🖐 In this travel guide we’ll share all our experience travelling to Ba Be Lake, located in the central North of Vietnam. If this is your first time on Dronemade, we're a community of drone pilots around the world and thus like to share our travel experiences and how we see things from up there. Give a 👍 at the end of this post & feel free to share your experience or any updates you might have in the Forum. Keep in mind that the content below is updated to the best of our knowledge & does not replace official sources & your research.
Ba Be Lake was easily the highlight of our trip in Northern Vietnam thanks to its remoteness and classification as a national park. This is a place to relax and understand the locals, how Vietnamese work, cook and live. You will find the natural landscape quite unspoiled around towns other than the land used for rice cultures. We recommend to spend at least 2 nights in this wonderful place, time to re-set & enjoy a true Vietnamese gem.
Where is it exactly & how to get to Ba Be Lake?
Ba Be Lake is located in the central North of Vietnam, only 6h bus from Hanoi making it an easy access from city or nearby Cao Bang & Thai Nguyen. Its location makes it an ideal pit stop before the Ha Giang Loop or returning to busy Hanoi from the North.
🛵 The easiest way to reach Ba Be Lake is by bike, ideally your own. It will take you a day to complete the trip from Hanoi but once off the highway, its a really scenic route going though small villages.
🚌 From Hanoi, the cheapest way is to go by Bus. You will need to catch the bus stationed at quay n°33 in My Dinh bus station. There is a bus at 8 am, 11 am and 6.30 pm. In every case we recommend you to arrive at least 1H prior departure to get the best seats but also make sure they don't go without you (it will leave earlier if full). The trip takes about 6h and will cost you 130,000 dong.
💡 You can split your trip by stopping at Thai Nguyen which is about half way. If you're already there, in addition to the fast bus from Hanoi, there are local buses bringing you to Ba Be Lake in about 4h that will cost about 50,000 dong.
🚨 If coming by a non local bus (those from Hanoi), these will stop at the entrance of the national park which is a good 1h30 hike (downhill) to the main village; Pac Ngoi village. Scooter drivers are well aware of this and will ask up to 100,000 dong to bring you down; pay 50,000 and you've got yourself a good deal. If you decide to hike (its really easy going down), make sure you have a raincoat ☔
What to do in Ba Be Lake?
Ba Be Lake is actually three lakes connecting to each other making it a formidable place for all kinds of water activities. The lake is very peaceful and you're lucky to have a non windy day then you will be looking at a giant mirror surrounded by steep jungled cliffs. If you're not a water person, the cliffs and remote tribes/villages around offer several great hikes and some loops from the main town; Pac Ngoi village.
Probably the most rewarding activity of all.. Pack some lunch and enjoy a full day remote in the heart of Vietnam. Even nighttime is interesting with hundreds of fishing lines lightening up such as hundreds of green firebugs on the shore.
💲 Renting a kayak can be a hard negotiation but the fair price we paid was 200,000 dong for 2 for an entire day (we even came back late in the dark and they didn't mind). Be aware that some operators do not hesitate to ask 900,000 dong pp for a day.. This is simply wrong and you will be good to walk away.
Rent a Boat
A little pricier but definitely faster to get around, you can get your private boat and captain for up to 800,000 dong per day. Each boat can board about 12 pp splitting the bill in as many passengers along the way. There are cheaper fares available but they won't bring you all to Puong Cave, the true highlight of Ba Be Lake.
Go Cave Exploring
Hua Ma Cave is easily accessed from Pac Ngoi village by hiking or renting out bikes to get there quicker. Ideal place for a really hot or rainy day, make sure to bring a torch with you as the electricity generator is famous for failing down whilst you're in the cave. The entrance is free.
Puong Cave is a cave above a river from which you can see both ends at once. Nicknamed the moon cave, it is filled with bats and even a little bar for the few tourists reaching this place by boat. Arrive there before or after everyone and experience true remoteness listening to nothing else than the stream and bat screams.
A few more caves are around too such as Ace-tham ki & on the main road and there are a couple of small ones you can enter from the lake with your kayak (only way).
A lot of tracks are available starting from Pac Ngoi village from a few hours to 2 entire days giving options for everyone. Most of them will go though Tay, Dao or H'mong villages, the three communities living around Ba Be Lakes. A few watch towers are also accessible but frankly reaching these cliff summits are so much more rewarding.
See on this map all the hikes available in Ba Be National Park:
Cycling & riding
You can rent a bike for 30,000 pp but make sure the gears work as you will need to use them if going around. We had to return ours and trade for a scooter instead.
Where to stay & eat in Ba Be Lake?
🚪 We've only got one place to recommend for sleep but we bet you will love it; Huyen Hao Homestay. Operated by the entire family, you will feel welcomed and more importantly part of the family if staying there. From 50,000 dong per night its a very good deal and we strongly recommend to join the family dinner meals and breakfast cooked fresh each morning based on the small market's availability.
If not available, don't be too sad, there are a myriad of other homestays available jut next and they seem to all have great ratings. We found them using our hotel price comparative tool to make sure we booked at the best price.
🍴 Dinner is best at your homestay (normally), for lunches, head to Jun Cafe restaurant to make sure to have a great deal and more info about the region (they speak English). If you're after a ☕ in style, then Babevillega coffee is the place to be. They are technically a hairdressers but will welcome coffee lovers and you will have a view above the entire lake.
Can I fly my drone in Ba Be Lake?
🚨 Be aware of the airline you purchase to travel as some main ones will only accept your drone on-board if its batteries are detached & placed in a firecase during travel time. Most airlines will have a battery voltage limit based on the recommendation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). You can find more info about a specific airline here.
✅ Currently, there doesn't seem to be any restrictions on bringing drones within Vietnam as long as your import is considered as legitimate (generally one drone per person). Ba Be Lake is a remote location with little population and a huge lake making it a safe place to fly. However be aware that you're in the heart of a national park, a sanctuary for wildlife which is clearly not used to see a drone flying nearby.
✅ In every case you should follow the Vietnamese drone rules and laws at all times. Note that these can evolve within months and its always a good thing to double check upon departure.
What to think of Ba Be Lake?
Well we don't like to write this part of the story so we've put together some of our coolest pics. If you don't feel like seeing them before heading there, we get it and won't be sad.
✅ Please leave a comment or update the Forum when you receive news and/or gain experience in Ba Be Lake! Have fun over there and make a lot of good memories!
Disclaimer: Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information researched, we take no responsibility for any loss, harm or damage caused as a direct or indirect consequence of relying on this information.