Ha Giang - Meo Vac - Bao Lac Permits! gotta have'm

Discussion in 'Vietnam - General Discussion Forum' started by jimoi, Feb 28, 2007.

  1. jimoi

    jimoi Ol'Timer

    Like all advice, if you follow it you may be good, if you don't may fortune favor you.
    Riders going up to Meo Vac out of Ha Giang have written here stuff like:

    The best bits by far were the far north east from Ha giang via Yen min and Meo Vac to Bao Lac: this outlandish scenery is a no man's land between china and Vietnam, just make sure teh officials don't scam you with 'border permits' and obligatory guides. A piece of advice: you can do this bit in one day so guesthouses won't ask for the border permit, but you can sort that out with the Meo Vac Police.
    Also there is a road under construction from Meo Vac to Bao lac."

    If you want to chance it and go, fine. From experience and recent accounts from people I know in the area, if you don't get the permit in Ha Giang you run the risk of having to pay HUGE fines in Meo Vac and not being able to stay overnight. One "smart ass" rider went without a permit and the police monitor the road up to Meo Vac just for this. He was tagged and by the use of mobile phones he was nabbed in Meo Vac and forced to go back to Ha Giang by bus and motorbike in a truck.

    I have had problems here but the permit procedure is the law and if you do not respect the law, they will enforce the penalty. There is little negotiation with the officer in Meo Vac - it's his #1 source of income and he seems now to be getting pleasure out of sending people out of his town in the middle of the night. Yes, riders have made it and haggled with the police but these days are over. In 2003 I was pleasantly surprised to find this officer in my hotel room looking at my stuff upon my return from dinner. He ordered me to pay about 100 USD fine and leave. Since it was raining and I didn't feel like paying, I was able over the course of several hours of negotiation to get it sorted for the standard fine of 200,000 Dong(US 12) but again, these days are over.

    Why is this area a permit area? It's proximity to the unsecure Chinese border is one, the minority population is the other. Meo Vac is a huge destination during the love market and the tourism board has set up rule for non-viets to visit.

    There are several areas in VN that are permit areas but there is no listing or signs to warn you. Areas in the north that are permit areas are:
    Meo Vac - Dong Van, near Ha Giang City
    Y Ty, near Lao Cai
    Simacai to Moung Khoum north of Bac Ha
    all areas north of Moung Te(maybe inaccurate at this point)

    Need more information? Check out Digby, Dan and Glenn in Hanoi at exploreindochina.com While they do tours, it's better than having to pay $13 for a spark plug when the roadside viets have you by the balls.
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  3. abroox

    abroox New Member


    Yes agreed its def worth being on the safe side with these things. No-one wants to have to back track or be hassled in those parts of the world.

    I also live in Vietnam and recently did the NW Trip (over Tet 2007). Including the areas north of Bac Ha (the road that skirts the border Muong Khuong; Pha Lang; Si Ma Cai; Lung Phinh; Xin Man; Ha Giang) and was not asked or stopped by anyone for a permit. We were however asked to "keep moving" when a border police had a chat with us at Pha Lang. He asked about "papers" and I explained we were tourists passing through and he was fine with that.

    From Ha Giang we did the trip up to Meo Vac as well. Given all the chatter that goes on about permits for that area we also enquired at our hotel as to how to obtain one before we headed off up the road. The Hotel said we didnt need one. I insisted that we probably did and asked if they could confirm either way by calling the Provincial Police. So the Hotel manager called the Ha Giang Provincial Police and was told that us three (all australians) travelling up to Meo Vac for the night did not require a permit or a guide. I was still a bit unconcinced so got the hotel manager to write on a piece of paper who they spoke to at the police station and what had been said. We then left for Meo Vac with the note in hand. Once in Me Vac at the guest house i just showed the Guest house owner that note and all was fine. We did not get hassled, followed, tagged, beaten up by anyone.

    I also know as per Prime Ministers decision relating to Frontier Areas that a permit is required, but we managed to not have to have one.

    I dont encourage people to go up that way unprepared at all. But i wonder if the authorities are getting more used to foreigners passing through and things are getting a bit more relaxed.
  4. jimoi

    jimoi Ol'Timer

    since you had a paper with a notation from the Provincial Police, you did well. With no paper or permit, the police up in Meo Vac will soak each tourist for as much as they can get. When things get more relaxed, it's because the police are not doing their job or have enough black money to last them for bia hoi that night. It was also over Tet so most police were drinking instead of working as it goes.

    The top policeman in Meo Vac is a total pain in the ass. Numerous people have dealt with his extortion of the law. It is important to be prepared going up into border areas that are sensitive to the viets.

    Next time you go up, have a permit and go to the police station and ask to see the enormous stack of papers related to the fines imposed on tourists going up there, it's easily 30 cm tall.

    I'm pretty cautious on going around these areas as more goes on up there than you see or read about. I am glad you got to see the beautiful area around Meo Vac and you were smart to insist on the hotel calling and talking to the police.

    Like all advice, if you follow it you may be good, if you don't may fortune favor you.
  5. Santana

    Santana Member

    On tour in november 2006 with some friends. Meo vac area. We payed nearly 60 $ for a permit with guide.













    My nice girlfriend in Meo Vac.

  6. We just came back from Khau Vai Love Market. There were only 13 foreigners in the market due to restriction to permit with the voting on May 20th. We had to pay more than 100 USD to get the permit for 6 riders.

    Khau Vai Love Market was not as good as it used to be. There were more Viet people (50 buses, thousands of motorcyclists) than the total hill tribal people. It's no longer interesting and we are thinking of stopping this tour.

    The best things to see were Sunday markets and the triangle Dong Van, Yen Minh and Meo Vac.

    Feel free to contact us at [email [email protected]][email protected][/email] if you need any information about Ha Giang.
  7. dirthonk

    dirthonk Ol'Timer

    does anyone have an update on this situation> we are currently in sapa and thinking of heading that way.
    any info greatly appreciated thanks.

    are these serious risks jimoi?, i have my younger sister with me and if there are risks then we might have to look at another area.
    p.m me if there are sensitive issues that you dont want to put them up publicly.
  8. jimoi

    jimoi Ol'Timer

    The area is still a permit area as far as my latest information tells me. The risks are big fines and lots of wasted time with the local authorities in Meo Vac.
  9. Stosskraft

    Stosskraft Member

    I was wondering exactly how to get these permits? Can you get them in Hanoi before leaving just to be safe?

  10. mat.ward

    mat.ward Ol'Timer

    You need to get them in Ha Giang town. The easiest way to get them is probably to pay your hotel to organise them for you, although you can sort them out yourself if you can be bothered. Others may have more specific details than that.
  11. Stosskraft

    Stosskraft Member

    Thanks for the info.

    If anyone is thinking about a trip up north let me know. I am living and working in Hanoi and hoping to get up there on my next break.

    Take Care

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