All About this Tour
This cycle-journey through Southeast Asia's most spectacular mountain range is for cyclists seeking a biking challenge, enjoy climbing and mixing it up with some off road trails.
Our tour is the ultimate mountain bike adventure. After an overnight train ride from Hanoi, we ride 305 km through some of the most spectacular mountain scenery anywhere in the world. The roads are a mixture of good asphalt, broken or potholed roads, and some off-road cycling tracks. Although the riding is tough, it is very enjoyable, and anyone who enjoys hill riding will love this tour. The scenery really is fantastic, and the people are extraordinarily colourful and friendly. This trip will be supported by jeep and motorbike. Due to the nature of some of the trails, the jeep cannot follow, then we will have motorbike support. During these motorbike sections, we will have rendezvous points with the support vehicle.
Suitability: This trip is tough due to the geography. It is a very mountainous region, and we have to cross many valleys and mountains to get to Dien Bien Phu. The tour builds up to some tough all-day riding with long distances. This trip should only be attempted by those in good physical condition.
Biking Conditions: This tour is mainly on broken and pot-holed roads with significant portions on dirt tracks. While the off-road riding is not that technical, some experience will help. A support truck or motorcycle is always available to help when required.
We meet in Hanoi, having a bit of a chance to explore Vietnam's capital before we catch the Tulico Express, the overnight train up north, to the start of our adventure. Bikes and luggage can be dropped off at our local office, so you can visit Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, go to the Temple of Literature, or have a relaxing massage to help recover from jet lag. We meet up in early evening for dinner and then transfer to the train station, along with bikes and bags for the 260-km overnight train journey to Lao Cai. The train is a very civilised affair with compartments sleeping four and a carriage where you can buy food and refreshments.
We cycle 4 km on a tarmac road, then turn left and enjoy a 3-km off-road ride along a hillside. This undulating ride along a dirt track has a few short challenging hills but with beautiful mountain scenery. We cycle downhill to Ma Tra Village, home to the Black Hmong. Here we have lunch before we continue cycling on a rough track looping to Ta Phin and some dramatic mountain scenery. We take a break in Ta Phin, one of the most beautiful villages in Sapa, and our guide will take you around and introduce you to the culture and customs of the Red Dzao people. From Ta Phin, there are several alternative tracks that loop and drop down to the main Lao Chai road. Depending on weather conditions, these can be muddy and slippery but are great fun to ride. Once we get to the main road, we transfer back to Sapa, or you can cycle the extra 15 km, if you wish. Due to the nature of the trail, the ride cannot be supported the whole way by jeep, but there will be spots along the trail where we can rendezvous with the support vehicle. Late afternoon can be spent exploring Sapa before we meet up for dinner.
We ride out of Sapa and complete the 15-km road climb up to Tram Ton Pass – the highest road pass in Vietnam at 2,000 m. We then have a superb 25-km descent into a beautiful valley. The countryside is truly wonderful as we pass tea plantations, and all inhabitants are from minority tribes. The weather always seems to get clearer this side of the mountains, and if we look back, we should get views of Fansipan (3,143 m), the highest mountain in Indochina. At the small town of Tam Duong, we have lunch and then turn left off the main road to cycle 28 km on a lovely country lane through the remote villages of Ban Hon and Ban Giang. We have now left any sign of other western tourists and are in a land of rice paddies, small coffee plantations, and sharp limestone cliffs. We finish in the new city of Lai Chau.
We start the day with an easy pedal from the sleepy town of Lai Chau, but things pick up after 10 km, where there is a climb that soon turns into a long, sweeping downhill. The first half of the road is amid mountains and rice terraces; the second is along the Nam Na River, with towering mountains on both sides of the road. The afternoon ride toward Muong Lay is mainly flat with a few slight dips and rises to keep things interesting. The town is at the confluence of the Nam Na River, the Nam Lay River, and the Da River.
Another hilly day, but we start nice and easy following a river for 15 km, before starting our first climb of the day of over 19 km when we reach a pass at 860 m. At the top, we'll take a break at a well-located tea shop for refreshments. The average gradient of the pass is relatively easy, averaging around 6-8%. Dropping down to a plateau around 400 m, we will stop regularly at some of the last hill tribe villages and have lunch in a local restaurant, where our guide can introduce you to the local customs. There is another short final climb up to a 650-m pass before we prepare a broad smile to greet the kids as we cycle through paddy fields on the final flat stretch into the historic town of Dien Bien Phu.
After an early breakfast, we take in a tour of historic Dien Bien Phu, Starting at the well-maintained and interesting museum, we visit the cemetery and the French war bunkers and battle sites. We then head to the airport to catch the lunchtime flight back to Hanoi.
Because some people can't imagine going on a trip without their own beloved bicycle, we do not provide them as part of this tour. However, you can hire bikes locally for the price listed in the tour pricing section. The bikes are well-known makes of mountain bikes with lightweight alloy frames, 24- to 27-speed gearing, v-brakes, and Shimano components and front suspension. If you bring your own bike, please make sure it is a mountain bike, preferably with front suspension, in good mechanical order.
You can also hire an electric bike (or an E-Bike) for the price listed in the tour pricing section. We have 2 sizes available: S = 155 cm - 170 cm and M = 171cm - 180 cm. The E-Bikes are GIANT brand with SHIMANO Alivio1,9 speed, disc brakes, and adjustable suspension fork.
Basic spares and tools are carried by the guide and on the support vehicle, though we cannot guarantee having spares for every conceivable problem. Carrying a basic tool kit, a spare tube and a pump while riding is recommended.
Wearing a helmet is required on all our biking adventures and is non negotiable. If you do not wear a helmet you will not be allowed to cycle. Your tour leader is trained in first aid and emergency rescue, but to a large degree you must be responsible for your own safety while riding. It is therefore compulsory that you take out travel insurance that will cover you for a mountain biking tour.
You will be led by a local English-speaking guide and if the group is 9 people or more we will add another guide to the tour. All our guides are well informed in the history, culture and religions of the area where you are biking and are skilled at passing that knowledge on to you. Your guide is also medically trained and an experienced cyclist, able to handle most minor repairs en route.
For 46 nationalities – including Australians, Canadians and Americans – an e-visa can be obtained. This must be applied for and received before departure for Vietnam. The fee for the e-visa is US$25 and then the visa is issued on arrival at international airports for another fee. Note that the e-visa takes 3-5 working days to process and you must submit a scanned copy of a photo and of your passport when applying. Print the approval letter to present upon arrival in Vietnam to acquire your visa. Nationalities not on the electronic visa list can obtain a pre-approved entry visa online before arrival in Vietnam for a fee, however, the visa is still issued on arrival at international airports.
A visa for Vietnam can also be obtained from any embassy worldwide, here's a list of locations. A tourist visa is valid for a single 30 day stay. You must specify your arrival date when applying for a visa and it is from this date that the 30 days will be calculated. When picking up your visa check to be sure the dates match your travel plans and that it is stamped directly into your passport as it will not be accepted if it is stapled in or loose.
Recommended vaccinations are typhoid, polio, tetanus and hepatitis A. A certificate for Yellow Fever is required when arriving from an infected area within six days. Vietnam is a malarial area and you will need to take anti-malarial tablets. Please speak to your doctor for the most up to date information.
While Vietnam is mostly warm and humid, there are no good or bad seasons to visit Vietnam. Each region experiences its own climate changes. The north is hot and humid with high rainfall from May to October and cooler from November to April. Central Vietnam is hot and dry between January and August with rains flowing in during September to November. Southern Vietnam is mostly hot and dry from November to April and wet season between May and October with the highest rainfall in June-August.
Meals are included as per the itinerary where B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner. Most meals are Vietnamese food and features noodles, rice curries and soups. Vietnamese cuisine is world famous and we make sure you sample as much variety as possible. Any special dietary requirements can also be catered for as well. Please let us know at the time of booking.
Keeping you completely hydrated is a job we take very seriously. Cold water, some energy-restoring local fruit, and soft drinks are included in the tour price while riding. Soft drinks and other beverages during meals are not included. Beer is freely available everywhere in Vietnam but is NOT included in the price.
SpiceRoads does not require you to pay a surcharge for traveling alone. We will arrange for you to share accommodation with another traveler of the same gender and if we can not match you up we will provide a single room at no extra charge. If you prefer not to share a single supplement is payable to guarantee your own room. The cost of the single supplement is listed above.
We recommend that you tuck away a few extra dollars, perhaps US$10, for incidentals. It is customary to tip local tour guides and drivers, however, the amount you give should be dependent on the level of service you receive. As a general guide, we suggest US$ 3-4 per person per day is appropriate.
The official national currency is the Vietnam dong (d), but the US dollar is widely accepted in tourist centers. However, in smaller towns and villages the dong is preferred. ATMs are available in all major tourist destinations and big cities. Vietcombank has the best network with a single withdrawal limit of 2,000,000d (about US$125). Most major currencies can be exchanged at leading banks in Vietnam, but the US dollar is preferred away from the tourist centers. Changing US$100 will make you an instant millionaire! You cannot legally take the dong out of Vietnam but you can reconvert reasonable amounts of it into US dollars on departure.
If this is the tour for you here's what you need to do to confirm your place: Read our Booking Conditions
From the tour page click the 'Book Now' link. All departures for this tour will appear, just select the date you'd like to travel. There is a minimum number of participants (usually 2) required to enable the trip to go ahead. Once the minimum number is reached, the trip status will change from 'Available' to 'Guaranteed to Depart'. Once a trip is guaranteed to depart you are free to book your flights and make other travel arrangements. If you are unsure about the trip status, please email us or call our office. For the next steps you'll need to know the names of the people traveling and have either a Visa or a MasterCard. If you wish you can also provide extra details such as passport numbers, height, or you can add that later by logging into Manage My Trip (we'll set up an account for you automatically if you don't already have one). However, if you wish to get a children's discount, please do fill out the date of birth of the riders. If you are having any problems, please send us an email, or give us a call (+66 2 381 7490) and one of our travel specialists will assist you with your booking.
For Long Tours (7 days or more) to guarantee your place we require a 30% or 500 USD deposit, whichever is the greater. For Short Tours (6 days or less) we require full payment to guarantee your place. We also require that you take out travel insurance when you book your holiday. Besides covering you during your holiday it will also enable you to claim for any money that you have paid to us, including your deposit, should you have to cancel your trip.
Full payment must be paid 45 days before the departure date with fees for any bicycle rental(s), single supplement(s) and extra hotel nights. Our confirmation will include personal details you provided us (including your flight information), visa application advice, a packing suggestion list and a detailed tour itinerary. It will also include a checklist to ensure you get everything ready for your holiday.
On the rare occasions when we, SpiceRoads, must cancel a trip, all payments received to date will be 100% refunded, which constitutes full settlement. There will be absolutely no deductions. If you, the client, must cancel your reservation, your cancellation fee will be determined according to when you cancel. For full details, please read our cancellation policy.
For those who have been on several long tours with us we reward customer loyalty by offering repeat customers a special discount off the tour price (excludes single supplement and bike rental). If this is your fourth scheduled tour or more you will receive a 5% discount. If this is your eighth scheduled tour or more we will extend a 10% discount. The discount will be reflected in your online booking, but please contact us if any questions. Loyalty discounts can not be used in conjunction with any other offer. Note: Only tours of 7 days or more will be applicable for loyalty discount.
International flights, to and from the start and finish points are not included in the tour price. Once your tour is Guaranteed to Depart you can book your flight. Please contact us for advice before arranging flights for the best arrival and departure times. We would only cancel a trip for an extreme circumstance, but in that case, where we cancel your trip, we cannot be liable for losses incurred relating to any flight booking you have made. Please claim any losses from your travel insurance that you acquired when you booked your holiday.
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The information in this document is given in good faith, and covers the average range of conditions likely to be found on this trip. Please note that the itinerary is subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances, however, we will always do our best to adhere to this original itinerary