Riding in Vietnam
My wife and I are considering a trip to Vietnam next year. We have planned to purchase motorcycles upon our arrival and to sell them before we leave. I have seen many conflicting posts regarding riding in Vietnam and the need for a Vietnamese license. Most rental websites indicate an international license is all that is needed, but state issues would arise in the case of an accident. How difficult is it to get a license?
Has anybody every traveled Vietnam by Motorcycle? Did you have a valid Vietnamese license? If so, how did you get it? If not, what were your concerns?
I would like to avoid any problems with local authorities, but I would like to take this trip regardless.
Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
motorcycling in Vietnam
I did some biking in Vietnam a few years ago, and into Laos as well from Hanoi and back by Dien Bien Phu. Outstanding!
I bought a Minsk over there as I was there for 6 months on a volunteer gig but I ended up doing a couple tours of a couple weeks each, some solo and some with a great guy called Hung who has a motorcycle rental and tour business out of Hanoi. Try firstname.lastname@example.org
I bought a Honda win 110 in Hanoi and rode the past 2 winters thru all of Vietnam, eastern Cambodia and the length of Laos..I rode solo and never felt unsafe any where...loved the people , places and food.. Never a problem crossing borders or with police... I had the bike papers which had someone else's name on it but with the numbers on the bike matching the bikes... No insurance and never asked for a drivers license.. It would take several weeks to get one anyway... Absolutely loved Vietnam.. Do not hesitate..eliza
Thanks for the info. The more I think about it, the more I think it would be worth taking the chance of not having a license. What is the worse that could happen? they take the bike? A fine? As long is jail is not involved, I am thinking it would be worth the risk.
Hi,I did Vietnam this year on a Minsk as well and absolutely loved it. How long were you thinking of touring for because you can hire bikes really cheaply if you dont want the hassle of buying and selling it when your done???
+1 for Flamingo Travel!
We hired a couple of XR250's from Hung last month and headed north into the mountains. We couldn't stretch to a guided tour but Hung and Chris gave us all the info we needed and suggested goods routes for the time we had. We had a great time - the country has fabulous scenery and roads (and trails too, which we looked out for), the people are friendly and inquisitive, which is fun. Food was great too.
We didn't have licenses. We saw police but they never bothered us. We stuck out like sore thumbs too as we were riding in our full gear.
Go and have a great time.
licenses in Vietnam
I had a Vietnamese license but then I was doing a 6 month volunteer gig there at the time. Your home country license should be find. Everyone will generally leave you alone. If you cross borders by yourself (to Laos for example) probably no one will hassle you. Sometimes if you are with a Vietnamese guide who can speak their lingo they may try to shake you down for a little bit.
The trip I did into Laos from Thanh Hoa area and out by Dien Bien Phu was wonderful, bike in a boat up a muddy river, dirt roads, friendly colourful people. Then the trip up to Ban Gioc waterfal and over to Ha GIang and and up to Dong Van near the Chinese border was phenomenal. Some I did solo and most in the great company of Hung. Can't recommend Flamingo Tours too much, they're great. If you are just wanting a bike for a few weeks or a month (and you can see a lot in a that much time with some planning) you are better off to rent a good bike from Hung. I would recommend a Honda over the Minsk though, quality trumping character.
Wow, thanks for all the info. I have been looking into Flammingo as a renting option....now that I have done more research, renting appears to be the best option.
Being the guy who always gets caught, I am still a little nervious about the whole license thing. All of the rental agencies seem to indicate it is not an issue, and I have yet to see a story about anybody gettin gcaught, but you never know.
We are planning 2-3 weeks for the entire trip, so it would be a little tight, but doable in my opinion. What do you guys think about that time frame? Too tight or long enough to have a good time?
Please keep the advise coming!
Three weeks is a good time scale if your doing the north.We hired the bike at Flamingo in Hanoi and we got an original 2 stroke Minsk that was a piece of junk but by the end I didnt wanna give it back,when we picked the bike up they gave us a massive bag of spare parts including a clutch,cables,sprockets,cdi pack,plugs and allsorts of stuff and we ended up using nearly everything!! Luckily im a mechanic by trade so I did everything myself but had to beg and borrow tools off people along the way and used peoples workshops sometimes. The breakdowns were actually some of the best parts of the trip because we got to meet so many locals and interact a lot more but I would say dont rent a 2 stroke Minsk if you cant fix it yourself because you will have to! They had a couple of 4 stroke conversions which looked nice and lots of modern bikes so no worries. Our route was Hanoi,Mai Chau,Son La,Than bang,Sapa,Lao Cai,Xin Man,Ha Giang,Dong Van,Bao lac,Cao Bang,Lang son and then some way back to Hanoi I cant remember exactly but it was an awesome trip and im well jealous now!! Have a nice trip
a group of us just did an 8 day ride from Hanoi to Chinese border with a company called Offroad Vietnam. It was a tour organised by them to our specs. We had a few couples (pillions) and had xr250s and some smaller bikes. They may hire bikes for solo trips. We did a variety of home stays, hotels and guest houses. Because we were a large group, we had 2 guides who were fantastic, kept the bikes in good knick and made sure we ate well. All good! It was only 3 weeks ago, but I want to do it ll again. The bike company only wanted to know if we had the appropriate licenses.
Thanks everybody for the info. I am getting braver with every reply I read!
Riding in Vietnam
I have just returned (yesterday) from 4 weeks riding in southern Vietnam (Rach Gia and Phu Quoc Island).
The official story is you need a Vietnamese licence which can be obtained in Ho Chi Minh City (and I presume Hanoi) provided you have a valid licence for that type of vehicle in your home country and an international licence. The local licence will only be valid for the length of your visa. The process takes 2 or 3 weeks.
The reality is, provided you do not do anything stupid, the cops will not worry you. I was spotted, looked at, watched, etc several times (being 190 cm tall with white skin and a big nose made it difficult to blend into the local population) but never stopped. In one instance a police officer stood in front of me and pointed past me to the rider behind me and stopped them.
Provided you have good balance at slow speeds on small bikes and good periferral (don't know how to spell it, but you know what I mean) vision, you will have a ball.
Be aware of the speed limits (40 kph in urban areas and 60 kph on the "open" road in the south where I was) as some of the cops do use speed radar thingys and you do not want to give them a blatant and obvious reason to pull you over. No licence and they can confiscate your bike for 30 days.
Make sure you have the registration certificate for your bike. I understand registration is a once-off action, so any bike bought second-hand will have someone else's name on it - they do not appear to register change of ownership.
The standard fee for parking your bike in a secure area (roped off with an attendant who will put a numbered tag on you bike) was 2,000 dong.
The traffic appears chaotic and rode rules are merely a general indication of what you should do so expect people to cut in front, not use rear vision mirrors, not indicate, etc, but you will also notice that road rage is rare and as you cut STEADILY across a stream of on-coming traffic, they will go around you (this does not apply to cars, buses or trucks).
Our trip was fro the full month of December 2011, so about 10 months ago.
The motorbike hire shops are not interested at all if you have any licence what so ever.
We left US$200 deposit on each of the two Honda's that we hired.
We hired them in Hanoi, for US$35 for the month each, so US$70 for the hires.
We wore open face helmet all the way.
We hired in Hanoi, and first rode to the ferry from Hai Phong, to go to Cat Ba Island.
We had 3-4 days on Cat Ba, then ferry back to Hai Phong on the Vietnam mainland.
Then over the course of the next 24 days, we rode to Saigon.
As you can see, we were not in a rush, we rode about 2000km total.
Along the road, we saw about 4 check points.
As you approach the checkpoint, the police man, in brown uniform, waves a black and white baton.
When we were about 10 meters from the police, they would recognise us as not being Vietnamese, he would then instead of waving us to stop, would wave us to carry on.
This happened three times, on time we were just not waved at to stop.
Most of the time we were driving very sensible, and doing about 50km/h to 70km/h
We stopped in all the places on the route, Ha Long Bay, Mui Ni, Pan Thiet, etc and went over Hai Van Pass.
The day after we arrived in Saigon, we rode our bikes to the train station.
We went to the freight desk, and gave our two bikes.
They drain the fuel, take off the mirrors, and put them under the seat.
Then wrap the bike in cardboard.
Then wheel it into a wooden frame.
We spent the next 4 days in Saigon, before boarding a train to Hanoi.
After we arrived in Hanoi, we got a phone call to collect our bikes.
The bike shipping was about US$30 for each bike.
We collected the bikes, and bought some fuel at the nearest garage.
Next day we gave the bikes back to the hire shop.
We put in about US$1,50 each day as a "top up"
I appreciate all of the positive stories everybody is sharing. I am still loking into the possibility of riding in Vietnam, but I am reconsidering the ride fron Saigon to Hanoi in the 2-3 week time frame. We want to be on vacation and not be rushed on our trip. We are thinking about making the motorcycles a part of our trip instead of it being the main point. I would assume the north would be the best part of the country to focus out time......any suggestions?
Hanoi to Saigon is OK for no less than 18 days in my opinion, having done the trip. You won't see much except tarmac, if your doing 100km a day.
18 days is 100km a day, which might not sound much in UK, or EU, but on small 110cc motorbikes, 100km a day is enough.
We spent time in Ha Long Bay, which I suppose if you cut off our trip, then 18 days is OK.
If your looking to do Hanoi to Saigon in 14 days, it's no fun at all.
Are you going to stick to the coast roads?, we did North to South, taking in.
1/ Hue, Thua Thien - Hue province, Vietnam
2/ Hai Van Pass, Lăng Cô, Thua Thien - Hue province, Vietnam
3/ Qui Nhon, Binh Dinh, Vietnam
4/ Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa, Vietnam
5/ Mui Ne, Phan Thiet, Binh Thuan, Vietnam
6/ Phan Thiet, Binh Thuan, Vietnam
7/ Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
The "beachy" areas are Nha Trang, Mui Ne, Phan Thiet, and Can Ba,
Great to have 2 days in each of them places, if you can.
These were our favourites.
Hue, needs just 1 full day, OK, nothing special.
Saigon needs 2-3 days, for the Mekong River Delta tour/cruise.
It's some thing like 1850km, but more like 2000km, by the time you have done little detours finding the hotels, and finding your way out of the little cities, back onto the highways.
The north is OK, but cold.
The north to me looked like it was in a derelict state, where the south had been fixed up a bit, and had money spent on the place.
Beach apartments can be had for US$10 a night with internet, right onto the beach.
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