Three-Day Ha Giang Loop Tour With Cheers Hostel: Tour Review & Recap
The Ha Giang Loop is a thrilling, winding roadtrip through the mountains of northern Vietnam. It’s the highlight of most people’s trip, which is a testament to how incredible the scenery is. While you can drive the Ha Giang Loop in a car, most people choose to go by motorbike.
Even for experienced motorbike riders, the Ha Giang Loop can be challenging. So if you’ve never driven a motorbike before, it’s definitely not the time to try. There are many companies that take you on a two, three, four, or five-day tour through Ha Giang. You can drive yourself or get an easy rider who does the driving for you. The tours are all-inclusive, covering your food, water, accommodation, motorbike rental, and optional easy rider.
I did the three-day, two-night Ha Giang tour through Cheers Hostel in January 2023. And just like many others, it was one of my favorite things that I did in Vietnam.
When choosing a tour company, there were a few things I was looking for:
- Easy riders who were friendly and safe
- Groups that weren’t very large (20 or more people)
- Groups that would be more likely to have solo travelers
- Clean accommodations
- Well organized
- Preferably under $200
Although Jasmine Hostel and QT are the most popular companies to go with, I ended up going with Cheers Hostel for a few reasons. They seemed to have smaller groups, it was extremely well organized, and it was one of the cheaper options going from Hanoi. There was nothing but glowing reviews for Cheers, which solidified my decision. And after experiencing it myself, those reviews are 100% right.
- What I paid: $199 USD
- How to book: Cheers Hostel website (I recommend messaging them on WhatsApp for the quickest response)
- Rating: 🍶🍶🍶🍶🍶 5 out of 5 happy waters
Taking the overnight sleeper bus from Hanoi to Ha Giang
Since I was leaving from Hanoi, my journey started with meeting at Cheers Hostel at 7:30 PM. I checked in for the tour with the receptionist, paid my remaining balance (they require a ~16% deposit upfront), separated out the essential items I’d need into a daypack, and left the rest of my luggage there.
Despite its name, Cheers isn’t actually a hostel. It’s a well-run, nice hotel that has a small kitchen and dining area in the back where you can help yourself to tea, coffee, and candy. Sometimes they even have fruit. Rooms start at $28 USD per night.
It’s a six to seven-hour drive from Hanoi to Ha Giang, where we would start the tour the next morning. From Cheers, we got picked up by a van that brought us to the sleeper bus. There would be more people who we’d pick up from the Hanoi airport. Some people were also coming from Sapa, so we’d see them in Ha Giang.
We got a VIP sleeper bus, which had a nicer interior than the basic sleeper buses I rode in for the rest of my time in Vietnam. The seats were a smidge wider, the blanket was thicker and cozier, and you had privacy curtains. We shared the bus with locals and made a few stops along the way since it’s not a private bus for Cheers.
After one rest stop for the bathroom and snacks, we arrived in Ha Giang around 3 AM. Everyone was half-awake as we shuffled into a completely dark and quiet hostel. We were given our assigned rooms to nap in and freshen up for the few hours we had until breakfast. The dorm room was basic but comfy, with a thick duvet and clean bathroom.
Easy rider, easy riding
Even though I managed to sleep the entire time on the bus and in the dorm, I still had to drag myself out of bed and downstairs for the 8 AM breakfast. It was simple – fruit, toast, eggs of your choice, coffee, and tea.
After breakfast, it was time to meet my easy rider and get geared up. I was paired up with Huang, who was also the tour leader. This meant I got to lead the pack, as everyone else rode single file behind us. Huang was friendly, conversational, and knowledgeable about the area.
I’m not the type of person who takes pictures of myself while traveling, so I appreciated how Huang always offered to take photos of me. I knew it was picture time when he’d walk up to me, stick out his hand, and say, “Give me your phone.” Thanks to Huang, I have so many great photos of myself in Ha Giang.
Huang was also a great driver who I felt safe with. He always slowed down when turning, honked when we approached a blind corner, and navigated the bumpy roads like a pro. And that’s the nice thing about going with an easy rider – they are pros. They drive these roads for a living so you know you’re in good hands. It also frees you to be fully present in the moment, look at the sights around you, and take all the photos and videos you want.
After everyone suited up with their helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads, we hopped on our bikes and headed out. Looking back, the three days in Ha Giang was just a tiny fraction of my time in Vietnam. But in the moment, it felt like the three-day adventure would stretch on for a week.
Homestyle, soul-nourishing food
Some of the best food I had in Vietnam was on the tour. Not kidding.
Don’t expect rice noodles, pho, or any other Vietnamese dishes that you’d have while traveling the country. This was homestyle cooking. Almost every lunch and dinner was a bowl of rice and around 10 different dishes to pick up a bit from and pile onto your rice. It was a guessing game of what we were eating, but it was all so good. There was meat, vegetables, tofu, and even at one point, a plate of fries.
Shared between six to eight people, the food was always demolished at the end.
Beware of the happy water
Everyone who does Ha Giang will tell you about the happy water. There will always be happy water on the table during dinner. It’s impossible to escape.
And I can tell you from firsthand experience that happy water does indeed give you a hangover, if you have enough of it.
Happy water usually refers to rice wine, but I was told that it’s actually made from corn in Ha Giang. That’s why you’ll see so much corn hanging from some buildings on the Ha Giang Loop. It seems like everyone in Vietnam makes their own happy water. Some people infuse it with ingredients like herbs, fruit, and even goat bones (which I tried in Tam Coc, but that’s another story).
Happy water is clear and tastes of pure alcohol. It’s like a slightly more pleasant vodka since it has a lower alcohol content.
It’s easy to overdrink, especially when the easy riders keep pouring one shot after another, with no break in between. And that’s how I found myself crowded around someone’s Spotify on the first night of my Ha Giang tour, signing at the top of my lungs at 11 PM while everyone except for the seven of us were asleep.
While this was a happy water-driven, impromptu karaoke session, there was more “official” karaoke led by Huang on the second night. That time, everyone joined in.
The scenery is what everyone comes to Ha Giang for. It doesn’t disappoint – as long as you have decent weather. Doing Ha Giang in the winter isn’t the best time. Not only is it cold, but it’s also gray and cloudy. The first day of my tour had the worst views. We could still see the mountains, but visibility was poor. Over the next two days, the sky cleared up and we even saw a bit of sun.
As you wind your way up the mountains, you’ll be able to look down into the valley and see the Mekong River cut through the mountains. Or the road that you just drove up, zigging and zagging across the greenery.
During the tour, you’re never on the bike for very long. You’ll frequently stop at viewpoints to snap photos, stretch your legs, and have a drink. The longest you’re sitting on the bike is probably around 30 minutes.
Although it was nice to get off the bike so your bum doesn’t go numb, I thought we could’ve spent less time at each stop. It usually felt like everyone was ready to get going before time was up.
Basic yet comfortable accommodations
On our first night, we stayed at a hotel. It started getting cold at our last stopping point, so I was so happy that the rooms had heating. I shared a room with two girls, and as soon as we stepped inside, we closed all the windows and cranked up the heater. The room was spacious, the beds were comfortable, and the bathroom was clean.
For our second night, we stayed at a homestay. It was even more basic than the hotel, with mattresses set on the floor and no heating. Everything was clean though, and there were outlets for charging. The bedrooms were on the second floor of the house, while the bathrooms were on the ground floor.
I don’t think anyone showered the second night, and I don’t blame them. It was so cold – to the point where you could see your breath – that I couldn’t even bear to change into my pajamas. So I slept in all my clothes and used the extremely thick duvet to wrap myself into a human burrito.
An unforgettable three days that ended too soon
On the last day, we arrived back at the hostel in Ha Giang around 2 PM. After three days and countless hours on these motorbikes, it was time to say goodbye to other travelers in the group and our easy riders. For the people who were going back to Hanoi, we hopped onto a roomy minibus with reclining seats. We had a rest stop break, and once we arrived in Hanoi, we were transferred onto a van that took us to our accommodation. I went back to Cheers, where I stayed for two nights so I could relax and finish the sightseeing I had left in Hanoi.
Three days is the most popular option for Ha Giang Loop tours. And while I was ready for a hot shower and a good night’s rest, I would’ve loved to see more. I had such a great experience that I’d like to come back in the summer and do it all over again when the weather’s nicer. It’d also be great to do a longer tour to see the more remote places and get closer to the border of Vietnam and China.
Regardless of how long you plan on doing the Ha Giang Loop and whether you decide to drive yourself or go with an easy rider, you’ll be well taken care of when you go with Cheers Hostel.
More resources for traveling Vietnam
- What to Pack for the Ha Giang Loop
- How to Solo Travel Vietnam
- 5 Complete Itineraries for Seeing North Vietnam in 7 Days
- Two-Day Halong Bay Cruise With Cat Ba Ventures: Tour Review & Recap