Biking Ho Chi Minh Trail Vietnam 14 Days offers chance to discover the legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail that was a labyrinth of complex truck routes, foot and bicycle paths and river transportation. In memory of the important role it played during the Vietnam War, a new Highway has been built.
In just under two weeks, this tour goes from Hanoi to Saigon via some of Vietnam’s most important historical and cultural sites such as Mai Chau, Phong Nha, Hue, Hai Van Pass, Hoi An. The breathtaking landscapes vary from towering cloud-shrouded peaks, shimmering rice paddy fields, lush jungle forests and long stretches of pristine white sandy beaches. Traveling by bike, boat, bus and airplane gives visitors the best opportunity to discover Vietnam’s rich diversity, and pays homage to this fascinating support route.
Map of biking Ho Chi Minh trail
Itinerary of biking Ho Chi Minh trail
Day 1: Hanoi Arrival.
Arrive at No Bai airport and be met by our guide and driver before being brought to your hotel. Depend on your flight, we can take an optional guided stroll through Hanoi’s bustling old quarter. In the evening, enjoy some traditional Vietnamese cuisine at one of the city’s finest restaurants. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 2: Hanoi – Mai Chau.
We depart Hanoi early for Mai Chau and the drive is just superb. From the top of Cun Mountain, one can admire the panorama of Mai Chau’s green valley with stilt houses dotting the landscape. An early lunch will be served at Poom Coong village before we jump on our bikes and cycle on a mixture of good single-track paths and undulating rough jeep trails to the Thai village of Cun Pheo. The views are remarkable as we pass through villages, hot springs, suspension bridges and across rice paddies. Overnight in Mai Chau.
Day 3: Mai Chau – Ngoc Lac – Yen Cat.
An early morning start allows us to beat the heat of the day. Our journey takes us away from the river and through the range of mountains that stretch from Mai Chau to Cuc Phuong to Hoa Lu. There are great photo ops of the always present and looming Karst limestone cliffs and lush vegetation. Although we have tarmac all the way, the riding can get a bit tough due to the undulating terrain. At Ngoc Lac, we get on bus and transfer our weary legs to Nhu Xuan. Overnight in a local hotel in Nhu Xuan.
Day 4: Nhu Xuan – Tan Ky – Do Luong – Kim Lien – Vinh.
Today the ride will be on the newly built two-lane Ho Chi Minh Highway. There is not a lot of traffic however, and the road makes for smooth fast riding. For those who prefer it, there is always the older highway of dirt and gravel that weaves around the new one and allows for plenty of exploring possibilities. A must-see en route is the birthplace of president Ho Chi Minh at Kim Lien village. This province has a reputation for producing charismatic revolutionary leaders; for not only Ho Chi Minh was born here but also Phan Boi Chau – another fervent anti-colonialist. From Kim Lien, we’ll most likely transfer by bus or car to Vinh city.
Due to the total distance some sections will be transfer by car, depending on the strength of the group and cycling conditions.
Day 5: Vinh – Pho Chau – Huong Khe.
After breakfast, the shuttle will bring us back to Ho Chi Minh Highway. We disembark at Pho Chau, where our cycling begins. The roads today wind their way through lush jungle and beautiful villages nestled under the shadow of the historic Truong Son Mountain range. We reach Huong Khe at the end of the day; a remote town in Nghe An province. Overnight in standard guesthouse.
Day 6: Huong Khe – Phong Nha National Park.
After a relaxing breakfast, we continue riding on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. From Huong Khe the mountains soar skyward and the road winds its way along the hillsides. The landscape is amazing, the road tranquil. We ride up to 80km and then transfer to Phong Nha National Park. The park contains one of the most spectacular caves in Vietnam, which was formed approximately 250 million years ago and was used as a hospital and ammunition depot during the war. The entrance still shows marks of aircraft attacks. There are community projects underway with Flora and Fauna International and it may be possible to visit village initiatives and learn more about the forests. Overnight in a standard National Park Guest House.
Day 7: Phong Nha National Park – Dong Hoi.
After breakfast we’ll visit the spectacular Phong Nha cave by boat and then wander through the cavern, past ancient foundations of Cham ruins. The stalactites and stalagmites here are breathtaking. Exploring the cave generally takes a few hours and then we return to the hotel. Here we hop back on the bikes and travel toward the small town of Dong Hoi.
Day 8: Dong Hoi – Khe Sanh.
Branching temporarily from the HCM highway, we drive approx 100km along a flat stretch of Highway 1 to visit the Vinh Moc Tunnels; a 2.8km labyrinth where the Vietnamese hid from American troops during the Vietnam War. The villagers of Vinh Moc built the tunnels in 1966 when they were being heavily bombarded. 30km from Dong Ha we pick up cycling again across the DMZ, (better known as the 17th Parallel). The road is quite flat and makes for good cruising! Enroute we will pass relics left over from the war and end up in the Vietnam/Laos border town of Khe Sanh, where some of the bloodiest battles took place. Overnight in a hotel in Khe Sanh.
Day 9: Khe Sanh – A Luoi.
After completing our exploration of Khe Sanh, we start to pedal along H9 to Dakrong Bridge and then turn off onto the Southern section of the HCM Trail. We begin our ascent back into the mountains along an extraordinary remote road to the tiny town of A Luoi. The route passes through dense forests and some wild landscapes. A Luoi is home to a multitude of ethnic minorities and the infamous Hamburger Hill.
Day 10: A Luoi – Hue.
After breakfast, we leave the HCM Trail for good and pedal 60km for Hue. The ride is relatively easy as the terrain is flat. The landscape is dotted with quaint villages, jungles and rivers. We finish our ride at the Bach Ho Bride and hop on a bus to transfer the last 12km to Hue.
Day 11: Hue – Lang Co – Hai Van Pass – Hoi An.
Today we turn south again to go to Hoi An (The route passes over the insane Hai Van pass (‘Pass of the Ocean Clouds’), one of the most famous stretches of road in all of Vietnam. Cycle via Lang Co beach and conquer a couple of 2km passes before hitting beautiful coastal roads. Despite the passing of 200 years and the ravages of weather and war, the centre of Hoi An remains much the same as it was in its heyday. A walking tour is the best way to see the wooden-fronted houses that once belonged to the town’s prosperous merchants, the Japanese-covered Bridge and the wonderful market. Hoi An is one of the best places in Vietnam to shop for souvenirs at bargain prices including silk, handicrafts, antiques and paintings. Five kilometers from the centre of town is Cua Dai Beach, popular with both locals and visitors alike for its warm sea and seafood stalls.
Day 12: Hoian at leisure.
Enjoy a full day free at leisure or you can take optional ride to Hoian’s countryside.
Day 13: Hoi An – Saigon.
Spend a relaxing morning at your leisure before driving 30km to Da Nang for a flight to Saigon. On arrival in Saigon check into the hotel and freshen up before taking a city tour to discover this dynamic city. We will show you the former Presidential Palace as well as the Notre Dame Cathedral. In the evening enjoy a scrumptious farewell meal at one of Saigon’s top restaurants.
Day 14: Departure.
At your leisure until transfer to the airport for onward flights. Biking Ho Chi Minh Trail Vietnam 14 Days is completed.
Vietnam Cycling is a Hanoi bike tour operator housing an experienced team of biking guide, bike mechanic, driver, cycling tour consultant and bicycle specialists. We can create a unique, custom-designed independent itinerary that is fully adapted to your needs, whether you are traveling solo, with family and friends, or as a group.
The itinerary above is only a sample that can be re-designed to better fit your needs and/or budget. Please click here to let us know what you are interested in adding or excluding to customize a selected itinerary or to design a completely new program just for you.
Most of our trips begin from our bike garage (both private and group tours), so transportation from your hotel to our bike shop (or v.v) is not included in the quote. We can arrange the service (with extra charge), and reservation needs to be made in advance.
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. We would prefer spending our time on the tour arrangements to the price negotiation. Our price is fixed.
Depending on the type of the bicycle tour as well as the proposed option, the following services may be included in the trip price.
- English-speaking local guide. Other language may be available for private bike tours (with extra charge).
- Lunch with simple Vietnamese dishes.
- Sightseeing entrance fees.
- Some snacks and bottled water provided while cycling.
Please bear in mind Vietnam Cycling specializes in tailor-made trips, so the price varies depending on the size of your group, date of tour as well as other details. Please contact us for more details.
Unless required most of the following services are not included in the tour price.
- Flight/Train tickets.
- Bicycle rental (option).
- Bike mechanic (option).
- Meals (option).
- Travel insurance (required).
- Personal expenses.
Visitors are required to have a valid visa to 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 VND (95 USD). Most major currencies can be exchanged in Vietnam, but the USD is the most preferred. The exchange rate 1 USD = 23,280 VND. Please visit local bank’s website for updated information.
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 temperature 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 Autumn (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 oppressive 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 few 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 homestay. 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 star hotels (price option).
Camping is not available on cycling tours in Vietnam unless it is required and this should be booked months in advance. Camping is only available in a limited number of places such as Cat Ba island beach, Cuc Phuong national park…Please see the details on the quote.
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 bike mechanic only for large groups or when it is required (with surcharge). 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 – 2 travelers: we use minivan to support and carry bikes. Sometimes we use a car for passengers and a truck for transport of the bikes.
- 3 – 6 people: we use one minivan for passengers and one truck for the bikes.
- 7 – 12 people: we use one bus (coach) for passengers and one truck for the bikes.
We provide bike rental and truck for self-guided bike tours.
We sometimes use local push-bikes (single-speed bicycles) where possible or when it is required. In this case, our cars will be arranged as follows.
- 1 – 2 passengers (with a tour guide): 4 seat car.
- 3 – 6 passengers (with a tour guide): 15/16 seat minivan.
- 7 – 12 passengers (with a tour guide): 29 seat coach/bus.
Basic spares and tools kit are generally carried by our guide or bike 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 drinks 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 are also available in the car/van. Please take a look at the “Inclusions” section on our our service proposal to see whether the service is included in the price. Please note drinks are not included at mealtime or in restaurant.
Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for traveling 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 traveling 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.
We recommend about 7-10 USD/traveler/day for the tour guide, about 3-5 USD/traveler/day for the driver (or the mechanic). Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality, the length and the difficulty of your trip.
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.
Need further information? Check our FAQ page here or contact us.