Sapa-Sin Ho Scenic Motorbike Loop

Last updated December 2017 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

INTRODUCTION | GUIDE | MAP | RELATED POSTS

Sapa and Sin Ho are two towns high up on the slopes of the Hoàng Liên Sơn Mountain Range, known in French colonial times as the Tonkinese Alps. Sapa is a famous mountain retreat, enormously popular with Vietnamese and foreign tourists. Sin Ho, on the other hand, is hardly ever visited by travellers. These two highland towns are connected by lofty mountain passes, affording spectacular views over a landscape on a scale not found anywhere else in Vietnam. Rent a motorbike from Sapa and spend a couple of days on the Sapa-Sin Ho Scenic Loop; you’ll be rewarded with some of the grandest alpine scenery in Southeast Asia.

Scenery on the road to Sin HoMajestic: the Sapa-Sin Ho Loop takes you through some of the grandest landscape in Southeast Asia

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GUIDE: SAPA-SIN HO SCENIC LOOP


ROAD TRIP DETAILS:

  • Total Distance: 320km
  • Duration: 2-4 days
  • Route: a round-trip between Sapa & Sin Ho on mountain passes [MAP]
  • Road Conditions: good mountain highways & back-roads, some rough patches
  • Scenery: the Tonkinese Alps: valleys, mountains & rivers on the roof of Indochina

ROAD TRIP CONTENTS:

  • SECTION 1: Sapa to Lai Chau (via road QL4D): 70km
  • SECTION 2: Lai Chau to Sin Ho (via Phong Tho): 115km
  • SECTION 3: Sin Ho to Sapa (via road 4D cũ): 135km

ABOUT THIS ROUTE:

I’ve written this guide in 3 sections, going anti-clockwise on the loop, but you can drive it in either direction. The total distance is 320km, but I’ve also included an optional side loop which would add another 80km to the total distance. Note that each section doesn’t necessarily correspond to one day on the road. You could ride the entire loop in 2 days. However, the roads are steep and windy so progress is slower than in the lowlands, and the scenery is superb so you’ll want to stop regularly to admire the views. 3-4 days is perfect. Weather and time of year are important considerations on this loop. Landslides are a common occurrence after wet weather and can block roads for hours or even days. Unfortunately, weather is very hard to predict in this area and conditions can change very suddenly all year round. The good news is that most of the roads on this loop are now either in excellent condition or in the process of being upgraded. April-May and September-October are the best months to go: the weather is warm(-er) and the terraced rice fields are a good colour. Below is my full guide to the Sapa-Sin Ho Loop, including a description of the route, suggestions of places to stay, eat and see, and my annotated map.

The road to Sin Ho, Lai Chau, northern VietnamThreading through the mountains between Sapa & Sin Ho in Vietnam’s stunning northwest region


ROUTE MAP:

Sapa-Sin Ho Scenic Loop | 320km


View in a LARGER MAP

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SECTION 1:

Route: Sapa to Lai Chau (via road QL4D) | Distance: 70km [MAP]

Head west on Road QL4D from the mist-shrouded town of Sapa. The first few kilometres getting out of Sapa can be pretty grim these days, because of potholed, mud-streaked, traffic-clogged, and construction-choked roads. Eventually, however, the road clears and passes a couple of pretty waterfalls (Silver Falls [Thác Bạc] & Love Falls [Thác Tình Yêu]) before reaching the top of the Tram Ton Pass (also known as O Quy Ho or Heaven’s Gate), Vietnam’s highest mountain road at 1,900m (6,230ft). You’ll know when you get here because, if the weather is clear, you’ll see the pass snaking around the mountains below you. Even in misty conditions you’ll know you’ve arrived because it’s significantly warmer on the pass than in Sapa: the pass is both a climatic divide and a provincial one, marking the border of Lao Cai and Lai Chau provinces. There are a few makeshift, rickety-looking viewing platforms by the roadside offering stupendous vistas.

Tram Ton, Vietnam's highest passThe spectacular Tram Ton Pass is the highest road in Vietnam: it’s a wonderful ride

The impressive, crenelated ridge to the south is Mount Fansipan, Indochina’s highest peak at 3,143m (10,312ft). Its looming presence bears down on the pass, casting a cold shadow over the road. Deep down in the valley indigo rivers forge paths over large boulders. Fansipan is so big that it dominates the scenery all the way to Lai Chau.

The Tram Ton Pass winds down through more pristine alpine scenery and past the Dong Tien Son caves to Tam Duong town. It’s not much of a town – although its new multi-lane high-street would suggest otherwise – but if you need a rest there are a couple of good accommodation options and food stalls along the main road. Putaleng Hotel has excellent rooms for about $20, or cheaper digs can be found at Tan Sinh Guest House. Continue northwest on Road QL4D for 40km to Lai Chau (perhaps detouring to take a quick look at the impressive Tac Tinh Falls, just behind Tam Duong town). If you’re visiting during September or October look out for some absurdly pretty valleys of terraced rice fields about 10km before descending into Lai Chau. This is the kind of scenery that brochures promise Sapa will offer, but in reality you have to travel a little further afield to find sights like this….


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Terraced rice fields near Lai ChauScenes like this await you on the road to Lai Chau if you visit in late summer to early autumn

Lai Chau city is a brand new concrete creation in a remote valley surrounded by pyramidal peaks. It consists largely of grandiose government buildings, wide empty boulevards and depressingly vacant public spaces. On a wet, cold day Lai Chau is a painfully soulless place to be, but on a bright day it can be quite appealing. The scale of infrastructure and architecture are not in proportion to the population or significance of the city, but over the last couple of years local life has started to inject some character to this somber provincial capital. Thus, Lai Chau makes a convenient overnight stop. There are decent-value guest houses (‘nhà nghỉ‘ in Vietnamese) and hotels on the main road (30 Tháng 4 Street). Try Binh Long Hotel (2 Tháng 8 Street | tel: 0213 2488 488) or Hà Nhi Hotel (30 Tháng 4 Street | tel: 0213 6250 999) for cheap, clean rooms. Or you could ‘splash out’ ($30) on the Muong Thanh Lai Chau Hotel, which has balconies with views over the town and tea plantations as well as a (often dirty) pool. The area around the lake has some good bánh xèo (Vietnamese savoury pancakes) and ốc (snails and shells) joints in the late afternoon/evening. Or meat lovers should try the roast suckling pig (lợn quay) at Quán 25 (62, 30 Tháng 4 Street). For good coffee head to Gateway Cafe (305 Tran Hung Dao Street).

Lai Chau City, northern VietnamLai Chau is a fairly soulless town, especially in bad weather, but it’ll do for a night

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SECTION 2:

Route: Lai Chau to Sin Ho (via Phong Tho) | Distance: 115km [MAP]

From Lai Chau continue northwest on Road QL4D toward the town of Phong Tho. This section of road is in very good condition and passes over high mountains before dropping down into a valley. Eight kilometres before reaching Phong Tho, there’s a turning due north for Muong So. This is the beginning of an optional and scenic side loop. The total distance of this detour is around 70-80km. The scenery is very mountainous, heavily farmed with terraces of rice and corn, and dotted with minority hamlets. There are a couple of local guest houses in Muong So, including the clean, simple and friendly Gia Bao (0976 677 999). Alternatively, continue on QL4D to Phong Tho, where there are more hotels and plenty of local rice eateries. By far the most atmospheric of the places to stay in Phong Tho is the Lan Anh Hotel (0989 673 888), a timber, tile and concrete structure built around a verdant courtyard. After Phong Tho the road turns back on itself, becoming QL12 and heading southwest along the Nam Na River valley. The road is in good condition, and it’s a quiet, easy stretch of riding through a pleasant valley all the way to the Nam Cay/Chan Nua junction.

Road QL12 from Phong Tho, Lai Chau Province, VietnamRoad QL12 from Phong Tho is a pleasant, riverside ride on a good, quiet highway

Nam Cay/Chan Nua is less of a town and more of a country junction. There’s a guest house (nhà nghỉ) here called Hưng Tâm (Tel: 0948 943 643) if you feel like staying the night, and some local food is also available. At the junction turn left (due east) on Road TL128 for the impossibly scenic and steep ride to Sin Ho. In good weather this route is exceptional. Cutting a path in the mountainside, the single-lane road zig-zags up for 40km to the isolated mountaintop town of Sin Ho. The views over ridges, farmland, ethnic minority villages and clear rivers are superb. Every time I ride up here I have a grin on my face the whole way, constantly stopping and gazing in disbelief at the landscape. The road conditions are pretty good for most of the climb, but landslides are a regular occurrence, so expect some extended patches of earth, mud and potholes. If it’s been raining a lot, it may become quite slippery.

wonderful scenery around sin hoJaw-dropping: the scenery on the road to Sin Ho is simply staggering

Just when you think it can’t possibly get any better, the road snakes through a series of switchbacks until it bears northwards, thus opening up astonishing views down to the Nam Na river valley and far beyond to the distant mountain ranges straddling the border with China. It’s a breathtaking ride.

Big landscape, road to Sin HoTiny hamlets cling to mountainsides outside Sin Ho, blue ridges disappearing into the distance

Like Sapa, Sin Ho is often engulfed in mist and drizzling rain. The town is a bit scruffy and feels very remote. But, as with every town and city in Vietnam, upgrades to public spaces are beginning to make Sin Ho feel more welcoming with each year. Built on a small plateau, at an altitude of over 1,000m (3,300ft), Sin Ho is very cool, especially in the evenings. Ringed by limestone pinnacles and surrounded by minority villages scattered over the mountainside, this town has huge tourist potential, but as yet very few travellers make the trip.

Showers pass across Sin Ho plateauSin Ho is subject to very changeable weather, making the landscape mysterious and brooding

Try to time your visit to catch the Sunday market. Busiest between 8am-11am, Sin Ho market receives hundreds of minority women dressed in their various colourful clothing. They make the journey by foot (sometimes starting before dawn) in order to buy (not sell) supplies for the week ahead. Unlike Sapa market and the horrendously touristy Bac Ha Market, where minority people are more likely to be seen selling to foreign and Vietnamese tourists, Sin Ho market is the real deal. This means there’s no hassling to buy trinkets and garments: most of what’s for sale is fresh meat, vegetables, fruit and practical equipment for use in the villages. Sin Ho market is noticeably calm and unhurried compared to other, more famous, minority markets in the region.

Ethnic minority girl, Sin Ho Market, northern VietnamA girl from one of Vietnam’s many ethnic minorities shops at Sin Ho’s Sunday market

Sin Ho has a smattering of local cơm phở (rice and noodles) joints, particularly around the main square, and there’s a new bakery opened, called Thanh Nam. The town has an increasing number of budget places to stay, mostly in the form of nhà nghỉ (guest houses). However, by far my favourite place to stay is the Phuc Tho Hotel (0213 3870 186). Just a 30 second walk from the market, this is a relatively large hotel run by a sweet older couple. Rooms have balconies looking over town and the main square. Rooms are basic but clean, including hot water showers: 200,000-600,000vnđ for 2-6 people sharing. If, for some reason, you don’t like the Phuc Tho Hotel, there are several other decent accommodation options, including the Hong Hoa Guest House (o1687 271 123) and the Thai Binh Hotel (02313 870 366). But perhaps the most interesting (and certainly the cheapest) option is Ba Sanh Homestay (01649 434 628). On the southern edge of town, Ba Sanh offers dirt-cheap digs (a couple of dollars) sleeping in a communal room, but the real attraction is the Dao minority-style hot herbal baths. Costing just a few dollars (for staying or outside guests) these medicinal baths might be just what you need after a long, wet, cold day riding the mountain passes.

Unusually sunny, Sin HoTown in the clouds: Sin Ho sits on a plateau surrounded by high peaks

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SECTION 3:

Route: Sin Ho to Sapa (via road 4D cũ) | Distance: 135km [MAP]

The 60km descent on Road TL128 from Sin Ho back down to Lai Chau is just as beautiful as the ride up. As the road emerges from the mist, which on most days engulfs the town of Sin Ho, a vast landscape opens up beneath you: endless mountains stretching into the distance and craterous valleys dotted with stilt-home villages clustered around clear streams. However, there are some short but treacherous sections for the first 10km out of Sin Ho, where maintenance work is ongoing and landslides cause the surface to be muddy and slick. Take your time and take care on this section, especially in wet or damp conditions.

About a third of the way down to Lai Chau, there’s a junction with a turn off to the right (due south) to Nam Tam. Although this looks like an appealing road to take, I was told that road conditions were bad. (If you want to go to Nam Tam, approach from the north via Lai Chau instead, as this road is good and scenic.). As road DT128 drops further, through very dense jungle, with the city of Lai Chau visible in the valley, take a short break from riding in order to visit the caves of Pu Sam Cap.

Descent, Sin Ho to Lai ChauMore wonderful and expansive views on the pass down from Sin Ho to Lai Chau

Back in Lai Chau take the alternative route (road 4D cũ) to Tam Duong. To get there turn right (due southeast) at the Ha Nhi Hotel on Dang Van Ngu Street. This is a pretty, quiet route through limestone karsts and extensive tea plantations. It’s almost exactly the same length as taking the main road (QL4D). From Tam Duong, rejoin QL4D and retrace your route back to Sapa via the Tram Ton Pass.

Road 4D cũ, Lai Chau to Tam Duong, VietnamRoad 4D cũ (the alternative route from Lai Chau to Tam Duong) is a lush, quiet route through farmland

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173 Responses to Sapa-Sin Ho Scenic Motorbike Loop

  1. Matej says:

    Hi Tom!
    My girlfriend and I are considering taking this loop when we will be in Sapa at the end of April. Since only I can ride a motorbike, we will be both riding on one. In this case is it still possible to do it on an automatic?
    Also we are planing to spend 3 days in the region, so we wont stay overnight in Sapa. Is there any option where we can leave our luggage for those 3 days?
    Matej

    • Hi Matej,

      Yes, an automatic will be able to do this loop with two people on it, as long as it is in good condition (I just did it a few months ago with two people on an automatic).

      I’m not sure about luggage storage: perhaps in the train station at Lao Cai. But, if possible, staying one night in Sapa at the beginning would mean that your hotel would then allow you to leave your bags there until the end of the ride.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  2. Jeff Church says:

    Excellent motorbike ride. A big highlight of our trip to North Vietnam. My fiancee and I did this loop over xmas.
    Thanks for all of the tips on towns, landscapes, and food!
    We rode from Sapa straight through strange, government-engineered Lai Chau and ended up staying the first night in Phong Tho, which was a charming little river town. We liked Lai Chau on the way back on the loop when we discovered the bustling backroads.
    Amazing ride. Great hikes on cow trails that were linked up to rice patty farms. Loved Sin Ho too.
    Drive a gear bike for the uphills and downhills.
    Jeff & Rushna

  3. Andrea Fiori says:

    Just wanted to thank you for the wonderful post. I have just completed the loop to Sin Ho and back to Sapa in two days, no rain in the past couple days so all roads were dry. Please be all aware that just out of Sin Ho to Lao Chau works are now increasing in pace and extent. Would avoid that road if it’s raining or still wet from previous rains. Otherwise all roads are clean enough and some are even really nice to ride fast.
    Thanks again, will always remember the road up to SinHo with incredible view just before sunset.

    Andrea from Italy

    • Hi Andrea,

      It’s great to hear that you enjoyed the ride. And thank you for the road updates – I hope they finish the work soon.

      Tom

    • Sophie says:

      Hi Andrea, how did you split the two days driving? Where did you spend the first night and how long were you driving for per days?

      Tom, amy tips on doing this route in 2 days?

      Thanks

      • Hi Sophie,

        Yes, you can do the main loop in two days if you like; you’d need to make sure you leave in the morning to give yourself enough time. You can stay at Sin Ho for the night at then ride back the next day, or if you run out of time you can stay in Lai Chau – I’ve included accommodation recommendations in the relevant sections of this guide.

        In generally, because the roads are so mountains and the landscape so scenic, you’re average speed will probably only be between 30-40km per hour.

        I hope this helps,

        Tom

  4. c garton says:

    Did the loop this week (Dec 2017), was awesome, thanks for the info, also decided to take the road to Nam Tam. I can confirm it is riddled with landslides and road works, how ever this was by far my favorite road in vietnam, with a nice 20km rhythm section and plenty of muddy,boggy hill climbs. Awesome fun for playing in the mud. Did it on an automatic would recommend gears for more fun.

  5. Ken Wilson says:

    Hi Tom,
    I have travelled every province in Vietnam since I began living here in 2011. My first tour was in early 2011. A tour of Sa Pa and the whole of the North along the Chinese border. Speaking no Vietnamese I went through a travel agency for a 10 day tour beginning in Hanoi across to Dien Bein to Sapa etc. I had all meals and accommodation paid for and an English speaking tour guide plus driver. What was supposed to be 10 days turned into nearly a month. I totally loved it so much. I love the simplicity of the locals everywhere.
    It was there that I decided this beautiful country would be for me to retirement.
    So here I am. Married to a lovely lady and family, and still going to towns and places we have not seen. Absolutely love every minute of it. Intending to do that Northern tour again next year to see the changes.
    Best regards
    Ken.

  6. Billi Deraspe Gagné says:

    Hi Tom,
    Me and my girlfriend are starting this loop tomorrow for 3 days and we were wondering, is there some places that we can stop for a swim on the loop ?

    Thanks a lot ☺

  7. Damien Bloodworth says:

    Sorry just saw your reply… Thanks a-lot for that looking forward to exploring!

  8. jane westfall says:

    Hi Tom Love your articles and advice.

    Im planning on coming to VIETNAM NEXT fEBRUARY 2018 AND WANT TO RENT A MOTORCYCLE FOR 2-3 WEEKS. WHICH AREA IS BEST TO DO SO CONSIDERING THE WEATHER. I’D LOVE TO GO TO THE NORTH BUT FEAR IT MAY BE TOO COLD AND WET. ANY SUGGESTIONS ARE APPRECIATED . THANKS JANE

    • Hi Jane,

      Yes, the north can be quite cold and wet at that time of year, but lots of riders still do it during that time and love it.

      However, the best weather at that time of year is in the southern provinces, particularly south of Nha Trang.

      For more about weather conditions all over Vietnam and where best to go and what time of year, take a look at my Weather Guide.

      If you decide to stay in the south try browsing my Southern Routes Archive for ideas. Or for the north, try my Northern Routes Archive.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  9. Damien says:

    Hi,

    We came across your blog, really like the route you have taken, and has inspired us to do this next month on a trip to Sapa- thanks! Looking to go the opposite direction and stay at Sin Ho the first night, followed by Phong Tho the second perhaps- doesnt seem to be much online for booking accommodation in these areas, and didnt have much luck with English ringing some! Do you think it’s necessary to book in advance or are there generally plenty of walk-up options available? or do you have a reference for booking some online? Thanks again- really looking forward to getting on a bike to explore this area- looks amazing!

    • Hi Damien,

      Walk-in bookings should be fine in the guest houses (nhà nghỉ) and hotels in those areas, unless you are visiting on a Saturday, because there might be more people staying on Saturday night for the markets on the Sunday morning. I am also travelling there next week in order to update this guide, so I’m sure there’s been a few changes.

      I hope you enjoy the trip,

      Tom

  10. Marcelo Basile says:

    Ola,maravilhoso blog

    estou indo em dezembro 2017.
    vc acha que sera dificil fazer o looping nesta data por causa do tempo??

    o que vc diria??
    abs

  11. Sarah says:

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for this wonderful website – you’ve done some great trips.
    I’m hoping you can answer a couple of questions that I’ve been trying to research, but not having much luck. My husband and I are visiting in September and wanted to travel by motorbike from Sapa to Ha Giang and then do the extreme north motorbike loop that you suggest. Do you know if it’s possible to hire a motorbike in Sapa and leave it at Ha Giang? Also my husband can ride a motorbike, but I can’t. Probably a stupid question, but would any of the automatic or semi-automatic motorbikes handle the route? I’m guessing not.
    Thanks, Sarah

    • Hi Sarah,

      I don’t think any of the rental companies offer that service yet. But you can try contacting Rent a Bike Vietnam and asking them – I think they have or will be opening a rental shop in Ha Giang, so maybe they can arrange something. If not, you could just rent your motorbike from Hanoi and put your bike on the train to Lao Cai (Sapa).

      Yes, the automatics and semi-autos can do that trip. I ride an auto and it’s fine. The only problem is that those mountainous road suffer from landslides which can make the road surface muddy and occasionally bumpy and autos aren’t very good at that.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  12. Giuseppe says:

    Hi Tom, hi all,
    in september i’ll do this trip with my girlfriend. Could you suggest me where to rent a manual motorbike in Lao Cai or Sapa? I’ll not have a hotel because i’ll be there in the morning and i want to start immeditly for the trip.

    Second question, what’s the best homestay in Sin Ho?

    Thanks Beppe

    • Hi Giuseppe,

      I can’t recommend a specific place to rent motorbikes in Sapa but most hotels, guest houses, and travel agents in Sapa will have motorbikes to rent, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding one. You could try contacting Sapa O’Chau and asking them.

      In Sin Ho there are a few guest houses (nhà nghỉ in Vietnamese) that cost around 200,000vnd a night, but I don’t know about homestays in Sin Ho.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  13. Nick says:

    Hi Tom,

    I’m planning to get started on this loop tomorrow, and am trying to work out the timing of a bus back to Hanoi on the final day. How long would you say the Sin Ho-Sapa leg takes, compared to the Sapa-Lai Chau leg? I’m wondering if a 4pm bus from Sapa would be doable after biking down from Sin Ho, or if it would make more sense to do this loop in reverse (head to Sin Ho first from Sapa).

    Thanks in advance for your help!

    Nick

    • Hi Nick,

      Well, it depends on quite a lot of things, like how the weather is, what condition the road is in, what speed you might ride at etc. I would say that the extra bit up the hill from Lai Chau to Sin Ho takes between 1 hour and 90 minutes. In general, on these mountainous roads you can expect to keep an average speed of between 30-40km an hour. Also, you’ll have a much better idea of how long it will take after you’ve ridden the first day.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  14. Vladimir says:

    Hi Tom,
    and thanks for your blog. We did 2 loops (this one and Central Golden loop) – they were wonderfull.

    Just as add on to your existed route want to advise travellers visiting Xã Bản Bo. 11 km away from the main route of 1st section this place is worth to be visited. Dozen of 5-6m handmade wooden wheels standing on a little river are used by locals for irrigation of their rice fields. Here is the picture http://i67.tinypic.com/ir7xaw.jpg
    GPS coordinates 22.23744359,103.68104478

  15. Francois says:

    Hey Tom,
    Did a long drive from Son La to Sin Ho today. I have to thank you, the road leading to Sin Ho from Muong Lay is just the most beautiful place i have ever seen. Cloudy all day but just as i started the ascent, sun came out. Astonishing views. Update on road conditions : QL6 between Tuan Giao and Muong Lay was really bad, took me about 3 hours to do about 90 kms. Almost fell out of my bike as surface was so rocky. After that, Ql12 is in good shape to the junction with tl128, and this last road is pretty good too, some rough parts but you can avoid easily. Thanks again for all your information, havibg the time of my life and i feel like i get to see the real Vietnam !

  16. Laura says:

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the great post, really helpful!
    My boyfriend and I are hoping to do this trip from 1st may this year for 3 days. Neither of us have ever riden a motorbike and I’m not keen on doing so, so was hoping to go on the back of his. He is doing his CBT this weekend to get a bit of practice before we go!
    I wondered what kind of bike you think we need? For two people and a very small bag? I’ve heard that riding a bike over 50cc without a Vietnamese licence is illegal, is this true? Could we do it on a 50cc bike?!
    Any advice very much appreciated 🙂
    Laura

    • Hi Laura,

      You will need a bike with more than 50cc because this is a mountainous route. Most rental bikes with be 110-150cc are these are fine for doing this ride.

      Technically you need to have a local license to ride in Vietnam, but in reality the majority of foreigners riding here do not have a local license. You will not have a problem renting a motorbike in Sapa. If you get stopped by the traffic police you will most likely just have to pay a standard fine of about $10-20 and then be allowed to continue.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Laura says:

        Hi Tom,

        Thanks that’s really helpful.

        Are there places in sapa to rent decent motorbike helmets? Or would we need to get them from Hanoi and take with us?!

        Laura

  17. hi tom,

    loving the blog and all the great info. if we didn’t have a full 3 days to dedicate to the entire loop… is it still worth/doable to head directly toward Sin Ho rather than doing the loop, and then come back the same way? or is it better to try and squeeze the whole ride into 2 days?

    many thanks.
    paul

  18. Jenny says:

    Hi Tom,

    I’m in Sapa with my boyfriend right now and are considering the sapa to sin-ho loop when the weather clears up in a few days. As this is outside of your recommended time frame above and it is not harvest season, do you still think the loop is worth doing? Also is there a place in Sapa you can recommend getting a motorbike at? We would love to spend a few days motor biking while we are in the north hoping to see some beautiful views but are not really sure if this time of year is worth it? Or if there is a different northern loop that will be better?

    • Hi Jenny,

      Yes, it’s definitely worth doing it! It will still look fantastic 🙂

      I can’t recommend any specific place to rent motorbikes in Sapa but you shouldn’t have a problem finding one. Ask at your hotel first, or perhaps try contacting Sapa O’Chau and asking them.

      I hope you enjoy the ride,

      Tom

  19. How populated is the route? Would it be a big issue if your bike broke down along this route?

    • Hi Dan,

      This route is quite sparsely populated but there will always be at least some passing traffic so you can always find help if you break down.

      Tom

    • Alan Hodgson says:

      Hi Tom

      I’ve just completed the Lai Chau ,Sin Ho loop from Sapa today. I spotted a 4 day window of good weather for the area and went for it. Weather forecasts are pretty unreliable at the best of times and more so in mountainous areas. Happily the forecasters got it right this time. Apart from thick mist on the top of the Tram Ton pass on the way out it was sunshine all the way. So even got to see the stunning views on the return leg over the pass.

      A great ride – thanks for providing the route info. Incidentally I stopped at the Phuc Tho hotel in Sin Ho as you recommended. Only 200000 VND for a room to myself. I guess a lot of the upgrades on the road down from Sin Ho to Lao Chau have been completed since you rode there. A few short sections still being worked on but 90% of road was in good condition and there was a long central section (presumably recently resurfaced) which was absolutely fabulous. Best bit of road I’ve seen in my 3 months in Vietnam. It’s the only bit of road where I wished I had race leathers and a sports bike (but even on a 125, going down hill it was possible to get up a decent turn of speed). Sight lines are good too so easy enough to spot the occasional truck. Just watch out for where the good tarmac ends !

      Thanks again

      Al

      • Hi Alan,

        Great to hear you enjoyed the ride and that the weather stayed good for you! Thanks a lot for sharing the updates on road conditions there – it’s good to know that the surface is now is better condition. I’d like to get up there again this autumn and try it out 🙂

        Tom

  20. Mark says:

    Hello. I’m in Sa Pa now. The fog is thick and so there isn’t much in the way of views. Would the Sapa-Sin Ho loop be worth it at this time of year? Is there fog cover throughout the route/area? Would hate to do all that riding and have most of the views obscured by fog. Maybe head to Ha Giang instead?

    Thanks.

    • Hi Mark,

      Yes, it’s often foggy in Sapa, at any time of year. It’s very difficult to know what it will be like on the Sin Ho Loop. Obviously, that is a very mountainous area and December is the winter time, so I would certainly expect cold temperatures and at least some cloud and mist. However, the first mountain pass on that loop is famous for being a climatic divide between provinces: often the weather on the other side of the pass is better than in Sapa. So it might be worth at least riding up to that pass to see what it looks like – it’s only about half an hour from Sapa: the Tram Ton Pass.

      I hope it clears up for you,

      Tom

      • Mark says:

        Thanks for the response. I think I’ll stick around and give it a try. Finished The Classic recently and this resource has been indispensable. Appreciate your work.

        • muaythaismallhands says:

          It would have been great to hear what this route was like in December time.

          I was thinking of doing some of the very northern bike routes (I would be in the area around early December but i’m not sure the risk of black ice is overly appealing on some of the sheer drop roads.

          • Hi,

            Yes, it will be cold in December, but ice and snow are quite rare. However, you would need to ride very carefully in those conditions and make sure you have appropriate cold weather clothing.

            Tom

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