Cycling in north Vietnam Sapa to Dien Bien

Cycling in north Vietnam is customized for small group tours, adventure, intrepid travelers seeking an active, adventure cycling holidays to the north west Vietnam. The 4-day tours starts from Sapa town and takes you through Tram Ton, the “Heaven Gate” where you start riding downhill to Binh Lu, Phong Tho, Lai Chau province.

Trip Description

Cycling in north Vietnam is customized for small group tours, adventure, intrepid travelers seeking an active, adventure cycling holidays to the north west Vietnam. The 4-day tours starts from Sapa town and takes you through Tram Ton, the “Heaven Gate” where you start riding downhill to Binh Lu, Phong Tho, Lai Chau province. The 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 during the 4-day bicycle ride from Sapa to to Dien Bien Phu. Other stops are made when you reach Paso and Muong Lay. The mountain cycling tour can be arranged all year round. But the best time to travel this itinerary is April and October.

cycling in north Vietnam itinerary

Day 1: Cycling Sapa – Heavens Gate – Binh Lu – Tam Duong.

8:00: You will be met up with your Lotussia Travel guide at your hotel in Sapa. You will start out from Sapa by cycling up the Vietnam’s highest pass to “Heavens Gate”. A break at the  top of  the pass will give you  the opportunity  to enjoy  the picturesque view of  the Sapa valley and  the  long  snake-shaped  road,  which  you  will  pass  by  later.  You  will  then  continue  the  cycle through the fantastic mountainous landscape to Binh Lu, home to a number of ethnic villages such as  the Black Dao, The Giay…  You will  then  probably  need  the  help  of  the  supply  jeep  to  go  up another high pass, before enjoying the easy ride downhill all the way left to Tam Duong, where you stay overnight in a small hotel.

Day 2: Biking Tam Duong – Phong Tho – Paso.

If today falls on Thursday or Sunday, you will be able to visit the Tam Duong market, which always delivers  a  very  photogenic  display  of  White  Hmong,  Flower  Hmong,  Nhang  and  Pu  Na  ethnic
costumes.

You will start out from Tam Duong by taking the jeep to the pass between Tam Duong and Phong Tho. From there you have a 15 kilometers downhill ride on a dirt road before turning right towards the market  town of Phong Tho,  situated on a picturesque  tributary of  the Na River. A  small  road then  leads  you  through  the  unexplored  area  of  a  number  of  ethnic  villages  and  acres  of  lush riverside banana plantation to the small town of Paso.

Day 3: Bike Paso – Sin Ho – Lai Chau.

The road today weaves its way through the picturesque Na river valley, past many small villages of Red and White Hmong, Kho Mu and White Thai ethnic minorities. The sound of  the  river

running below follows you all along the ride until you reach to Lai Chau early afternoon. Then you will have the opportunity of having a walk around in the small town, soft trekking in the mountains, floating
downstream the river…or just taking a shower and relax over a cup of coffee or a beer.

Day 4: Cycle Lai Chau – Dien Bien Phu.

Today  is  the  easiest  day  on  the  trip. You will  start  out  by  jeep  for  the  first  30  km  before  cycling downhill  to Muong Lay village. The  road  from Muong Lay  to Dien Bien Phu  is sealed, making your ride more enjoyable. Again  today you will pass more ethnic villages of White Thai, Red and White
Hmong and Kho Mu minorities.

In the afternoon you will reach Dien Bien Phu and 4 amazing adventure days on the bikes are over. End of Lotussia Travel service.

Itinerary

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.

Price

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.

Inclusions

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
  • Accommodation
  • Meals
  • Snacks
  • Sightseeing entrance fees.
  • Bottled water.

Exclusions

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
  • Tips
  • Personal expenses

Visa

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.

Money

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)

Weather

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.

Safety

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.

Difficulty levels

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.

Easy

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.

Moderate

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.

Challenging

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.

Accommodation

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”.

Tour Guide

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.

Mechanic

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.

Vehicle

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.

Bikes repairs

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.

Packing

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.

Clothing

  • 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
  • Sandals

Toiletries

  • Tooth brush and tooth paste
  • Razor
  • Hair brush
  • Shampoo
  • Deodorant
  • Hand sanitizer

Miscellaneous

  • 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

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.

Community

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.

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