Northern Vietnam Bike Trip Sapa Bac Ha Si Ma Cai 5 Days is arranged in Lao Cai province, northern Vietnam taking to such travel places as Sapa, Bac Ha, Can Cau, Si Ma Kai, Muong Khuong. Begin the 5-day cycling adventure with an overnight train trip from Hanoi to Lao Cai. Arriving in Lao cai, you start the tour cycling uphill until you reach Sapa town. After spending one night in Sapa, you continue your bicycle holidays biking downhill to Lao Cai, using off-road, single dirt biking trails. The next days you cycle to Bac Ha and Can Cau where you may have the opportunity to visit either the Bac Ha market, open on Sunday, the Can Cau market on Saturday. The biking trail from Can Cau to Si mai kai offers great views with lots of stops en route to visit hill tribe villages. The last day you cycling from Muong Khuong back to Lao Cai where you take the overnight train to get back to Hanoi. Travel this 5-day cycling adventure, you mostly cycle on paved roads with up and downhill ride. The tour is ideal for individual travelers, small group tours and those seeking a challenging bicycle tour to the northern Vietnam.
Map of northern Vietnam bike trip
Northern Vietnam bike trip itinerary
Day 1: Lao Cai – Sapa.
Arrive Lao Cai early this morning. You will be greeted by Vietnam Cycling team and transferred uphill to Sapa. Breakfast will be provided in a local restaurant in town. Enjoy a day biking through the Sapa valley. At first on a paved road for 7km, but then on single-track paths gradually ascend to the H’mong village of Sa Seng and then onto Hang. Then bike fast on high elevation for an hour before descend along a narrow single dirt track to the heart of Muong Hoa Valley. Get to the center of Hau Thao Commune in mid afternoon. You will be picked up by our car for a 20 minutes road transfer back to Sapa. Dinner and overnight in Sapa.
Day 2: Sapa – Lao Cai.
Begin the ride directly from Sapa and straight away flying along on a 6 kilometer stretch of single-track which gets through villages and paddy fields. Then a quiet country lane leads to another long section of single-track, at first involving a challenging climb and then a fast flowing downhill to join a remote jeep track. The jeep track climbs gently at first, but then provides an enormous, fast descent of over 1500 meters, before hitting tarmac for the final 30 kilometer stretch to Lao Cai City. This final 30 kilometer road section is a lot of fun as there is the opportunity for engaging conversation and sign language with curious locals! This is a long and challenging day with around 8 hours on the trail. Dinner and overnight in Laocai.
Day 3: Lao Cai – Bac Ha.
After breakfast, load all the bikes onto support vehicles for a 45-minute transfer to the small village of Phong Nien. The riding begins on a good hard pack track along the side of a quiet road. Climbing gently for the first 10 kilometers, we will be able to watch the local villagers working in the fields, dressed in their traditional costumes. We then descend steeply for another 7 kilometers to a small village and footbridge that crosses the Song Chay River. Here, we board one of the traditional Vietnamese longboats and transfer for half an hour along a stunning Yangtse style river ride to a Tay village of Trung Do and lunch at a local home. The afternoon ride featured with a tough alpine switchback road that climbs 1000 meters over 17 kilometers, before a final 5 kilometer descent into the highland market town of Bac Ha. Check in the Sao Mai Hotel and the rest of the afternoon is at leisure.
Day 4: Bac Ha – Si Ma Cai.
Breakfast and then bike straightly from Bac Ha. The first 12 kilometers on tarmac is a steady climb of 650 meters to a pass (1508m.), followed by a single dirt track through an untouched region over 16 km kilometers into Can Cau village. Lunch break in a Flower H’mong homes. In the afternoon, we will take an ascend for nearly 2 hours along another single track from Can Cau to Quan Than San Commune, then follow a single path for 14 km slightly downhill to Si Ma Cai town, situated among mountains and hills near the Chinese border. Dinner and overnight in a simple hotel in Simakai.
Day 5: Si Ma Kai – Lao Cai – Hanoi.
Breakfast and load all bikes and luggage on the support vehicle for 20km transfer Ta Gia Khau Commune. Then biking along a newly build tarmac which runs along a branch of the Chay River for 52km with three ascending and descending. It is great challenge but support vehicle always follow the group to support at any time. Arriving to Muong Khuong Town in mid afternoon, load bikes on supporting van and transfer 55km to Lao Cai. Freshen up, relax and dinner before boarding the night train for Hanoi. Northern Vietnam Bike Trip Sapa Bac Ha Si Ma Cai 5 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.