How to get to Cao Bang
These 4 routes to Cao Bang will get you there in 1 to 2 days. You can make the choice of how long it takes depending on how much time you have so one of these will fit. Cao Bang is a great place to visit because there are less tourists and still some great site to see. There are also a lot of back roads and single tracks out there if you care to find them.
Cao Bang is an excellent place to visit, in its own right, and you can easily combine it with tours to other places such as Ba Be, Ha Long and Ha Giang.
How to get to Cao Bang 4 Routes
One day option
Route 1 – Direct Hanoi to Cao Bang
This is the fastest way to get to Cao Bang. You cannot take the highway directly out of Hanoi as it is a CT Road. You have to head for Thai Nguyen on the QL3 which isn’t so bad. Then after Thai Nguyen you get to continue on this road but it opens up into really nice two lane highway and is very fast. As you progress North the road becomes smaller and winding; it is a good drive. You should make good progress and easily be in Bac Kan by lunchtime.
There is not much to see or do in Bac Kan, so it is little more than a lunch stop. There is a bypass around the town which you can take or alternatively go really slow through the town.
Note: If you do have a late start from Hanoi, you might want to stop in Bac Kan rather than risk having to drive at night time.
Then you are back onto the highway which is small and winding all the way up to Cao Bang. You will need to be careful at Na Phac as you have to turn right to stay on the QL3 and avoid the 279 but it is well signposted. After this, is where you will take the road over the mountains and this is a beautiful drive. You may need to wear something warm as it gets quite chilly up here at times. Then, before you know it, you are in Cao Bang.
Two Day Options
Route 2 – Ba Be – Cao Bang
You really cannot do this route in one day, and nor would you want to. The first section take you to Ba Be National Park and the second takes you on to Cao Bang.
As with route 1 above, you head out of Hanoi in the direction of the airport and then on up to Thai Nguyen. You need to stay off the CT07. Then, shortly after Thai Nguyen you can take the left fork and stay on the QL3 heading for CHO CHU.
All you need to do now is stay on this road heading for either Ba Be or Cho Ra. You need to check updates on this road as it has been having major roadworks. If you are driving in the rain, it may well be a mudfest.
You will arrive in the park from the lower end near the lake and there are lots of homestay options around here. They range from simple budget options to mid-range. Call ahead to be sure they will have food and cold beer for you on arrival.
Route 3 – Hanoi – Bac Son – Cao Bang
This is a 2 day option. It could be a 1 day option but it would be very long and difficult. I don’t think anyone would choose to do that. The first day gets you off the main road and over to Bac Son and the second sees you back on the (smaller) main road and up to Cao Bang.
It is quite easy to get over Long Bien or Chuong Duong Bridge and then head straight for Bac Ninh. This should be about 45 minutes away and makes a good place to stop for a break. Unfortunately, the road is quite busy as it is a main route to the border with China. After Bac Giang, you can get off the AH1 and onto the QL37. This is abit quieter and you can then wind your way over to Bac Son. The road is small and takes you through little villages and custard apple groves.
Bac Son is a small village that is geared up for tourism. There are several homestays in and around that have large dorm rooms and that serve up good food. There is a hike up to a vantage point that you can take and it gives a great view of the valley.
The next day, you are still on the small back roads until you hit the QL4A which links Lang Son and Cao Bang. You will first go through the Tam Canh Pass which is a wonderful winding road built by guerillas. Then on to the main road, QL4A, but it is not as crazy as most. It is possible to take this road quite easily all the way up to Cao Bang.
Route 4 – Lang Son – Cao Bang
This route could be a one say option. It is possible to get to Lang Son quite quickly and have enough time to get to Cao Bang. It isn’t the best choice but the roads are quite large and fast so it can be done. A lot depends on what bike you have and what kind of driver you are.
Generally, people are going to choose this route as a two day option and have a very easy first day up to Lang Son. This is good if you have a late start or if you are unsure of the roads or the bikes. You will be able to take it slowly and ease into things.
Again, you need to head out over Long Bien or Chuong Duong Bridge and then on to the AH1 straight up to Lang Son. It is a big straight road and is quite boring. That is why you can make good time on it. If you feel you have time or are a bit early, you can detour onto the QL234B to take a slower back road in to town.
From Lang Son to Cao Bang you follow the AH1 up to the border post, Dong Dang, and then historical QL4A. It is an easy but winding drive with great scenery.
- Remember that CT roads dare off limits. You cannot take a motorbike on CT roads. They are for 4+ wheeled vehicles only.
- Set Google Maps to ‘motorbike’ option. This will then route you on suitable roads i.e not on CT roads
- If you don’t have the ‘motorbike’ icon, then you can go into Route Options and hit avoid highways, avoid tolls and this will then route you on the right roads for a motorbike.
- Drive slower than you normally would. The speed limit will be 40kmh in town and usually 60kmh out of town. This is because there are lots of hazards on these roads.
- Respect the speed limit. The cops are quite happy to pull over foreigners nowadays and they are happy to fine them, too. Fines can be several million VN Dong so they worth avoiding.
- If you are riding in a group, rotate the back rider. So, every 5 or 10km have the back rider come up to the front so that no one gets left behind.
- Stay in touch through apps and set regular stops be them 1hr or 50km intervals. This way you should all slow down and group up.
About Cao Bang
Cao Bang has a long history of battle and changing hands between the Chinese and Vietnamese. It has also been the site of many revolutionist uprisings and is the most famous sight is that of Pac Bo where Ho Chi Minh stayed on his secret return to Vietnam. All through French rule there were troubles and insurgence and it is considered the cradle of revolutionism in the North. It was also the battleground with the Chinese in 1979 as suffered from a scorched earth policy.
The majority of the people in the province are rural dwellers and from ethnic minority groups (Tay, Nung, Dao, and Hmong) which doesn’t help with administering control from Hanoi.
Places to see
In Ba Be Lake
You can easily spend a night or two in Ba Be. It makes a good place for a rest from driving. On the classic list of places to see there are: Fairy lake, Dau Dang Waterfall, Puong Cave, Hua Ma Cave,
In Bac Kan
There is not much here, and it really is just a case of ‘go to Ba Be’. It will be hard to do anything more than an overnight stop here.
In Bac Son
Bac Son has a couple of things close by and some others not so far away. As you get closer you will pass through the Bac Son Flower Valley and past Nong Luc Temple, these are worth a quick visit. You will stay in Quynh Son Village. If you get there early or decide to leave late you might want to trek up to the Viewpoint. Dang Mo Waterfall is a little out of the way and more a place for locals and Tam Canh Pass is the one that you will drive through on your way to QL4A.
In Lang Son
In the centre of town you have the famous Dong Kinh Market and the Ky Lua Market which is also a night market. There is the Flag pole which you can climb and Tam Thanh Cave you can enter. This cave is nearby to Nang To Thi which is an interesting rock formation looking like a girl holding a child.
Around 30km away is Mau Son Mountain. You might only go here if you wanted to spend a night on the top of the mountain. It is a good 10km drive up to the top on a winding road. It is more fun coming down. There are several small hotels at the top but be warned you will hear a lot of karaoke.
In Cao Bang
Using Cao Bang as a base, you can easily spend 2 nights there. There are a lot of things in the area. The most significant are Ban Gioc Waterfall, Ma Phuc Pass, Pac Bo, Mat Than Mountain, but you may also be interesting in Thang Hen Lake, Cao Bang War Memorial, and Lo Ren Knife Village. There are also several pagodas that you might like to visit.
Places to stay
In Ba Be
You can choose to stay up at the Park Headquarters or down by the lake. Most people in smaller groups tend to choose the lake and larger groups the park. This is because catering for a large group is easier.
There are a range of homestays down by the lake and you can easily find them online. I like Quynh Mai Homestay and for a quieter option Mr Linh’s Homestay.
In Bac Kan
There are few options here but one I do like is Hotel Mountain States. As well as this one you could try Green Hotel and Coffee but there are several in this general area to choose from.
In Bac Son
You will head for Quynh Son Village and there are several homestays to choose from. I have stayed in both Duong Cong Chich Homestay and Homestay Bac Son and had a fine time in both.
In Lang Son
Lang Son is a major town but there is still limited range of hotel. I would choose Song Long Hotel for a slightly better option and if I were on a budget then, Happy Homestay would work.
In Cao Bang
There is a huge range of options in Cao Bang, ranging from budget mini hotels to larger government run places. There are also some boutique hotels which are perhaps mid-range but quite luxurious considering. I am a big fan of the government run Song Bang Hotel and I have had a good stay in Max Boutique Hotel.
You could find a homestay a little way out of town say Luong Son Homestay or TH Homestay. Or there are places up by Ban Gioc Waterfall which are quite nice such as Khuoi Ky Ban Gioc Homestay or the plush Saigon Ban Gioc Resort. They are easy to find.
Booking Com Search Tool
I have found that Booking.com has the best iptions for accommodation all over the North of Vietnam. So, here’s a search tool for you to take a look. Yes, this is an affiliate link (at no cost to you).
Getting there by bus
If you do not wish to drive a bike all the way up to Cao Bang you can easily take the local bus. There are day and night buses and they cost around 200-240,000vnd per person. You can get them from the My Dinh or the Gia Lam bus station in Hanoi and the journey will take about 6/7hrs.
When you get to Cao Bang you can easily find a rental bike there.
Places to rent a motorbike
Rentabike – Contact Here
Excellent bikes and good service. The guys here have been around for a long time and are very good. They have a lot of experience dealing with any problems on the road. Highly recommended.
Also, a long-standing rental firm in Hanoi and they have larger CC bikes.
In Cao Bang
Most hotels will have a semi-automatic or automatic option for you to rent. This is often just the bike of the staff, which can be an option, but it does mean that you will get less support than from a rental shop.
One good option in Cao Bang is QT Motorbikes. They have semi-automatic and fully manual bikes
Take a look at [motorbike rental in Cao Bang blog] for more detail on bike rental.
How to get to Cao Bang
All in all, it is easy to get to Cao Bang and you have several options. And, now you have the information you need to make a decent decision on which route tho choose and why.
A trip to Cao Bang can be an excellent adventure. There are plenty of places to visit along the way and the province itself has enough to keep you busy for quite a while.
For more ideas of what to do take a look at more of our blogs and these Cao Bang Tour ideas.