So, you’ve decided to get yourself a motorbike to tour around Vietnam? Get ready for some unconventional traffic rules and thrill while driving around the country. After getting the hang of it, getting that motorbike will be the most rewarding way to discover and enjoy this beautiful country. Here are some tips on how to drive a motorbike in Vietnam.
Check your Bike
Before getting out in the road, make sure everything works perfectly with your bike especially your brakes. Not sure on what to check? Have a local mechanic inspect every nook and cranny and make sure that everything is working smoothly even if it means paying extra. There is no amount to compensate if you are stuck in the middle of nowhere with no mechanic nearby.
One good thing about getting a motorbike in Vietnam (renting or buying one) is that they come along with a helmet. Sadly, these free brain buckets are not that reliable and often made with thin plastic with little to no padding. It would be wise to get yourself a high-quality and well-padded helmet that you can rely on especially when things won’t go as planned.
Rules? What Rules?
Red means go! Not literally, but most drivers don’t follow traffic lights especially when there are no local authorities on sight. It is very common to encounter motorbikes driving along the curb or even rushing down from the opposite side of the road. Just be prepared and keep your cool when driving.
Don’t Rely on Turning Indicators
Sometimes other motorists especially motorbikes will leave the turning indicators however they are going in the opposite direction. Never trust turning indicators because they might be misleading. Most drivers forget to turn them off so just anticipate that those lights don’t mean a thing.
There’s No Such Thing As Personal Space
Being in your motorbike, expect that there will be tens and hundreds around you! Almost half of the population in Vietnam owns a bike. Don’t be surprised if you are just inches away from another driver or sometimes even cars and buses. Move along with the traffic and keep your distance from the guy in front of you and everything should be just fine.
Honking Is Advised
There is no better way to let someone know your presence in the middle of the road but honking. It is a very common practice especially for motorbikes to honk every couple second in cities around Vietnam. Don’t be afraid to use your horn even if it will be every 2 seconds when you want to move along a busy street. Unlike most western countries, Vietnam drivers are not that aggravated when you honk, just get used to the sound since a quiet drive inside the city is near to impossible.
When Turning Go Where the Wind Blows
Since you are new to driving a motorbike in Vietnam, turning along to another road will be impossible. The best way to turn is by going in groups. It will be most likely that there will be several other motorbikes planning to turn the same direction as you are. Just keep yourself in the middle and move along with them since other vehicles cannot stop a moving herd of motorbikes.
Keep Yourself Dry
Your “what to bring list” should always include a rain poncho when traveling in a motorbike around Vietnam. May to October is considered the rainy season, especially in southern Vietnam. It does not mean that it will rain all the time but just be ready with that poncho when the little bitty rain is pouring in the middle of your bike adventure. Do your research on what weather to expect when you stay but it is better safe than sorry.
Know Where You Are Going
It is highly suggested to equip yourself with a local SIM card and use Google Maps to navigate around the country. Just make sure that you keep your mobile phones and equipment safe since there are incidents of other motorbike drivers grabbing your phones and running with it.
Trade a Favor
Local authorities are known to pull over foreigner motorists. They will be asking a lot of absurd questions, especially how you came about getting a bike, driving papers, etc. To avoid this hassle, just slip in a couple of Vietnamese Dong (usually around $10 USD) and you should be on your merry way.
Pay Attention At All Times
You never know when someone will cut you off without indicators or worse being hit with fallen luggage from a bike with a mountain of a load. Never get distracted with other motorbikes with multiple passengers and just stay focused minding your own business.
Driving your motorbike in Vietnam is very intimidating especially inside the big cities however, just remember these tips and don’t forget to enjoy yourself! This country is definitely best experienced behind two wheels. Stay safe and have fun!