Exploring Vietnam by motorbike has to be one of the most spectacular ways to enjoy the exotic landscape of this beautiful country. It’s also fair to say that this is a popular way to travel around the Vietnamese peninsula and with some 45 million motorcycles on the road across the land, it’s best to come properly prepared for what you might encounter.
Naturally, there are many questions that arise when preparing to tour Vietnam by motorcycle. These could include, among others:
- What kind of motorbike should I get?
- Do I need a special driver’s license?
- What national road laws do I need to be wary of breaking?
These are questions that you’re ideally going to want to have a clear answer to by the time you arrive. If you’re planning your visit to Vietnam this year and are seeking to enjoy a two-wheeled tour of the country, the following article will give you a good idea of where to start and how you can fully get ready for your adventure.
The Best Vietnam Motorbike Tour Routes
When most visitors arrive in Vietnam for a motorbike tour they start their journey in one of the two biggest cities: Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. Whichever way you’re traveling around the country, they are not only the easiest points of entry for an overseas tourist, they are also the best places to buy and sell motorbikes at the beginning and end of your trip. In fact, they are considered as the cheapest cities in Asia. Once getting underway, most travelers follow one of two main routes around the country:
The Coastal Route:
By far and away, the most popular route around the country by motorbike follows the roads that wind up the long coastline of Vietnam. These pass some of the biggest tourist spots such as Nha Trang, Hoi An, Da Nang, and Hué.
The Ho Chi Minh Route:
For those wanting to take the road less traveled and to see the more natural, quieter side of the country the Ho Chi Minh route could offer just what you’re looking for. This weaves its way up the western side of the country by the borders with Laos and Cambodia.
How to Pick Your Motorbike In Vietnam
In most cases, visitors to Vietnam planning a nationwide road trip will simply buy their bikes at the beginning of their trip and then sell it when they arrive at their final destination. It’s also possible to rent a bike for the duration of your trip or for short day trips out of the city.
The choice of bike is quite small but in most cases, a small capacity 110cc manual Honda Win or automatic Yamaha Nouvo will provide you with all the power you need to get around the country. That is unless you’re doing some substantial off-roading. If you’re buying a bike the cost shouldn’t exceed more than $250.
It’s best to buy or rent a bike from a recognized manufacturer such as Yamaha or Honda. This is because parts are much easier to acquire, just in case you encounter a mechanical failure whilst on the road. If you do encounter technical issues with your bike, don’t panic as there are roadside garages nearly everywhere around the country.
Vietnam Motorbike Laws
In Vietnam, whilst there are many rules related to motorbikes in place, the most notable thing you will observe is the relative lawlessness of the road. At first glance, it appears to be a free-for-all with drivers weaving all-around and seemingly no one respecting the local highway codes. There are no special motorbike requirements for Americans in Vietnam beyond having the correct driving permit. However, some rules to consider before riding a motorbike in Vietnam are as follows:
- Wearing a helmet is obligatory
- A maximum of two riders may travel on one motorbike
- Riders on motorbikes over 50cc must hold a valid driver’s license
- The speed limit on highways is 60kph (37mph)
- City speed limits are usually 40kph (25 mph)
Five Things To Know Before Starting a Vietnam Motorbike Experience
You’re almost set to get started on your journey. However, before you get started on your grand tour of Vietnam by motorbike, there are a few important things you should keep in mind.
1. Bring Sufficient Insurance and the Right Paperwork
First things first, it’s important to have the right papers on you at all times. This includes:
- Your passport
- A copy of an approved Vietnam eVisa
- A driving license from your country
- A valid International Driving Permit
The police might ask for these items from you on your journey and not having them with you could lead to a fine or delay your trip.
Further to this, tourists should also make sure they have the right insurance when they start their visit around the country. In case of injury, this will be essential to ensure that you can get the right treatment without racking up a hefty medical bill.
As road accidents are all too frequent this can be a really critical factor in ensuring your trip goes without a hitch or that you can get the medical help you need in an emergency. However, when you take out the policy make sure that it covers travel by motorbike. Driving without a valid license can also invalidate your insurance, so it’s recommended to avoid doing this.
2. Prepare For Rainy Weather
Vietnam is a busy and unpredictable country and the Vietnam weather is no exception. With its tropical climate, it’s common to experience regular torrential rain showers during a visit to the country, especially if you visit in the October-January monsoon season.
Obviously, a motorbike isn’t going to provide much protection from the elements if you’re caught in a sudden downpour. To make sure you’re ready to face whatever the weather throws at you it’s best to bring the following items:
- A good raincoat
- A waterproof backpack cover
- Waterproof ziplock bags for your valuables
3. Wear a Helmet
It should go without saying, however, one of the most important things to remember on your motorcycle tour of Vietnam is to wear a crash helmet at all times. Accidents on the road here are unfortunately a very common occurrence and outside of the big cities, medical facilities are sometimes lacking. A helmet could very well save your life if anything does go wrong.
4. Varying Road Quality
Whilst Vietnam has an extensive network of national highways, Vietnam’s road conditions outside the big cities and main thoroughfares can vary. Whilst it’s common to find paved roads on the busiest routes, it is however also quite common to find yourself driving on non-tarmac if you stray into the quieter regions of the country. This can obviously be tough on you as a driver and also on your motorbike.
5. Keep Your Valuables and Bike Secure
Vietnam is a very safe country to visit as a tourist. However, some crime does occur at times. One of the most frequent crimes you’re likely to come across is petty theft. Therefore, it’s essential to make sure to keep your bike secure and to keep any valuables safely locked away or kept within sight if you need to stop for the night or to get food or supplies.
Being prepared is the best way to get ready for a motorbike trip around Vietnam. By knowing what to expect before getting started, you’re sure to enjoy a safer and much more successful visit to the country.