The majestic Ban Gioc waterfall is without a doubt a highlight of this area. Located on the border with China, it is still a somewhat hidden natural gem of Vietnam. You’d expect that this place would be swarming with people, mainly because the waterfall is so famous on Instagram, but surprisingly so, that’s still not the case. Use this opportunity, and visit one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Vietnam AND Southeast Asia before it becomes too crowded. In this guide, we’ll help you with all the things you need to know before visiting!
About Ban Gioc waterfall
Nestled in the Quay Son river on the Vietnam-China border, the waterfall is about 300 meters wide and 30 meters high. That makes it the fourth largest in the world amongst waterfalls located on an international border. The first one is Iguazu Falls, located between Brazil and Argentina, then Victoria Falls between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and the third is Niagara Falls between Canada and the U.S.
Ban Gioc, also known as Detian Falls in China, is not only the most beautiful waterfall in Southeast Asia but also one of the largest natural ones there. It has multiple terraces; that’s why photographers love it – it’s simply stunning from the air. Depending on the season you visit, it can be separated into many smaller waterfalls or one big one.
Where is the Ban Gioc waterfall located?
The waterfall is located in a remote village on the Chinese border in Cao Bang province, approximately 350 kilometers from Hanoi and 90 km east of Cao Bang. This area is still not getting enough attention, even though this is changing more and more every season, especially with numerous motorbike lovers and photography enthusiasts riding the loops around Ha Giang and Cao Bang regions.
Its remote location is one of the main reasons why many still skip it. Use this opportunity before it’s too late!
How to get to the Ban Gioc waterfall?
Being in a remote location, it will take quite some time to get there, but there are many options to choose from.
1. By motorbike
Rent a motorbike in Hanoi and follow the expressway to Lang Son and then the QL1A and QL4A to Quang Uyen. From there, take the well-maintained provincial road north that leads to the falls.
However, we suggest doing this only if you’re comfortable with your driving skills and have enough time.
Keep in mind that the waterfall is about 350 kilometers away from Hanoi.
QT Motorbikes is a company operating in both areas, and you can rent a bike in Ha Giang and leave it in Cao Bang (or the other way around). We plan to do this the next time as we didn’t have time now, so we explored these areas separately.
It’s a bit more expensive than usual bike rentals, but they have brand new bikes and excellent service. They were recommended to us by many other travelers, and we can highly recommend them too.
Motorbike rental in Cao Bang and Ha Giang
Price: from 200 000 VND per day ($8,68 / 7,16€)
TIP: If you plan to do the Ha Giang Loop, there is an option to connect those two. Many travelers also do the “Northeast Loop” or an extension of the famous Ha Giang one, including the Cao Bang region and the Ban Gioc waterfall.
2. By public transport
Ban Gioc waterfall is easily reachable by public transport. We suggest going to My Dinh bus station in Hanoi and taking a bus to the Cao Bang bus station. There you’ll transfer to a small local bus that will take you directly to the falls.
It’s impossible to miss the bus because they’re well marked.
TIP: Search for TP. Cao Bang – TH. Ban Gioc label on the bus
Hanoi (My Dinh bus station) – Cao Bang
Price: 180 000 VND ($7,81 / 6,44€) – 8 hours
Cao Bang – Ban Gioc (hourly from 5.30 am – 6 pm)
Price: 70 000 VND ($3 / 2.5€) – 2 hours
3. Combination – sleeper bus to Cao Bang + driving a bike to Ban Gioc
We took a sleeper bus from My Dinh bus station in Hanoi to the Cao Bang bus station. The good thing is that the buses leave every hour, so if you miss one (like we did), it’s not a big deal.
We went by bus all the way to the city. That way, we were closer to QT Motorbikes from who we rented our motorbike.
If the bus goes all the way to the city and drops you off at the Cầu Bằng Giang bridge, you’ll be only 15 minutes of walk away from the rental company.
Duration: 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Route from Cao Bang to Ban Gioc (90km)
- Rent a bike in Cao Bang
Make sure to top up with gasoline.
- Drive from Cao Bang to Quang Uyen (1 hour)
Quang Uyen is a great place for a coffee break.
- Drive from Quang Uyen north towards Trùng Khánh (30 min)
You make a right turn here and follow the main road towards Ban Gioc.
- Drive from Trùng Khánh to Ban Gioc (30 min)
The last leg of the journey, lined with beautiful rice fields of the Ban Gioc area.
FUN FACT | This route took us 6 hours due to the weather, but that’s a story for another time.
4. Group tour
Although we’re not the biggest fans of tours, especially in places that are easy to navigate, this might be an excellent option for you if you’re short on time or not comfortable with driving yourself.
Booking tours is easy from nearby Cao Bang or Hanoi through almost every accommodation, travel agency, and online.
5. Private transfer
The last option to get to the Ban Gioc waterfall is to hire a private driver or a limousine bus to take you to the falls, which is also the most expensive option.
What is the best time to visit the Ban Gioc waterfall?
There is no wrong time to visit as the waterfall never dries up! However, September to October is considered the ideal time. That’s when the rainy season stops, and the waterfall is still powerful. It’s also when the waterfall looks the bluest and the clearest and is surrounded by beautiful green rice paddies.
May to August is a perfect time if you want to see the waterfall’s full power, but be prepared for heavy downpours, especially in the period from May to June. That’s also when the water will be more brown and murky, which might affect your experience. However, the rainy season brings out the best of the Tiger Cave nearby as a river flows inside it. From July, the weather slowly starts getting better.
The falls are still beautiful from October to May (dry season), just not as impressive.
TIP: Whenever you’re visiting more remote areas (which includes Ban Gioc), avoid the weekends. Many of these places are widely popular amongst local tourists, so to have a more peaceful time, visit during the weekdays.
What are the seasons of the Ban Gioc area?
In the northeastern region, winter typically lasts from December to February, and it can get quite cold in the area. On the other hand, summer can be quite hot and humid. That’s another reason why autumn is the perfect time to visit. It’s not too cold and not too hot. Perfect combination!
- Spring in Cao Bang – February to March.
- Summer in Cao Bang – April to September.
- Autumn in Cao Bang – October to November.
- Winter in Cao Bang – December to January.
Is the Ban Gioc waterfall worth visiting?
The Ban Gioc waterfall is definitely worth visiting, and it’s one of the top attractions to see in Vietnam!
BUT keep in mind that the waterfall itself and the whole area around is more about nature and experiencing local life than anything else. There is no strict to-do list or exciting activities, like in some other regions of Vietnam. So keep that in mind if you plan to visit. If you are not the biggest fan of nature and always need organized activities, this might not be the perfect place for you.
Things to know before visiting the falls
1. You can go on a raft for a closer look at the falls!
The rafts take you to the base of the waterfall, where you’ll for sure get wet. On top of that, you can high-five Chinese tourists on the other side. The Vietnamese bamboo rafts are blue, whereas the rafts on the Chinese side are green.
Price: around 50 000 VND ($2 / 1,6€) – lasts 10 minutes
2. Chinese vs. Vietnamese side of the waterfall
China has a viewing platform for the falls, while Vietnam doesn’t have anything specially constructed. And we don’t think it’s even needed. There is only a small wooden bridge across a shallow waterfall pool. Vietnamese side has an actual shore resembling a beach where you can walk around, while China doesn’t have one. That’s why more tourists on the other side hire rafts.
3. It is possible to climb up the sides of the waterfall to get a better view.
We’ve even seen local fishermen climb up and fish inside the pools between the waterfall levels. Keep in mind that it’s quite dangerous during the heavy flow as the path is steep and slippery. That’s why we decided to skip that.
4. Keep an eye on the time!
There is a high chance that your phone’s clock and timezone will change.
Keep that in mind if you are going back by bus, as you don’t want to miss it!
5. Take your passport!
As the waterfall and the whole area are on the border with China, it’s wise to have your passport with you the entire time. We weren’t asked to show our passports anywhere during our stay, but better be safe than sorry.
6. Don’t get disappointed if you don’t see that perfect blue water!
The water flow and color depend on the month you visit. Usually, when you see that turquoise color, it’s from the drone’s perspective, which you won’t see from down below. The watercolor is also affected by the sun and clouds. From the ground view, it might look more green or brown during that heavy flow.
7. Swimming is not allowed.
But many people still take a dip on the Vietnamese side of the falls.
8. There are stands with souvenirs, photo props, and food.
But be careful! Our friend warned us not to buy water at the shops there as their bottled water wasn’t sealed. So make sure to check it before buying.
Is there an entrance fee for the Ban Gioc waterfall?
Yes, there is an entrance fee for Ban Gioc waterfall. It’s 45 000 VND ($1.95 / 1.61€) per person. If you come with the scooter, you have to pay an additional 10 000 VND ($0.43 / 0.36€) for parking.
What are the working hours of the Ban Gioc Waterfall?
The waterfall doesn’t have official working hours, and you can get in whenever you want. We planned to visit during the sunrise, and our host told us that we’re free to do that without any problem. We did so three days in a row and parked right in front of the waterfall. On the way back we passed through the office counter, but didn’t have to pay. We don’t mind paying, but nobody seemed to care. So if you want to come early, especially for photography, you can easily do that.
What not to do at the Ban Gioc Waterfall?
Please DO NOT ride the horses. Two horses are brought to the waterfall every day just so the tourists can take photos posing on them. I don’t understand why this is necessary and why you can’t enjoy the waterfall’s beauty without unnecessary photo props. You can still get beautiful photos of the place without being involved in this activity. Please don’t be one of those tourists.
If you really want some extra photo props, you can rent a traditional outfit.
What to do around Ban Gioc
You should also add the following places to your list if you’re visiting Ban Gioc.
1. Phat Tich Truc Lam Ban Gioc Pagoda
The pagoda is situated on a small hill which offers a beautiful view of the waterfall and the surrounding area. Come for sunset to get the best view.
Entrance fee: Free
2. Nguom Ngao Cave/Tiger Cave
The Tiger cave is located about 4 kilometers away from the waterfall. Even though Vietnam has more stunning caves, we enjoyed exploring this one. The cave highlights are a river flowing inside (you can hear it upon entering), a remarkable formation also known as the “Silver Tree,” a lotus-shaped rock, and the fact that you can explore the cave by yourself without strictly following the constructed path.
Entrance fee: 50 000 VND (1,8€ / $2,17) – insurance included in the price
3. Phong Nam Valley
This is more of a drone photography spot, but the area is so beautiful and peaceful. It’s about 30 kilometers away from the waterfall, so if you’re up for a drive, we highly recommend it.
Where to stay in Ban Gioc?
Ban Gioc area recently started gaining popularity, so don’t expect some fancy accommodations here. At least not yet. There are a few hotels in the area, but we’d highly recommend you staying in a homestay to get the best experience. Another reason is that those hotels have pretty bad ratings, and they’re pricey.
Most homestays have dorm rooms and a few private rooms, which is the case with many remote areas in Vietnam. So if you want a private room, you’ll have to plan and book your stay in advance.
We stayed at Lan’s homestay and loved it! Not because of the accommodation itself, but because of everything else. The room was pretty basic and only had mattresses on the floor. But it had a nice restaurant on the ground floor which is excellent if you need to put in some work while on the road, or you want to hang out with other people. There is also a small library with all kinds of books and a gallery of beautiful travel photos.
The location was perfect if you ask us! It was directly across the river where you can even take a swim during summer. However, keep in mind that it’s about 6 kilometers away from the Ban Gioc waterfall, so you will need a scooter.
Lan was also a great host. As a traveler herself, she told us some amazing stories. We plan to stay there again.
Where to eat in Ban Gioc?
We didn’t see restaurants around the falls, so we ate dinner every night at our homestay. Usually, the homestay is full of people, and Lan cooks dinner for all the guests to eat together as a family. Dinner costs 100 000 VND per person (3,5€ / $4,3), and the best thing is that everything we ate was vegetarian/vegan. Seriously, this was one of the most delicious foods we ate in Vietnam. Not to mention that most of the veggies are grown in Lan’s garden.
If you want to check out some local restaurant, apparently Nhà Hàng Phương Cưu is the one that has some reviews and a good Google rating, 3.9 stars. However, we always prefer to eat at our homestay (if possible) while traveling in remote places.
How long to stay in Ban Gioc?
We fell in love with the area, so I’d suggest you staying for a few days to explore everything fully. However, if you’re in a rush, one full day is enough to see all the Ban Gioc area highlights (not counting the transit time).