A guide to buying and riding a motorbike around Vietnam

By Jason van Miert   March 13, 2016 | 06:43 pm PT
Ten tips you need to know for your Vietnam motorcycle adventure.


Exploring Vietnam on a motorbike is a great way to see the country.

1. What licence do I need?

To legally ride in Vietnam and to be covered by your travel insurance you will need a valid Vietnam driver's licence. International driver's licences are not accepted in Vietnam. With your licence from your home country, you can apply to get a local licence.

2. When is the best time to travel in Vietnam on a motorbike?

The best time to ride is during the dry season, which is between the months of November and May. Any other time and it will likely be raining a lot.

3. Where is the best place to start?

Ho Chi Minh City, I think, is the best starting point because once you arrive in Hanoi you have the option to continue exploring Sapa and Ha Long Bay. There are also more travellers heading in this direction to keep you company.

4. What bike should you buy?

I’d recommend riding a motorbike instead of a scooter. I think they are more comfortable, better suited for longer journeys. The Honda Win which is the most popular motorbike for backpackers to do this trip on. You can find mechanics selling them for around $300 to $350 and through backpackers from $250 to $350. Make sure you also get the blue registration card for your bike.


A Honda Win.

5. What should I look for when buying a bike?

Firstly, check it starts easily and the engine runs smoothly. Also check all the electrics. Go for a test drive for about 10 minutes to see how the bike handles. It is always going to be a bit of a gamble, but that is part of the adventure.

It is hard to find a perfect bike, as most of them will have some problems that need fixing, the most important part of the bike is the engine as this will be the most expensive part to replace so make sure that itruns smoothly and use my tips as a guide to help you find the best bike available.

6. What other equipment wil I need?

It is the law to wear a helmet in Vietnam for both riders and passengers. Most bikes will come with a helmet, however I recommend spending some money and get yourself a new helmet that is of good quality. Make sure you wear shoes, as wearing flip-flops is not a good idea. It is also good idea to wear gloves, pants and a jacket as this will help protect you if you have an accident.

You will also need a lock which I advised you use whenever you park up your bike, some bungee cords to strap your backpack down to your bike, a poncho to cover yourself and either a tarp or garbage bag to cover your backpack incase it rains. These all can be picked up at any hardware store.

7. Will my bike breakdown?

Bike shops are literally everywhere in Vietnam. Look for a sign that says “Xe Máy” or for a Honda logo as this will probably be a garage you can get repairs done at. Throughout your trip you’ll also need to do some service stops, it is recommended to get your chain oiled every 300km and to get the oil changed every 500 to700kms to keep the engine running smoothly. It will cost you between $2 to $5 to get your oil changed.

8. Navigating

The best way to navigate your way around the country is with your smart phone GPS. Download an app called maps.me and download the map for Vietnam, as this works offline so you don’t even need to use data.

9. How long will Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi take?

If all you did was drive it would take about nine days from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi, but doing that would be ridiculous. I think you need about five to six weeks to comfortably explore Vietnam on a bike.

10. Selling the bike

I posted my bike on craigslist but had the most success by riding around and talking to backpackers and letting people know I had a bike for sale. I bought my bike for $300 in Ho Chi Minh City and sold it onto another backpacker for $220. I spent about $30 on repairs, so all up it cost me about $110 for having a motorbike for three months while I was in Vietnam.

One Last thing…

Riding a motorbike across Vietnam has easily been the best travel experience I’ve had yet. I made life-long friends that I shared amazing memories with. The freedom that you get with a motorbike is amazing, being able to go off and explore anything you want whenever you want is just the best.


Doing burnouts on the beach in Hoi An.

Source: Jason van Miert

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