North west Vietnam tour takes you to the less travel places in the north-western Vietnam. Begin the tour in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital and travel through Mai Chau village, Son La, Tuan Giao, Dien Bien Phu, Lai Chau, Tam Duong, Sapa. You also enjoy a full day hike in Sapa villages before taking the overnight train to get back to Hanoi. If you arrive in Tam Duong on Saturday, you will have the opportunity to visit the Tam Duong market on Sunday morning. The market is open only once a week. You meet different ethnic groups such as Giay, Nhang, Tay, H’mong, Dzao…
Day 1: Hanoi – Mai Chau. Overnight in Maichau.
You will be met up by Lotussia local guide and driver at your hotel in Hanoi and head west towards Hoa Binh province. Following lunch in a White Thai village in Mai Chau valley we spend the afternoon walking through the various ethnic minority villages in this area. In the evening, enjoy the traditional music and dance shoe which will be performed by local villagers. Overnight in Mai Chau.
Day 2: Mai Chau – Son La. Overnight in Sonla.
After breakfast served by the Thai people under their house-on-stilts, we leave Mai Chau making our way west to Son La. Upon our arrival in Son La late in the afternoon we check into our local guesthouse where we spend the night. Son La is located in a scenic valley, inhabited mostly by the Thai, the Muong and the 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. Overnight in Sonla.
Day 3: Son La – Dien Bien Phu. Overnight in Dien Bien Phu.
Following breakfast we will visit the remains of former French prison and enjoy a dip in the local hot- springs. We then board our vehicle for the drive to Dien Bien Phu around 170 km away. It is a 7-hour journey on rough roads, but it is worth while as the scenery is dramatic. We will encounter many ethnic minority people along the way. In the late afternoon we arrive in Dien Bien town and check into our guesthouse for the night. Overnight in Dien Bien Phu.
Day 4: Dien Bien Phu – Lai Chau. Overnight in Lai Chau.
After breakfast this morning we will visit some war sites in Dien Bien including Dien Bien Phu museum, A1 Hill, De Castries Commandment Post and set out on our drive to Lai Chau, around 7 hours away. This is in quite a remote area and as a result some of the roads will be fairly rough and uneven. Yet this is to our advantage as there will be fewer tourists along the way to spoil our views of the beautiful and dramatic scenery which we will encounter along the way. Overnight in Laichau.
Day 5: Lai Chau – Tam Duong Sunday Market – Sapa. Overnight in Sapa.
From Lai Chau we drive east to Sapa, which is a five-hour drive. We will stop on the road to visit Tam Duong Sunday market which is one of the most colorful markets in Vietnam. The local hill tribe ethnic minority come from different surrounding area to the market where they will sell their homemade handicraft, agricultural products such as vegetable, fruits and also pork, ducks, chickens…
After visiting the market, we continue our drive to Sapa. As the roads become even rougher, the more deserted they get. But the rougher they get, the better the scenery becomes. The beautiful hill station of Sapa has the best-of-both worlds, breath-taking scenery and modern-day comforts. In the afternoon, we will have half day walking excursion to the Red Dzao village. Overnight in Sapa.
Day 6: Sapa full day trekking. Sapa – Laocai – Hanoi. Overnight on the train.
Today we start our trek with a five to six hour trek to villages of Cat Cat, Ta Van and Cau May situated in idyllic valleys, which are covered with a patchwork of rice terraces. Cat Cat is home to the H’mong people who originated from China, where they emigrated from about 300 years ago. The H’mong people are easily recognizable due to their dark clothing, usually blue or black. The dye is fashioned from the indigo or hemp plant that is native to the area. H’mong women wear long aprons with embroidered waistcoats and have their hair rolled up into a turban-like hat, whilst the men wear a black skullcap, long waistcoat and loose trousers.
In the late afternoon, we will be picked up again by our car and transferred to Lao Cai Railways Station four our journey back to Hanoi. Overnight on the train.
Day 7: Arrival in Hanoi.
Upon your arrival in Hanoi Railways Station, you will be welcome by our local driver and transferred to your hotel in Hanoi or directly to the airport for your onward flight. End tour.
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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 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 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 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 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 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.