Most travellers on the tours of Vietnam get around the country by plane, train or bus, which is direct, relatively cheap and gives the opportunity to meet the locals. However, this can limit the towns and cities that are visited en route. By buying your own or hiring a motorbike it is possible to control your travel itinerary and completely immerse yourself in the local cultures while having an adventure of a lifetime. The scenery on the motorbike trips is amazing with this type of transport giving a perfect vantage point of everything that is around you.
Motorbike travelling in Vietnam is possible for both the beginner and expert riders, but it is practical to organise a travel itinerary that matches the personal skill level and experience. Most of the bike trips organized through a local tour operator can give guidance on the level of difficulty that you are likely to encounter along the route of the course, and ranges from easy, moderate, and challenging.
Plus, the kilometre length and completion time of the motorbike trips on the holiday in Vietnam can vary significantly, with an easy trip taking approx 2-3 days to complete 480 km, while a more challenging route can take up to 16 days to complete over 2000 km.
Here are a few of the popular places to experience while motorbike travelling in Vietnam:
A relatively easy ride that explores the central north (Phu Yen, Mai Chau, Luc Yen, etc.) makes it possible to experience jungle-clad national parks, hill tribe cultures, rice-terraced mountains, and the opportunity to stay in a traditional homestay for the night.
Northeast and Northwest
A travel destination that is certain to give the most spectacular scenery on a motorbike is in the northeast of the country (Dong Van in Ha Giang, Bac Kan, Cao Bang, Bac Ha, Sapa, etc.). This trip includes a lot of mountainous areas with routes also passing rice fields, valleys and dense jungle.
Exploring the northeast of Vietnam (Na Khan, Quang Uyen, Cao Bang, Ba Be, etc.) gives a perfect opportunity to pass some fantastic sights such as national parks, beautiful lakes, hill tribe people, waterfalls and magical limestone karst landscape. Plus, this is a further region that makes it possible to stay in a traditional homestay for the night. The terrain in this region is slightly more difficult and suitable for the riders with moderate skills and experience.
A classic motorbike trip in the north-west region of Dien Bien Phu means it is possible to witness this former battle field while also seeing the varied landscapes, traditional homestays, hill tribe people and high-mountain passes. The trip normally starts in Hanoi - Mai Chau - Son La - Lai Chau - Sapa - Hanoi.
Ho Chi Minh Trail
A challenging on and off-road motorbike tour can include the Ho Chi Minh Trail and split between the new highway and the old trail. The Ho Chi Minh Trail can give a complete motorbike experience with the option to ride from the capital city, Hanoi in the south to Ho Chi Minh City in the south and passes through Tan Ky, Mai Chau, Phong Nha, Khe Sanh, Hue, Nha Trang, Cat Tien, etc. Beyond the full length trip that can take 12 to 16 days to complete the 2000+ km, it is also possible to ride a shorter loop tour that is easily completed in 2 or 3 days.
Easy motorbike riding is possible around Hanoi with the option to travel through traditional villages, past water rice fields, while also seeing cultural and historic sights like the pagodas. This is a simple and easy ride for those with basic bike handling skills and easily completed in a day or two, with routes that can range in length from 100 to 250 km.
Type of motorbike
Motorbike hire is relatively easy and cost-effective in any region of the country that attracts tourists. Any semi-automatic or 100 cc-or-more bike is likely to give the desired performance on Vietnam’s roads. Basic criteria to consider include useful packing space, gasoline-friendly, and a strong engine.
Be well prepared
Weather is a major consideration when it comes to organising the motorbike trip. For tours in the mountainous regions in the north, the preferred time to travel is likely to be from the end of September to the start of December. This is a period that gives the cool temperature and minimal rain. The summer’s heat and spring’s heat can have a negative impact on the road conditions and quality.
For the motorbike travels in Vietnam that explores the more remote regions it helps to pack wisely and include a medical bag, contact information, maps, and specialised clothing and shoes. Other practical items include a motorcycle repair tool kit and a protective helmet. Plus, it can be helpful to be mechanical minded. But, if you do stop in a local town there is usually a gasoline station or repair shop that is willing to help with minor faults.
Before setting off on the motorbike trip while travelling in Vietnam, make sure to give it a full inspection, such as checking its lights, horn, mirrors, brakes, types, change the oil, etc.
On the way
The most fun and enjoyable way to explore Vietnam on a motorbike is by travelling in groups of several riders. Plus, it can further help to have someone that is experienced with bikes. However, it is still advisable for each member of the group to carry a full travel itinerary to avoid getting lost or stranded. It is generally advised to avoid riding parallel to one another and limit the conversations to when the bikes are stopped for a rest.
It is essential to pay attention to the roads at all times on the Vietnam tours and be mindful that there is a risk of animals being on the road, so make sure to decrease the speed early to avoid making the animals panic. Also, in the event of poor weather, such as heavy rain, or nighttimes when vision is low, it may be practical to stop the trip for safety reasons and a period of rest.