One of the first things that come to every traveler's mind about Ha Giang Loop is how difficult it is to ride a motorbike there. Are road conditions that bad? Is it dangerous?
This feeling is completely normal. I even scared myself to death the first time I came. I only learned how to drive a scooter a couple of weeks before and tour agents kept repeating stories about how many people got involved in accidents (25 cases each year).
Even if it's true that I'd not recommend having your first bike driving lessons in Ha Giang, missing Ha Giang Loop, or only staying around the city, is the worst decision you can take. And I will explain to you why.
1. Ha Giang is one of the most fascinating places in Asia
Dong Van Karst Plateau, in the north of Ha Giang province, has been recognized as a global geopark by UNESCO. Located at an extension foot mount East of the Himalayas, geoheritages date from 550 million years ago! It's also home to 17 different ethnicities, most of them who escaped from neighboring countries in the past and took refuge in the highlands (where they have almost been living isolated until tourism arrived). It's all about nature (breathtaking landscapes) and culture.
2. Road conditions of Ha Giang
Ok, it's beautiful, I understood, is it difficult to drive it? It mostly depends on your driving skills, weather conditions, and how used you got to Vietnam's chaotic drivers.
Ha Giang roads are constantly being fixed, due mostly to landslides. That means most of the pavements are in good condition to drive, but some can also be full of stones, mud, or gravel. Tip: make sure you go slow and don't press the brake during these moments. Play with the lowest gears (in case you are not driving an automatic motorbike).
If it's really gonna rain (don't trust the weather forecast) and you are not an experienced driver, maybe you should let it go. Ha Giang Loop roads go upside down, they are full of mountain passes, slopes, and turns. If the pavement is dry, no problem (just go). But if it's wet you will have to extreme precautions. Especially when going down.
You have to understand the informal driving rules in Vietnam first. No one takes a look at what's happening behind. That means that whatever can happen in front of you it's your fault. Make sure you go slow enough and constantly check where their back wheels are going. And don't scare if they beep you. That's a cultural thing. They are just being nice by alerting you they're passing near (and avoid an accident).
3. Alternatives to motorcycles in Ha Giang
If you are still feeling scared or doubtful about driving a motorbike, you should know that's not the only way you have to enjoy the beauty of the province. Some people are doing it with an easy rider, a car, or even the bus. So don't stop reading this post yet!
In almost every tour company in Ha Giang, you will be able to hire a driver, a skilled professional who will ride you all along the Loop. You will just need to stay behind the bike to watch and enjoy the breathtaking scenery.
Rent a car
A car doesn't feel as free as a motorbike, and for sure you will not be able to go inside the most remote villages, but it's also a good choice. You can drive it yourself or you can also hire a driver/tour guide.
There are plenty of buses covering the route from Ha Giang city to Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Dong Van, Meo Vac or Du Gia. You just need to go to the bus station and ask or explain your situation to your hotel (they will help you to book a ticket and they will tell the driver to come to pick you)