Hanoi Cao Bang 2 Day Itinerary

Overview

This is a long drive and it isn’t something that I would suggest just anyone do. It isn’t much fun. 

However, there could be a good reason you need to get to the waterfall and back. Maybe, you have limited time and need footage of the falls. Perhaps, you have friends in the area on tour who are ahead of you. You might choose to just do this 300km+ trip on one of the legs and then take your time coming back. 

All in all, it is possible to get to Ban Gioc Waterfall in a day and there are two suggested ways to do this. You will be driving for most of the day with only short stops. There won’t be much time for hanging out or taking pictures etc… But, the reward is you get to see the falls and drive through some of the quieter areas of Vietnam. 

Distance / Duration

There are two routes shown here. The first (Black) via Bac Kan is about 345km and the second (Red) via Lang Son is 335km. There is little difference in the distance but the Bac Kan route is faster as it is on newer, larger road. 

Road Conditions

The route via Bac Kan is probably the easier of the two to follow and it is on quite large highway. It is dull but fast and it gets you where you need to get to. Watch out for the larger trucks. They often can’t see you. 

The Lang Son route is similar for the first part up to Lang Son, but from then on, the road will narrow and become slower due to the twists and turns. It’s fun to drive but you need to be careful to pay attention to the traffic. There are plenty of trucks on this route. 

Bike Choice

You can take any road legal bike on this trip as the roads are tarmac and easy enough to deal with. Yes, there are areas that are a little bumpy or potholed but these pose no problems at all. That said, DO NOT take a Honda Cub on this kind of trip as it is woefully underpowered, so cold be dangerous on the bigger roads, and will definitely not be very comfortable. 

I would recommend anything from a Honda Wave up, particularly the Honda Future. If you want to use a manual bike, then the Honda Master or the Honda XR 150 would be a good choice.

Tips

DO NOT try to cross the river to the Chinese side. This is an international border and the police will go crazy and probably detain you for hours, if you try to do so. 

Only attempt this if you are used to driving a motorbike and driving in Asia in general. This is not the kind of trip to learn to drive. 

Full Route Map

Day 1: Hanoi - Ban Gioc Waterfall

340km / 8 - 9hrs

This is the route that I would most likely choose to get directly to Ban Gioc IF I had to. This is assuming that I had limited time and wanted to make the trip in one go. As mentioned, this is a long route that will have you driving all day with only a few stops. make sure to leave as early as you can so that there is no time pressure on the last portion of the route. The journey will become progressively slower as you continue due to the smaller roads and poorer road conditions. You will also be getting tired and this is exactly when you do not want to rush. 

The first leg, up to Thai Nguyen will be on highway and will be quite fast but crowded. This is not much fun but getting out of Hanoi just isn’t. Make sure not to take the CT07 as motorbikes are not allowed on this road. After Thai Nguyen the road will become a little quieter and more pleasant. It is still quite fast and you will make good time. Stopping in Bac Kan for a snack, Brunch maybe, is a good idea. 

Then, up to Cao Bang is quite simple. You follow the QL3 and it is a pleasant and fast drive. You are still on the highway but you need to be so that you can make good time. There are more choices of things to do/eat and hotels in Cao Bang so you may choose to set up base here. However, you will have to do this VERY early if you are to have enough time to get to Ban Gioc Waterfall and back. You need at least half a day to do this, but you will be missing the crowds. 

From Cao Bang you can head for Quang Uyen and then Trung Khanh. The road is easy to follow and it is not too busy. There are some trucks that are heading to the border with China so you do still need to be careful. 

Once you get to Ban Gioc, you can take a look at the falls, visit the small pagoda on the hill nearby and perhaps visit Ngo Nguom Cave. There are several homestays nearby which are all of similar standard and there is also the Saigon Tourist Resort. Staying near the falls is probably the best idea. 

the smaller side of Ban Gioc Waterfall
the smaller side of Ban Gioc Waterfall

Day 2: Ban Gioc Waterfall - Hanoi

335km / Around 8 - 9 hrs

To start off on this route you have the choice of retracing the previous day’s route back to Quang Uyen or taking the DT206 and the DT207 back to the same location. The second choice is less travelled and preferable but it is not without its downsides.

You will, obviously, know the condition of the first route and how long it will take you but not the undriven route. It needs to be said that this road is passable on most bikes but there is a stretch where it is quite potholed and, therefore, slow. It would be much faster and comfortable on a bike with high ground clearance and a lot of travel in the suspension, think XR150

From here on, you can take the QL3, which is a good tarmac road, and then the DT208, which winds through the hills to Dong Khe. This route is a little slower than passing through Cao Bang but it is a new route and it is interesting. 

Now, it is a very straight, direct run to Lang Son on the Ql4A. This is a big fast road with a fair amount of traffic and trucks. You will pass That Khe and near Dong Dang and these might be places to stop for a pit stop and to regroup. 

Of course, you will go through Lang Son, but you won’t really have time to hang out or to visit any of the many sights there. You need to be on the road and back to Hanoi if you plan to get back before dark. It is possible to pass by Bac Son, but this will be a much slower route, so I haven’t marked it on the map. 

From Lang Son, it is a straight run past Bac Giang and Bac Ninh to get back to Hanoi. You will end up heading straight for Thanh Tri Bridge but this might not be the best choice for you. The Vinh Tuy, Chuong Duong and Long Bien Bridges are close and might be better depending on your final destination. You can find out more about the bridges in this blog post

the smaller side of Ban Gioc Waterfall
the smaller side of Ban Gioc Waterfall
the smaller side of Ban Gioc Waterfall
the smaller side of Ban Gioc Waterfall

In a Nutshell

Hanoi to Ban Gioc - 2 Day Tour

Ban Gioc Waterfall is a great place to visit and the route is easy enough to follow. You will be in some of the quieter areas of Vietnam with fewer tourists (not counting the Chinese side of the border). The scenery is spectacular and the roads are fun to drive. There are also plenty of interesting things to see on the roadside, once out of the city. 

However, it is an awfully long way to get just for an over night trip. I recommend that you combine this route with a stop off along the way and on return as well as giving yourself an extra day in Cao Bang

You can see longer itineraries from 3 to 6 days on our site. 

Drive safely, 

Danny

Danny
Danny
Danny's been living in Vietnam for more than 16 years. He's toured the country from top to bottom, and is always excited to share his advice and discoveries with fellow travellers. He also runs Rent A Bike Vietnam, one of the country's most trusted motorbike rental companies, with shops in Hanoi, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City!

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