Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure

Everything you need to know about riding a motorbike around Northern Vietnam.

Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang

You’ve seen the Top Gear episode and rode a bike across the famous Hai Van pass. You learnt to ride a scooter on the islands of Southern Thailand and you’ve traversed the epic Mae Hong Son Loop.

After backpacking through Laos, the Thakhek Loop was one of the highlights of your travels. And who could forget that incredible adventure riding your cheap motorcycle all the way from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi?

You think you have seen it all. Explored the best that Southeast Asia has to offer on two wheels. Time to hang up the helmet, pass the keys onto the next intrepid traveller and move on to greener pastures.

But what if I told you the best was yet to come?

Sapa Road Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
The road to Sapa.

The Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure

The fascinating and captivating region north of Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi, tends to escape most traveller’s itineraries – Sapa being the exception.

Whether it is due to time constraints or lack of awareness, this is truly a shame, for the provinces along the Chinese border contains some of the region’s most diverse and captivating scenery.

Mountains rise dramatically from the pastures like gargantuan bee hives. Rice terraces stagger down valleys, mimicking the steps of mythical giants. Southeast Asia’s deepest canyon scars the landscape.

Ethnic minority villages that still remain untouched from tourist development are readily accessible, if you can find the way.

Here’s our complete guide to help you Travel To Vietnam.

The North is more than just a beautiful sector of the country – it is its own powerful force, beckoning those adventurers who so sorely wish to get off the banana pancake trail and experience a world unlike any other.

By leaps and bounds the best way to explore Northern Vietnam is by motorcycle. Nature’s heavenliness can hardly be appreciated when confined by the windows of a bus, unable to pause at any moment you wish to take in the awe-inspiring topography.

Roads Crazy Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
Epic roads in Northern Vietnam.

Lesh and I rode our motorbikes for more than 10 months and 15’000km all around Southeast Asia.

After talking to friends of ours who had done the Northern Vietnam journey, our excitement levels were soaring as we left the bustling capital city of Hanoi and made our way towards the lesser-explored areas located near the Chinese border.

Armed with a paper map, a tentative itinerary from our friend Chris at Flamingo Travels and a healthy appetite for adventure, we set forth with eyes wide on the open road.

Kilometre after kilometre passed us by as we rode through topography that dropped our jaws to the handlebars. The terraced fields in the Lai Chau and Lao Cai provinces were postcard perfect.

The smiles worn by many of the Hmong people will forever be etched in our minds and in our hearts. If I close my eyes I can still vividly picture the bends in the road and the mountain passes we climbed.

I am instantly transported to the seat of my Honda Win, leaning into one more banked curve on the edge of a tumbling cliff.

Xin Man Gravel Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
A gravel road with no barricades as we rode into Xin Man.

It is the famous Ha Giang province which proved to be the most memorable part of the adventure. The UNESCO Dong Van Karst Geopark – 2350 km² of imposing limestone mountains – is reminiscent of scenes from the Hollywood movie, Avatar.

Words cannot accurately express the grandeur to be found just past Ha Giang; an area that still requires special permits to travel through legally. Lunar landscapes and abundant karst scenery are unlike anything to be seen elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

If no other reason draws you into this undeservedly-neglected territory, this UNESCO Geopark site – only the second one in Southeast Asia – should be enough to make you change your plans and seek refuge in the North.

Massive Mountains Sapa Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
Massive mountains outside of Than Uyen.

The Route

The route we took can be altered, shortened or lengthened depending on how much time you have to explore. We spent two weeks riding 1500km around Northern Vietnam and could have easily extended this by another week or two.

If time is on your side, slow down and shorten the distances you ride between towns. Take small back roads to ethnic minority villages. Make the most of regular pitstops and hang out in a place longer after eating your bowl of pho. Savour every moment.

Leaving Hanoi we took an alternate way to Sapa, staying the night in the towns of Nghia Lo and Than Uyen as we rode past some of the most spectacular rice terraces you will ever have the chance to see.

Rice Terraces Than Uyen Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
Rice terraces as far as the eye can see near Than Uyen.

A must-do alternative, if you have not already been, is to begin your trip heading to Mai Chau. This bucolic oasis offers a perfect relaxing environment, with just enough activities to ensure you never get bored. From there you can ride to the historic town of Dien Bien Phu before cutting across to Sapa.

It is all too easy to fall in love with the gorgeous mountain resort town of Sapa, where you can climb the tallest peak in mainland South East Asia, Fansipan, or trek to visit hill tribe villages.

Extend your stay as long as you wish before breaking up your ride towards Ha Giang, with a stopover at the famous markets in Bac Ha and a night in Coc Pai.

More rice terraces to please the visual senses, as well as some sensational mountain passes along the way will slow your pace down as you constantly stop to bask in the glorious views.

Coc Pai Rice Terrace Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
Coc Pai Rice Terraces.

The provincial capital of Ha Giang is an interesting destination and has the feel of a true authentic town yet to be exposed to mass tourism. It is here where you will need to purchase a “Permit To Enter The Border Area”.

This allows you to ride deeper into the Ha Giang province, and it is a legal requirement to possess one if you wish to avoid any trouble with the police. Many guesthouses and hotels won’t let you stay if you don’t have one either.

Now here comes the part that will leave you breathless and in constant awe – The Dong Van Karst Geopark. Containing 2356km² of limestone formations, 17 ethnic minority groups and Southeast Asia’s deepest canyon, Ma Pi Leng, this section is the most surreal riding anywhere in Vietnam.

Dong Van Limestone Karsts Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
Beehive-like karst formations in the Dong Van Geopark.
Dong Van Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
Dong Van Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
Dong Van Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
Dong Van View Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
Ma Pi Leng Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
Ma Pi Leng – Southeast Asia’s deepest canyon.
Ma Pi Leng Canyon Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang

Passing through Meo Vac is like entering a concrete village from the Soviet-era, but it is not without its charms. From Meo Vac make your way to the riverside town of Bao Lac.

The jagged peaks fade away and merge into steep forested hills and rolling farmland. Enjoy the green pastures and meandering waters all the way to the industrious city of Cao Bang.

Cao Bang serves as a stepping stone to the second largest waterfall in Southeast Asia – Ban Gioc Falls. These thundering cascades straddle the border of Vietnam and China and tourists can visit the misty torrent from either country.

After so many days of constant riding bliss, a brief respite at the lush Ba Be Lake in the Ba Be National Park is the perfect end to the Northern Vietnam motorcycle adventure.

Spend a few nights relaxing in a traditional homestay and trek deep into the national park, where you can meet families from a number of ethnic minority villages.

Ba Be Lake National Park Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
Amazing views over the Ba Be National Park!

The final stretch to Hanoi requires intense concentration due to the overwhelming amount of kamikaze traffic on the roads. But after arriving in the bustling cultural capital the sense of satisfaction will be immense.

The far North of Vietnam, along the border region with China, is the best riding you can do anywhere in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos.

No other region in Southeast Asia is comparable to its stark beauty. The Northern Vietnam motorcycle adventure will be one journey that can never be forgotten.

Road To Sapa Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang

Our Path

This is the route and itinerary that we took on our Northern Vietnam motorcycle adventure. If we were to do it again we would spend an extra day or two doing the Ha Giang Loop, and really take the time to explore all the cool sights in the Dong Van Karst Geopark.

Hanoi – Nghia Lo – 220km

Route: Road 32
Road Conditions: Heavy traffic in Hanoi. Roads were decent. Paved entire way, a few sections with potholes.
Scenery: Flatlands out of Hanoi. Small farming villages. Large pastures. Mountain passes and terraced rice fields.

Nghia Lo Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
Nghia Lo

Nghia Lo – Than Uyen – 140km

Route: Road 32
Road Conditions: Little traffic. Good conditions on the roads. Paved.
Scenery: More spectacular rice terraces and steep mountains.

Than Uyen Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang

Than Uyen – Sapa – 100km

Route: Road 32, Road 4D
Road Conditions: Very good. Paved highways the entire way.
Scenery: Incredible rice terraces until Road 4D. After that some of the most amazing mountain views to be found in Vietnam.

Road To Sapa Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
The road to Sapa.

Sapa – Xin Man (Coc Pai) – 160km

Route: Road 4D, followed country road parallel to main highway, Road 153, head towards Road 178 (Note – We don’t recommend following this country road. Conditions were bad. Instead try Road 70 onto Road 14, then turn off onto Road 153)
Road Conditions: Road works leaving Sapa. The country road next to the main highway was terrible. Very muddy and bumpy, mostly dirt and gravel. When it was paved there were large potholes everywhere. Rough construction along Road 153. Climbed a couple of very intense mountain passes before we got into Coc Pai. By far the worst roads we tackled in the North, but still not as bad as the Ho Chi Minh Highway from Pleiku to Buon Ma Thuot.
 Once we got onto Road 153 the scenery was beautiful. Weather was quite foggy but when it lifted we were very impressed with the views. Was tough to pay much attention to the landscapes with the state of the roads being as bad as they were.

Xin Man Road Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
One of the better sections of the road to Xin Man.

Xin Man (Coc Pai) – Ha Giang – 150km

Route: Road 178, Highway 2
Road Conditions: Much better than the previous day. Leaving Coc Pai the roads had a few potholes, but were nothing too worrisome.
Scenery: Great mountain passes, picturesque valleys. Lush forests.

Xin Man Rice Fields Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
Rice terraces near Xin Man.

Ha Giang – Dong Van – 190km

Route: Road 4C (Make sure you take this one!) Take a detour towards Lung Cu – the northernmost point of Vietnam.
Road Conditions: A little bumpy leaving Ha Giang. Road was narrow, lots of heavy trucks on the thin switchbacks heading up the first mountain out of Ha Giang. Quite dangerous. Became much nicer over that initial mountain pass.
Scenery: In a word – Breathtaking.

Dong Van Road Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
The road to Dong Van.
Lung Cu Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure Riding Motorbikes China Region Ha Giang Dong Van
Looking down into China from the observation tower at Lung Cu – The northernmost point of Vietnam.

Dong Van – Bao Lac – 100km

Route: Road 4c, Road 4B
Road Conditions: Very good.
Scenery: The 22km stretch from Dong Van to Meo Vac was possible THE best road in Vietnam. Move over Hai Van Pass, those Top Gear boys have no idea what they missed out on. After that was still beautiful.

Ma Pi Leng Road Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
Stoked to be riding through Ma Pi Leng.

Bao Lac – Cao Bang – 140km

Route: Road 34
Road Conditions: Very good. Sections outside of Bao Lac were a little average, but nothing to be worried about.
 Less appealing than the views from the last few days, but still gorgeous.

Bao Lac Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang

Cao Bang – Ban Gioc (Return) – 200km

Route: Highway 3, Road 207, Road 206, follow the loop to Road 207
Road Conditions: Unfortunately due to heavy fog and rain we did not make the journey to Ban Gioc Falls. We were utterly disappointed in this, but have heard good things about the road conditions.

 Supposedly amazing.

Cao Bang – Ba Be National Park – 160km

Route: Highway 3, Road 34, Road 212, Road 279
Road Conditions: Highway 3, Road 34 were very good. Road 212 was decent, very steep mountain passes and winding switchbacks.
 Road 34 was very charming, we could not see far on Road 212 due to fog, but can only imagine how beautiful it must have been up there.

Ba Be Lake National Park Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
Ba Be Lake

Ba Be National Park – Hanoi – 220km

Route: Road 254, Road 268, Highway 3
Road Conditions: Decent road conditions, paved the entire way. Traffic on Highway 3 getting into Hanoi was murderous.

 Beautiful leaving Ba Be Lake, nothing spectacular entering Hanoi.

Than Uyen Rice Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
Rice fields outside of Than Uyen, back near the beginning of our journey.

Tips For Riding Motorbikes In Northern Vietnam

Riding our motorbikes in Northern Vietnam was easily the best thing we have done in Southeast Asia. Luckily it wasn’t too difficult to do as well. Here are some of our best tips for riding a motorbike in Northern Vietnam.

  • Accommodation
    There are hotels, guesthouses and homestays just about everywhere in Northern Vietnam. You do not need to carry a tent or hammock unless you really want to get off the beaten path. Prices vary from about $3 for a very basic room with a bed in a “nha nghi” (guesthouse) right up to $50 for a luxury hotel room in Sapa or Cao Bang. On average we spent about $10-15 a night for very nice rooms with private bathroom, hot water and wifi.
  • Weather
    The weather in Northern Vietnam can be very cold, particularly around December and January. Expect cool temperatures (it can snow in the mountains around Sapa), wet mist and dense fog. We rode in December and got lucky with the visibility most of the time, although it was quite cold. Pack layers of clothes, a face mask and some thick gloves. In July and August there can be heavy rain. The monsoon season is from November to March and the hot, wet season from April to October. Although regardless of the weather, you should still ride your motorbike around Northern Vietnam.
  • Bike Maintenance
    If you are riding a Honda Win or Honda Wave you will have no problem finding mechanics anywhere in the North. Honda Wins are the main type of bikes that locals ride and parts are readily available. We recommend getting an oil change every 500km, tightening and greasing your chain every morning and always check your brakes. This is something you should do anyway, however with the roads being extra mountainous in Northern Vietnam you want to make sure your bike is running in top condition.
  • Signs And Directions
    Having a working GPS or decent map is highly recommended. Road numbers change randomly and locals aren’t always the best when it comes to giving directions, unless you speak Vietnamese. There are very few signs that direct you to towns of interest.
  • Ride Safely
    Again, this should be something you do anyway, but keep in mind that there are minimal well-equipped hospitals in Northern Vietnam. If you have a crash and are injured it can take a long time to get to Hanoi for treatment. Keep that in mind next time you go to open the throttle on a blind corner.
  • Resources
    Chris from Flamingo Travels in Hanoi was a great help to us when it came to planning our Northern Vietnam motorcycle adventure. He gave us tonnes of tips and advice even though we already had our own bikes, and without asking for anything in return. We definitely recommend stopping by to talk to him before you head up to do the Ha Giang Loop, ride to Sapa or anywhere else in Northern Vietnam.
    Address: 66 Dao Duy Tu Str., Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam
    Phone: +84 (0) 4 3926 0938
Sapa Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang
The journey of a lifetime – The Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure
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Alesha and Jarryd

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53 thoughts on “Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure”

  1. Hello
    Thanks for a really usefull description!! For how many days lasted your trip? I can’t find out..

    • We were riding around Northern Vietnam for 2 weeks.

      • Hi, I’m planning a trip similar to your route and was curious how you decided on the day one route to Nghia Lo. I’ve seen several different options but all on the other side of the river. Was this route recommended more for ease of getting out of Hanoi or scenery? Thanks

        • Hi Greg.
          Had a similar question regarding the route to Nghia Lo and wondering how you got on?

  2. Hi there, love your journey updates, informative facts and experiences. We will be doing the North Vietnam trip similar to what you did but reduced to 7 days. I do not ride motorcycle but will ride pillion with my husband being the rider on a Honda 150cc. Do you think it is wise to ride 2 up or should I ride my own cycle (with practice ofcourse) We will be there in mid July. Love your photo’s. Travel safely and look forward to reading more of your adventures.

    • Hi Lyndi, what an adventure. You guys are going to love the north. This all depends what type of motorbike you are going to buy or rent. Personally if you buy a Honda Win, I would recommend 2 bikes. The Honda Wins are just not bigger enough for two people and luggage. The roads can be pretty bad and bumpy. If you are not to sure about riding, look at renting/ buying a bigger bike and carrying little luggage. The only problem is that most mechanics don’t have experience with bigger bikes so some personal mechanical knowledge would be needed. If you need some lessons, drop into Flamingo Travel in Hanoi. They are great and do lessons if you need. Take it slow, wear a good helmet, long clothing and have eyes everywhere. Our advice is predict what you think people might do before it happens so you are prepared. It sounds strange but kept us on our guard. Have a great time and enjoy the Northern Vietnam. 🙂

  3. Hey Alesha and Jarryd! Thank you so much for putting the word about this one beautiful trip out there! 🙂 I am just unsure about the possible time of visit, do you think February/March would work? Thanks

    • Hi Nikoleta, We went towards the end of the year and it wasn’t a good time. The cool but mostly dry winter lasts from November to April when temperatures average 17-22°C with the coldest months being January – March. Summer lasts from May to October when it is hot and humid and the region experiences its highest rainfall. Maybe around March or April would be a great time.

  4. Hey

    I think your map doesn’t match with the route in the text.
    I was bit lazy to read so I followed the route on the map. This way I ended up driving in a dirt road that felt like driving on stairs. It was was a real adventure and liked whole the route. My girlfriend the stairs a little bit less. 🙂

    Thank you for the route 🙂

    • Thanks for that Stef. It probably has. We rode this over 2 years ago and the roads in Vietnam are not the most reliable. Hope you still had a great time.

  5. Such an inspiring post! Honestly, I’m excited about reading your story during your motorbike journey to the North Vietnam. Although I’m Vietnamese, I’ve never ever tried riding a motorbike with long distance before. May be in the near future I’ll experience it.

    • Thank you so much. You have a stunning country. We loved motorbiking in the north. Hope you get to do the trip soon.

  6. Hi guys
    Thanks for such a great post. Inspiring photos and helpful tips. We are just in the process of planning a trip to Vietnam in February. We are keen to explore by bike, if a little apprehensive.

    How much riding experience did you both have before biking in SEA? We have scooter experience in Thailand and Bali (for 2 months, easy but busy tarmac roads), plus a two day motorbike training in the Laos countryside (crazy and challenging terrain). Hoping that will be enough?

    Julie | 2checkingout

    • Hi Julie, Thank you so much. You guys will love Vietnam. It is such an amazing country. We didn’t have much experience at all before riding. We were lucky and got the motorbikes in Laos which was a lot quieter to ride on the roads. We rode about Laos and Cambodia for 3 months before moving into Vietnam. Our advice is have your eyes open everywhere. Riding Northern Vietnam was one of our highlights. It is so stunning up there. If you are unsure around riding, go visit Flamingo Travel or Flipside Hostel in Hanoi. They both have bike lessons for a good price and so much advice. Hope you have an amazing time.

  7. Hi guys,
    Any suggestions for someone who would like to rent a motorcycle for 2 people? I am looking for information about make and size required for my wife and I to be on the same bike with our gear. I have only ridden a few times once in phuket Thailand, but my wife has never driven one and she isn’t keen to learn. We are also considering doing the shorter loop trip out of Chang Mai. Any suggestions?
    Thanks! This Blog is unbelievably well done and incredibly inspiring.

    • Hey Brady, thanks so much for the comment! Check out Flamingo Travel in Hanoi, or Cuong’s Motorbike Adventures. They’ll be able to hook you guys up. Once you get out of Hanoi the roads are quiet, and you’ll have an absolute blast! For the Mae Hong Son Loop there are tonnes of excellent bike rental shops in Chiang Mai. Tony’s Big Bikes is great, and there’s a wonderful, reputable place for scooters that we mentioned on our MHSL article. All the best, ride safe and thanks for checking out our blog 🙂

  8. The road to the northwest is very hard to go. When it rain, it’s getting worse, my bike’s tires get stuck with red mud and i must walk a while to go the locals village, the people are very kind, they helped me to get on the road. The scences here are worth for those efforts though. It’s great to travel such place on earth.

    Thank for sharing your moments. It reminds me every seconds i enjoy this place.

  9. Very nice photos and description. Doing the Ha Gaing loop on motorcycles was also a highlight for us. Highly recommended is the Meo Vac Sunday market. We also have a description, photos etc on our website.

    • Hi Ben, Thank you for your comment. It is an amazing bike trip. We unfortunately missed the Meo Vac Sunday Market as we were in that area on the wrong day. Maybe another cheeky bike trip in the future to catch it. 🙂

  10. This is such a great guide! I would love to go back to Vietnam and do this motorcycle adventure! Your photos are amazing and breathtaking! I can’t wait to go back and try this out!

    • Hi Becky, thank you for your comment. We hope you get there one day. It is a beautiful place to explore. Happy travels

  11. Thank you for such an awesome detailed guide! I have never ridden a motorbike but I am dying to take this journey. I was thinking about taking a motor cycle safety course for beginners in order to make this journey. Would you advise for such a novice? thank you!

    • You’re most welcome Jenny. Glad you enjoyed our article. Definitely recommend taking a motorcycle safety course. It will really help with your confidence on the road. Ride safe and have a great trip 🙂

  12. Hi there,

    I’m in Hanoi now and want to do the same northern trip you guys did. Who do you recommend to buy a bike from? There was a guy who you mentioned but now I cannot find him on your site. Thanks

  13. Hello,

    Does anyone know if its just scooters you can rent there or are propper motorbiked also available?


  14. Just found your blog and it’s great. I am wondering about your motorcycles. Did you own them and if so, where did you buy them and how much did they cost? When you left , were you able to sell them? Just wondering if it is a better idea to buy or rent if I were to do the above 2/3 week tour. Thanks.

  15. Love your post, I’m travelling there in two weeks and while searching for reliable motorbike tours, i was told they will double the price due to Tet holiday… what a disappointment. Now it is USD500 for a 3 day 2 night tour with a driver.

    Does anyone know if it’s easier to book when i get to Ha Giang or should pre-book before arrival?

    • Pre-book before arrival if you be there at weekend Jane

      • Thanks for advice Michael. Btw, do u know how much it will cost for rental of motorbike with a guide to cover Ha Giang- Dong Van- Meo Vac in 2 days? I will be travelling solo and already getting nervous, can’t seem to find a tour with resonable price. Plus does anyone know the frequency of busses from Hanoi to Hagiang? I prefer to travel in day bus rather than night busses. Anyone can help?

        • You are welcome Jane.
          You not need to worry, Vietnam is safe and you can travel yourself.
          Bus from hanoi to Ha giang is plenty. Most of them is sleep bus, not sure about price but it about 200.000vnd-250.000vnd (10-12us$). They start at My Dinh Bus station, 15minutes each. It’s plenty but for more comfortable and convenience, you should go to bus ticket to buy them before departing. It has some bus companies which organize Hanoi – Ha giang trip such as Hai Van (recommened- 0944 962323 – 04 37222588), Hung Thanh (0988 287741), Bang Phan (0915 223171).
          Renting a motorcycle in Ha Giang: 200.000vnd-250.000vnd/day. Mr Nam: 0917 797269. His shop is opposite Old Bus Station. He is tour leader as well. I don’t know how much for his tour cost.
          For more info, you can email me at

  16. Ha Giang is extremely cold this December, please wear much layers as you can. Especially when you ride motorcycle up there.

    Thank you for great post!

  17. Nowaday, Sapa and Dong Van are not peaceful at all. if you come there at weekend without pre-booking, I bet you will sleep under sky for sure
    Happy journey Lesh & Jazza

  18. Look like you got luck since weather in Vietnam during Dec is wet, dark and cold all day Lesh

  19. Hi Lesh,

    Thank you so much for wonderful topic. Motorbike ride northern Vietnam is best way to explore the hidden charm of Vietnam.

    Will do it soon

  20. “locals aren’t always the best when it comes to giving directions, unless you speak Vietnamese.” – you mean EVEN IF you speak Vietnamese! hahaha 😛

    My friends and I are doing this loop now, giving ourselves 3 weeks including a trip to Halong Bay so unfortunately we are skipping Ba Be Lake. Definitely still not enough time! I feel like I could come back and do it another 2-3 times, or if lived in Hanoi I’d spend every vacation riding up to the north and circling those loops again, taking detours off into more villages and random towns… Sigh.

    We didn’t spoil ourselves too much with expectations before we left, also just had a rough itinerary given by a local vietnamese and set off, and the more time we spend here the more we realise how special it is! I don’t have a great camera or great photography skills, so I’ve been just enjoying it as much as I can with my own eyes, but thank you for the pics, they are stunning and a real reminder of this insane adventure! 🙂

    • Haha, right you are! We got a lot of wrong directions throughout the whole country. They’d rather point you anywhere than say, “I don’t know”. Oh well, just adds to the adventure! We could definitely do that loop a whole bunch of times, and never get sick of it.

  21. Wow, its one of the best review i ever read,
    I feel i’m with you passing each kilometres …
    And you know, i also have experience with Honda Win in my country, Indonesia in 2000-2008,
    .. That bike so taft for gravel road .. 🙂

    Happy traveling .. Lesh & Jazza

    Best regard from Indonesia

    • Thanks very much! Hope we get to Indonesia one day to ride around your beautiful country. Happy travels 🙂

  22. Hi there,

    I’ve followed your blog for a while now and it all looks incredible, genuinely inspiring. Two friends and I have flights booked to Hanoi in January and we were just wondering about the Vietnam and Cambodia license situation for riding motorbikes across the countries as there seems to be a lot of confusion across the internet as to what is or isn’t allowed. Will we need full motorbike licences (UK), Vietnamese licenses or will riding without either license be a possible option?

    Would much appreciate any advice or recommendations, thanks.


    • Hey Charlie, International Drivers Permits are now accepted in Vietnam as well as in Cambodia (expect the Cambodian police to fine you anyway though if they pull you over). For insurance you will need to have a licence from your home country that covers whatever it is that you’re riding. Take care mate 🙂

  23. As usual, amazingly awesome photographs… totally inspiring (and such helpful instructions)! My husband and I are in the beginning phases of planning a springtime trip to Vietnam and the Shangri-la area of China (after recently getting our toes wet in the touristy Huangshan region)…we were going to head straight to Hanoi, but now it looks like we will have to budget in extra time for some 2-wheeled exploration in the north… 🙂

    • Definitely worth budgeting some extra time for Northern Vietnam! 😉

  24. Hey, love your site and working my way through this route now.
    It sounds like the Sapa > Xin Man route is much better now

    • So… I rode this section of trail yesterday. I didn’t see any sections that looked as bad as in your photo above. There were sections of loose stones and gravel. I’m not going to lie, it still freaked me a bit, given there’s still no barricade, and those drops – yikes! But it was manageable for sure.

      • Glad you survived the ride Lucy! 😀

  25. Hey Nomad,
    I’m thinking of doing the Northern Routes by motorbike.

    I realised that in small towns along Northern Vietnam, it is difficult to find the listings online. How do you generally deal with accomodation? Do you ride until you find a place to stay? How about petrol kiosks? Are there plenty along the way?

    Thanks for your help!

    • We never booked anything ahead of time, especially not for the North. Just ride into town and ask around. Shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes to find a suitable place in your budget. And Petrol is everywhere, either in proper stations or with people selling bottles of it on the side of the road. Ride safe 🙂

  26. What month were you in the north Vietnam? Because the weather seemed to be perfect.

    • We went in December, which normally should not have been so perfect. We got really lucky with the weather though.

  27. WOW! I’m completely blown away by these photographs and I’ve seen tonnes from Northern Vietnam! Thank you guys for sharing, a second visit to Vietnam has now jumped higher up my ‘to travel’ list.

    • Thanks very much Jade! We definitely got lucky with the weather while we were in the North. Make sure you get up there soon! 😀

      • Hello! in regards to theft, the motorcycle itself, is it a preoccupation? While sleeping anything specific?

        Thanks so much!

        • Hi Yann! We had a chain we would wrap around our rear wheel, but often hotel owners would let us bring the motorbikes inside their property. Ride safe!

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