I have been exploring the world for about 8 years and traveling Vietnam by motorbike is still one of my all time favorite adventures. Whether exploring the whole country by bike or just doing a motorbike day tour, a motorbike adventure is something you have to experience when traveling in Vietnam.
In this article I share
- some awesome motorbike day tours
- how to plan a motorcycle trip across Vietnam
- our 2 week itinerary driving across Vietnam
- where to get a bike
- places not to miss
- Cost of trip
- our route itinerary and plenty of other useful tips
Motorbikes are a part of life in this country with 37 million of these vehicles registered. Cruising on the highway you see many very interesting things. A family of four on a scooter on the highway is a common occurrence. Pigs, chickens, building material or any other cargo are often tied to motorbikes in ingenious ways. Travelling in Vietnam I met a couple of backpackers in Hanoi selling bikes following a South to North bike trip. Stories of their trip sounded unreal and when I realized how cheap buying a motorbike is I started planning my trip! A week later my travel buddy Ryan and I were exploring the Ho Chi Min way on our customized Honda motorbikes. Don’t feel like making such a big biking commitment? Book a day tour and experience a bit of the Vietnam motorbike adventure!
There are amazing options for guided motorbike tours to experience Vietnam by bike in safe way. Go on a fun tour in the roads of Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi or Hoi An exploring the cities with an experienced driver on a foodie, sightseeing, culture or shopping tour.
Check out these awesome tours, all highly rated with good reviews. When you pick a tour always check for plenty of good ratings and read a couple of reviews!
Da Lat Motorbike Tours
Dalat Full day Easy rider motorbike tour – I did this one day tour in Dalat and it was fantastic! This beautiful place in the highlands was one of the highlights of our 2 months in Vietnam. Exploring the area sitting on the back of a motorbike taking photos. Visit pagodas, ethnic minority villages, vegetable farms, and a coffee plantation. Stop at a silk factory. Drink Kopi Luwak coffee and eating crickets.
Ho Chi Minh Motorbike Tours
4 hour urban scooter adventure – Highly rated tour with many reviews. Good mix, little bit of everything; city streets, markets, tourist sites and food. Picked up from your hotel, learn about historical landmark and events in Ho Chi Minh City, view unique architecture. Along the way, you’ll be revitalized by hearty bowls of flavorful noodle soup, experience some street food tour options, walk the biggest flower market, a floating market and experience the contrast of Saigon neighbourhood like District 7.
Morning Market Motorbike Adventure – Experience the more ‘off the beaten track’ markets with these fun, knowledgeable locals by bike. Get picked up from your hotel, explore interesting markets in Ho Chi Minh beyond the usual Ben Thanh Market. See the best of Saigon’s markets in the morning, interesting fresh produce, flowers & animals market – experience the most wonderful and weird sides of Saigon
Ho Chi Minh Midnight tour – Explore Ho Chi Minh’s streets at night and go beyond district 1 seeing different area’s cultures and lifestyles. Visit different districts from the modern developing city to old towns, aged apartments, local midnight markets, and an old Mafia area, make a stop at the Haunted House of Saigon! Taste some traditional Pho or Banh Mi on the way, go to vibrant nightlife of Bui Vien Street with cheap eats, bars, souvenir shops and more! This tour has hotel pick up and drop off services.
XO Motorbike Tours offer something unique, a company with all women drivers that can take you on a variety of great tours in the cities of Ho Chi Minh and Hoi An.
Hanoi Motorbike Tours
Hanoi Sightseeing Bike Tour – Very popular bike tour in Hanoi. Start off with a visit to the Hanoi Opera House, make your way to the French Quarter, the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, the One Pillar Pagoda, the oldest Buddhist temple, the Tran Quoc Pagoda, ride through the 36 Old Streets of Hanoi known as the Old Quarter, enjoy the diverse history, architecture, and products on this tour.
Hoi An Motorbike Tours
Hoi An Food Tour – sample the city’s best street food. Explore the centuries-old streets by bike, through ancient alleyways, and secret sidestreets to discover the best street food in the city. Get a taste of what the locals eat from Madam Phuong bread, Banh Beo/Water Fern Cake, Cao Lau Noodles, Banh It La Gai cake, and more! Hotel Pick up and Drop off.
Why Vietnam is Perfect for a Long Distance Motorbike Tour
- Vietnam is a long, narrow country, perfect to cross without missing anything.
- Since everybody owns a motorbike there are many very cheap bikes on the second hand market.
- Selling your bike wont be a problem.
- Bike repairs are cheap and easy.
- Vietnam uses the Latin alphabet, making it possible to understand road signs.
Ho Chi Minh Trail, was a system of mountain and jungle paths and trails that ran from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) to the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) through the kingdoms of Laos and Cambodia. The trail was used by North Vietnam during the Vietnam war to get troops and supplies into South Vietnam.
In recent times a Ho Chi Minh Highway was constructed by paving over old sections of the trail, creating a 1,000-mile paved road from Hanoi to Saigon only running through Vietnam.
Motorbike in Vietnam – How to Get a Bike
When going on a motorbike trip through Vietnam you have three options to get a bike; buy a bike, rent a bike or go on a guided tour. Buying a bike is the cheapest option since you can sell your bike again after your trip, but is more risky since you can buy a lot of problems. Renting is more hassles with insurance and returning the bike. A tour can be nice, especially if you do not feel confident driving and can sit on the back you obviously do not have the freedom you have cruising with your own bike.
Buying a Motorbike in Vietnam
I loved buying my bike, spray painting it and the freedom of the whole experience. We did breakdown a couple of times, but that was amazing in Vietnam, we always got help relatively quickly and fixing our bikes was always cheap.
Best Bike for a Motorbike Tour in Vietnam
The most popular bikes for this journey are the Honda Win 100cc manual shift bike, the Honda Wave 110cc scooter or the Yamaha Nouvo 125cc scooter. The scooters are automatic gearshift. I loved my Honda Win, but many travelers are not comfortable with manual shift and opts for a scooter.
Real vs Fake Bikes – The real Honda Win 100cc motorbike is made in Japan and costs about $2000 new, most of the bikes driven by tourists are fake Honda Win copies made in China, they are a lot cheaper, I heard they cost about 25% of a real bike. Obviously the quality is going to be inferior. Many of the bikes for sale on the backpacker market is more than 20 years old and probably did this trip 100’s of times.
We did have breakdowns, but could always find someone, even in the middle of nowhere, to fix our problem for cheap. I was happy with my fake Honda Win and so were many other people that I met.
There are many “Honda shops” in Ho Chi Minn and Hanoi that fix and sell bikes and some offer a buy back deal on the other end. The cheapest way to buy would be from another traveler in a hurry to sell his prized/despised moto. You can easily pick up a bike for under $200 from another backpacker in hurry to sell. In backpacker’s areas there are usually many bikes for sale standing around with for sale signs. Check out Facebook there are several Vietnam Motorbike groups on Facebook where travelers sell their bikes.
Important Things when Buying a Motorbike in Vietnam- checklist
The Bluecard is your proof of ownership and identifies the bikes engine number, frame number, license plate number, and owner of the motorbike. You need bluecard for selling the bike, when transfering the bike on public transport (train) or when crossing the border to Laos or Cambodia.
Condition of the Bike
- General condition, is it clean, all rubber OK, paint job still good, no loose tape and wires
- The Frame, is it straight, no suspicious welding, no rust.
- Tyres; good condition, still plenty of tread, no cracks.
- Suspension, can ‘bounce’ returns to original position, no noises.
- Electronics all working, electric start, hooter, all lights (including brake lights)
- Test drive, everything smooth brakes, accelerates, all lights good.
If something is wrong discuss with the owner, might not be serious and easy to fix.
Negotiate to get these included.
Good helmet, Luggage rack and straps (make sure you can strap on all your stuff on to the bike), Bike lock
Download offline map, Google Maps or Maps.me very important apps to have.
PIMP/NAME YOUR RIDE!
We bought some spray paint and painted flags on our petrol tanks.
Offered by some shops:
- Buy back by a partner shop at the other end
- Worth it? depends on how much time you have, you will get a better price selling it yourself. If you are lucky you can even sell it at a profit! It might however take a week to sell your bike. We bought for $250 and sold for $125 each. We didn’t feel like waiting in Ho Chi Min any longer.
- 24 hour helpline
- what nonsense, you are going to be far away, probably with no phone, there are shops/people that can fix bikes everywhere
- Free driver lesson
- depends on you, do you need a lesson, will one lesson help if you do?
Rent a motorcycle in Vietnam.
It is possible to rent a motorcycle long term for a good price. Tigit Motorbikes do sales and rentals for long distance travel and have centers in Ho Chi Minh, Danang and Hanoi.
Accommodation on a Vietnam Motorbike Trip
It was never hard for us to find accommodation, we were two so we stayed in private rooms, sharing it is very cheap. Bigger towns and cities have hostels with shared dormitories which is awesome for meeting other travelers. If you go in season I would recommend booking a day ahead then you know you have a good place for tomorrow. We recommend places at different budgets on our route.
Is it safe to ride a motorbike through Vietnam?
It is definitely not the safest way to spend a couple of weeks. Thousands of motorbikes, no traffic rules and it doesn’t look like local people need a licence. Huge intersections without traffic lights. Twelve year old kids driving scooters everywhere (how scary can it be if twelve year old’s do it?). Many trucks and buses on the road. A recipe for an interesting adventure, not for road safety. An organised group tour by bus is definitely safer. Singing born to be wild on my little motorbike and almost getting run over by huge buses made some memories I will always cherish. Just be careful.
I will strongly advise you to invest in insurance World Nomads Vietnam insurance is an excellent option and you can get insured with them even if you are already on route. I don’t work for World Nomads, so go and check it out and read the fine print. You can get an immediate quote here. You will need a licence to be covered.
Do you need a motorcycle driver’s license in Vietnam?
I was told that you can drive a 50cc motorbike in Vietnam without a license, this is to small to do a long trip you will be riding at least a 100cc bike. This is my experience, always confirm with official sources.
When I got pulled over my drivers license and AA international license was accepted.
Some of my friends got pulled over, they did not have a licence and paid a bribe to get out of it.
If you wear long pants, shoes and a helmet chances of getting pulled over is very small. When we wearing flip flops and board shorts we stood out as tourists and were stopped.
It is important to note that insurance wont cover you and you might be held responsible for the accident if you drive without a licence, spending time in a Vietnamese prison is not a cool way to end your trip.
Vietnam motorcycle trip route.
Our trip started in Hanoi riding south, many do it in reverse. Mostly on the Ho Chi Min trail, which was beautiful. Some days we drove on Highway one, many trucks and thousands of motorbikes everywhere. Try to avoid this as far as possible. We drove about 2500km and did the trip in 5 weeks. Only 12 driving days, driving between 2 and 8 hours a day.
This is the route we followed:
Hanoi to Ninh Bin 95km, 2h
- We paid a motorcycle taxi to lead us on to where the AH1 highway exits the city.
- Driving on the highway was easier than expected, traffic doesn’t move very fast and consists mainly of thousands of scooters and a couple of trucks. I only had two close calls having to swerve and brake for crazy drivers.
- It took about an hour to get out of the city, followed by an 85km drive to Ninh Binh
- Ninh Bình is a small city in the Red River Delta of northern Vietnam; it is the capital of Ninh Bình Province.
- Budget accommodation Golden Bell Backpacker Hostel, clean, friendly, cheap, in the center, huge beds!
- Dormitory is a good idea at the start of your trip to make some friends!
- Medium budget Ninh Binh Brothers Hotel– , $10 is what you pay for a double room in a awesome hotel in this town, everybody raves about the awesome hotel near the center of town and the friendly, helpful brothers that gave them good advice for the trip.
Ninh Bin to Yen Cat 128km, 4h
- Left the AH1 – riding on Ho Chi Min way, much less traffic, more scenic
- only made it to this town before dark
- stayed in a very strange, big hotel in the middle of nowhere, The Dai Lam Hotel
- Yen Cat to Dong Hoi, 340km, 7.5h
- Accommodation: Nam Long Hotel dormitory bed $5, double room $14
Dong Hoi to Dong Ha 100km, 2.5h
- First mechanical problems, took a while to get a mechanic, cheap to fix.
- First day of pouring rain the whole day.
- Drove on the AH1, was not to worried about scenery in this weather.
- Explored DMZ zone and Vin Moc tunnels for 2 days – Unreal, the tunnels were built to shelter people from the intense bombing by the Americans. They dug 30 metres deep, some people stayed here for 6 years.
- Book a tour of the awesome Vin Moc Tunnels
- Accommodation: Ngoc Binh Hotel, dormitory bed $4, double room $9
Dong Ha to Hoi An 200km, 5h
- Hoi An is a beautiful riverside town, we stayed here for a couple of days.
- The town of Hoi An is very popular with tourists and consequently booking accommodation a day or 2 ahead is a good idea
- visit the Me Son ruins for a day
- Applied for visa extension here, large enough town with many agencies that can handle visa requests
Activities in Hoi An
- Eco Tour including Market Tour, Basket Boat Ride and Cooking Class.
- Watch the sunrise over the countryside of Vietnam before visiting the Hindu sanctuary of My Son
- Vietnamese Cooking Class with Coconut Forest Sunset
Hoi An to Quy Nhon 250km, 6h
- Que Nohn chill beach town, stayed 2 days
- drove the AH1, crazy road
- Accommodation: Tanh Tung Hotel $11 double room
Quy Nhon to Nha Trang, 300km, 7h
- Loved Nha Trang, spent a week here
- Vin Pearl Island
- National Oceanographic Institute
- On a budget, you are not going to find a place like Backpack Abode Hostel easy, close to the beach in the center, good breakfast, coffee and amazing staff for $4
- Treat yourself, BX Hotel Apartment for $20 awesome apartment close to the beach, super comfortable bed, washing machine, big flat screen and more.
Activities Nha Trang
One day boat trip on classic boat including snorkeling around island, glass bottom kayaking
Scuba Dive Nha Trang two dives, we loved the tropical diving in Nha Trang!
Authentic Junk boat – Romantic Sunset Cocktails and Dinner Cruise
Nha Trang to Dalat, 133km, 4.5h
- Unreal scenic drive from Nha Trang to Dalat. High mountain passes.
- Rain storms were insane, so much rain we had to stop and hide sometimes.
- Crazy House, officially called Hang Nga Guesthouse, this architectural masterpiece is one of the 10 craziest buildings in the world.
- Easy Rider Motorbike tour, waterfalls, coffee plantations and amazing scenery, cricket tasting, coffee tasting, Kopi Luwak/Caphe Don (shit coffee) farm
- Accommodation: On a budget Red House is the place to go in Dalat, $3 for a dorm bed in an awesome highly rated hostal including breakfast! Want to stay in a good hotel with great service near the center for $25 Da Lat Lanani Hotel
3 Day Dalat to Mune Easy Rider tour
Test your cycling skills on scenic downhill cycling routes through beautiful pine forests, lakes, and picturesque farms dotting the valleys along the way in the Da Lat area.
Dalat to Muine, 155km, 5h
- The drive from Dalat to Muine was my favorite on the trip, no trucks are allowed on the road and it is a very beautiful spiraling road through the mountains to the ocean, a pleasure on a bike!
- Muine kitesurfing capital of Vienam
- Red and White sand dunes was good day
- Accommodation: Awesome hostel, nice garden with hammocks, pool, super friendly, helpful staff, close to beach Mui Ne Garden, good option if you come for kite surfing, dorm bed $4. Looking for excellent value for money, maybe best place in Mui Ne, big pool, awesome, big, clean rooms and great service. MAY Bungalow $30
Muine to Ho Chi Min (Saigon), 220km, 6h
Coming into Ho Chi Min is insane, crazy traffic turned into super crazy traffic. We were very lucky we meeting 2 Dutch guys on the road with an iphone. We followed them to the hostel area.
Interesting city, war and military museums, nice palaces. Cool party city, drinking beer and talking nonsense on little chairs on the sidewalks. Club scene kicks in late.
We did a one day tour to the Mekong Delta. Typical tour, you do not get to experience the real culture. You take turns with many other tourists to float on a little section of river. Just a show for tourists, I would not recommend it.
Activities Ho Chi Min
Visit the Mekong Delta and My Tho and Ben Tre islands, enjoy sightseeing on your trip along the river and walk around local fruit gardens.
Accomodation in Ho Chi Min
Cheap, clean, friendly staff, basic breakfast, coffee and tea dorm bed $4 Saigon Central Hostel.
Amazing place, delux double room $30, great location, super comfortable beds, great host Jan Hostel.
Private motorbike explore the Ho Chi Min food scene – Explore the food scene of Ho Chi Minh City from the back of a motorbike and sample typical Vietnamese foods on a night tour. One of the highest rate tours in Ho Chi Min
Trekking in the Sapa Valley and meeting some of the locals staying in a homestay was one of the highlights traveling through Vietnam.
- Ha Long Bay, 2 night boat and island trip – had an awesome tour!
- Dalat, Easy rider 1 day bike trip, “shit coffee”, elephant falls, cricket farm etc,
- Sapa, 2 Day trek through rice paddies, homestay with local family – beautiful area, amazing people at our homestay.
- Diving, Nha Trang, triple Scuba day on coral reefs of Nha Trang
- Vin Moc tunnels, tour to Vietnamese tunnels in US war, Dong Ha
- My Son, Ruins of the champa temples close to Hanoi
- Muine, White and Red sand dunes
- Night life Saigon, Partying on the sidewalk bars of the crazy Ho Chi Min city
Cost of a Vietnam motorcycle journey
Sold Bike: 125$
Visas: 65$ visa renewal 25$
Petrol used: 1 500 000 VD (75$),
Repairs: Brakes, Stand 50 000, Back tyre 330 000, Mirror 50 000, light switch
50 000, oil change 4x 100 000
Total: Bike: 250$ Fuel: 75$; Oil: 20$, Repairs: 24$, Visas 70$
Driving time: 4 to 8 hours a day
Accidents: zero, one minor fall
Food: mostly Pho Bo (noodle soup) or just coffee, plenty of water – Vietnam=hot!
Dangers: Ryan – one bad infection, got robbed at gun point in Nha Trang
Tips and favorite things
- Pimp and name your bike
- Pho Bo, vietnames beef noodle soup is cheap and delicious
- Vietnamese coffee is awesome, they drink it with loads of condense milk, so say you want it black.
- take your time
- wear a helmet
Things to Pack
- Phone stand on your bike, awesome to use for navigation!
- A towel is an essential thing to have for an adventure or budget traveler. We recommend you pack the Active Roots Microfiber Travel Towel
- Luxtude 13400mAh Waterproof Portable Charger This waterproof, dustproof power bank is a life saver.
- It is great to always know essentials are safe and you get used to pouch, even in super hot climates. Travel Neck Pouch-wallet
- BUFF Multifunctional Headwear – protects against sun, cold and weather
- trekking pants – light weight, quick dry.
- Go Pro Hero 8 record your whole trip in full HD, edit your quality video in seconds with phone software
- It can rain a lot in Vietnam and helps if you and your luggage is waterproof.
- Waterproof, 3M Reflective Backpack Cover
- Pack a good, light, waterproof jacket, this Marmot Gortex jacket should keep you dry!
About Author – Campbell
The strong half of Stingy Nomads, a nomadic aquaman that would be happy to spend all his life in the water diving, surfing and spearfishing but often has to compromise with Alya and go hiking instead. Campbell is responsible for all our marine adventures and following them with write-ups. He loves traveling, braai (BBQ in South Africa), red wine and spending the day in a wetsuit.
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