FAQ: CONNECTING TO – FROM
To and from Ha Giang & Cao Bang there are numerous bus companies that operate the routes. They are in general all sleeping buses with a standard rate (although there are now some VIP options). There is really no difference between the various bus companies. They very much provide same standard, service and price.
1. How do I best get to Cao Bang City & Ha Giang City from Hanoi? +
To both Ha Giang & Cao Bang there is only one mean of transportation – the roads. No flights or train exist.
If you are coming from Hanoi, there are many day and night buses from Bến Xe Khách Mỹ Đình (My Dinh bus station). Most day buses depart regularly from 5 to 12 am with a few afternoon options and most night buses depart regularly from 6 to 9 pm. Almost all are sleeping coaches of same standard, and price is VND 200,000 on all of them.
There are also so-called VIP vans or mini-buses where seats cost some VND 300-400,000. They leave from different locations in Hanoi and is easiest booked online.
The journey will take around 6,5 hours and they will stop at a restaurant half way where there will be restrooms, snacks and food.
Private car or van can also be rented but is relatively costly. If interested ask us for a quotation stating number of people
2. How do I best get to Cao Bang City & Ha Giang City from other cities? +
To both cities you may connect from several other cities. They are daily scheduled but normally only with one or two connections. Ha Long City, Hai Phong (connection from Cat Ba Island), Ninh Binh all have a daily evening connection. They do not have day time bus options.
From Sa Pa to Ha Giang there is two connections; one is a local day bus at 7.30 am and a sleeper bus at 8.30 pm.
All the above buses are not yet offering online bookings. A local travel agent, your hotel/hostel or you physically going to the bus station is how you may get tickets.
3. Is it true that one can have a free dorm bed if coming on a night bus at QT? +
On most night buses you will arrive very early. So far, but only in Ha Giang, we offer free dorm bed between 3 to 8 am for QT rental/tour customers (only) at QT Guest House, located 50 m from our rental shop and 350 m from the bus station in Ha Giang. For Cao Bang this option is not yet available.
Availability depends on prior booking and seasonal numbers of customers utilising this service.
If arriving on a night bus, ask the bus driver to drop you at QT Nha Nghi (guest house) if he is in a good mood he will. Otherwise ask to be dropped at Bến Xe Khách Hà Giang – Ha Giang Bus Station which is just 350m from QT Guest House. Ring the doorbell on arrival.
5. Can QT assist me with booking the bus? +
While we happily will assist you (with no commission) to book your bus from Ha Giang and Cao Bang to Hanoi, Ha Long City or Hai Phong (onwards by ferry or local bus to Cat Ba), Ninh Binh, Cao Bang, Lao Cai or Sa Pa.
For your bus out of Ha Giang you may book it with the reception at QT Guest House on arrival or the day you return your bike. From Cao Bang you may do the same with our English-speaking staff at the rental office.
For bookings to Ha Giang or Cao bang we refer you to do so by online booking, by assistance of a hotel/hostel, travel agent or simply going to the bus station. We are not a travel agent, and as much as we wish to assist you as much as we can, we simply do not have the logistic and manpower for booking buses to our rental locations.
6. By night or day bus? +
There are plenty of buses to travel both by day and night. Is any option safer? We don’t have statistics to prove such answer. While traffic kills and injures many in Vietnam, we are not aware of any serious incidents with public transport to or from Ha Giang/Cao Bang in the recent years.
Traffic and general commotion on/along the roads are very less at night so our gut feeling is that accidents by night is less common on northern roads in Vietnam.
While most buses are sleeper coaches (even the day buses) the beds are not always adapted to large western people. We have learnt that some sleep well no matter what but for others you might not have your ultimate sleep on these buses.
If you leave with an earlier night bus you will end up at your location in the middle of the night and then need to also book accommodation. On the other hand, if taking the last bus out of Ha Giang/Cao Bang (around 9 pm) you will arrive around 4.30 am AND be allowed to sleep on the bus till dawn. Hence, you may save on also booking accommodation for that night.
FAQ: MOTORCYCLES, ROADS, SAFETY
At QT we have a wide variety of models to suit your skills on these roads. Even for you who have that ‘big’ bike back home you will be happy on what we provide. North of Hanoi no one rents bigger bikes than 150cc
1. What is the best season for rides in northern Vietnam?+
From a weather point the peak seasons of northern Vietnam is mid-September till mid-November and March till mid-May. These are also the seasons when we strongly recommend early bookings of bikes and tours to ensure availability.
There is no best season for a motorbike ride. Each season has its unique characteristics and advantages, as well as, a range of local festivals. Summer runs from mid-May into late-August with the months of June and July being the hottest and most humid. The cool and dry season starts from the end of November to early March. Expect December into end-February to offer fairly chilly rides up on the mountains so bring warm clothes in that period.
At QT Motorbikes and Tours we often get the question if it is likely to rain. Yes, it is likely to rain on any day in any place in Vietnam – that is why this country is so green and lush. However, weather up in the mountains is very changeable and it, like the views, can shift from valley to valley. Like anywhere one need to adopt speed to weather, but there is no real problem or extra risk with some rain.
The so-called ‘rainy season’ of June to mid-August has earned its name simply from the fact that that it is the time we see the heaviest downpour in northern Vietnam. However, it might not rain at all on the days you are out. This season is characterised by thundery rains (often late afternoon/night). It might be really heavy rain when it comes down, but it is normally short-lived and after the rain you may have blue sky for the rest of the day.
Remember that the pilot that took you to Vietnam did not Google weather sites weeks in advance to determine the flight route. S/he got the latest predictions an hour before your flight and adopted to it. So should you, when going out on a bike! No matter weather you will enjoy your ride!
2. Is traffic crazy in Vietnam? +
Yes, in the big cities the traffic is hectic; however, in Ha Giang and Cao Bang you are far from the busy cities and will enjoy roads with little or no traffic. However, mountain roads have their own hazards to watch out for. There can be mud slides, sharp bends, pothole, and steep terrain that one must be cautious of. Small gravel on the side of the roads are always a hazard.
Honking your horn and maintaining a sensible speed (especially in rainy weather) is the best way to a safe ride. Despite all these hazards, almost all roads are paved and most of the ride should be smooth. If you have no or little experience riding a motorcycle, we do wish to alert you that these roads are the most challenging you can attempt in Vietnam. At QT Motorbikes and Tours we do offer free training and practice till you are confident. That said, prior practice is highly advised or better book (in advance) one of our trusted and experienced guide or drivers to take you out on your adventure.
3. Why QT Motorbikes and Tours does not rent fully automatic bikes in Ha Giang?+
The fleet of rental bikes differ from Ha Giang and Cao Bang. The main reason is terrain and road conditions. While Cao Bang offer stunning mountains and similar challenging mountain roads these are not as steep as in Ha Giang. So, in Cao Bang we offer a fleet of brand-new Honda Vision, fully automatic. However, in Ha Giang we only offer semi-automatic and manual bikes.
From experience, we know many customers only have experience on automatic bikes. However, these are not suitable on really steep mountain roads. Automatic bikes are made for city use or at least flat-land use. An automatic bike has two disadvantages on the mountains. For one, it is quite a heavy bike to manoeuvre which also require more break power to stop. Secondly, it only have a front and a back break which on steep mountains easily can be overheated and cause break failure. A semi-automatic on the other hand has an additional engine break which makes the ride much more stable and avoids the break failure you may cause on an automatic bike.
If you only have experience riding on a fully automatic bike, it is not too hard to master a semi-automatic bike. For free we let our customers have sufficient training and practice before setting off on your adventure
4. Going two on one bike? Worthy facts to take note of +
For most ‘normal sized’ people all our bikes can take two persons. Please just observe how many Vietnamese people + luggage we already take, and the answer is obvious. Of course, the bigger the bike and engine you have, the more power and suspension to make the ride more enjoyable.
Now, please be strongly advised that going two on one bike should only be an option for very experienced drivers. It should not be seen as a budget matter to save a little money on the expense of risk and security of both driver and passenger. The roads of Ha Giang are not flat and easy driven as roads around Da Nang, Mekong Delta, etc. so ‘a little experience’ in such circumstances might not be the experience you need here in the mountains. We will not prevent or stop people who wish to go two on one. The decision and responsibility are fully yours.
5. Do I need a local motorbike license? Do I need the ‘frontier permit’ in Ha Giang? +
This is a bit tricky. As a foreigner you are required to have proper motorcycle licence from your home country supported by an International Driving Licence/Permit (IDP) to drive a motorcycle/scooter in Vietnam. We are not strict on this and assume all our customers are adults and can take proper decisions on risk vs. adventure. Police are not likely to stop you and check on licence, they are more likely to stop you if over-speeding in northern Vietnam.
Despite what you heard or read you do not need a Vietnamese motorcycle licence (which is very hard to obtain for a foreigner).
In Vietnam you may drive without any of above, but it is not legal. Maybe strangely, but you are seldom fined or penalised in anyway when you break this rule. However, note that if you may have an accident and injure yourself or others your ordinary travel insurance (which we certainly assume you have) might not cover you.
We are aware that travel budget might be a preventive factor, but if you do not have proper licence or experience on a motorcycle a much safer and practical way to experience the beauty of the northern Vietnam is behind one of our guide/drivers.
You may also have read or heard that you need a special permit, the ‘frontier permit’ to travel this region as a foreigner. Ha Giang is sadly the last place in Vietnam where foreigners are required to obtain a permit – on account of the perceived sensitivity of the border with China. These permits are required to travel on the road north from Tam Son to Dong Van and Meo Vac. Nevertheless, QT or your hotel are happy to assist you to get this provincial ‘admission permit’ (the Dong Van Geopark permit). It cost VND 230,000 (approx. US$ 11 per person). That said, there might be means around it and we will tell you more about that on arrival to Ha Giang.
6. If I have an accident what do I do? +
If you are unfortunate to have an accident hopefully you are on a trip with one of our guides who will be able to translate and help you. If not, you can call our office and we will do our best to assist and resolve the situation and/or give you directions to nearest clinic/hospital, mechanical workshop. We do have a 24/7 hotline where we can assist you and help with translation service.
Hopefully you will also do, like most our customers, go with our optional bike damage insurance. With it you will be covered for all and any damage to your bike if you are unfortunate to go down with it, but maybe more importantly it would also cover transport of you and the bike back to Ha Giang city would you be injured in such way you can’t continue drive, or the bike is so damaged that it can not locally be repaired. This insurance starts at VND 100,000 for the smaller bikes up to 300,000 for our ‘big’ bikes.
7. If I have a mechanical problem with the bike? +
Our bikes are very new and well maintained so you probably won’t experience any problems. We are the only rental agency in Ha Giang that have our full-time employed mechanical team to ensure constant maintenance and service.
If there is a mechanical problem by any chance, there are many motorbike workshops in most little villages. You should always contact QT hotline number, to explain the problems to the local mechanic and agree on price to get your issue fixed. Mechanical problems that stem from lack of service and not misuse or accident will be refunded on return of the bike.
8. Where to get petrol/gasoline? +
Just 500m from QT Motorbikes and Tours you can find the first petrol station. Our bikes come with a litre or so, meaning the first thing you need to do after rental is to fill up. On return we do not care if you return with a full tank or come pushing the back bike back. Petrol is not included in the retnal price.
Thereafter you will find petrol stations in all towns on your journey. On the map we will provide you with we have also marked out all places. In small villages you may also find small family shops that sell petrol in on local pumps. Keep in mind that petrol is more expensive (still very cheap) in smaller villages and the one in bottles not always pure, so try to avoid buying bottled petrol.
The petrol for your bike should be 92 or 95 octane but you will really not need to explain anything but open the tank and the service staff of the petrol stations will know what to refule.
9. Why should I get insurance? +
At QT, we offer an optional Motorcycle Damage Insurance, which covers any damage you may incur in an accident on the motorcycle.
- The insurance also covers the cost of transporting the motorcycle back to Ha Giang City if you damage or injure yourself in such a way that the motorcycle cannot be returned. The insurance would cover two persons riding a motorcycle, even if only one person is injured so that the journey cannot continue. Accompanying drivers on other motorcycles are not included.
- In the event of an accident, contact us and we will do our best to find the fastest and best means to take you to a medical facility and / or back to Ha Giang City. However, due to distance the support may take some time.
- In the event of damage to the motorcycle that needs repair to continue driving and repair on the road, find a local mechanic (available in almost all villages) and contact us and we will discuss with the mechanic and see how you in the fastest way can be back on the road. The costs incurred will be refunded upon return of the motorcycle if you have taken out the insurance.
- The insurance does NOT cover the personal medical expenses or costs for third parties if you have an accident. Theft of motorcycles is not covered, but if you use normal care and don’t leave the bike with key in it is unlikely that the bike would be stolen
- The insurance does NOT cover for matters that is your personal responsibility in compliance with Vietnamese traffic rules and regulations, such as over speeding [40km/hour in towns and 70 km/hours on high ways.]
- The insurance does NOT cover for decision to end your trip for any reason other than a serious accident. If you need to end your trip for other reasons, such as a serious illness, we will be happy to help and bring you and your motorcycle back to Ha Giang City. The normal transport costs are then your responsibility.
- There is no access fee (real claims are fully refunded upon return of the motorcycle).
- Mechanical errors of the motorcycle resulting from our service / maintenance are always refunded in full insured or not.
- The decision to refuse insurance is up to you. However, you are fully responsible to cover all repair costs (with original spare parts) up to the full cost of a new replacement motorcycle (in the worst case) and the transport of the motorcycle back to Ha Giang City and/or Cao Bang. We are still here to support you, but all costs and transport cost will be yours. Keep in mind that some of our motorcycles are special imports and spare parts can be comparatively expensive compared to your home country. Any disputes will be settled under Vietnamese law.
10. Does cc matters? +
Yes and no! There are many systems for classifying types of motorcycles, describing how the motorcycles are used, or the designer’s intent, or some combination of the two.
Scooter or motorcycle?
In Vietnam there are three common language distinctions; fully automatic bike, semi-automatic bike and manual bike. There is no universal system for classifying all types of motorcycles. Different countries have different classification systems often based on the cc. Cc means Cubic Centimeters. This is one of the specifications of an engine. This is not for just motorcycle but any engine that has a cylinder and piston. Cc is the measurement unit for the displacement of the engine. The displacement of an engine is the “Volume” that is displaced by the piston. 1000 cc = 1 Liter.
Why cc may tell you the ‘power’ of the engine it is not everything. Weight of bike, age of bike, load of the bike, maintenance of bike might be even more important than the cc.
Scooter is an adopted term in Vietnam and may include both fully automatic and semi-automatic bikes depending on who you speak to. In many places scooter is something that has less than a 70 cc engine. Something you will hardly ever find in a rental agency in Vietnam.
In many places in South-east Asia foreigners end up on fully automatic bikes that is 125-140 cc. Please note that if you rent a semi-automatic or manual bike there is no direct translation. A 110cc semi-automatic bike, in good conditions, will probably be stronger than your previous automatic 125cc bike.
FAQ: OTHER TRIVIA AND OFTEN ASKED DETAILS
The most common general question we get at QT is; what will be the weather in X days? A generic answer is that we have absolutely no idea. We understand that if you aim to do an outdoor activity you hope for good weather. So do we, but we have no power on it. We live in mountains where weather can change quickly, and nothing is predictable. Weather sites we do not trust much and from experience we hardly ever have had a customer coming back without a smile no matter weather.
1. For how many days should I plan my trip? +
This is almost an impossible question to answer. The average customer is renting for four days. We do have customers that is going out for 10+ days fully enjoying exploring the side-roads, village life, trekking and taking in scenery at their own leisure.
We also have the rushed travellers who are more interested to tick of a bucket list then really taking in the places they visit. It is understandable that time might be a hindering factor on a vacation. That said, Vietnam has much to offer, but to give Ha Giang and/or Cao Bang just a pit-stop visit is not fair and something you will regret. Distances on a map may look fairly short but these are mountain roads where even the most experienced driver is slowed down.
A general advice is to take into consideration seasons and skills. December through February the days are short and margins to reach your destination before darkness is limited. If you are less experienced don’t put pressure on yourself to accomplish your exploration in the minimum time – give yourself an extra day.
At QT we know that many come to discover Ha Giang and Cao Bang but not fully sure how much to give it. That is why you at QT Motorbikes and Tours will sign and pay for a contract of X days. If you stay longer you pay the addition when you return. If you for some reason come back earlier we give full refund as long as here is no damage caused by accident to the bike.
2. How do I pay for my trip/tour? +
We accept cash (Vietnamese Dong, American & Australian dollars and Euros) & Visa/MasterCard payment.
As with all card transactions in Vietnam there is a 2,5% bank charge when you use card payment. For now we have good experience with our customers and do not demand any prior deposit when booking, but full payment on the day you go out on the roads.
3. Luggage storage, laundry, 24 hours reception, opening hours? +
In both Cao Bang and Ha Giang we offer free storage of luggage when you are out on your trip
Our rental shops are both open from 7 am till 8 pm, 365 days a year
In Ha Giang at QT Guest House we offer laundry service (VND 50,000/kg) and our reception is ope 24 hours.
4. Should I tip or should I not? +
Tipping is commonly seen as an action showing the tipper’s courtesy and appreciation towards another who has conducted a service towards them
Tipping is not customary in Vietnam though it is highly appreciated. In fact, tipping is not a habit among Vietnamese, unless going for massage or upscale restaurants. Our advice is however that you should tip to reward good service, polite/friendly/professional service, or service that exceeds your expectations. Be this in your homestay, hotel, restaurant or for your massage it will always be welcomed.
Tipping tour guides is much appreciated. Being a tour guide means having to stay far from their family and friends for a long time and working no matter what the weather is. Tour guides also play a big role in making a tour successful and they may become a good friend of yours during your journey. So, if the adventure you experienced is truly awesome, you can let the guides know by giving them a tip of around USD 10-15 per day or around 10% of your tour-cost.
5. What is the quality of hotel and food on a tour? +
When travelling the countryside and northern mountains of Vietnam you are not likely to find much Western cuisine, but there will be no lack of various restaurants. And, if being a vegetarian [ăn chay] it is normally not a major problem although you may have a bit of explanation to do.
When in remote areas, quality and availability of food may vary. If you are concerned about food safety you may stock some snacks and pre-packaged/processed food when passing a town.
Accommodation should not be a problem. Hotels or Nhà Nghỉ (motels/guest house) are generally cheap, clean and well-equipped. In many places the only option might be to stay at an ethnic minority Homestay. While for some this might be to step out of one’s comfort zone it is a great way to meet local people and get an insight into daily life. Yes, basic and not always with private rooms most homestay would have hot/cold showers, flush toilets and of course high-speed Wi-Fi. More so, they would offer great home-cooked food and generous hospitality. However, watch out for some ‘homestays’ in towns they might be more of guest house than a genuine family home.
We generally do not recommend to book accommodation ahead of your trip. For one it is not saving you any money, secondly it takes away flexibility and improvisation and thirdly it is normally never a problem to find places to sleep on arrival to a place. If you travel on your own at QT we will help with bookings and give contacts and ideas for your stay along the way. When staying in Ha Giang City we warmly welcome you to stay at QT Guest House, conveniently located next to our rental shop and just some 350 m from the bus station.
6. Cash & ATMs? +
The provincial capitals of Ha Giang and Cao Bang you find plenty of banks and ATM cash points. At QT we accept Visa, MasterCard and cash payments (Vietnamese Dong, American and Australian dollars and Euro). Along the road you will almost always settle your bills by Vietnamese Dong. Most of the smaller towns will have an ATM cash point.