Planning on doing the iconic motorbike tour through Vietnam? Or even just a short motorbike trip? Here are some essential items you’ll want to pack to make sure your trip runs smoothly! I’m not talking about what clothes to pack, or what shoes you’ll need to wear – This post shares kit that you need specifically for motorbiking in Vietnam!
What you need for motorbiking Vietnam
1. Motorbike Helmet
I know it might seem obvious, but you’re going to need a helmet. Make it a good one for road tripping! Things to look for in a good helmet:
- it should cover your neck and ears
- full face is preferable
- a visor is highly recommended (it’ll keep dust, rain and pollution out of your face)
I use an Andes helmet which is one of the leading local brands. Their helmets are the closest to EU safety standards you can find in a Vietnamese brand – you can get imported helmets from the USA etc, but expect to pay big bucks for them. Andes are a great option and cost somewhere around 500k VND (£17/$20) depending on the model.
TIP: If you don’t have a motorbike helmet with a visor attached, consider getting some clear classes to keep dust, bugs and wind rush out of your eyes.
Where to find: You can find helmet stores in every town, though the range and quality is not always guaranteed to be great. In Ho Chi Minh City you can find an abundance of Andes stores (the brand of helmet I use) in District 1 and similar in the old quarter of Hanoi (just search for “Andes” on google).
2. Bungee Chords
If you’re motorbiking Vietnam you’ll most likely be travelling with a backpack which will need strapped on the back of your bike – in come the bungee chords! These are elastic straps that allow you to securely tie your backpack onto the bike-rack. The individual cost depends on the type of bungee chord you buy (you get short ones, flat ones and non-elastic ones too) but will fall somewhere between 5k to 20k VND (less than $1 each).
Bungee chords tend to come with metal hooks on each end which you use to attach them to the bike, so you’ll want to make sure that you have a bike rack to clip them onto (most backpacker bikes will come with a rack already and if not you can get a mechanic to make one).
TIP: The more the merrier. I found that 3 was the golden number for me to make sure my backpack was safely attached and not at risk of slipping whilst I drove.
Where to find: The best place to find bungee chords is in the little “mom&pop-style” stores. You can find them easily around the backpacker area in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City but also along the side of the highways and other places that people might need to buy chords for transport things (for example near train stations etc).
3. Bike lock
Bike security is important in Vietnam and most accommodation, restaurants and shops will have a security guard outside to watch your bike for you. For added security leaving when your motorbike outside hostels and hotels overnight you should lock it up with a chain by looping it through the wheel spokes and the frame. Before locking check with the staff that they aren’t going to need to move your bike to access things, as locking it will cause them problems.
Where to find: Those same “mom&pop-style” stores that you’ll be able to get bungee chords in will most certainly also have bike locks.
4. Spare keys
I met so many people motorbiking across Vietnam who didn’t have a spare set of keys. They’re so lucky nothing happened, but I always recommend being prepared and having a spare set hidden away in your backpack just incase the worst should happen and you loose or snap your keys (yes I’ve snapped a key in the bike lock before ha!)
Where to get keys cut: It is best to ask your accommodation for advice on where to get keys cut. I’ve always found that key cutters in Vietnam tend to set up makeshift stalls on the corners of streets rather than in actual shops so it can be pot luck finding one.
5. Pollution Masks
We all wear helmets to protect ourselves, but what about our health? Vietnam is one of the most polluted countries, with major cities regularly experiencing smog and pollution causing severe health consequences among the local population. When you’re out in the countryside you don’t need to wear a pollution mask, but when motorbiking the entire country you will have to spend large periods of time on the highways and in cities which are both heavily polluted. Protect your health and wear a face-mask!
I always recommend AQblue masks which have filters that actually remove some of the pollution particles (fabric and surgical masks can’t do this). The AQblue masks are reusable and can be re-worn multiple times (upto 30 hours of driving) making them perfect for getting you the whole length of Vietnam!
Unless you plan on completely covering up for the whole of your road-trip, you’ll need to pack some suncream. The Vietnamese sun is unforgiving and you will burn quickly without sun protection.
Where to find: You can find many brands of suncream in the Guardian cosmetic stores and sometimes in mini-marts like FamilyMart, CircleK and VinMart and in bigger supermarkets like BigC and Co-op (be careful buying the Vietnamese/Asian brands as they might have whitening agents in them).
7. Rain Cover and Poncho
Rain covers for you bags and a poncho for yourself are essential items for motorbiking Vietnam, EVEN if you are motorbiking outside monsoon season. Vietnam weather can be inconsistent and you need to make sure you are prepared for all eventualities. You’ll often find yourself setting off in clear blue skies to end up under stormy tropical clouds.
8. Quick Toiletries
Trust me, driving on a motorbike all day ain’t pretty. You end up covered in dust, pollution and splattered with bugs.. but that’s all part of the thrill of it, right? That said, its not very pleasant to stop for a rest and have to eat and drink while feeling grimy (or potentially not have a clean bathroom to wash up in).
So I always pack some items to help me get refreshed quickly:
- hand sanitiser
- wet wipes
- dry tissues (the chances of a bathroom having loo roll is slim)
Where to find: You can find all of these quick toiletries for motorbiking in mini-mart type stores, like Family Mart, CircleK, VinMart etc, and all for a cheap price.
9. First aid kit
*touchwood* you won’t ever need to use anything in a first aid kit, but it’s always wise to pack things and be prepared! Everything you need can be found over the counter in a local pharmacy. Here are some of the things I’d recommend bringing with you for motorbiking in Vietnam:
- pain relief (paracetamol or ibuprofen)
- iodine for cleaning any wounds
- a variety of plasters (make sure you have some large ones for any big grazes)
All of these things are really cheap to buy in Vietnam so it won’t cost more than a few dollars for everything.
Where to find: a local pharmacy. You can find one in every ward – ask your accommodation for the closest one.
10. A cloth rag
One final thing to pack is a rag cloth. This came in really handy for wiping up any gas spills and oil drips. It is also great for drying off your seat in the rain and just generally giving your bike a dust down.
Where to find: I use a facecloth for this purpose which you can find in supermarkets like BigC, Lottemart and Co-op (search on google maps to find the nearest one).
All the essential items you need for motorbiking Vietnam:
Where to find bike kit in the major cities:
Truth be told there doesn’t seem to be a one stop-shop (or street) where you can find everything you need so you might have to hop around a bit to get everything. But just to help out here is a rough idea of where you can head to get most things in Vietnam’s three main cities.
In Saigon: The top of Dien Bien Phu is a great place to go shopping for motorbike kit in Ho Chi Minh City – you can find helmets, bungee chords and ponchos all on the top few blocks of the street (heading out of D1, towards D2).
In Hanoi: Kelsey, from Miles of Smiles, thinks Chua Ha Cau Giay street in Hanoi might be a good place to shop for motorbike things – the street is full of motorbikes for sale etc. Check out her blog for lots of amazing info on teaching English, life in Hanoi and travel in Vietnam!
In Da Nang: Avery, from Anywhere and Averywhere, suggests heading to the LotteMart superstore to grab things for motorbiking (it sells helmets and ponchos and of course all the other little toiletry related things). Thank you for her insight on Da Nang. Avery shares her life as an online teacher and travels around Vietnam and Asia on her blog!
Hopefully this post has helped you in finding all those essential items for motorbiking in Vietnam! Where are you road-tripping?!
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For more on Motorbiking in Vietnam:
- Learning to Ride a Motorbike in Vietnam / Ride With Me Saigon
- 5 tips for Motorbiking Vietnam (coming soon)
- 10 Things you need to know for Motorbiking Vietnam (coming soon)