By spending a few days in Ha Giang, you’ll probably hear about a few people who got into some kind of accident. Most are just silly ones, which end up with light scratches. But while it’s not common to come back with deep wounds or broken bones, it does happen sometimes. And in any case, you surely prefer to save yourself the scare.
At this point, you might know the Ha Giang loop is not such an easy ride. Twists and turns arise in every corner, and the landscapes make it easy to just forget to watch the road -trust me. It literally happened to me more than once.
However, the traffic along the loop is very light. Therefore, most risks and dangers will come from the road and/or yourself, and not third parties. This means that problems are predictable and that, if you’re careful, you can have almost everything under control. This is why we believe following these 8 tips can make your ride along the Ha Giang loop much, much safer.
Here they are:
1. Wear a helmet, glasses, elbow pads and knee pads
No need to say wearing a helmet is crucial. If you don’t, you’re at risk of extreme brain damage if you do fall. We don’t really need to explain this point, right?
But then, as silly as they may look, the elbow and knee pads are also literally life savers. When you fall off a motorbike, it’s extremely common to land on your knees or arms. If this happened to you, the pads would completely block getting cut up by the road. What is more, having these items on might help your body react better and actually use your arms or legs to catch the fall, no fear of wounds or broken bones, and avoid getting hurt in more sensitive parts of your body.
Lastly, wearing glasses are really helpful when there’s a lot of smoke and dirt, or pieces of refuse in the air that may hit your face while you’re driving. While it may not be the most comfortable or fashionable, wearing all of these protective pieces of gear may end up saving your life.
2. Wear long clothes and boots or sneakers
People who wear short sleeve shirts and shorts are at the most risk for getting cut up by the road. Wearing thick long sleeves and pants is your best option. Additionally, wearing motorbike boots that go up to your ankles are a great choice for shoes. If you don’t have boots, a pair of sturdy sneakers with thick socks is another good choice. The loop has sections where it can be quite cold, so you’ll stay not only safe, but warm too!
3. Wear a rain jacket and use caution when it’s raining
Rain can cause a slippery and potentially more dangerous road. While you don’t ever want to drive too fast or too slow, you want to take caution while you’re, especially in the rain. If you’re caught in a rain or thunder storm, it may be wise to take a break and not drive in the mountains, as it might be too dangerous. It’s especially advisable to go with your gut: if you feel like it may be a dangerous situation, just don’t take the risk. Especially when you’re out in the open, it could be difficult to see. And high winds may cause rocks and other rubbish falling and creating danger on the road.
What is more, make sure you take a raincoat to protect yourself and your belongings in case of rain. Ha Giang weather is unpredictable, so a perfectly sunny morning is not a promise of a clear sky after midday!
4. Watch the road!
While this may seem like a very obvious advice, it’s crucial that you pay attention all of the time on the loop. The nature is absolutely incredible and jaw-dropping, but do stop driving to enjoy the views. Pay attention to the road at every given moment. You never know if there’s a rock, some garbage, a pack of cattle or a pothole on the road. As a general rule of thumb, always look in the direction you’re driving in. However, as a driver, make sure you are periodically looking in your mirrors as well. By always paying attention and looking ahead, you can plan out any sudden moves or turns if needed. Do know that there are some rocky and uneven roads, branches and rocks, and other random rubbish on the road.
Always be aware of your surroundings and stay alert. There are plenty of opportunities to make a stop and take all the time you need to enjoy the views.
5. Practice your riding skills before hitting the road
This is essential. Having prior practice on a motorbike is a really big help. Very especially because you’ll encounter sharp corners and steep ascents and descents all along. At Car & Motorbike rental in Ha Giang, they’ll let you take a bike and practice as much and as long as you want the day before you leave. So take the chance! And if you have any slight hesitation at all after practicing all day, please do not drive yourself. You can still ride on the back of one of their guides or drivers, or someone you trust.
6. Don’t drink nor do drugs while driving
Another obvious advice, but let me empathize it. You might be used to drinking a glass of beer with your colleagues before driving home from your office. It’s just the same, easy ride you always do. Besides, you know yourself: a glass of beer does nothing to you. OK, we take it. However, in the Ha Giang loop you’ll be riding a motorbike that’s not your own on roads you’ve never been to before. What is more, you’ll encounter local drivers who might drive differently compared to the drivers you usually deal with -believe me, they do. So it’d be ideal if you were ready to expect the unexpected, and to do so, guess what? You’re better 100% sober.
Don’t worry: you’ll have plenty of time to drink your very deserved beer or happy water after you’ve reached your destination of the day.
7. Don’t drive when it’s dark or too foggy
Plan ahead and make sure you reach you destination before it gets dark. If for whatever reason you don’t make it, then be flexible and allow yourself a change of plans. There are plenty of villages and towns you can spend the night in.
On the other hand, in Ha Giang province it’s pretty common to encounter an unexpected, dense fog on the road. And sometimes, it comes with rain. If you do so, drive slowly and carefully. And if it gets too dense, then find a safe spot and stop. Be patient: it’ll probably clear very soon.
8. Be confident… but not too much!
A lot of times, it’s the most confident people the ones who end up falling, because they think they are very experienced drivers. While it is good to have confidence in your driving abilities, you still want to use a lot of caution and be careful. There’s no way to tell what might be on the road at any given time.
On the other hand, having no confidence and being extremely nervous is not going to help you either. Trust that, with the right safety precautions, you can have an easy, enjoyable ride. Again, if you’re hesitant, just ride on the back of a more experienced rider.