Ha Giang Loop Guide – 2024

Contents hide
4 FAQs, Tips, Tricks etc.
4.1 FAQs


Having recently ridden a motorbike 1,200kms around the north of Vietnam, covering the Ha Giang loop as well as Ban Gioc falls, I thought I should put together a Ha Giang loop guide.

In this Ha Giang loop guide I will also be covering a northeastern loop and details about riding a motorbike in the north of Vietnam in general.

The aim of this guide to the Ha Giang loop is not to wax lyrical about how amazing and life changing it will be, but rather just to give you an idea of what to do each day, listing approximate times to allow for each activity along the way as well as any tips.

I think the fact you’re reading this means you already want to do it and are just looking for information regarding the loop, so this is what I aim to provide. The photos themselves will give you an idea of what to expect rather than me blabbing on about it.

Further on in the Ha Giang loop guide I will answer the most common questions you might have about the Ha Giang loop or the Northeastern loop, so feel free to jump to that using the table of contents.

Just be warned, as you can see from the table of contents, this isn’t your ordinary Ha Giang loop guide, it’s a super-detailed Ha Giang loop guide!

This is a long Ha Giang loop guide with a lot of photos, a lot of information and a lot of time taken to try and lay out all the information in a way that’s organised enough to be easy to locate.

So use the table of contents to help navigate, otherwise enjoy the read.

*Affiliates Disclosure

Affiliate links are present on this page. Through partnerships with, but not limited to: Amazon, eBay and Commission Factory, I will make a small commission through qualifying purchases. This comes at no extra cost to you and is just a way for me to try and support myself and the blog.  Thank you.

Ha Giang Loop Guide Structure


For this post there will be 3 main sections:

  1. Ha Giang Loop / Northeastern loop background information.
  2. Activity breakdown: things to do each day and the time needed to do it.
  3. FAQs, tips, tricks and things I would change next time.

The sections can be accessed through the dots on the right hand side of the screen or by using the Ha Giang loop guide table of contents at the top of the page.

Ha Giang Loop Guide – Video Version


If you prefer a more visual medium like video, then you’re in luck.

I also made this Ha Giang loop guide in a Youtube video as well, so feel free to check this out or reference it for more visuals about what will be discussed in this post.

Ha Giang Loop Scenery

Shot on the DJI Mini 4 Pro (Amazon)

Ha Giang Loop & Northeastern Loop Details


As I said in the intro, this Ha Giang loop guide is here to share information, not to blabber about why you should do it. To start the Ha Giang loop guide though I need to briefly explain what it is and give some background information, so here goes.

Where is the Ha Giang Loop?


The Ha Giang loop starts from (and ends in) the city of Ha Giang in the north of Vietnam. It is about a 6 hour drive from the capital city of Hanoi.

The northeastern loop is more loosely just a definition of riding around the northeast of the country in general, you can start and finish where you like, however I did this as part of the Ha Giang loop so I did begin and end in Ha Giang.

City of Ha Giang is here.

Ha Giang loop map


Here is the map of the Ha Giang loop, you can drive this in either direction.

The towns and cities you need to know (in clockwise order) are: Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Lung Cu, Dong Van, Meo Vac and Du Gia.

More on this later, but you can stop in any of these cities easily and do the trip over as many days as you like.

Here is an alternate loop map as seen in Odyssey Hostel where I was staying.

Just note that this shows you heading south out of Du Gia back towards Ha Giang, you don’t want to do this for a number of reasons we will go into later.


Adding Ban Gioc falls to the Ha Giang loop


If you want to add in Ban Gioc falls, here is the alternate map.

Places to stop on this loop include: Bao Lac, Cao Bang, Ban Gioc and Ba Be Lake.

Worth noting here for those who don’t like riding. This is a long journey and takes many more days than just doing the Ha Giang loop. The rides can be uncomfortable, so gauge your own willingness to do it and decide for yourself. You can also get a car/bus to Ban Gioc.

How to do the Ha Giang loop?


There are a few different options here but most will involve a motorbike (or scooter as I call them).

  1. Rent a bike and do it yourself.
  2. Rent a bike and hire a tour guide.
  3. Join a tour where you get to ride a bike.
  4. Join a tour where you sit pillion.
  5. Hire a tour guide with a car driver.

These are the main ways to do it, my recommendation is number 1, but lots of people just do it as a part of a tour now.

Should I book an Easyrider, go in a tour, or do it myself?


On the Ha Giang loop you can opt to go on the back of another bike with a local rider, these are called Easyriders. These are often done as a part of a tour with other people.

My personal opinion is that you should do it yourself but I can understand why people do the tours.

If you’re young and travelling alone the tours can be a good way to meet people, some large tour groups are like a Contiki tour on two wheels. However if you’re going to get smashed at night you might not want to jump on a bike the next day. Get an Easyrider in this case.

Other tours are much better for actually seeing the area, if you’re more into the Ha Giang loop itself rather than partying then find a small tour group. The guides will save you time during the day by taking navigation duties and you’ll get from point A to B faster.

These tour guides also work as historical guides at places like the Hmong King’s palace where there is little to no information in English.

You can of course hire a guide not as part of a tour, but rather like travelling yourself you choose your own itinerary and hire a guide to either ride you, or ride in front of you. This will be more expensive than doing it yourself but as we’ve discussed there are pros to having local guides.

There are so many different ways you can experience the loop. I myself was into the landscapes, the views, the riding and the exploration side of it so enjoyed finding my own way and being wholly responsible for the day’s activities and timing.

How much does the Ha Giang loop cost?


So many variables here, but to do a 4d/3N tour where you ride the bike yourself you are looking at approximately 4.2M VND*.

Extra charges apply for private rooms, bigger bikes etc. but the rest is all inclusive.

Doing it yourself will come to approximately 2.7-3.5M VND* depending on whether you have private rooms or book dorm rooms.

For a more detailed breakdown of costs involved see the FAQs section of this Ha Giang loop guide.

Food can also change a lot, buying Vietnamese will be cheap, eating at a fancy restaurant and it will balloon out. Keep in mind these are just guides and a lot will depend on your travel style.

*Police bribes/fines not included.

Rough cost breakdown of the Ha Giang loop

Motorbike rental = 250k/day.

Private room = 450k/night.

Dorm room = 150k/night.

Food = 250k/day.

Activities & Fuel = 150k/day.


This is a very rough breakdown of the average costs of doing the Ha Giang loop and can change a lot depending on circumstance. More detailed information on accommodation, bike rental and fuel can be found in the FAQs section of the Ha Giang loop guide.

How much does it cost to go out to Ban Gioc falls?

My rough estimates for my own trip including everything from fuel to police fines is about 12M VND but this could rise to 16M depending on a few different factors.

It might sound like a lot, but it’s actually quite cheap to get around the north of Vietnam and the activities themselves (caves etc.) are usually ony $3 or less, sometimes completely free.

Shot on the Sony A1 using the Tamron 28-200mm f/4.5-6.3 (Amazon/eBay link)

Why do the Ha Giang loop?


People do it for different reasons. Mostly though it is for the scenery.

Gone are the days where this was remote touring, this is a popular as it gets (especially on the Ha Giang loop, getting off the loop is different) and everything is tailored around tourists.

People in traditional dress and small girls with flowers charge you for photos.

The riding though is through mountainous jungle with stunning views, although the roads themselves differ a lot in quality.

So don’t do this expecting to be off the grid and to have some life changing experience, this isn’t that sort of travel at all.

However it is true that there are traditional markets and small villages of ethnic minorities that you can visit. You just need to try find the ones that aren’t playing it up for tourists.

When is the best time of year to do the Ha Giang loop?


Wouldn’t be much of a Ha Giang loop guide without this, see the below table and once you’ve had a quick look I’ll quickly go over some of the numbers in the table and what to look out for.

  • Winter, will be cold with wind chill when riding.
  • Flowers begin to bloom.
  • Clear skies, not peak season so less tourists.
  • Traditional Vietnamese ethnic minorities often celebrate and have festivals in January.
  • Keep an eye out for TET (new years, it changes every year).
  • Generally considered one of the 4 best months on average (along with April, October and November).
  • Some of the most pleasant weather (not too hot, not too cold) coming out of winter.
  • Considered one of the 4 best months to do it (along with March, October and November).
  • Starting to get warm and more rain around.
  • Farmers begin irrigation of rice fields creating good landscapes for those interested.
  • Summer season, more humidity, heat and thunderstorms.
  • Can still be done but may not be as enjoyable.
  • As above.
  • As above.
  • Early September probably not the best.
  • Late September rice fields can begin to blossom (if not then October).
  • Rainfall still up but some relief begins later in the month.
  • Rice fields blossoming.
  • Humidity dropping, slightly less rainy days in October.
  • Considered one of the 4 best months to do it (along with March, April and November).
  • Buckwheat flowers blossom.
  • Begins to have cold nights again in some regions.
  • Considered one of the 4 best months to do the loop (along with March, April and October).
  • Some of the clearest skies for the whole year.
  • Chance of there being snow in some areas.

Firstly, I am not a Ha Giang local and therefore am not aware of the climate in the area. I have only done the trip in January. Therefore I would like to shoutout to this website here where the generic notes came from.

Also, the average climate statistics are taken from this website here.

I just wanted to list them in a table, you can sort the columns in any order you want.

These are numbers for Ha Giang only and do not represent the weather on the whole trip, it would take too long to do this for every place on the trip. Especially since the information is lacking as they are all smaller cities than Ha Giang is.

Lastly, the bad news …

You can’t predict the weather. I went in January and was faced with horrid conditions for the first 3 days of my 10 day trip. I had one day of sunshine on the whole trip, the last day.

This is a mountainous region and the weather can be subject to change in a hurry. 

Generally speaking the most pleasant weather and therefore the most recommended months are: March, April, October and November. In these months you will be faced with a mixture of warmer days and less rain.

However December through February is considered to be dry with clear skies, it is just that it gets cold. This isn’t an issue if you’re prepared, but I’ll go into this more in the FAQs section.

As for June through to August, people still do it, if that’s when you’re in Vietnam then so be it, but if you’re planning a trip to Vietnam specifically for this Ha Giang loop then probably plan it for another time of year.

Do you recommend doing the Ha Giang loop in January?


For those who saw he Ha Giang loop guide video, you’d have seen that I had some horrid conditions to deal with in January when I went, but that’s just luck of the draw. I would still recommend to people that they do the ride in January.

As long as you accept the fact that it will be cold and prepare accordingly (waterproof gloves and a warm jacket) then you will be fine.

Look at the table above and read other blogs, they all recommend January for its clear skies. At the end of the day, this is a mountainous region and you can get any weather at any time of year, but chances are if you go in January you will get nice clear skies unlike me.

These are the pros and cons to going in January as far as I can say from my experience.


  • No need to pre-book accommodation. I just rocked up to my pick of the homestays and got my choice of room. This is still possible in peak season but not as likely to be guaranteed.
  • Weather is way more pleasant for hiking. This can be good at times with long walks from the carparks up to cave entrances or if doing a long hike like the Skypath.
  • Less people on the roads.
  • Nice and cool weather to walk around the town and explore.
  • Generally considered the dry season so you’re less likely to be dealing with rain and mud.
  • A lot of the ethnic minority tribes have celebrations around this time of year and you’re more likely to see them in January.
  • Flowers do start to blossom in January (varies though).


  • Wind chill when riding can be painful for those without the right gear.
  • If it does rain, it’s next level cold compared to a summer shower in warm weather.
  • Less likely to want to swim at some of the waterfalls you visit along the way.
  • If you want to meet people when not on the Ha Giang loop, there aren’t many around. On the Ha Giang loop there are still plenty of people though.

So don’t be afraid to do the Ha Giang loop in the winter, just be prepared and it will be fine.

Ha Giang Basics



We’ve covered the basics now. There will be more questions in the FAQs section of this Ha Giang loop guide. I will be discussing more in-depth topics such as:

  • The Police: bribes, locations, how to avoid etc.
  • Ha Giang Permit: do you need it? Where do you get it?
  • How to navigate?
  • Google maps vs Maps.Me
  • How to mount your phone?
  • Do you need to wear protection?

I’ll also be giving some advice, tips and tricks regarding doing the loop and things I learnt along the way.

For now though I want to steer the Ha Giang loop guide towards the activities you can do along the way, giving you all the information you need to plan out your trip without any hiccups (unlike me).

Mountain Mist.

Shot on the Sony A1 using the Tamron 28-200mm f/4.5-6.3 (Amazon/eBay link)

Ha Giang Loop Guide – Activity Breakdown


This section of the Ha Giang loop guide will give you a selection of activities to choose from on a day to day basis.

Using the exact list of activities I myself wanted to do each day (I was unable to do them all unfortunately).

There are of course other things to do outside of what is mentioned here, but these are the highlights for those who are doing the loop for the scenery and landscapes.

This Ha Giang loop guide will not be discussing the ethnic minority villages along the route. There are a few you will drive through along the way and you can stop in them if they interest you.

For me, I thought the ones that I did see were a little touristy now and on other ocassions it was pouring rain so I didn’t feel like stopping and walking around.

For those doing the Ha Giang loop only, you can use days 1-3 and days 9+10, the rest is off of the loop.

Feel free to use my trip as a starting point for a potential itinerary, I will suggest changes along the way that you can make to alter your Ha Giang loop adventure on the fly to suit your needs on the day.

Also remember that you can do the loop in any direction to mix it up, you don’t even have to make it a loop at all.

How this guide was constructed


The information in this guide is going to give you a travel distance for each day (start point to finish point) without any detours whatsoever, with a ride time taken off Google maps which I found to be accurate (more on this in the FAQs section).

Ride detour time will then be listed, this is the additional time added according to Google Maps when an activity is added as an in between point for the day, using the fastest and most logical route.

Activity detour time is the time that the activity will take on top of the ride detour time, this is taken from my personal experience. When I was unable to do an activity I took the times as an average of times listed in Google reviews.

The activities are not listed in any order of preference but are listed in a logistical sense, the way you would ride to them along the way of getting to your end destination for the day.

Where I feel it’s relevant, I will add some notes or hints regarding the activity to try and paint a clear picture.

I will not be including prices for activities unless I feel it’s needed. The large majority of these activities are either free or are less than 50,000 VND which equates to about $3 AUD.

Day 1 – Ha Giang to Yen Minh

83.4 kms – 2 hours 35 minutes (taking short route to Yen Minh)


Day 1 of the Ha Giang loop for most people will involve riding from Ha Giang to Yen Minh. A good alternative to this if you’re busy or departing late is to just ride to Quan Ba and spend a night there. Something I may have benefited from in hindsight as this day for me was ruined by continuous rainfall and zero visibility!

This can help take pressure off if you plan on doing every activity in this list, because day 1 especially is jam packed full of stuff to do.

On top of what is written here there are always cafes to stop at for a break along the way.

Tham Luong Cave


A cave on the loop that is only about 45 minutes into the first days ride. The large appeal of this cave is that the detour time off the main road is not large at all. The cave does open about 9am however you can go earlier and explore yourself, there just won’t be any lights on.

9 minutes.

55 minutes.

5.5 kms

4.4 (34 reviews)


Having got here early there was nobody in attendance. The floor up is very slippery in wet conditions so be careful. The day I attended was bucketing down with rain, went through the cave with a torch (free entry as nobody was taking tickets on a day like this).

Do it if you have time, bu I think Lung Khuy cave is the better of the two (even though I didn’t get to do it).

Climb up is about 15 minutes, 10 minutes down, maybe spend 30 minutes there at a push.

Bac Sum Pass


A lookout point directly on the loop, no detour required. There is a cafe there for food and drink.

You can pay a small fee to walk out to the platform near the cafe and take photos.

0 minutes.

20 minutes.

0 kms

4.0 (70 reviews)


I did stop here, but it would be unfair for me to try and review this place. It was raining, heavily.

Visibility was about 50 metres (see the video or the photo below) so I did not stop to go out on the platform as there was no view, I simply stopped for a coffee to try and warm up and then kept riding.

Google reviews are not great but this won’t take much time out of your day to stop here, no detour required.

Khau Lan Waterfall


This is a waterfall that not many people go to look at. It is quite hidden with a small train off the main road, luckily the Google reviews are quite helpful in locating the start of the trail.

Estimated walking time is 15 minutes each way.

15 minutes.

60 minutes.

11.9 kms

5.0 (5 reviews)


Again, sorry but due to the weather I was unable to do this one. It does contain rope assisted climbs down to the jungle below from the road and I was unable to do this in the mud and rain.

Heaven’s Gate


Also sometimes called Quan Ba Heaven’s Gate, again another lookout or viewing point which is directly on the main road.

There is two viewing options, a cafe, and a small staircase to a higher elevation.

0 minutes.

20 minutes.

0 kms

4.5 (3,634 reviews)


Unfortunately in what is a common theme for day 1 for me but I was unable to really enjoy this activity due to very poor visibility and constant rain. I do recommend climbing 5 minutes up the stairs (50m from cafe) to get a more private view. The cafe is very busy.

Fairy Bosom Lookout


Another lookout located right on the loop itself with no detour required. There is a walk up about 130 steps to a viewing platform that looks out over the town of Quan Ba.

0 minutes.

30 minutes.

0 kms

4.8 (93 reviews)


Again, I didn’t stop here in the freezing cold as I was unable to even see the city of Quan Ba from the road, the bottom of the valley was simply a grey cloud so unfortunately I had to ride past this as well. 

This is a shame because this one has good reviews and gets less crowded than Heaven’s Gate.

Lung Khuy Cave


This cave does involve a slight detour down a narrow-ish mountain road and a 2km hike from the carpark to the cave itself. Once in the cave the path is not very long, there is a small add-on section at the end of the cave that gets very narrow.

Highly recommended online, I was unfortunately unable to do this.

19 minutes.

100 minutes.

11.8 kms

4.7 (112 reviews)


Having ridden half way along to the cave on the road off the main road I had to turn around as my boots were now full of water and I was freezing cold with the wind chill. I couldn’t face the 2km walk from the carpark in these conditions. My first day was not going to plan.

Nai Nam Dam Waterfall


In dry conditions this is not worth going to as it may not be flowing much at all. This is a lesser visited waterfall though and a good way to see something the tour groups won’t get to.

There is about a 15 minute walk each way to get here, it is mostly flat ground but is reported to be slippery, it is unlikely that you will spend much time here. This is normally done by people visiting the village of Nam Dam.


16 minutes.

45 minutes.

7.1 kms

4.1 (45 reviews)


I did not attempt to make it to this, after turning around from the road to Lung Khuy cave I was running late and had to abandon the attempt to get here.

Yen Minh Pine Forest


Located on the longer route to Yen Minh is a pine forest. I have added this as a detour time even though it is on the road to Yen Minh, it is not accessible by the fastest route to Yen Minh.


24 minutes.

15 minutes.

16 kms

4.3 (557 reviews)


As if day 1 wasn’t going bad enough, I suffered a popped tyre on the way to the pine forest and then had to walk the bike back 2.5 kms to a mechanic.

After waiting for the bike to be fixed it was late in the day and I was in no mood to continue so on the second time around I drove the shortcut to Yen Minh and skipped the pine forest.

Day 1 Summary


Hopefully your first day goes better than mine! I was basically rained out of every activity along the way.

For those wanting to do all of these activities you might need to start early and hope for good weather!

An alternate option is stopping in Quan Ba for the night (possibly after Nai Nam Dam Waterfall).

For me personally, if you were short on time I would skip Nai Nam dam waterfall and Yen Minh pine forest. Neither seem that exciting to me.

If you did every activity listed here your ride will be an extra 52.3 kms and an extra 1 hour 22 minutes.

Day 2 – Yen Minh to Dong Van

 46.8 kms – 1 hour 22 minutes


Day 2 of the Ha Giang loop will normally consist of riding from Yen Minh to Dong Van. This is a really short ride (see above) however so it is usually combined with the Lung Cu flagpole and/or the northernmost point of Vietnam to fill out the day.

The good news is that this day is not too hard on the bike, even with the Lung Cu flagpole it is not too big a ride and there are less activities to try and cram into the one day, so hopefully it is done at a more pleasant pace.

Chin Khoanh Ramp


This is just another mountain pass road with a viewpoint, not as well known or talked about as Heaven’s Gate or Fairy Bosom lookout from day 1, but it is good fun to ride in good weather.

0 minutes.

10 minutes.

0 kms

4.6 (414 reviews)


I did ride it as it is part of the loop but don’t feel like I can give it a fair assessment due to heavy fog with visibility being about 40 metres, it was insane conditions. A good fun ride but can’t rate the viewpoint aspect of it at all.


Hmong King’s Palace (Dinh Vua Mèo)


The Hmong King’s palace is an old wooden palace built for a local king of the Hmong people, dating back to roughly 1901. Entry is cheap and it allows an opportunity to get off the bike for a look around.

6 minutes.

30 minutes.

1.6 kms

4.4 (5,614 reviews)


This place is worth a stop just for a walk around however it isn’t that interesting. It is not setup like other museums with information plaques so you just walk around looking at stuff without any context.

This is an old house but only from the early 1900’s, it once housed the Hmong rulers who were the rulers of the northern regions around Ha Giang province.

It doesn’t take long to walk around and look at the exhibits so there’s no harm doing it, but it won’t be a highlight of the trip at all.

Northernmost Point of Vietnam


The northernmost point of Vietnam is a lookout point on the border with China. It is close to the Lung Cu flagpole but is situated down the valley at a lower elevation. This makes it good to visit even when there is cloud and rain about.

Once you get there it is a very small flight of stairs to a lookout tower, you won’t need to spend long here. There is a small restaurant/cafe at the premises.

*30 minutes.

30 minutes.

11 kms

4.7 (556 reviews)


*Ride detour is from Lung Cu, not from the main route.

A pleasant experience and a nice alternative to the Lung Cu flagpole in misty conditions thanks to its lower altitude.

Please note that Google maps directions are wrong, the correct path is through the town of Xeo Lung, then turn right and follow the road to the end, check out Maps.Me if you’re unsure where it is.

I enjoyed this, but the scenery is not as good as the mountain passes along the Ha Giang loop itself.

Northernmost Point lookout tower with low hanging cloud.

Shot on the Sony A1 using the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 (Amazon/eBay link)

Lung Cu Flagpole


Although some people call this the most northern point, it’s not. It does serve to mark the border though despite being 3.5 kms away this tower has historical significance to the region.

The flag itself is 54m² sitting atop a 30+ metre tower at an altitude of about 1,400m above sea level.

The climb up can be challenging depending on conditions, there are shortcuts to lessen the climb by hiring a buggy ride further up the stairs. 

79 minutes.

80 minutes.

37.9 kms

4.6 (6,698 reviews)


Due to the hight altitude of the flagpole it was completely covered by low clouds and mist when I went through the Lung Cu area so I skipped this activity and instead opted for the northernmost point.

However you can do both if the weather allows. This place does have very mixed reviews, it gets busy so the earlier you go the better. If the visibility is bad the recommendation is to not bother going at all.

Don Cao (French Fortress)


Also referred to as Dong Van Viepoint this is the ruins of an old French fortress that sits above the city of Dong Van.

Due to its location it offers views over the entire city, as well as panoramic views of the surrounding area. There is no entry fee.

8 minutes.

50 minutes.

1.5 kms

4.5 (187 reviews)


The Don Cao fortress offered very good views but loses points for the rubbish around the site.

When I was there the fortress was surrounded by mist and fog which made it feel like a fortress in the clouds as the fog blew by, then returned at different times.

You can ride your bike all the way to the top if you are confident, the path is steep. I didn’t ride becuase I didn’t think it was allowed but as I was leaving I saw scooters parked at the entrance.

The path is very slippery and steep in wet conditions, wear grippy footwear with soft rubber for the best grip (like Crocs).

Shot on the Sony A1 using the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 (Amazon/eBay link)

Day 2 summary


Day 2 is a lot more cruisy in my opinion than the first day. The riding is short and you have time to do both the Lung Cu flagpole and the northernmost point of Vietnam if you are up early.

If you did every activity listed your ride will be an extra 52 kms and an extra 2 hours 03 minutes.

Day 3 – Dong Van to Bao Lac*

98.8 kms – 2 hours 55 minutes*
92.2 kms – 2 hours 57 minutes


Please note here for those doing the Ha Giang loop, then you will not ride to Bao Lac but instead to Du Gia. Riding to Du Gia through Meo Vac will give you the bottom distance and time written above, riding to Bao Lac the top time.

Today marks the first day that my northeastern loop deviates from the Ha Giang loop. Those who want to pick up the Ha Giang loop activities, after today’s listed activities you can skip forward to day 8 where the northeastern loop rejoins in Du Gia.

Day 3 on the Ha Giang loop represents a potentially very busy day, but it really depends on what activities you do along the way. The majority of the day is spent on the Ma Pi Leng pass, arguably the biggest selling point of the Ha Giang loop!

Ma Pi Leng Pass / “Death Road”


The Ma Pi Leng pass is basically considered the main road from Dong Van to Meo Vac, however a branch off the main road can also be ridden, this is called “death road” by some.

This branching road leads to the main activities of the day and is itself the major attraction along the Ma Pi Leng pass.

You will see some people write that you aren’t allowed to ride your bike on this road, this is not true. What is true is that sometimes people will stop you and tell you you’re not allowed to try get money for them to taxi you around.

The road serves as a road to access villages higher up the summit, it is also the access point for the Skywalk/Skypath hiking trail and for “Mỏm Đá Tử Thần” aka death rock/overhanging rock.

10 minutes.

0 minutes.

1.8 kms

4.6 (425 reviews)*

*There is a lot of confusion regarding the naming of the activities on the Ma Pi Leng pass as people struggle to differentiate the road, the rock and the hiking area. All the reviews are a mixture of all these different activities as people misattribute them massively.


This road was incredible to ride on, however it is dangerous and if you’re not confident then just walk along the road instead.

Without stopping this road will add about 10 minutes more to your journey due to the narrow nature and multiple hairpin turns on a steep descent. However you are likely to spend more time due to the stops along the way.

The Ma Pi Leng pass itself (the main road) is stunning and a lot safer to ride for those who aren’t confident.

Shot on the Sony A1 using the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 (Amazon/eBay link)

Mỏm Đá Tử Thần (Death Rock)


Along the death road is this rocky outcrop that climbs up into the clouds, jutting out from the side of this is a rocky ledge.

People climb out onto this ledge as a photo opportunity.

0 minutes.

30 minutes.

0 kms

4.7 (220 reviews)


During my trip the entire outcrop was covered in mist and a slight drizzle. I climbed up to the rock but was not willing to climb out on the exposed edge as the conditions were slippery.

I still enjoyed the experience but was also unable to climb higher up past the rock ledge to the peak with the rain around it was too dangerous.

If you want to do this in the wet, be super careful and wear soft rubbery footwear that moulds around the rocks for more grip (not hard based hiking boots like I had on that don’t form to the rock).

As with everything, go early to beat the crowds.

I was not willing to climb out with nobody else around in these conditions



This is a hiking trail that comes off of the “death road” and this can only be done as a hike, it is a point to point hiking trail that is 3.1 kms long.

If you don’t have a lift organised for the other end then you will be looking ar a 6.2 km round trip that can take a large portion out of your day, make sure you have enough water depending on the season you do it.

0 minutes.

240 minutes*

*Assuming you have to walk the full 6.2 kms round trip and don’t have a lift, the time can be shorter depending on all sorts of factors.

0 kms

4.8 (97 reviews)*

*Reviews are combining the 4 lookouts along the Skypath as the Skypath is not listed in Google Maps. It holds a perfect rating in alltrails


The biggest disappointment of my whole trip in terms of the activities I wish I did the most was this one. However due to its high elevation the entire walk was covered in fog and mist so there was no view along the way.

Due to the high amount of time needed to do the walk, I decided against doing it and spending so much time on an activity with no view, however if you have good conditions I recommend doing this.

There are 4 viewpoints listed on Google Maps that are only accessible on this walk, you cannot ride to them and they are:

  • Great white cliff viewpoint.
  • Skypath grotto.
  • Vách đá trắng white cliff.
  • Tu San viewpoint.

The Skypath juts off the Ma Pi Leng pass that you can ride on and ends back on the main road.

Song Nho Que (Nho Que Rivercruise)


Another popular thing to do is to ride down to the Nho Que river and jump on a boat that goes through the narrow canyon.

This does involve a somewhat tricky ride, you need to go towards Meo Vac then turn down the 193a road which snakes down the valley to the river. People do report the roads down are tricky to ride and possibly dangerous depending on experience.

25 minutes*

*As listed using Google maps to make it fair with other attractions but most people say it is more like a 45 minute ride.

180 minutes*

*Very hard to judge, some reviews mention waiting around for an hour or more just to begin the boat ride which lasts for another hour and then needing a shuttle to get back to the motorbike parking which involves more waiting.

7.7 kms

4.5 (618 reviews)*

*Reviews taken from the marina as the reviews for the river itself contain a lot of people just reviewing the river as a scenic location.


Given the fog in the valley sitting on the water this activity was a no go for me. There seemed to be fog low and fog high with a band of clear weather in between.

I am not sure I would bother with this activity unless I had all day to do it as I have read some reviews that say there’s a lot of waiting around and that the ride is just people lining up at the front of the boat for pictures.

I think I’d do it, but only given good conditions and if I went early. However if you go without other people the boat won’t leave (unless you pay for about 8 people’s worth of tickets).

In between the fog you can see the river below with boats waiting for tourists.

Day 3 summary


Day 3 will be extremely busy if you do the river cruise and have to walk the Skypath in both directions.

It might be worth spending an extra day in Dong Van or Meo Vac rather than riding to Du Gia or Bao Lac if you want to go at a slow pace. However I do believe both activities can be done if you’re willing to have a very busy day.

If you did every activity listed your ride will be an extra 9.5 kms and an extra 35 minutes.

Ma Pi Leng Main Road

Day 4 – Bao Lac to Ban Gioc

165 kms – 4 hours 33 minutes


Please note here for those doing the Ha Giang loop, this is not part of the loop, skip to day 8 where I rejoin the loop.

Today is a decent ride day if you choose to do the same path as me, which is to get to Ban Gioc falls. An alternative option is to ride to Cao Bang if you don’t want to rush things, in which case you can include the activities of day 6 on this day as you will be able to do them on the way into Cao Bang.

The good news though is that there is only one activity to do along the way and it does not involve a riding detour at all!

Shot on the DJI Mini 4 Pro (Amazon)

Me Pja Pass Viewpoint


The Me Pja Pass is a 14-turn switchback mountain pass that you will ride up on the way to Ban Gioc falls from Bao Lac.

Once at the top of the pass there is a small cafe where you can park your bike, they can point you to the trailhead and offer walking aids such as bamboo poles. I suggest taking them if there has been any rain around as the ground is essentially mud!

Support the cafe by eating there or buying a drink either before or after the hike.

0 minutes.

70 minutes.

0 kms

4.8 (22 reviews)*

*People also leave reviews for this viewpoint for the pass itself (the 14-turn road) which is why the viewpoint itself has such a low amount of reviews.


The road itself is crap as it’s under construction, this review is for the hike only.

Despite the ridiculously slippery mud I managed to stay upright with the help of my bamboo pole.

Important to note when doing the Me Pja Pass hike to follow the red trail markers, these are either poles in the ground or arrows painted on rocks. When you go through the gate, that is when the ascent happens and you turn right and start climbing uphill (there are arrows).

I missed the turn-off after the gate and spend an extra hour or so climbing up some other random hill to a much worse viewpoint, but I still had a great time as the conditions were nice and cool.

The walk will be 20-30 minutes each way, made up of 10-20 minutes walk then about a 10 minute climb from the turn off.

Really enjoyed it as the weather just held off for me.

Shot on the Sony A1 using the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 (Amazon/eBay link)

Day 4 summary


Day 4 for me was mostly just about getting to Ban Gioc falls, so there isn’t much to report.

Alternative ideas include stopping the night in Cao Bang, in which case you could do the activities listed on day 6 today, freeing up time later in the trip when leaving Ban Gioc to try and get back towards the Ha Giang loop.

Ban Gioc Falls.

Shot on the Sony A1 using the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 (Amazon/eBay link)

Day 5 – Ban Gioc Falls to Cao Bang

83.8 kms – 1 hour 53 minutes


This part of the journey can be different for different people, some may not stay at Ban Gioc falls and will do a day trip out from Cao Bang, others may want to stay longer at Ban Gioc and do a very long ride from Ban Gioc to Ba Be Lake the following day.

The way I did it was to be at Ban Gioc the previous night so that I could see it first thing in the morning and then head to Cao Bang afterwards.

Note that there are activities around Cao Bang that you could try squeeze into today if you were in a rush (see tomorrow’s list) but I decided to stay two nights in Cao Bang hence not doing those activities today. You can make your own adventure.

Ban Gioc Falls


The Ban Gioc falls (sometimes called the Detian falls) are a super impressive set of falls on the eastern border of Vietnam, a border shared with China.

The waterfalls can be accessed from whichever country you are in, with raft rides also available to get up close and personal with the falls.

The water does not always flow over every front of the falls, this can be influenced by the weather and also a dam built on the Chinese side which only opens at certain times, however when I was there the flow was very strong and fell on all fronts.

0 minutes.

120 minutes.

0 kms

4.6 (7,812 reviews)


I couldn’t fault my experience here at the falls. The grounds were clean and because I was early I had the entire Vietnamese side of the falls to myself for over an hour!

It was magical.

I spent over 2 hours here taking videos, photos and just sitting down to ejoy the scenery, knowing in all likelihood I would never be back.

Admission was dirt cheap but I did not do the raft ride, the idea of being crammed onto the raft with other tourists was not as appealing to me as enjoying the entire Vietnamese side of the falls to myself to explore.

Shot on the Sony A1 using the Tamron 28-200mm f/4.5-6.3 (Amazon/eBay link)

Nguom Cave


A short ride from Ban Gioc falls is Nguom cave which is highly recommended to do. The parking is not far from the cave entry and this is not a big detour to ride.

The extended tour of this cave is highly recommended and will cost about 200k VND (subject to change).

9 minutes.

120 minutes.

3.8 kms

4.5 (208 reviews)


Having spent so much time at Ban Gioc falls and needing to check out of my accommodation I didn’t do this tour. Unfortunately I didn’t do the research beforehand (didn’t have a detailed post like this to read) and was unaware it would take 2 hours to do it properly.

Note that yohttps://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Attraction_Review-g1519989-d14080639-Reviews-Ho_Thang_Hen-Cao_Bang_Cao_Bang_Province.htmlhttps://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Attraction_Review-g1519989-d14080639-Reviews-Ho_Thang_Hen-Cao_Bang_Cao_Bang_Province.htmlu don’t have to do the extended tour, but the reviews on Google for those who did the longer tour are sparkling, whereas the reviews of those who didn’t are mixed.

Day 5 summary


Day 5 is mostly about Ban Gioc falls, but it is definitely worth doing the cave as well. I should have checked out of my accommodation then returned to the cave.

I thought I was in a rush to get to Cao Bang to do laundry but in the end I stayed 2 nights in Cao Bang, which meant I had more time on day 5 to explore the area than I originally thought.

If you did every activity listed your ride will be an extra 9.5 kms and an extra 35 minutes.

Ban Gioc Falls.

Shot on the Sony A1 using the Tamron 28-200mm f/4.5-6.3 (Amazon/eBay link)

Day 6 – Cao Bang


Today for me was kind of a rest day in Cao Bang.

Cao Bang is the largest city you will come across on this 10 day journey and offers a great chance to do things you might not be able to do in the smaller towns and villages. Go shopping and stock up on supplies if needed.

I used the opportunity to ride out to a few nearby spots and do laundry to last me until the end of the trip.

It feels good to not have a long ride day sometimes.

Núi Mắt Thần (Angel Eye Mountain)


Angel eye mountain goes by a few different names (Nui Mat Than/Angel Eye Mountain/Magic Eye Mountain) but if you use any of them people will know what you mean. This is a mountain about 45 minutes north of Cao Bang with a hole right through the middle of it.

Not only that but it sits in a valley that is incredible to walk around, with water buffalo and horses roaming around, a river flowing through it and a waterfall as well.

To get here type in “Nam Tra Waterfall” because Google Maps directions are wrong when you type in the actual name, Google for some reason takes you to a nearby spot that involves an unnecessarily long walk.

0 minutes*

*From Nam Tra Waterfall

30 minutes.

0 kms

4.7 (280 reviews)


Loved it but was disappointed to see rubbish everywhere!

Baffles me how little care is taken in this amazing location to keep it clean. I found this place to be next level peaceful, it was dead silent, there were animals roaming around and the rolling hills surrounded by mountains was otherworldly.

Shot on the DJI Mini 4 Pro (Amazon)

Nam Tra Waterfall


Along the death road is this rocky outcrop that climbs up into the clouds, jutting out from the side of this is a rocky ledge.

People climb out onto this ledge as a photo opportunity.

45 minutes.

20 minutes.

27.1 kms

4.5 (105 reviews)


After coming from Ban Gioc there’s not much in the way of waterfalls that will impress you, but Nam Tra waterfall is nice and peaceful without being amazing.

I was unable to get past the last 100m due to the condition of the mud pathway sloping into the river but enjoyed watching the water buffalo swimming downstream and feeding on the river banks.

This might be more fun in warmer conditions where the path will be in better condition and you could swim in the pool at the bottom of the falls.

Shot on the DJI Mini 4 Pro (Amazon)

Thang Hen Lake


Thang hen lake is a series of 36 lakes just to the west of Nui Mat Than, it sits about 2.5 kms further to the west. However it is recommended that you ride between the two and not try and walk there as you can’ walk a direct path due to the mountains being in the way.

The lake does dry up in the dry season so may not be as impressive as the pictures suggest depending on recent rainfall.


13 minutes.

30 minutes.

5,9 kms

4.0 (11 reviews)

*Used Tripadvisor reviews here as there is no relevant location on Google maps at Thang Hen lake.


I did not stop at Thang Hen lake after visiting Angel Eye mountain. Technically it was dry season so I was unsure on what condition it would be in but also wanted to prioritise getting back to Cao Bang to do laundry.

Day 6 summary


Day 6 is a relaxing day if you decide to spend the full day in Cao Bang. You easily have time for all three activities listed here if they all interest you.

If you did every activity listed your ride today will be 60 kms and 1 hour 43 minutes.

Nui Mat Than.

Shot on the Sony A1 using the Tamron 28-200mm f/4.5-6.3 (Amazon/eBay link)

Day 7 – Cao Bang to Ba Be Lake

124 kms – 3 hours 06 minutes


To get back towards the Ha Giang loop from the eastern side of the country there are some big kilometres to cover. The easiest way in my opinion is to head to Ba Be Lake on the way to Du Gia.

The alternative is to head into Meo Vac, which would be an extra 51 kms to ride today but would mean that you can finish off the loop from Meo Vac to Du Gia.

Regardless, I went to Ba Be Lake to make today a little bit shorter and to see some of the activities surrounding the lake. There only appears to be about 4 different things to do around the lake, besides looking at the lake and the wildlife itself.

Tat Ma Waterfall


Tat Ma waterfall is a decent sized waterfall that is easy to access and completely free. It is located south of the lake, about 30 minutes ride away.

There is a short walk involved that does include crossing a stream so wear water shoes if possible, although the stream was not deep when I went.

To find the waterfall, go to the lookout points listed in Maps.Me and not the way Google Maps shows you. There is a blue sign in town (Google gets you 90% there but gives the wrong turn in the town), follow the blue sign to the end of the road.

At the end of the road is a trail marker. When I was there (January 2024) this was all hidden behind large piles of construction material, so just trust the directions and walk down the road if you can’t get the motorbike there.

The trail itself is only about 10 minutes walk if that.

32 minutes

30 minutes.

14.7 kms

4.5 (73 reviews)


Although I had difficulty finding the trail thanks to Google Maps and a mini construction site, once I found it the walk was easy.

Keep an eye out for spider webs, there were heaps when I went as nobody else had been through in a long time to clear them.

The waterfall itself was ok, quite a good size, scenic but not worth a swim in the cold conditions of January.

Shot on the Sony A1 using the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 (Amazon/eBay link)

Hua Ma Cave


Only a short ride from Tat Ma Waterfall on the south side of the lake is another activity that you can access with your motorbike and that is Hua Ma Cave.

Entry is about 40k VND, you park at the bottom of the climb and walk roughly 15 minutes up to the entry of the cave.

Inside the cave are multiple coloured lighting schemes that range from annoying to actually not that bad. There is a built up walking trail that extends a fair way.

At a leisurely pace you might spent 45 minutes in the cave.

5 minutes.*

*Time from Tat Ma waterfall.

70 minutes.

1 km

4.5 (142 reviews)


I believe my experience was better than others  because I had the entire cave to myself. It was quiet, peaceful and gave me time to just explore without any noise.

The lights were sometimes annoying but the cave itself was tidy and has some amazing formations to look at.

Shot on the Sony A1 using the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 (Amazon/eBay link)

Puong Cave


Puong cave is located a decent ride away from the two attractions on the south of the lake, it is located on the northern side of the lake.

This is a cave with a river flowing through it, the cave goes for about 300m but there is ambient light in there thanks to the double openings of the system.

Boats will take you into the cave and you will get the opportunity to get off the boat and walk around the cave on the pathways laid out.


90 minutes.*

*Estimate of ride time on bike plus boat ride time.

30 minutes.

5,9 kms

4.5 (133 reviews)


I did ride out to Puong cave on the north side of the lake but by the time I got there there were no boats parked up to take people into the cave. I am not sure if this was because of the time (16:30) or for some other reason.

Google reviews suggest that the boats leave from the homestays on the lake but I also believe they leave from slightly upstream of Puong cave because I flew the drone and saw some boats about 500 metres away from the cave, around the corner.

However by the time I spotted them I was running out of daylight and had yet to book accommodation.

Ba Be Lake is a large area and riding around it takes up a lot of time.

Shot on the DJI Mini 4 Pro (Amazon)

Dau Dang Waterfall


Another attraction on the lake that requires a boat to access. The boat will take you up the river and then you depart the boat and walk the remaining 700 metres to the waterfall viewing platform.


90 minutes.*

*Estimated ride time plus boat ride.

30 minutes.

0 kms

4.3 (309 reviews)


As I was running late, this was the first thing to drop off my to-do list in favour of attempting to get to Puong cave.

Reviews for this don’t speak very highly of it and to be honest the photos don’t look that good. Having seen plenty of waterfalls already it’s pretty easy to skip this if short on time.

Day 7 summary


Day 7 is a pain to plan if you haven’t been before, but now that you’ve read this post you will probably do a better job of it than I did.

It’s worth noting that Ba Be lake is huge, there are no roads up the western side of the lake and tomorrow’s ride is heading north to Du Gia so be mindful of where you book accommodation as it can change your ride time tomorrow.

I believe all the homestays on the lakes will be able to organise a boat ride for you to Puong cave, however there are also boats further upstream that can take you, so you can basically ride there by motorbike, I just found them with the drone too late in the day to do Puong cave.

Dau Dang waterfall I would only do if in the area and with free time to spare.

If you did every activity listed your ride today will be an extra 25.7 kms and 57 minutes.*

*These times are estimates because your accommodation location can drastically change this. The lake is huge and having to loop back around it can add an hour or more to a trip.

Day 8 – Ba Be Lake to Du Gia

182 kms – 5 hours 50 minutes


Here it is – both the worst and the longest ride day of this whole 10 day trip!

Today involves a long day on the bike and the last 30 kilometres are the worst riding conditions you can imagine, even more difficult if you have rainy conditions.

This trip can be avoided if instead of going through Ba Be Lake you went to Meo Vac when leaving Cao Bang, but then you won’t get to see Ba Be Lake obviously, but the option is there for you.

This also means that those who are just doing the Ha Giang loop can completely avoid the DT176 south of Du Gia, because you will come here from Meo Vac as seen on the maps at the top of this guide.

The DT176 north of Du Gia is bitumen, it is only the portion to the south that is crud.

The horrible road in question is called the DT176 and as of January 2024 it remains an absolute trashy quagmire. It won’t be any better within the next 3 or 4 years as far as I can tell either.

It is about 26 kms of constant construction, which in the rain involves: mud, deep ruts, rocks, single lanes, more mud and more deep ruts … forever (or at least it feels like it).

It is challenging to do because you are constantly on edge, always one mistake away from dropping the bike, it would be fun if it was 1km long but the 26 kilometres just drags and it does not relent for a second, it goes from one style of crap to another and then back again.

This road is still the fastest way to get to Du Gia from Ba Be Lake by a good 2 hours, you can ride up to Meo Vac and down but it will take you close to 8 hours to go that way.

Unfortunately you can’t get it done at the start of the day, by the time you turn north on the DT176 you’ve already been on the bike for 3 hours 40 minutes and are getting uncomfortable.

You will get about 12 kms into the DT176 without hassle, but then the proceeding 26 kms will take you an hour and a half as you struggle to get up to 20 km/h, then the last 5 kms into Du Gia return to bitumen roads, although still pretty average roads at that.

The GoPro Hero 10 (Amazon/eBay link) does not do justice to the conditions, nor the size of the ruts.

Du Gia Falls


Du Gia falls are located just to the west of Du Gia town. There are two separate falls here, both part of the same system and river.

See the image below for better directions than any mapping app currently shows.

The first is easier to access and for this reason can be quite popular. It is a great option to go for a swim in warmer conditions with a nice big pool of flowing fresh water.

Unfortunately there are cafes built on the rocks opposite playing crap music at max voume, ruining the vibe of the place entirely.

28 minutes

30 minutes.

6 kms

4.5 (281 reviews)


Easy access, full of massive tour groups, crap music and overcrowded.

I did get it to myself a little later on in the day but overall much preferred the waterfalls further up the river.

I didn’t know it until I got there via traditional means, but there is a paved road the entire way. Neither Google nor Maps.Me direct you the correct way.

Maps.Me (screenshot above) shows the cafe where you need to turn left coming from Du Gia, so turn left where the red arrow is, then there will be a fork in the road and you stick to the right at the fork.

Essentially just follow the bitumen road, it isn’t shown here but it cuts across to the falls and is by far the easiest way to get there.

Du Gia Falls 2


This is simply the name of the waterfalls further upstream.

Both are accessed from the same carpark, this one just involves walking further.

To get to Du Gia falls 2 you need to cross the river before you get to the first falls, then as you ascend up the hill there will be a path on your left going back down to the river. Follow this down until you can’t go further.

At this point you will be able to see the path on the other side of the river, you can cross the rocks here with minimal fuss, the water might get up to your knee depending on how good you are at rock hopping.

Once you have crossed the river it is less than 5 minutes walk to Du Gia falls 2.

The trail continues further upstream but there are no more waterfalls, just some rapids. These trails are used by farmers bringing plant material to the road for motorbike/car transport.

0 minutes.

40 minutes.

0 km

4.6 (11 reviews)


I liked this more than the first falls. The walk there is more fun, there was nobody else there and you could not here the music being played hundreds of metres back so it was far more relaxing and peaceful.

There are 2 levels to Du Gia falls 2, the top level has a nice swimming pool if you feel like cooling off as seen below.

Shot on the Sony A1 using the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 (Amazon/eBay link)

Day 8 summary


Day 8 is a long day on the bike. I suggest leaving early to try get to Du Gia as early as possible, this allows for things to potentially go wrong and still be fixed in a timely manner, which is very possible on the DT176 road.

You will probably get uncomfortable with so many hours in the seat.

If you ride to Du Gia falls your ride today will be an extra 6 kms and 30 minutes.

The Road to Hang Tham Lin.

Shot on the Sony A1 using the Tamron 28-200mm f/4.5-6.3 (Amazon/eBay link)

Day 9 – North of Du Gia


The activities listed today are north of Du Gia. I stayed in Du Gia another night so that I would get good weather on the last day (tomorrow) back to Ha Giang.

If you are doing the Ha Giang loop you will have the chance to do these activities on day 3 when riding from Dong Van to Du Gia, after doing the Ma Pi Leng pass.

You will also have the chance to do the two viewpoints listed here the following day as you ride from Du Gia to Ha Giang, because we head north out of Du Gia on the final day before turning west towards Ha Giang.


Viewpoint Du Gia


A viewpoint directly on the road, it is a good place to stop but in my opinion no better than the views offered in town.

0 minutes.

5 minutes.

0 kms

4.7 (22 reviews)


As I said before, very nice view but being so close to town it is basically the same view that is on offer from spots in the town itself. The photo below looks good thanks to the sunrise, I actually took this the following day on the way to Ha Giang.

Shot on the DJI Mini 4 Pro (Amazon)

Viewpoint Lung Ho


Viewpoint Lung Ho is a very popular viewpoint, there is often bunches of tours here lining up for photos.

There is a nice cafe where you can sit and just enjoy the views without joining the tussle for photos at the lookout spot, you can see the surrounding mountains of Du Gia in a relaxing manner and it really is a good viewpoint.

0 minutes.

30 minutes.

0 km

4.8 (93 reviews)


The first time I visited I rode straight past it as there was about 30 bikes parked out the front.

However the next morning when leaving early I got here just after sunrise and had the whole place to myself and it was amazing!

For those on the Ha Giang loop you will ride past it on day and and again on day 4, or you can make a trip out to it late/early from Du Gia to avoid the crowds as it’s not far from town.

Shot on the DJI Mini 4 Pro (Amazon)

Hang Tham Lin


Hang Tham Lin is a cave that is accessed by a bamboo raft. The raft will take you into the cave where you can explore and swim in the water depending on the conditions.

Hang Tham Lin as less developed than other caves giving it a much more natural and wild feel which appeals to a lot of people.

The road to get here is one of the most stunning rides I had on the entire trip and can only be compared to Ma Pi Leng pass’ “death road” for its stunning views and at times sketchy narrow sections.

2 hours 10 minutes (or 40 minutes).*

*This ride is 2 hours and 10 minutes return trip from Du Gia (1H05 each way) but when doing the Ha Giang loop is only a 40 minute detour (20 minutes each way) when riding down from Dong Van on day 3.

60 minutes.

54.5 kms (or 15.2 kms)*

*If doing this on the Ha Giang loop it is an extra 15 kms but riding out from Du Gia it is 54.5 kms return journey.

4.8 (31 reviews)


After riding all the way out there I found out that due to the recent rain the water flow was too strong and the rafts were not able to go upstream on this particular day. So I flew the drone up to have a look but can’t give a proper review.

Shot on the DJI Mini 4 Pro (Amazon)

Day 9 summary


Day 9 is an optional stop, you can make this your day back to Ha Giang if Hang Tham Lin doesn’t interest you, in fact you could actually do it on the way back to Ha Giang but it is quite a big detour to make.

Hang Tham Lin is a lot like Puong Cave near Ba Be Lake in that it is a cave system with a river, unfortunately I didn’t get to do either of them properly so can’t compare them.

Day 10 – Du Gia to Ha Giang

95.9 kms – 3 hours 04 minutes


Wow, the last day of the Ha Giang loop / Northeastern loop.

Today is the ride back to Ha Giang, from Du Gia we go north on the DT176 to avoid the horrible road to the south of Du Gia (also the DT176).

The road conditions north of Du Gia are not amazing but it is all bitumen, watch out for potholes.

You will ride past Viewpoint Du Gia and Viewpoint Lung Ho again so can take the opportunity to stop again, or if you haven’t already done so before because they were too crowded.

Today’s ride is fairly easy although Google maps seems to struggle with the road location, often saying you are in the middle of the jungle (this wasn’t a problem any other day but today), it remains easy to navigate though.

If you put Aboong Waterfall as your first point in Google Maps, 37 kms before you get there is a collapsed bridge, there is a small bridge made right next to it so don’t miss this turn off.

You need to cross this tiny bridge on the right here. This is the view after having crossed already.

Secret Waterfalls


7 kms before you get to Aboong Waterfall are two other waterfalls, these are also right near the road and don’t involve any detours. One is much better than the other but you have options.

There are two levels that look like they would be great to swim in with fresh flowing water.

0 minutes.

10 minutes.

0 kms

N/A – Not shown on maps.


It was winter so I didn’t need a swim but one of these in particular looked very nice.

Shot on the DJI Mini 4 Pro (Amazon)

Aboong Waterfall


Aboong waterfall is exactly where it is shown on the maps, it is basically roadside and offers people a chance to hop in for a swim to freshen up. The path down to the waterfall looks very steep.

The waterfall is said to have a deep pool, it is about 10 metres high.

0 minutes.

10 minutes.

0 km

4.1 (38 reviews)


The path down to the waterfall is super steep if you’re not in the right footwear. I guess having just seen a much prettier and more enticing waterfall 7 kms away this didn’t appeal to me much at all.

Little Ma Pi Leng Canyon


Little Ma Pi Leng canyon is pretty much as described, it is like Ma Pi Leng canyon (the one outside Dong Van on day 3) but smaller in size.

There is a tiny path that the river has cut through the mountains and much like the Nho Que river, you can take a boat ride out through this canyon and back again.

Despite being smaller than the Ma Pi Leng this might be better in a lot of ways. There is no long winding road down to the boats, the road is easy to ride down or you walk down stairs from the cafe above.

There is no wait time, no shuttle buses and no hordes of tourists ruining the boat ride by hogging the front of the boat for photos.

0 minutes.

45 minutes.

0 km

4.5 (29 reviews)


I paid 400k VND for a “half” trip, I was the only person on the entire boat!

For me this was awesome, but for those wanting a cheaper trip you will need to go with other people or if travelling alone, hope there are other tourists who want to join you.

The “full” tour I was told was 600k and would take an hour but this was not appealing to me. I actually think the shorter journey is far superior because after you go through the canyon the scenery is boring and you just want to go through the canyon again, not keep going down river.

This was a highlight for me on the Ha Giang loop, the canyon may be smaller than that of Ma Pi Leng pass, but the ride is so much easier to access and doesn’t take up a quarter of your day to do.

The food at the cafe above was good as well.

Shot on the DJI Mini 4 Pro (Amazon)

Day 10 summary


The final day of the trip is pretty easy as there are no detours to make, all of the activities listed here are directly on the route back to Ha Giang. Little Ma Pi Leng canyon is only 28 minutes outside of Ha Giang so can easily be done as a day trip as well.

Little Ma Pi Leng Canyon.

Things to do in Ha Giang


To finish this section of the Ha Giang loop guide, here are two things you can do now that you’re back in Ha Giang if you have spare time on your last day or the day after returning.

Waterfall Near Ha Giang


No I didn’t get lazy with the naming, this is just what it’s called in Google Maps.

This is a waterfall close to the city that is a popular spot with locals and tourists alike for swimming in. It’s a great way to stop and relax after a long trip and in my opinion is actually better than the majority of waterfalls on the Ha Giang loop.

15 minutes.

50 minutes.

7.9 kms

4.5 (243 reviews).


It was winter so I didn’t need a swim but this waterfall looks nicer than every other waterfall on the Ha Giang loop.

The pool is larger, there are 3 different pools to choose from and you can slide down from one to another. This place in summer time would be a must visit I think.

Shot on the DJI Mini 4 Pro (Amazon)

Ha Giang Viewpoint


Stop for a coffee at Cafe Nui Cam at the top of the mountain in central Ha Giang, then from the carpark take the stairs even higher for a more secluded lookout point than the cafe offers.

9 minutes.

60 minutes.

3.2 km

4.8 (78 reviews)


I tried to do this 3 times and each time didn’t get to the top. Once I was too sick and couldn’t climb the stairs and the next two times was turned around by construction workers re-concreting the steps to the top.

It does get good reviews though so I would recommend it, otherwise I wouldn’t have tried so many times to do it myself.

Ha Giang Loop Guide – Activity Summary


This ends this portion of the Ha Giang loop guide, we have covered more than 30 activities here for the northeastern loop and more than 25 that can be done on the Ha Giang loop.

What’s crazy is that there’s plenty more to check out outside of these listed here, but this post is already gigantic enough and some things are best discovered for yourself in the moment.

Don’t feel like an activity not listed here is no good, there are plenty I skipped over so you make your own adventure.

The idea here is to showcase some of the more well-known activities, taking into account travel times and activity times to give people a proper idea of how much they can actually expect to do in a day.

It also hopefully helps people geographically place things with a day to day breakdown of activities listed in the correct order. Where possible I have left hints at alternative options to doing the activities, such as for those doing the Ha Giang loop rather than the full northeastern loop.

I myself made mistakes in my planning because I didn’t have a full list like this to work off, so hopefully this helps you.

You will be able to do more than me by avoiding my mistakes (also because you won’t be filming for Yotuube) and can even shorten or lengthen this trip to suit your travel needs.

Any questions, leave a comment 🙂

Waterfall Near Ha Giang.

Shot on the DJI Mini 4 Pro (Amazon)

FAQs, Tips, Tricks etc.


To finish off the Ha Giang loop guide I want to answer some questions that are the most commonly asked by people who haven’t done the loop. There are the sorts of questions that I myself had before setting off on the Ha Giang loop as well.

After that I will give a brief list of tips and tricks to try help you out and list things I would change if I were to redo the entire trip knowing what I now know.



The most freuqnelty asked questions answered in detail here in the Ha Giang loop guide. If you have any questions that haven’t been answered below then leave a comment and I will get back to you.

Topics include: motorbike rental, accommodation, the police, what to pack, is it safe and more.

Motorbike Rental – How to find a good bike? How much do they cost?


A Ha Giang loop guide won’t be complete without touching on this, afterall it’s the mode of transport that makes the journey what it is!

Motorbike rental can be done in any number of spots in Ha Giang, a lot of the city is geared towards services for people taking part in the loop so you will always find a bike.

I want to stress here that it’s impossible to list every reputable bike rental shop in Ha Giang as there are heaps, do your research and read reviews. Just because I am about to list two does not mean these are the only two good ones.

I personally would avoid QT motorbikes as I’ve seen that they prioritise large groups and screw over solo travellers, sometimes taking bikes they promised and giving them to larger groups.

I rented my bike from (and stayed at) Odyssey Hostel, the bike only had 600kms on the clock when I rented it and I never had any problems with the bike that weren’t to be expected. I can also recommend Style Motorbikes Ha Giang based on my own dealings with these two companies.

Here are the costs for bikes from Odyssey Hostel (most places are the same).

I went for the cheapest option, mostly because of the fact I was renting for 12 days and the cost would add up over such a long time period. I was also wanting to use the most commonly hired bike to be able to share information on its performance.

The load limit is 160kgs and although it was far from amazing, it was reliable and with good gear selection did ok uphill. I am 80kg and carried roughly 20kg worth of luggage (lots of camera gear) and it managed.

If riding with two people I’d upsize to a stronger bike for sure.

For those where money is not an issue, if doing the longer northeastern loop I would recommend testing some bikes to find the most comfortable option as you will continuously be on the bike day after day, comfort is key.

For reference, here are Style Motorbikes costs. They are slightly cheaper as far as I can tell using the Honda XR150 as a comparison, but I don’t know what their insurance costs add up to.

Accommodation – How to find? How to book? How much?


Accommodation on the Ha Giang loop is easy to find, you can simply ride into a town and book a place or you can do some research and pre-plan every stop.

I recommend having a list of 3 or 4 desired stops, then getting into town and seeing what you can get. This allows you the flexibility to extend stays and change your plans last minute.

Booking in person also gives you better rates (compare with Booking.com to make sure you don’t get ripped off) and gives all of the money to the homestay without Booking.com taking a slice of the profit.

I do however use Booking.com to filter reviews for things I want, like ensuites, quiet rooms etc.

I went in January and when I got off the Ha Giang loop I was often the only person in the homestays I visited.

On the loop itself during the peak seasons, it may be harder to get the exact room you wanted at the exact homestay. So if that happens to you then you might want to book ahead for the next stop.

Another way to find homestays is to open Google Maps. You will see multiple homestays pop up, even in remote villages there are homestays.


How much does accommodation cost on the Ha Giang loop?

The cost of accommodation changes a lot depending on whether you want to stay in a dorm room or get a private ensuite room.

A good dorm room might cost you between 140k-180k.

A private ensuite room usually went for approximately 400k-500k depending on the view.

Some homestays include breakfast, some dinner, some both.


Where I stayed on the Ha Giang loop

I stayed at the following homestays along the Ha Giang / Northeastern loop:

All of which I thought were perfectly fine, my favourites were definitely Chien’s Lodge, Oyssey Hostel and Primrose Homestay for differing reasons but there are plenty of good options in every city.

My least favourite was Ba Be Retreat homestay as there was no water pressure, no private ensuite and it felt a bit basic. However it is situated right on the water’s edge for those wanting to explore Ba Be lake, see below image.

Do you need an international driver’s permit to ride in Vietnam?


Yes you do. It has to come from a country that is a signatory to the 1968 convention as this is what the Vietnamese are signed onto.

Countries that have only ratified the 1949 convention but not also the 1968 convention will not give you a valid IDP and the Vietnamese police are well aware of what these countries are.


Is my international driver’s permit valid?

This depends on what country you come from.

See this list here on Wikipedia regarding which conventions your country of residency has signed onto (but double check it is accurate outside of Wikipedia).

Countries IDPs that are not valid in Vietnam include but are not limited to:

  • Australia.
  • Canada.
  • Iceland.
  • India.
  • Ireland.
  • Japan.
  • Malaysia.
  • New Zealand.
  • Singapore.
  • Sri Lanka.
  • United States of America.

So even if you have your motorbike licence and an IDP, if you come from one of the above countries you will need to ride around illegally.

If your country is a signatory to the relevant conventions, you also need the relevant motorbike licence in your home country to legally ride anything >50cc.

Do I need to get the Ha Giang permit?


Absolutely not.

There’s a lot of crap online about this but you don’t need this and most people don’t get it. The one exception may be for those planning on staying in a homestay in the town of Lung Cu right near the Chinese border.

For those doing the Ha Giang loop this is not a necessity. The hostel told me this before I left, but I decided to get it anyway to figure out how to go through the process and report it here.

Not once on my 10 day trip did anyone ask about this, not even the police.


Where do you get the Ha Giang permit from?

Ignore all the other information online as this location has changed as recently as December 2023. I went to an old address posted in other blogs and was told to find this building instead.

Walk up to the gatehouse and the guard will be able to direct you to someone who can help. The guards may not speak the best English so have a translation ready on your phone to show them. The lady who assisted me spoke good English, all done in about 20 minutes.

How much does the Ha Giang permit cost?

The Ha Giang permit cost me 200k VND.

It looks like this.

Police on the Ha Giang loop


In here I will discuss everything regarding the police along the Ha Giang loop, this is probably the one thing people are most concerned about before they set off on the trip.

As a lot of people ride illegally, the police use this opportunity to give fines to people on the Ha Giang loop.

If you have the correct licence and are not speeding (50km/h for motorbikes), then you have nothing to fear. Just let them check your paperwork and try get some sort of receipt to say you’ve been checked so you don’t have to waste time later on getting pulled over.

The police will beathalyse some people as well, but you shouldn’t be riding under the influence anyway so if you get done good riddance.


How much is the police fine for riding without the correct licence?

The fine amount varies, I was asked for 2 million VND and others have been asked for 3 million VND.

I ended up paying 1.3 million VND as I had hidden money away elsewhere, knowing full well that I would be facing a police stop at some point. Don’t keep all your money in your wallet until after you have paid a fine (and got a receipt).

If you keep too small an amount in your wallet, they will make you go to an ATM and return to them as they hold your passport.

My “receipt” was nothing more than a police pamphlet with the bike’s rego and two dates written on it: the date of the fine and the end date of the grace period.

If you get pulled over within these dates you won’t need to pay a fine again, if you’re still riding after these dates then you will have to pay again for another grace period.

I altered the dates in pen to give myself more time as I had to get out to Ban Gioc falls and back. You can ask them to give you longer time and see how you go.

In the end I never saw them again, which brings me onto the next point …

Where are the police located on the Ha Giang loop?

This is a tough one to answer because they aren’t always located at every possible checkpoint location. However, there are some spots they are most likely to appear.

I personally only got pulled over by the police one time the entire 10-day trip! But talking to two German tourists I heard that they were pulled over 5 times in a 4-day trip. Being from Germany though they had the correct paperwork and never paid a fine.

The main checkpoint is located right outside Ha Giang.

The police generally set up just before or after the big towns along the trip, those being: Ha Giang, Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Dong Van and  Du Gia.

I was pulled over a few kms before entering Quan Ba on day 1 of the trip, then didn’t see another stop the entire time but there are possible explanations for this which I’ll go into below.



Can you avoid the police on the Ha Giang loop?

Judging off my experience, you absolutely can avoid the police, however I am not sure it is worth the hassle.

What you need to know is that before 08:00 there will not be any police checkpoints, nor after about 17:00. On top of this at lunch time the police checkpoints are usually vacant, this tends to be from 12:00-13:00.

With that information, as well as knowing where they are most likely to be (outside major towns), you can theoretically avoid them.

You could plan your trip to always leave a town early and get into the next one either at lunch time or after 17:00. It’s up to you to decide whether it is worth the hassle though.

Out of pure coincidence I managed to mostly avoid them as I always leave early, this probably explains why I never saw them.

Also once you are off the Ha Giang loop you won’t get pulled over unless you’re doing something stupid.


How do you avoid the police on the Ha Giang loop?

There are a few other things you can try to do to avoid being pulled over by the police.

  • Ride through the checkpoint with a large tour group, pretending to be a part of the group.
  • Try and look like a local (same helmet style, COVID mask, jacket worn backwards, don’t be 6ft tall) but this would be majorly hit and miss especially carrying a backpack.
  • Try and hide the bike behind larger vehicles (this relies good fortune of there being a truck on the road).

I have to say, none of it seams worth the effort to try plan every single day around avoiding a checkpoint that may or may not be there in the end anyway.

I’d rather just pay a fine, get a receipt and have the freedom to explore at whatever pace I wanted.


Tips to dealing with the police on the Ha Giang loop

Have cash hidden away, but not too much to where they will not accept your fine amount as being reasonable.

Have copies of your passport(s) instead of the actual thing, this way you only have to give them a photocopy, have multiple photocopies on you.

If you do have a motorbike licence in your country but your IDP is not valid, use this as a talking point and say “look I have my licence, I ride safely and responsibly”.

If you have gone through the effort of getting the Ha Giang permit you can also use this to try and come across as someone who does the right thing.

Don’t be a dick, you’re riding illegally and even if you have to pay 2 million VND then just think of it as a fee for doing the loop. It works out to be roughly $120 AUD or $80 USD so although not ideal, it’s hardly going to break the bank.

Ask for as many days as you need on the “receipt” if you plan on doing a longer version of the Ha Giang loop or think you might be riding at a slower pace to do more activities.

If you are in a group of people try get a discount. Instead of 2M VND each maybe pay 2M VND per 2 people.

Is the Ha Giang loop safe?


The Ha Giang loop is both safe and unsafe.

This will depend a lot on your style of riding, your attitude on the road, your experience and your ability to stay calm if something fails.

Obstacles on the road can include but are not limited to:

  • Farmers.
  • Children.
  • Water Buffalo.
  • Chickens.
  • Dogs.
  • Cows.
  • Potholes.
  • Washouts.
  • Large rocks.
  • Mud from construction work or landslides.
  • Construction material thrown across the road (I had a bamboo pole nearly take out my front tyre mid-corner).
  • Blocked lanes.
  • VIP limousines, trucks or buses cutting across into your lane.
  • Bikes parked on the road.

There’s so many things that can pop up and a lot of them happen mid corner. With the right speed on the bike and a good concentration level you can avoid issues.

Beginners can do the loop by themselves but should just take it at a leisurely pace, especially in bad weather.

Thousands of people do the loop every year but unfortunately crashes are common. Luckily it is mostly harmless stuff like dropping a bike mid-corner, but some fatalities have occurred as well.

So don’t be afraid to do the loop even as a beginner, just be prepared and don’t rush and you will be fine.

As for criminal activity, any city or town in the world can be subject to theft so be mindful of your stuff. Generally speaking though it’s unlikely to happen on the loop (more likely to be another tourist) and I left my GoPro on the handlebars of my bike numerous times over lunch without issue.

However you have to be responsible for your stuff and be smart about it.

See the video for more examples of hazards on the road as captured by the GoPro Hero 10 (Amazon/eBay link).

What bike should I get for the Ha Giang loop?


There are three main things to consider here:

  1. What’s your budget?
  2. How many people?
  3. How many days?

If you’re travelling on a shoe-string budget then you’ll want to just get the entry level semi-automatic.

If there are two people with luggage, you might need to upgrade just for space and power reasons. The Honda Blade 110cc semi-automatic is rated to about 160kgs, you might need more power and maybe more room on the bike to tie down luggage.

If you’re going for a lot of days you can either go cheap to avoid cost blowouts, or you can look at it from another angle and pay more for comfort.

There are other things to consider like looks, with some of the bikes on offer not what I call bikes at all, they are scooters to me due to the way you sit on them. They don’t have that cool feeling or look that you would associate with motorbike touring.

If you want to mount a GoPro keep in mind these scooters do not have exposed bar work to mount things to.



How much luggage can you carry on the semi-automatic?

I personally rode around with two bags, one was the Shimoda Explore V2 35L (Amazon) which I had on my back the entire time.

This was full of camera gear, even when not travelling with the larger luggage I was always wearing this, I simply loosened the straps so the actual weight was on the bike seat.

Ordinarily this sized backpack is all people will take for the Ha Giang loop, only I had more due to filming as well as the fact I was doing a longer northeastern loop out to Ban Gioc falls.

Because of this I was also travelling with the Osprey Farpoint Trek 75L (Amazon), this is what is double wrapped in large plastic bags for waterproofing and cleanliness, then tied down to the back of the bike as you can see below.

Can you do the Ha Giang loop on an Automatic bike?


Technically yes, but it’s a hard no from me.

If you’ve never ridden a manual, then get the bike I rode which was a semi-automatic. In fact it might be easier for you to learn that as you don’t understand that the gears are back to front compared to a manual bike. This always annoyed me.

You can learn to ride a semi-automatic within the hour. Rent the day before and ride around until you’re used to it.

Fact of the matter is, brakes do fail, they’re more likely to fail if you overuse them and they overheat. If you ride an automatic down some of these mountain passes you will be riding the brakes hard and if they fail, you’d better jump off the bike asap!

With a manual or semi-automatic you can limit your speed with gears and engine braking, this saves the brakes and means they’re less likely to fail on you when you need them. If they do fail you also have an alternative method of slowing down by down-shifting.

You’ll probably still need to drop the bike but it will be at a much safer speed.

So just learn to ride a semi-automatic.

For what it’s worth my brakes failed during my trip, but I was in first gear and the accident was therefore minimal, I simply dropped the bike to stop myself going off a cliff.

Some of the bike rental shops will refuse to rent you an automatic for doing the Ha Giang loop.

Do I need to wear protection on the Ha Giang loop?


Helmet is a definite yes for so many reasons.

Knee and elbow protection is kind of up to you. You may have seen in the video that I always had knee pads and elbow pads on, this was for peace of mind due to the constant rain I had to deal with.

I wanted to know that I could ride a little bit faster with less risk involved should I drop the bike. Wearing the pads made me more comfortable that if I dropped the bike mid-corner, I wouldn’t be too sore afterwards.

However in dry conditions for those who ride responsibly it’s not needed.


Where do you get extra protection from? Can you get better helmets?

The elbow and knee pads I had were free from the hostel, ask your bike rental for some gear at the same time you get the bike.

I personally wasn’t happy with the helmets on offer at the majority of bike rental shops, including those at Odyssey. They are all thin, old and don’t come with a clear visor.

I went to Style motorbikes where you can rent much better helmets or even buy helmets to keep if you prefer. The helmet I ended up with looked like this.

This helmet was a godsend compared to the crappy over-used helmets you’re likely to get from most places.

Having a visor kept the rain off my face, it made the ride quieter and it kept my face warm as well. On top of this the helmet was comfortable, with a tight fit and proper amounts of padding and protection.

Full face helmets are also available.

Are Google Maps times accurate on the Ha Giang loop?


Yes they are for an intermediate rider in dry weather.

I found over the course of a ride that Google maps suggested was 3 hours, that I could do the ride, stop for petrol, stop for the toilet and arrive with about 10 minutes to spare.

In the wet this was not the case.

For a beginner rider you may not be able to keep up with the ETA. These ETAs are not based on the locals riding speed as I was often overtaking the locals to maintain this speed to match the ETA.

On straight roads you need to exceed the 50km/h speed limit for motorbikes if you wish to maintain the Google Maps ETA otherwise it starts to drift out. So overall it’s reasonably accurate in good weather.

What are the highlights of the Ha Giang loop?


The highlights on the Ha Giang loop for me are hard to judge. The reason for this is due to the weather that I experienced along the way, particularly on days one and two where there was no visibility. This means I cannot judge things like Heaven’s gate.

I believe that the best day of the loop is the day that you do the Ma Pi Leng pass, if you get to do the death road, maybe time and conditions permitting to do the Skypath as well.

My favourite stop along the Ha Giang loop is Du Gia, the scenery is fantastic on the road north and it has a small relaxed vibe to it.

The road to Hang Tham Lin was a highlight for me.

What should I pack for the Ha Giang loop?


If you are travelling to Vietnam specifically to ride around the Ha Giang loop or to go further around the northeast of the country and you ride bikes at home then consider bringing your own gear.

You are then assured of a great fit, waterproofing, warmth or whatever else depending on what you bring.

This isn’t feasible for people travelling Southeast Asia backpacking as you’re not going to carry all that gear with you for one activity on a many-months long journey. In which case I suggest renting.

In the winter months it gets very cold with wind chill, sometimes as low as 0°C but more likely to go to about 6-7°C overnight. You want to wear layers in these months.

I recommend riding in sturdy boots, mine were not riding boots but just good solid mid-ankle hiking boots. This came in handy on two occassions where I nearly lost the back end of the bike and had to slam my foot down to stop it from dropping.

They offered ankle support, a solid base and were tied on well enough to take the impact without coming off.

If riding in the winter months then have appropriate gloves, waterproof and warm is the safest bet as if your hands get wet and cold your day will be miserable.

If travelling in the sunny months then still wear long sleeve shirts and long pants to avoid sunburn. Spending all day on the bike will absolutely fry you if it’s sunny all day.

If you’re just doing the Ha Giang loop you will not have too much luggage but for those doing the northeastern loop try carry a week’s worth of clothes so you’re not stopping too much just for laundry.

How many days should I take to do the Ha Giang loop?


The most common amount of time on the loop is to do a 4D/3N tour, either as part of a tour or by yourself this remains people’s main choice.

However I would recommend taking longer to do it.

If you have a look at the long list of activities I have listed here (although granted some are just viewpoints) you’ll see just how much there is to do on the loop! Keep in mind I didn’t list every activity along the way.

Personally I would add one extra night in Dong Van/Meo Vac and try and do everything around the Ma Pi Leng pass.

If you really wanted you could add a night in Quan Ba at the start of the trip to lesson the load on the first day which is full of activities. This gives you more free time to explore the villages and the caves along the route.

I thing 4 or 5 nights would be ideal for doing the loop if you want to not go too slow but not be rushed. It really depends on how many activities interest you or if you’re just riding for the scenery.

What do I do if something goes wrong?


If something goes wrong on the Ha Giang loop you should call the people who you rented the motorbike from. Get a Viettel SIM card (best coverage) in Hanoi. It only costs 200k for 4GB/day, expiring in 30 days.

They can translate for you to whoever you’re trying to talk to and will help make arrangements for you, especially if there’s something wrong with the bike.


Should I get bike insurance?

It’s your call, but my recommendation is yes.

The reason I say this is because things can go wrong that aren’t your fault and are out of your control. I used my bike insurance for a flat tyre and a bent brake lever so it came in handy for me.

You should definitely have travel insurance as well, although it may or may not cover you if you’re riding illegally so read the PDS. However you might “fall over on the pavement walking” rather than off a motorbike ….


Where and how do I find a mechanic on the Ha Giang loop?

 Mechanics are very common along the Ha Giang loop. Below are just 3 out of many images I was able to screen grab off my GoPro Hero 10 (Amazon) just incidentally while filming portions of my trip.

The sign ‘Xe May’ is the sign for a bike mechanic. They are scattered in towns, out of towns and around towns.

You can try Google Maps search for one but not all of them will list on Google Maps, it will be rare for you to have to go more than 5kms without seeing a mechanic shop.

When I had my popped tyre I had to walk roughly 2kms to the mechanic, I called the bike rental mob, they sorted it out and I was good to go again in no time!

How to find a bike wash on the Ha Giang loop

While I am slightly on the subject of showing off signs, the following sign you will see everywhere as well.

‘Rua Xe’ = Bike wash.

20k VND and they give your bike the works, cleaning up headlights and everything. I found this service incredible and often paid double to these guys who work for dirt cheap. It is also a good place to clean your boots if you have rainy and muddy conditions.

How much will food and fuel cost me on the Ha Giang loop?


Food on the Ha Giang loop will depend on where you eat but as a rough guide:

Banh Mi = 25-40k

Vietnamese noodle or rice dishes = 30-80k

Fancier Vietnamese dishes = 100-220k

Western dishes = 100-300k

2L water bottle = 20-30k

Smoothies = 40-60k

Coffee = 25-60k

If you eat Vietnamese dishes you will find some food normally around the 30-50k mark per meal, add a drink in and it might be a bit more. I often changed up what I ate to get more variety.

I estimate with both food and drink that I spent about 250-350k per day, some higher some lower.

When it comes to fuel I wrote down how much I spent and how much I used over the course of my 10 day trip.


Fuel stats

Kilometres ridden = 1,175

Litres of fuel used = 23.5

Total fuel cost = 545k VND

Litres/100km = 2

VND/km = 463.8

How do you navigate on the Ha Giang loop?


To navigate the Ha Giang loop I used my phone. I bought a Viettel Tourist SIM pack in Hanoi at a Viettel store (I don’t think the airport offerings are worth it), this gave me 4GB/day.

If you don’t be stupid and download movies it’s pretty hard to go through 4GB/day so there was never any issues with running out of data.

When on Wifi i downloaded the regions maps on both Google Maps as well as Maps.Me as I liked to consult both apps, however I pretty much always had reception anyway. It is still worth downloading the offline maps just in case.

Another way to navigate of course is the paper map. To do this you just want to know the names of the main cities along the way to help you at intersections pick out the right path as you go.


Phone mounts

Although I run a Quad Lock phone case, they don’t seem to have Quad Lock handlebar mounts (Amazon) in Southeast Asia as far as I could see. The phone mounts here are a little different.

I ended up buying one from Style Motorbikes that held my phone properly without needing to remove it from the protective case.

This gave me easy navigation as I could either run Maps fulltime with a dim screen (it would last all day like this) or just hit the power button when I wanted to reference the maps then lock the phone again.

Can you fly a drone on the Ha Giang loop?


Legally you need an individual permit for each and every flight that you do in Vietnam.

People who try and do this will tell you that you just don’t get a response at all.

So the answer is no, even if you try do the right thing. However, if you’re flying around the north of the country over mountains, farms, jungle, rivers etc. then you won’t have a problem.

Don’t fly near people, don’t disturb animals, don’t fly over cities or large population centres, be smart about it and don’t be a dick.

The locals don’t care, they’re intrigued by the drone and love to have a look at it. But I wouldn’t fly anywhere I didn’t feel was sufficiently remote, which makes the Ha Giang Loop perfect as there’s lots of open land.

Tips & Tricks


Here are some quick-fire tips and things I learnt when riding around for 10 days on the Ha Giang loop and the northeastern loop in Vietnam. A lot of these are just good tips in general when riding a bike around Vietnam.


  • Get a good helmet, even if it is an extra cost. The comfort, visibility and safety are worlds apart between a cheap and good helmet.
  • Allow time in the day for things to go wrong – The more you ride the more likely it is to happen. I had a punctured inner tube one day and failing brakes another day, random stops for construction or whatever, something will delay you.
  • Do a proper test ride – Go through all the gears and go hard on the brakes, front and rear. The brakes are your life.
  • Rent from a reputable supplier – Don’t go to the cheapest place you can find, get a good bike that has been serviced.
  • Take a video and photos of the bike – Before riding away take a detailed video or detailed photos so that you can dispute any dodgy claims or honest mistakes by the supplier if they think the bike has been damaged. Of course you should have insurance anyway but there’s no point taking the blame for something that was already on the bike.
  • Get motorbike insurance – I used it twice, once for a popped tyre then again for a bent brake lever. However it is more for the horror situations of a bus coming around a corner and taking out the bike completely for example.
  • Good gloves and jacket a must in winter – If you’re coming in winter then you need warm gloves and a jacket, make the gloves waterproof if possible.
  • Pack for the worst – If you can reasonably expect certain conditions, then pack for it. You won’t find what you need on the loop so bring it. Better to have it and not need it than to be looking for it and not have it.
  • Always wear boot rain covers – Even if your boots or shoes are waterproof. When you sit down your rain pants ride up your leg (they’re made for short people) and water will saturate your pants, then your socks, then your boots fill up with water from the inside. If it’s raining put boot covers on.
  • Carry spare boot covers & rain pants – They get wrecked easily and the rain pants split at the groin every dam day (for larger people) so carry spares.
  • Take a powerbank – Especially if you’re navigating with your phone. There are sometimes power outs and it’s important to have your phone fully charged every day.
  • You don’t have to pre-book accommodation – You can roll into a town and book in person. Although in peak season your favourite place might be gone this does allow you to be flexible with how far you ride each day.
  • Read Google reviews for activity times – Some activities might take longer than expected, normally reviews will say how long it takes.
  • If you film, do less – Pretty niche this one but if you plan on filming everything, allow much more time to do things, maybe try do less each day and spend more days doing it instead.
  • Choose the right footwear – Although I was riding in hiking boots, these were not good for river crossings and exploring waterfalls due to their lack of grip on the granite. Make sure you have the right horses for courses. Rubber shoes like Crocs are better for those things.
  • Ride in strong shoes – If you do come off, or nearly come off, you want something on your feet that is strong, will protect you or can be slammed onto the bitumen to try and upright the bike when it slips.
  • Be ready for anything on the road – Because anything can pop up, even mid-corner.
  • Bring ear plugs – Long days on the bike can add up to quite a lot of noise. Think about wearing ear plugs.
  • Spread your cash out – Don’t keep it all in one spot, especially if you haven’t yet gone through a police checkpoint.
  • Carry enough cash – ATMs can run out of money, stock up on cash in big towns and don’t let it run low as there might be issues getting it out elsewhere.
  • Don’t be afraid to skip activities – Sometimes things just don’t work out for whatever reason. If you’re short on time skip some activities, you don’t want to be riding around at night.
  • Don’t trust Google Maps opening times – They’re wrong. Some places are open earlier, some later than suggested. The best bet if you want to know is to ask them in person the previous day what time they open the following day.
  • Try find “real” Google reviews – People misuse the 5-star rating as a kind of “well nothing went wrong” rating. Some things are massively overrated with inflated numbers because of this. Try find proper reviews that explain the activity at depth, not everything is 5-stars worthy.
  • Don’t put off problems with your bike – They can be fixed so quickly it’s not worth putting them off. Get it fixed straight away.
  • Don’t ride too much – Try and limit yourself to around the 160km mark or less. If you spend all day riding you won’t see anything at all. This of course depends on what sits between point A and B but in general riding 100-160kms is a good number. After that you get uncomfortable anyway.
  • Get to know your bike – If you’re inexperienced ride your bike for a day or two around Ha Giang before you start the loop. You will feel more confident when you set off on the real adventure.

Shot on the Sony A1 using the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 (Amazon/eBay link)

Things I would change next time


If I were to do the Ha Giang loop or the northeastern loop again there are a few things I would change.


1. Allow more time

This is being pretty harsh, because technically I did allow more time for myself. I got quite sick before starting the trip so delayed my departure by 3 days while I recovered in a hostel.

If I could do the trip again with those extra 3 days I would have had more flexibility in how I travelled, spending more time in places to do all of the activities I had pre-planned before leaving.

Of course the unrelentingly poor weather kind of made this redundant anyway but in theory allowing more time would allow me to wait out poor weather as well.


2. Change the bike

This only applies to if I was to do the longer northeastern loop again, but I would suck up the cost and ride a more comfortable bike.

As the journey is long, the uncomfortable nature of riding a small bike adds up day after day and by the end of the trip you really can’t be bothered jumping back on the bike.

If I was to redo the Ha Giang loop it would be less of an issue as it is a smaller ride.


3. Planning better

Activities like the Nguom Cave I could have done with better planning.

I left Ban Gioc falls to check out of my accommodation and then I rode to Cao Bang thinking I needed to do laundry that day. In the end I stayed two nights in Cao Bang and did laundry the next day.

With better planning this meant I could have done Nguom Cave after checking out from the accommodation and had plenty of time to ride into Cao Bang after the cave tour.

Small instances like this hopefully you will avoid having read the Ha Giang loop guide and understanding better all the activities.


4. An extra night in Dong Van

Similar to better planning and allowing more time but slightly more specific.

If I was to do it again I would have another night in Dong Van which would allow me the full day to do the Skypath walk or even the river cruise if I wanted to (it doesn’t interest me but in theory I could).

Although in my case an extra night wouldn’t have helped as the Skypath was covered in mist and fog.


5. Experience a different season

Not because there is anything wrong with January but because doing it in a warmer month would give a different feel. It would mean more swimming at waterfalls but probably less enjoyable hiking conditions.

Ha Giang Loop Guide Summary


I appreciate how long this Ha Giang loop guide is, so if you read it all I’m quietly amazed!

Hopefully I have answered all of the questions you might have had about the loop and provided some sort of information that can’t be found elsewhere.

One last comment about the Ha Giang loop…

Don’t expect this to be some magical remote tour that will change you. It’s none of that nonsense that’s written about in some other people’s posts. This is touristy, very popular and not the least bit “a hidden gem”. Don’t pretend it is.

It’s still great fun and totally worth doing, just enjoy it for what it is.


Happy travels.

Pin It on Pinterest