Tips for hiking and trekking in Vietnam
Vietnam is a country blessed with good weather almost all year round, so trekking is possible all the time. The country’s landscapes offer hikers a unique experience to completely escape the city crowds, explore nature and conquer new heights.
Here below are useful tips for your hiking and trekking trip
- Choose your route wisely: take your physical condition, travel duration and who you are traveling with into consideration. If you are traveling with children under 15 years of age, it is better to do soft trekking of 2 days’ maximum.
- If you are hardcore trekkers, we’ll make special arrangements to bring the trip up to another level.
- Normally, one major tourist city (such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City) requires at least 2 full days. Add one or two extra days if you are up for a trek.
- Travel light: bring necessary gear and a light day-pack, and buy anything else you need on the road.
- Trek in small groups: For safety, we recommend trekking trips for small groups of no more than 10 people. It may be easier to keep up with the pace. All our tours can be customized.
- Getting a tour guide is essential to: know the right direction and good places for unique sceneries; have a better chance to learn about the locals; avoid language barriers. Our trekking tour guides have been professionally trained and all possess first-aid skills.
- Weather can be unpredictable: bring hats, gloves, sunglasses, sunscreen, raincoat, and waterproof shoes.
- Respect nature and different cultures: be open-minded about different lifestyles and get used to some simple accommodation. Don’t litter when trekking in the wilderness and protect water resources.
Here below are the most attractive places and tips for hiking and trekking for your reference:
1. Lao Cai/ Sapa (~350 km from Hanoi – 8 hours by train, 5 hours by bus)
- The best time to visit Lao Cai is from March to May: the sky is clear, the temperature is cool, sunny, the flowers (peach, plum) are blooming.
- A homestay of H’mong people is an ideal accommodation to have an interesting cultural experience. With the development of tourism, most homestays are well–equipped for your comfort but still retains their unique beauty.
- In order to trek the Fansipan, you must get the permission of the Hoang Lien Son range board of management. When registering for permission, you’re expected to pay some fees such as hygiene, forest management, trekking, and insurance fees. The total fee should be around 200,000vnd/person.
- If you’re a non-experienced trekker or desire to learn more about Fansipan’s topography or Sapa’s humans, then consider hiring a porter. Not only will they help you with carrying your heavy luggage and preparing meals, but they can show you tons of interesting things that only locals know. The fee for hiring a porter is 350,000- 450,000vnd/day.
How to get there
- Get a night train (sleeping train – daily) from Hanoi (private cabin 2 berths or sharing cabin 4 berths are highly recommended), departing at around 10:00 pm, it takes you about 7-8 hours to reach Lao Cai at around 4- 5 am, you then have a full day to explore.
- Take a bus it takes you about 4-5 hours to reach Lao Cai from Hanoi.
- There is no flight Hanoi – Lao Cai, the night train is the most convenient means of transport for tourists.
2. Pu Luong (Thanh Hoa) (~ 170 km from Hanoi – 5-hour drive)
- There are only some good accommodations: Pu Luong retreat, Ban Hieu Garden Lodge are the most popular accommodation with wide ranges of hiking and trekking tours. As Pu Luong is well organized national forest, there are many restaurants and markets so stay here one night is a unique experience to immerse yourselves in nature.
- The best time to visit Pu Luong is from June to October, during the harvesting season (around June) where you can observe yellowish rice fields. The weather is also cool and foggy all year round.
- To trek in Pu Luong Nature Reserve, you should better book an all-inclusive package that includes car transfer, English-speaking guide, local porter, accommodation, and meals. Those who are on budget can take a public bus and then book the local land tour which only includes a local guide, homestay, and meals.
How to get there:
- Take a bus to Thanh Hoa city. it takes you around 5 hours to Pu Luong from Hanoi. There are many buses from My Dinh or Luong Yen station. From Thanh Hoa, go upward following the North direction or where Ho Chi Minh pathway leads you to.
3. Ba Be Lake and National Park (240 km from Hanoi – 4-hour drive)
- The best time to visit Ba Be is from May to October when the weather is not too hot. From April to May is the best time to see the rice fields at their best.
- A boat trip and a swim are the most common ways to explore Ba Be
- An experience at a homestay in Pac Ngoi village – the ethnic villages with minority people is highly recommended. There is hardly any good hotel in this area.
- Normally, staying in a homestay for few days, a tip is around 5 USD is highly appreciated and obviously, this amount depends on how satisfied you are with them.
How to get there:
- From My Dinh station, you can take the only bus that will take you directly to Cho Don town ( 2km from Ba Be tourism center) leaving at 10:00
- From Lao Cai station, buy a ticket from Lao Cai to Thai Nguyen province, there is only one bus that will take you directly to Cho Don Town is Thuong Nga bus.
4. Cao Bang (~ 300 km from Hanoi – 8-hour drive)
- The best time for hiking in Cao Bang is winter starting from October until April of the following year. During this period, the temperature is cool with little rain.
- From Hanoi, you should spend 2 days 1 night in Ba Be national park to visit Ba Be lake – one of the largest natural lakes in Vietnam, home to many kinds of birds, scenic valleys, towering rocky outcrops, underground river tributaries, a gigantic cave and local ethnic minorities, including the Tay, Red Dao and Hmong. Then you will drive one more 100 km to reach Cao Bang.
- You should overnight at a hotel in Cao Bang city (90 km from Ban Gioc waterfall) as there are wider ranges of hotels and restaurants.
How to get there
- Catch the sleeping bus to Cao Bang from My Dinh station or the Old Quarter
5. Mai Chau (~140 km from Hanoi – 3.5 hours)
- The best time to visit Mai Chau is from late September to early May to have cool weather, June is the best time to see yellowish rice fields but it’s quite hot in the daytime.
- Lac village and Poom Coong village are too touristy because of the development of tourism. It might be very noisy at night so you should overnight at Mai Hich or Ban Buoc village where are much more peaceful.
- Book a guided tour is highly recommended, especially when you do multi-day trekking or hiking. A local guide is necessary.
How to get there:
- Catching a bus from My Dinh or Yen Nghia station in Hanoi, the cost is normally 100,00 VND ~ 5 USD per person.
6. Cuc Phuong National Park (~ 125 km ~ 2-hour drive – Ninh Binh province)
- The best time to visit Cuc Phuong is from November to February of the following year.
- Cuc Phuong park can be visited from Hanoi as a day trip
- There are numerous stone paths for trekking that cut through the forest and can be used for simple hikes for 1 hour or 2 days treks.
- You should end your trip in the forest before 14:00 for safety
- A combination of a trip to Cuc Phuong and then a trip to Tam Coc, Bai Dinh, Trang An, Thung Nham, Hoa Lu, Van Long for several days is highly recommended.
- There are many good hotels in the city center for your choice.
- Making sure to bring with you essential stuff (food, water, clothes, light lighter) for any unexpected event
How to get there:
- From Hanoi: Hop a bus from Giap Bat station that goes to Nho Quan town and then catches a motorcycle taxi to the park headquarters. The total cost is about 150,000 VND. An alternative is to book a trip with one of the many travel agencies in Hanoi who can arrange convenient and comfortable, yet pricey, trips to the park.
- From Ninh Binh city, a motorcycle taxi is about 100,000 VND.
7. Cat Tien National Park (Dong Nai province, 150 km ~ 3-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh)
- There are many good hotels in this area.
- You are likely to eat most of your meals (dinner and breakfast at your hotel or guesthouse) as there aren’t many restaurants available. There are 2 restaurants at Head Quarter: Dipterocarpus and The Yellow Bamboo Restaurant, the former one is a better option.
- There are only some trails and the signs are sometimes not accurate, hiring a guide (around 30$ half-day) is highly recommended.
How to get there
- There are many buses at Mien Dong station that will take you directly to the park gate.
- Rent a taxi or private bus from Ho Chi Minh city, this option is more recommended as sleeper buses are uncomfortable for tall and wide people
- Rent a motorbike, further details about the location can be found on one of the Cat Tien National Park websites for those making their own way to the park.