Ride Vietnam – Cheap and Easy
A basic intro and guide to riding your own bike on Vietnams beautifully scenic and challenging roads.
BEFORE ENTERING VIETNAM
Get an international drivers permit from your National Automobile Association.
Buy some high quality protective motorcycle gloves such as Dianese.
Arrange your VISA.
Buy an internationally compatible smartphone with Google Maps and GPS capabilities or a Vietnam Road atlas and Compass.
AFTER ARRIVING IN VIETNAM: WHAT BIKES?
To avoid unwanted attention from the police and thieves you will want to get an older model low engine capacity common bike. Such as:
Honda Win or Replica
These bikes are the most common on the roads of Vietnam and also the most suitable for getting around town and through the winding coastal roads.
INSPECTING A MOTORBIKE
Once you have found a bike that snares your interest meet the seller and ask as many questions as you can possibly think of about the performance of the bike, what repairs have you paid for, who sold it to you and where, what route did you take. Take it for a serious test drive of at least 20 minutes and test everything; the lights, horn, transmission, brakes, suspension, kick starter, electric starter, clutch. If anything does not feel right consider looking for another bike. There are frequently plenty of bikes for sale.
BUYING A MOTORBIKE
Most sellers prefer USD but you can pay in Dong.
Ensure that the Blue Vietnamese Registration Card is included in the sale. This will most likely not be in the sellers name but this
is not a concern. If asked by an official who the owner is just say it is your friend Peter who lent the bike to you.
Get all the keys from the seller and their contact details for the future.
MAINTENANCE AND EMERGENCIES
Look for shops by the side of the road which have signs reading Xe May or have an air compressor out the front and motorcycle parts hanging in the shopfront, there will usually be at least one partially dismantled moto in clear view. These blokes can fix anything that goes wrong with your bike in no time and for a pittance. It is a good idea to change the oil every 1000km ($5), also check the tire pressure and chain tension.
As long as you are not driving like a bat out of hell in a built up area or have an accident you will be very unlucky to get stopped by one of these cream clothed cops. They do not seem too bothered by westerners on motorbikes. If you are obeying the road rules and have your Blue Rego Card and international Drivers License, hopefully common sense will prevail and you will be on your way or at worst you will be subject to a measly un-receipted fine of around $15.
TAKING YOUR BIKE ON A TRAIN
Locals do this all the time. Especially for overnight journeys, train travel is relatively inexpensive in Vietnam and a great way to save
on one nights accommodation. You need to book your ticket in advance for yourself and a separate ticket for the bike. The ticket can be booked on the day of departure but is not advisable as for a 14 car train only one is used for cargo so the bike allocations fill up quickly. From Ha Noi to Lao Cai (Sa Pa) expect to pay 400,000D for a hard sleeper for yourself and 250,000D for your bike. Do not fill up your tank before getting to the train station as the petrol is drained prior to boarding.
RIDING IN VIETNAM
The traffic in the cities is manic and can be overwhelming. The best technique is to stay in your own space and then try to increase that space. This allows you more time to avoid a possible collision and minimises your chances of being hit. Travel at a speed you are comfortable with, motorcycles do not travel very fast and the slower you go move furthest to your right. When at traffic lights move as close to the front of the intersection as possible and accelerate quickly when the lights turn green, giving you plenty of relief from the traffic behind. The highways can be dangerous due to buses traveling in the opposite direction on your side of the road. It is best to travel on the far right and prepare to move onto the shoulder of the road at any moment, if you ever feel unsafe, slow down until the danger has passed.
Always wear a helmet it is a requirement of the law.
HIGHWAY HIGHLIGHTS by Motorbike
* Mui Ne to Da Lat – Beautiful Coastlines, Gigantic Sand Dunes and Steep Winding Mountain Roads
* Da Lat to Nha Trang – Gorgeous Mountain Views, Waterfalls and vast plains of bright green rice fields
* Da Nang to Hue – The most breathtaking coastal road in South East Asia… The Hai Van Pass
* Phong Nha Ke National Park – Serene Limestone Kast Scenery and an excellent stretch of the Ho Chi Minh Highway
* Lao Cai to Sa Pa – Only 40km but it is ALL astounding. Misty Mountains, smooth winding roads, terraced rice fields.
* Sa Pa to Dien Bien Phu – The QL279 is a bit rough in patches but the greatest mountain scenery in South East Asia. Thousands of curves.
See more about Motorbike tours in Vietnam here: http://zonitrip.com/trip-style/vietnam-motorbike-tours/