Trip Description & Day-by-day Itinerary
Join this 9 day cycling northwest Vietnam you will enjoy pedaling much up and downhill on both paved roads and single dirt tracks, through local hill tribe villages and rice paddy fields. Begin your biking adventures in Sapa and bike through Tam Duong, Phong Tho, Lai Chau, Muong Lay, Dien Bien Phu, Tuan Giao, Son La, Moc Chau, Mai Chau and end it up in Hanoi. Opportunity to visit highland markets, war sites and to experience different ethnic cultures. The mountain biking tour is provided with visits to ethnic villages, offering the opportunity to meet up with the Flower H’mong, the Giay and the Lu people. You sometimes bike on the back roads, single tracks and off-road biking trails.
Cycling northwest Vietnam itinerary
Day 1: Overnight train to Laocai.
You will be met up with Lotussia Travel guide at your hotel in Hanoi and transferred to Hanoi train station where you will take a night train for Laocai. Train??? Departure at ??? (To be advised). Overnight on board train.
Day 2: Arrive Laocai. Travel to Sapa. Start cycling Sapa – Lai Chau (L,D).
Arrive Laocai early this morning. You will be greeted by Lotussia local team and transferred uphill to Sapa. Breakfast will be provided in a local restaurant in town. After breakfast, you will be transferred by our support vehicle towards Lai Chau province. Enjoy nice mountain view along the way. We first bike for about 3 hours uphill, with a stop over the Silver waterfalls for relax and take photos before we conquer the highest mountain pass Oquiho. From there you can see stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the lush forests belonging to Hoang Lien National Park. Continue traveling by car uphill to Heaven’s Gate, the highest stretch of road in Vietnam as well as the provincial border of Lao Cai and Lai Chau provinces. Here you will have the opportunity to view the magnificent scenery. Lunch will be provided en route. Stop en route to visit some villages of H’mong and Dao near BinhLu before we arrive in Lai Chau where we will spend the night.
Day 3: Continue biking Lai Chau – Muong Lay (B,L,D).
Today we will cycle downhill to Chan Nua and up to Lai Chau. We will have a couple of pretty big climbs and then follow the picturesque Nam Na river into Muang Say (aka “Old Lai Chau”). Some part of the road is bad, but we will have great view along the Nam Na river. Lunch will be provided en route. After lunch, we will have some rest before continue cycling towards Muong Lay. We will pass over the scenic Da river from Hang Tom suspension bridge before arriving in Muong Lay townlet. Check in to Muong Lay guesthouse for dinner and overnight.
Day 4: Continue biking Muong Lay – Dien Bien Phu (B,L,D)
Following breakfast we will have a nice day with stop over the red H’mong village then cycle up to Mathiho pass. Lunch will be provided en route. In the late afternoon we arrive in Dien Bien town and check into our guesthouse for the night. Overnight in Dien Bien Phu.
Day 5: Bike Dien Bien Phu – Tuan Giao (B,L,D)
After breakfast we will cycle for the whole morning to visit some war sites such as the A1 hill, De Castries bunker, Dien Bien museum. Lunch will be provided in a local restaurant in town. After lunch we will have easy ride through many Thai villages before we arrive in Tuan Giao around late afternoon. Overnight in Tuan Giao.
Day 6: Cycle Tuan Giao – Son La (B,L,D)
After breakfast, we will leave Tuan Giao, continue our cycling adventure towards Son La province. Son La is located in a scenic valley, inhabited by Thai, Muong and H’mong minority people. This area is historically important for its involvement in the Vietnamese struggle for independence from France during the first half the 20th century. Challenge 20 km winding climb uphill and 15 km downhill. Enjoy nice landscape of green rice fields and karst valley. Light traffic, wandering water buffaloes, Thai and Hmong kids. Overnight in Son La.
Day 7: Bike Son La – Moc Chau – Mai Chau (B,L,D).
After breakfast, leaving Son La for Mai Chau. Along the road we can stop the trip in Moc Chau for taking photos and enjoy the fresh air. The road passes beneath spectacular karst cliffs with the valley floor visible far below. Arrive Mai Chau late afternoon. Check into a local stilt houser for dinner and overnight.
Day 8: Mai Chau day walking tour (B,L,D).
We leave the village for a full day walking around. We will pass many different Thai hamlets, through rice fields, hill sides…Stop sometimes to visit local houses and talk with local people. And one of the highlights on this walk is to experience the everyday life and culture white Thai people and stay in their traditional house on stilts as honored guests. We will return to the village around late afternoon. Have a short break before having dinner and assist to the Thai traditional Music and Dance show, is performed by the village young girls and boys. Although they are not professional artistes, they will give you an unique experience of their culture life. Overnight in a stilt house.
Day 9: Mai Chau – Hanoi (B,L).
After breakfast, we have a cycling trip about 15km out of Mai Chau is up Thung Nhuoi pass, then we go 17km down to Man Duc and two more gentle hill to Doc Cun. We take a small route to Bai Chao onto Luong Son. Our bus pick us up and travel back to Hanoi. You will be dropped off at your hotel in Hanoi. End of tour.
Occasionally our tour itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travelers’ comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the service proposal. It’s very important that you print and review a final copy of your itinerary prior to travel. If you have any queries, please contact us.
Please note that while we operate successful cycling holidays in Vietnam throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.
Bargaining is not a strange fact in Vietnam. There are many places in Vietnam where people bargain, especially in open-air markets, street shops and rural areas. Therefore we are not good at bargaining. We don’t like this trick neither. Our time is precious and we appreciate your time as well. We would prefer spending our time on the tour arrangements to the price negotiation. Our price is fixed.
Our trip cost usually includes the following services. Please bear in mind Lotussia Travel is specialized in tailor-made trips. Trip cost vary depending on group size and other details.
- Vehicle for transfers and support
- Tour guide. The English-Speaking guide is provided by default. Other language may be available upon request (with extra charge).
- Bicycle rental
- Sightseeing entrance fees.
- Bottled water.
Unless required most of the following services are usually not included in our tour price.
- Visa (required)
- Flight/Train tickets.
- Accommodation pre/post trip.
- Travel insurance
- Personal expenses
Visitors are required to have a valid visa to enter Vietnam. A one month tourist visa is usually sufficient for most visitors, though it is possible to arrange three months or six month – multiple entry visa for regular visitors.
The official national currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND), but the US dollar is widely accepted in Vietnam. However, small towns and the villages the VND is preferred, ATM are available in all major cities and towns, tourist destinations, Vietcombank, Agriculture banks are the two largest networks with a limit a single withdraw limit of 2,000,000 d (95 USD). Most major currrencies can be exchanged in Vietnam, but the USD is the most preferred. The exchange rate 1 USD = 22.400 VND (Nov. 2016)
Vietnam has a tropical monsoon climate. Broadly speaking, the weather in Vietnam is dictated by two seasons – the southwest monsoon from April to September and the Northeast monsoon from October to late march or early April.
Due to regional climate differences, there are no right or wrong seasons to visit Vietnam. The north Vietnam is cool, damp in winters between November and December and February with tempreture in Hanoi falling to around 15oC. The summer months from April to October are hot and dry. The best time visit Vietnam is spring (February – April) or Autunm (late September – December) when it is not so humid. The weather turns quite cold and wet in January and this continues to march. The humidity can prove oppresive from May to the early September.
Wearing a helmet is compulsory on all our biking adventures. Our tour guide often carry first aid kit while riding. Please follow your guide while biking, and much attention is required while you cross streets.
To assist you visualize how our bike trip is difficult, we have graded our Vietnam cycling tours into three categories, easy, moderate, and challenging. We group many factors into consideration into this grading, including distant covered, terrain, altitude, and vehicle support.
Involves cycling for up to two to three hours a day at easy pace and usually, less than 3 days in duration. The cycling distances is around 15 – 30 km per day. There are likely to be no steep and sustained descents as well as demand for technical riding. We will normally ride on flat roads. Suitable for bikers who enjoy occasional weekend riding on trails at home. Push bikes are sometimes used for these itineraries.
Involves biking for up to six hours a day at a steady pace and are usually between three to five days in duration. The cycling distance is about 35 – 55 km per day. Sometimes it can be long flat rides or medium ride with fews up and downhill climbs. The support vehicle will not always be available. We will need a good level of fitness. We use either mountain bikes or road bikes for these itineraries.
Involves biking in mountainous areas with big climbs for up to seven or eight hours a day and usually more than a week in duration. Cycling distance is about 60 – 80 km per day. There will be steep and sustained ascents and descents. The support vehicle will not always be available. These trips will provide a real sustained workout even for fit and experienced mountain bikers.
When cycling we mostly stay in small hotel, guesthouse or homestays. Some are more basic than others! Bear in mind that some of the places we overnight in are not on the standard tourist trail. In larger cities and towns, our hotels are generally more western style and are three or four hotels. Camping is not available on cycling tours in Vietnam unless it is required and this should be booked months in advance. Please see the details at the session “inclusions”.
Most of our tour guides speak English. Some other speak French. Few speak other language such as German, Russian, Spanish. All our guides have great knowledge of history, local culture, and religions of the area where you are cycling. Our guides have been trained in this field and is fully licensed in tour guiding.
We arrange a mechanic, with extra charge only for big groups or when it is required. When there is no mechanic, our guide will take care of problem which may occur during the bike ride.
Depending on the nature of the tour, our cycle journeys will be accompanied by an air-conditioned car/minibus cover the larger overland sections. We often use mini bus or bus for transfer and back up (guided tours).
- 1 – 4 people: we use minivan to support and carry bikes. Sometimes we use car with support truck.
- 5 – 8 people: we use one van and one truck to support
- 9 people – over: we use one bus and truck to support
We only provide bike rental and truck to support for self-guided bike tours.
Basic spares and tools kit are generally carried by our guide or mechanic or on the support vehicle, although we can not guarantee having spares for every conceivable problem.
Food and drinks
All the meals which, are mentioned in itinerary (B=Breakfast; L=Lunch; D=Dinner), are included in the tour price. Most of meals are Vietnamese local food. Vegetarians are certainly welcome and are always accommodated, please let us know of any dietary concerns at time of booking. Beverage and alcoholic drink are not included at mealtime or in restaurants.
Snacks and water
When we transfer, ride by minibus (no cycling day), our bottled waters are always available for you in the car/van. When we have cycling days, we will offer cold water (summer) plus fresh tropical fruits, soft drinks. Please find out what is included in our service proposal.
Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for travelling in Vietnam. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat is a good idea in the rainy season. During the winter months warm clothing is needed for visiting the north of Vietnam. Visitors should not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing when visiting religious buildings such as pagoda, temple and shoes should be removed before entering a private home.
What you take will naturally depend upon where you are travelling and the style of journey you are undertaking, and it can often be difficult to decide what to pack. Nevertheless, the following should act as a useful checklist of essential items worth thinking about taking.
- 2 pairs of riding shorts
- 2 riding jerseys (quick-dry)
- 2 pairs of quick dry socks for cycling
- Comfortable shoes for biking and walking
- Riding gloves
- 2-3 t-shirts or casual shirts
- Trousers or jeans
- 1-2 pairs of casual socks for non-cycling activities
- 3-5 sets of underwear (quick-dry)
- Cool-weather jacket or rain jacket
- Extra layers and gloves for cooler season or climate (thin, thermal, water-wicking)
- Bathing suit
- Tooth brush and tooth paste
- Hair brush
- Hand sanitizer
- Passport, wallet and ID
- Health insurance card
- Travel insurance card
- Cash and/or credit cards
- Camera (with spare battery)
- Plastic bags (for dirty laundry, wet clothes)
- Electronic chargers (for camera, e-reader, cell phone)
- Adaptors or convertors
Tipping for good services is always appreciated. It is customary, though not compulsory, to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of the tour. Hotels and station porters should also be tipped a small amount for.
Prior to our tours, we contact and work with local community leaders to make sure we are welcome and in a manner that minimizes negative social and cultural impacts. We visit local development and community projects specific to the region, encouraging customers to donate and assist such a projects in appropriate and sustainable manner.
Where make sure that where and whenever possible our tours positively benefit the local community. We stayed at locally owned accommodation and visit cottage industries for local handicraft souvenir, generating income for local business. We often employ, hire support team such as local guide, motor-taxi drivers, cook assistants on all trips to ensure that the local community benefit not only short term but with increased employment opportunities for the future.