as the most stunning part of the whole loop, even the whole of South East Asia. In all fairness it was pretty spectacular! Shame about the crappy weather but that’s life! Here’s a shot of the most famous viewpoint on the whole loop:

 

mi leng pass viewpoint

 

 

Where to eat in Meo Vac
Quyet hang restaurant meo vac
80,000 VND for everything!

Meo Vac is not the most Foodie friendly place I’ve ever been but we did find one place that was pretty good and again good prices. That place was Quyet Hang restaurant in the middle of town. Beef of vegetable fried rice, soup and spicy cucumber slices for 40,000 VND each. Bargain for cash!!

Where to sleep in Meo Vac

hobbit houses meo vac

We stayed at the Ong Vang Meo Vac Hotel. Where we stayed wasn’t much of a hotel but more like little hobbit houses with a nice garden view. It wasn’t a bad place to stay, especially as it was only 200,000 VND for a private hobbit house with own bathroom. The place was nice and clean, a little cramped if I’m honest. Biggest problem was that in the cold wet weather our damp clothes wouldn’t dry. Give it some sunshine and it’s a perfect place to stay.

Things to do in Meo Vac

meo vac town

 

meo vac unesco geopark

Not too much really. We went for a walk around the Dong Van Karst Plateau UNESCO Global Geopark. Located South East of the town centre it’s worth a visit to climb the viewpoint for an amazing view over Meo Vac and the steap mountains that encapsulate it.

Day 6: Meo Vac to Du Gia

From Meo Vac we were planning to head East all the way to Cao Bang but with the grim weather over the last couple of days and the forecast for more of the same we decided it to cut our adventure short and make our way back to Ha Giang via Du Gia.

As usual, get a full tank. 20,000 VND.

The road from Meo Vac to Du Gia is east on the DT176 for around 70kms. The road itself is very quiet, hardly any traffic at all and pretty smooth. As usual the views are spectacular.

road to du gia

road to du gia
road to du gia
Where to eat in Du Gia

There’s no mistaking that Du Gia is not a tourist town. No fancy restaurants here. We ate at our hostel as there wasn’t really anywhere else to find food.

Where to stay in Du Gia

bb homestay du gia

There’s not a great choice of budget accommodation to be had in Du Gia. Wanting to be in the middle of Du Gia we chose the BB Homestay. What can I say about the BB Homestay!? Utilitarian, very utilitarian! Basic at best but, well this was never meant to be a trip of luxury, it was adequate. 110,000 VND for a private “room” with shared bathroom.

What to do in Du Gia

Go and find Du Gia Waterfall. A little of the beaten track but still marked on the Maps.me app. Du Gia waterfall is a few kilometres out of town and not the easiest to find as not all the roads/tracks are on the map. just keep heading in the direction of where it is marked on the map until the road ends. From there it’s a 25 minute walk through some stunning landscapes. The waterfall itself isn’t all that breath taking but a decent place to swim on a hot day.

du gia waterfall

Also, the Saturday morning market is quite an experience. People from many different tribes decent on the small town to trade goods like traditional clothing, agricultural produce even animals. The small quaint town really does come alive.

du gia market

Day 7: Du Gia to Ha Giang

The last day of our trip and back to ha Giang via Tamson. Not the quickest route but we were told the QL34 to the south was unpassable, well unless you had a proper dirt bike. Which the Honda Wave, as good as it was, certainly was not!

So another 50,000 VND in fuel, as fuel in Du Gia is 25% more expensive than everywhere else on the loop.

du gia to ha giang

So heading north on the DT176 and then west on the DT181. Let me tell you the DT181 is not in great shape at all! By far the worst road we encountered on the whole loop. At this point I was so glad we didn’t risk the QL34. The road littered with rocks the size of small dogs, it was slow going all the way back to the QL4C highway.

terrible road
A rare bit of tarmac.

This 110km leg of the journey with very little stopping apart from a quick coffee break at the crazy lady’s café back in Tamson took us over 4 hours.

 

Budget for completing the Ha Giang loop

Now here’s a quick breakdown of the cost for this amazing 7 day journey. As you can tell from everything above it was a bit of a challenge of ours to do this trip on the cheap but as always you can always spend a lot more. All depends on your style of travel.

  • Renting the motorbike 7 x 100,000 VND =700,000 VND
  • Total for accommodation was 1,050,000
  • Total fuel cost was 270,000 VND (with travelling a bit in each town just over 500km)

All that together is 2,020,000 VND or 1,010,000 VND per person for 7 days travel and accommodation.

Then there’s food… This is definitely down to your own preference but if you’re happy to eat local food i.e Pho and Bahn mi’s all day everyday then you can get by on 100,000 VND per person, per day.

So, in total 1,710,000 VND per person for 7 days or 244285 VND per day.

That’s just $10.62 USD per person, per day!!!!

With that budget aside, we did spend a little more than this. Mainly more on food and coffee. We do like a Vietnamese coffee!! But if you really want to do the Ha Giang loop and you follow this guide it can be done for that price. Again it’s all on you!


 


Alternatives to riding a motorbike

Now that I’ve gone into a great amount of detail of what we did. There are alternatives if clinging onto a motorbike around some of the most dangerous roads you’ve ever seen doesn’t appeal to you. Here they are:

Easyrider type tour

In my opinion, not a bad option. The freedom to take in all the scenery without having to spend the entire time scanning the road for potholes sounds alright to me. Although, we did see may people on the Easyrider tours but none of these people at any of the off the beaten track places we visited.

After having a quick google, a 5 day tour on the back of a motorbike will set you back in the region of $180 USD per person. Or around $400 for a car with driver.

By bus

Surely not the best way to do the loop. Crammed into a small bus with too many other people for hours on end, no thanks!! All the photo opportunities you’d miss out on would hardly make it worth it.

Information on the buses between the towns on the loop is not east to find but a bus from Ha Giang to Dong Van is 105,000 VND and takes around 5 hours. So, yes the buses are pretty cheap but let’s be serious it’s not really the towns you want to stop at its everywhere in between.

Rent a car

Maybe not too bad. God know on the cold and wet, miserable days how I wished I was in a car with the heating on. On the flipside, being squeezed towards the edge of impending doom every time an angry bus driver wants to pass can’t be that much fun either…

Rental prices of a Ford Everest 4×4 is roughly $65 USD per day but seats 7.


 


Lasing impressions of the Ha Giang loop

Aside from the utterly amazing landscape of the Ha Giang province, the one thing that really struck me was how friendly the people in this remote paradise are. Nowhere else in Vietnam have I been made to feel so welcome. Every single child you pass is all to eager to stick their hand out as you pass for a high five all the time screaming hello.

Is this because, as of yet without the abundance of tourists they are yet to grow tired of us!? Or is their relative simplistic way of life leaving them to crave interaction with the unknown.

I don’t know but The Ha Giang loop is a must do for any traveller with and adventurous side.

Thank you for reading and I hope it will encourage you to take the plunge and take on the mighty Ha Giang loop!

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