hey guys, so me and a friend have been riding around the north for a bit over a north and having a great time, but the other day we hoped to cross in into laos near dien bien phu. they wouldn't even let us get through the vietnamese side, just said flatly "no". they told us that we needed a international transport permit for the bikes to cross. i had a friend do it a couple years ago with no permit. right now we are riding south to try at the na meo crossing and hoping for better luck there. anybody have any info? better border crossing for bikes? how to get a transport permit? we have a 3 month multi entry vietnam visa. thanks in advance for the brainstorming
Do you have the owners papers for the motorbikes and where did you buy them? Even with all the right VN paperwork you are unlikely to be allowed to bring bikes over the border - unless you find a border official willing to bend the rules. To get the transport permit you would need to go to a provincial government transport office (and would need an interpreter), but it may take days or be completely impossible. I'll see if I can find out anymore info. But you may need to start thinking of a plan B if you want to go over the border.
#2 LolaNguyen has been a member since 28/8/2012. Posts: 94
Did some digging. You need owners papers, VN drivers licence, multi entry visa (to VN), single entry visa to Laos and proof of date you will be returning to VN to get the permit to take your bike over to Laos. If you have all the correct paperwork the permit is issued at the border and should only cost around $5. Hope that helps!
#3 LolaNguyen has been a member since 28/8/2012. Posts: 94
ok, well it actually went quite smoothly, no problems getting across the border. you have to pay $20 at the border and you get a green customs slip and that's all. the lao side didn't care at all, of course. i don't know what the deal was with the guy up in dien bien phu crossing that simply wouldn't let us do anything, my guess is he was just kind of a dick. anyway, na meo border crossing is totally doable as long as you have a blue card for the bike in case anybody else wants to do it. it's not the best road getting there, but the roads on the lao side are actually better than the vietnamese side. the lao side closed for lunch and we had to wait till 1:30 to get thru, but if you get there before 12 it should be fine. also there are hotels on the way up the 217 in quan son and i'm pretty sure in na meo right at the border, too. then 80km from there to sam nuea in laos, but i did pass at least 1 guesthouse that was closer by 30km or so.
My trip from Hanoi to Luang Prabang via the Na Meo border.
Bike: Semi Automatic Honda Wing 110CC, in decent shape.
Baggage: 15 kg.
Change of oil: every 2 days.
Important things to bring: Bike's blue card (make sure you check if the serial numbers match the numbers on your bike), water and some snacks (if you get stuck in the Laos' mountains it may take some time before someone passes). a phone with GPS function, and most important; an MP3 player with shuffle function to give you those goosebumps the moment that you find yourself on the perfect road and your favorite song comes on (for me, the combination of Metallica's Enter Sandman combined with the Mau Chai mountain pass gave me the biggest adrenaline rush ever).
So, 6 days of driving, here we go:
Day 1. Drove from Hanoi to Mai Chau . Easy journey, beautiful roads. Mai Chau truly is a magical village. Make sure that you drive on to Lac Village, where there are some very good home stays.
Time: about 6 hours driving
Day 2. Planned to drive from Mai Chau to Na Meo. My Google maps application advised me the quickest way, which took me to a horrible road, definitely not suited for Honda Wings or anything under 250 CC with dirt bike tires. I first drove on the TL520, basically a muddy path filled with potholes and dead animals. Google Maps then told me to follow the Song Luong, a road which would give Colling McRae goosebumps but seemed impossible to drive with my Wing. After 15 miles I had to turn back, after which I drove another 20 miles on the QL 15A to a nearby village, had my bike repaired and crashed at the only Hotel I could find.
I would advise driving from Mai Chau to a town on the QL 15A for which i can't remember the name (but it is only a 100 km drive), as you do not want to reach the border too late and the drive from Mai Chau to Na Meo is simply too long in my opinion.
Time: It took me 8 hours+, but the one described above would take you less then 5.
Day 3. Followed the QL 15A to Ba Loc, and took the QL217 to Na Meo. The border crossing was a piece of cake. I made sure I got there just after lunch (border is closed between 11:30 and 13:00 if I am not mistaken), so that the border police would be nice and chilled (a old trick I once learned for when you negotiate something; always make sure that people just had lunch). I started talking about the recent Vietnam VS Malaysia football match, and within 10 minutes I had three very nice guys helping me out with my forms. I then drove to Vieng Xay via road 6. This was by far the most beautiful road I've driven in Laos and Vietnam. It took me cross an epic canyon while the sun was about to set: two of the best hours of my trip (which is the main reason I advise to take it easy on day 2, as you don't want to have to hurry on this road). In Vieng Xai , I stayed at a little floating hostel, where I received a very good home cooked meal and where the hosts spoke perfect english. Great people and a def. recommendation: (https://www.google.nl/maps/place/Viengxai+Hotelfirstname.lastname@example.org,104.2250096,17z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0x0e1957a065893880)
Time: About 6 hours driving.
Day 4. Drove from Vieng Xai to Xieng Thong. From Vieng Xai to Luang Prabang you basically have two options; either take route 6 and 1C up north through the national park and across the mountain passes, or take route 7, where you will pass by the plain of jars. I decided to take the northern route, also because my host in Vieng Xai strongly recommended it. If you pick this road however, make sure that your bike is running smoothly. The roads are very good (Ho Chi Minh trail is nothing compared to the asphalt they used to cover this track), but you will only come across very poor villages, and Honda Wings are not very common here. On the other hand, tourists rarely visit this part of Laos, so prepare to be followed by packs of smiling kids, and being invited to lunch whenever you stop in a village. After a beautiful day driving, I eventually found a hotel at Xieng Thong, near Nam Khan River.
Time: About 5,5 hours driving.
Day 5. Drove from Xieng Thong to Nong Khiaw. Road 1C is astonishing, and while driving through the parks (which includes a wild tiger population), I felt like I was driving across Jurassic Park. Then, after about 5 hours, I suddenly saw 2 blond girls driving mountain bikes, which made me realize that after 3 days of seeing no tourists what so ever, I was near a Lonely Planet mentioned location. Nhong Khiaw is beautiful though. Make sure that you cross the bridge with your bike and don't check in at the first hostel you see (like I did). There is a very cool backpacker hostel in this city (cross the bridge and take the first left, then look for the sign that says "fresh orange juice").
Time: About 6 hours driving.
Day 6. Drove from Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang. This road is like the Nurburgring after days of good but very narrow and hilly roads: it's a broad, flat, very well asphalted road with perfect sight, so you can really go full speed here. After 4 hours, i drove into Luang Prabang.
Time: About 4,5 hours.
It was truly an incredible adventure and by far the coolest thing I've done so far on my trip. Make sure that your bike is in in good condition before you enter Laos, as bike shops are a bit more rare in the east of Laos. However, the roads are very good, the sights beat Vietnam (absolutely no contest), and the lack of tourists was (for me) just the thing I was looking for after 5 weeks of backpacking Vietnam.
In contrast to many posts I saw online and stories i heard, I only drove 150 km a day. I've met too many guys with horrible scars and broken engines during my trips, commonly due to driving 8 hours or more or driving 40 km an hour on mountain trails. The moment that I felt tired, I stopped my bike and sat down for a bit of resting. If there is any advice I can give it's this: never, ever, rush. Rushing is for people in suits. You can do that when you get back home again.
Good luck on your trip, hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.
#6 Travelniels has been a member since 15/12/2014. Posts: 3
Hi, some very helpful conversations going on here, I would like to rent a motorbike and do a 10 day trip starting and finishing in Hanoi including Dien Bien Phu and Sapa , I haven't ridden a motorbike in 20 years, but I mountain bike trails regularly, so I hope to be OK my question is how reliable are the rented motorcycles, as I will be travelling alone and have no mechanical skills, also the traffic out of Hanoi sounds a bit bad but I have seen others here say it's fine if you go with the flow and remain aware, also thought I might if possible leave the rental in Sapa and take the train back to Hanoi unless the route is too interesting to miss while on a train ?
Any advice will be appreciated
#7 Manlybok has been a member since 15/1/2015. Posts: 1