Unguided tours on two wheels are becoming more and more popular. In fact, Vietnam Offroad hires manual clutch bikes to experienced riders only. On the other hand, novice riders or beginners should consider carefully before hiring our bikes due to the fact that Vietnam is simply not a place to learn how to ride. Even after you paid a deposit, there would be no refund if you couldn’t ride our bike(s). However, a riding lesson is available at 30$US/person if you wish to ride safely in Vietnam.
We have only one office in Hanoi, so, unfortunately, can’t provide anything in/from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city). In addition, we don’t offer one-way motorbike rental or renting motorbikes from outside of Hanoi.
Riding in Vietnam is very dangerous, just after India. It’s not only about crazy traffic but a surprise from local riders. The below tips are from our clients who had the real experiences to tell. Please save this page for your reference.
FUEL & LOCAL REPAIR SHOPS
“Only use safe hotel parking. Fill up from petrol stations where the gas is less likely to have been watered down.” According to Iain Stewart, 2009 Lonely Planet co-author who had the gas tank emptied overnight and they even put water in. In addition, our advice is never fill up your bike(s) when you end the day, only fill up in the morning when you start the ride.
You need to check and adjust chain tension every day in the morning. In fact, oiling the drive chain should be at least once every day. Honestly, taking care of the transmission system in very important on unguided tours. A local mechanic shop can be useful and the cost is about 20,000 VN Dongs (1$US) per bike.
In case you don’t oil the chain and sprockets or break them the price of a new set (40$US for CGL motorbikes or 80$US for XR125/250 dirt bikes) will be on you. Some customers had to pay half of a new set when they left the chain too loose. This work doesn’t take long or is cheap but will save you during your unguided tours.
When your rented bike(s) has/have problem(s) on the road, first check the ignition & fuel. In case you can’t fix, bring the bike(s) to a local mechanic shop and call us so we can give the instructions to the local mechanic(s). If the bike(s) is/are not rideable or the problem is not possible to fix then we will find a way to replace the bike(s). Popular places we can send replaced bike(s) are usually anywhere 200km from Hanoi and even in Sapa. However, we do have a problem in remote areas like some Northwest or Northeast areas. In any case, we will try our best to find a solution for you.
Most of the mechanics on the roads are honest but some are very dishonest. Please keep an eye on what they are doing. In reality, poor quality or generic Chinese parts are plentiful and they can change parts anytime. One of our clients even had the original CDI unit changed, then the replaced CDI exploded as it’s not the right type and finally they painted the original one to make it look “new” and installed back on the bike. Of course, he paid a new part price! Other Chinese parts they can change are usually the wheels, shocks, plastic parts, seat, carburetor, brakes and if time allows even the inside of the engine!
PAPERWORK & TIPS
We try to be clear and time-saving. In fact, there is just one short contract to fill in when you collect your rental bike(s) in our Hanoi office.
Our team will provide useful words, phrases, and simple troubleshooter when you pick up the bike(s). These documents help communicate with local people or mechanics easier. They are extremely useful as not many mechanics speak good English. Therefore it’s usually hard to explain the problem(s).
GPS works in Vietnam, please check with your dealer about necessary software and/or updates. Broadband Internet connection is available almost everywhere and you can find Internet cafes easily. The cost for using broadband Internet is quite cheap (1$US = 4-5 hours). In addition, many hotels offer free Wifi. Electricity is also available nationwide but there can be a shortage in summer and power-cut is common between May and August (luckily, not normally at night!).
First, none of the foreign licenses is valid in Vietnam, including your country license. There are conflicting reports about this but the reality is unfortunately not a good news.
However, the good news is IDP (international driving permit) is now valid in Vietnam from August 1st 2016 with the 46/2016/ND-CP decree. You can purchase an insurance policy easily when you have an IDP. Please also bring your home country driving license with motorbike endorsement.
In case you have no IDP or Vietnamese driving license, the police rarely stop you to check license unless you do something wrong. It’s more to do with personal medical insurance that we cover below.
This is another very important thing for planning unguided tours by motorbike in Vietnam.
We don’t require any sort of license to book a trip but it’s more about insurance. Most of the insurance companies don’t provide a policy that covers a motorbike tour accident if you don’t have a Vietnamese driving license. Sadly, it’s impossible to get a Vietnamese license with a tourist visa. You need a business visa of at least three months, a work permit, a sponsor company and a valid passport. All these documents should be translated into Vietnamese at a notary office and a license will be issued after 7 or 10 days. It’s just too complicated and time-consuming. With just a normal personal medical insurance you will still be covered about 19 hours a day when not riding because we only ride about 5 hours a day on average. Some companies like CHI Insurance, World Nomads, and Allianz didn’t require a local driving license and covered larger displacements.
Even Vietnam doesn’t recognize any foreign license but take it easy you will be ok. We don’t need a license to join our tours or hire our bikes. More details are at this link.
Vietnam is still a developing country (or a third world country) and standards are different (lower) than Western countries. Some people complained about hard mattresses in hotels or small and simple restaurants on unguided tours. Please don’t use Western standards for a country like Vietnam. We saw a sign in Thailand and it said “Thailand is still a developing country and you will have a different experience. If you want to feel at home then stay home.” Please be aware of this fact, especially if this is your first time to Vietnam.
Restaurants may look small and simple but the food is great. They offer authentic Vietnamese food that is normally not available in bigger restaurants or hotels. On our guided motorbike tours, we support local businesses and local restaurants offer things of a real Vietnam.
RIDING TIPS FOR YOUR UNGUIDED TOURS IN VIETNAM
01. Larger vehicles have right of way. The drivers take your way, not give you ways. Therefore, avoid anything bigger than you and slow down.
02. Traffic is like a river, you have to flow with it. Riders will find a way to move forward.
03. Use signal and the most important thing is the horn. People don’t care about the noise of horns. However, the traffic cops will charge you if you don’t use indicator before turning.
04. The speed limit in Vietnam is very low (25-60km/h). Don’t break the speed limit, a speeding ticket is expensive.
05. Space between you and other riders (local people, guide…) should be far enough in order to have no surprise. In cities or busy roads, the traffic is usually slow. However, on wide open roads or in the mountains, we suggest 10-20m. Don’t ever ride alongside your friend(s) or local people.
06. If the police stop you (this rarely happens), just keep talking English or whatever you want and they’ll soon give up and let you go in less than five minutes.
07. If the road is wet, use both brakes at the same time with more back brake as if you apply more front brake it slips.
08. Do not drink and drive.
09. Be careful with split oil from trucks and buses at curves on the mountain roads. Oil is extremely slippery and our customers have had at least four small accidents due to this matter.
10. Animals are everywhere in the country or mountain roads. Most are dogs and chickens, then come water buffaloes, cows, pigs, and horses etc. If you kill a dog or a chicken don’t stop, cry and feel sorry, it’s not your fault. Slow down when you spot these animals and don’t hit water buffaloes, cows, pigs and horses, simply they are too big!
11. Buy a good road book (Vietnam Atlas) and do the timing and routing before you start a ride. If you get lost, ask more than two people as they may use different mileage unit or even direction. Call us if you can’t find a solution.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any question, suggestion or recommendation about our Unguided Tours By Motorbike in Vietnam.