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Travel by motorbike in Vietnam

If you want to organize good and qualitative trip by motorbike in Vietnam we’ll give several advices from people who have ride more than 2700 km or 1680 miles along the coastline of Vietnam from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City during one month.

1. Buy and sell motorbike. Where to find, buy or sell motorbike in Vietnam. This is very easy. There are 2 variants.
You can start search advertising in internet and choose which motorbike you like. There are few sites where you can search, for example: tnhvietnam.xemzi.com, vietnam.craigslist.org, chotot.vn (in Vietnamese language but you can use translate.google.com) and others.
Other variant – you start search motorbike after you come. You can buy bike almost in every small or big city of Vietnam and of course especially in touristic places. A lot of travellers follow route Hochiminh-Hanoi or Hanoi-Hochimih. So in these cities the easiest way to buy cheap motorbike and there is biggest variety. Where to buy motorbike: a lot of bike’s repair also sell them, places which give for rent bikes, markets, shops and you can ask locals. There is big variety of prices as well as bike’s conditions. Usually prices start from 200$, average 300-400$; 600-700$ will cost almost new motorbike in excellent conditions. Some agencies offer to rent motorbike in Hanoi and give back in Hochiminh City and vice verse. But in my opinion more profitable to buy and sell bike than to rent, even for one month.
For our long trip we bought in Hanoi motorbike Minsk produced in 1993, it was cost 400$. But it was really good condition, some details was changed, new tires, original color. To sell bike we gave advertising on one of this sites and sell it after first call for 250$. It bought Vietnamese guy from Minsk’s fan club. Now Minsk bikes very rarely in Vietnam, but possible to buy. Popular also Honda Win or any other if you don’t know to drive manual motorbike. Just look power and don’t put a lot of bags – from this depend your speed. Generally better to buy and sell motorbikes from / to travellers, because prices will be more fare.

2. Documents and driving license. When you buy motorbike in Vietnam you don’t need any registrations or bureaucratic procedures. Owner of motorbike just give you technical passport (blue paper), keys, you shake hands and this is end of buying procedure. In technical passport there is no name of owner. For safety you can check serial number in paper and on motorbike.
Now about driving license – the most interest moment. International driving license is illegal in Vietnam territory and police accept only Vietnamese driving license. So all our monthly trip we were riding without documents and no one policeman stops us, despite we have seen them.

3. Protection. With motorbike you definitely will need helmets for all passengers. Penalty for driving without a helmet for local 300.000 dong. Besides, if the police stop you for sure they will start ask about driving license.
There are 3 types of helmets. Open with small visor - suitable only for the city, because very fragile. A semi-closed with glass – it’s the best option, not hot, quite durable, glass protects from splashes and dirt and also can be dark from sun. Fully enclosed – like for formula drivers, the most reliable option. Which you would like to buy decide after try, but for sure it should be with glass. Prices for second type start from 250.00 Dong. On the photos helmets you can see cost 300,000 and 380,000 dong. Difference only that one had a metal clasp. I saw two sizes of helmets for adult: 54-56 cm (M) and 56-58 cm (L). In any case, you need to measure in which you feel more comfortable.

4. Place for luggage. Place for your backpack you'll need even if you are going to travel alone. And again you have few options.
Almost in every motorbike repair you can order to make rack any shape and where you like. To explain in English with local masters could be not very easy so the best if you will paint some scheme. It can be symmetrical racks from sides for bags, more long and wide rack from back - all depends on your fantasy and needs.
Other option - you can buy special bag for motorbike. You put it on motorbike seat and have two symmetrical bags - like you can see on photos. But in shop you also can find other types. This bag you can tie and leave in motorbike for all the time or take it with you when leave bike. In this bag we were store from one side where exhaust pipe - slippers, towels, water, food to be on the safe side and from other side some tools, oil and petrol (that one time was very useful). Bag was cost about 9$.

5. Raincoat. You never know what weather will be on the road. When you travel across country weather in every area is different. Day can start without clouds but after change. And to stop drive because of small rain not all the time convenient. Almost everywhere you can buy one-off plastic rain coat that cost 10,000 dong. But it can brakes even before you start wear it. There is exist raincoat with more hard plastic, more strong and cost about 60.000 dong. But we bought from some rainproof material with price 120,000 dong. It was good purchase that saves us not one time. It’s strong, big and comfortable. Also there is exist raincoat like overall also from strong material.
Also I would recommend buying cover for seat. It has some holes and space between them. A lot of positive moments to buy it: after rain water goes inside and your trousers will be dry, after sun is not so hot to sit on it, and it make a bit more soft way on not very straight road.

6. Driving rules. There is no driving rules in Vietnam) Sometimes in centre of the city cars and bikes stop for red light. So before start drive in big road we suggest to become used with driving motorbike. In Hanoi and Hi Chi Minh City is very hard traffic, but even in small cities style of driving the same. Don’t hesitate to use signal – it’s not Europe. Vietnamese make signal when they want to show that going to change line, go after you, from side of you, just want to say hello – so almost all the time. On big roads if track is going to pass other car it’ll open light but generally they look more to no destroy car from the side than car that is going opposite line. Motorcycles they don’t count like transport, so drive near carefully. Bicycles and bikes sometimes can drive opposite way on the side of road. If Vietnamese remember that he forgets at home something just he’ll turn and will go how he need. But huge plus – roads in Vietnam are very good.
But despite all this chaos on the roads I have never seen accidents. And when pass some time you’ll understand that for them is not chaos, they drive quite carefully and very polite on the road and if you take their driving style you never have problems.
Also notice before planning trip: don’t expect to drive faster than 40-50 km (25-30 miles) per hour. The reason is road traffic and this is not depends from your driving skills. Maximum we can ride was 60 km/h (37 miles/h), but very rarely.

7. Petrol station. On the roads and in villages you can easily find petrol stations. Sometimes shop can sell petrol in bottles. For Minsk motorcycle we were need 92 petrol and 5% oil 2T. Usually on petrol station they had both and know how to fill up. But for safety we had each bottle with us. 1 liter of petrol in Vietnam cost 24,900 (92) and 25,400 (95). (information for April’14)

8. Motorbike repair. There is very big chance that at list one time you will need repair service. Because every second hand bike need repair during long trip. Motorbike repair you can find everywhere in small and big cities. Usually it’s small garage where you will see Vietnamese with motorbike and different tools around. The most easy way to recognize repair in Vietnamese language: sa cha xe máy, or sa (repair) or xe máy (motorbile). Usually master will start your repair even if he already has another motorbike.
Before our trip we gave motorbike in specialized repair of Minsk motorbikes in Hanoi. Repair of front brake, gearbox and something else was cost $ 35. Owner of repair speaks English very good. Also they give bikes for rent and have office in Ho Chi Minh. So there you can take bike in one city and give back in other. Also they offer support by telephone if you lost or need something and we were calling. In the middle of the road very less people speak English. Seems because of this repair was cost quite expensive. So address of this repair and rental company: Hanoi, 66 Dao Duy Tu Str., tel.0439260938, mob.0912214554; Hochminh: 55/20 Tran Dinh Xu, District 1, tel.0839201118, 0914652089.
But for every next repair we paid 50,000 dong not depend from what was need to do: to fix pipe with a collar 50,000, to fix signal or light 50,000, twist something inside, because the bike can’t start also 50,000… One late evening, we broke in the middle of the road. Two Vietnamese stop and help to fix motorbike. Just from curiosity and kindness without speaking English. In some repair also for very small things they didn’t take any money.

9. Safety. For night nobody leave motorbike in the street. You can leave bike in parking (cost about 20,000 dong per night) or inside hotel. In Hanoi you need to pay for this, in other cities no. During day time usually we put locker for bike wheel. Our Minsk start without key and sometimes we left it without locking and we didn’t have any problems. Minsk for Vietnam is retro, so people were interesting: can touch it, sit on it but never try to start and go.
To conclude, travel in Vietnam by motorbike - it means to see the real country, to live the life of local people, to see what walking tourist will never see, to experience such an adventure, which you will remember and tell your friends, and in old age grandchildren, not depend on anybody and enjoy the wind blew over you. During our trip from Hanoi to Saigon, we never regretted that choose motorbike. If you like to ride the bike, do not hesitate - this is your transport in Vietnam.

Have a good trip!