The Complete Guide to Motorbiking in Vietnam
It’s no secret that motorbike is my favourite way to travel in Vietnam. Be it scooting around cities or the ability to get out into rural Vietnam, driving a motorbike in Vietnam provides so much freedom and unlocks a whole different experience of the culture, scenery and can take you off the beaten path. Whether you’re a newbie motorbike driver, an expat looking to explore your new city with more freedom, or a traveller ready for the motorbike trip of a lifetime, you’re in the right place. This guide to motorbiking Vietnam covers everything from learning to ride and buying a motorbike, to routes and safety tips.
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When you’re new to the streets of Vietnam it can be super overwhelming figuring out how to simply cross the road, let alone get on a bike yourself. That said, I consider learning to ride a motorbike one of my greatest achievements and a highlight of moving to Vietnam. Take learning to ride a motorbike as a gradual process, and make sure you are confident before embarking on a Vietnamese motorbike trip. This guide shares the step-by-step process I followed when learning to ride a motorbike in Vietnam. It also includes some places to rent motorbikes from in Saigon.
If you don’t feel confident learning to ride a motorbike by yourself, there is a company called Ride with Me Saigon that offers one-one-motorbike lessons in Saigon.
You can rent a motorbike in Vietnam without any paperwork, most places will just ask to hold a cash deposit or your passport as a deposit, however, I don’t recommend this option and would suggest leaving a cash deposit instead. These are some of the big motorbike rental companies in Vietnam:
• Tigit Motorbikes (pick up and drop off in Ho Chi Minh City, Dalat, Da Nang and Hanoi).
• Rentabike Vietnam (pick up and drop off in Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang and Hanoi).
• Flamingo Travel (pick up and drop off in Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An and Hanoi).
• Motorvina (can pick up and drop off anywhere in Vietnam)
• QT Motorbikes (for rentals in Ha Giang and northern Vietnam).
The above companies are perfect for long-term and one-way rentals, however, if you are just looking for a motorbike to help you explore a destination for a few days, then I recommend arranging a rental via your accommodation as it will likely be cheaper and more convenient. A daily rental in Vietnam costs anywhere from 100 – 200k depending on the location and type of motorbike (for example it’s cheaper to rent a motorbike in Phong Nha than Da Nang).
Buying a Motorbike in Vietnam
Another popular option for those wanting to tour across Vietnam by motorbike is to purchase a motorbike in either Hanoi or Saigon and sell it when you reach the other end of the country. While this might seem cost-effective, be wary of buying an old motorbike (like a Honda Win, the typical backpacker motorbike) as the cost of repairs can quickly add up.
Aside from the quality of the motorbike, you must ensure that you buy a motorbike complete with its official blue card. A blue card is the proof of ownership of the motorbike and is valued like gold in Vietnam. If you don’t have the blue card you will not be able to resell and may struggle with things like putting the motorbike onto a train/bus/boat etc.
I recommend checking out these posts by Tigit and Vietnam Chronicles for tips on buying a motorbike as a backpacker as this is not something I have personally done. Here are some places to consider buying a motorbike:
• The backpacker areas of Saigon (Pham Ngu Lao) and Hanoi (Ngo Huyen)
• Facebook groups, like Vietnam Backpackers Travel and Sales or Motorbikes HCMC
• Facebook Marketplace
• Chotot (Vietnamese version of Craigslist) *you will need to translate the website into English to use.
Vintage Motorbikes in Vietnam
I drive a reconditioned vintage Honda Cub that I bought a few years ago from the Honda Cub Exchange in Vietnam. The beauty of buying a reconditioned Honda Cub is that I get the driving experience of a new bike as it has a new engine and electrics etc, but the vintage look (my motorbike dates from 1972). This motorbike has served me extremely well over the years, going on many road trips around Saigon, as well as completing the iconic South to North motorbike trail across Vietnam.
Read more ✍ Buying a vintage Honda Cub in Saigon
I don’t recommend buying a vintage bike without getting it reconditioned as often they do not run well and you will likely spend a fortune on repairs. If you find a motorbike you like and want it reconditioned, send Ngan from the Honda Cub Exchange a message and she might be willing to take on the job for you.
Alternatively, there are motorbike rental agencies in Ho Chi Minh City that offer Honda Cubs for rent, such as Saigon Motorcycles.
Motorbikes dominate the roads of Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City alone has somewhere upwards of 8 million registered motorbikes scooting around it (alongside millions of unregistered). So, it goes without saying that driving a motorbike in Vietnam comes with associated risks. While you can’t control how others drive, there are some things you can put in place so that if you do get into a crash you are as protected as you possibly can be. This guide shares more details of how to stay safe on the roads in Vietnam, but the most important things to do are to always wear a full head helmet and have insurance that covers you for the bike you’re driving.
Getting a motorbike license in Vietnam
To legally drive on the roads of Vietnam you will need a Vietnamese motorbike license. While most foreigners in Vietnam don’t have one, it is a legal requirement and you can be fined up to 5mil ($217) if the police pull you over without one. I personally don’t have one as my motorbike is a 50cc and doesn’t require a license for these reasons, but these articles will help guide you through the process of obtaining a license in Vietnam:
Planning to motorbike across Vietnam? What. A. Treat. This bucketlist worthy trip will take you winding through mountains and seas of rice terraces, cruising alongside turquoise waters and into fishing villages, not to mention into cities overflowing with culture and history. Trust me: it’s worth taking this scenic route to explore Vietnam.
Motorbiking across Vietnam is undoubtedly one of the highlights of my time living abroad and I can’t recommend the trip enough. Here are some posts that will help you plan and be as prepared as you can be to experience the best of Vietnam from the road.
Even if you aren’t motorbiking across the entire country, there are many motorbike day trips you could take during your trip to Vietnam. Here are some of my favourite motorbiking trips from Vietnam.
These are some of my favourite places to road trip to in the south of Vietnam, some of these are day trips, and some are longer multi-day trips. Click on the posts to find out more:
These are some of my favourite roads and day trips in central Vietnam. Click on the posts to find out more:
✍ Hue (coming soon)
✍ Phong Nha (coming soon)
The dramatic scenery of northern Vietnam makes for some incredible road trips. These are some of my favourites so far, but I know I have a lot more of the north to explore. Click on the posts to find out more:
✍ Motorbiking the Ha Giang Loop (coming soon)
While I cover a lot of topics in this guide to motorbiking Vietnam, there are a lot of other resources out there that will help you when planning the ultimate Vietnam road trip. These are some good sources of information:
The Vietnam Coracle is the ultimate resource for motorbiking in Vietnam. Check it out for an extensive series of routes and tips on motorbiking in Vietnam.
True Routes have a great 1-month motorbiking Itinerary as well as a useful post with information on buying VS renting a motorbike.
Visit Vietnam is the official tourism site for Vietnam and is full of useful information on the logistics of visiting Vietnam as well as travel suggestions for across the country.