My husband and I planning a two week trip through SE Asia. We are flying into HCMC form Hongkong on the 28th of July and leaving on the 3rd of Aug. Ideally we would love to be able to bike our way up to Hanoi but we know that is not going to be possible in the time we have there. One of our main reasons for going to Vietnam is the food. We do not necessarily do the more touristy things like going to museums and stuff but prefer to step off the beaten path and get to know the people and the culture first hand. I have a few questions:
1. We are booked into the Marriot in HCMC for the 1st two days there (husband has hotel points). as mentioned above we would love to be able to ride up to Hanoi....but can't.....we would like to be able to ride out of Saigon to a nice quiet, not too commercial and touristy beach for a day or two. Something that will give us a chance to explore a little of the countryside outside the city. I have done a little bit of reading and cannot decide where to go. What would be a good option: Con Dao island, Nha Trang, Phu Quoc, Da Nang ???? I know we might have to fly to some of these places...any other suggestions are welcome.
2. Things to do in Saigon apart from the museums. Like the local markets, cultural performances etc. Any recommendations for culinary classes there???
3. Recommendations for local food places.
Any help is much appreciated.
#1 roopd has been a member since 15/7/2010. Posts: 2
1. U can't ride in Vietnam even with an international license. But if u do want to ride and is looking for countryside trip as u've mentioned, try the Mekong. My Tho is the nearest being 80km away.
2. Try ConnectionsVietnam.com for cooking classes.
3. U must try the beef stew at 323 Pham Ngu Lao.
Phu Quoc island is a sensational place for hopping on a motorbike and exploring for the day. We stayed on long beach (main tourist strip), hired bikes and followed the road along the coast up towards the northern tip of the island, swam on beautiful deserted stretches of beach (literally 4 km's of sand to ourselves), stopped in tiny fishing villages and rode through some sensationally beautiful landscape. Once past the main town we passed about two tourists on the road throughout the entire ride, it really was one of the highlights of our trip. We wished we could have stayed longer and explored the rest of the island. As you've probably read, the place wont be like this for long.
I recommend seeking out dirt bikes as most of the roads aren't paved and if it has rained recently you may have a some difficulty in the muddy areas, especially on the main road that cut's through the center of the island to the north as it is in the process of being paved and constant trucks + rain = lots of deep mud.
As the above poster mentioned though, the legality of riding may be an issue although in a place like Phu Quoc I doubt this would be an issue unless you got into some trouble as you probably wouldn't be covered by your travel insurance.
Enjoy your travels
No-one will ask you about a bike licence in Vietnam. Provided you have a licence in your home country you are able to legally ride in Vietnam, but as I said, that doesn't seem to worry anyone hiring out the bikes. The biggest problem is your travel insurance, most companies wont cover you.
Another problem is the roads in Vietnam. Even experienced riders rarely have to contend with the traffic conditions like those experienced in the cities, and the dodging of livestock, trucks, children, and other vehicles, let alone the road conditions on country roads.
On the other-hand a guided motorbike tour is fantastic. Vietnam should be seen from the back of a bike.
Do a quick search of the travel-fish site for posts by me and others on this. I have yet to see anyone who hasn't enjoyed this type of travel.
Another option for you might be cycling around the meekong delta area. The land is very flat and cycling is pleasant. I would get a bus to Vinh Long or somewhere similar rather than staring the cycle trip from HCMC (mainly because of the traffic in the city).
#4 KazAussie has been a member since 18/7/2009. Posts: 221
Thank you all for your input. It's much appreciated. Will get back to you if i have any more queries.
#5 roopd has been a member since 15/7/2010. Posts: 2
I would also recommend Phu Quoc as an excellent choice. I would fly with VN Airlines from Saigon...quick and inexpensive. Long Beach is great, there are many price range accommodations from which to choose. I have been stopped three times riding motorbikes in VN. Twice in DaLat...no problem, once in Chau Doc...made to return to renter but no fines, etc. Rode all over Phu Quoc without any hassles. Also, I agree with above, don't waste your time trying to ride from Saigon, way too much traffic and getting lost is a strong possibility. Bon Voyage.
#6 FADRIANCE has been a member since 13/4/2009. Posts: 2
Lucky you...only a return to renter. Certainly around HCMC it's a confiscation job and if you're lucky you might get the bike back in a week. My other half managed to get the bike confiscated today, for exceeding the speed limit and not having enough money to pay the fine. Thanks dear!
It's one reason a lot of renters are starting to ask and keep your passport as well as a deposit. Yes, they don't care about you, it's the bike they care about. And the Police will take the bike from you if you have no Vietnamese licence (International Driving Permits are not valid here). I've been here 8 months now and I've certainly noticed more and more Police stopping people even in that time - I've been coming to Vn since 2007. And KazAussie, it isn't legal to ride here just because you have a licence in your country. Vietnam doesn't, at the moment, recognise any other licence bar its own. You can get a Vietnamese licence using your own licence fairly quickly (took me 7 days) but the biggest problem is you need a 3 month visa plus a residential address to get one.
And one thing that is seldom mentioned is what happens in the event of you having an accident. You will be seriously out of pocket. Nearly all Vietnamese bike insurances have a maximum payout of around USD $2000. That is repair of bike, 3rd party liability. Indeed, one Vn biking site actually states that they like to say there is no insurance due to the amount of paperwork generated by your mishap.
Yes, it can be fun but be aware of the dangers. Forget what it like to ride in your own country for starters. I'd suggest imagining riding from the start line to the first corner of a packed motorbike Grand Prix race. And we all know how often accidents happen on that first bend. Coupled with people riding on the wrong side of the road (it's normal) and people just riding off the pavements, direct into your path, without looking to see what is coming along. Again, perfectly normal practice here. And use the horn!
Best thing you can do is wear a helmet and ride nicely. Hopefully you won't get stopped. Oh and ride in the correct lane. The Police will stop you for failing to do that as well.
#7 69bertie has been a member since 22/12/2009. Posts: 90