Michael- a backpackers who rode around Vietnam on a motorbike from North to South, packed with great advice on how to ride through Vietnam.
Buying a Motorbike for your trip around Vietnam
Most people buy Honda Wins, but a semi-automatic or automatic motorbike will do as well. Keep in mind that they’re mostly Chinese version of Honda Wins, repaired with Chinese parts, so they are not as reliable and will probably break down.
You have two options for buying your motorbike: a mechanic shop or a fellow backpacker. You can buy from another backpacker for cheap, but be aware that the bike might not have been serviced property after their long journey.
Since I had no experience with motorbikes, I decided the best option for me to buy from a mechanic. I bought a Honda Win 100cc for $290. Bike shop taught me how to drive manual, promised 24hour call help.
Don’t spend over $250 for a bike because in my eyes, you can spend a fortune on a terrible bike or you can spend next to nothing on a gem.
Test ride the motorbike. Make certain everything works. Check the lights, signal, horn, mirror, brakes, kickstart, tires, and gears.
Essential for Motorbiking around Vietnam
Ensure a blue card registration comes with your bike, as you will need it when you get into any trouble with police or want to re-sell it. It does not to be your name, you just need to have it.
Invest in a good helmet. You will probably get into some sort of accident on the road. And you’re going to want protection.
Most bike should come with a luggage rack and bungee cords.
It will probably rain, especially in the North. Be prepared for cold day and wear layers, including a poncho and rain pants.
Get a Vietnamese SIM card for emergencies.
A phone holder and a USB port attached to the bike’s battery. This way, I could have my GPS in front of me and didn’t have a worry about my phone’s battery dying.
On the road – Miles per day your Vietnam Motorbiking Adventure
I rode anywhere from 100-280km per day. It’s best to stick to around 200km, about 6hour, for you and your bike. Driving over 6 hour a day is exhausting. On my longer day, I got off the bike with extreme pain in my eye from driving into the sun and focusing so hard. Be sure to take break: for water, food, pictures and your bike. Don’t always race to get there; in this case, the journey is just as amazing as the destination, sometimes better.
Route to ride though Vietnam
Because Vietnam is a narrowly vertical country, people either travel North to South, between Hanoi and Hochiminh.
I started in Hanoi, the north. There are few routes you can take to get from north to south. Your best option is Ho Chi Minh trail, an inland route that provide breathtaking scenery of mountains, river and local villages. And you avoid the traffic on the direct route, QL1A.
Petrol & Oil for your bike
Petrol is supper cheap throughout Vietnam. My Bike have 9l petrol tank, usually lasting 300km. In riding over 2000km, I spent a whopping total of $42.67 on petrol.
Change your oil every 500km
Key word to know in Vietnam
- Nha Nghi= Guest House
There are tons of guesthouse along the way, whichever route you take.
- Xe may= Motorbike Mechanic
If and when you have bike issues, there are mechanics nearly everywhere. Just about everyone in Vietnam know how to fix a bike, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding help.
Preparing for breakdowns during your Vietnam trip
One thing I learnt was that breakdown are inevitable. Embrace them, and the cost of them, as part of the adventure. Check your perspective. So what if you’ve fallen off your bike, you’re hand is bleeding, it’s raining, your gears are jammed so you can only climb the mountain in first gear, and you’re alone? You’re motorbiking Vietnam. Life could be worse.
On the road, you will encounter cars, trucks, and buses overtaking traffic, whether there is oncoming traffic or not. The general rule is: The bigger vehicle has the right of way. So as a motorbike , close your eyes and hope you don’t get hit get out of the way. I had many times where I had to drive off the road in order to avoid being hit.
- Red light are simple stop signs
- Your horn is your best friend
- Always signal- people will pass you on both sides
- Expect people driving on the wrong side of the road
- Vehicle don’t stop for pedestrians
Place of Interesting during your Vietnam motorbike trip
Sapa & Mu Cang Chai – Mountains area offer treks to nearby villages of ethnic minorities and beautiful rice terraces
Ha Giang/Bac Ha– Scenic mountain road along the Chinese/Vietnamese border
Halong Bay- Amazing blue waters with giant limestone karst. Take a junk cruise tour of the majestic UNESCO World Heritage Site
Hanoi- The capital of Vietnam, known for crazy traffic, ancient pagodas, and buzzing Old Quarter.
Ninh Binh/ Tam Coc– The Halong Bay on land with beautiful rice fields
Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park – Home to the largest cave in the world, Son Doong Cave. Highlight: Paradise Cave and the Dark Cave
Hue– An UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to Citadel and the Imperial City. Discover the old tomb, palace, and the rich history of Vietnam
Be sure to ride the Hai Van Pass, as it’s beautiful coastal mountains pass and a highlight of the ride.
Da Nang – A Coastal town on the rise. Be ready for nice beaches but a lot of construction
Hoi An – A charming town with cobblestone street, vibrant lanterns, and tailor shops everywhere. Have an affordable, custom suit or dress made in two/three days, and relax on the nearby beach in between fitings
Nha Trang – Overrun by Russians, Nha Trang is a resort town and prices are rising above the backpackers wallet. Don’t feel bad for skipping , as it barely feels like Vietnam and more of a vacation town.
Da Lat- A mountain town known for it’s many flower farms and waterfalls. For those seeking adventure, go abseiling down cliffs and waterfalls.
Mui Ne – Another coastal town with little to offer. With strong winds and rubbish everywhere, the beaches are difficult to enjoy. The Fairy stream and White Sand Dunes are worth a visit though.
Ho Chi Minh city: Another city known for chaotic traffic, with a lot of American/Vietnam war site to visit.
Mekong Delta- Visit the local villages that live on the river, with floating markets and homestay experiences
Phu Quoc – An island on the southern tip of Vietnam, known for its beaches and scuba diving.
Timeline for a ride through Vietnam
Give yourself enough time to get to your final destination. I met people who spent through the country in 2,5 weeks. And it’s possible, but you have virtually no time to enjoy the town, cities, and sites along the way. I took 4 weeks from north to south, with 13 days of riding, and found it to be the perfect amount of time. On average, I spent about 3 days in each town.
Expenses overview – What it costs to Motorbike through Vietnam
The bike was bought for $ 290
Sold for: $200
Cost: $ 292
Most other travelrs onlu lost $50-$100 for their trip. My bike had a little more trouble than most. There’s no way of knowing how good or bad a bike really is until you’re in the middle of your trip.
About the author
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