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Need help with logistics/questions for Thai-Lao-VN-Camb loop
I'm a newbie here, so bear with me. I've done some reading in the forums, and while I am finding bits that answer some of my questions, I still have some more. I found some info at Gt-Rider but when I try to register, I get blocked due to some sort of spammer prevention mechanism, so I can't ask questions on the things I see there. Hopefully you folks can help!
Here are the details:
I arrive in Bangkok May 8 and would like to buy or rent a bike and be rolling ASAP (if I can arrange ahead of time, better)
I would be content with a bike from 125cc-200cc, and don't need anything larger, but am not opposed to it.
I've ridden across China and back, across Sierra Leone, every corner of Rwanda, bits of Uganda, Indonesia, Benin, and more, so I can handle any conditions thrown at me
I have a US driver's license with motorcycle endorsement, but nothing international
I'd like to do a loop starting and ending in Bangkok, and have about a month to do it. Here are my proposed routes (Google Map)
Here are my questions:
As you will see in my map, I have drafted a route with and one without Vietnam. Does anyone have the definitive answer as to whether one can ride in and out of VN? This HU thread has conflicting info, this map on GT-Rider is out of date and in general, while GT-Rider seems to want to offer packets of the papers required for my ride, most links are dead, such as this one. I'm OK with chopping VN out of the itinerary, but don't want to if I don't have to.
Does anyone have any reputable leads on buying or renting a 125-200cc bike in Thailand? I don't need anything large, flashy, or fancy. I've traversed some of the worst roads in the world, in the rain, on a 125cc street bike with street tires. A small dual or dirt bike would be nice, but not necessary.
What papers/licenses will I need to do this trip? This GT-Rider thread indicates that for VN, you need to get a vehicle inspection (any idea how?) and pair up with a tour company (something I definitely don't want to do). Are these really necessary?
I'd like to compile a solid list of legal border crossings for motorcycles (HU needs a wiki!) between these countries. I can get some from this thread, but is that all? Is the GT-Rider map I linked above valid?
I am sure I will have some follow-up questions, but these help me get started.
Does anyone have the definitive answer as to whether one can ride in and out of VN?Adam
I don´t think there is one definite answer to that.
Officially it is probably: no, unless you do it kinda like China, arrange well in advance & pay BIG time! And also it seems like it is possible with VN-plated bikes, too. But for all others, it´s a big headache.
But this is Asia, and there´s a lot of buzz on many of the border stations, especially when the local day-time workers walk across from Cambodia, or back. Who knows you just might arrive, when the customs guys weren´t looking, and get lucky.
Actually I´ve been trying just that, on a group of 8 falangs all on 115cc scooters (in December 2006), and strangely, the closest we came to succeed, was at the big Bavet/Moc Bai border on the #1 highway. That day we already had the police chief´s permission to enter, but before we could buzz off, a very pissed-off customs officer emerged from somewhere with the message we had heard several times in the past weeks: "NNOO motobike to Viet Nam!!!" and he certainly wasn´t going to negotiate!
But, for us, it might very well have been decisive, that our group was just too big to go unnoticed. If I was travelling alone, I´d definitely give it a go, and be prepared to do it at several intl. border stations (and at different hours, too, so they might have a change of shift in between!)
But it was a great trip even without Vietnam - and if they don´t want to let me in, then I´m fine to spend my hard earned money in some other countries! Something from the trip here: Chicken Chasers
Hah, we got into China in a very different and much cheaper method than that: a buddy simply proposed to a motorcycle manufacturer to give us motorcycles and to consider us as advertisements for their newest model of bikes. I suppose the whole thing was illegal, as we didn’t have licenses, license plates, or any other official materials, but we never got hassled for any of that stuff over 2.5 months there!
I digress. I appreciate your advice; sounds like I can play the odds and if I get turned down at the VN border, just stick to Laos, which is a fine consolation prize.
Also, like you suggested, being just one person on a bike, I might have a better chance of slipping through than a big visible group.
Thank you for the link to your site: I love how clean and concise it is. Too many of the other blogs I am finding about trips like this are way too verbose to be useful!
In fact, your General Info page, it leads me to a possible solution to this challenge: if VN doesn’t let vehicles in, but seems to let them out; and if Laos, Cambodia and Thailand all in foreign vehicles, maybe I should just start and end my trip in Ha Noi instead? I am already flying to BKK, but I am finding round trip BKK-Ha Noi flights for under $200.
Does that sound like a good solution to you?
Can you speak to the necessity of an international driver’s license, or can I get by with my US license?
Does anyone on HUBB know about renting or buying a bike in Ha Noi? Are prices there reasonable?
Thanks so much for the help!
I think you got lucky with China. But I guess it also makes it easier, if your trip doesn´t require getting your own motorcycle into the country!
I´ve met bikers in Cambodia & Laos, who had bought bikes (Minsks) in Vietnam, and they had at least crossed out of the country. Have also heard, that similar trips have ended succesfully (getting back to VN). The problem might be the selection of bikes available there. And you´ll probably need to buy it, as you are not likely to succeed at the borders, if it´s a rental bike and the name in your passport does not match the bike´s papers.
It´s possible that I´ve never been asked to show an international driver´s license (my EU-license has been fine every time!)... but I´d still probably get it, as it´s not complicated to get one.
There are quite a few threads, some quite recent which detail purchasing in Vietnam and then crossing all of the borders you mentioned and then returning to Vietnam to sell the bike without any issues.
Don't quote me but I believe there is a maximum size of bike you can bring into Vietnam if purchased elsewhere, including Thailand.
I'm not 100% sure but its something like 150 to 250 cc Max.
Do a search (try the HUBB through google if you cant find the threads through the website search) and you should find the info in those threads.
I hope to do that loop next year so keep us posted how it works out for you.
Actually Vietnam seems (or at least seemed a bit more than 4 years ago) to ban all foreign bikes, regardless of engine size. The "under 250" or "under 175" or whatever, seems to be nothing more than a persistent rumour, that has had no impact on the outcome of such attempts.
I can say for a fact, that 115cc "bikes" or scooters were banned in Dec-2006. We tried a total of 4 intl border stations in Cambodia&Laos, and a few of them we tried more than once.
1. To buy a bike in Vietnam is easy and fast.
2. To buy a good bike is a little harder, but not too much.
3. To legally buy it, so the papers show your name is very close to impossible as a tourist, if not defo impossible.
But as some wise person already said above, this is Asia.
The maximum size seems to be a semitrue rumor. There are bigger bikes in the country, Expat-Harleys and Duals, but also old Urals from the Vietnamese Army. But in comparisson to the overall number of bikes they are non-existent.
It seems to be possible to arrange tours, but on a small bike it would be easier to dodge the first one before entering, if you couldn't sneak through, and get a new one on the other side.
If you buy a bike in Vietnam it makes sense to go for a pretty new second-hand step-through Honda. If they are old, they got too much crap inside. Take the original, the 50 Bugs more will be worth it. To find them is no big problem, but if you can't seem to find a few within, aehm..., an hour or so , just ask your hostel in Hanoi, they are used to that.
Buying the bike in Vietnam has, as pointed out above, the advantage to enter and leave all countries without too much hassle if lucky, or some hassle and bribes if unlucky. Been there done it: Vietnam->Cambodia->Laos->Thailand->Malaysia all no-brainers, no questions asked no problems made.
If you can, get a photocopy of the Vietnamese Owners ID and make him sign a letter that says that he sold it to you. Maybe also get that in Vietnamese, strange-looking is always good.
Now for the Routes you propose:
Do not go along the coast from Hanoi to Vihn. The Road along the coast, beside the Hai-Van Pass (between Hue and DaNang - go there!), is not worth the terror you will be in. On the HCMH (Ho Chi Mihn Highway) you have the road mostly for yourself, the mountains are steeper, the road twistier and the hotels cheaper. In The south I can recommend the Chau Doc Border Crossing. Small and easy.
You've been to Angkor Wat before? Cause you are missing it on the route you'll take, and if you havn't been, it's worth it. With your own bike it's alos much more fun to explore. Crossing with Laos is smooth, Road is brand-new. Bring Pictures for the Visa or a Visa from Phnom Phen.
You are driving to Nan, which is a nice enough drive, but the real awesome part is the Road from Nan to Chiang Rai. Also you are not going anywhere in the north-West, on purpose? I understand you have to hurry it a little, but up there is the beauty-driving.
If you can't go, or won't go, to Vietnam, the North East of Laos should be on your list. The Are north-East of Pakes (down-south) is on you ruffly marked area. Just a side-mark: make sure you don't get lost, as I did, and end up, after 2 days, at an unmarked Vietnamese Border Post just to go back.
Borders (just my experience with the Viet-bike, not all useful for you):
Vietnam to Cambodia:
Chau Doc Border Crossing in the south. Small and easy.
Cambodia to Laos:
Crossing with Laos is smooth, Road is brand-new. Bring Pictures for the Visa or a Visa from Phnom Phen.
Laos to Thailand:
Friendship Bridge close to Vientianne, easy and fast, even though I destroyed my paperwork.
Thaks for the tips! Adjustments and more questions
I apologize for the lag on replying, but I have now updated my Google map with the border crossings and some other modifications based on the tips I am getting from folks: SE Asia Proposed - Google Maps
(Once I have this trip nailed down, I'll create a public map of just the border crossings so it will be easier for people to find and modify this information in the future.)
It sounds like a no-brainer that I should just fly to Vietnam to start this trip, to enable easier passage between the countries.
I assume there is no challenge re-entering VN with a Vietnamese bike. Is that true?
I've added a third option to my routes, on the advice of another HUBB person who said that my initial route was too ambitious.
Timae, I adjusted my map based on some of your comments. To answer your question, I did go to Angkor in 2002. No, no specific reason to avoid NW Thailand, just trying to find a route that works, and I know I will be happy wherever I go!
What is the best city to find/buy a bike? Is there an advantage to looking in Ha Noi vs HCMC?
Timae, you mention a step-through Honda. I remember seeing bikes like this in VN when I was there 10 years ago. Is that what you mean? I'd like to find something around 125-200cc though, and I assume those step-throughs are 50cc.
Does anyone have any specific shops to recommend to find a larger bike? I'd love to have something already in progress for when I arrive, so I don't burn time asking around for a bike.
RealMC26, I tried a site search like this, but am not finding much solid, recent info. Can you recall any of the posters in the thread you're thinking of?
If you want to buy a bike,don't bother in Bangkok.Dr Bike is the only one I;d recommend, in Lat Prao.
Look online for a newspaper in English called Baht & Sold,You'll find a bike in there.Consider popping to Pattaya for a couple of days to buy one.$30 dollars by Taxi,or $5 by bus from Victory Monument.Or just get a bus directly from the airport.
Make sure the bike has a green book,otherwise you can't enter Laos Or Cambodia
I think Vietnam is very ambitious if you've only one month,don't forget the national speed limit is 40 miles per hr.Penalty for speeding $150.
It's a very long country indeed.
If you need any more info let me know
Thanks Buster, that is a good point.
If you check out my updated route ideas, the most recent addition cuts out half of Vietnam, making it more feasible.
Either way, it sounds like the only way I get the freedom to visit multiple countries + Vietnam is to start and end there.
So if anyone has tips/leads on where to get a bike there, that would be awesome.
Six years ago, I did a trip with a small group from Thailand (Pattaya) to Pailin (Cambodia) - Phnom Penh - Kratie - Stung Treng - Pakxe (Laos) - Savannakhet -Vientiane - Vang Vieng - Luang Prabang (where we negotiated to put our bikes on a river-boat carrying salt bags, and sailed 2 days up the Mekong, and then disembarked in Huay Xai, and crossed back to Thailand) and then finally took some heavenly north Thai mountain roads back south. Took us some 3-3,5 weeks, about 5000kms, and I´d say that was an excellent trip, with very very different cultures, food, scenery, activities, everything. (And if I hadn´t been there before, and depending on the time available, I´d try to include some detours in Cambodia & Laos into that - especially Angkor & the coast, and possibly some more mountain areas in NE Laos).
Was nice to be able to do that trip on an Africa Twin, something you´re not likely to find in VN. But of course the trip is far more important than the bike, and you don´t really need a big bike for SE Asia. Just meant to say, that in my view, you don´t absolutely need to get everywhere in that area, to have a very nice experience!
the cubs are still there, but most common modern bike, in all SEA-countries I'd say, is the Wave
that's a 125 or 115 depending on the model. Stays real stable until around 80 km/h, goes till 110 or so, but it feels everything but safe and stable at that speed.
You can pick those up in Hanoi pretty easy. Should come in at anything between 350 and 1000$US, depending on how good/new/customized it is. (less customized is what you want, good ones went for around 450 last year while I was there)
I assume there is no challenge re-entering VN with a Vietnamese bike. Is that true?
Well, officially you are not allowed to buy the bike in the first place, only in Cambodia it is legally possible. So if, surprisingly, one officer is really doing his job according to the rules you might not be able to cross, in or out. But judging by chances and the amount of people who leave and enter at will, you should not run into trouble. If you do a 5$ note in a passport does wonders in Vietnam.
I will be happy wherever I go!
wise words. I overlooked you only have one month. You have to hurry, kinda, even for the short route you have in there now. I needed 6 months for the same countries.
The advantage of Hanoi is, that you are already in the North and close to the mountains. If you start in Saigon you will have 2 or 3 less interesting days in between, as you have to get up north and can't make too many detours as your time is too limited.
To find a big bike in Vietnam takes time, much more money than in the other countries and might not work at all. They have much stricter import restrictions for bikes there than in the others. For bigger bikes, or small Trails you have to head to Thailand or Cambodia. Preferably Cambodia if you want to be on the legal side.
And finally, as you only have one month, don't you think it would be easier, to buy and sell, or rent in Vietnam and get something new in Cambodia or Laos? It would save you the return leg and the possible problems and delays. You can rent bikes for next to nothing, or big onhes for a lot, do a week in the north, or just a few days, come back to Hanoi, dodge the bike and head over to Laos.
This way you could also save the flight from BKK to Hanoi. Get your bike in Thailand, preferably Chiang Mai as it's already in the mountains, has a much better range than BKK and is not so, aehm... seedy as Pattaya, drive around, when your in NE-Laos just put the bike to the Hotel in Laos, do Vietnam, come back and drive on.
Adam I'd like to apologise for being incorrect about which crossing I called the friendship bridge. I crossed both bridges but assumed the southern one was it.
My mistake, I don't carry guide books so I assumed ,sorry.
None the less all info as I see posted is correct
I recognize that my proposed routes might be too ambitious. I'm leaning toward something smaller, like the most recent one I added, and plan on just winging it and watching the calendar and the map. I know that I'll be "hurrying"; I'd love to have a decade to spend on a route in this region, but life is short, so I will take what I can get! I'll get a dose of ~3 countries, and that will satisfy the appetite for a bit.
Bike timae says I can find a Wave in Hanoi. That's good news. I'd rather have a proper motorcycle (even if a small one) but I toured Indo on a Wave and it has its advantages too. With a proper bike, I wouldn't be taking it for the speed, but for the torque if I decide to wander on mountain trails.
Is there any greater likelihood of finding a bike in Hanoi vs Saigon? Pricing differences between the two?
Is finding a shop going to be a simple proposition? E.g. just asking moto taxis or something? Or should I arrange something in advance?
Same with the time it takes to make the transaction. Can it be done in a day, or should I try to get things going online before I get there to save time?
As an alternative: I have read posts supporting and detracting from Minsk bikes. What's the consensus around here?
Are Minsks worth getting into rather than a Wave?
Are they more available in Hanoi vs Saigon?
What are the specs and prices I should expect on those?
For both bikes, are there specific shops or contacts that anyone recommends?
And just a random question: I rode China on a Qingqi 200GY and loved it. Are there Qingqi dealers in Vietnam? I'd ride that bike again.
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