Tip: The helmets are all one size. If you have a small head (like me!), pack a baseball cap to wear under your helmet.

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The Ha Giang Loop, also known less commonly as the Ha Giang circuit, is a famous 3-4 day mountain loop in northern Vietnam. The loop takes you through windy mountain roads, passing some of the most beautiful views in the world on the way. When I say that I literally cried because it was so beautiful, I mean it. Driving through the mountain roads of the Ha Giang Loop was literally one of the best travel experiences that I’ve ever had. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor a few times.

My best description is that is feels like you are flying through the mystical land of Avatar at times. Which I promise, is a good thing.

Although it has been around for many years, it has gotten considerably more popular in recent years. That said, it is still a bit of a hidden gem, so I recommend booking a trip sooner rather than later! This article will dive into all of the logistics so you can plan the perfect trip on the Ha Giang Loop.

Prepare for your trip to Vietnam

There is no exact way to do the Ha Giang Loop, as there are a few different paths you can take, and it is possible to drive the loop in either direction. Some popular spots to visit on the loops include:

  • Heaven’s Gate Pass
  • Tam Son
  • Dong Van
  • Meo Vac
  • Du Gia

The things you’ll see and experience on the loop are hard to even put into words. There were moments when I felt like I was flying, zipping through landscapes that truly felt other-wordly. I took so many pictures and videos but truly none of them will do justice to the beauty of the Ha Giang Loop.

Windy mountain roads on the loop
Windy mountain roads on the loop

Before you dive into the article, here are some popular tours in Vietnam to check out:

Popular tours in Hanoi

Where is the Ha Giang Loop? 

The loop starts in Ha Giang, a mountain town 174 mile north of Hanoi, Vietnam. Parts of the loop border China. In fact, you are so close to the border that you can easily “see into China” at times.

Self drive, easy rider, or group trip?

I think the biggest question to decide when planning a trip on the Ha Giang Loop is if you want to self drive, go with an easy ride, ride solo, or join a group trip. We ended up doing a combination of all three, but let’s break down the choices.

Self-driving the Ha Giang Loop

Originally we were planning on doing the loop completely solo as Jon wanted to self-drive. However, there are some complications on the rules around self-driving, and honestly even after completing the loop they still aren’t completely clear.

The bottom line is that the local police are looking to make some extra $$ from tourists driving without proper licenses. What I can say is that a standard International Drivers Permit won’t work unless you have a motorcycle license in your own country, with an American license at least. This differs greatly from country to country.

You will also need to pick up a temporary license in Ha Giang. I would ask your hostel or homestay about this.

Easy Rider

The next option is to complete the Ha Giang Loop with an ‘easy rider”. This is an experience local driver who will drive the bike for you, while you ride along as a passenger princess. This is ultimately the option that felt safest to me as I am not a confident rider. And my driver was the absolute sweetest man and made me feel super safe throughout the entire loop.

Group Tour

If you are going to self-drive (or hirer an Easy Rider), then I highly recommend joining a small group trip. This is such an incredible way to meet some new people for a few days. And if you are self-driving, you will be under the protection of the group leader.

There are many different tours the operate the Ha Giang Loop. The most popular is probably the tour through Jasmine Hostel. Travelers on this tour tend to skew a bit younger – lots of solo backpackers in their late teens and early twenties. The group tours with Jasmine Hostel are huge, like 40-50 people, and always a party. If this is your vibe, then I think Jasmine Hostel is a great option.

We booked our tour through Ha Giang Hostel (even though we weren’t staying there). Our group was only 6-8 people (2 people only did 1 night) and the group age was mostly late twenties to mid thirties. If you’re traveling solo, or arriving into Ha Giang late the night before your loop, Ha Giang Hostel is a great, affordable lodging option.

How much does it cost?

As I mentioned above, I booked my tour with Ha Giang Hostel and paid $175 USD for 3 days, 2 nights with an easy rider. This cost includes your bike, driver, all meals and accommodation for the 3 days.  This price would be cheaper if I booked without a driver, which is what Jon did on our same tour. He paid around $75 for the 3 days, 2 nights, and then rented his bike through our homestay at a cheaper rate.

As a note, this price is technically for shared rooms at each of the homestay. However, since we were a couple they agreed to upgrade us to a private room for the same price. It never hurts to ask!

Bikes parked along the side of the road - our packs are wrapped in plastic and tied onto the back of the bike
Bikes parked along the side of the road – our packs are wrapped in plastic and tied onto the back of the bike

As a reminder, there are lots of different types of groups. We joined a small group with 8 people through Ha Giang Hostel but you can also join more of a “party group” with 50 people if that’s your vibe. 

Making our way up into the mountains on Day 1 of the Ha Giang Loop
Making our way up into the mountains on Day 1 of the Ha Giang Loop

Food on the loop

If you are planning to do the Ha Giang Loop with a group tour then all of the food throughout the loop is included. All of the meals, with the exception of breakfast, are served family style.

Here is what a typical meal on the Ha Giang Loop might look like:

  • white rice
  • spring rolls
  • grilled chicken or pork, sometimes both
  • egg omelette
  • fried tofu
  • sauteed veggies, usually some type of spinach and cabbage
Dining on the Ha Giang Loop
Dining on the Ha Giang Loop

How to get to Ha Giang (to start the loop)

If you’re arriving into Vietnam from outside of the country, then I recommend flying into Hanoi. You can find flights from all over the world arriving in Hanoi. 

To find the cheapest flight options from your city, you can use the search form below:

Hanoi has tons of transportation options, and is well connected to Ha Giang. The most popular way to get to Ha Giang from Hanoi is by bus. The bus journey from Hanoi to Ha Giang is approximately 6 hours.

You have the option of a sleeper bus or a limousine bus. Although they are all the same price (between $10-20), the sleeper bus is considerably more comfortable.

The downside of taking the sleeper bus, however, is that it can not enter into the center of the city. You’ll be dropped at a stop about 30 minutes from Hanoi and transferred the rest of the way via a taxi.

We booked our bus in Hanoi, and then booked a tour in person once we arrived in Ha Giang.

It is possible to book a tour that includes transportation to and from Hanoi, just double check to make sure that you’re getting a good deal.

Where to stay 

If you ride the Ha Giang loop with a tour then all of your accommodation will be booked for you in simple guesthouses along the loop. If you’re doing the loop on your own then I highly recommend booking your lodging in advance in the high season. The last thing you want to do is drive all day just to show up and have nowhere to stay.

We stayed the following places:

Book your lodging along the Ha Giang Loop

dong van hmong homestay on the ha giang loop
riders on the loop

If you want to chill in Ha Giang for a few extra days, then I recommend booking at Faithien Homestay just outside of town. This homestay is an absolute dream! It’s super basic so don’t be expecting much – some of the rooms only have a mattress on the floor and a curtain for a wall. But the family that runs this place are the sweetest. It is such a relaxing place to hang out before and after your loop. Plus, the nightly family-style dinners are so delicious! I promise you won’t leave this homestay hungry.

Book your stay at Faithien Homestay in Ha Giang

Or you can check out all of the other hotel and homestay options in Ha Giang.

Property around Faithien Homestay in Ha Giang, Vietnam
Property around Faithien Homestay in Ha Giang, Vietnam

What is the weather like in Ha Giang?

Even if you are planning to do the Ha Giang Loop when it is super warm in Hanoi and other Vietnamese cities, plan on packing layers for your Ha Giang Loop journey. The wind makes such a difference to the real feel of the temperatures. One minute you might be hot and sweaty, and the next absolutely freezing as you speed through the breezy mountain roads.

The weather in Ha Giang, like most mountains, is also super unpredictable and changes often. You will want to make sure that you have options ready for any weather condition. You might just experience all of the seasons in one day!

What to pack for the Ha Giang Loop

As I mentioned above, the biggest thing to understand about Ha Giang is that the weather is 1) unpredictable and 2) changes often. 

For this reason, you’ll want to make sure to pack layers! Here are the most important items to pack for the Ha Giang Loop in my opinion

Rain Jacket – if you end up driving in the rain, you’re going to want this. But more importantly, a rain jacket works as a great shield from the wind when you’re riding. Even on a super hot day you may feel chilly because of the wind. 

Protection from the dust – there are some parts of the loop that get super dusty. Sunglasses, and even a mask, are a great way to keep the dust out of your eyes and mouth. 

Long pants – while I did see some people riding in shorts, I found long pants to be way more comfortable. In fact, I even preferred jeans to leggings as they offered a bit more support for my bottom. 

Travel sandals – if you’re anything like me, you’re going to want change into something comfy once you’re done driving the day.! So a pair of comfy lightweight travel sandals are a must. I personally love my Teva sandals, and wear them most days when traveling.

Check out my favorite travel sandals

Light jacket – this is a great option to wear as a layer while on the loop I love my NanoAir from Patagonia. It is lightweight but warm, and packs up super small for when you don’t need it!

My favorite travel jacket

Travel tank top – maybe i’m just a creature of habit, but I have the same tank top in three colors and I travel full time with all of them. They are cute, comfy and versatile! The ultimate travel tank top in my opinion.

My favorite travel tank tops

When is the best time to do the loop?

The best time to do the Ha Giang Loop is from September to November and from March to May when the weather is relatively stable, although still unpredictable, and the landscapes are at their most beautiful.

But it really is always a bit of a gamble. You could still get 3 straight days of rain or 3 straight days of sun during these time periods.

We did our ride in late April and had almost perfect weather. It was mostly warm and sunny, with a bit of clouds and a drizzle of rain on our last day.

motorbikes along the side of the road on the ha giang loop vietnam
Riding the Ha Giang Loop with a group tour is a great way to meet new people!

Things to know before riding the Ha Giang Loop

Your stuff with be wrapped up on the back of the bike and not super accessible, wear a fanny pack or sling bag with anything you’ll want to access for the day.

Book your lodging in Ha Giang in advance – the best spots fill up!

The weather changes quickly — pack layers and wear sunscreen.

The helmets are one size fits all so if you have a small head like me I’d suggest bringing a baseball cap to wear underneath.

Your butt will hurt after a few long days on the bike. Wearing jeans was more comfortable than thin leggings for me.

Many of the local drivers don’t speak any English so having Google translate goes a long way.

All of the meals are served family style with meats, veggies and rice (they’re super yummy) and there will be lots of happy water (rice or corn water).

the beautiful mountains of the Ha Giang Loop
The beautiful mountains of the Ha Giang Loop

Visiting Vietnam? Here are some other articles to check out:

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