Hi and Welcome to LiveForFun.org. Thanks for clicking. This post is just a quick guide for any of you thinking of doing Vietnam on 2 wheels. Don’t worry about all the negative stuff you see on the net. Just Do It!! It’s Amazing! Enjoy.
Trip Planning. You’ll need time.
You find out very quickly that it takes a long time to get anywhere on a bike in Vietnam. The first day I had planned to do 300 km’s from Ho Chi Min to Da Lat, thinking it would take me 5 hours maximum……
By the end of that day I had done 11 hours on the bike, had gotten lost trying to get out of the city, (be warned, your GPS directs you to the quickest way out of the city, some main highways do not allow motorbikes on them, so do your research), been run off the mountain road to Da Lat by a bus overtaking another bus round a blind corner, and had my credit card frozen by my bank. Just had enough cash for fuel to make it there, get a bunk for the night,a pack of chips and a beer. Now that’s adventure!! Loving it! I think 300 km’s per day is the max you should aim to travel, so that you still enjoy yourself.
Vietnamese Helmets are Crap
I was fortunate enough to take my helmet with me. I did try a few on when I bought my bike as I thought I would bring one home for a piece of memorabilia. None of them fit me and the ones that were close were very uncomfortable and offered bugger all protection. It was no trouble taking mine on the flights tied to my backpack, I even had my motocross boots strapped to my pack which I only used on one day when it was raining and muddy. Not worth the hassle of lugging them around.
Buying your bike
First of all, before anything, make sure you get the little pink slip with the bike. This proves ownership. DO NOT buy a bike without one! It tells people of authority that you have not stolen the bike.
I found It very easy to get a bike in Ho Chi Min. Just around the corner from my hotel was a guide. A really nice guy who offered to show me a good place for lunch, I asked him about getting a bike, he was super helpful and took me to his “friends” bike shop. When we got to the bike shop I was sat down on the side of the road and given a beer. AWESOME! In no time a bike came from across the street and pulled up in front of me. A slick lookin dude jumps of and says,”Hey my good friend! I have best bike for you!!” Proper salesman! Haha.
The bike was a piece of shit! The engine sounded like it had ball bearings rattling around inside it, tires were crap, just not good at all. I told him “no way man, I want something better! So he comes back with A Honda Win 100 (very popular bike there) with a titanium exhaust and aftermarket mirrors. SOLD!! It was actually a pretty good bike , although at $600 I paid way too much for it. If you have the time, make sure to barter, I probably could have got it for $300 if I wasn’t so eager.
Embrace your Horn
The seemingly random, very annoying and constant horn beeping you immediately notice when you arrive in Vietnam actually serves a purpose. Vietnamese don’t beep their horns out of rage or annoyance, it’s used as a warning to let people know they are about to be passed. So when you hear a horn beep behind you, be sure not to swerve left or right as someone is about to pass you. Most of the time very close, and if it’s a small bus….also very quickly. Don’t be shy to use your horn. A quick beep to let people know your coming passed. It works really well.
It’s really easy to get intimidated by the traffic in Vietnam. The key is to be smooth when you enter the traffic and don’t hesitate. You’ll be amazed at how everything just flows around you.
Maintaining your bike
Maintenance is very important. Whatever bike you buy, it’s most probably going to be old and have done a lot of work.I was doing oil changes every 800 km’s it cost me about $10 Australian to get fresh oil and the chain tightened and greased, the little street side bike shops will normally do it for you straight away and they seemed to know what I wanted even though they didn’t speak english.
There are road rules in Vietnam, these should really be called road “suggestions”, as most people use them that way. From what I learnt and saw these are the main “road suggestions”to follow
1. Ride on the right hand side of the road.
2. The slower you want to ride, the farther right you should be.
3. Do not run red lights….Yes some other people do but I was told by my guide in Ho Chi Min that the police will see you on a camera, chase you down and shoot you! The look on his face when he told me that was enough for me to not run red lights! hahaha
4. Buses, Trucks and Cars have right of way and they do not care if they run you over, so stay out of their way.
If you follow these basic rules and don’t ride like a dickhead, you’ll be fine.
I research this topic a lot before I went to Vietnam. People were saying it’s crazy to ride over there as you need an international licence (Which i didn’t have time to arrange) and may not even be recognised or as some were saying a Vietnamese licence (which takes far to long to get).
I only had my Australian Bike Licence, I saw police only twice during my whole trip. The first time was in Da Lat, they were set up on the side of a roundabout. My motocross helmet with go pro on top and tall stature made me an obvious tourist. They did look at me the few times I went passed, but I avoided eye contact and pretended not to see them. Ha Ha Ha. Works every time! They didn’t seem too worried.
The next time was at a roadblock where they were pulling trucks up. Gave em a wave and rode straight passed. The adrenalin was pumping a little on that one. Ha ha. Once again if you’re not riding like an idiot and wearing a helmet, I don’t really think they good be bothered with the paperwork.
My trip breakdown
Ho Chi Min – Da Lat
Da Lat – Nah Trang
Nah Trang – Quy Nohn
Quy Nohn – Hoi an
Hoi an – Hue
By the time I got to Hue, I had the choice of riding long days for the remaining days of my holiday or selling the bike and catching the overnight train to Hanoi. I made the decision to catch the train as I really wanted to visit Ha Long bay, which you must do if you visit Vietnam. It’s amazing!! I sold my bike really easily, I rode into Hue and a guy came up and asked if I needed anything while I was stopped at a red light, I told him I wanted to sell my bike and his cousin bought it. Too easy!
This turned out to be a good move, as when I removed my backpack I found that the rear subframe of the bike had snapped and was about to fall off, which would have dropped all my belongings (passport included) all over the road. Phew!
I was a little disappointed I didn’t finish the ride, but those last few days relaxing in the islands really made my trip and from what the locals were saying there is not a lot to see from Hue to Hanoi.
Well I hope this post has given you a little bit of helpful information. This was the best thing I have ever done and will definantly do it again some day for sure. If you have any questions that I didn’t cover in this post, just drop a comment and i’ll do my best to answer them.
Good Luck and always remember to Live For Fun!
Written by Jarrod Costa