Located in North Vietnam, the province of Ha Giang is home to one of the best motorbike routes in the country, the Ha Giang Loop. Usually completed over 4 days, the Ha Giang Loop has visitors winding through vast mountain ranges and jaw dropping scenery. Riders will find themselves in the very depths of rural Vietnam, whilst experiencing the very best of Vietnamese culture.
Having explored North Vietnam for over a year by motorbike, this pair of idiots managed to complete the Ha Gaing Loop alone. And not once did we encounter an issue.
In this post we will explain how we managed to complete the loop successfully. And how we did it with only the aid of a paper map (and GPS).
A word of advice for anyone looking to do the Ha Giang loop, don’t be one of the idiots who you’ll find whizzing past on their small motorbike at 60kmh. It might be fun, but the danger is very real on this road, plus it’s absolutely not a race.
You’re here to enjoy every single moment of this ride, so chill out, minimise the risk of finishing the route at the bottom of a cliff and enjoy it.
Ha Giang Loop Tour
Firstly we will begin by looking at motorbike rental options. Explaining what type of motorbike is best suited to the route and where you can rent a quality motorbike for a reasonable price.
Secondly, we will explore the route itself and different travel options for arriving in Ha Giang. We will also look at the best way the route can be completed in 4 days. Including where you should stop.
Thirdly, we will look at your options for accommodation whilst completing the route, and what you can expect to pay. Finally, we will look at costs and how much you should budget for completing the Ha Giang Loop over 4 days.
Arriving in Ha Giang From Hanoi
Arriving in Ha Giang from Hanoi is simple. The drive is pretty uneventful, so many opt to catch a bus.
There are buses that run daily from the centre of Hanoi and from Ha Giang. The most popular buses are sleeper buses. The journey takes around 6 hours and it is possible to do this through the night to save on daytime travel.
Buses can be booked online and cost 200,000VND. If you haven’t booked online, it is possible to catch a bus at one of the many pick up points. However, this can be risky as they can get booked up easily.
Sleeper buses can be an “interesting” experience in themselves if you’ve never been on one. We managed to get hold of some sleeping tablets to ensure we were well rested ahead of arrival, not that we recommend you do the same…but we slept…
For those wanting to complete the whole journey from Hanoi, it is possible to rent your motorbike from the city. From here you can complete the 5 hour journey by motorbike to Ha Giang. Staying in a hostel overnight before starting the Loop.
Rentabike are a great option for completing the journey from Hanoi. Danny and the team will ensure that you have a sufficient motorbike to complete the route. They will also ensure that you have support throughout and will give you advice.
To learn more about renting a motorbike in Hanoi, click here.
Ha Giang Loop Motorbike Rentals
There are a number of different motorbike rentals to choose from in Ha Giang Province. Some of them are trust worthy, whilst others are unreliable. We’ve found the best way to assess a company’s trustworthiness is via the Internet or word of mouth.
We were nervous about arriving Ha Giang and departing on a 4 day motorbike tour alone. This was a big step even for us. Due to this, it was important we felt fully comfortable with the motorbike rental company we chose, and the bikes we trusted with our lives.
After plenty of research, we opted to complete the tour with QT Motorbikes. A well established rental company based in Ha Giang.
The Ha Giang Loop Motorbike Route
The Ha Giang Loop can be completed one of two ways. You can start by heading north on the route, or south. Either way is similar and the choice is completely yours. Both take an equal amount of time and the scenery is impressive from any angle.
We opted to head North on the route as was advised by our motorbike rental.
Day 1: Ha Giang to Yen Minh (5-6 hours)
Start your day as early as possible to ensure your arrival in Yen Minh before nightfall. We suggest you start every day between 7am and 8am. Head north on the 4C from Ha Giang and begin the route by filling up on fuel. This is important in Ha Giang, petrol stations become scarce from there. The cost of fuel is cheap, and a full tank will set you back no more than 100,000VND ($5).
If you can’t seem to find a conventional petrol station, look for gas canisters on the side of the road with a glass tube full of yellow liquid above them. It might seem obvious to some people what these are, but these can be lifesavers and aren’t always clear to people who are new to the country.
Once on the loop, you will find yourself heading toward the mountains along wide open roads. At this stage, be careful of trucks and large vehicles whizzing by. After one or two hours you’ll begin the slow climb into the mountains.
As you start the slow incline, you will find the roads start to thin out and become more challenging. Make sure you take your time and approach every blind corner with caution. The term slow and steady wins the race has never applied more.
You’ll first reach Tam Son, also known as Heaven’s Gate. Here you can enjoy a stunning view of the mountains you have just climbed with a spot of lunch and a coffee. After, begin the last leg of your journey along the 4C to your final destination for the day, Yen Minh.
This last section of the journey will have you winding higher into the mountains and through an epic mountain top pine forest. Find a hostel or hotel in Yen Minh. There are plenty to choose from as it’s a fairly big mountain town.
Day 2: Yen Minh to Meo Vac (6-7 hours)
You’ll begin the second day by continuing north on the Ha Giang Loop along the 4C. Here you’ll find the mountain range really comes into it’s own. Passing tiny ethnic minority villages as you go. It’s hard not to stop at every turn to take a photo.
Here you can opt to lengthen your journey by visiting Lung Cu, the most northern point in all of Vietnam. To reach Lung Cu, you must leave the 4C and follow sign posts to ‘Lung Cu Flag Pole’.
Be warned, the roads begin to deteriorate from here. The road is more of a dirt track at points, but trust us, the views are worth it. As you follow the road along the border of China, it’s hard to stay focused on the task at hand. The scenery is possibly the best we’ve ever seen in our lives!
However, we would not suggest completing this detour unless you have good weather. The road is questionable to say the least.
Lung Cu Flag Pole: The Most Northern Point in Vietnam
Once you have climbed to the base of the giant flag pole and looked out over China, grab a bite to eat before heading back along the road you came. There are a few little roadside restaurants here to choose from.
The final stint to Meo Vac continues the way you came until you reach the 4C once again. Here, you rejoin the Ha Giang Loop and continue east toward Meo Vac. Here you can rest up in a hostel or hotel, (no need to book in advance) have a few beers and grab something to eat. Meo Vac is the biggest town on the loop and is a great, and somewhat lively place to spend the evening.
Day 3: Meo Vac to Du Gia (5-7 hours)
Start day 3 by heading west along the Ha Giang Loop, leaving the 4C and starting on the 176. At this stage, you will have encountered some challenging roads and mountain passes. All of which you may have found a little scary, or if you’re adventurous, incredible! However, things aren’t about to get any easier.
Now that you have left the 4C to start on the 176 from Meo Vac to Dua Gia, you can expect to encounter some somewhat questionable roads. The 176 will have you winding along broken roads, through tiny communities and feeling possibly the most remote you have yet!
As we’ve said before, it’s important to take it easy. This road is quiet, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a truck waiting around the corner for you!
Dua Gia is a tiny village nestled within the most stunning valley. Signposted from the 176, the road takes you off the main loop along the most jaw dropping mountain pass. Once you arrive, there are a few very basic home stays to choose from. All of which will rustle you up some dinner, offer you a drink and a place to rest your head.
QT Motorbikes have their very own homestay here!
Du Gia Waterfall
If you arrive before 3pm, join the locals and head to the hidden waterfall. The ride to the waterfall is extremely challenging, however, it is 100% worth it!
When we arrived, at least 20 locals were gathered to swim in the crystal clear pools and fish in at the base of the waterfall. Jumping from the top, 10 metres high, into the cooling water at the bottom. All of which is surrounded by the most beautiful mountain range. A highlight of our time in Vietnam.
Day 4: Du Gia to Ha Giang (4-5 hours)
The final drive is no less impressive than the previous 3. Firstly, exit Du Gia the way you came along the 176. The drive back up the mountain pass is even more impressive than on the way in. Take your time and embrace the views (ideally stop to take them in).
Secondly, join the 181 here and head west toward the 4C. Do not head south on the 176 from Du Gia, as the road is very challenging.
Finally, when you rejoin the 4C drive back to Ha Giang the same way you came. Once your bike has been returned to your bike rental, you are able to catch a bus back to Hanoi.
There is no need to book in advance as buses run hourly and cost 200,000VND as standard. Your bike rental will be able to provide you with a timetable.
Accommodation on Ha Giang Loop
The Ha Giang Loop has various different options for accommodation at every stop point. As a result, there is no need to book in advance and accommodation can be arranged upon arrival.
This being said, due to it’s growing popularity, you will not be the only people completing the loop. There are a large number of tourists on the loop every day, and as a result accommodation can get full quickly.
Aim to arrive at your next destination before 4pm every day to ensure your accommodation for the evening. Consequently, you will never be on the roads after dark.
Accommodation is made up of basic hotels, hostels and home stays. All of which have rooms or beds for between 70,000VND ($3) and 200,000VND ($9) a night. Many will include dinner in this price upon request.
Ha Giang Loop Budget
Completing the Ha Giang Loop isn’t particularly expensive, and can be done very cheap by renting cheap motorbikes. However, we suggest paying a little more to rent from established rental companies such as Rentabike or QT Motorbikes.
The Ha Giang Loop costs:
- Bus to and from Ha Giang = 400,000VND ($16)
- A semi automatic bike = 200,000VND ($8) a day
- Motorbike insurance = 200,000VND ($8) for 4 days
- Accommodation + food = 1,000,000VND ($42) for 4 days
Total = Approximately $98
Is Riding Ha Giang Loop For Everyone?
In short…no. If you’re not a fan of cliff sides, the risk of riding off the side of the side of a mountain or very basic accommodation, then maybe the Ha Giang Loop isn’t for you.
However, if you’re a bit of a thrill seeker and mountainous scenery is your thing, then it’s an experience in Vietnam that should not be missed.
We won’t lie, there are times during our trip when we felt our insides flip with nerves. But arguably, these were the highlights of our 4 days in remote Northern Vietnam! And for those who are anxious about getting on a motorbike, you can opt for a guided tour. Enjoying the experience from the back of an experienced Viet’s motorbike.
We would suggest this experience to anyone who fancies seeing rural Vietnam in the most incredible way. Embrace this beautiful country and throw yourself in at the deep end.
We promise, you wont regret it.