Work in progress...

Today we have to travel from Cao Bang to Ha Giang, northern Vietnam, for 235 km by minibus, which in normal conditions would take 3-4 hours, but in abnormal conditions like ours will extend up to 12 hours!


Wake up call at 4.45 am and we head walking to Cao Bang bus station. Our question is “will there be a direct bus to Ha Giang?”, answer of course is no. We will have to take 3 different minibuses, and will reach our destination at 5.30 pm, for totally 12 hours to cover the immense distance of 235 km. What a trip.
If you are travelling from Hanoi to Ha Giang, it’s easier, luckily there is a direct bus! Check schedule and prices here.

Powered by 12Go Asia system


But let’s go back to the stages of this endless journey. The first minibus is the best one, half empty, the ticket lady is very friendly and even gets us breakfast during one of the many many stops in order to pick up more people possible.

Passengers are sometimes kids, probably of little bit richer families who can afford to buy bus tickets to go to school, otherwise it’s bicycles or on foot along the steep hills and mountains. [We are in one of the poorest regions of the country, where on average people live with 8,000 Dong per day (0.30 cent), unbelievable…]. Other passengers are local people who need to cover short distances. We are the only ones who do the whole route and more, not to mention the only foreigners.

Hanoi Cao Bang Ha Giang bus
Green rice fields surround us

The road is ok, there’s green everywhere around, our driver is cautious. Whereas a fearless minibus going to Bao Lam takes us over. We are going to Bao Lac, 40 km before Bao Lam, so that vehicle would be more suitable to us.

We are a bit worried, but fate is gentle to us and when we get to Bao Lac, a village in the middle of nowhere, asking “Ha Giang?”, they point us towards that same other bus further on, which was just about to leave. They pick us up and we carry on with the adventure!

So far we have done 118 km in 4 hours…

Cao Bang Ha Giang how to go
Onboard the first minibus



The next 40 km will take almost 2 hours, since the hectic driver will stop repeatedly to upload and download different goods. Moreover, the road gets worse, holes, dirt roads, works in progress are everywhere.

When we mention works in progress we mean dredges that are literally devouring the mountain, so works that don’t necessarily involve the road, at least not now, and for sure not asphalt, this unknown stranger…

Finally at 11.30 we get to Bao Lam, another village in the middle of nowhere, facing a river in a long valley. Not even the time to say something, they point to another minibus, 3rd of the day, direction Ha Giang (“Ha Szan”, as they pronounce).

The bus isn’t leaving until full, so we have time to have a good Vietnamese lunch based of sticky rice, chicken and vegetables to keep us alive, preparing us to the last stage.
A mere 88 km-trip that will take… 5 endless hours. Yes, an average of 17km/h!


The road is not even worth to be called so, it looks like a war path. The driver and his two fellows are very young lads who sweeten the trip with even a DVD player and Vietnamese loud music. They pull over randomly inciting people to jump on, especially they hit on girls.

We wonder how things work here, like one day you’re walking on the street, or sitting on the sidewalk, minibus comes by and they ask you “Hey you, want to go to Ha Giang?” and you think about it and are like “Yeah why not?” or “Nah I’ll go tomorrow”. We do not understand.

Hanoi Ha Giang bus
Cinnamon perfumes us and our backpacks!

We do understand the enthusiasm of the boys who, providing this service, are making good money; not only they carry passengers but every kind of goods, sand sacks, potatoes, water, ice, wood, etc., even a fragrant load of cinnamon perfumes our bus. A bit passenger bus, and lorry truck, and post service, all in one!

Still, covering these 90 nightmare like kilometres everyday, maybe even back and forth, is pure madness. The road is really horrible, but even tank trucks are driving here, probably at an average walking pace…

Cao Bang Ha Giang Bao Lac Hanoi bus minibus
Serious work in progress…


Eventually at 5.30 pm we reach Ha Giang, exhausted by one of the craziest trips we’ve ever experienced.
As final joke, the minivan drops us as the bus station that, as usual, it’s miles out of town.
We have to walk a couple km into town to find an accommodation in Ha Giang.

It has been a long, intense and painful journey through this remote region in northern Vietnam, but it was the only way for us to cross these remote mountainous areas. But tomorrow the astonishing landscapes of Ha Giang province will reward us!


Surely an experience we will remember for a long time.

  • Primrose Homestay Cao Bang: the most established place in Cao Bang, the young staff is very friendly and welcoming, cheap prices!
  • Ha Giang Backpackers Hostel: one of the first hostels to open in town, great hospitality and new interiors;
  • you can pre book all your accommodation in Vietnam with free cancellation here.

Bus Noi Bai Airport - Ha Giang $ 10.88–15.82 5h – 8h
  •   VIP Sleeper 41 11:00
  •   Sleeper 38 21:30, 21:45, 22:00
  •   VIP Bus 09:27, 09:28, 09:30
Taxi Noi Bai Airport - Ha Giang $ 138.62–426.54 4h 30m – 6h
  •   Comfort 3pax
  •   Van 9pax
  •   SUV 4pax
  •   VIP Van 9pax
  •   Economy 3pax
  •   Van 11pax
  •   Minibus 15pax
Bus Hanoi - Ha Giang $ 9.89–19.33 5h 10m – 6h 40m
  •   Sleeper 45 16:45
  •   VIP 20 12:25, 12:40, 22:10, 22:20
  •   VIP 18 Express 08:00, 08:30, 16:01, 16:25
  •   VIP 22 12:30, 12:45, 21:50, 22:00
  •   VIP 14 07:30, 07:45, 16:40, 16:55
Van Hanoi - Ha Giang $ 15.23 5h
  •   VIP 07:30


Never leave home without a reliable travel insurance. Better safe than sorry.
Here are two options for you to compare.
Get a quote with World Nomads here, and get up to 20% off your travel insurance with Heymondo here.

World Nomads provides travel insurance for travelers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.


Did you know? Besides hotels and stays, you can now compare and book your flights + stays in one place on Booking FlightsSearch and compare deals on destinations and flights here.

Disclaimer: this post contains links to products and services for which we may be compensated, at no additional cost for you. Thanks for your support that helps us keep our blog free and operating!

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating / 5. Vote count:

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?


  1. June 16, 2016 / 10:06 am

    I’m gonna do the same trip in few weeks and I’m searching how to get to Ha Giang. Just read in some blogs that people went direct there with a night bus, but you couldn’t go and your blog is really recent… So is it not possible to get there direct? How long did you stay in Ha Giang? Was it worthy?
    Thanks a lot for your blog, it’s really useful!! :)
    Cheers and keep enjoying!

  2. amilliontravels
    June 16, 2016 / 11:11 am

    Hi Cristina! Thank you for your comment!
    It all depends from where you are planning to get there. What’s your plan? There are a few options:
    1.from Hanoi to Ha Giang there are many buses both day and night, all leaving from My Dinh bus station; this is the easiest and most popular way.
    2.coming from Laos or Northwestern Vietnam, the biggest city is Lao Cai, which is probably the most important intersection in the region: you can get trains to/from Hanoi, buses to Sapa/Dien Bien Phu/Laos, minivans to Ha Giang, and buses to China too.
    3.coming from Cao Bang and Northeastern Vietnam by minivan, as we did, is the hardest and less beaten track. There are no direct bus at all, not even big buses as the roads can be very narrow.
    So I suppose you read about somebody getting there from Hanoi, and that should be no problem for you, because instead I can guarantee there are no direct buses from Cao Bang to Ha Giang.
    We stayed in Ha Giang one night only because we were rushing, still we managed to witness a lot of amazing views up North all the way to Lung Cu (you can read about it here, and it was totally worth it! I would suggest to spend at least 2 nights if not 3 between Ha Giang and Dong Van. Ha Giang province and Lao Cai province, including SaPa, are both wild and beautiful, the difference is that SaPa is a lot more touristic and always crowded, while around Ha Giang you can appreciate the true Vietnam, lots of poor humble people, amazing landscapes, absolutely authentic experience.

    Hope to be useful, let us know if you need more details!!

  3. Heather Jacoby
    December 11, 2016 / 11:34 am

    Hi Guys,

    Great pics and great blog, thank you! I am having a hard/impossible time planning my route via motorbike from Cao Bang back to Ha Giang since I plan to detour off the Ha Giang loop to check out the falls and caves around Cao Bang. It looks like this road is just in the process of being built? Did you see many (any) tourists doing this via motorbike? We are very experienced riders but still…just asking.

    Do you happen to know what highway it was?! I guess I would like to avoid that route if possible.

    Thank you!

    • amilliontravels
      December 11, 2016 / 2:14 pm

      Hello Heather,
      thank you for commenting and for the compliments!
      The roads were alright in the north-east around Cao Bang, going up to the Ban Gioc waterfall too, asphalt was quite new, not too much trafficked, awesome landscapes! We met very few tourists up there back in May, especially the waterfall is only busy on the Chinese side, not at all on the Vietnamese one.
      The bad condition of the roads we talk about in this article, concerns road QL34, in particular in between the small town of Bao Lam for tens of km towards Ha Giang. They were actually improving the road in many points, setting down new asphalt and guard-rails, so maybe now it’s fine. The thing is, coming from Cao Bang, QL34 is the shortest way to Ha Giang, so it’s not very convenient to avoid it.
      As of Ha Giang loop, up to Dong Van and Meo Vac which was our farthest destination, the road QL4C is amazing again, with stunning sceneries, worth every meter! There a few guides that take this loop by motorbike, we did ourselves and it was totally fine.
      I absolutely recommend to ride around Cao Bang and Ha Giang, the only hard time you could face could be in that road in the middle, depending on the weather too, heavy raining could worsen the situation. But hey that’s part of the adventure, isn’t it?
      We had less than one year riding experience at that time, so I guess you are more prepared than us!
      Enjoy your trip and let me know if you need more help!!

      • Heather Jacoby
        December 12, 2016 / 5:22 am

        Thank you so much for the information! I will definitely do some more research and try to find out if the condition of QL34 has improved much. Yes, I see the only other way would be to do a lot of back tracking and what we’re really after is seeing new scenery on the way back :)

        Thanks again you two :)

        • amilliontravels
          December 12, 2016 / 10:30 am

          You are very welcome!!
          We wish you safe travels!

        • Jacira de Hoog
          September 18, 2017 / 12:21 am

          Hi Heather, just wondering if you did do the stretch from cao bang to ha giang by motorbike. I am about to head that way .. I am on my own so would like to know about the state of the roads. Are there villages along the way to find accommodation? Thank you!

          • amilliontravels
            September 19, 2017 / 6:19 am

            Hi Jacira,
            I don’t know how Heather’s trip went, anyway I’m pretty sure you can find accomodation either in Bao Lac or in Bao Lam, which are the main villages along the road. The road itself should be improved by now, there were many road works last year when we did it. Surely by motorbike it’s easier and faster than by bus, you might encounter some potholes here and there, some dirt road sections, but hey that’s part of the trip in Vietnam!
            Enjoy your trip!


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.