Some travelers rave about the cheap flights in Vietnam. Others swear by the convenience of the hop-on hop-off bus system. However, when it comes to traveling Vietnam, there’s really no method that can compare to exploring the country by motorbike. If your goal is to get off the beaten tourist track and experience Vietnam for what it really is, then don’t pass up the chance to make your trip through Vietnam an unforgettable and everlasting experience!
First, let’s take care of the visa…
The visa on arrival process for Vietnam is a simple one, but there is a small bit of planning that needs to happen before you touch down in the country.
- First, complete and submit the online visa application. This will only take a few minutes.
- Wait to receive the Visa Approval Letter e-mail and print it out.
- Present the letter at the Landing Visa desk in Vietnam. The visa will be placed into your passport here.
- Show your visa/passport to an immigration officer at the entry point of Vietnam.
* two blank pages are required for the visa and entrance/exit stamp.
*No documents are needed to apply online.
*No need to visit the embassy.
So, if you’re up for the motorbike journey then first order of business upon entering Vietnam is finding a bike.
If you’re looking to buy, your best bet is to hang around the popular youth hostels in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. These two cities are the most popular starting/finishing points for those motorbiking the country. Because motorbiking the country has becoming increasingly popular, you’ll likely find other travelers selling their motorbikes after they’ve completed the journey.
If not, check the hostel’s bulletin board for flyers advertising bike sales. The benefit of buying a bike is being able to turn around and sell it to someone else after you’ve completed the journey. The negative aspect is not knowing the full or true condition of a bike you’re buying off a perfect stranger. Of course, you’d like to think that there’s some ‘’traveler comradery’’ between the two of you, but at the end of the day, they’re just trying to make a few bucks. Bottom line: if you don’t have a good feeling about the bike or the person selling it, don’t buy it. Also, don’t buy anything without first driving it first.
If you can’t find a suitable option or feel wary about buying a bike in an unknown condition, don’t despair. There’s another way. Check the motorbike rental shops around the city. Some will allow you to rent bike in their shop and return it in a partner shop somewhere else. The drawback is you won’t be able to sell it to make your money back at the end of the trip. On the plus side, renting means you’re more likely to get a bike that’s in reliable condition.
WHERE TO START
The two most logical starting points to a motorbike trip through Vietnam is either the north in Hanoi or the south in Ho Chi Minh. Because Vietnam is a long, relatively thin country, starting at one end or the other assures seeing the most. You can start at either end and hit the same places – it makes no difference.
Below, we’ve outlined an easy-to-follow itinerary, starting in Hanoi and finishing in Ho Chi Minh.
From Hanoi, this schedule can be comfortably completed within a 2 ½ – 3-week timeframe. Factor in roughly 3 nights in each destination:
- First stop, Ninh Binh, 95km
- Second stop, Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, 397km
- Third stop, Hue, 212km
- Fourth stop, Hoi An via Hai Van Pass, 122km
- Fifth stop, Nha Trang, 498km
- Sixth stop, Dalat, 134km
- Seventh stop, Mui Ne, 154km
- Eighth stop, Ho Chi Minh, 218km
DRIVING TIPS & INFORMATION
- Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are famous for swarming motorbikes. It can be intimidating, to say the least. Push your fears aside, hop on your bike, and literally just go with the flow of motorbikes.
- The locals’ motorbike maneuvering skills are beyond impressive; take your cues from them. Hesitating or driving more slowly than the others is actually more dangerous.
- The roads are mostly paved all the way from start to finish.
- Pay extra close attention on the busy 6-lane highways; they are dusty with lots of 18-wheeler trucks and cars traveling at high speeds.
- Give every vehicle on the road plenty of space. They can change lanes or speed without warning.
- Keep your eyes open for animals in the road.
- Don’t be afraid to ask locals for help. Most will be more than willing to assist with directions or bike breakdowns.
- Language may be a barrier. Few people speak English outside of the tourist areas. Smile a lot, be patient, and don’t raise your voice.
- Drive slowly – this is for safety as much as it is to appreciate all the amazing things going on around you!
Vietnam is really a special country and a motorbike tour is definitely the way to experience it. Taking to the streets allows you to see a different side of the country – a more genuine, simple, and charming part that remains uncovered by the majority of travelers who choose to travel by bus or plane.
Of course, motorbiking comes with risks. However, we doubt you’ll regret the decision to step outside your comfort zone, onto a bike, and into a whole new way to travel.