Hanoi To Mai Chau – Route Guide

Hanoi To Mai Chau – Route Guide

Hanoi to Mai Chau is a very popular route. Mai Chau has been a tourist destination for more than 20 years. It is a rural district of Hoa Binh Province, adjacent to Hanoi and is very popular due to both its location and its scenery.

Nowadays, it is quite busy and those that seek peace and solitude tend to stay a little further out than the original Poom Coong and Lac villages. Small villages such as Sam Khoe and the shores of the Hoa Binh Lake are now gaining popularity. Of course, you are likely to have heard of Pu Luong, which is now also booming with overflow from Mai Chau.

In recent years, the main Hanoi to Mai Chau route (AH13/QL6) has been upgraded and many resorts have been built in the area. You are no longer forced to stay in the traditional stilt houses on hard bamboo floors without aircon. If you would like some or all of those comforts, they are there for you. In our accommodation section, there are both types to choose from.

Route map

This route map will show you two ways to get from Hanoi to Mai Chau and back. There are some route notes, marked in RED, to help you make your decisions and a few obvious petrol stops. It will also give you some information on where to stop to eat and drink.

NOTE: If you would like me to give you access to this map, please email me at vietnomadhn@gmail.com or use the contact.

Please note: There are also some extra notes on routes to and from this route, marked in YELLOW. This is to help you connect to other areas and route maps that VietNomad has written.

Quick Route Notes

Route 1 Leaving from Tay Ho

You will need to get across the lake. You can do this by: taking the lakeside road, using Vo Chi Cong or going through Thanh Nhien and then round to Van Cao or Kim Ma.

Then head for Hoa Lac. After Hoa Lac head for Hoa Binh on the new highway. Your next aim point is Doc Cun and then Muong Khen. After Muong Khen head for Mai Chau / Moc Chau but when you get to Phu Cuong you may want to head for Mai Chau Hideaway. If you just go straight on QL6 you will have to remember to turn left at Tong Dau. Easy.

Route 2 Leaving from Hoan Kiem

On this route, you need to get to Daewoo Hotel and the turn left. head straight for about 20km to Chua Thay / Quoc Oai. Then CT08 and head for Xuan Mai. Go through Xuan Mai to the toll and after that turn left on to the ATK road. At the end of this, turn right and then right again after a few Kms. You will now be in Doc Cun and can follow the QL6/AH13 over to Tan Lac and then Phu Cuong/Mai Chau Hideaway or to Tong Dau / Mai Chau

Way Point Maps

The Way Point Maps are maps that have points marked on them along the route. You can use these and Google Maps (on your phone) to ‘hop’ from point to point along the route. This is the ONLY way that you can get Google to give you exact route directions along these routes.

How to use the Way Points map

  • Open this page on your phone.
  • Click the link in the route map that you want.
  • Click on ‘View map’
  • Choose any of the marked way points (the best would be the one nearest you).
  • Click ‘Directions’ and then ‘Start’ or just click ‘Start’
  • Follow the instructions from Google.

Click here for

Route 1 – Way Points .

Click here for

Route 2 – Way Points .

Detailed Route Notes

We have made two routes to get from Hanoi to Mai Chau, which means you can take one way out and one way back. Route 1 is marked in RED and it is a faster route, whereas Route 2, marked in GREEN, is a more relaxed and scenic route. Of course, you can mix and match to create the best route for you.

Leaving Hanoi

The fast route directs you from Rent A Bike, which is up in Tay Ho, a little way out of town. You head up to the Nhat Tan Bridge and then turn on to Vo Chi Cong. This is big fast road and you keep on this until you get to the raised section. Alternatively Take that all the way until it descends into Duong Lang, where you turn right on to Tran Duy Hung and meet up with Route 2. Alternatively, you could choose to follow the lake road until you get to Van Cao (marked on the map) and then head South. You will meet Route 2 earlier this way.

From the Old Quarter you can head out of town along Tran Phu and Kim Ma before turning left into Nguyen Chi Thanh. You will see the Daewoo Hotel Clearly and this is where to turn. The great thing abou this route is that from then on you have a very long straight run to either Quoc Oai or Hoa Lac. Just keep driving.

Route Stops

The first section of this drive should only last about 40 minutes depending on the traffic and the size of your group. Therefore, it is unlikely that you will want to stop anywhere or need to stop. I would suggest stopping at one of the fuel stations on the CT08 to make sure everyone is ok and that you all have full tanks. A drink stop could be in either Hoa Lac or Xuan Mai and this should be about 1 hour in to your trip.

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Getting to Muong Khen

Route 1 will take you directly to Hoa Binh where you can see the Hoa Binh Dam. You continue straight on the CT08 until you see the bridge that takes you over the QL21. You can choose to stop off for petrol here (you have to leave the CT08 and turn a little South on the QL21) and find a cafe or you can go straight over and head for the highway. The Hoa Lac – Hoa Binh highway is about 5km further on and along this part of the road are a few cafes and restaurants. You turn left onto the Hoa Lac – Hoa Binh Highway and then stay on this road all the way to Ky Son. You will go through a toll but bikes are free. At Ky Son you will then continue on the AH13/QL6 to Hoa Binh.

Just outside Hoa Binh you can choose to either take the bypass and continue or you can go into town and also to the Hoa Binh Hydro-Electric Power Dam. The dam is a site, especially if they have opened the flood gates. [link to video here] There is also a tour of the power plant that you can take and a museum. On the opposite bank of the river, on a hill, there is a huge statue of Uncle Ho that you can climb to (there are steps). This place is a great viewpoint over the city oh Hoa Binh.

The bypass will follow AH13 so you just stay on this road. If you have gone to see the dam, then you need to find your way through town to get back to the AH13. This is easy to do and you will then join Route 2 after about 5km on this road.

Route 2 will mean you leave CT08 earlier, bypass Hoa Binh on smaller more scenic road and also miss the chance to hang out at the dam.

You turn off the CT08 at Quoc Oai. To do this you need to take a bridge (Cau Vuot Hoang Xa)*please note inaccuracy on map* over the CT08 and then head through Quoc Oai. This route is now straight and quite easy to follow. You then turn left onto a raised road past a brick factory and through paddy fields. There is a large section of this road that can be flooded (marked on map). This happens if the flood gates in the Hoa Binh Dam are opened. It is about 500m and can be up to 1m deep. The road will bring you out a short way before Xuan Mai. People will tell you if this route is flooded and you will have to re-route to Hoa Lac and then QL21 to Xuan Mai.

You can stop in Xuan Mai for a rest and drink if you wish. The route then continues on the AH13 until you pass through a toll station. It is about 9km from Xuan Mai. Again, this toll is free for motorbikes. A short distance and then on the left is a turning onto a route marked ATK (an toan khu). This is the point where you decide if you wan to take the small winding ATK road or continue on the AH13 heading for Hoa Binh.

For this route we decide to turn and so you follow the road until you come to a T-Junction with the DT2. Here you turn right and go to the end of the road where there is another T-Junction, this time with the DT12B. The 12B is very nice road and quite quiet. You can make good time and go straight ahead until you rejoin AH13 and Route 2 again.

For this route we decide to turn and so you follow the road until you come to a T-Junction with the DT2. Here you turn right and go to the end of the road where there is another T-Junction, this time with the DT12B. The 12B is very nice road and quite quiet. You can make good time and go straight ahead until you rejoin AH13 and Route 2 again.

Then, it is straight road, one road over the mountain to Tan Lac.

Route Stops

On Route 1, I would not stop until you got to just outside Hoa Binh. There are some truck stop cafes on the roadside and these are great for lunch or drinks. You also have the option to skip these and go straight into town. However, I don’t think there is much of interest in the town. It is better to go through town and to the southern side of the Hoa Binh Dam where there are some small roadside stalls. You can have a snack and a drink and look at the river and the dam.

If you decide to go over the bridge and up to the main area of the dam, you will see some souvenir shops selling food and drink and ice cream and you will be closer to the dam. You can also drive through to the other side and top of the dam. It’s fun. If you take the bypass or Route 2, you will miss this chance. From the dam until you meet the AH13 again, there are a lot of small cafes and eateries. It is the same as you will find in any small town.

Taking Route 2 on the AH13 will mean that you pass a lot of small places in the Chuong My area. Then, when you turn on to the ATK there will be the odd place but you will have very little to choose from. At the junction with the DT2 and the DT12B you will probably find something. It isn’t far so it isn’t a problem. At Doc Cun there are a few places.

The next real place to stop would be Tan Lac. Here yo can find a sizable town that has restaurants and cafes. Just before the main junction you will find a couple of nice places to eat and all along the way towards Phu Cuong you will have small places on each side.

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Muong Khen to Mai Chau

You have been on good, fast road since Hoa Binh. This does go over a mountain or two and so is a little steep and windy at times. Be careful on the ups as well as the downs. For both routes you stick to the main road and enjoy it. It is not the most scenic route but there are interesting sites and it is pleasurable to drive.

You will continue on AH13 and head for Tan Lac / Man Duc / Muong Khen. As far as I can tell they are all names for the same place 🙂 Watch out for small towns on the way as the speed limit me be restricted to 40kmh for motorbikes. As you come down of the hill and into Muong Khen you will first see a large stone outcrop with the sign ‘Tan Lac Hotel‘ see a few fuel stations and restaurants.

There are plenty of cafes all through the town and this makes a good place for a quick stop. This whole section of town has a speed limit of 40kmh for about 5km and sometimes there are cops. Watch out.

We now have open road for the next 8 or 9km. Then, we can see the road rise up again and the white cliffs at Phu Cuong created when they built the road. This is the point that you get to choose to take the scenic lake road or go direct to Tong Dau Junction and then Mai Chau.

Route 1 is very simple and takes you along this road and over the mountains to Tong Dau Junction. There is a petrol station here and it is a good place to fill up. Alternatively, there is another about 2km on the route to Mai Chau but it might be closed.

From here on you simply keep on this road and drive through Mai Chau Town. You will see the market on your left and then the stadium. It is a short way after this that you will see Mai Chau Lodge on you right and the turning to Poom Coong village. You can take this and then go over to Lac village. Alternatively, you can go a little further on the main road and then turn right.

Route 2 will detour from Route 1 at Phu Cuong before you go up the mountain side to the white cliffs. There is a small turning and a sign post for ‘Mai Chau Hideaway‘. You can follow this and you will come to Hoa Binh Lake. The road then winds along the shore and is a great drive with a beautiful view.

It is tarmac and concrete slab all the way so easily negotiable on any bike UNLESS there is a landslide. However, I have never seen a large one on this road.

This road will take you to a few homestays on the shores of the lake and you can stay there. If you decide to continue to Mai Chau you will simply stay on this road. It will take you through a bamboo forest and past Go Lao Waterfall, which is a nice place for a swim.

If you ever plan to take the old highway 6 (QL6Cu) up to either Moc Chau or the QL43 to Phu Yen, then this is the start of that road. A left turn heading AWAY from Tong Dau would see you go on that route.

From Go Lao you go up the hill and rejoin the AH13. At this junction there are a few cafes and restaurants and you can stop here for a rest or to stock up with water etc.. The AH13 back down to Tong Dau to join up with Route 1 is wide and fast. It will take no time to get to the petrol station there. Then you follow the directions to Mai Chau that are detailed above.

Route stops

Route 1 will take you directly from Tan Lac to Mai Chau, briefly passing through Tong Dau. The only recommended stop is the viewpoint at 5km out of Tong Dau. Here, you can look out over the Mai Chau Valley. It may even be possible to see the villages of Poom Cong and Lac if it is not too cloudy.

Route 2 has you leaving the main highway at Phu Cuong and heading towards the lake. There are a few small hamlets that you may be able to stop in. There are also points that you will want to stop for photos. However, this is not a long route and a quick stop for a smoke and a photo are all that is needed. You will pass the Mai Chau Hideaway and other homestays but there is little need or incentive to stop.

If it is Summer, then stopping at Go Lao Waterfall is a great idea. You can pay for parking and the bike will be safe.

If you take this route you can stop at the waterfall to buy drinks or the junction with the AH13 on the way over to Mai Chau. You can also stop in both Tong Dau for drinks and petrol, as well as along the road through Mai Chau town. By this time though you will be so close to destination that you are unlikely to stop.

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Where to stay

There are of course, many places to stay in such a popular area that has been catering for tourists for such a long time. The villages of Poom Coong and Lac have the longest history but newer areas such a the Hoa Binh Lake and Sam Khoe are beginning to develop. There is nothing wrong with the original villages except they can be a little busy during local holidays. If you are happy to have company and enjoy crowds it is good fun. Should you prefer more solitude, then the newer areas can offer this. You may still find they have some noisy guests but you never can tell.

If you are looking for a deal, Booking.com is a good place to start.


VietNomad will get a small commission if you book through Booking.com but it doesn’t cost you anything.

Hoa Binh Lakeside

There is a small cluster of homestays that have grown up on a spit in the Hoa Binh Lake. They are now offering a range of accommodation and access to some basic water sports on the lake. You can get to and from them by road or boat. The boat access is from Hoa Binh Port, Thung Nai Port or Da Bia Village.

Mai Chau Hideaway

Web: maichauhideaway.com Tel: +84 987 53 67 87

This is a very nice and quite expensive resort homestay. It is situated on the shores of the lake and has its own swimming pool.

Rooms cost between 2 to 3 million VND per night here. Breakfast included.

For full information on how to get to this area, take a look at the information provided by Mai Chau Hideaway in this link

Homestay Tan Xuyen

Tel: +84 359 770 269

A small family run homestay near the shores of the lake. A little bit grubby but overall a nice place to stay with good food. Sleeping in the shared accommodation area is only 70k per person per night. They also have 02 private rooms and these are 200k per night.

Breakfast is simple and is usually instant noodles for only 20k and dinner for 180k per person.

Homestay Duc Thao

Tel: +84 397 452 960

Another family run place with clean rooms and good food. The shared dormitory rooms are 100k per person. Breakfast is a simple meal, noodles and egg, and is 30k.

Homestay Truong Giang

+84 98 229 41 92

A family run homestay much like the two places above. The shared dorm rooms are 100k per person. Breakfast is a simple one and is 30k, whereas dinner is 150k per person.

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Mai Chau (Ban Poom Coong & Ban Lac)

The classic Mai Chau experience is visiting one of these two villages. There are some 20 stilt houses in each village bunched together. They offer open plan shared sleeping areas and will provide dinner and breakfast (lunch on special request). If you wish you can ask for evening entertainment, which will be the local dance troupe. They will perform a variety of local dances and let you join in. This is followed by drinking local rice wine.

Mai Chau Sunset Boutique Hotel / Homestay

Web: maichausunset.com Tel: +84 96 282 62 33

A great homestay with fantastic food and a choice of the traditional stilt house sleeping area or very plush hotel room accommodation. The bar on the roof gives a nice view and a little breeze. It’s a good way to end the day.

The traditional stilt house has very large communal rooms, enough to fit 20+ people. You will rarely find that many people there and will often have a large room to yourself. This costs 120k per person. Breakfast is 80k per person and Dinner is 150k per person and is excellent.

The hotel rooms are very plush and comfortable and start at 800k each. This is for a 02 person room with a double bed or two singles. This includes breakfast.

Take a look at my review here. To book a room without the hassle of communicating in Vietnamese, click here

Book here

Mai Chau Home

Tel: +84 98 663 71 85

A family homestay with only private rooms. They are comfortable and reasonably quiet and cost 400k for a room with a double bed. This includes breakfast.

The second choice is to sleep in the shared dorm room for 180k with breakfast included.

Dinner can be arranged but you should do this in advance and is 200k per person.

If you would like to book click here

For those of you who want more western style accommodation you can try Mai Chau Sunset above or one of the resorts. Two excellent resorts are listed below but there are now quite a few to choose from.

Mai Chau Lodge

Tel: +84 2183 868 959

This is the old Mai Chau Post Office and you can see this easily onthe main road before you turn into Poom Coong Village. There are very nice rooms, a swimming pool and a small restaurant. It is a great place to stay with a family as it is very clean and the service is good.

The rooms begin at 1.1 million dong per night and this includes breakfast. You can dine in the restaurant from the menu.

Book here

Sol Bungalows

+84 982 91 29 99

Set some distance away from the two villages, this is a quiet and peaceful resort. There is a very nice pool, the rooms are clean and spacious and the restaurant is good. Overall, it works very well for those seeking a little extra comfort or those that have kids who need to burn off a bit of energy in the pool.

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Sam Khoe

This is very similar to the villages above but it is set further away and is much quieter. It is a bit like stepping back in time to the days when Mai Chau was less well known. There are several homestays here but they are harder to get in touch with than others in the area.

Ban Buoc Homestay

A small homestay in the village that is quiet and peaceful. There are only private rooms here, which are 200k per night.

Breakfast is the standard noodles for 30k per person and Dinner is from 100k to 150k depending on what you choose. Again, you should book this early so that there is enough time for it to be prepared.

La Maison De Buoc

Book here

Mai Chau Eco Home

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What to see in the area.

If you have some time to spare when you are on the Hanoi to Mai Chau route or in the Mai Chau Valley, there is a lot to do. Only a few of the easier and quicker options, ones which you can easily fit in to your trip, are listed here.

Thung Khe Pass

You may stop here on the way down into the Mai Chau Valley if you come from Tan Lac. There is a small cafe, a flag tower and a viewpoint about 5km out from Tong Dau Junction, 10km from Mai Chau town. There is nothing to do other than have a drink and look at the view over the valley. However, it can often be misty and you will see nothing. On a clear day, you can try to make out the villages of Lac and Poom Coong.

Go Lao Waterfall

An excellent place for a quick stop to look at the waterfall or to walk down and swim. Head out of Mai Chau and past Tong Dau Junction (6km) towards Moc Chau. Around 4km further on you will see a sharp left turn and a junction. There are lots of cafes and restaurants here. Keep going straight. Do not follow the road to Moc Chau. This road takes you down to the Hoa Binh Lake but you will take a right turn about 3km after the junction. You will likely hear the waterfall by then as it is only about 500m further on.

There is a house on the side of the road and the owner will let you park your bike, 10k fee, and sell you drinks and snacks. You can then clamber down to the waterfall and take a dip. It is very refreshing and good fun.

Chieu Cave

This is a great cave to visit BUT you have to walk up 1,200 or so steps. It is not for the weak-hearted and it isn’t the thing to do on a hot sunny day at lunch time. Early evening would mean you might get a sunset…….

The entrance is easy to find as it is opposite Mai Chau Lodge (the old post office) and there is a parking area. You will see someone selling drinks, snacks and tickets at the bottom of the steps. It costs 20k for a ticket.

Normal rules apply: Wear sensible shoes, take water, remember it is a cave and so could feel cold inside.

Loop of the area

If you already have a bike, take it out to explore the area. It is easy to go deeper into the valley in the direction of Moc Chau and see what is there. This is where you will get away from the tourists and see life going on as normal. A loop around Sam Khoe Village will while away half a day easily.

Explore the Old Highway 6

If you are feeling adventurous it is possible to make a loop on the old highway 6. You can get to this by taking the route to Go Lao Waterfall but not taking the right turn. Instead keep going down to the lake and then cross the bridge and turn left. You will be heading towards Moc Chau and will be able to get back on to the QL6/AH13 a short way before Moc Chau. This is a bumpy track but accessible to all but the most inexperienced rider. The route back to Mai Chau is on fast highway so won’t take long at all.

Remember to fill up, at Tong Dau, before going on the QL6 cu ! ! There are bottle of petrol available but why take a chance?

Where to go from Mai Chau

Hanoi to Mai Chau is often a first day’s ride on a tour. It is an easy ride and the places you can stay are clean and comfortable. You can get used to the roads and way of driving in Vietnam without too much pressure. It also allows you great choice in where to go next. From here you can get to many places and the most obvious options are listed below.

Moc Chau

This is a short trip on the AH13 or along the QL6 cu if you have the time. The AH13 is fast but the QL6 cu will make you want to go slow.

Bac Yen / Ta Xua

You need to take the QL43, which is a lovely winding road, and cross the river at Van Yen to get up to Bac Yen. You can stay there or you can head on up to Ta Xua to go ‘ Cloud Hunting ‘.

Da Bac

You can get across the Hoa Binh Lake by ferry and over to Da Bia, Da Bac to then go back to Hoa Binh and Hanoi. You would need to call to arrange this but it is easily done, (not cheap). You then have the choice of taking the winding lakeside road (yes, yes, yes but beware of landlsides !!) or the faster, busier DT433 back to Hoa Binh.

Pu Luong

If you are making a Mai Chau / Pu Luong trip then you will wantto head South on the QL15. You will then need to turn off on to the QL15B to enter the park and get to the several areas that have homestays.

Muong Lat Loop

This is a great loop that will take two days to complete. You can get from Mai Chau to Muong Lat easily. The road is bumpy and under construction in parts. You will need to head South on the QL15 and then take the Nam Ma Rd.

South to Danang / HCMC

It depends on how far you need to get on this day as to whether you stay on QL15 (much faster) or take the more scenic QL15B (much steeper in parts, slower). I tis possible to get to Tan Ky ( Km0 ), but you may only want to go as far as Thai Hoa.

Ninh Binh

This is quite a drive. Not sue to the distance but due to the fact that the roads are slow. You will have to navigate a fair deal and if you take some of the smaller routes you are quite likely to get a little lost. Allow enough time for this i.e a full day, no leaving at lunch time.

Cuc Phuong

Again, quite a long drive to do this but the park is an excellent place to stay. I would choose it over Ninh Binh any day but it doesn’t seem to get the exposure.

Which bike to ride to Mai Chau

You can take any kind of bike from Hanoi to Mai Chau as these two routes are on mostly good tarmac and the worst you will encounter is a few potholes. There are other routes that are more tricky to negotiate but these are hard to find and accessibility changes seasonally.

The fact is that any bike can get you over to Mai Chau and all that will change will be the speed you do it, how much fuel you use, the level of safety and comfort that you have.


Honda Lead Automatic
Honda Lead Automatic

These bikes are considered to be easier to drive than any other bikes. They are simply bicycles with engines but they are very powerful. Often called ‘twist and go’ because you simply twist the throttle and you will go.

We do not encourage the use of these for long road trips because they are more likely to break down. This is due to the fact that they can overheat and parts and oil can wear or degrade quite quickly.

Another reason, is that you will have less control over one of these bikes and this can be dangerous in certain situations. In the mountains you might need a sudden burst of power to get you out of a tricky situation. Or, you may need to use the engine as a brake, just for extra security, which you can’t do on these bikes.

A final and most important reason that we discourage use of these bikes out of town is that inexperienced drivers tend to want to drive them. It is not a good idea to learn to drive in Vietnam and the false sense of security that these bikes provide can be deadly.

Saying all of that, an automatic bike, driven sensibly by a competent driver can easily make the trip. You should stop a little more often than a semi auto or manual bike to let the engine run cooler. You should also drive in a sensible manner that means you do not need to ‘escape’ dangerous situations. Doing this will keep you as safe as you can be and minimize the risk of accident and injury.

Semi Automatic

Honda Future 125cc on West Lake

The semi auto bikes (bar the Honda Cub) are great for a road trip like this. They are relatively simple and easy to drive and they are much more fuel efficient. They give you more control over the engine and, therefore, in the right hands they are safer.

You can take something like the Honda Wave or Blade if you are one person, or two people with light luggage. If you are two people with a bit more luggage it would be better to opt for the Honda Wave RSX or the Honda Future as these have bigger cc engines, 110 and 125 respectively.

You will need to be familiar with changing gears but with this kind of bike a simple 1,2,3 step approach is enough to safely get this done. As long as you can avoid the tendency to look down when shifting, you should come out unscathed.


Honda Master 125 Manual

Pretty much any manual bike will get you over the hill. All that may change is the level of reliability and comfort that you opt for. From roughly 100cc all the way up to 1000 and more, you have a huge choice of bike, so long as your pockets are deep enough.

The Honda Win or the Minsk will get you from Hanoi to Mai Chau if it does not break down 5 times on the way. The Honda Fortune or the Suzuki EN150 will get you there quite fast on the tarmac but will be slow going on the rough. Then you have the XR 150, 250 and the CRF 250 and similar bikes. These will get you there fast no matter what route you take and there are some routes that can be pretty sticky.

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Weather considerations

It is wise to consider the weather before planning your trip from Hanoi to Mai Chau. Consider the following information when choosing the best time of year for you.

Average Yearly Rainfall and Temperatures

General Weather Information

Mai Chau’s location in northern Vietnam results in it having some interesting temperature extremes. Winters are often dry and cold from January to February, ranging from just over 10C to 20C. Summers are usually hot and wet from June to September with temperatures between 25 – 35C. The extreme humidity in the Summer can make the ‘feels like’ temperature sky rocket to over 40 !! It is not the time to be wearing full protective biking gear.

The Best Times to Visit Mai Chau

Mai Chau is best between these high and low periods. Between March to May will offer quite warm and dry weather before the summer monsoon hits and the landscape is lush with new bloom. Late September through to late November, and sometimes beyond, will see temperatures fall and most importantly evenings cools (so you can sleep easily) time. It can be quite chilly some days but this is not a problem if you plan on hiking or for only shorter periods on the bike.

For a good graphical representation of the Max/Min and Ave temperatures, take a look here.

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Tips and Advice:

Set your Google maps to motorbike mode.

This will stop Google routing you on the highways which motorbikes are not allowed on. If your phone doesn’t have motorbike mode, go to the hamburger menu, and select Route Options. In this option, select ‘avoid tolls’ and ‘avoid highways’. This will do the same job.

Hang way behind trucks or overtake.

Vietnam’s roads are filled with large vehicles. The route up to Mai Chau will have large trucks and coaches that will be very slow to get up the hills. You have a choice when meeting these: hang back or overtake. Hanging back means you do not eat dirt and fumes but you will probably have to slow down. Overtaking means you will have clear road and clear view ahead of you but you need to choose your moment wisely. I prefer to overtake. generally speaking, keep away from large vehicles as they often cannot see you.

Look for the driver in the mirror.

When you are behind a large vehicle which has huge blind spots, take a look in their mirrors. If you can see the driver, they can see you and vice versa. Use this to see if you are in a safe position or not.

Flashing lights means get out of my way.

Oncoming traffic may flash their lights at you. This means they do not wish to yield to you and expect you to get out of their way. Usually, it is best to do so as these drivers are often intent on going fast and may not be able to move out of your way.

Call ahead to book room / food.

When planning to stay in remote homestays or ones that are family run, announce your intention to the host. These places will often be able to provide a bed very easily but food might mean a trip to market. Turning up at 6 or 7pm and expecting dinner could be a recipe for disaster. Call in the morning to check they have room. Confirm you will make it to destination sometime just after lunch. This will give them time to get food and prepare. If the you are not able to communicate that easily with the host, why not use text message and Google Translate?

Do not pack too much gear.

You will not use half of what you plan to wear so why pack it in the first place? Just make sure you have a spare set of clothes and spare underwear to change into. Particularly in Winter you may need a change if you get wet. However, you can probably dry out most clothes overnight in aircon or by the fireside. Being a bit dirty on a road trip is part and parcel of it all.

Buy a local SIM card with data and calls.

When you need to call someone in an emergency but have no call time is when you wish you had spend that 5 bucks on a local SIM. Murphy’s Law: What can go wrong, will. So, try to preempt this and get a local SIM with calls. It could save the day.

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Hanoi to Mai Chau Route Guide
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Hanoi to Mai Chau Route Guide
Information on how to get to Mai Chau, what bike to take and where you can go after.
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2 thoughts on “Hanoi To Mai Chau – Route Guide

  1. Hi! Thanks for the great post – amazing detail.

    I have a question about ferry travel around Hoa Binh lake and Da River.

    Is it possible to travel by ferry all the way from Bai Sang through to Hoa Binh? And do you think the road from Mai Chau to Bai Sang via Go Lao would be traversable by bicycle?
    I’m planning a trip in hope of COVID restrictions one day allowing me into Vietnam…

    1. Hi Sonia,

      Yes. It is easy enough to find a boat that can take you from Bai Sang to either of the Hoa Binh Ferry Terminals. Personally, I’d choose the nearest one on the Sth shore as you will then have a great stretch of road taking you about 15Km past the Dan Toc Muong Museum and then on to Hoa Binh City. We used to do this when we did short Mai Chau tours with Explore Indochina. The terminal on the Nth shore will be further and cost more. Also, the road over to Hoa Binh from there is a bit dull, however, it does go past the dam and the museum etc… if you want to.

      I did hear talk of small privately run boats not being able to dock at the terminals now as they are only for the larger government run boats. You should be able to get on one of these or find someone who will take a chance and get you over there.

      The road to Go Lao and to Bai Sang is paved and bumpy in places but easily good enough for a mountain bike or even a road cycle (go slow – bumps)

      Also, if you are thinking about the road that takes you from Bai Sang OR Go Lao over to the white cliffs as they now call them and back out on to QL6 / AH14 this is also a good road and very easy to take on a bicycle.

      I hope that helps.

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