Vietnam to Laos
Getting there and away
Our cycling holiday starts in Hanoi. We appreciate that people join redspokes tours from all over the world. No matter what time you arrive at the airport you and your luggage will be transferred to your hotel. Please bear in mind that if you arrive before midday on the trip start date, you may have to wait for your room to be made available. If you decide to arrive before this date redspokes can assist you in booking your accommodation and will organise a transfer to your hotel at an additional cost. Our holiday price does not include your international flights.
The tour ends in Luang Prabang and if you are flying home on the departure day your transfer to the airport is included in the tour price. If you decide to stay beyond the last day of the tour redspokes can help you organise extra accommodation and transfers to the airport if needed for an additional charge.
There is an afternoon flight with Vietnamese Airlines or Laos Air advertised from £90 - £115. You can buy this online - see www.kayak.co.uk. Alternatively you can buy a multi-destination ticket, fly into Hanoi and return from Luang Prabang. If you decide to arrive before the start date or stay on at the end of the tour, we can reserve your accommodation and transfers at cost price.
If flying from the UK Singapore Airways appear to be the favoured airline by our customers. Check out www.kayak.com or www.opodo.co.uk for an idea of times and prices.
You must be in possession in a valid passport with an expiry date at least 6 months after date of arrival and at least six blank pages available for your Laos visa.
Vietnam: British and Thai passport holders do not need a visa if they stay in country less than 14 days. For information relevant to the country for which you hold a passport, check with your local Vietnam embassy for up to date advice. If you do require a visa please be aware that an e-visa is not acceptable for this tour as it will not allow entry or exit from Vietnam at the Tay Trang border gate. Your visa must be applied for in advance. You can arrange for a visa on arrival in advance of the trip and our agent can provide you with a travel document that will permit entry to Vietnam for issue of the visa. There is a £10 admin charge for this. The visa fee is payable at Noi Bai airport, Hanoi.
Laos: Your visa will be issued as you enter the country. The visa fee is payable in cash in dollars only (no other currency is accepted). Please visit this website for further information: Laos visa regulations.
If you would prefer to pay an agent to get your visa, we would suggest using Travcour (UK) Ltd.
Insurance and vaccinations
It is a condition of joining our trips that you must be adequately insured. All persons are expected to arrange their own insurance. Polices should cover any potential risks involved in a mountain cycling holiday. We ask for copy of your policy to be sent in with your completed booking form.
Snowcard Insurance Services specialize in all mountain sports holidays including mountain biking. Their policies include emergency medical and repatriation expenses as well as mountain rescue. They are also able to insure personal belongings including equipment as well as travel cover for cancellation, delay and missed departure. Follow the link below to obtain full information and a quote: www.snowcard.co.uk.
Plan ahead for your vaccinations, some of them require more than one injection you should seek medical advice at least six weeks before travel. No vaccinations are currently required for the tour, but the following are recommended: Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Diphtheria, Polio and Tetanus. If you have recently travelled in a Yellow Fever affected part of the world, proof of an inoculation is required. Expert advice on medication should be sought.
Cycling support and grading
All of the time you will have the security of a back-up vehicle; either a truck or (and) a bus. The vehicle will carry our entire luggage (we transport your main baggage by support vehicle from each overnight stop to the next) and yourself if you want. The back up van will be with us throughout the day stopping around every 15 miles. Our leaders carry a good tool kit and will help to fix any bike problems so all you normally need to carry is a daypack, for your camera etc, however, we cannot guarantee that we will be equipped for all repairs, so you must ensure that your bike is in good working order before the tour. If in doubt, have it fully serviced by a bike shop before you travel.
Equipment and bike stuff
Tough as bikes can take a battering and low geared (such as a 22-tooth granny cog on the front crank driving an 11-32/34 block on the back). Comfort is important, as there are some long days, so make sure your saddle and riding position are appropriate.
A mountain bike is a good option. Front suspension will help with the washboard tracks and potholes, but it is not essential. If you have flat bars, fitting bar ends will give you a different hand position and help with the climbs. The trip can be done on a traditional touring bikes, but it is important to ensure it has got strong enough wheels, sufficiently wide tyres (37mm is about the minimum) and low enough gearing. It's worth investing in a pair of 36 spoke, hand-built wheels, using a good quality rim (e.g. Sun Rhyno, Mavic or Rigida).
The route is a mixture of poorly maintained tarmac and very rough gravel tracks. The best tyre for the job is probably the Schwalbe Marathon XR. It's very tough and hardwearing and has a decent tread for the gravel without being too knobbly for tarmac.
We would advise the following: a multi-tool, tyre levers, pump, 2 spare inner tube, spare spokes of the correct length to fit your wheels - check with a bike shop, brake pads, a few spare links for your chain, spares for any unique or high-tech items on your bike, e.g. fluid and bleed kit for hydraulic brakes.
Please ensure that your bike is in good working order before you leave on tour. If you are not the most mechanically minded we suggest that you get your bike looked at by a professional bike mechanic. We particularly suggest looking and adjusting all wheel spokes, greasing all your bearings, checking your brakes/gears cable, tighten all nuts and bolts, check chain, quick release clamps, tires and put in new inner tubes and check wheel rims are not worn. In addition make sure the bike is well serviced and ride it with as much care and attention as possible.
Here's our recommended kit list. It's not rigid - feel free to vary it at as necessary to your specific needs:
Good quality waterproof jacket, warm hat (it can get cold in Sapa), sun hat, cycle gloves, mid-weight fleece top, long sleeved shirt, travel trousers, 2 wicking t-shirts (synthetic or merino wool), cotton t-shirt for around town, 2-3 pairs of underwear, 2-3 pairs of standard socks, cycling shoes, e.g. spd's, trekking shoes, flip-flops, flip flops / sandals.
Other suggested items are: a bike helmet, a pair of dark glasses (the sun can be very strong), a small day sack or pannier (assuming you have a rack to attach it to) to carry clothing, camera and valuables, a couple of spare passport photos, photocopies of key documents, e.g. passport (data and visa pages), travel insurance policy, airline tickets, camera, photos of your family and postcards of your town to show the locals.
Baggage allowances and your bike
Your bike must be carried as a part of your luggage allowance and, to this end, we do ask that you to make every effort to keep your total check-in baggage to an absolute minimum. The baggage allowance for most airlines for an economy-class ticket is 20kg per person; although a degree of flexibility is usually extended to groups and the check in staff may accept up to 26kg per person without imposing excess baggage charges. Your bike (in its cardboard box) will weigh 15 to 18kg. So, that means you will have a small allowance for clothing, etc. You should carry small heavy items in your day pack / pannier which you can take onto the plane as hand luggage.
What's included and what's not
Accommodation will be in hotels, guest houses and a home stay for the duration of the tour. Our prices are based on sharing a twin room; single rooms are sometimes available at extra cost.
All food is provided on tour apart from the rest days in Sa Pa and Luang Prabang and lunches and evening meals in Hanoi.
Spending money depends on your taste for souvenirs, drinks etc. We estimate that £250 will be more than enough to cover the 14 day tour. Visa costs are, Laos £20, Vietnam £48. Tipping is an accepted part of everyday life, and although it is always at your discretion, you will be expected to tip to reward service. $40 for the guide and team at the end of the tour is recommended.
On all our tours the guides carry a medical kit. We do recommend that you bring your own first aid supplies which should include: antiseptic cream, throat lozenges, a cold medication, diarrhoea treatment, pain killers, plasters, insect repellent and re-hydration salts.
Vietnamese is the official language; English is generally favoured as a second. Chinese and Khmer and numerous other local languages are also spoken in places. Lao is the official language of Laos, English is the official business language of the Lao government.
Vietnamese New Dông (approx. VND 17,500 to $1). Laos Kips (approx. 8,000 to $1) The US Dollar is the most favoured foreign currency in both countries, we recommend taking some US Dollars. British currency can usually be changed in the larger cities. There is a charge for changing money in banks. ATM are widely available in most towns in both countries.
Buddhism is the major religion in Laos and Vietnam. In the far north of Vietnam Hoa Hao and Cao Daism are among the indigenous religions along with groups that have animist beliefs. Ancestor worship is an important influence in Vietnamese culture. Other religions are Christianity and Islam.
Murphy, Dervla. (1999) One foot in Laos. Christopher Robbins, (1989). The Ravens: pilots of the secret war of Laos. The most thrilling read of all the books on America's secret war in Laos.