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Driving a motorcycle in Vietnam – what you need to know

After spending the equivalent of 2 months and a half in Vietnam, I’ve had plenty of chances to experience what it’s like to drive a motorcycle (or scooter) throughout the country.

Those who have done it will tell you how chaotic, overwhelming, and stressful driving in Vietnam can be! On the other hand, once you quit the frenetic traffic of the city and enter the infinite « highways », you will find some of the most beautiful sceneries in the world.

Views from our first hostel of our 5 day motorcycle trip throughout Vietnam 2009

Here’s a few tricks and tips to help you prepare:

  • Planning your trip

Just like any trip, the motorcycle Vietnam experience requires planning. Do you want to purchase a motorcycle and make a three weeks trip across the country? Or a 5 days trip with a guide, point A to point B? The next few points will help you understand the difference between both and hopefully guide you to a wise decision!

  • Buying your precious machine

There are two main selling hubs where backpackers and local mechanics buy and sell used motorcycles for this kind of trip. Hanoi and Ho Chin Minh, respectively the north and south main cities are the two places that will allow to purchase at a good price and sell (at a good price hopefully too!), your machine. Keep an eye out for sign in front of hostel or in front of mechanic shop.

Plan a budget between 200 USD & 350 USD for a 100CC – 110CC Honda motorcycle.

Make sure you include 3-4 days stay at the end the trip to actually relax and have time to sell your bike. The more time you have, the more you will not be in a hurry to sell and therefore get a decent price!

  • During the ride

Kids from a small village along the way, Vietnam – 2009

Here you go! I will not go in the details of must-go-to and best places to visits in this article but I suggest you do a bit of research prior to your bike trip to make sure you don’t miss out on some beautiful waterfalls, organic coffee plantations, villages and more.

Your motorcycle will break down so many times, you won’t believe it! It’s part of the experience. You will easily find villagers or mechanics all along your trip that will be able to help out. Prepare a budget of at least 60USD only for fixes and reparations needed along your way.

During your journey, you can upload your itinerary on your phone/GPS every morning, to have access to it all day long. You will notice biking can be tiring both mentally and physically, so plan a lot of short water breaks and activities on a day to day basis.

  • Finding the perfect guide

For those who might feel a bit less adventurous, or for people with a shorter time window, finding an Easy Rider guide that will lend you a scooter and show you around for a few days is a great experience as well. Perfect for shorter trips, this guided experience will allow you to make the most out of a motorcycle journey.

Dalat, a romantic charming city situated in mid mainland, is known to be a hub of motorcycle guides. You will find a custom approach to your trip, depending on the amount of money you’re willing to invest: length, destinations, stops along the ways and choosing if you want to drive your own scooter/motorcycle or sit behind on the guide’s bike are all available options.

Plan for 40-55 USD per day for this kind of trip (excluding food and accommodations).

When arriving to Dalat, you will be harassed by guides who want to sell their service. A good way to differentiate the poor from the good ones are their recommendations books. The good guides will keep with them at all times a booklet filled with hand-written notes and comments from previous clients. This kind of hand-written reviews from travellers beats Tripadvisor any day if you ask me!

Our favorite guide (and now friend) Dung can be found here : https://www.facebook.com/le.q.dung.750

Visiting a beautiful coffee plantation with our guide Dung, Dalat, Vietnam – 2015

PS: Only keep a small amount of money in your wallet at all times and hide the rest in your socks of somewhere clever. Police officers might stop you at some point and ask for a huge amount of money, but will let you go for whatever you have in your wallet (since it’s all you have on you right?) 😉

PS(2) : Have your international permit produced at home before leaving. It will save you some trouble if you plan on doing motorcycle rides in some South East Asia countries.

Thanks for reading, and be safe on the roads folks!


 

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