About Ha Giang
Ha Giang is sometimes referred to as the ‘Sa Pa of a decade ago’ because Ha Giang is still not that crazy popular with tourists. Even though it’s getting more and more popular every year as travel there is becoming more accessible because of many bus and car tours. But Ha Giang must be experienced on two wheels, not four! If you are not that confident in driving, there is always the option of easy riders.
In this guide, we will talk about doing the Ha Giang Loop by yourself and recommend tours you can join if you’re more comfortable with that.
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The experiences we got here, the things we saw, and the locals we met in Ha Giang cannot be described with words. We knew Ha Giang would be amazing from the first photos we’ve seen of it. But we can assure you that no photos or videos can justify the beauty and feelings you get on the roads of Ha Giang. We felt so helpless, not knowing how to capture these sceneries. And for the first time, we don’t feel sorry for that as it will hopefully make you go there and see it for yourself! Then you will understand what we’re talking about. We couldn’t help but smile all the time with our eyes wide open, trying to take it all in.
Remote places here are very poor, but full of the friendliest people and the most outstanding landscapes in Vietnam.
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How to get to Ha Giang?
Ha Giang is about 7 hours away from Hanoi, and the easiest way to get there is by a sleeper or limousine bus for about 10-15 USD.
In case you are going to Ha Giang on an organized tour, the package will likely include the transport from Hanoi. Make sure to ask the tour operator upon booking.
What is the weather like in Ha Giang?
The best answer is – unpredictable!
We visited in the first half of October, which is supposed to be an excellent month for riding the Ha Giang loop as it’s still pretty warm (average of 27 degrees Celsius), and in theory, there shouldn’t be that much rain. However, out of 8 days, we had only two perfectly sunny and hot days! For four days, we had heavy rains, which was why we had to extend our initially five planned days. At some points, we were even freezing.
On the other hand, some travelers that had finished the loop before us had 5 days of the perfect weather. Their days were sunny and warm.
We hope you get the picture, so don’t bother much with choosing ‘the perfect month’ and prepare accordingly.
What is the best month to do the Ha Giang Loop?
It is hard to pinpoint which month is the best to do the Ha Giang loop, but not only because of the weather. Each month offers something different in the area as well. However, if you go from November to March, it will probably be quite cold, and from June to August, scorching hot and at the same time rainy.
We went during the first half of October and just missed the golden rice fields seen during September.
If you want to visit during the buckwheat flowering season, you should visit in October or November.
That is why you must be prepared for all conditions (rain, sun, fog, cold…).
What to pack for Ha Giang Loop?
Packing for the Ha Giang loop also depends on the month you are visiting, but you DEFINITELY NEED one waterproof/windproof jacket, raincoat, hoodie, long pants, short pants, swimming suit, and an extra pair of shoes.
We had only that (plus five shirts each), but we wish we had at least one more hoodie and long pants. You will quickly get wet if it rains, so it’s great if you have something to change into. However, we survived.
TIP: Take shoes you don’t feel sorry for.
Renting a bike for the Ha Giang loop
It’s essential to have a bike in good condition. There are many curves, hills, damaged roads (at some points), and much more that you need to conquer. For your safety, you want to rent with a reliable company. The last thing you want is your bike breaking down while on the road.
The trip itself is challenging, so you want to lessen the problems as much as possible.
In case you’re not going solo to Ha Giang, check out these tours that can take you there:
Who to rent from in Ha Giang?
We researched a lot before our trip and found QT Motorbikes and Tours as the most reliable company for the Ha Giang Loop.
Not only do they offer excellent service, but they also focus on keeping Ha Giang as pure as possible. Choosing them means choosing someone that cares for the environment they operate their business in. With so many areas getting overpopulated and destroyed by fast-money grab schemes, this is a breath of fresh air.
They were also recommended by other travelers that we reached out to for tips. The main reason everyone also loves them is the brand-new bikes and excellent service, which we can confirm.
Therefore, we highly recommend QT Motorbikes as the company of choice. They are operating in Cao Bang and Ha Giang, and we rented with them in both places and have no complaints. They can also help you choose the right bike and encourage you to test the bike before renting, as well as help you out with planning the route. This means a lot while going on a motorcycle road trip like this one.
Which bike to choose for the Ha Giang loop?
One of the most important decisions is choosing the appropriate bike for your trip.
The roads of Ha Giang are mostly well-maintained, unlike some 10 years ago before it became a somewhat popular tourist destination.
Even so, it doesn’t mean you can ride just any bike. What awaits you on the loop are many sharp bends, turns, and high mountain passes.
All this is mostly fine until you add perspiration in the morning/evening or rain on one of the rainy days, of which you never know how many will be.
And with those conditions, it becomes much more dangerous, than it usually is. The most important action, or rather inaction, is knowing when to brake or not brake, as you can easily also overbrake and slide off the road. We had a few situations where we almost slid and we’re so thankful for the bike we had (manual).
Dirt bike – Skilled riders
We chose the Honda XR 150CC. It was very comfortable for both of us, even with a big bag strapped behind. It performed very well on bumpy roads as well as offroad. Because of that, we could choose a bit different route at some parts of the loop.
- great for offroad
- big tires
- harder to drive because of changing gears and using clutch
- no storage space under seat
Semi automatic – RECOMMENDED
This is a perfect option for everyone.
You can change gears to conquer hills a bit easier, but it also stays in gear by itself when you stop. This helps a lot when you have to stop in the middle of a hill.
Having a semi-automatic bike also means you won’t have to use the brake as much compared to a fully automatic one. This helps in wet conditions, so you don’t overbrake and slip. Additionally, you won’t get to the point of your brakes overheating and failing (this happened to us in Bali, and it is terrifying when you are midway down a steep slope).
Automatic – NOT RECOMMENDED
Riding an automatic bike in Ha Giang is not recommended as it’s unsafe and dangerous.
What are the roads like in Ha Giang?
The roads are mostly in good condition, even though there are parts where the road is badly damaged. Conditions change all the time, so it’s best to do some research before the trip. QT Motorbikes suggested to us the roads we should take depending on the current situation and the bike we had, so there is no need to worry. In general, it’s not bad at all.
What if I’m not an experienced rider?
If you are not an experienced rider, don’t worry, as the rental company can help you get comfortable riding and share with you some tips and tricks for a more leisurely ride. Take your time before setting off on the loop.
Also, there are many organized tours that can take you to Ha Giang, and you can choose to either go with a car, drive a motorbike yourself, or hop on the back of a bike of a skilled rider/guide.
How much time do I need for the Ha Giang loop?
Most people do the Ha Giang Loop in 3-5 days. From our personal experience, it’s better to be flexible and not have a strict plan. There are many things out of your power, such as weather, road conditions, or just the fact that you like it somewhere so much that you want to extend your stay there – this one is the most likely to happen 😉. We planned to finish the loop in 5 days but ended up extending it for three more as it was raining too much, and we didn’t want to drive in those conditions. We still drove through the rain as it just couldn’t be avoided, but we tried to avoid the pouring rain.
To see everything properly and not rush, we suggest at least 4 or 5 days.
Where to stay while on the Ha Giang loop
There are plenty of accommodations on the route these days, so you shouldn’t have a problem with that.
Should I book my accommodation before or on the spot?
We were finding accommodation directly on the spot. That option has good and bad sides. The bad is that you can stay without some good accommodations as they will be full, and good that it gives you more flexibility. We’ve experienced both but still prefer to do it on the spot. If you want to save yourself stress, book it in advance.
How much does accommodation cost on the Ha Giang loop?
The prices vary but one night on the Ha Giang loop will be about 200.000 VND ($8.6).
Where we stayed
We stayed at and can recommend these:
- Ha Giang: QT Guest House
- Du Gia: Du Gia Homestay
- Meo Vac: Mai’s House Restaurant and Hostel
- Yen Minh: Thien An Motel
Du Gia Homestay was the cutest accommodation on the loop. We stayed in a private room that was located above a small pond and had the most stunning morning view. Everything was super clean, including the shared bathroom.
We were in three different accommodations in Meo Vac, and we only liked the one mentioned above, Mai’s House Restaurant and Hostel. First, we came to the Meo Vac Hmong Ethnic Culture Village. It’s basically a fake village with homestays, which are actually more like hostels/hotels built like traditional houses that can be found in Ha Giang and the rest of Vietnam. The first night we stayed in a private room which was a bit pricey, but it was not bad. The second night that room was booked, so we were transferred to another one that was located on the first floor of another house close by. It was freezing that day, and there was no way to warm up the room as the house is wooden and half-open. On top of that, the bathroom was located outside of the house, and the host wasn’t the nicest. It seemed like she was mocking us all the time, so we decided not to stay there and went to find another place.
Another place we booked is Ong Vang Meo Vac Hotel which looked all cute on Booking, but in reality, was really bad. We left without even sleeping there as every house had a lot of mold and thousands of bugs inside, plus we were freezing.
That’s when we found Mai’s House with actual heating and warm blankets. We spent that whole day trying to warm up in the bed as the previous day of driving in the rain hit us hard, and we weren’t able to do anything anymore. I’m happy we found this place as otherwise, we’d get sick for sure. So just something to keep in mind. This was definitely the most challenging day for us. 😀
2022 UPDATE: Mai’s House no longer exists.
What is the food like on the Ha Giang loop?
It’s easy to find local restaurants along the way, and all homestays will make you dinner if you ask them. It may be a bit harder if you’re vegetarian/vegan, but you just have to let your homestay know in advance, and in a local restaurant, you can ask them to make you something vegetarian/vegan as well. Tofu with tomato sauce, morning glory, and some cooked veggies on the side are the most common vegetarian dishes in more rural areas, so make sure to ask for those. It will be a bit monotonous to eat these dishes every day, but you’ll survive as it’s yummy!
We ate at and can recommend these:
- Ha Giang: Bong Restaurant
- Du Gia: Du Gia Homestay, Nguyen Quoc Restaurant & Coffe
- Meo Vac: Mai’s House Restaurant and Hostel, Thanh Phương Restaurant
- Yen Minh: Nhà Hàng Phượt
Vegan or vegetarian?
You HAVE to read this! You will be surprised.
Vegan and Vegetarian Guide to Vietnam
Ha Giang loop itinerary
Most people do the loop starting in Ha Giang City and ending in Du Gia (before returning to the city). However, we spiced things up a bit. On the recommendation from the people at QT Motorbikes where we rented, we did the loop the other way around. That way, we avoided crowds in some places.
DISCLAIMER #1: As we already mentioned, we planned to do the loop in 5 days but had to extend it for three more because of rain. However, we will still present to you our planned five days itinerary.
DISCLAIMER #2: We will mention the places we visited and the things you can see on these routes. However, keep in mind that these are all scenic roads, and you’ll be stopping A LOT at random spots just because they’re so beautiful. Therefore you can expect to drive a bit longer than planned.
In case you’re joining an organized tour to Ha Giang, your itinerary might look a bit different, but most tours, especially the 4 days ones, take you to most if not all of these spots.
ROUTE: Ha Giang – Tam Son – Du Gia (where you sleep)
DISTANCE: about 110 km
ACCOMMODATION: Du Gia Homestay (dorms and private rooms)
NOTE: We arrived at Du Gia Homestay very late at night as we were stopping way too much and we underestimated the time we would need to arrive there. We drove for more than an hour in the dark, and would not recommend that!
However, the sunset was amazing that day, but we can’t show you any photos as we were rushing at that time already.
This is the part where the most amazing views start. It is also the first stop where everyone takes a break, so it’s hard to miss it. We also recommend the viewpoint cafe here as you can try a delicious smoothie, coffee or tea while enjoying the view.
Just a bit further along the road, you’ll arrive at Tam Son, a village situated in a valley surrounded by small round-shaped hills. There are two hills very close to each other, known as Twin Hills. You’ll easily spot them from the road. If you have time, explore the area around. Locals there are super friendly.
Lung Khuy Cave
We skipped this one because of lack of time, but if you plan to visit, keep in mind that you have to hike for about 20 minutes up. The entrance fee should be around $2 and a parking fee of $0.2. According to reviews, most people usually like the cave, but you won’t miss out on much if you already visited some others in Vietnam.
Lung Tam Village
Lung Tam Village we also skipped because of lack of time, but it’s supposedly where you can see the traditional hemp weaving process.
ROUTE: stay in Du Gia and explore the area around
Du Gia Waterfall
One of the highlights of the Ha Giang trip and Du Gia itself! The road to the waterfall is pretty bad, so most people don’t drive there, but choose to walk instead. As we had a dirt bike, we decided to drive and on a few occasions, Arijana decided to go down from the bike. 😀
You’ll pass through a village and meet a lot of friendly kids on the road. The scenery on the way to the waterfall is crazy beautiful, so don’t miss out on this place. We stopped a few times, just to take it all in.
The path to the waterfall is amazing and full of greenery. It’s not a cemented path like many other waterfalls in Vietnam have, so that made it even more special. And a bit harder to find. 😀 We weren’t sure if we were on the right path, but we just kept going straight and eventually heard the sounds of the waterfall. As we read beforehand, there might be kids that will offer to take you to the waterfall, but keep in mind that you have to pay them in that case.
Fun fact, Du Gia waterfall is a series of small waterfalls and pools and this is the place where you’ll need that swimming suit we mentioned earlier!
The first waterfall is the most impressive and has the biggest pool as well. If it’s warm enough, you can take a swim here and also climb the waterfall and visit the other ones! It was raining the morning we visited, making the rocks slippery so we couldn’t climb it. Arijana tried and fell as she slipped on the rock. 😀 Later we learned that there are usually ladders there, and that’s how people climb it, but they weren’t there during our visit.
The rest of Du Gia
Du Gia doesn’t have a strict to-do list, so we drove around checking out small waterfalls along the way (you can climb the rocks to get up close). We also drove past some small villages where we stopped by the locals and tried to learn more about them and their daily life. People in Du Gia are lovely, so we encourage you to stop by and interact with them.
ROUTE: Du Gia – Meo Vac (where you sleep)
DISTANCE: about 70 km
ACCOMMODATION: We stayed in Meo Vac for four days because of the rain. We’ve been in 3 different accommodations, but the only one we would recommend is Mai’s House (it has private rooms with heating – this was very important to us during rainy days).
2022 UPDATE: Mai’s House no longer exists.
Ma Pi Leng Pass
Ma Pi Leng Pass is the mountain pass between Meo Vac and Dong Van and goes up to 1500 meters above sea level. It’s approximately 20 kilometers long and offers the most majestic views of the whole loop.
You are presented with an incredible view of the Tu San Canyon, the deepest canyon in South East Asia. The views here are outstanding. This whole area is one of our favorites in Ha Giang.
There are 3 great spots to check out the view:
- Ma Pi Leng Panorama Cafe – 20k VND (less than a $1) entrance fee that you can exchange for a drink or just buy a drink without taking the ticket. This place will most likely be crowded as many tour buses stop here as well. If you stop there, we recommend hot cocoa.
- A bit further from the cafe, you’ll notice a sharp curve with a beautiful view (photo below). You can’t miss it.
- While continuing the ride to Dong Van, you’ll notice huge rocks overlooking the canyon on the side of the road. Here you have to jump over the fence, and then you climb the rocks for this majestic view.
Going by the name, you would expect something fancy, but no, it’s nothing like that. Maybe the word Skywalk is not the most suitable one. If you checked some photos from Ha Giang on Instagram, the Skywalk is that long rock poking out of a mountain, boasting a fantastic view of the valley beneath.
But first, you have to drive on a narrow path to reach the location. Ensure you’re confident enough in your driving skills as there is a massive drop from the side of the mountain and no fence. If not, just walk! When we were there, some workers were mining rock from big boulders on the side of the path, so it was even trickier as we had to drive over a sand pile just about wide enough for a bike.
TRAVEL TIP: Don’t visit if you’re scared of heights!
To reach the Skywalk, you basically have to climb a massive rocky hill and reach the point where the ‘perfect’ rock is pointing out. That’s it! We almost missed the place as we didn’t know that was it.
NOTE: Some people reported that local kids are often here, and are not letting you pass if you don’t pay them. We didn’t have that experience with kids here, so we can’t say anything about that, but keep it in mind. If you encounter this situation try to ignore them, or if they act too aggressive, unfortunately, it’s better that you leave.
Boat ride through Tu San Canyon
Highly recommended! It’s amazing to see the canyon from the top, and even more so to see it from down low!
PRICE: 100k VND + 5k VND parking fee ($4.5)
DURATION: about 1 hour
- You can’t come with the bike all the way down to the river. In the last part, you’ll have to walk. It takes about 15 minutes to get down and double to get back up. It’s very steep, so be prepared for some exercise! We definitely underestimated it.
- Do this on day 4 in the morning before you leave Meo Vac, so you avoid the crowds. We only had a few people on the boat, so it was much more pleasant.
- There’s also an option of renting kayaks for going through the canyon.
Meo Vac Market
There is a huge market in Meo Vac that takes place once per week, every Sunday morning. People from surrounding villages gather to buy things and socialize, and the crowds are unbelievable.
We have been to many markets in Vietnam already, but none were so alive and raw! People are walking with cows on the streets and not those that you usually encounter on the side of the road. These were getting crazy, trying to run away. Kids are walking with chickens in their hands, etc. And most people are WALKING (we rarely saw someone with a bike) from all those small mountainous villages to even get to the market. That’s why the streets were so full!
We didn’t have enough time to attend the market as we had to leave Meo Vac in the morning, but we saw a small part of it. There was so much action on the streets themselves that we can only imagine what it looked like in the heart of the action. That’s on our bucket list for the next time!
TRAVEL TIP: Try to schedule Meo Vac or Dong Van (there’s a similar market there as well) for the weekend and attend the market in the morning. After the market, spend some time on the streets to witness people returning home with all the goods. It’s quite a unique sight.
Drive around the area
The area between Meo Vac and Dong Van is home to some of the most amazing views of the whole loop. It’s also great for observing the daily life of people as you’ll pass through many villages.
ROUTE: Meo Vac – Yen Minh (where you sleep)
DISTANCE: about 75 km
ACCOMMODATION: Phuc Anh Motel (also has heating)
Lung Cu Flag Pole
This is the northernmost part of Vietnam, also known as “The North Pole. “
We personally didn’t like this place too much as it was way too crowded for our taste, and the view wasn’t spectacular like other places in Ha Giang, especially because there was a lot of construction work all around.
PRICE: 10k VND ($0.4)
TRAVEL TIP: This location is quite busy. You have to pass the gates, and then you drive up to the ticket office where you can park your bike. From there, you have to climb stairs to the flag tower and then some more stairs to get to the very top of it.
The Vuong family palace
We skipped this place as it was too crowded when we came, but it seems like an interesting place to visit.
Tham Ma Pass
Very close to Yen Minh is Tham Ma Pass, the most Instagrammable pass of the Ha Giang Loop. The road is the most dramatic zigzag path of the loop, often referred to as a snake, and with that particular angle, it looks perfect!
IMPORTANT NOTE: This is also the spot where you’ll find the famous “Flower Girls of Ha Giang.” We’ve been looking forward to seeing them as we saw photos of these kids everywhere online, but somehow this is the only place on the whole loop that we saw them. Why? Because that’s where they work. These poor kids are used as photo props for many tourists (especially those that come with bus tours). People are dragging them (yes, literally dragging) all around for that perfect photo. We almost cried as we couldn’t stand watching that. So please, if you come there, ignore those little girls, and don’t use them for photos! They should be in school, not working the whole day like this. If everyone did this, they wouldn’t be forced to come anymore.
We have nothing against giving money to the kids or locals here, but not like this. Not when it’s obvious that they themselves are a tourist attraction. Another reason why you should be careful about giving treats or money to children along the way is because it encourages begging.
Continue down the mountain from the pass and you will soon see some hills that resemble books and sheets of paper. We can’t quite remember the official name from the small sign there and it’s not marked on any maps.
ROUTE: Yen Minh – Ha Giang (the end)
DISTANCE: about 100 km
To get back to Ha Giang City from Tam Son, which is halfway between Yen Minh and Ha Giang, we took a shortcut, which we think is the most adventurous ride to be had in Ha Giang. The road has been badly damaged by landslides in the last two years, as they told us at QT, so it’s not recommended to everyone. Sometimes parts of the road were missing, or we had to drive through deep mud, huge rocks, and even underneath an excavator fixing the road. Nonetheless, the bike handled it with ease, and we had a blast.
We were the only tourists there. There were only us and a few road workers.
On this route, there are no tourist attractions, but there are many lovely spots where you can stop and admire the view. Our favorite stop is definitely this crazy waterfall!
How much does the Ha Giang loop cost?
The bike we had (Honda XR 150) costs around 650k VND per day ($28), and it’s the most expensive one. If you go with a semi-automatic, you will only pay between 150k to 300k VND per day (7-13 USD).
Accommodation prices vary, but you should be able to find something in the ballpark of 200k-400k VND (8-16 USD) for a private room in a homestay.
A vegetarian meal in local restaurant costs around 50k VND ($2) for the main dish, and in a homestay, you will pay around 100k ($4). Meat dishes cost a dollar or two more.
Gas costs around 24k VND ($1) per 1 liter of gasoline.
If you’re joining a tour to Ha Giang, the cost of the tour is what you will pay minus drinks, snacks, tips, and transport to Ha Giang City, where most tours start. Make sure to contact the tour operators beforehand to find the best option.
Final thoughts and travel tips
If you rent with QT Motorbikes, you can arrive at night and use the bed in the dorm for free to rest before starting the loop. Make sure to book it in advance! You can also leave unnecessary stuff in their storage while you are on the road.
Always start the drive from one place to another early in the morning. We still explored a bit every morning, but we suggest leaving at 9 am at the latest. You’ll be stopping a lot on the way, and you don’t want to be driving much in the dark, trust us.
Avoid giving treats or money to children along the way because it encourages begging, plus kids will be sent to parade for tourists rather than go to school (a great example is Tham Ma Pass).
DO NOT LITTER! Some parts on the loop will, unfortunately, be full of trash. Of course, part of this comes from the locals as this is a very poor area, but a big part comes from tourists too (single-use raincoats, bottles, trash bags…).
Use this article and our itinerary as guidance, but don’t strictly follow everything on it. That’s not how you should do the Ha Giang Loop. We love that we didn’t research every destination before. In fact, we were pretty clueless. We knew the main things that QT Motorbikes told us, and that’s it. This trip should be more about the experience than checking the locations off your list.
Ha Giang is unique because you can take the loop ten times, and we can guarantee that you’ll have a different experience each time. That’s why many travelers we met were repeating the loop. The road conditions will be different, the weather will be different each time, people will change, etc. And after all, Ha Giang is still a relatively unexplored area. The attractions we pointed out are just the main ones that are already established, but there is so much more waiting for you if you go a bit outside of the main route. And that’s the magic of Ha Giang!
P.S. We plan to repeat the loop one day! When we were leaving Ha Giang, we almost cried. We never got so attached to an area as we did here. We just keep thinking of all the villages we didn’t explore and all the beautiful places that are still not on the official Ha Giang Loop map. Our curiosity is killing us, so next time, we want to focus more on those. We’ve seen the main parts now, but the next time we’re going more off-road!
P.P.S. You can also do the Ha Giang to Cao Bang Loop! We would love to try that as it’s passing through one of the most stunning roads ever. It goes over the Me Pia pass and takes you to the incredible Ban Gioc Waterfall! QT also has an option to rent a bike in one city and return it in another.
Did we convince you to do the Ha Giang Loop? 😀
Let us know your thoughts, and we’re here for any questions you might have!
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