Below are FAQ for motorcycle touring in Vietnam. For FAQ about cycling in Vietnam, please click here.
What type of clothing should I bring?
Please note that Vietnam is a developing country and size selection and/or quality products are real issues. Local products are cheap but almost just one size for all or the quality is poor. Here are some suggestions:
- Clothing: helmet, rain gloves, wellington boots (rubber boots for rainy season from April to September), summer gloves, balaclava, t-shirt, socks & underwear, long sleeved shirt, turtleneck shirt, extra jeans, light jacket, leather chaps, zip-lock bags, riding boots, bandannas, sunglasses and goggles.
- Personal items: basic toiletries, emergency cash, sunscreen and earplugs.
- Emergency items: first aid kit, emergency contact number, list medical conditions, list medications, flashlight, chargers and duct tape.
- Miscellaneous: small towel, bath towel, trash bags, bungee cords, camera and cargo net.
I drive a large displacement motorbike back home and am afraid that the Honda 160cc or Honda trail bike 125cc will not be up to the task. Can’t we drive anything larger?
Vietnamese traffic laws prohibited the use of motorbikes larger than 175cc until May 2007 when Vietnam joined WTO. It took sometime to have big bikes imported into Vietnam, but it’s likely that nobody rents out these bikes as import tax is 90% and VAT is 10% (a bike costs twice as much as in your country!). The Honda 160cc or Honda 125cc will not break the sound barrier but the Honda GL160 will easily carry two people down all of Vietnam’s roads. They are light, balanced and fun to ride. As of early 2008, we offered upgrade to Honda SL 230cc or Baja XR 250cc. Click to find out bike options.
Can you arrange accommodation for us in Hanoi?
We can make reservations for you at two hotels in the heart of Hanoi and also organise a car to pick you up from the airport. The central location makes it easy to get around the city and the hotel offers comfortable and spacious rooms in the US$30-80 per night price range (2 and 3-star standard). They also provide safe storage for baggage during the motorbike or off-road tours. For more details, click here.
Do you carry everything on the bike, or would I leave some of my luggage at “base” until returning?
We don’t provide saddle bags as they block traffic when we ride through many towns on the road. It’s best to strap a medium size bag or rucksack onto the bike’s back rack. Any other luggage can be left safely in storage at your hotel or at our office waiting for return.
I hear the traffic is crazy in Vietnam. Is it safe?
Traffic in Hanoi is chaotic to the uninitiated driver. For this reason we always use the easiest roads (even if they are longer) to get out of town. We can also arrange for riders to be dropped off at the city limits by taxi. Once out in the countryside, the level of traffic drops off remarkably and on some roads it is possible to not pass a single vehicle for the whole day. That said, it must be emphasized that the conditions here are demanding and extremely defensive driving is imperative. All riders must be very careful and be fully aware that the purpose of the trip is not to ride performance bikes hard into the bends, but rather to trundle along nice and slow and enjoy the sites and sounds. Once a ride is confirmed, click this link to have more details. Constant support from your guide will make your ride as safe as possible.
What do I do and expect when I have an accident?
Vietnam can be a very strange country regarding how the accident is solved, just as the way people ride. The bigger usually pay i.e car drivers pay motorcyclists, motorcyclists pay cyclists etc. However, if you have an accident, first you have to talk with the other party (via our guide) to find out who has to pay and how much. If you don’t agree with each other, then we call the police and they will do their job (usually takes time) and you have to stay in Vietnam until they have the official report. Vietnamese people usually expect you to pay, even if you are right. Don’t be surprised and stay calm as our guide will help you to solve the situation.
If you purchased an insurance policy, and if you request we will contact the insurance company and ask them for instructions. You will need to pay us all phone calls in this case.
I’m travelling alone, is it possible to join any existing groups?
Where possible we try to link individuals together as long as they are of similar driving experience. The more advance warning the better. Check out at Late Availability.
When is the best time to come to the north of Vietnam for a tour?
In the north there’s no best time to ride. There are four distinct seasons, each with its own unique advantages. Summer runs from April to October, winter from November to March. Hottest months are June and August, coldest month is February. Expect the possibility of rain from April to August, while winter months are normally dry except when a winter storm settles in.
How long do we ride each day?
A difficult question as in most cases we ride from morning to the late afternoon but on average not more than 200km per day. We try to get on the road early to make the most of the day and we enjoy lengthy stops throughout the day. On longer tours we can accommodate a rest day from the saddle. Our bikes all have extra padding in the seats. Expect at least five hours driving time per day.
What’s the minimum time to complete a good ride?
In order to get into the mountains and out of the delta plains, whilst completing a good loop, we need a minimum of four days. At a bare minimum we can get onto some back roads and get a good taste of life on the road here in two days if you don’t mind a long day in the saddle.
What’s the best duration for a trip?
The perfect time frame to spend on the road would probably be eight or nine days, looking at a maximum of 12 days before the body starts to take the strain. However, for the indefatigable we can offer a 16-day trek of the entire northern region of Vietnam or down on Ho Chi Minh highway.
Where do the tours start from?
All tours start out from Hanoi between 8-9 am. Return to Hanoi is either by road or sometimes by overnight train in which case we send the motorbikes on the train (costs more). We usually come back in Hanoi between 2-6 pm.
Do you need a deposit?
We ask for a deposit of US$200 – US$500 in order to confirm to secure your booking(s). We will provide you with the necessary bank account details to transfer this deposit into once a ride has been agreed upon.
How do I pay you? Do you accept credit card payment?
Yes, we do accept credit card payment in our office. There is a fixed bank charge of 3% for Visa and MasterCard holders (4% for American Express card holders). At certain times, we may apply surcharge as banks may offer low or very low rates comparing to black/free market rates. Deposit is made via a bank transfer or Western Union Cash Transfer. We ask that you transfer to our bank account a deposit and then final balance (cash is king in Vietnam) before the commencement of a ride. Unfortunately, PayPal applies very bad conditions to Vietnamese account holders and we don’t like their conditions.
What other expenses should we expect? How much cash do we need to take with us?
In terms of costs we cover everything except telephone calls, tips, souvenirs, alcoholic drink and personal medical insurance. As there are often some impressive minority crafts to be found in the markets or some more bizarre products of Chinese origin bank on US$150-200 extra.
How will I meet you in Hanoi?
We will arrange a pre-departure briefing session to introduce to you the route (with maps) and the minority peoples with whom we’ll come into contact, provide you with all the equipment, and cover any other outstanding issues. Please print our office map here.
Is an international licence valid in Vietnam?
Despite some press reports to the contrary Vietnam does recognise the validity of international licences. Whilst some authorities in remote regions may not be able to comprehend a document written in a foreign language they go a long way in smoothing out any potential difficulties should an issue arise. They also take care of any licence requirements that you might have in your insurance polices.
Formally, no licence is fully valid in Vietnam, even an international driving licence, as it needs to be officially translated (at Vietnamese Embassies or in Vietnam). The question of having or not a motorbiking driving licence mainly concerns your insurance. On the other hand, if you are working in Vietnam under contract for at least 6 months you could easily get a local driving licence.
Traffic police generally don’t stop Westerners in Vietnam to check licences simply because they don’t speak good English or feel confident to deal with it. In addition, in the same time they can deal with many other Vietnamese people. Mui Ne in Southern Vietnam have been the only exception where they started checking licences.
Informally, many recent international driving licenses which include Vietnam in the country list are accepted by the traffic police on the road.
How do I get an international licence?
International licences can be provided on the spot at the motoring authority in your country (e.g. The AA in the UK or the NRMA in Australia). Take your existing national licence and passport photo to their office and for a small fee they will provide a licence along the same lines as your existing licence, valid for one year.
I’m concerned about the footwear situation; thinking about leaving walking boots at home to lighten the load, what do you recommend?
It’s essential to have strong footwear for the tour to protect your feet whilst driving. Trekking shoes or leather boots are perfect. No driving in open-toed shoes. It is possible to buy a pair of boots (including big sizes) in Hanoi for about US$15.
I’m filling out the Vietnam visa application and they ask for the name, address of my contact in Vietnam. What should I enter?
It’s not actually necessary to enter anything in this field. If you wish you may write the details of any hotel in Hanoi. To save money and time, try our pre-approved visa letter service (you pay from 45$US in total).
Do I need to have insurance for motorbiking/motorcycling in Vietnam?
Yes, you need to have a personal medical insurance, even if you are a pillion passenger so that insurance will cover any accident. If you don’t have insurance, we can help you purchase a policy from Gras Savoye Willis Vietnam (www.grassavoyewillis-vn.com) – a French insurance broker or BaoViet – the largest national insurance company. However, they don’t cover if you have no Vietnamese motorcycle driving license which is impossible with a tourist visa. To get a Vietnamese driving license you need to have at least a three months business visa, your country motorcycle driving license, a work permit or a sponsor. All papers need to be translated into Vietnamese at a notary office and it takes 7-10 days to have a converted license.
On our trips, you ride about five hours per day on average. It means you still get insured about 19 hours per day while not riding the bike with just a normal travel insurance policy.
I have more questions and don’t find the answers here.
Please contact us or we can chat with you on-line on Yahoo IM or Skype, our screen name is offroadvietnam