Vietnam is one of the most thrilling destinations I’ve been to in all of Southeast Asia.
I remember when I first landed in Hanoi from Bangkok – I just couldn’t believe the busyness of the city and the vast amounts of motorcycle traffic everywhere on the road.
The last time I visited Vietnam, I was only there for 2 weeks (because at the time I was still teaching English in Thailand), but it was enough to wet my appetite and acknowledge just how interesting the country is.
Touring Vietnam on a Motorcycle
One of the most popular ways to see Vietnam these days is to either rent or buy a motorcycle. With so many locals using motorcycles on a daily basis, why not join them on the road!
When I was in Vietnam I remember thinking how convenient and how much fun it would be to hop on the back of a motorcycle and be able to go wherever I pleased, and especially stop wherever I wanted.
Driving past glorious looking Vietnamese street food stalls, I could just stop and eat anywhere (if I was touring on a motorcycle).
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Have you ever thought about touring Vietnam on a motorcycle?
For sure it’s not for everyone, but if you’re looking for a thrilling adventure that will be the experience of a lifetime, you may want to consider it.
So the problem is, there are lots of things to arrange and lots to think about when you decide to tour Vietnam on a motorcycle. The great news is, you can do it, even if you have very little experience riding a motorcycle!
Two Wheels and Rice Fields
After completing their motorcycle journey and taking accurate notes throughout the entire process Ant and Elise (travel blogger friends of mine), wrote an eBook called Two Wheels and Rice Fields*.
I recently got a copy of their guide and after going through it, it got me so excited about Vietnam and all the possibilities of adventure that come with independently touring on a motorcycle!
Here are some of the highlights in 120-page guide:
- Introduction: Useful information about Vietnamese culture and things you’ll need to get used to.
- Choosing a Motorcycle: Awesome tips on ways to find motorcycles and how to really check them over before you make a purchase
- Legal Issues, Licensing, Permits, Registration: This stuff is not the most interesting… but it’s just about the most important information you need – and it’s nicely laid out in the guide.
- Riding Tips and Suggestions – Riding motorcycles in Vietnam is quite a bit different than in other parts of the world – use your horn excessively, focus your attention forward and don’t hesitate are just a few tips so you ride better in Vietnam!
- Motorcycle Gear Recommendations: The guide includes an entire checklist of recommended gear (there are some things you may not have thought of)
- Where to Go: Information on places to ride and tips about some of their fondest rides while in Vietnam – a nice personal touch!
Another really useful part of Two Wheels and Rice Fields is the resources section which is stocked with money-saving coupons for great discounts on hostel rooms and motorcycle specific deals.
I would have liked to see:
- Pricing: More of a pricing breakdown about how much bikes cost and how much to budget for while touring Vietnam on a motorcycle. There are probably a lot of unforeseeable costs.
- Selling Your Bike: When you finish riding you’ll need to sell your bike. While the guide did provide a little information, this section could have been developed a little stronger.
Overall, it’s a really valuable guide filled with lots of useful information if you’re considering a motorcycle trip in Vietnam.
Deciding to motorcycle through Vietnam is not a small decision.
It takes some money, responsibility and lots of planning, and Two Wheels and Rice Fields is a perfect resource to begin with.
I think the best part about the guide is that it really made me think through what it all involves and the most important logistics of a motorcycle trip.
There are so many things I would have never thought through before reading the guide.
It’s on sale for just 17 dollars right now. If you’re thinking about motorcycling through Vietnam make sure you grab a copy of the guide by clicking here* (it will be extremely useful for your trip).
* The links on this review are affiliate links, meaning if you get the guide, I’ll get a percentage of the price. This is my honest review – if you are interested in motorbiking in Vietnam, this is a great guide for you!
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14 comments. I'd love to hear from you!
getting over it
2 months ago
I think this will be a great experience for foreign tourists because there are many interesting things waiting for them.
2 years ago
This guide is really awesome. Saved more than $100 on it.. Thanks Mark!
9 years ago
125 USD is a normal price.But if you want,you can join with a group,and share the motorbike with the tour guide.
as Travel Swop or vietnam.craigslist.org. This site also has some info on the more common bikes available in Vietnam. In wiki how have a article as this.
10 years ago
Just keep you guys updated:
1. Gas price is now around 25,000 VNDongs/litre (1.2$US). The price goes up much faster than going down.
2. A few practical riding rules that actually work on Vietnamese roads: http://www.offroadvietnam.com/planning/practical-road-rules
I believe Mark should cover much more in his 120-page guide.
3. Rumors have it that the police is going to check if you have a local driving license. This already happened in Mui Ne and Nha Trang but other places are still the same and you should be fine. A local driving license is very hard to get and most of travellers can’t wait 7-10 days to obtain a license. If the govenment just lets foreigner to use international driving license then this should be a great news.
10 years ago
Great, thank you for sharing these updated tips Anh!
11 years ago
If you enjoyed the biking then I would definitely recommend doing a Hanoi, Ha Giang, Meo Vac, Dong Van, Bao Lac, Sapa, Cao Bang and back to Hanoi style bike tour. I did a 14 day loop around this region on a Yamaha 125cc bike (didn’t fancy chancing it with the Minsk bike) and it was by far one of the highlights of my travelling career. Why do I say this? Well, basically the scenery is stunning (and by that I do mean stunning). One of the best descriptions made by a fellow traveller about the scenery was, “Sapa is like the Alps and Meo Vac/Dong Van resembles the Italian Dolomites”. It’s like Ha Long Bay, only on land and superior imho. Think incredible limestone pinnacles with roads cut into them, high altitude villages nestled away, and moon like gorges and ravines. It’s probably the best biking I’ve ever done and may ever do.
I hardly saw any other westerners. At times, in the more remote areas, whole families would come just to stare at me as they weren’t used to seeing ‘old-whitey’ or ‘one-so-tall’! I also got to see the Hmong tribe/people in their distinctive colourful dress, with their infectious naive and care-free outlook on life. So different from the West.
Of course the food was epic, and even though I couldn’t communicate with the locals very well (the people were fabulous btw), I always seemed to be welcomed and ‘coerced’ into drinking far more rice wine than I had intended! There were always lots of good food markets too. I did quite a few ‘home-stays’ too in order to get closer to the local people and culture which represented excellent value and were a great experience
The roads were good in general with low traffic and slow-ish speeds. I was able to source bike parts for spares on the road as needed quite easily. The only ‘trouble’ I had was getting a police permit for one part of the journey (the area near the Chinese border had only recently been opened up to foreigners). This required negotiation and mainly bartering (may have improved now).
I would also recommend biking the Bolaven Plateau in Laos (not quite as picturesque or remote but still awesome) but that’s another story…..
11 years ago
Awesome Stephen, thank you so much for sharing your experience biking in Vietnam. Your description of the amazing scenery, culture and food really makes me want to go there right now. Have you been to the Yangshuo area in China? Sounds like the scenery is quite similar to this area in Vietnam.
11 years ago
Basically, you have 2 main highways in Vietnam, which if you follow them, you can easily go from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City or vice versa – Highway no. 1 and Ho Chi Minh highway. It will be hard to get lost this way and you will visit most of the important destinations in Vietnam.
Most of the people buy Chinese motorbikes or Russian ones – prices range from 300-1000USD if i remember it correctly, and you can sell it again either in HCM or Hanoi -its not hard to find places where to buy your bike, just ask your hostel. If you want to fill your tank it will be around 60-80.000 dong, that is a few dollars. Do NOT tour around on a automatic motorbike, those things consume twice as much gasoline as semi-automatic or manual motorbikes. Automatic motorbikes are more suitable for within the city.
If you follow the main highways, there will be plenty of guesthouses, motorbike repair shops (which you need a lot), restaurants, friendly locals, and so on. Being a densely populated country, you will never be alone in Vietnam.
Don’t forget to lock your bike, I mean it sounds logical, but so many people have their motorbikes stolen. Even if you just stop to make a photo, lock your bike, I have heard plenty of stories of motorbikes being stolen, just when making a photo on your way.
While some cities/places are more interesting than others, I would definitely not just follow Lonely planet suggestions. I have plenty of great memories in unknown places in Vietnam. Just go with the flow. This is a good website on known and unknown places in VN: http://www.travelfish.org/country/vietnam. Remember, people make places forgettable or unforgettable, not just the sights.
Sitting too long on your motorbike will definitely hurt your ass. And be careful for accidents, as a foreigner you will most certainly always be blamed if there are more parties involved. However, if you get pulled over by the police for driving too fast or because of something else, speak your native language if English isn’t yours, or most of of the time (i would say 99%) the police doesn’t even know how to speak English and almost always let you go without a fine- as opposed to Cambodia.
Driving in the city requires some practice, but please DO not be scared. See yourself as a fish among other fishes, basically you react only to the people besides, in front or behind you. When you pass someone, honk, don’t be afraid to use it, because Vietnamese rarely use their mirrors. Be aware of cars, buses and trucks – nowadays many people own cars in Vietnam, without knowing how to drive properly, I have seen too many accidents (some which were even deadly) of people in cars not knowing how to drive. Therefore, please don’t drive too fast, and always pay attention, it sounds logical, but too many times i have seen things going wrong. Be expected that if you drive a motorbike in Vietnam for a longer period of time (that is at least 1 month), you will at least get one accident. All the people I know (including me) driving a motorbike (local and expat) have had an accident. Therefore, don’t forget to always wear your helmet. Luckily most of the accidents will give you at most a few bruises -it’s part of the adventure. When driving outside the city, be aware of big trucks and buses, those drivers drive incredibly aggressive, and are most of the time exhausted and therefore not paying enough attention to the road, some also use drugs to stay awake. Trucks also cause a lot of pollution, and there is dust on the roads, so consider wearing a mound cap.
But, and that is most important, have a good time, and don’t worry too much. Take the basic precautions, and you should definitely be okay. Vietnam is an extremely suitable country for a motorbike adventure, and it definitely has its advantages over the train or bus.
So, I have saved all of you 17USD! 🙂
11 years ago
WOW, thanks for taking the time to write up all this valuable information Muca! Those prices are really helpful along with the piece of information to always lock your bike no matter how long you’ll be away from it. Are you from Vietnam? Do you live in Vietnam now?
11 years ago
Mark, you are most welcome, I would like to thank you for all your efforts and enthusiasm. Not many backpackers and internet-bloggers I know indulge so much in local culture and street food as you do. I am not from Vietnam, but I have lived in Vietnam for over a year for research and work, but at the moment I am living and working in Hong Kong. I love to talk about Asia, and Southeast Asia in particular, so I try to give as much travel information as possible. However, I don’t have the time to write a blog, but Im happy to read good travel blogs and travel information sites, and to add some information on the comments page, hehe :D.
11 years ago
Very cool Muca – and I really appreciate you adding to the conversations and information on my site. Thank you very much for reading my blog as well!
11 years ago
I’ve often wondered about how hard it would be to do this. Does it cover how to deal with the crazy traffic in the cities of Vietnam?
11 years ago
It does have a few driving tips on how to drive safely with all the traffic in Vietnam.
11 years ago
I’m sorry Mark, but you don’t need a 120-page guide to tour Vietnam on a motorcycle and spend 17 dollars on it, unless you live in a sealed box. I just finished a 15 day tour in February and March with a friend. We rented scooters in Nha Trang, the first city we arrived to in Vietnam, and went north, right up to Sapa before sending them back by train from Hanoi.
We spent a few hours shopping around in Nha Trang until we got a deal we liked. We payed 120,000 dong a day per scooter, which amounts to a whopping $90 for 15 days. Not a typo. We bought some elastic rubber straps and attached our bags to the bikes and that was it. We tried to buy a decent road map to no success, but it turned out using gps and google maps on my phone is even better.
Honestly, if you’re up for adventure you need to do some stuff by yourself and not read it in a guide. And especially not pay 17 bucks for it. Heck I night write about the whole process and experience, including the mechanics, on my website for free.