A Word of Advice to Motorcycle Vietnam
Speeding along the well-paved roads of Vietnam is not the safest activity. Make sure to take the proper motorcycle safety precautions (full-face helmet, jacket with padding, motorcycle boots, and some form of GPS), and you’ll set yourself up for the ride of a lifetime!
Keep on reading for a few tips for the first-time traveler to Vietnam, including a bit of info for the first-time motorcycle rider.
Getting Your Motorbike
Those of you planning on buying or renting a motorcycle can do so easily in any major city. Start in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City and inquire at the hostel you are staying at (they’ll have a hook up). You can expect to spend about 250 USD. Make sure the shop does a full service on the bike and that you are fully kitted out before leaving.
If you are buying your bike off another tourist, take it to a shop with them (there’s never an auto-repair shop far off) and have them cover any additional expenses incurred for a basic tune-up.
If you’re an absolute novice like I was, get a Honda Win. It’s the most widely repaired bike in Vietnam, which means when you (inevitably) break down, someone will be there to help you.
Be safe while riding – invest in some motorcycle safety gear
Motorcycle safety gear in Vietnam is not the best. The standard for most folks here is flip-flops, t-shirts, and shorts…along with a flimsy helmet that somewhat resembles a children’s toy.
That said, it isn’t a bad idea to do your own research and bring the proper gear from home if possible. A full-face helmet, jacket with padding, motorcycle gloves, and motorcycle boots may be pricey back home and take up a lot of space in your pack, but the quality will be much better than anything you can get once you’ve landed in Vietnam.
Generally a smartphone with GPS capabilities will suffice for riding around Vietnam if you are planning on sticking to the main highway, which is incredibly well paved and well marked. But, for those of you who are planning to ride unbeaten paths, consider investing in a proper GPS instrument to make sure you don’t get lost in the middle of a Vietnamese forest.
Enjoy the local food
Embrace the noodle soup, street food, and fresh fruit. In the nearly 5 weeks since I’ve been gorging myself on everything in sight, I’ve had zero problems. Do not leave without trying a fresh and creamy mango shake or some chicken skewers from a street vendor.
The food here is quite safe and delicious, and if you stick to bottled water (as the locals do), you should have no problems. Enjoy yourselves!
Learn the lingo
Learn a few key phrases in Vietnamese. Believe me, this will go a long way and put a smile on many more faces than if you have to exasperatedly play charades every time you need to get a point across.
Be prepared for the weather…and the pollution
Pack smart. Airy white clothes are lovely, but by the end of day one, the pollution, dust from passing traffic, mud from the streets after torrential downpours, as well as sweat (it’s so hot here, especially at this time of year!) will turn your beautiful linens into a uniform shade of brownish-yellow.
Make sure to invest in a proper waterproof jacket, and if you’re riding get a cover for your backpack as well.
Get it. If anything happens and you need assistance, you’ll be glad you sunk the $350 into insurance instead of having to sink much more into emergencies later. Do it once and enjoy all the abseiling and paragliding you can afford without worrying!
Move slow! You aren’t in a big Western city anymore. The pace of life over here is much slower, and people are happier for it. Count it as a win if you spend a day swinging in a hammock on the beach and reading your favorite book.
Give yourself enough time to let the culture, food, and dramatic natural scenery sink in. Trust me, it’ll be so worth it.
For an optimal viewing experience, grab a beer for 15.000 VND (less than a dollar) and head to your nearest sunset.
Happy travels, ladies!
About the Author
Over the past 10 years, Lucas Knight has been a motorcycle rider. He has built up an incredible passion for traveling by motorbike and always wishes to contribute to motorcyclist community. This is the reason why he created MotorManner.com where his passion is turned into useful and interesting information to the motorcycle lover.
Lucas adds, “Traveling along the coast of Vietnam by motorcycle as an ex-cubicle dweller from New York City has been one of the most terrifying and exciting experiences of my life. I started out in Hanoi, a complete motorcycle newbie, thinking only of the spectacular views that all the travelers I’ve met are always gushing about. I’ve seen the views, and they are pretty spectacular. Now, I’m the one gushing. Try and stop me!”