Traveling Vietnam by motorbike is increasingly becoming one of the most epic tours for backpackers in Southeast Asia. And this trend is not without reason: being brave enough to participate in Vietnam’s highly unorthodox road traffic will be rewarded with an unique encounter with both the country and its people.
For a European biker who has been practicing for months (with protection gear) for the driving license, traveling Vietnam with a motorbike probably sounds like a risky business. Critical road and bike conditions combined with the chaotic Asian road traffic might scare off Europeans.
Nevertheless, several thousands of people from all over the globe come to Vietnam to do exactly this: travelling Vietnam by motorbike. Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, for example, are offering splendid opportunities to start such a trip. Purchase an old motorbike, fetch your backpack and start your 3,000 kilometers journey – busy motorways, winding mountain roads and frantic traffic awaits you. All you need are a valid visa, a drive for adventure and 300 US dollars (approximately).
Which bike to choose?
Preceding your search for a suitable motorbike you have to consider a fundamental question: Manual, semiautomatic or automatic transmission? If you already have gained a bit of experience with one of these classic Southeast Asian scooters you are maybe familiar with driving a semiautomatic machine. For beginners this system is ideal since you don’t need to clutch and can’t kill the engine. Fully automatic scooters are usually more expensive and therefore, they are not that popular among backpackers.
Many travelers in Vietnam use the Honda Win with manual gearshift. The coupling needs a bit of practice, yet, as soon as you get the hang of it, it is a lot of fun. This will make the meager cubic capacity of 100/110 cm3 appear like a “real” motorbike in no time. You can find a great selection of bikes on Craigslist.
Another advantage is that all of Vietnam’s mechanics are familiar with the Honda Win and have spare parts in stock – even in the remote areas of the country. Be assured, your bike has to be serviced at some point of the trip which is quite common – at least, you should have the oil changed every now and then. Don’t worry it’s not that expensive.
Which routes can be travelled by bike?
The Vietnamese road network is excellent which comes quite handy for backpackers in terms of exploring the country without any restriction. A really useful source for researching the most appropriate tour is the Vietnam Coracle blog. Tom, who is probably familiar with all of the country’s roads, has put together a lovely selection of routes you can look up for free. For beginners The Classic, which is a three weeks trip, might be a good idea.
What equipment to bring?
For a bike trip in Vietnam the one thing you definitely won’t need is fashion awareness. Instead of bringing three different summer dresses or fancy shirts we recommend functional and cozy clothes or things which can get dirty. In addition, you either take some travel detergent with you or you spend a few euros for one of the cheap laundry services most hostels offer. This will keep your backpack light and yourself comfortable.
Places in Vietnam you have to visit
To explore a foreign country with your own vehicle comes along with a simple effect: independence. You can go wherever you want and explore even the remotest areas of Vietnam – without being part of a guided tour. The three spots listed below can easily be reached by motorbike and are definitely worth a visit:
1) Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park: The caves are stunning and the close by part of Ho Chi Minh Road is one of the country’s most beautiful routes.
2) Hué: In the outskirts of the former imperial capital you can drive to the ruins of an abandoned water theme park – post apocalyptic!
3) Coco Beach Camp in La Gi: For those of you considering Mui Ne too busy Coco Beach Camp is the place to be. Ho Chi Minh City’s youngsters and its fashionable people go there to celebrate, take pictures or relax.