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How to Get from Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai

September 13th, 2017 by Manila Nefelim 2015 | Filed under Blog.

Nestled in the heart of the mountainous district of Yen Bai province, worlds apart from the bedlam of the city and well-established tourist hotspots, is the spectacular scenery of Mu Cang Chai. In this post, I will show you how far and how to get from Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai.

A Bit of Background

Tourism in the north of Vietnam has kicked off massively in the past few years, and while many come to ogle at the well-known scenery in Sapa, or to tour around in a luxury cruise in Halong Bay, many others come to the north in search of something different. Famed for its cascading rice terraces, delicious local food, and colorful ethnic minorities, Mu Cang Chai welcomes tourists every year who come to admire the authentic culture and naturally stunning scenery. There are a number of ways to get from Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai, and thanks to the increasing tourism interest in the area (particularly due to the interest in the local harvest festival), options to access this region have never been more plentiful.

misty green rice paddies forming a valley in Mu Cang Chai Vietnam

The magical Mu Cang Chai landscape

Transport Options from Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai

The Local Bus

local bus station

A sample image of local bus station

If you don’t mind forgoing a bit of time to save money, taking the bus from Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai is a fair option. There are a number of bus companies that drive the route from Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai. The downside is that despite the fact that the actual distance from Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai is only really 280km– give or take- the roads are not built to support large buses driving down them. In effect, the journey by bus can end up taking anywhere from *brace yourself* 13 to 19 hours.

If you are considering taking the bus, the best way to kill this journey is definitely by doing it overnight. Yes, the long trip can be pretty arduous, but the benefit is that these buses generally only cost about $10-15 USD each way which is a huge cost saver compared with taking a private car. Below I’ve listed a couple of different bus companies who provide evening departure times from Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai.

1. Hung Thanh bus. Add: 162B Tran Quang Khai – Hanoi city, tel: +8443.9274.285. Departure from Hanoi at 7.45pm and arrival at 3 pm in Mu Cang Chai.

2. Hai Van bus, from My Dinh bus station (at 20 Pham Hung street – Tu Liem – Hanoi) at 7 pm. Tel: +84944.82.82.82 or +8443.7223.588

3. Hoang Anh bus, from Giap Bat bus station (on Giai Phong street – Hanoi) at 5 pm. Tel: +84984.971.999 or +84912.317.515

4. Anh Tu in My Dinh station, leave at 5.30pm or 6.45pm. Tel: +8498.6025.569 or +8416.9928.6488

5. Khanh Thuy leave from My Dinh at 7.pm, Tel: +84988.976.321 or +8497.6652.400

The Local Bus – With the Help of a Tour Company

If you think you might need a bit of an extra helping hand to navigate your way through Hanoi, or if you simply prefer the convenience (without losing the cost benefits of taking the bus) you can hook up with a private tour company. They will normally organise a pick-up for you from wherever you are staying in Hanoi and transfer you directly to My Dinh Bus Terminal (all included in the one cost). This is usually somewhere around $20 total. The transfer from Hanoi Old Quarter to the bus station can take around an hour (maximum), but with the benefit of an English speaking guide, you’ll be able to rely on them for timing and navigating the transfer.

By Car

A winding but absolutely stunning road from Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai

A winding but absolutely stunning road from Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai

If you value comfort and convenience above all else, then taking a private car from Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai is probably going to be the best option for you. The benefits are obvious: your driver will pick you up from wherever you are staying in Hanoi (so no dodgy transfers through the city as you try to make your way to the bus station), you’ll be driving in the comfort of an air conditioned car, and you’ll have the chance to stop wherever you want along the way to enjoy the scenery- which you will want to. Oh, and that 19-hour bus ride? Turns into 7 hours by car.

There are a couple of private car companies that offer all in packages which will get you a driver and a private vehicle to take you from Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai, stay with you and chauffeur you around for however long you are going there for, and bring you back to Hanoi afterward. The costs will vary ever so slightly from company to company, but here’s an example from Golden Holiday Travel to give you a rough idea:

  • Hanoi- Mu Cang Chai -Hanoi 3 days
  • 246 USD (4 seater)
  • 274 USD (7 seater)
  • 296 USD (16 seater van)

Hanoi-Mu Cang Chai -Hanoi 4 days

  • 284 USD (4 seater)
  • 306 USD (7 seater)
  • 356 USD (16 seater van)

By Motorbike – the best option!!!

exploring Mu Cang Chai by motorbike

exploring Mu Cang Chai by motorbike is the best. Credit: vietnammotorbiketour

My personal favourite, and the clear winner according to those who have already made the journey, is to take a motorbike from Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai and do the journey at your own pace. Renting a bike in Hanoi is easy and quite inexpensive, though you’re much better off shopping around for a good quality road bike which should cost around $10 per day to rent.

Keep in mind that the roads aren’t great, so drive slowly (you’ll want to anyway to take in all that gorgeous scenery). Even for experienced drivers, navigating these mountainous roads at night is dangerous, so best off to stop over somewhere for the night on the way and break up the journey a bit.

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