A fascinating country with a growing paragliding and free flight community, Vietnam has 1000 paragliding pilots, of which 200 are active (who flies at least once per month). Doi Bu (45 minutes from Hanoi) is one of the most busy sites in Asia with people flying almost everyday. There are over 50 active sites throughout the countries with a variety of flying styles, from sledy, coastal soaring, SIV towing, thermal, to Cross Country / Competition.

Cross-country flying season is all year-round, if we take the whole country into consideration. 

  • Oct – Dec is the autumn season in the North flats (Red-river delta, Hanoi area) with cool temperature and dry air coming from China. Great sites: Doi Bu (near Hanoi), Mao Khe, etc. 
  • Nov – Jan is the great time to explore the North-West mountain range with blue sky, high cloudbase, and dry air most of the time. Flying here this time of the year brings the Pokhara, Bir feeling with rice field landscape and rowdy thermals. Great sites: Tam Duong, Khau Pha (Mu Cang Chai), etc.
  • Dec – Apr is the dry season down south. You can expect similar weather patterns and flying conditions with Thailand paragliding. Cloudbase can reach over 2500 with low valley floor. Thermals are strong, big, and relatively soft-edge. Great sites: Khanh Vinh (near Nha Trang), Kontum, Dateh (near Ho Chi Minh city), etc.
  • May – Aug is the hot and dry summer in the North with Fohn southwest wind. Temperature is high, the air is dry and as clean as it can get, and the days are longest. The straight distance XC record was made this time of the year. Great sites: Dai Tue (near Vinh), Nam Vien Nam (near Hanoi), etc.

1. PARAGLIDING TANDEM SERVICES IN VIETNAM

If you haven’t had any training yet but still wanna fly in Vietnam, tandem is a great way to go. 

Paragliding tandem service flights in Vietnam are available in all big cities: Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Halong, etc. Each flight lasts approximately 10-12 minutes and costs $60-100 US depending on locations. Flying is year-round with no off-season. Pre-booking is recommended but not required.

Here are detailed information of qualified and authorized schools offering the services:

  • Hanoi Paragliding Tandem: contact 0988.77.1404 (Whatsapp available), or Facebook Messenger. Price: $60 US. Site: Doi Bu (45 minutes from central Hanoi)
  • Halong Paragliding Tandem: contact … Price: $60 US.
  • Danang Paragliding Tandem: contact [số a Hoàng], or Facebook Page [CLB ĐN]. Price: $70 US. Site: Son Tra (5 minutes from central Da Nang)
  • Nha Trang Paragliding Tandem: contact [số a Đạt], or Facebook Page [CLB NT]. Price: $100 US. Site: Khanh Vinh (45 minutes from central Nha Trang)
  • Ho Chi Minh Paragliding Tandem: 

Tips for first-time paragliding tandem passenger:

  • Avoid Weekends and holidays. Sites are less crowded and pilots are less busy. They can take care of you better and let you stay in the air a little bit longer.
  • Go in early morning or late afternoon if you prefer smoother flights. No matter how skilled the pilot is, noon-time trips are always more shaking.
  • Avoid looking straight down if you are prone to motion sickness. Try to look to the horizon.
  • Be prepared to spend time hanging around take-off areas as most sites are far away and transportation can be limited. Bring a book, bring some food, bring some friends.
  • Put a lot of sun screen, similar to other outdoor activities.
  • Scream if you want to. Screaming is harmless but panically pulling or pushing things can put both you and the pilot into danger. 
  • Don’t waste time taking video of the landscape. There are tons of videos like that out there. Take videos with YOU in it.

Frequently asked questions about tandem flight in Vietnam:

  1. Do I need insurance?
    Most paragliding services do have insurance covered in the cost. Make sure you ask the provider.
  2. Do I need to bring a helmet?
    You don’t need to bring a helmet to fly tandem paragliding in Vietnam. The services always prepare that for you. If you are only comfortable with your own, then bring yours.
  3. Do I need to bring a GoPro?

You don’t need to bring a GoPro to fly tandem in Vietnam. Most pilots have a GoPro and a stick in their gear set.

  1. What to wear?
    Dress like any outdoor activities. You should be comfortable and mobile. A pair of shoes covering ankles is a plus.
  2. Is it cold up high?

Not that cold! In most commercial flights, a paraglider is roughly 500m higher than the ground floor. So you can expect about 2 – 3 degrees (Celcius) less. For wind chill, a paraglider flies around 28 – 35 km/h (airspeed), so you can expect a similar level with a fast bicycle and a slow motorcycle.

2. TAKING TO PARAGLIDING LESSONS IN VIETNAM

If you are here for the mid-long haul and you are serious about the sport, taking lessons to fly on your own is the way to go.

Most schools only have official courses / classes in Vietnamese. Tuition for basic training (P1) of these courses is roughly $500 US / trainee. 

<def: Paragliding P1 Courses teach you to independently take short flights straight from top to the landing zone. These courses often have 10 lessons, starting from theory, to ground practice, to short-hill drills, and to real flights. There are instructors directing or monitoring at all times.”>

If you don’t speak Vietnamese, the common practice is to hire a private English-speaking instructor with similar or a little higher tuition. There are experienced instructors like that throughout the country. Again, contact me for referral.

4. FREE FLYING AS A GUEST PILOT

Technically, it’s not legal for foreigners to paraglide in Vietnam. But practically, you can! In most of Vietnam’s popular sites, the community has established very good relationships and trusts with local authorities. No official will give you any trouble, as long as you go with a local pilot and don’t deliberately fly straight into airspaces.

To get help, don’t contact the public account of schools and big organizations. Even the admin behind those accounts wants to help you, he / she has to play safe and tell you it’s not possible for foreigners. It’s always better to contact an individual local pilot you know. Almost all Vietnamese pilots are more than happy to help you. We can be a**holes to each other, but we are always nice to guests.

Contact me for referrals of local English-speaking pilots throughout the country.

5. BUYING A PARAGLIDING WING IN VIETNAM

Market price for wings in Vietnam is among the lowest in the world. The years-long tradition of friends selling to friends and fierce competition drive the retail price so close to dealer price. Typically, a dealer only takes 50-70 EUR markup per wing. So you can expect a 45% cut from the European price for example.

So if you are a pilot visiting Vietnam, it would be cool to buy a new wing, fly dozens of hours, and still sell for a profit in your home country. As long as you pick up the wing in Vietnam, it’s completely legal and appropriate as far as glider companies are concerned.

All well known brands (Ozone, Gin, Skywalk, BGD, 777, Niviuk, Davinci, Woody Valley, Sup Air, etc.) have distributors in Vietnam. Reach out to me for referral.

6. FLYING CROSS COUNTRY (XC) WITH A PARAGLIDER IN VIETNAM

Vietnam is not yet a well-known destination for Cross Country (if compared to neighbor countries like Thailand, Nepal, etc.). But it is a hidden charm to be explored. Over the past few years, the XC scene is expanding rapidly in Vietnam with new sites, new records, new pilots almost every month.

If you are an explorer, come here and be a part of this big movement.

Cross-country flying season is all year-round, if we take the whole country into consideration. The general seasonality pattern is like this:

  • Oct – Dec is the autumn season in the North flats (Red-river delta, Hanoi area) with cool temperature and dry air coming from China. Great sites: Doi Bu (near Hanoi), Mao Khe, etc. 
  • Nov – Jan is the great time to explore the North-West mountain range with blue sky, high cloudbase, and dry air most of the time. Flying here this time of the year brings the Pokhara, Bir feeling with rice field landscape and rowdy thermals. Great sites: Tam Duong, Khau Pha (Mu Cang Chai), etc.
  • Dec – Apr is the dry season down south. You can expect similar weather patterns and flying conditions with Thailand paragliding. Cloudbase can reach over 2500 with low valley floor. Thermals are strong, big, and relatively soft-edge. Great sites: Khanh Vinh (near Nha Trang), Kontum, Dateh (near Ho Chi Minh city), etc.
  • May – Aug is the hot and dry summer in the North with Fohn southwest wind. Temperature is high, the air is dry and as clean as it can get, and the days are longest. The straight distance XC record was made this time of the year. Great sites: Dai Tue (near Vinh), Nam Vien Nam (near Hanoi), etc.

Reach out to me, then we can go fly together in this promising land, breaking records, exploring unpaved routes, and bringing the job of paragliding to new horizons!

Here are more detailed travel guides for those destinations:

6.1 Doi Bu (near Hanoi)

The home site of Hanoi pilots

Stay: modest and cheap stay near the landing zone. Many options ranging from budget to luxury in Hanoi. There are pilots driving Hanoi – Doi Bu every flyable day so hitch-hiking is as easy as it can get.

Airport: Noibai International Airport, 40 mins from Hanoi.

Take-off direction: NW, N, NE

Thermal-XC season: Oct – Dec

XC-caliber days in the the season: 35% of all days

Only 45 mins from the city center with big take-off and landing fields, this is probably the most busy site in South East Asia. Doi Bu can be very good when it is good. The XC record here is 120km. But because the chance of good days even in the season is relatively low, don’t come to Hanoi just for flying only. Come here to travel, explore the country, and fly on the epic days.

There are very serious airspaces right behind the site, so XC routes have to go around. No problem for good pilots.

Tam Duong (near Sapa)

Offering the strongest and most rowdy thermals in Vietnam

Stay: Nice and decent 2-star hotels in the town near LZ. More luxury options in Sapa (1 hours from Tam Duong) or Lai Chau city (30 mins from Tam Duong). There are also realistic home stay options in villages, where you actually stay with the ethinic people.

Airport: Noibai International Airport, then a 6-hours bus ride to Tam Duong town.

Take-off direction: S, SW, W

Thermal-XC season: Nov – Jan

XC-caliber days in the the season: 40% of all days

Tam Duong is a relatively new site, only established for 3 years. But it is emerging as one of (if not) the best XC sites in Vietnam, currently holding the XContest record of 160 points (by pilot Cong Anh). Tam Duong is also where we hold our only Cat.2 competitions.

Flying here brings the feel of Bir or Pokhara, with similar landscape and ripping thermals.

There are currently no local pilots here. But on good days, there are always pilots coming from Hanoi here to fly.

Khanh Vinh (near Nha Trang)

The best thermal training site in Vietnam

Stay: Very modest homestay near LZ. Most pilots stay in Nha Trang and travel 45 mins / day to Khanh Vinh to fly. Nha Trang is a big tourism city so there are many options.

Airport: Cam Ranh International Airport (45 mins from Nha Trang with inexpensive bus connecting). You can also fly to Ho Chi Minh city and take a night bus / train straight to Nha Trang.

Take-off direction: E, NE, SE

Thermal-XC season: Jan – May (with best months of Feb – Apr)

XC-caliber days in the the season: 95% of all days in Feb – Apr (this is a super reliable site)

Khanh Vinh is a great site. You can almost just go there any day in the season and be sure that the site will deliver. The take off is situated in a very good trigger, so thermalling the first climb is as easy as it can get. Thermals here are generally strong, wide, and soft-edge. What a great training site.

XC potential is great. Last year, our group did multiple 100-points flights here. Some of my mentors said, 200 is really possible given that thermals start so early and most days are full-bar days. We just need the balls to pass through a few jungle and non-landable areas.

Bonus: you can take the whole family. They will for sure have good times in the tourism city of Nha Trang with a nice beach and an active nightlife.

Sa Thay (Central Highland)

Potentially the best XC site in Vietnam

Stay: Decent homestay and hotels in the town of Sa Thay. More options in the Kontum City (45 mins from the site).

Airport: Pleiku Regional Airport (then a 45-mins bus ride to Kontum City). There are daily flights from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh city. Another option is to fly straight to Da Nang International Airport and take a night bus to Kontum.

Take-off direction: E, NE, SE

Thermal-XC season: Dec – Apr

XC-caliber days in the the season: 90% of all days in Jan – Apr. Weather pattern is quite similar to Khanh Vinh, with the exception of occasionally strong winds.

A brand new site, established in 2020. But man, the site has all the great ingredients. Valley floor is 600m. Cloudbase can reach 2500-3000m. Very reliable weather in the dry season. Thermals are strong, wide, and relatively soft edge, similar to Khanh Vinh. Many routing options to all directions with terrain consists of a wide variety of big mountains, short mountains, rolling hills, and flats.

I personally think a 200 FAI triangle is possible here.

Have any questions? Reach out to me at +84 988 77 1404 (Whatsapp)

This article was written by Kim Tran (ranked #531 FAI CIVL), a well-known Vietnamese competition pilot and instructor. Kim is active in the international scene with experiences flying in the USA, Australia, South Africa, Korea, Nepal, Kazakhstan, Thailand, etc. Kim is keen on helping international pilots have the best experience in his home country, just like how he has been helped by local pilots everywhere he travels.

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