How to: Vietnam on a Motorcycle

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I’m not going to lie to you: Vietnam has some of the craziest traffic you will ever experience. This is not the place to learn to ride, but if you are an experienced motorcycle enthusiast, Vietnam will provide you with the ride of your life.

Riding the busy highways is definitely not something to be taken lightly, so be sure you have travel insurance, or if you travel a lot (like me) look into annual multi-trip insurance.

I rented a 125cc dirtbike in Saigon and spent a month riding it north to Hanoi. The roads are –generally– in good shape and the people you meet along the way are incredibly friendly and helpful. My bike had a crack in the header which required me to stop about once a day to have a bolt replaced. I never paid more than $1 for the repair and most shops would send me away without taking any money at all.

Instead, they’d trot out their kids to practice their English and serve me tea or coffee while they worked on my bike. It was a lovely experience. Pro tip: pull out a map or a guidebook and ask where your new friend is from originally. Many people I met had rarely seen a map of their country and were enthralled with this. They also gave me great tips on seeing sights I would have otherwise missed.

The one thing you want to be conscious of is an approaching bus. Might makes right here and the bus is the king of the road. As soon as you see or hear one, pull to the side of the road. They stop for no one.

I recommend taking breaks often, pulling off the road into small diners or bars for a drink and a snack. It’s hard work dodging buses, cattle and carts. When you’re feeling worn out or edgy, it’s time to rest up for a bit.

Lastly, be sure not to overdo it. The average speed on most roads is 35-40 kilometers per hour. A 200 kilometer day is about all you can hope for. Don’t push it, take your time and enjoy the ride.

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Motr July 3, 2014 at 5:46 pm

I was afraid to ride a bike in Vietnam and Asia because the traffic there is terrible. That is why I used bus because, as you said, the bus is the king of the road!