Ha Giang Loop, Vietnam: 2023 Adventure Guide for Travellers

What is the Ha Giang Loop?

The final frontier for adventurous travellers in Vietnam, the incredible 320-kilometre Ha Giang Loop is not for the faint-hearted. Spectacular blue-green mountains reach out as far as the eye can see; jagged black rocks jut out of the hazy landscape and sheer cliffs descend dramatically from the edge of narrow mountain roads ⛰️.

The best way to tackle these famous winding roads is by motorbike, however, accidents can happen, especially among bold backpackers with little experience and lots of unfounded confidence!

The good news is that the Ha Giang Loop doesn’t have to be off-limits for those who don’t want to hop on a motorbike! There are options for all kinds of travellers, from master motorcyclists to those who would rather sit back, relax and let someone else handle those hair-raising bends!

From “Easy Rider” Tours to cruising on the back of an open-top truck 🛻✌️, read on discover the many ways to do the Ha Giang Loop! Choose the trip that’s best for you and you’ll be rewarded with a truly unforgettable adventure and the most stunning scenery that Vietnam has to offer…

Disclosure: Some links on this page are affiliate links. We always write our articles before checking if affiliate links are available.

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What’s the Best Way to Do the Ha Giang Loop?

Our Humble Opinion?

There’s nothing quite like riding the Ha Giang Loop on two wheels. What, by bicycle, you say? Hell, no! You need a motor on those hills unless you’ve got some serious calf muscles! 🏍️

If you’re a confident driver, riding the Ha Giang Loop on a motorbike is definitely the way to go! Small group tours leave daily from Hanoi where you can tackle the loop with a group of fellow travellers. These tours are great as they provide a sense of camaraderie and a local expert who can give you insider knowledge on the places to stay overnight and eat. Tour Top Pick: True North by Flipside.

If you’re not a confident driver, you can still join these tours. However, instead of riding the bike yourself, you can ride on the back of the motorbike (pillion) with an ‘Easy Rider’ as they are known in ‘Nam (a local driver who knows the roads like the back of their hand!). This way, you can relax and enjoy the scenery! Tour Top Pick: Ha Giang Epic Tours.
ImageOptionGreat For You IfRecommended Tour Companies
Best Option For Tailored Tours!
Easy Rider - Private Tour

Easy Rider - Private Tour

  • You're a group of friends who want a private tour
  • You prefer to be driven rather than drive yourself
  • You want a tailored tour
  • You want to take it slow
Book With Friends Travel Vietnam
Best for Non-Riders!
Easy Rider - Small Group Tour

Easy Rider - Small Group Tour

  • You're not a confident rider and prefer to be driven
  • You like the camaraderie of a group
  • You prefer a small group size (7-9 people)
Book With Ha Giang Epic Tours
Top Choice for Confident Riders!
Self Driving - Small Group Tour

Self Driving - Small Group Tour

  • You are confident riding a motorbike
  • You like the idea of getting to know a small group of people (group size 5-15)
  • You want the social aspect without too much craziness
Book With Flipside HostelsBook With Safari Hostel
Best for Sociable Backpackers!
Self Driving - Large Group Tour

Self Driving - Large Group Tour

  • You are confident riding a motorbike
  • You like travelling with a large group of backpackers (15-25 people)
  • You prefer dorm room accommodation
  • You are a budget backpacker
  • You want a fun social vibe
Book With Central Backpackers HostelBook With Flipside Hostels
Best if You Want to Avoid Motorcycles!
Ha Giang Loop – 4WD Truck - Group Tour

Ha Giang Loop – 4WD Truck - Group Tour

  • You don't want to travel by motorbike and prefer the safety of a truck
  • You still want the camaraderie of a group tour
  • You want to travel with a group of friends in an open-air truck enjoying the scenery!
Book With Flipside Hostels
Best for Those Wanting to Go Solo!
DIY – Independent Travel!

DIY – Independent Travel!

  • You are an experienced motorbike driver
  • You prefer independent travel to tours, You want the flexibility to stop where you like
  • You want to plan all your own accommodation and food stops
  • You prefer to travel alone
Rent A Bike From Flamingo Travel (Hanoi)

Easy Rider Tours 🏍️ 🦺

An Easy Rider Tour is a tour, where instead of driving the bike yourself, you will sit on the back of a motorbike and let an experienced local driver take care of the hard part!

If you’re not comfortable riding a motorbike yourself, or you’re just looking for a more local experience, then an ‘Easy Rider Tour’ is a great way to experience the amazing scenery and discover more about the unique and fascinating culture of this remote region of Northern Vietnam. 

A member of our Facebook Community said: “If you aren’t super confident on a motorbike, and you have the budget, I would HIGHLY recommend an easy rider tour! You’ll ride on the back of a local tour guide’s bike and get to enjoy practically 360-degree views the entire way instead of having your eyes glued to the road hoping you don’t crash!” – Erika

Easy Rider Tours We Recommend… 🤘

Ha Giang Epic Tour

Bike rider pic, Ha Giang

The Ha Giang Epic Easy Rider Tour created by Cheers Hostel gives adventurous travellers a thrilling experience with safety being the top priority. They have small groups (between 7 and 9 people) and very experienced local drivers. The tour departs every day at 7.30pm and you can start from either Hanoi, Sapa or Ha Giang City. You can choose either a three day or a four day tour and the price includes all accommodation along the loop (local ethnic minority home stays), meals, transport by sleeper bus (if you are coming from Hanoi), quality motorbike with easy rider, all fuel, all permits and entry fees.

👉 Check prices and book Ha Giang Epic Tour.

Private Ha Giang Easy Rider Tour by Real Tours

Bikers posing at roadside

If you and your family or group of friends are looking for a private Easy Rider Tour then this one offered by Friends Travel Vietnam, is a great option and takes all the hassle out of organising the tour yourself. The price includes transport to and from Hanoi, motorbike with Easy Rider, accommodation, all meals, all permits and entrance fees. Along the way, you will stay in slightly more comfortable accommodation than on the budget backpacker tours (family run home stays and guesthouses) and the best thing about a private tour is that you can tailor it how you like!

👉 Check prices and book Real Ha Giang Easy Rider Tour.

A member of our Facebook group said: “We booked an Easy Rider Tour with Cheers Hostel. It was the best experience we have had so far in our journey. As in a stand out experience. The views were incredible, people amazing and even as two overweight people we were welcome and they accommodated us. I’d never been on a bike before so easy rider was a no brainer. One tipExpect to broken afterwards and relax with a cruise on Halong Bay! Oh and take a warm clothing. I was freezing after being in warm temperatures elsewhere in Vietnam.” – Kayleigh

Ha Giang Loop Group Tours 🤙 🏍️

If you want to road trip the loop with a group of fellow travellers then a Ha Giang group tour just might be the best option for you. These fun-filled tours take all the hassle out of organising the route and you’re bound to make new friends along the way!

Ha Giang Loop Group Tours have become hugely popular in recent years and there are many options to choose from. On these tours, you’ll travel the loop with a bunch of fellow backpackers, stay at local home stays along the way and maybe even do other activities in the area such as short hikes and boat trips.

It seems that every other hostel in Hanoi is offering a Ha Giang Loop Tour at the moment, but the tours can vary greatly in terms of quality, and most importantly, safety. It’s worth doing your research to make sure that the company you go with has good reputation.

The main thing to consider before booking a tour is the group size (do you want to be part of a small group or a large group of backpackers?). The large group tours tend to be cheaper, offering backpacker dorm-style accommodation. The smaller group tours have a better track record when it comes to safety and overall guest experience. It can be worth paying a bit more to stay in slightly better quality accommodation and feel assured that the bike you are riding on is quality and has been serviced recently with all of the proper safety checks done.

✋🚦Bike Tests:

If you want to ride the bike yourself on the Ha Giang Loop, your tour company may require you to take a short motorbike test to demonstrate the level of ability needed to tackle the Ha Giang Loop. In our opinion, it’s a red flag if the company you are booking with with does not ask you to do a short proficiency test like this! It means that they are letting backpackers loose on the roads who do not have the proper skill to ride a motorbike… 🙈 Now what would your mum say?

Ha Giang Loop Tours We Recommend… 🤘

True North Tour by Flipside Hostel

Ha Giang Loop - True North Group Tour

Kiwi founder of Flipside Hostel, Tom Stone, was one of the first intrepid adventures to explore the region of Ha Giang by motorbike. He witnessed the incredible scenery of this part of Vietnam and paved the way for future bikers! The True North Tour was one of the first ever Ha Giang Loop tours and in our opinion, is still one of the best! Their tours are known for their adventurous and spontaneous nature, whilst remaining safe and responsible. You’re basically guaranteed an amazing experience meeting lots of like-minded adventure-nuts along the way! These days Flipside offer two tours, one with larger groups and basic dorm-style accommodation (for budget conscious backpackers) and a more premium tour with smaller groups and slightly more luxury accommodation. Both are amazing and well worth the money!

Buffalo Tour by Central Backpackers Hostel

Beautiful group pic besides mountain view, Ha Giang, Buffalo

Central Backpackers Hostel are famous for the legendary Halong Hideaway Boat Trip. Recently, they brought out their version of the Ha Giang Loop tour and, like their Halong offering, this Ha Giang Tour is a blast on a budget! It’s a fun-crammed adventure with a social vibe aimed at the budget-savvy traveller (or tight arsed backpacker if you want to say it bluntly!). The groups are large (15-25 backpackers a day), the hostels are basic, but all in all, it’s an excellent value for money adventure with experienced local guides and safety certainly taken into consideration. The tour leaves daily from Central Backpackers’ Hostel at 10 am and 7.30 pm.

👉 Check prices and book Ha Giang Buffalo Tour.

Ha Giang Loop Tour by Safari Hostel

Another group tour that has been recommended by travellers in our Facebook group is the one organised by Safari Hostel. Safari offer small to medium sized group tours (8-15 people) and they depart daily from their hostel in Ha Giang (pick up in Hanoi is available). The tour is filled with fun activities from a boat trip on the Nho Que River to hike to the impressive Lung Khuy Cave, not to mention the night time karaoke! The tour is a fantastic option for the budget traveller who is more interested in culture and adventure than party.

👉 Check prices and book Ha Giang Safari Tour.

A member of our Facebook Group said – “We did the Ha Giang Loop Tour with Safari Hostel and it was great! Beautiful home stays, amazing group and a little less party focused than other hostels which is why we chose it! That and a smaller group size – we had about 12 people for the first two days and eight on the last night. The food each night was also amazing!” – Ash

Ha Giang Loop Truck and Jeep Tours

There are now a few companies doing jeep tours of the Ha Giang Loop. These usually cater to groups of four or five which makes it a good option for families. A jeep tour is more expensive than a motorcycle tour, costing around $200-300USD per person. Hanoi is the best place to arrange a jeep tour of the Ha Giang Loop. 

DIY – Riding the Ha Giang Loop Independently 

If you choose to ride independently, you will first need to get to hire a bike in Hanoi or journey to the town of Hà Giang, the starting point of your adventure. To meet recent demand, Hà Giang now has many hostels, guesthouse options and bike rental services to offer potential riders.

If you’re renting a bike in Hanoi, check out Flamingo Travel or Cuong’s Motorbike Adventure. Both of these companies come highly recommended by bikers on the ground. If you’re in Ha Giang, Qt Motorbikes and Tours is a good option. Make sure that the bike is in good condition and bag a helmet as part of the deal. You never know how grateful you could be for that head protection!

Note on What Type of Motorbike to Hire:

It’s possible to do the loop with an automatic bike but it’s safer with a semi-automatic, as this better handles sharp corners and steep hills. The hostel rental bikes are generally pretty high quality, and riders can purchase additional insurance to ensure against surprise costs.

Best Time of Year to Do the Ha Giang Loop

The consensus is that is best to ride the Ha Giang Loop in autumn or spring. The months of October to May are a good time to do it because the climate is cooler and the whole area is generally a little drier. This makes the roads safer, however, clouds can still obscure vistas. 

Weather on the Ha Giang Loop 

Rain is most common between June and September, however, downpours happen year-round so a waterproof jacket is a must-have item! Due to the unpredictability of the weather, we advise planning for all seasons. 

How Long Does the Ha Giang Loop Take?

The Ha Giang Loop can take anywhere from two to five days – three days is generally a comfortable amount of time for a fairly experienced driver. Some people prefer to do the route as a longer, slow travel adventure, stopping at the many sights and attractions along the way and sometimes taking as long as a week. 

Ha Giang Loop - True North Group Tour 4
Three days is a good amount of time to budget for the Ha Giang Loop.

Renting a scooter is likely to cost somewhere between $5-10USD a day, making it by far the cheapest way to experience the loop. Bear in mind that you will be responsible for filling up the bike (at additional cost) and you’ll need to pay for all of your food and accommodation on top. 

Foggy day with motorbike experience
Experienced riders can also take on the loop independently.

If you’re an experienced rider doing the Ha Giang Loop independently, there are plenty of surrounding routes that you can link up with to enhance your riding experience. Big thanks to Rory Emond for sharing his favourite Vietnam motorcycle routes below!

  • Go north of Ha Noi via Lang Son, Cao Bang, Ba Be, Bao Lac, Meo Vac, Dong Van and Ha Giang
  • Go southwest of Ha Noi via Mai Chau, Son La, Sa Pa, Ha Giang 
  • Alternatively, you can merge them for a two-week adventure!

Ha Giang Loop 3-Day Itinerary 

Ha Giang Loop Map
Ha Giang Loop Map Courtesy of Buffalo Tour.

Day 1 – Hà Giang – Yên Minh 

Recommended accommodation in Ha Giang:

From Hà Giang, the path leads gently up into the mountains toward the town of Tam Son. After lunch in Tam Son, you can veer from the main road along a five-kilometre path to Lung Khuy cave.

There is a circular path running through the cave that offers great views of the immense structure, albeit with poor lighting. When you enter to the left, there is a more adventurous path with plenty of low-hanging rocks; you can duck underneath and descend steeply down into the mountain toward a still, dark pool of water. 

Bike rider pic, Ha Giang
You’ll make memories that last a lifetime on this epic bike trip!

After Tam Som, it’s about 50 kilometres further to Yên Minh where you can sleep for the night. This picturesque route is particularly beautiful during the last hour, as it guides you through dense pine forests with yellow, early sunset light peeking through the trees. 

Recommended accommodation in Yên Minh:

Day 2: Yên Minh – Mèo Vạc 

Day two is the most spectacular, offering jaw-dropping views from start to finish. Drive a gentle 70 kilometres through Đồng Văn to Mèo Vạc or continue on an additional 50-kilometre loop to the far north, next to the Chinese border. 

The route from Yên Minh towards the town of Lũng Táo offers spectacular views of rolling hills that stretch far into the distance, becoming bluer and hazier with their remoteness. After around two hours of riding, just before the H’mong King’s Palace, you must veer from the path and head North towards the iconic Lung Cu Flag Tower, an impressively tall structure flying the red and yellow Vietnamese flag proudly ahead of the Chinese border. 

Lung Cu Flag Tower, North Vietnam
Lung Cu Flag Tower sits close to the Chinese border.

Through gaps in the mountains, you can see China in the distance, although there is nothing of note to mark the change of nations on the Chinese side. Far more interesting than the unfinished flag tower is an illegal border crossing, located about 10 minutes back on the path from Lung Cu, and signalled only by a ripped barbed wire fence and stones bearing Chinese inscriptions. You can easily duck under the fence—there are no buildings or people around—and faithfully claim that you have been to China. 

Important Update: 

We received a comment from one of our readers clarifying the situation referred to in the above statement. Might be a good idea to read what he said and ignore the suggestion of ducking under the fence. He wrote: “That stone bearing Chinese inscriptions has a skull and crossbones on it. In Chinese, it is written: Minefield. Entry forbidden. Malipo county.” You have been warned… 

The road leads around towards Đồng Văn, another pleasant small town with an impressive mountainous backdrop.  From there, you will quickly find yourself on the Mã Pí Lèng Pass, one of the most impressive stretches of roads along the whole loop. At an altitude of 1500 metres, the road meanders along a cliff edge, with impressive views that captivate your attention and tight turns that remind you of the task at hand. 

Beautiful scenic view of Leng pass , Ha Giang, Buffalo
The jaw-dropping scenery of the Mã Pí Lèng Pass.

The Mã Pí Lèng Pass is what the Hà Giang loop is all about – dangerous roads, breathtaking views and adrenaline-fueled adventure. It ends with a gentle decline into the town of Mèo Vạc.

Recommended accommodation in Mèo Vạc:

Day 3: Mèo Vạc – Hà Giang 

The third day of the loop is a long one — 150 kilometres west from Mèo Vạc, back to Yên Minh where day two begins and, from there, retracing the route back to Hà Giang. This drive is particularly nice with hours of gentle meandering declines that are relaxing and fun to cruise. 

The path back to Hà Giang takes about seven hours of constant driving so you’ll have to set off at a reasonable hour. It’s possible to make it back to Hà Giang before sunset, with plenty of time to catch a night bus to Hanoi.

Happy faces of Ha Giang Tourists, Vietnam, Thailand
Day 3 is a long one – just keep smiling! 😉

Recommended accommodation in Hanoi:

See more great recommendations for hostels in Hanoi here and thanks to Anna Stringer for the route breakdown!

Rules, Roads and Safety on the Ha Giang Loop

Ha Giang Loop Roads

Over recent years, riding the Ha Giang Loop has become a popular thing to do. This means that the roads are generally in good condition, however, there are sketchy sections. Road conditions can change rapidly so it is best to check with travellers on the ground for the most up-to-date information. We recommend asking your questions about the Ha Giang Loop in our Facebook group!

Safety on the Ha Giang Loop 

The safest way to experience the Ha Giang Loop if you are not an experienced motorcycle rider is to visit on an organised tour. Driving in Vietnam can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing. Make sure that you book with a reputable tour agency who have a good safety record. 

Be wary of very cheap tours as they are often poorly managed, hosting large group sizes and cutting corners on safety. These irresponsible tour owners are the main contributor to the increased police presence along the Ha Giang Loop. 

Beautiful scenic view, Ha Giang, Vietnam, Thailand
Do your research when it comes to choosing a reputable tour provider.

For travellers embarking on an ‘easy rider’ tour, make sure to ask to see the licence of your driver before you head off. Travelling pillion with someone who doesn’t hold the correct licence could stop your travel insurance company from paying out if you have an accident. 

👉 Check out the Ha Giang Loop companies that we work with here

Legalities of Riding the Ha Giang Loop

If you’re thinking of doing the Ha Giang Loop by yourself, it goes without saying that you must be experienced and able to handle a motorbike. Unlike other Southeast Asian countries (where you are road legal as long as you have an International Driving Permit and the appropriate motorbike license at home), in Vietnam, it is actually illegal to drive without a specific driving permit* – and it’s impossible for a traveller to acquire! 

* An International Driving Permit is only valid if your nationality is a signatory of the 1968 Vienna Convention NOT the 1949 Geneva Convention. 

This means that practically every foreigner you see driving a motorbike in Vietnam is actually doing so illegally, and therefore not insured. However, some travel insurance companies will insure you to ride a motorcycle, as long as you have the proper license back home. 

Awesome experience of bike riders, Ha Giang
If you are riding yourself, make sure you know the risks!

Police checkpoints have increased along the route over recent years and the locations change daily. Speeding is the main reason that people are stopped so make sure you are riding carefully if you are seeking a trouble-free journey. In built-up areas, do not exceed 40kmph. Due to the windy and narrow roads, 60kmph is likely to be plenty once you get out of the towns. 

Plenty of backpackers do the Ha Giang Loop without the correct permits or licence. Remember that this is at your own risk. If you’re involved in an accident, you likely won’t be able to claim on your travel insurance, may have your motorbike impounded and be hit with a very hefty fine. 

Ha Giang Loop Packing List

  • Daypack
  • Packable waterproof jacket
  • Rainproof cover for backpack
  • Closed toe shoes
  • Camera/ action cam
  • Long trousers
  • Spare shoes for relaxing 
  • Quick-dry long-sleeved t-shirts
  • Microfibre towel 
  • Sunglasses
  • Suncream
  • Cash
  • Electronics
  • Toiletries
  • Swimsuit
  • Map (if self-guided)
  • Helmet – make sure you have one! 
Thrilling view of tourists standing besides Leng pass, Ha Giang, Buffalo
A helmet is a must-have item – trust us, the floor is hard!

How to Get to Ha Giang, Vietnam 

Most people travel to Ha Giang from the capital Hanoi. The best way to get there on a budget is to take one of the overnight buses. The journey time is around six and a half hours and a ticket costs around $12USD. 

If you are an experienced rider, you can always rent a motorbike in the capital and then ride yourself to Ha Giang to start the loop. 

Tips for Riding the Ha Giang Loop

  •  Check Your Bike

When it comes to renting a bike in Vietnam, you are responsible for checking that it is in good condition. Check reviews of different rental companies and make sure you check the bike fully before agreeing to rent it. 

  • Make Sure You Are Legally Able to Ride

Vietnam makes backpackers jump through a lot of hoops if they want to ride a motorbike in the country.  Not being able to legally ride puts you at risk of big fines if caught and will likely result in your travel insurance refusing to pay out in the event of an accident. If you choose to ride without the necessary IDP or licence, do so at your own risk. If you can’t ride a motorbike but still want to experience the loop, we recommend an easy rider tour. 

  • Wear Sensible Gear

Try to blend in with the locals and wear the right stuff. While there is a more lackadaisical attitude to road safety in Vietnam, a well-fitting helmet is a must-have item, as are sturdy boots and long-sleeved pants and tops. 

Happy faces of motor bike riders, Ha Giang
Shoulder and knee pads are a good idea too!
  • Ride to Your Abilities

This is a challenging route for many bikers. Take it easy and be extra careful on the stone and dirt sections of the road. 

  • Consider Tour Group Size

When it comes to booking a tour of the Ha Giang Loop, one of the main differentiators is the group size. While it may be tempting to book the cheapest tour out there, there will likely be way more people on these tours, helping to keep costs down. Tours that run with smaller groups are generally more enjoyable and also safer, with a better guide-to-traveller ratio. 

  • Make Sure You Are Covered by Travel Insurance

We always recommend that backpackers hold valid travel insurance. This only becomes more important when you’re road-tripping along narrow, windy mountain roads in a country where accidents are common. 

Riding the Ha Giang Loop boasts some of the most impressive scenery in the whole of Vietnam. It’s a great way to escape the well-trodden tourist path in Southeast Asia and meet different kinds of people, both in the local communities and in your tour group (if you choose to have one). Put simply, this epic Vietnamese road trip is a no-brainer! 

Have you tackled Vietnam’s epic Ha Giang Loop?

3 thoughts on “Ha Giang Loop, Vietnam: 2023 Adventure Guide for Travellers”

  1. Alain Miville de Chene

    You wrote: Far more interesting than the unfinished flag tower is an illegal border crossing, located about 10 minutes back on the path from Lung Cu, and signalled only by a ripped barbed wire fence and stones bearing Chinese inscriptions. You can easily duck under the fence—there are no buildings or people around—and faithfully claim that you have been to China.

    That stone bearing Chinese inscriptions has a skull and crossbones on it. In Chinese it is written: Mine field. Entry forbidden. Malipo county.

    Please add this info to your text as a warning to others.

    1. Thank you very much for contacting us, Alain. We have added this information to the guide. You never know… you may just have saved some lives!

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