Vietnam is also called the country on motorbikes, and this is the most popular method of transport for both locals and travelers.
That’s because it is fast, and because there isn’t enough space for cars in some of the bigger cities’ smaller roads, for example Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
While this is an amazing way to get around while you are in Vietnam, whether you rent your own motorbike, take a Vietnam motorbike tour or take a motorbike taxi, read on to find some of the latest info on motorbikes in Vietnam, updated in March 2020.
Vietnam Motorbike Travelling
1. Is it Safe to Ride a Motorcycle in Vietnam
Vietnam’s roads definitely take some getting used to, and some of the roads through the country are not safe. Because of this, it is really important to only ride a motorbike in Vietnam if you are an experienced biker, wear the right safety gear, and always be aware of other vehicles that are around you.
It is illegal not to have insurance while you are driving in Vietnam, but this is also a strong recommendation because there are many accidents on Vietnam’s roads.
Motorbike Tour in Vietnam
With regards to thieves, make sure your motorbike is parked somewhere secure and locked properly. Do not leave them unlocked and unattended at all, and any gear left around it will also likely be stolen.
2. Do I Need a Motorbike License in Vietnam
You don’t need to have a motorbike license to ride motorbikes that are up to 50cc in Vietnam. If you want to drive something above that, you will need to have a motorbike license. To ride a motorbike under 175cc you’ll need an A1 license, and an A2 license for those over 175cc.
International Drivers Permits are legal if your home country has signed under the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, but your motorbike license from your home country must be registered on the IDP, which you have to do in your home country. The UK and Australia did not sign under the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, for example, and their licenses are thus not recognized in Vietnam.
On top of an International Drivers Permit, you also need to combine this with local insurance once you are in Vietnam. Alternatively, if you are staying in Vietnam for longer, it is also worth transferring your local motorbike license to a Vietnamese one, which can be done in Hanoi and in Ho Chi Minh City.
3. Motorbike: Rent or Buy?
If you are renting a motorbike, make sure you do this from a reputable and recognizable company such as Honda or Yamaha, rather than a brand you’ve never heard of. If you are buying, we also recommend buying a reliable and well-maintained motorbike. If not, you will likely end up having to repair your bike throughout your journey, and the cost of a proper bike is likely to be matched. On top of that, it’s a lot of hassle when your motorbike breaks down somewhere without repair shops, as the roads are bad enough as it is in some areas.
You can buy motorbikes from other travelers for as cheap as USD 200, but make sure you double check that it is okay before you do so. You can check in with popular local hostels or backpackers’ bars to ask around if you are looking to buy or sell a motorbike, as the staff working at these types of places is likely to know of anyone looking to buy or sell a motorbike! This will be easiest in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, the most popular start and end points of a Vietnam trip. If you are getting a Honda Win, expect to pay around USD 300+.
To buy a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City, head over to the huge neon bullhead called the Crazy Buffalo on the main backpackers’ street Pham Ngu Lao, and turn down the alley to the left. Here you’ll find a motorbike shop selling a whole range at an average of USD 300.
In Hanoi, head on over to the backpacker’s district in the Old Quarter, specifically Nho Huyen. There’s a shop called Phung Motorbike here, which has plenty of new and old bikes.
4. What Bike is Good for Travel Through Vietnam
To travel through Vietnam, we recommend a 110cc or a 125cc motorbike, particularly a Honda Dream or a Honda Wave (both 100cc, costing USD 200 to USD 300, used).
If you intend to head through the north or west of Vietnam where the roads can be tougher, you may want to look at a 175cc motorbike. Because of the speed limits and the big amounts of traffic, don’t get a 175cc unless you really need it, it will only work against you.
As mentioned in the section above, make sure you get a reputable motorbike to ensure you aren’t left stranded with a broken motorbike along the way!
5. Best Time to Take Motorbike Tour in Vietnam
Vietnam is a very long country and is divided in three different climate zones, meaning that the weather will vary throughout the country depending on the time of year. It’s best to check the weather in the specific parts of Vietnam that you are planning to go to before deciding when is the best time to take your trip to Vietnam.
It is likely best to look for warmer and drier weather for riding your motorbike through Vietnam, which is February to May in central Vietnam, February to April in northern Vietnam, and December through to March in southern Vietnam. February is the month where most of the country is good to visit.
Motorbike in Vietnam
6. Traffic Rules for Riding a Motorbike in Vietnam
While it may sometimes seem like there aren’t very many traffic regulations in Vietnam when it comes to riding your motorbike, there are lots of things to remember that are the law. Here is a summary of the most important:
- No more than two people per motorbike
- Drinking and driving is not permitted; the limit is 50mg/100ml.
- You’re not permitted to honk at night (between 10pm and 5am).
- The speed limit is 40 km/h in urban areas and 60 km/h on rural roads unless there are signs indicating otherwise.
- Leaving your kickstand down is illegal.
- Don’t weave through traffic. This is also illegal.
- It’s illegal to drive away after an accident.
- Don’t call or use your phone while you are driving.
- You have to wear a helmet.
7. Things to Pack for the Trip
It’s best to be prepared ahead of a motorbike tour of Vietnam as you may not be able to get everything you need on the road.
While many will make do with a simple poncho, we recommend a raincoat or a pair of rain trousers. You will also want to wear a proper pair of warm motorbike trousers if you are looking at traveling during the winter (especially in the north of the country), and you’ll need an extra towel as well as a swimsuit regardless of the time of year. We also recommend bringing good ankle height boots, regardless of time of year.
On top of that, make sure you are bringing a long sleeved jacket or top to protect your arms from the sun, as well as gloves to protect your hands and an extra pair of sunglasses.
It is worth bringing GPS as well as spare batteries for your devices if you are navigating by yourself, as well as a decent and detailed map of Vietnam for when the devices just won’t cut it!
8. Best Motorbike Route in Vietnam, from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi
For those looking to ride from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi by motorbike, we recommend taking the road from Ho Chi Minh to Da Nang, and then Hanoi. This passes through Hoi An and Hue, which are travelers' hot spots as well.
This route will have you pass through Can Tho, Phu Quoc Island, Cat Thien National Park, Da Lat, Nha Trang, Buon Ma Thuot, Pleiku, Kon Tum, Hoi An, Hai Van Pass, Hue, Dong Ha, Khe Sanh, Phong Nha Khe Bang National Park, Ninh Binh, and into Hanoi! From there you can continue to Cat Ba Island, Bac Kan, Ban Gioc Waterfall, Cao Bang, Bao Lac, Dong Van, Ha Giang, and Sapa.
The above route will take at least 4 weeks, but you can of course take as long as you want to cover Vietnam!
9. Accommodation Guide for a Motorbike Trip in Vietnam
If you’re doing a motorbike tour of Vietnam, you’ll want to stay somewhere good to ensure you are getting enough sleep!
Thankfully there are lots of 2–5-star options throughout the country. At the same time, because those doing motorbike tours of Vietnam are usually backpacking, you’re also more likely to meet fellow bikers at hostels and backpackers spots.
You can read more about accommodation in Vietnam here, to find out what your best choices are depending on your budget, your needs, and your location.
10. Do Remember to Buy Travel Insurance
And finally, but most importantly, remember to buy travel insurance before you start on your motorbike trip to Vietnam! There are many insurance policies that cover those traveling to Vietnam on a motorbike, including for example BUPA, World Nomads, Worldwide Insure, Allianz, Avanti, or probably your own bank.
Do make sure that you are fully up to speed on the policy ahead of time so that there are no unpleasant surprises once you are in Vietnam and need help.
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