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190 Responses to CONTACT

  1. liz says:

    I have a Vietnamese motorbike license and would like to rent a bike while I am in Dalat. Can you recommend a company in Dalat that does daily rentals? Thanks for a great blog! Liz

    • Hi Liz,

      I can’t recommend a specific bike rental company in Dalat but it shouldn’t be hard to find a bike to rent there – you could start by inquiring at your accommodation in Dalat or perhaps try contacting Phat Tire Ventures.

      If you do find a specific rental company, please let me know.

      Tom

  2. derek woodhead says:

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for your previous advice.

    My wife and I are UK citizens travelling to Vietnam for 11 days as tourists on 25th October 2017 (we will be flying in from China which we are first visiting).

    Could you please advise us if we need a tourist visa for Vietnam ?

    (Our understanding from the UK Foreign Office is that we do not as there is an exemption ; however the Vietnam Govt website says we do and makes no mention of an exemption, and I can’t get hold of them on their London embassy phone no)

    Many thanks
    Derek

    • Hi Derek,

      I think UK citizens are exempt for stays of 15 days or less, but visa regulations change regularly so it’s very difficult to keep abreast of them. I therefore can’t say with any certainty. You should try to check with an embassy or consulate in China before you arrive in Vietnam, and consult as many sources as possible.

      Tom

  3. Derek Woodhead says:

    Hi Tom,

    Many thanks for your prompt and helpful reply.

    Could you please let us know during the last week of October ; is there a prevailing direction of onshore wind on the island ?

    Also, does this wind normally get strong and create choppy seas ? (if so we would prefer a more sheltered beach)

    Many thanks,

    Derek

    • Hi Derek,

      I’m not certain about wind direction. October is the tail end of the rainy season – still low season on Phu Quoc – so you may find that the winds are still strong. Sao will probably be more sheltered at that time of year.

      Tom

  4. Derek Woodhead says:

    Hi Tom,
    Well done on your website – really good information !
    6 of us from UK are going to Phu Quoc for 10 days on 26th October, mainly to relax, snorkel and explore the island.
    Are there any beaches which are good for snorkelling from?
    We would like to stay at a beach side hotel for 5 days and then (for change of scenery) another beach location for 5 days. Are there any beaches / hotels you might recommend (mid range price) ?
    Many thanks
    Derek Woodhead

    • Hi Derek,

      Snorkeling is not bad on Ganh Dau beach and Vung Bau beach. But you can also easily arrange snorkeling trips on a boat from your accommodation – there are a few tiny islets and reefs that can easily be reached by boat.

      So perhaps spend 5 of nights on Ganh Dau and the other 5 on Vung Bau or Ong Lang. I’ve included some of my picks for accommodation on those beaches in my Phu Quoc Beaches Guide – take a look and see if you like any of them.

      If you’re planning to book your accommodation online, please consider doing it through my website – more info about that here.

      Thanks and I hope this helps,

      Tom

  5. Josie says:

    Hello!

    Wow just found your site and am blown away by your love for Vietnam and the resulting details. I was so impressed at your generosity I also made a small donation.

    I am having my first holiday adventure and break away from raising children alone in TEN years…. so am SO excited and thrilled to have chosen Vietnam. The only barrier is my trip is only ten days.

    I love the beauty of the natural lands and water ways and would like to just absorb village life as well as spend a few days in a lovely beach side resort style place…. not much of a city girl and def do not want to visit any war sites out of respect.

    Was wondering what itinerary you could recommend that would take in all of this outside Ho Chin Minh (where I land and depart) up to Ho An . I would like to be in Ho An for the lantern festival on the 4 and then probably fly back for my flight on the 6th.

    Any light you can shed would be appreciated!

    Also because of diabetes I cant eat sugar and see that so much of the food contains sugar… do you know any meals that definitely dont contain sugar?

    Kind regards
    Josie

    • Hi Josie,

      Yes, there is a lot of sugar in many Vietnamese dishes, so this might be a problem. ‘không đường’ means ‘no sugar’, but you should also find out how to stay ‘diabetes’ in Vietnamese too. In hotels etc it shouldn’t be hard for them to deal with this, but with street food you might find it more difficult.

      There are many places to visit along the coast between Saigon and Hoi An: the popular destinations from south to north are Mui Ne and Nha Trang. These are good places and easy for transport. But if you want something a little less touristy, try Ho Tram, Cam Lap, and Quy Nhon, which are all lovely.

      I hope this helps get you started planning an itinerary.

      Tom

  6. Emma says:

    Great website!

    Can you recommend any reputable companies in HCMC that offer motorbike tours? I’ve never ridden before and want to make sure I’m in safe hands! So I will be sitting in the pillion seat.

    Would very much like to do the HCMC to Dalat tour – is it best in 3 or 4 days?

    Thanks
    Emma

  7. Adam Mitchell says:

    Firstly, this site is a wealth of knowledge. Thank you!
    I am trying to get a last minute Typhoid shot but it is pretty difficult and expensive in the US. Any experience getting vaccines or malaria meds in Saigon?
    Also, I love the bike box. Any suggestions on a bigger one or saddle bag style ones? I would like to lock my stuff up but since there will be 2 of us I think one box will be a bit small. Cheers!

    • Hi Adam,

      Yes, I’m sure you could get the typhoid shot in Saigon, but you’d do it through an international hospital so it might work out fairly expensive anyway. Try contacting Victoria Healthcare in Saigon and asking them – I’ve had good experiences with them.

      GIVI has an office in Saigon and they can fix back and side boxes to your bike if you want. The address is 480 Nguyen Chi Thanh Street, District 10. Also many of the rental places offer some kind of saddle bags or boxes or racks.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  8. Kieran says:

    Hi Tom,
    Awesome website! Thanks so much for putting up all of this info. I have literally been reading for hours now :)

    I was hoping for some advice. Me and about 5 mates are looking at doing a bit of a road trip in Jan for about a week of riding.

    We are thinking of riding from HCMC to Nha Trang and back. Taking the Coast there and then going via Dalat on the way back using the ‘back ways’. We have all ridden motorbikes previously (In Australia) but none of us in Vietnam. Is this achievable? too ambitious? would there be something better to see during this time?

    Also is there anywhere where you could recommend are a must see along this route? As we are only there for a short time I don’t think that budget will be a problem, just time!

  9. Aaron says:

    Hi Tom, glad i stumbled across your site!

    Right back to basis. Me and a friend or two are looking at dong a motorbiking tour likely mid 2018. Apologies if you have addressed this elsewhere else, but what is required in the way of a motorbike license? I hear you don’t NEED one, but if we’re involved in an accident there could be trouble. Plus no insurance. Can you expand on this or confirm? We definitely want a license for insurance purposes but unsure how to get this from New Zealand? Thanks heaps.

    • Hi Aaron,

      Yes, a license is legally required, but in reality most foreigners riding motorbikes in Vietnam do not have one. However, the traffic police are getting stricter these days. In general, if you get stopped you will just have to pay a regular ‘fine’ (bribe) of around $10-$20. But in some rare cases, and in some ‘hotspots’, the police may impound your bike. Also, no travel insurance will cover you without a license.

      I think it is the case now that international driving licenses are accepted (you can apply for this in your home country). You can also convert your driving license from your home country to a Vietnamese license fairly easily in Saigon. However, the process usually takes at least a few days.

      I’m not sure if it’s possible to do all this from abroad. You’re best bet is to contact some of the reputable motorbike rental companies here in Vietnam (who you should be contacting anyway to get your motorbike) and asking them for more details on the license situation. Try contacting Rent a Bike Vietnam, Tigit Motorbikes, Style Motorbikes, and Flamingo – they are all reliable companies. There are links to all of them in the right sidebar and bottom of all my pages. You can mention Vietnam Coracle if you like, they know me.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  10. Mahtab Chhapkhanawala says:

    Hi, So we coming for a wedding to Vietnam in Hoi An to a beach resort Sunrise Premium on the 23rd of Feb 2018. Few of us want to branch out after that and do a biking tour. Can you suggest what would be a good option to go from Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh. We love the mountains ,quite small villages and towns and the beaches and have approx 6 days to spare.
    Since we first landing at Hanoi and taking the Halong bay cruise before the wedding thats why we wanted to go towards Ho chi Minh.
    Also if few do not ride is hiring cars an option. Do you have a link to your on your page so that we could give you that business.
    Also Qudos on writing this Blog, its great and so informative.

    • Hi Mahtab,

      Great to hear you will be coming to Vietnam next year.

      From Hoi An down to Ho Chi Minh I would suggest going inland (west) from Hoi An into the mountains on road QL14B to Thanh My. Then turning south on the Ho Chi Minh Road (AH17) all the way to Pleiku (see sections 2 and 3 of this guide for details). Then head back to the coast (due east) on road QL19 to Quy Nhon. From here turn south on Highway QL1A along the coast to Chi Thanh before joining smaller coast roads all the way to Dai Lanh Beach and rejoining Highway QL1A to Nha Trang. Then follow the Ocean Road all the way back to Ho Chi Minh City (for a map and links to more information about the coastal roads between Quy Nhon and Ho Chi Minh take a look at the map in my Beach Bum route and click the map links to my relevant guides).

      I’m not sure if foreigners are allowed to drive rental cars in Vietnam yet – you can check with the rental companies. If you’re planning to go by motorbike then Tigit Motorbikes, Rent a Bike Vietnam, and Style Motorbikes all have shops in Danang (next to Hoi An): you can rent bikes from any of them and give them back in Ho Chi Minh. There are links to all three rental companies in the right sidebar and bottom of all my pages. You can mention Vietnam Coracle if you like, they know me.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  11. Brian says:

    Hi Tom,

    I just wanted to start by thanking you for this unbelievably fantastic resource. I just had a couple of questions – a friend and I will be spending November and December motorbiking Vietnam and would like to start by flying into Hanoi, doing the Ha Giang Extreme loop, then onto the Northeast Pastoral loop, before heading back to Hanoi and then down south along your “The Big One” route. We decided given the weather it makes more sense to go from North to South. We are also likely to use your advice and go with tiggit motorcycles so we can ensure the bikes we used have been maintained. My first question is:

    1) how should we get from Hanoi to Ha Giang? Should we use the bikes we get from tiggit and ride up, or just rent bikes for Ha Giand and Northeast loops and then pickup the tiggit bikes when we get back to Hanoi to head south?

    2) Your “the big one” route is written assuming th eraser is traveling south to north, I assume it would be easy enough to do the same ride from north to south?

    Thanks in advance and if you have any other suggestions we’d greatly appreciate it!

    • Hi Brian,

      Yes, I think it makes sense to ride north to south at that time of year. There’s no problem riding The Big One ‘backwards’.

      I think you should rent your bikes from Tigit in Hanoi and ride them to Ha Giang and do the full loop, via the Northeast, back to Hanoi, because if you rent from Ha Giang you’ll have to return the bike back to Ha Giang after. Tigit may be able to transport your bikes from Hanoi to Ha Giang (for a fee, of course), but that would be well worth it. Any option might be to put your Tigit bike on the night bus from Hanoi to Ha Giang – however, I’ve never done this myself; other readers have mentioned it in the past.

      Please note that road conditions on the Northeast Loop are notoriously unpredictable: you should bear this in mind when estimating time etc. In particularly, there have been very bad reports about the road along the Chinese border behind Ban Gioc waterfall – it’s best to avoid it. I will be riding the north for 2 months this autumn so look out for updates on my site for all those routes.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  12. Dawn says:

    Your site and writing are superb and inspiring! Just as I have a question you seem to answer it or provide new ideas. It’s been more than 10 years since I’ve been to Vietnam and I plan to visit in August (hot and wet I know). I will be spending a good portion of the time in and around Hanoi and the north (per your suggestions). I was hoping to have a few solid days of beach R&R. Phu Quoc is unlikely but I thought I’d monitor the weather just in case it provides a few clear days. What would be your top beach recommendations for end of August? Binh dinh is what I gathered from your site—is it accessible from Hoi An? I’m in love with Mango Bay on Phu Quoc and am hoping to find something similar (fingers crossed more affordable;).

    If you can spare a moment to add or confirm, I’d greatly appreciate it. Thank you for sharing your experiences and knowledge with the world!

    Warmly,
    Dawn

    • Hi Dawn,

      Yes, Quy Nhon would be a good option, or just stay on Cua Dai or An Bang beach near Hoi An. There are plenty of places to stay on the beach near Hoi An. On the beaches south of Quy Nhon there isn’t as much choice but it’s a wonderful area. I’ve written briefly about it here. You can reach Quy Nhon by bus or train from Hoi An pretty easily.

      You might also consider Cam Lap Promontory, just south of Nha Trang – it’s a superb beach area.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  13. willem says:

    Hi ,

    Great and helpful site for my up coming trip to Vietnam .
    What month did you ride the Ha Giang Extreme North Motorbike Loop , weather looks good clear sky,s , but yellow rice terraces , i would like to visit them when the terraces are green .

    Thx , Willem

  14. andrew says:

    Hey mate. I’ve previously traveled around SE on my own bike using a carnet, however never made it into Vietnam.

    Either way, I’ve managed to get some time off so with almost zero planning I’m flying into HCMC very early this Saturday, and back out on Sunday, 8 days later. My plan is to rent a dirt bike for the entire time.

    From what i can see my options are either fly directly up to Hanoi and do a loop north of there, perhaps along your northeast or extreme north trails, or do some sort of loop that starts and finishes in HCMC.

    What would you do? To give you an idea of what I am after, I’m pretty keen to get off the beaten track, without the hassle of getting covered in mud each day.

    Thanks Legend.
    Andrew

    • Hi Andrew,

      Well, road conditions are better in the south so there’s less chance of getting covered in mud, but the scenery is bigger and better in the north, although the road conditions are sometimes not quite as good – but this shouldn’t matter if you have a dirt bike.

      So I suggest going up to Hanoi and doing one of the northern loops. The Ha Giang Extreme North Loop has better road conditions than the Northeast Loop, but the latter is more off the beaten track.

      For renting dirt bikes from Hanoi, try Style Motorbikes, Tigit Motorbikes, and Rent a Bike Vietnam – there are links to all three of them in the right sidebar and bottom of all my pages.

      (Also, bear in mind that the last weekend of April is a national holiday in Vietnam so the roads maybe become very busy then.)

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  15. Andy says:

    Amazing website! So helpful and inspiring. I’m just starting to put together a decent little plan and thought I would ask your advice. I will be coming in mid June and would like to start in either Hanoi or HCM and do your suggested Classic route. I’d also like to add in Sapa/Northern area for about 5-6 days. I’m thinking 3 weeks for the classic and add the Sapa route. Would you recommend this? Does it really matter which city I start or finish in? I’m thinking I’d like to end in Hanoi so that Sapa is my last big thing before I leave. What do you suggest as far as getting the bike back to Hanoi? Putting it on a train or riding back? I’ve read conflicting things about the route and as I will be doing Hanoi to Sapa by motorbike – I don’t know if time or interest would allow me to return the same way. Any tips on the route or getting the motorbike back from the Sapa area? Thanks!

    • Hi Andy,

      Yes, that sounds like a suitable itinerary and a decent time frame in which to complete it. At that time of year it doesn’t really matter which way you do it, because the weather conditions are pretty similar across the country during June/July – hot and humid with tropical downpours.

      Yes, it’s a good idea to ride up to Sapa and then put your bike on the train for the return journey to Hanoi. The ride up to Hanoi is long, mountainous and beautiful, but getting in or out of Hanoi can be pretty grim. To get to Sapa from the Classic Route you could branch west off the Ho Chi Minh Road at Ngoc Lac (the beginning of the Limestone Loop) and follow road QL15 until it joins QL6 towards Son La. Then follow this all the way northwest until eventually linking up with my Sin Ho Loop and Sapa.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  16. Julius says:

    Amazingly helpful blog. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Quick question regarding the Golden Loop. If you can extend that trip to a total of 6 days what would you recommend?
    – stay put in some places of the golden loop for an extra night (if so which)
    – add stops in between / ride smaller distances (if so which)
    – extend by 2-3 stops south or north (if so which)

    I suppose the last option might give you the most experience, really curious what you would recommend.

    Thanks a ton,
    Julius

    • Hi Julius,

      Well, you don’t have much choice for stops between Prao and A Luoi, because there are no towns between the two of them. So you could spend an extra day in each of those places if you like – both of them are interesting, scenic and relatively remote off-the-beaten-path little towns. Other than that, you could stay an extra night in Hue – there’s lots to see in that city – and maybe spend a night on the beach on Thuan An Peninsular, or the lagoon south of Hue, or Lang Co. Also, Danang is a very interesting up-and-coming city these days, and then of course there’s Hoi An.

      So you shouldn’t have too much trouble extending this loop to 6 days :-)

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  17. Torsten says:

    Hi Tom,

    we just came back from a 2,5 weeks trip through Vietnam and I want to say thank you very much for the helpful information at your blog here! Especially the hotels you recommended for Hanoi and HCMC were first choice as well as the beach resort in Ho Tram. Please continue the blog, your experiences are highly appreciated!

    Thanks and best regards from Berlin,
    Torsten

  18. Oliver says:

    Hello!
    Me and My friend are really looking forward on doing the beach bum ride, but when we got to Vietnam we noticed that we could only visit for 15 days. Do you have any idea if there is a way to get a visa when you are already in Vietnam for one month? Or if the only way is to take the “voa” (visa on arrival)?

    Thank you for all the guides! They are really appreciated!

    Regards Oliver

    • Hi Oliver,

      My knowledge of visas is limited because I receive an annual multiple entry visa as I have a work permit. I suggest you search the Expats Ho Chi Minh Facebook group for posts about visas, or post your question in that group and see if anyone has answers for you.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  19. Danielle says:

    Hi!
    I’m looking for a reliable taxi driver to take us from Can Tho airport to Ben Tre Mango Riverside Hotel. Can you recommend someone?
    Thanks :)
    Greetings Danielle

    • Hi Danielle,

      Can Tho has a lot of taxis – there will be lots of them at the airport. If you can, try to find a Mai Linh or Vinasun taxi. But any taxi should be fine. Either negotiate a price before you leave or go by the taxi meter.

      Good luck,

      Tom

  20. Tuan Dao says:

    Dear admin,
    I have a hostel in Ha Giang city, my hostel is Kiki’s House
    You can find my hostel information on Tripadvisor, Booking, Agoda…
    I have read your article at link http://vietnamcoracle.com/ha-giang-extreme-north-motorbike-loop/ and i would like to ask you to get your agreement about your post. Could i print this article then give my guests your information by hard coppy. They will bring it to the loop to read and refer some information
    I’m look forward to your message
    Thanks and Best regards,
    Tuan

    • Hi Tuan,

      Thanks for your message.

      Yes, it is OK if you print my Ha Giang Motorbike Guide as long as you make it clear that the information is from Vietnam Coracle. Please do not print it for your guests unless it says clearly that this guide is written by Vietnam Coracle.

      Thanks for being professional and asking for my agreement.

      I will visit Kiki’s House next time I am in Ha Giang

      Thanks,

      Tom

  21. Silver says:

    Hey Tom,
    Can you recommend a good informative site for motorbiking in Laos?

  22. Yonatan says:

    Hey Tom :)
    Great site and so helpful , thank you and keep doing your thing !

    Quick question:
    We’re at kon Tum (came on the hcm road) and want to reach hoi an. We’re trying to decide if to stay on the hcm road or take the QL24. Also we drive slow and would like to stay somewhere on the way (so 2 days to hoi an ) cheers !

    • Hi Yonatan,

      I would advise staying on the HCM Road to either Kham Duc or Thanh My, and then turning east to Hoi An on either Road 14E or 14B respectively. You can stay the night in Kham Duc on the way. This is a scenic ride, much nicer that the southern section of the HCM Road.

      I was on QL24 a couple of weeks ago and some of it is a bit bumpy, although it is still a good, scenic ride.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  23. Lynn says:

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for replying to my earlier comment on the Ho Chi Minh road page.

    Just another question…i noticed that the route from Qui Nhon to Kon Tum goes via Highway 1 and QL24 in the Classic Route, The Big One as well as The Scenic Route. I’m wondering how many days will it take for that particular route? Assuming that it’s definitely more than a day ride, may I know where do you stay in between? Is it easy to find budget guesthouses on the way?

    Thanks again, I’m planning to ride from Qui Nhon to Kon Tum via that route, thus hoping to break the route into 2 parts. Will be great if you have any idea on the current road condition too (I’m planning to ride this coming May). :)

    • Hi Lynn,

      From Quy Nhon, the route follows a coastal back-road north for around 100km to Tam Quan, then it joins Highway 1 for about 60-70km towards Quang Ngai. There are nhà nghỉ (local guest houses) on the way. A good place to break the journey would be Ba To, which is on Road 24 not too long after turning off Highway 1.

      I was on Road 24 two days ago and it was in good condition.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  24. Mikhal says:

    Hello Tom,
    I’d like to thank you very much for your website. It’s amazing and also gives a lot of confidence. I think I would never have done the Ha Giang loop for a first motorbike trip with my 8 years old daughter without having a look at it every 5mn. We did also the loop in Sapa and Mu Cang Chai.
    I’d like to ask you about our next trip for Tet (we’ve been living in Vietnam for 6 years).
    We fly to Da Nang from Hanoi and will rent motorbikes from Hoi An. We would like to visit Kon Tum area and we have 5 days and must return the motorbikes in Hoi An. I didn’t find anything on the internet about the road DT616. Do you have any information about it? I’ve read that there where a lot of trucks on QL14 and AH17. For the way back, I guess we will drive on QL24 as you suggested to someone else. Anyway we won’t have time to go much further and do Buon Ma Thuot some other time.
    If you have any suggestion, I would appreciate very much. Thank you again and I hope to read from you soon.
    Mikhal

    • Hi Mikhal,

      It’s good to hear that you’ve had some enjoyable road trips using my site as a guide.

      Actually, I will also be travelling to that area during Tet. I want to explore a loop around there, including DT616. I rode it a long time ago, but back then it was impassable after a certain point. However, several readers have written me to say that it is now a beautiful paved road all the way from Tam Ky up to Dak To, where you can join the Ho Chi Minh Road (AH17/QL14) down to Kon Tum. If you want to find more information about this road you could try posting your question on the Vietnam Back Roads Facebook page.

      Also, QL14/AH17 (the Ho Chi Minh Road) is not at all busy in that area – in fact the section between Kon Tum and A Luoi is some of the best riding in Vietnam (Read Sections 3 & 4 of this guide for more information). The section between Kon Tum and Buon Ma Thuot can by busy with trucks and it is also not very scenic – so you are not missing much by not continuing to BMT.

      QL24 is a scenic road but parts of it maybe in bad condition now, so perhaps it’s a better idea to go back to Danang via the Ho Chi Minh Road, linking up with either QL14E from Kham Duc or QL14B from Thanh My.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  25. Vitor Mangualde says:

    Hey, Tom!
    I just came to thank you for all the great tips that helped a wonderful bike trip through Vietnam. Such reliable informations also enforced my confidence in going out of the beaten tracks, making possible unique experiences that I’ll remember forever!!!
    For the future bikers, I strongly recommend taking the HCM Highway, specially in the most remote area (the 240km ride – Section 5) and also the northern loop.
    All the best!

  26. Paul Tremewan says:

    Tom.. just found your Vietnam Coracle site… excellent! Well done… some excellent material here and the cross referencing is most helpful.
    We’re coming back to complete the Viêt Nam Run in March, Sài Gòn to Da Nang, having completed the northern loop via Sapa starting from Hà Nôi and the Run down to Da Nang from Hà Nôi earlier, and I rode the Delta ( then by boat up to Phnom Penh, bus back top Sài Gòn in June). I am passing the details of this excellent treasure trove on to my two Scottish riding buddies for their reference ( The Leo Boys… named after a well known beverage, of course..) in preparation for the Run up to Nôi An and then Da Nang.
    Anyway, just a note to say keep up the excellent site.. BTW just re-reading ‘ A Short Ride in the Jungle’, Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent’s wonderful book, that captures what it is like riding way out in the Vietnamese countryside ( and of course Lao and Cambodia, where the HCM Trial actually went!).
    Cheers from New Zealand
    Paul Tremewan

    • Hi Paul,

      Thanks. It’s great to hear you like my site and that you’ve enjoyed riding through the country already.

      Thanks for telling your friends about the site. I’m sure they’ll have a great time here.

      I’ll check out the book – sounds good.

      Tom

  27. Steven Lee says:

    Hi Tom,

    This is an amazing website. After reading it, I am gonna do a solo ride from HCMC to Hanoi in February. Being on a solo bike trip, how do you manage your personal belongings between stops? Do you leave your backpack tied to your bike and carrys the important stuff in your napsack? Or carry both? – Steven

    • Hi Steven,

      Yes, that’s the general idea. Personally, I have a GIVI box which is totally secure, so I leave my unimportant stuff (clothes etc) in that, and take the important stuff (passport, money, laptop etc) in my small day pack.

      But in general, travellers strap their big backpack to the back of the bike, and if/when they stop they leave in on the bike and take their small day pack with them.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  28. Robert says:

    Hi …really loving your stuff…priceless information.

    I am in Saigon right now but soon going to be following your trail along the coast by public transport ostensibly to find a wooden boat to rescue….they are even making blue plastic coracles now in Vung Tau…Aaaargh…won’t be long before VN becomes as plastique as Singapore.

    I wondered if you have any comments about boat living and purchase in VN…every local seems horrified by my intentions to live aboard a decomposing wooden boat on the water…but I reassure them I have been living that way for decades and it is the only way TO live! lol….well…in my opinion anyway.

    Of course VN makes everything as insurmountable and difficult as it can be, and I have little doubt living afloat will throw up its own obstacles. I shall no doubt need a licence and may need to assume the identity of some kind of work boat…so I shall be taking tourists out and about on painting holidays…if I have to…or find a local proxy. There is no shortage of local volunteer crew.

    I wondered if you have any experience of buying a boat from from a VN native?…or the most likely location to head for that may offer the best chances?

    Keep it up. Great work!

    cheers

    Robert

    • Hi Robert,

      Thanks, I’m glad you like my site.

      Yes, I’m not a fan of the plastic coracles either – they don’t have the same aesthetic appeal. Although, of course, they’re much more convenient for the fishermen, so what can you do.

      That sounds like an interesting project indeed. I don’t have much advice to offer there, I’m afraid. But I imagine that searching the southern coast for an old boat would be fun and should turn up what you’re looking for.

      If you’re in Saigon now, perhaps you’d be interested in checking out the boat cafe on the Kenh Te River between District 4 and District 7. I can probably find the address if you like. It’s a converted river boat – very nice idea.

      Yes, I’m sure they’ll be plenty of obstacles along the way, but it would be great if you manage to make it work!

      Keep me posted,

      Tom

      • Thao Phan says:

        Hi Robert,

        I am Thảo, a friend of Tom. Tom has shared with me your intention of buying a wooden boat from a local to start your adventure along the coast. In the previous comment, he has suggested you to go to the boat café on Kenh Te River in District 7, and I really think you should pay a visit to that area if you are still in Saigon at the moment. When I first visited that café with a friend who lives nearby, I was so interested in the idea of converting an old wooden boat to a café that I wanted to meet with the owner or the one who came up with that idea but I didn’t get such chance. Since then, the café has become one of my favourite spots especially when I feel like watching sunset while enjoying the river breeze. They have recently purchased another boat and have been refurnishing it to expand their café business. So, I think this is a good time for you to contact the café owner and ask her/him about the recent boat purchase.

        Regarding the idea of living or travelling on a wooden boat, it isn’t something horrifying or abnormal to local people who live or earn their living along Kenh Te River. I once had a conversation with a little boy who was selling fruits in front of a big wooden boat which was his floating house. I asked him where his family came from and how long it took his family to get to this part of the city to sell their fruits. Though he was a bit shy and reluctant at first, he told me he is from An Giang province and it took his family nearly three months travelling and stopping along the way to sell their products until they got to Saigon. Therefore, I think there is a high possibility that you can buy a boat and start your adventure the way you want it.

        Let me know if you need my help to contact the café owner or to talk to local people who live in the boats along Kenh Te River (or along another waterway in District 6 & 8) to find out where you can buy a wooden boat. You can reach me via my email [email protected] .

  29. DAVID says:

    Hi Tom
    did you know about the place name Dan Kia in the area Suoi Vang
    some say that this place is one of the beautiful places in the world but i couldn’t find it in your perfect site.
    I will be greatful if you say something about this place
    David

  30. Baris says:

    Hey Tom !

    I mailed already but again want to say thank you for this AWESOME PAGE! Really i just checked the saigon night loop and it really looks sweet! Thank you for all your information, pictures , advice and itineraries !! Really great my friend ! Especially the quality of your information is really on a high level! I can only imagine how much time it takes to make your posts !

    Thanks again always be blessed! very Grateful !!!

    Greetings Baris

  31. Chris says:

    I was wondering your opinion on Halong Bay, Cat Ba island, and Bai Tu Long bay. I’m not really one for organized tours but I would like to experience the sea karsts and I want to have my motorbike with me. Any suggestions on which place? Do I really need to do a boat tour? Would I get a sufficient experience from land and ferry? Thanks

  32. Chris says:

    Just a heads up:

    The hotel five minutes north of pho chau has two tiers and actually two separate buildings. The bigger hotel with the pool is 500000 for room with pool use and breakfast.

    To get the 250000 price you stay in the smaller hotel next door. You do not get breakfast nor pool use. Actually I think the price is 200000 for a single bed (250000 for two beds) but she could not get the door open…

    At the reception I had to ask for the 250000 price, referring to your notes. It was not listed there.

    • Sorry, my previous reply was meant for this comment.

      As for Ha Long, yes you can do it independently. Try getting the ferry to Cat Ba Island, or even better go to Van Don Island and get the boat from Cai Rong town and explore for there.

      I want to write a guide to doing Ha Long Bay without the organized boat tours but I rarely get the chance to go there in recent months.

      Tom

  33. Corentin says:

    Hello Tom, my name is Corentin and I’m from France.

    I just wanted to thank you so much for all the help and advice you provide with your website.

    Indeed, I traveled with a motorbike through Vietnam during 3 months, without any smartphone or GPS of any kind.
    Only a basic map, my own sense of direction, the people around and… your website.

    It has helped me decide my itinerary, the beautiful roads no to miss, discover the food and hidden aspects of this wonderful culture.

    Very well documented with pictures, texts and maps, I was always impressed with how simple it was to use your website.

    You helped me build amazing memories I will remember for a long time. Well it’s true, I really feel grateful.

    Thank you again and good luck for everything.

    Corentin

    • Hi Corentin,

      That’s really great to hear that you had such a wonderful time riding around Vietnam and that my website helped you a bit on your way. It sounds like you had a great time and one that you will always remember.

      I hope you get the chance to come back to Vietnam again sometime :-)

      Tom

  34. Chris says:

    This is a broad question, but can you suggest some other villages that offer homestays? These are some I have heard about: Mai Chau, Ba Be, the park you mentioned north of Canh Nang (sorry do not recall name at the moment…). I believe I also heard of some homestay options around Bac Ha…

    I was just reading about Nghe An and saw some pricey organized tours going to homestay villages there (Pu Mat park) and it piqued my interest.

    It’s not something you can find info on easily…

    P.S. I’m only interested in anything north of Phong Nah at this point.

    Thanks for any sharing :-)

    • Hi Chris,

      Yes, Mai Chau is famous for its homestays – there are hundreds there. Personally, I would recommend Pu Luong Nature Reserve. I’ve written more about this here, however it needs to be updated as you’ll see by reading the comments at the bottom of the post.

      Tom

  35. Chris says:

    Long Son is awesome. The hotel cost 250000 and dinner was 45000 and 30000 at the restaurant four doors down up a little driveway. Did not seem to be any irregular pricing… There looks to be a gas station under construction but besides that only roadside “pumps” for gas.

  36. Chris says:

    Doing a little planning, just a few random questions:

    1. I noticed you rode from phong nha to pho Chou in one day. About how much time did that take?

    2. I noticed you rode from pho chau to cam thuy in one day. About how much time did that take?

    3. I noticed in one ride you rode from Sinho stopping in Lai Chau. Why did you not go further?

    4. How much time do you think it would take to ride from Quan Hoa to Yen Chau?

    5. How much time does it take to ride from Sapa to Bac Ha in the quickest route?

    6. How much time do you estimate it to take riding from Bao Lac to Ba Be?

    7. Any idea how long it might take to ride from That Khe above Lang Son to Tien Yen, south of Lang Son on the coast?

    Sorry for so many questions… I’m wanting to do a big loop of the north with sapa, ha giang area, ba be, ban gioc waterfall, and one of the bays, possibly even cat ba island…

    I’m pretty sure I’ll be sleeping in quan hoa on July 15 and need to sleep in Hanoi August 4. I keep going back and forth whether I can make all that…

    Sorry, very long…

    • Hi Chris,

      Time between all those destinations depends on how you ride. In general, on the highways like the Ho Chi Minh Road you will average between 40-60km per hour. In the northern mountains your average speed will be a lot slower because the roads are smaller and the terrain is more mountainous: between 30-40km per hour.

      So based on this, for your first two questions just take a look at the distances in my Ho Chi Minh Road guide to work out how long it might take you to ride them.

      For your third question, I just stopped in Lai Chau because the weather was bad.

      Number 4, just take a look at the distances and make an estimate based on general average speed. Note that some readers have mentioned bad road conditions from Quan Hoa to Mai Chau so it might be better to take the road from Canh Nang through Pu Luong Nature Reserver to Mai Chau instead.

      Number 5, Sapa to Bac Ha takes a couple of hours, but there are reports that the pass from Sapa down to Lao Cai is under reconstruction.

      Number 6, Bao Lac to Ba Be takes a few hours.

      Number 7, again take a look at the distances and use your average speed to estimate how long it might take.

      The northeast, especially Cao Bang Province around Ban Gioc and Lang Son, is usually where the riding is slowest.

      Tom

  37. Chris says:

    I’m in Hue and will travel to Phong Nha via A Luoi, Khe Sanh, Long Son. I’m considering riding from hue to khe sanh in one day. It looks to be about 165 km. How many hours do you think I should estimate for that trip? Am I biting off too much to chew? It just seems a bit short to go to A Luoi from Hue…

    Also I had a blast exploring monkey mountain. So many areas to explore with great scenery.

    • Hi Chris,

      Yes, you should be able to comfortably ride from Hue to Khe Sanh in a day. The ride from A Luoi to Khe Sanh on the Ho Chi Minh Road is very nice, scenic, and easy riding, and the road is in good condition. The road from Hue to A Luoi is also scenic, however I’ve had mixed reports from readers over the last 6 months about the condition of that road: some have said there is a bit of construction going on. If you ride it I would very much appreciate it if you could give me and update on the road conditions.

      I hope you enjoy the ride,

      Tom

  38. Chris says:

    Do you know of any lodging options $20 USD or less on the Sop Promontory besides camping?

    If not I may try camping there or stay at Vinh Hy Resort.

    • Hi Chris,

      Camping on the promontory is very nice. But there are also rooms for about $15-20 on Binh Chau Beach on the promontory. Staying at Vinh Hy Resort is also very nice. In general, remember that on the weekends the area can get relatively busy, but during the weekdays it’s practically empty.

      Tom

  39. Chris says:

    Thanks for the Ca Na Hotel recommendation – exactly my kind of place.

  40. Chris says:

    Just curious, have you ever investigated a possible road from Tuong Duong to Que Phong in Nghe An province? It appears on one of my maps and I’m intrigued by it.

    I took a road similar to this on my bicycle trip some years ago (from Quan Hoa to Na Loc along the Luong River in Thanh Hoa province). In that case the road literally became a dirt walking path. I was able to manage it however and encountered a village where I ended up sleeping. It was a great adventure.

    • Chris says:

      Actually I see now you mention that Quan Hoa road in your Limestone Loop. Road 520…

      Wonder if the one in Nghe An could turn out to be similar…

  41. Chris says:

    I will probably stay at Binh Lieu hotel near Co pass. After that the next definite stop I have planned is Hoi An. I am estimating two stops between those destinations. Can you recommend two good stopping points in that span?

    I think one would probably be Rang Beach. Is there any particular place you like to stay near Rang Beach?

    Thanks again

    • Chris says:

      One lodging I discovered on the internet near Rang Beach is Life Is A Beach. It looks like a cool little spot with shacks on the beach…

      • Hi Chris

        Yes, Life is a Beach is great and so is Haven. Rang Beach and the Quy Nhon area in general is a great place to break the journey from the Co Pass to Hoi An.

        About the Que Phong road, I have also looked at it on the map and thought that it’s worth exploring, but I never have. That area is supposed to be where the ruby mines are, so perhaps the roads are kept in good condition. In general, the roads leading west from the Ho Chi Minh Road to the remote Lao borders are some of the most beautiful in Vietnam. Please let me know if you do end up riding that road – I’d love to know how it is!

        Tom

        • Chris says:

          Any suggestions for a sleep between Quy Nhon and Hoi An? Thanks.

          • Hi Chris,

            There’s no particular place that I always stay at between Quy Nhon and Hoi An, but Quang Ngai makes sense – it’s a big place but fairly off the tourist radar: the riverbank is nice at night and the town has lots of street food. You could also try My Khe Beach, but not if it’s on the weekend, because it gets crowded.

            Don’t forget (if you have time) to take the coast road from Quy Nhon to Tam Quan instead of Highway 1. And from Tam Ky to Hoi An too.

            I hope this helps,

            Tom

  42. Chris says:

    I was not able to locate the atlas you mentioned in three fahasa bookstores in Saigon. It was also not in a large art book store that the kind hotel receptionist tried. Any other ideas where I might find that atlas in Saigon?

    I did purchase the smaller map that you mentioned. May I suggest looking into the Nelles map by Abercrombie and Kent. I have the 2005 version but there is a newer one I believe. I used it on a bicycle trip a few years ago in north Vietnam and comparing it with the one you suggested I see some small roads I took on the nelles but not on the other. Of course some of those turned out to be damn near “animal trails” like you mentioned but they were navigable…

    • Hi Chris,

      Yes, I’m sorry about that – my maps article needs an update: a couple of other people have commented that the atlas is no longer in print.

      Thanks for the suggestion of Nelles map – I’ll take a look at that when I get around to updating my maps article. Personally, the Travel Map of Vietnam is still the only one that I’ve found reliable over the years: it’s updated every year and it only shows roads that ARE roads and that actually exist which is more than can be said for other printed maps and even Google Maps too.

      Tom

  43. Reed Bernstein says:

    Thank you

  44. Reed Bernstein says:

    Hey, I followed your advice and I sit now at the impressive hotel in Hanoi. I am picking up my Tigit motorcycle tomorrow and I want to hit the road on Tuesday. I’m thinking of heading towards Hai Phong and I was wondering if there is any other coastal town or area you think I should visit instead?

    Reed

    • Hi Reed,

      Hai Phong is an interesting city to visit – much nicer than Ha Long. You should be able to put your bike on a boat to Cat Ba Island – either from Hai Phong or Ha Long. You could also skip Hai Phong and Ha Long and head straight to Van Don Island, which is further east of Ha Long City. This is a great place to explore by bike, and from the main town of Cai Rong you can put your bike on a boat to other islands.

      Tom

  45. Alessandro says:

    Hi Tom,

    I’m planning a three days ride in the Sapa valley with my girlfriend; could you recommend me few good motorbikes rentals in Sapa that I can contact and which deals with gears motorbikes that easily fit two people?

    Many thanks,

    Ale

    • Hi Alessandro,

      You should be able to rent motorbikes from most hotels, guesthouses and travel agents in Sapa quite easily, but I can’t recommend a particular place. You could try contacting Sapa O’Chau and asking them where the best place to rent bikes from is.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  46. Chris says:

    Concerning getting a flat tire, do you carry a patch kit, pump, fix a flat, or anything of that nature? Or do you rely on the ubiquitous tire repair men in most parts and hope for the best in more remote areas?

    • Hi Chris,

      If you’re going to be on the road for a long time, it’s well worth investing in a set of tubeless tyres (about $20 each) – these are great and hardly ever puncture, and even if/when they do, it’s a very slow puncture so that you have enough time to ride to the nearest garage.

      But, yes, you’re right, in general I rely on the roadside mechanics that are never far away – even in remote areas – to fix any problems that occur. But it certainly is a good idea to carry some basic tools with you.

      Tom

      • Chris says:

        One of the things I will look for in choosing a motorbike are tyres with good tread, after that its just hope for the best…

        Also I’ve rented bikes that had trouble with their starters. Is it possible to kick start any bike: manual, automatic, semi automatic, etc…?

        And a horn…

        Any other obvious things to look for in choosing the motorbike?

        Thanks,

        Chris

        • Hi Chris,

          Yes, good tyres are important and a starter and horn that works. And yes all those bikes can be kick-started too. Personally, I think wing mirrors are important too – many Vietnamese bikers tend to remove them as they are considered ugly and a safety hazard! :-)

          Tom

  47. Chris says:

    I’m thinking of following the coast all the way to Dong Hoi and then cutting inland to Long Son and spending the night / gassing up there. Then continue north to caves and eventually north Vietnam. I’m trying to stay on the coast because once I turn inland I will stay inland through “the neck” and a loop around north Vietnam… essentially the remainder of my trip until I finish my loop at around the Halong Bay coast area…

    You had some good words about Dong Hoi /Quang Binh beaches but do you have any in-depth reports of that area on the website? I did not see any…

    My reason for going to Long Son is to see that stretch of the HCM Hwy from Long Son to Pho Chau. I would get on it earlier but I would like to see Danang, Hue, and Hoi An and also maximize the beach. Also I figure I will be in a lot of similar scenery in the north … but I can still catch a piece of it if I get to Long Son…

    How much time do you estimate it would take to ride from Dong Hoi center to Long Son?

    Thanks again for your great resource. I am reading every word…

    Chris

    • Hi Chris,

      Yes, Dong Hoi is a neat little city with a great stretch of beach, but you are right that I haven’t written any in-depth articles about it yet.

      The ride from Dong Hoi to Long Son on road TL563 takes about 2-3 hours – it’s not far at all, but the road is very windy and beautiful so it takes a while to ride it.

      Your itinerary sounds good to me. I understand about staying on the beaches as long as possible, but another option is to head away from the beaches earlier: you have two options: take road QL49 west from Hue to meet the Ho Chi Minh Road at A Luoi, or take road AH16 west from Dong Ha to meet the Ho Chi Minh Road at Khe Sanh. All of these options are good.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  48. Chris says:

    Also, do you ever bring an extra bottle of petrol, for example in some of the remote areas on the HCM HWY or in remote areas of north vietnam?

  49. Chris says:

    Do you recommend buying a lock and chain to secure my motorbike when it is parked? In the past, I have never locked my motorbike, but I also had beat up motorbikes. If I get a tigit bike it will be a newer model….

    I also like your suggestion of the bike box; I can see great benefit in that…

    • Hi Chris,

      You don’t really need a lock for your bike unless you are going to camp or are planning on leaving your bike unattended somewhere while you go away. You can buy small disc locks which are very good.

      The GIVI bike box is great. You can get them from the GIVI store on Nguyen Chi Thanh Street, District 5, in Ho Chi Minh City.

      Tom

  50. Chris says:

    Thanks for this excellent website; it has been immensely helpful in planning my trip from saigon to hanoi and a loop around the north. This site is full of information and I often get lost in all the info and do not want to miss one piece (which can be tricky because a location/town may often be mentioned under a few different route descriptions).

    One question I have is that none of routes seem to go along the coast from Dong Ha to Vinh. Is that because the scenery is much better inland or because of HWY 1 or because the coast is not nice along this stretch?

    My route will be similar to the one you did with your friend except when getting around Mai Chau I will start the northern loop.

    I have a loose plan of doing the tigit rental.

    Again, thansk for your excellent website.

    • Hi Chris,

      Yes, that’s right the ride along Highway 1 from Dong Ha to Vinh isn’t particularly scenic, but the main reason not to do it is because the inland route along the Ho Chi Minh Road is one of the best and most scenic rides in the country.

      If you’re planning a south to north road trip, you should take a look at my most recent post recommending 5 different routes from Saigon to Hanoi here.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  51. Cecilia says:

    Thanks for all this amazing information! We are a family of cyclists and are considering some of your destinations by bike. Do you have a recommendation for which is the most bicycle friendly? Thanks! C

    • Hi Cecilia,

      All of my motorbike guides can be used as cycling guides too. Which ones to choose just depends on the kind of ride you are looking for: coastal or mountains, southern or northern, challenging or easy etc. Have a browse through my Motorbike Guide Archive and see which routes appeal to you, then get in touch with me again and I can give you more information.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  52. Jun KIM says:

    Hello Tom,

    Have read many useful blogs on your websites. I had finished Northern Loop last February. The weather was not good (really cold, and I even saw the snowing in Vietnam.), but the tour was amazing. It was a good start to explore the Southeast Asia country with a motorbike.
    Thanks for sharing your tips about riding in Vietnam. Your articles were really helpful for the trip.

    Now, I have a plan to take a motorbike tour in other Southeast Asia countries like Thailand, India, Philippine, Laos, Myanmar, etc. Do you have any idea where I can get an information to prepare the trip? Is there any other blogs, just like yours (not commercial, and specialized in one country), for the motor bike tour of other Southeast Asia countries?

    Good luck with everything.

    JUN

    • Hi Jun,

      Good to hear that you enjoyed your ride in northern Vietnam – even though the weather wasn’t that good.

      For Laos you should look at Laos GPS Map – the guy is known as the Midnight Mapper and is famous for mapping all of the country specifically for motorbike rides. For Thailand take a look at the Golden Triangle GT Rider website.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  53. What an informative and interesting blog you have created!
    Have saved your site for future reference. I have started a blog. My first one, and not being a pro, it looks a bit messy. Will persevere! .
    Good luck with everything.
    Rob

  54. Duong Chien says:

    Hello Tom,

    Have read many useful blogs on your websites. Hope to see you in Hanoi. Your website is NEW Vietnam guide book.

    Thank you

    Duong Chien

  55. Gary says:

    Hi Tom,
    First i would like to say what an amazing site….. but! it has caused me a major headache. I was planning on travelling by motorbike from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh but now find that my plans are expanding, i would like to visit the north now which wasn’t on my list.. The maps you provide are invaluable and i am planning my route on Google maps also, any thoughts or info on a route to Sa Pa from Hanoi would be appreciated so i can link it in with some of the Northern routes.
    Thanks again, keep up the good work.
    Regards,
    Gary

    • Hi Gary,

      Sorry to have complicated your plans! :-)

      Yes, the northern loops are great so, if you have time, definitely try to ride some of them.

      From Hanoi to Sapa there are many alternatives. You could take Highway 70 all the way, or Highway 32 which goes via The Harvest Route, or you could go via Highway 6 and Highway 12 which would include the Sin Ho Scenic Loop at the end.

      A reader recently wrote to me to share this route to Sapa from Hanoi which is also a good one.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  56. Sabrina says:

    Hello Tom,

    My husband and I are going to be in Vietnam for 18 days in June and want to spent a good portion in the north. We’re planning on taking the Sleeper Train to Sapa, and want to explore from there. We’re thinking about spending around 4 days in the area. We’re a pretty adventurous couple…and so I’m quickly finding too many things to do and wish we could stay in Sapa longer, but of course need to take in other areas in Vietnam as well. I’m curious about riding motorbikes up to Tram Ton Pass to check out the scenery and waterfalls…BUT, am also interested in trying to ride motorbikes to Ha Giang Province. We’re also going to be there from Thurs-Sun…so we’ll potentially be able to see the Bac Ha market on Sunday before we catch the sleeper train back to Hanoi on Sunday night. We’re trying to make the most of our trip and want to do as much as possible, but don’t want to feel rushed or not leave any cushion for accidents/weather/getting lost/etc.. Should we skip the Tram Tom Pass and spend 2-3 days driving to Ha Giang Province and back to Sapa…and spend the last day (Sunday) in Sapa and Bac Ha?

    Thank you so much! I’ve been looking at your site and your adventures seem right up our alley of what’s interesting to us.

    -Sabrina

    • Hi Sabrina,

      If you only have Thurs-Sun in the north I suggest you either spend a couple of days in Sapa and then a couple of days riding the Sapa to Ha Giang Loop, or spend one day in Sapa either side of the two day ride on the Sapa-Sin Ho Scenic Loop.

      Either of these itineraries is possible with around 4 days, but the latter is by far the easiest to follow and the shortest. The scenery is spectacular on both, so don’t worry about that. Both road trips are also off the beaten path (although Sapa itself is firmly on the beaten path).

      Bac Ha Sunday Market is a fascinating spectacle but it is also overwhelmed with tourists these days, so it’s not a great loss if you miss it. You could time your road trip to coincide with one of the markets in the smaller towns on either of the loops – Sin Ho has a Sunday market, for example.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Sabrina says:

        Thanks Tom,

        After asking the question, I found your loop to Sin-Ho and think it’ll be perfect! We will do it in 2-3 days, and will do some markets on Sunday. It’s hard to avoid of the tourist hot spots with limited travel time. This is our first time to any country in Asia…so I think anywhere we go will be an experience! Ha! There’s so much to see everywhere.

        Thanks for your advice…we’ll be referencing your blog up until our trip in June!

        Thanks, Sabrina

  57. Sylvain says:

    Hi Tom,
    I really appreciate your work on this website.
    I just got back from a trip following your southeast loop itinerary through Mui Ne and Dalat. It was an amazing experience.
    Thanks for sharing your tips about riding in Vietnam.
    All the best,
    Sylvain

  58. Mick Albert says:

    Hi Tom,
    thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I originally was going to travel by bus to the usual tourist spots but came across your website and that inspired me to rent a bike for 20 days and try and complete the Ho Chi Minh highway and most of the coast. I really liked the idea of camping along the way so I brought my bike swag with me. I decided I wanted to do this ride without a guide and also without anyone else. That way I would not only challenge myself but also experience the Vietnamese people. Having no friends with me I was able to do what I wanted but best of all was the interactions with the Vietnamese people as I had nobody else to spend time with. I have to say this was the best trip of my life. For me I needed a big dirtbike to not only enjoy the scenery but also the ride. I hired a Suzuki DR650 from Flamingo travel who shipped the bike to Saigon and I was to return it to their Hanoi shop. They are a first class company and supplied me with a fully prepped bike and comprehensive parts and tools list. Thanks to your maps and stories I did the coast from Saigon to Cam Ranh. Then headed inland to Dalat and onto Nha Trang. I stayed off the A1 as much as possible and traveled from Nha Trang all the way to Hoi An. At this stage I decided to head inland again all the way to Kon Tum. This road was amazing and took me 2 full days to complete, camping in the mountains. Loved it. From Kon Tum I started the HCM hwy and headed north until I decided to head back to the coast and onto Denang. Riding the Hai Van Pass a few times I then returned to the HCM hwy. I had to travel the same road to the HCM hwy as I didnt want to miss any of your “best bits HCM hwy” map. I had to miss out on Hue as I was running out of time. Khe Sanh to Phong Nha and continued north until near Vinh I headed back to the coast. I traveled some 4000kms in 20 days arriving in Hanoi. I have to say the weather was perfect for 18 days without any rain which was a surprise but the last 2 days the temperature dropped from a perfect 24 degrees to 6 degrees and rain. I had planned to do Halong Bay but the weather was just to cold for me and flew back to Saigon for the remainder of my holidays. I have you to thank for the experience of my life. I am now planning to ride the north in October when the weathers warm. Vietnam has changed my life and I am grateful. Thankyou.

    • Hi Mick,

      Fantastic to hear that your Vietnam road trip was such good fun and, by the sound of it, a life-changing experience!

      Sounds like a great route you took – covered a lot of miles for a relatively short time. I hope you come back soon to explore the north – there are many more great rides ahead of you in that area :-)

      Let me know when you are in the planning stage of your next trip.

      Tom

      • Mick says:

        Yeah, will do. I already have the dates(26th Sept to 7th Oct) but will extend maybe a week, because I’d like to visit Hue and also spend a few days at Phong Nha.

  59. Edna says:

    Tom,
    I greatly appreciate your effort in doing this site. This is super organized, full of great info, tips and opinions. Although I haven’t made my trip yet (coming up in March), I feel having some good insights about Vietnam. I learn so much. Can’t wait to follow many of your suggestions in my trip.

    Great work.
    Cheers, Edna

  60. Raine says:

    Hi Tom,
    I was just reading your page on Vietnamese street food. Everything looks so good! While I would love to try them all, I’ve limited time unfortunately. Is there anything that you would particularly recommend to try/visit around the Rex Hotel area?
    Many thanks again for the awesome website!! Have a great day!! :)

    • Hi Raine,

      District 1 (where the Rex Hotel is) isn’t that great for street food because it’s the smartest part of town. However, the food stalls inside Ben Thanh Market are always full of locals and the food is good. There’s also a new ‘Street Food Market’ outside Ben Thanh Market that offers ‘tourist-friendly’ versions of classic Vietnamese street food. Although neither of these represent the best street food in Saigon, they are still both good introductions to Vietnamese street food.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  61. Ian says:

    Hi Tom,
    Following my trip to Hanoi, motorbike to Lao Cai and 6 days up north Sa Pa and Dong Van to Meo Vac in Apr 15 it looks like my cousin and I will be back in Mar 16!! Yippee!
    We’ll use Flamingo again for hire and take two weeks to go SGN to HAN then get a few days with friends in HAN before doing some more touring around the NW this time.
    I love your guides, esp your 2014 2 month tour, a question or two though; if we wanted 4 or 5 days beach stops early on before heading in-land for the HCM road do you think it’s doable? If so what beaches in early March do you think? We’d probably treat ourselves to nice hotels before doing guest houses the rest of the trip.

    We hired CRF250L up north last year but not really sure that’s necessary this time, although my 100kg plus might work better on a bigger bike, what do say?

    Thanks buddy.

    • Hi Ian,

      Yes, 100kg is quite a load! But some passengers weigh that much so in theory it shouldn’t be a problem if you want to use a smaller bike like mine.

      Yes, I think a few days on the beach in the south before heading to the Ho Chi Minh Road is doable. You’re spoilt for choice really. Perhaps it’s a good idea to browse my coastal routes archive and my beaches archive (some of these posts overlap) to get a feel of what’s available. Quy Nhon is a pretty good place to hold up by the beach for a few days, especially as it’s not far from the mountain road (Road 24 which starts just south of Quang Ngai) which I usually recommend taking up to meet the Ho Chi Minh Road at Kon Tum. If you’re looking to splash a little cash for a good resort then AVANI Quy Nhon is a good option.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  62. Dan Marriner says:

    Hi, Tom the website is GREAT!!!
    We have just finished your Mekong Delta loop and included phu quoc…
    Then we followed your camping the ocean road guide and we are now in Nha Trang heading to Dalat for a few2/3 nights then we plan to go Hannoi and do your Extreme north loop…
    We have a couple of issues we are trying to resolve. Firstly we hired a almost brand new 125 airblade from Ho chi. and we have to get it back by the 13th to fly on the 14th of dec. (A great bike although you sound like a Yamaha fan!)
    We have discovered that although easy to get on the train to the north as a passenger, the bike can arrive between 4/7 days behind us there is only a 36 hour bus ride with the bike to resolve this issue. We are now thinking to leave our bike at our Nha trang hotel and fly to Hannoi to extreme North and will hire another bike to do it on…
    So the questions are: one, do you know any magic solution to get our bike to Hannoi quick? Trucking etc. Or if not can you tell us if we will find a bike as easily as Ho chi (we paid 180 U.S for the airblade) for the month, the guy didnt ask us for license but he has our passport. We have been fine travelling with one passport and copy of the other for hotel guest house etc. But, not sure what we will do if a Hannoi bike rental wants the other? Lastly, we have 15 days to do this in so we think a quick look at Dalat followed by a flight to Hannoi for north loop is the best use of our time but we may choose to delete Dalat and attempt to get from Nha trang to North loop on the bike and then train bike and plane ourselves back to Ho chi, but this maybe difficult and pushing it especially for the pillion wife. Your thoughts on these questions will appreciated as is all the hard work you do to help so many have such fun! Cheers, Dan and Aya.

    • Hi Dan and Aya,

      Following on from the email I sent yesterday and after you checked the weather in the north, yes, it does sound like you should stay in the south.

      If I were where you are now and had the time you have left, I would: take the coastal back-roads from Nha Trang north to Quang Ngai (zoom in close to the relevant areas of this route map to find the roads). From Quang Ngai I would take Road 24 up to Kon Tum. From Kon Tum I would take the Ho Chi Minh Road all the way to A Luoi. From A Luoi I would take Road 49 down to Hue. (For details about the Quang Ngai-Kon Tum road and the Ho Chi Minh Road check this guide). From Hue I would take the coastal back-road to the Hai Van Pass and over the Danang/Hoi An (all this is covered in this guide). Then you can either train or plane it back to Saigon.

      The above is good for a week’s trip. Again, bear in mind that the weather could still turn cooler and perhaps more rain as you travel north of Nha Trang.

      I hope this helps you with making a decision.

      Tom

      • Dan Marriner says:

        Hi Tom fantastic we will follow your directions and perhaps leave the North till mid next year when we plan to be back. We are loving Vietnam! And want you to know you are not only helping many have great holidays but you are also very good for the vietnamese tourist industry / economy! If you ever decide to ski or board or motorbike Japan / Hokkaido let us know and we will try to return the hospitality! (You got the email) :~) All the best Dan and Aya

        • Thanks Dan and Aya,

          It’s always great to hear from people who’ve had a positive experience in Vietnam with the help of my blog :-)

          I hope you do get a chance to come back for the north – it’s well worth it!

          I’d love to get up to Japan some time soon – it’s been over 10 years since I was there – so I’ll definitely let you know when I do!

          Enjoy the next leg of your trip,

          Tom

  63. Sabrina says:

    Dear Tom,
    I JUST found your amazing site just before my 3 week trip (12 Dec-5 Jan)! Thankfully I’ve made only a few reservations so I can experience Vietnam a bit like you do. I’ll be alone at Christmas and western New Year and wondering, at this late date, where I should hang (preferably in different places). Con Dao (instead of Phu Quoc)? Elsewhere?
    Thanks!
    Sabrina from Chicago

    • Hi Sabrina,

      It depends what you’re looking for: Con Dao is very peaceful and quiet (no parties), whereas Phu Quoc has more visitors and the beginnings of a bar scene. To help you decide, take a look at my comparison of the Con Dao and Phu Quoc here.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  64. Magdalena says:

    Hi!

    Firstly, thanks a lot for your wonderful job, it’s undoubtely the best web site about travelling to Vietnam! Thanks to you we decided to go to Con Dao (instead of Phu Quoc) in February but still haven’t made a decision about accomodation. So, I’d like to ask you for advice :)

    I’m wondering which of the two options – Con Dao Camping or Con Dao Seatravel Resort would you recommend? The first one is cheaper but, what results from pitcures made by other travellers, is located nearby the jetty (or something what looks like a long, big deck or catwalk or pier) where ships moor. I’m wondering whether it may be disturbing because of noises? And what about the view? Doesn’t this ‘thing’ spoil the view? How far I can understand from pictures, location of the Con Dao Seatravel Resort is better but is it worth to pay twice more? Moreover, the second option has very bad reviews on Tripadvisor and the first, despite it’s location nearby the jetty, is highly recommended so I totally don’t know what to think :P

    Thanks a lot and greetings from Poland!

    • Hi Magdalena,

      Yes, both those options are good. Con Dao Camping is good value for money: it’s right on the beach, clean and simple accommodation. You’re right that it’s near the new jetty, but Con Dao is still so quiet that it probably won’t disturb your peace. There is a little bit more of a backpacker (or ‘flashpacker’) atmosphere at Con Dao Camping than the other beach options.

      Seatravel is romantic and quiet. The rooms are large and the beach is great. However, as you say, there have been many bad reports about it on TripAdvisor. But personally I have never had a negative experience there, and on my last visit it seemed to me that the owners were trying hard to improve their reputation. The rooms and beach are nicer than Con Dao Camping, and it’s quieter too, but of course it’s more expensive.

      Personally, if I’m going to spend $70-80 on a room on Con Dao (the price of Seatravel) I choose a sea view room at Con Dao Resort everytime. This is because the sea view and the beach there are unbeatable. The rooms are plain but spacious. It’s not a very attractive building and breakfast is quite average, but there’s a pool and large gardens to walk in: me and my parents love it :-)

      I hope this helps you make a decision.

      Tom

  65. Tricia says:

    Hello,
    After reading your travel stories around the country, I will do my best to get out and see more of this beautiful country. Thank you… Tricia

  66. Ariel says:

    Hello Tom,
    Wonderful website. My wife and I are planning to come to Vietnam at the end of Nov this year for 2 weeks and we want to stay 2 nights @ Mr Si s home stay while visiting Hanoi.

    Do you have information how to get from Hanoi to this home stay or region (if the home stay is not available)

    Also do you have any other methods of contact for verifying the availability of the homestays, haven’t had much luck by phone.

    We are truly looking for an authentique quiet and humbling experience. Everything you have described makes us feel the sensations, sights, smells.

    Thanks

    Ariel

    • Hi Ariel,

      Mr Si’s homestay is now Les Bains de Hieu Ecolodge (check the comments at the bottom of this article). It still looks marvellous to me, but obviously not quite as ‘rustic’ as before. Things change quickly in Vietnam! :-)

      However, if you’re looking for something a bit more ‘real’, Pu Luong Nature Reserve is dotted with other great homestay options. You can try Mr Ba’s homestay (not far from Mr Si’s), or just go to Mai Chau for a night, get your hands on the map of the nature reserve (the one I mention in the article) and work something out on the spot. Travel to Pu Luong Homestays is probably easiest via Mai Chau anyway. Local buses leave Hanoi to Mai Chau as it’s popular route for travellers.

      I hope this helps.

      Tom

  67. Yaniv says:

    Hi again Tom,

    So I did my homework :) and read all your North Vietnam reports.
    They looks great and are loaded with helpful tips and details.
    thanks for that. great site. you have here.

    so I consider to combine the motorbike loops if possible.

    so Q#1:
    I’m getting to Sapa by train, so i plan to rent a bike in Sapa,
    and then, do the loop of Sin-Ho, and then going east.
    The thing is, how am i going to pull it off if ? I mean, I rent the bike in Sapa,
    It’s kind of a long loop until Cao-Bang or even further, to Lang-Son.
    So, do you suggest i rent the bike in Sapa, and just do this huge loop ?

    Q#2:
    are the bikes in a good condition to bear such long tour ?
    any recommended places to rent a bike in Sapa ? any tips ? :)

    Q#3:
    about the weekend markets.
    I like photography and authentic places, costumes and colorful markets.
    Have you seen some really off the beaten track places, villages that
    can provide some good photos ?

    Q#4:
    last question – i have around 20 days for the motorbike trip.
    do you think it’s enough ?
    if i do have some extra time left, what would you suggest me doing ?

    thank you
    Yaniv

    • Hi Yaniv,

      I would recommend renting your bike from a bike company in Hanoi: they can deliver the bike to you in Sapa and pick it up at your end point too. Try contacting Flamingo Travel or Rent a Bike Vietnam for more details about this. These two rental companies keep their bikes in good condition, so they will be ready for such a long loop. Also, they will give you a contact number so that if anything goes wrong while you are on the road they will be able to help.

      There are lots of good off the beaten track villages and markets on this loop: Sin Ho has a Sunday market, and so does Muong Khuong. Colourfully dressed ethnic minorities dominate the region, so you will encounter lots of authentic markets, villages etc along the way. The Sunday Market at Bac Ha is the biggest, but it is very touristy these days.

      I think 20 days is enough. But I think if you are going to ride the Sin Ho Loop, the Sapa to Ha Giang route, the Extreme North Loop, and the Northeast Loop, you will have plenty of things to do and places to see to fill all your 20 days :-)

      Have a great trip,

      Tom

      • Yaniv says:

        Hi Tom,

        Your reply was very helpful.
        already contacted the 2 motorbike renting agencies you recommended.
        I appreciate the time you take to reply and strangers around the world who need a good advice or a tip from experienced guy.
        Thanks a lot :)

        Yaniv

  68. Mishi says:

    Hi Tom,

    Great website & blog. I love your concept to help visitors get the most out of Vietnam.
    I stayed in Hanoi about 10 years ago, did the usual trail of Halong Bay & Sapa hill station.
    This time Im meeting up with my boyfriend for a long weekend in Hoi chi Minh City. He lives in Jakarta, myself in Dubai. We have 3 full days + Tuesday morning.
    If you have time I would really appreciate some help to make the most of our trip.
    We plan to hire a motorbike and see as much as we can without totally over doing it. As I mentioned both us is live in pretty hectic cities. I miss anything Green/nature/animals/waterfalls/culture/temples since living 12 years in the wonderful but concrete playground of Dubai! So Im interested to see the monkeys, but not sure if there is one national park or a few ?? Its not clear when I read. I would also love to see some rice or coffee fields. We have however booked our accommodation for the 4 nights in Hoi chi minh, which of course limits our options as we need to head back to the city each day. Not sure if that was the best idea. Regards to food I am a Vegan. What the hell am I going to eat Tom? lol. Although Im happy to live on white rice & the green veg (if there is something Kulung like in Indonesia) so my partner can enjoy fresh fish & sample some street food.

    Many thanks & blessings to you
    Mishi

    • Hi Mishi,

      Well, considering you don’t have much time in Vietnam, and that you need to be back in Ho Chi Minh each night, your options are limited.

      You can easily drive to Can Gio and back to Ho Chi Minh in one day. Can Gio is just south of Ho Chi Minh, and there are lots of monkeys there! :-)

      Your other choice for a national park is Cat Tien, which is 150km northeast of Ho Chi Minh. There’s a Gibbon Trail here, but you will not be able to drive there and back in one day – you would have to stay overnight at Cat Tien.

      Coffee and tea plantations are even further than Cat Tien so you probably won’t have time to do that either.

      You could drive to Ho Tram and Ho Coc beaches for the day. There are rice fields there too. But again, you will need to leave early in the morning to make the day trip there and back.

      You can also drive to the nearest towns in the Mekong Delta and back in one day. Places like My Tho and Ben Tre are about 3 hours’ drive fom Ho Chi Minh. Here you’ll find rivers and rice fields and fruit plantations.

      Regards being a vegan in Vietnam, you need to write down the word ‘vegetarian’ in Vietnamese: cơm chay. Then you have a better chance of finding food that you can eat :-)

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  69. Bunty says:

    I must say that I keep coming back to this site to get more and more information about Vietnam and riding there. My best friend and I are visiting Vietnam to do a road trip from HCMC to Hanoi in September and we’re planning on taking Highway 1 pretty much the whole way up. That is, unless anyone has a better suggestion?

    Thanks again for all your input. It is advice we are planning on taking quite seriously!

    Bunty

    • Hi Bunty,

      I don’t recommend that you stay on Highway 1 most of the way from HCMC to Hanoi. If you do that you will miss some of the best countryside in Vietnam, and you will also have to deal with more traffic on the roads.

      The best way to see Vietnam on a motorbike is to stay off Highway 1 as much as possible.

      I suggest you take a look at my Route Map and click on some of the links to guides that interest you, and start building your itinerary from there. Also, browse my Motorbike Guides Archives for some of the more interesting back-roads and loops.

      Then, when you have a clearer idea of what you’re itinerary will be, email me and I can give you some more detailed advice.

      Tom

      • James Pinero says:

        Met your Dad today on the bridge. Any suggestions for a move to a beach before the holiday? Up or down the coast… thanks

        • James Pinero says:

          Close by I meant to say

        • Hi James,

          Yes, Dad told me he met you. He said you were keen to get off the beaten track, so perhaps you might try Lagi:

          Lagi is a fishing town on the beach about 50km south of Phan Thiet. There are local buses that ply between Phan Thiet and Lagi. In Lagi you can stay by the beach at Ba That Resort for a couple of nights and in town at local guesthouses. Lagi town has decent street food and a large fishing fleet. You could say it’s like a smaller Phan Thiet. You could also go to Coco Beachcamp which is just a few kilometres out of Lagi.

          I’ve written a bit more about Lagi is Section 1 of this guide, and also Day 1 of this guide.

          I hope this helps,

          Tom

  70. Laurence says:

    Hello Tom, i’m a fellow viet-canadian circus artist. I really love your site and i’m impressed by all the detailed informations. I more of the outdoorsy adventurous type. I’ve been living in Hanoi the past year. I’m heading down Central between Hoi An and Nha Trang for 2 weeks. I have a tent, been roadbiking a lot in the north, i know the camping situation in VN. Do you have other sweet spots or suggestions (beach or forest) like the one in Dalat ;) ??

    • Hi Laurence,

      Camping spots in Central Vietnam? If you stick to the coastal back-roads between Hoi An and Nha Trang you’ll find plenty of places to camp (unofficially, of course) near the beach. To find the back-roads zoom in on the relevant region of this map

      Hon Gom Sandbar, north of Nha Trang, has a tiny village near the tip. If you avoid weekends, the beachfront restaurants will let you pitch your tent on the sands – it’s a beautiful spot.

      Also, the beaches around Quy Nhon are good. South of Quy Nhon there are loads of pretty coves, some with informal accommodation – again, if you ask they might let you pitch your tent. Try asking Haven Guesthouse.

      Most places will ask for a small fee to camp on their grounds of course.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  71. Martin says:

    Thanks for maintaining such an amazing and informative blog. There is so much to take in!

    I am also from the UK, although I have been living in Tokyo for the last 3 years. While I had one in the UK, I don’t have a motorbike here in Japan and I miss it very much. I’m considering coming to Vietnam for a month to ride around, but I haven’t really done a holiday like this before so I’m a bit apprehensive (as well as not being able to speak the language very well). Would you mind if I emailed you some questions about doing this sort of thing? You definitely seem to be the man to speak to!

    Thanks again for the webiste, it must be so useful to so many.

    Martin

  72. Guillermo says:

    Hello we are in mui ne at the moment with our motorbikes and our next stop will be dalat, wich route would you recomend, QL28 or DT716?
    Thank you!!!
    Ps: you have an awesome page!

    • Hi Guillermo,

      Thanks. I assume the road you refer to as DT716 is what Google Maps now labels QL28B? This is the road that goes via Dai Ninh Reservoir. If you haven’t already seen it then take a look at my guide to the Southeast Loop which has pictures, a map, description and video of both the routes you are thinking about taking.

      QL28B is more direct and, as it meets Highway 20 to Dalat at a later stage, it cuts out the time you have to spend of that highway – which is a good thing because it’s a relatively nasty highway.

      However, the mountains and jungle and more impressive on QL28. But, as this road meets Highway 20 at Di Linh, then you have to drive 80km on that highway to Dalat.

      Overall, I’d take QL28B because you get both beach and mountains (the first 40km from Mui Ne goes along the sea and past the sand dunes, before heading into the mountains). Note that there are parts of this road that are a little bumpy, but it’s not too bad at all.

      Ideally, do it as a loop and take one route up and the other down, as I’m suggested in the guide I mentioned above.

      Have a great trip,

      Tom

      • Guillermo says:

        Thank you very much!!! I would do the hole loop but we are heading to hanoi so we dont have enough time to loose an extra day (we have almost a month, but there are some places in the north we really want to get lost!!) Thank you for the advice, i think we will take the QL28 just for the scinery!!
        One more time, Awesome page!!!

  73. Ishay says:

    Hi Tom,
    Wonderfull web site, thanks for that.
    I will arrive to Hanoi next Tuesday to start my trip on my push bike from Hanoi to Sigon.
    I”m looking for very detailed map of OCM highway to Have it in hand and to load into my garmin Gps as well, can you please help me with it.
    While in Hanoi, where would you recommend to stay for 2-3 night and where I can meet and get the best information from other travelers.
    Cheers

    • Hi Ishay,

      If you want to meet other travellers in Hanoi then stay anywhere in the Old Quarter. There are lots of cheap and decent guesthouses and lots of fellow travellers. I can’t recommend a particular place to stay – check the trusted guidebooks – Lonely Planet etc – to find out what they suggest.

      The Ho Chi Minh Road is easy to follow. If scenery matters to you (and you’re not overly concerned about cycling up big hills) then make sure to take the Western branch of the Ho Chi Minh Road from Phong Nha – the Eastern branch is dull in comparison but it is a lot easier to cycle.

      For a map and guide of the central section of the Ho Chi Minh Road have a look at my guide here.

      For other advice on which maps to use have a look at this.

      Also you could check with Flamingo Travel in Hanoi – I think they are developing a GPS system for motorbike rides around Vietnam.

      Have a great trip,

      Tom

  74. Nancy says:

    Hi Tom,
    Love your website! I am planning my first trip to Vietnam for about 3 weeks: Aug 20-Sept 11 with my 19 year old daughter. From SF, I plan to fly into & out of Hanoi. I’m having difficulty deciding in which order to see places.
    I want to visit:
    Hanoi, Halong Bay (2 night boat trip), Hue, Hoi An, Sapa, Dalat, Bac Ha (because of your article), Laos-Luang Prabang (elephants), Not sure if I can fit in HCMC/Mekong Delta, Angor Wat
    Also, is it easy & safe to hire a guide for each of the places once I get there or should I try to arrange it beforehand?
    Your suggestions or guidance would be much appreciated!

  75. Gene says:

    Hi Tom.
    super blog. information overload. lots of reading to do.
    do you have any info on ha long bay please? i want to know what kind of cruise to book & for how long.
    thanks!

    • Hi Gene,

      Halong Bay is great but there’s no denying it is jammed packed with tourists these days.

      Most people do a 2 day tour (with one night spent on the boat). They’re easy to arrange in Hanoi, rather than doing it in Halong City.

      There’s loads of competition for these tours so prices can be very low, but standards can also be very low too. In general, you get what you pay for: if you go cheap then you may be disappointed; pay a little more and you’ll get a lot more from the tour.

      I reckon on between $100-150 all inclusive tour from Hanoi. I can’t recommend any particular tour company, but make sure you check the reputation of the company before you book the tour.

      Good luck,

      Tom

  76. Charlie says:

    Hi Tom,

    Such a great resource you’ve created, really useful thank you. I’m heading to Hanoi with my girlfriend in mid-March and we’re hoping to get a bike (Honda Rebel 250) on the train up to Lao Cai and loop back to Hanoi. She’s not so confident on a bike so will be on the back. Do you think that this a reasonable route for 8 days? http://bit.ly/1BfjDsC

    Anything we’re missing? I don’t want to be spending all day on the bike to be honest – not much fun for the passenger! So hoping this route means we can take it easy and not feel too rushed.

    Thanks again for the info, love the site. Cheers,

    Charlie

    • Hi Charlie,

      Happy to hear that you find the website useful.

      March is a pretty good time for this route.

      These are all great roads but they are very mountainous and therefore pretty slow for driving. You’ll probably average 30km an hour, plus all the stops to take in all the great scenery. I would estimate, depending on your riding stamina, about 4-5 days riding for this route. That’s assuming you’re taking it at a leisurely pace and making the most of the journey. So that would give you at least 2-3 days of staying put in one place.

      I noticed your map doesn’t include the Ha Giang Extreme North Loop – this should not be missed. Check it out here.

      Also bare in mind that the more time you have on these road trips the better. Things don’t always go according to plan: bad weather may hinder progress, or landslides may close roads, or new roadworks may slow you down, or quite simply some bits of the journey may prove too alluring to pass by in just one day.

      I hope you have a fantastic trip.

      Tom

      • Charlie says:

        Hi Tom,

        Yeah it seems a shame to miss the extreme north loop but I don’t think we’ll have the time (or perhaps Ba Be will have to go amiss instead). I’ve also noticed in your guide that the road between Lao Cai and Xin Man is closed so this will probably add a day to our journey to Xin Man (unless it’s re-opened, I’ll check with bike rental people – EasyRider, they’ve been great so far!). Will update as I find out!

        Thanks again,

        Charlie

        • Hi Charlie,

          If you are going to miss out either the northern loop or Ba Be I would leave out the latter – although both are great destinations.

          There’s only a small section of the road (about 20km) that was still unmade when I last visited (Oct 2014). The section is just north of Bac Ha after you turn east to Xin Man. It’s passable if you are on a motorcycle (not a scooter) but if it’s been raining this short section is hellishly muddy and very slippery – especially with a pillion. They’ve been upgrading it for years, so maybe it’ll be finished by the time you get there.

          Tom

          • Charlie says:

            Hey Tom,

            Thanks for the advice, that’s good to know. I think we’re going to have to cut it down further in the interest of keeping the pillion sane… We’re getting a flight down to Phu Quoc for some R&R after the biking. Do you reckon it’s possible to do this -http://bit.ly/1LXmJlq – and be back in Hanoi on day six? Is the QL2 a reasonably good road? Anything worth seeing on the way back to the city? Hopefully it’s doable – 500 odd kilometres. Thanks again, huge help! Best,

            Charlie

            • Yes, that’s a very comfortable amount of time to do this route in. QL2 is
              OK but a little dull. You could still go to Ha Giang and skip the north
              loop by staying on QL34 (also very scenic) then hooking up with QL3 back to
              Hanoi. Perhaps it’s best to leave that leg of your ride open until you
              reach the end of DT177 and then see how’s it’s all going – make the
              decision from there.

              Tom

  77. kate says:

    Hi Tom,

    Thank you for all informations, very helpfull!

    Just 2 questions:
    We are a couple with a motobike. Do you know if it’s possible to bring the motobike on the ferry boat? (And maybe the price!).

    Then, there are ferry boat from Vung Tau every day? Every two days?…

    Thank you
    Best

    Kate

    • Hi Kate,

      It’s not possible to put a motorbike on the boat between Saigon and Vung Tau. However, the ‘back road’ between Saigon and Vung Tau is in great condition and takes between 2-3 hours to ride (read more about it here). Or you could rent your motorbike from Vung Tau at Ned Kelly’s Bar, just across the road from where the ferry docks.

      Tom

  78. Christobel says:

    I am visiting Vietnam in August 2015 for 18 days and seriously considering returning the following year to see more of Vietnam as an independent traveller. However I do have some reservations as I am a single mature woman who just might be susceptible to scams etc. I can see that one can travel the country a lot cheaper than an organised tour. I wonder if there is someone ‘out there’ who might be interested in joining up?

    • Hi Christobel,
      Vietnam is still a pretty safe place for female travellers, off all ages. There are scams here and there (as there are in most industrializing countries people travel to) but they are mostly in the big cities and very touristy areas. Check your guidebook for a list of common scams and you should be absolutely fine in Vietnam. However, a travelling companion is a good idea, so hopefully someone will respond to your comment on above.
      Good luck,
      Tom

  79. Alan Murray says:

    I’ve read many of your articles with interest, especially the recent series on your travels to the far north.
    However, I wonder how many of your readers will actually follow some of the routes you have described in such detail. I spent 6 days in the area recently and saw less than a dozen ‘foreigners on bikes’.
    In contrast, I wondered if you might consider a series of articles on ‘short trips by motorbike from Saigon’? I think more people would make use of these. I have made a number of interesting trips around Thanh Da and Can Gio which involve multiple ferry crossings. If I can master Google Maps as well as you have I could send some suggested itineraries.
    Keep up the good work – obviously a labour of love!

    • Hi Alan,

      Quite a lot of people drive those remote routes, and the numbers increase every year, as gradually travellers and expats in Vietnam become more adventurous and want to experience something more off the beaten path, rather than going to Mui Ne and Hoi An over and again. I often receive emails from travellers asking advice on areas such as Ha Giang, because there’s still not much written about it out there.

      Yes, you’re right, I have been planning on a series of day/night motorbike trips from Saigon, but there are so many other things I want to do that I haven’t got around the writing it up yet. I’m not a big fan of Can Gio – for me the best trip within relatively easy reach of Saigon is Ho Tram/Ho Coc, no matter what kind of budget you’re on.

      Thanks for your interest in my site. Yes, I suppose you could say it’s a ‘labour of love’ :-)

      Tom

    • The Tattered Tailor says:

      I actually found this article more helpful then any other ive read. I plan on following his exact route from HCMC to Hanoi. This article made me ralize how possible and easy and beautiful it will be.

  80. Alyssa Maddalozzo says:

    Hello and thank you so much for this blog!
    My boyfriend Ben and I arrived on Monday (HCMC) and have since been around to many of of your recommendation. Ben has bought a 125 bonus which he plans on stripping down and rebuilding on Monday for our trip up North, we are very excited!

    Part of the reason for this holiday is to see if we want to live here. Ben has numerous meetings set up next week, he is a chartered surveyor. We want to explore areas to live in and was hoping you could recommend some nice spots. We are not into mod cons, more shop houses/alley houses.

    Many thanks,
    Alyssa and Ben

  81. Geoff Manasse says:

    What a wonderful website. I’ve been traveling to and in Vietnam for 12+ years and I found many new ideas of places to visit and food to taste for me here.
    I particularly liked what you had to say about the food. Some of the food smells are far from western palates. There are good restaurants and bad ones and seeing where the crowd goes is usually a good indicator. And if you end up getting invited for a meal in a home, there is no guarantee the host will be a good cook. However the cultural exchange will be worth it. You just need to try it.

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