Motorbiking in Vietnam, whether it’s a loop around a region or motorbiking across the whole country, is sure to be a bucketlist adventure. Of course, there are lots of risks when doing a motorbike trip in Vietnam, the foremost being road safety but there’s also smaller things that could happen like running out of gas that can derail your road trip. Here are my 5 tips for motorbiking across Vietnam to help you prepare and adventure without issue.
Tips for motorbiking in Vietnam
Let’s dive in with some tips for motorbiking in Vietnam. These aren’t so much safety tips, but rather suggestions for how to make your road trip through Vietnam more seamless and issue-free. For ways to stay safe while motorbiking in Vietnam, check out my guide to Motorbike Safety in Vietnam (coming soon).
1️⃣ Keep roadside essentials in a hidden money pouch
For a road trip it’s wise to have somewhere safe you can store items you need quick access to. On my Vietnam motorbike trip, I used a hidden money pouch, and on smaller road trips I’ve used small backpacks but you could use a fanny-pack or small cross-body bag. These are the essentials I recommend to keep inside:
✅ drivers license/ID card
✅ blue card
✅ ~200k ($8.50)
I would also make sure that your first aid kit and toiletries are at the top of your luggage so you can access them easily when you stop. Keeping some cash, ideally, less than 500k ($21) here is in case the police pull you over. There are areas of Vietnam that are notorious for the police setting up roadblocks, mostly in Mui Ne, and there is potential for them to extort cash from you. Normally 200k is enough, so ensure you have some cash on hand so you can avoid going into your backpack or taking out your wallet.
I know, that all sounds a bit scary right? During my 7-week motorbike trip in Vietnam I saw hardly any police presence on the roads, and at no point did I see them pulling people over. However I avoided motorbiking to Mui Ne for these exact reasons as it is notorious for this issue. Instead, I drove inland on the beautiful mountain roads from Vung Tau to Bao Loc and Dalat, before returning to the coast at Nha Trang.
✍️ Tigit motorbikes have a useful post about the police stops in Mui Ne if are set on going that route.
2️⃣ Wear padded biker gloves
While most of the roads in Vietnam are of great quality there are a lot of mountain roads, particularly in the central highlands and the north, that involve some tight hairpin turns. These sharp turns can make things dangerous and increase the risk of skidding out and taking a tumble. Likewise, if you’re adventurous like me and venture to places that are more remote, then you’re likely to encounter some low quality/dirt track roads which come with an increased risk of falling. If you do take a tumble, your hands are most likely going to take the brunt of it and so I recommend wearing a pair of padded biker gloves.
Of course, make sure you are wearing a good quality helmet as well and I recommend a full-face helmet for the best protection on a long road trip.
3️⃣ Always get gas when you have the chance
Running low on gas was a big issue for me when I was motorbiking across Vietnam as my little Honda Cub has both a small gas tank and no gas gauge making it challenging to assess how quickly I was using up fuel. Topping up your gas tank regularly throughout a drive is a great idea as, while most of the highway in Vietnam is lined with gas stations, there are a number of stretches with little to no gas stations. This is mostly the case in the more remote mountain routes and along some of the beach routes. In particular, I remember the coastal leg from Vung Tau to Mui Ne, as well as the coastal roads coming into Hoi An having very few gas stations.
One tip is to carry a spare bottle of gas in case you do find yourself running low in the middle of nowhere. You can find litre gas bottles at many of the local family-owned convenience stores to keep inside your motorbike for emergencies, but an empty water bottle will do the same trick.
4️⃣ Download Google maps offline
I highly recommend getting a mobile sim with data when motorbiking Vietnam for both navigation and staying connected for safety. However, there are some areas where you might lose connection, particularly in the mountain regions of the Central Highlands and northern Vietnam. One great tip to prepare for any of these situations is to download the Google map for your drive offline. This enables you to continue using the google directions when you lose signal, as well as being able to search for things like gas stations, restaurants and hotels. Here is a guide on how to save Google maps for offline use.
5️⃣ Set up safety check-ins
This is my biggest tip for motorbiking in Vietnam, especially if you are a solo female biker. When I did my big Vietnam road trip I set up a WhatsApp group chat with my parents and some friends who were in Vietnam (one expat friend and one Vietnamese friend) and sent them a quick message before every long drive. I would then update them halfway through the drive to let them know I was doing fine and then one last time when I got to my final destination for the day. This meant that they knew when I was doing long drives and would know if I didn’t check in that something could have happened.
Since I completed my road trip, Google has added new features to their maps that allows you to share your journey with contacts. I used it on a more recent road trip and it works great so long as you have mobile data. Here is a guide on how to share your trip progress on Google Maps.
✍️ For more information on motorbiking in Vietnam, check out my Complete Guide to Motorbiking in Vietnam.