Sapa (Northwest Vietnam Loop) – 2. Route

The Northwest Vietnam loop takes us from Hanoi to Mai Chau, followed by Son La, Dien Bien Phu, Sapa, Lao Cai and Yen Bai before bringing us back to Hanoi. It is best to plan five to six days for the trip, so that you can ride at a reasonable pace with adequate time for sightseeing. The minimum number of days required for the trip would be three days. Personally, I spent four days for the trip.

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Map of North Vietnam and route taken

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Northwest Vietnam route distances (Image from MinskClub Vietnam)

The route is pretty straight forward and there are road signs and kilometer stones to guide the rider. If you do lose your way, Vietnamese will gladly point you out to the right direction. Majority of the roads are paved. The exception I can recall is the muddy stretch near Dien Bien Phu. For the whole journey, I averaged around 40km/h to 50km/h on my motorcycle. The total distance I traveled was around 1000km. Vietnamese guesthouses are available at major towns and villages along the route. Similarly for petrol, you can find them at every town and village. However, do note that distances between towns and villages can be far and it would be wise to top up whenever you can. Besides petrol stations, you should also watch out for grocery stores that sell bottled petrols.

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Such sign posts can be found at most major road junctions in Vietnam.

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Kilometer stones are located every kilometer and indicate the distance to the next town.

4 thoughts on “Sapa (Northwest Vietnam Loop) – 2. Route

  1. hi there, your trip sounds awesome! im looking at doing this over the coming days…(in Hanoi now)…..few quick questions, what size bike did you take? would the auto motos (aka skooters) suffice the terrain? Also, im a soul female traveller (30), any safety concerns?
    your input would be hugely appreciated! thanks!

  2. Hi Lauren,

    I used a 125CC Russian Sport Minsk. I am not sure of your riding experience but the ageing Minsk is not the easiest motorcycle to handle.

    A scooter would suffice. It’s just a bit light and not as powerful as the Minsk but still adequate for the trip. I saw most locals on scooters during my loop.

    The same basic safety concerns apply for a solo female traveler. But for a riding trip in the countryside, I would say it’s better to have some company. If money is not a concern, you can even consider taking a guided tour on a motorcycle. It might not sound as adventurous but you would probably learn more and see more things with a guide.

    If you do want to ride on your own, do plan to end each day’s ride at least a few hours before dark. The few hours would act as a buffer against bike troubles and finding directions. Have a working mobile with guesthouse numbers so you can contact in case of need. No matter how hot it can be, wear a good helmet, jacket, gloves, long pants and strong shoes at the very least. I am speaking from someone who’s currently nursing a fractured elbow from a riding accident on a scooter. 😛

  3. I just did the saigon to sapa epic trek by scooter. I think the scooter is fine from saigon to hanoi but i hit some rocky jagged ass roads north of hanoi and a bigger bike (or at least bigger tyres) would’ve been handy. On my ass and to avoid punctures.

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