Motorbike Vietnam: A Guide to Buying and Riding a Motorbike around Vietnam
Motorbike Vietnam – Day 1, loaded up with my new bike.
This is a step-by-step guide to buying and riding a motorbike around Vietnam, having done the trip myself in March 2015 and it being one of the best travel experiences I’ve had yet, I now want to share my tips with you incase your planning on embarking on a similar adventure.
Firstly, is it safe?
I think so, however if you do a google search you’ll find a lot people telling you it’s dangerous and you shouldn’t ride a motorbike in Vietnam, and I agree riding a motorbike in Vietnam can be dangerous, the traffic and roads are pretty crazy, but if your sensible, keep your wits about you and use common sense then I think you can ride around Vietnam safely.
What license will I need?
To legally ride in Vietnam and to be covered by your travel insurance you will need your motorbike license in your home country and an international drivers license.
(From what I’ve been told is that before 2015 Vietnam didn’t recognize international drivers licenses, but since then the rules have changed and they apparently now recognized international licenses… So I would advise before you do this trip that you double check with your insurance company about the licensing so that you know that you are covered…)
When is the best time to travel Vietnam on a motorbike?
The best time to ride is during the dry season, which is between the months of December and May (in particular between January and March having the best weather for riding) any other time and it will likely be raining a lot. I did the journey in March the weather was mostly sunny apart from it raining twice which was miserable, riding in the rain is no fun so you definitely want to avoid the wet season.
It looks like it’s about to rain so i’m ready for it with my $1 poncho.
Fuck it’s raining… trying to stay dry with this dodgy poncho.
Where should you start? Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi?
I started in the Ho Chi Minh and I think this is the best starting point for a few reasons, firstly I noticed more backpackers were travelling from South to North, which meant as a solo traveller it was easier to find other people to ride with, and secondly once you arrive in Hanoi you have the option to continue exploring more of Vietnam and visit Sapa and Ha Long Bay, the only downside is that bikes are more expensive in Ho Chi Minh so when you sell it in Hanoi your definitely going to lose some money.
What bike should you buy?
I’d recommend ridding a motorbike instead of a scooter, I think they are more comfortable, better suited for longer journeys, and they look bad ass. If you are going to ride a scooter expect to get a hard time from your bike buddies, I constantly gave mine shit.
This leaves pretty much only one option and that is the Honda Win which is the most popular motorbike for backpackers to do this trip on, they are however getting trashed up and down the country all year round, so your going to end up having to spend money on repairs at some point, luckily you can find a mechanic literally everywhere and Honda win parts are cheap and always available.
This was my Honda Win, I took this photo a few hours after I bought it.
My first breakdown happened after a week, it was a flat tire so nothing too serious.
The bike is back on the road and now i’m ridding smoothly into the sunset.. shaka’s brah.
How much will a Honda Win cost me?
When I got my bike back in March 2015 in Ho Chi Minh I could find mechanics selling them for around $300 – $350 and through backpackers from $250 – $350, I ended up buying my bike from a mechanic for $300.
However in Hanoi, bikes are a lot cheaper as this is a more popular final destination for many backpackers so there are more available which brings the prices down, so the mechanics are selling them for around $220 – $280 and you can pick up one from a backpacker from around $170 – $250.
Where Can I Buy A Bike?
The best place to start looking is by searching for motorbikes on Vietnam.craigslist.org as you’ll find both bike shops and travellers are selling on here, also take a walk around the backpacking district you’ll find plenty of flyers in hostels and a few bike shops in this area, it is also good to talk to other travellers and let them know your looking for a bike.
I checked out a few bikes that backpackers had advertised in hostels, and I also hired a motor-taxi to drive me around to all the mechanics in Ho Chi Minh that were selling Honda Wins which was only about 6 shops, I think I looked at about 10 bikes and test drove 4 bikes before I picked one I was happy with.
Welcome to the full gang… so we met a few other riders in Da Lat, so then we became 6
Alex, John, Dan, Myself, Sol & Adam
This is a… have we got everyone moment… 1,2,3,4,5 ahh we’re missing Sol