Photo: Canals of Ca Mau, Mekong Delta.

Vietnam forum

Vietnam on a motorcycle!

Posted by jonvdh on 11/6/2014 at 12:18

Hey guys, I have to firstly say that I've been reading some brilliant adventures and trip ideas on this forum. Nothing beats going beyond the sites you so often hear about in travel brochures and really uncovering the naked reality of a different culture and place.

This past year I was able to motorcycle across Vietnam on a 100cc lawn-mower engine motorcycle.

Jokes a-side, it was probably the biggest adventure I've been on and experienced.

I'd really love to help and share tales and tips with anyone who might be looking to head to Vietnam for a trip, especially if you're looking to do it by motorcycle.

My trip started as nothing more than a holiday with hope of a tale to tell. Four week later it had turned into a once in a lifetime adventure.

We'd set out to film the trip thinking it'd be nothing more than a home video - it ended up being much more than that :lol:

I started in Ho Chi Minh City and finished in Ha Noi. It took us 28 or so days to complete the trip.

In conclusion: DO THE ADVENTURE.

Any questions from people thinking or doing the same trip, feel free to fire away :D

#1 jonvdh has been a member since 19/7/2013. Posts: 5

Posted by oasisbarhatien on 11/6/2014 at 21:59

Posted from within Vietnam.

While I am sure you had a great time,it needs to be said that what you did was,in all probability,illegal.I live in Vietnam,and most days I ride a Vietnamese motorbike.I don't have a Vietnamese driving licence- and I don't need one,because the motorbike I ride is a 49cc bike.You don't need a driving licence to drive this size bike.BUT-if you ride a motorbike with an engine size bigger than this-you need a Vietnamese driving licence.An International Driving Permit is not valid in Vietnam,nor is a licence from any other country.If you don't have an accident,you will be OK.If you have an accident,then you won't.If you injure somebody else,at the very least it will cost you a lot of money,and you may end up in trouble with the police.In Vietnam that is definitely not a good thing.Any insurance you might have will be invalid.Another thing to consider is that the roads in Vietnam are dangerous,there are approximately 20,000 people killed on the roads here every year.I don't know the exact percentage that are motorbike riders,but I would be prepared to bet that it's a large percentage.And if you have never ridden a motorbike before don't even think about it,it's no place to learn to drive one.

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Posted by purcitron on 15/6/2014 at 23:28

sounds awesome!
id like to do a vietnam motorbike trip.
1 have zero experience but will obtain a motorcycle license in the USA and have some experience before the trip. i would like to travel with a group or tour.

-in your opinion, which is the best month to take such a trip? december-january?
-also, what would be a good motorbike route over 3-7 days to see quintessential & beautiful vietnam (rice terraces, villages, hills, maybe even the sea coast) please?

#3 purcitron has been a member since 15/6/2014. Location: United States. Posts: 45
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Posted by jonvdh on 16/6/2014 at 02:22

Hi guys, apologies for creating a thread and not including any stories, pictures or video! I've seemed to have gone against the whole idea of a message forum!

Four weeks, two motorcycles and the most amazing adventure I've ever been on! Vietnam is an incredible, diverse, adventure riding haven. I went over with my best mate and purchased bikes from a couple of fellow backpackers and effectively hit the road with no particular place to be.


Like all motorcycle adventures, problems and mechanical issues were awaiting us around every bend. It was probably all the more of a headache considering the fact we'd never rode a motorcycle in our life before attempting this trip.


We started in Ho Chi Minh City and headed upwards towards Hanoi, taking in all the major towns and cities a long the way. One of our favourite places was a town called DaLat which sat perched in amongst the clouds and forestry of Vietnam.


Anyone that has been to Vietnam will know just how delicious the food is here. One of our most beloved meals was a bowl of Pho at the end of each days ride. The stuff warmed the bones and was the perfect reward for a an arse-hurting ride on some of the worlds most chaotic yet beautiful roads!


I did keep a blog which goes far more in-depth on our mis-adventures, if people are interested I'll format it across to this forum? Alternatively you can read it on the website I made, I'm not sure if linking is allowed so mods please edit my post if it's now allowed There is also a Video Series I edited together of the trip on YouTube which can be found at

If you've ever followed Top Gear and saw the episode where they motorcycled across Vietnam, you can probably understand that we've been quite inspired by their same trip :lol3 They actually put an article in their magazine about our trip :clap


If you're thinking about doing a similar trip I can't recommend it enough. I would love to answer any questions or go into more detail about any aspect of the ride, I'm also interested in hearing from anyone else who has done a similar trip in regions outside of Vietnam as I can't wait to start planning my next adventure.

Great to be a member here and hope to be a valued contributor going forward!

#4 jonvdh has been a member since 19/7/2013. Posts: 5

Posted by gecktrek on 16/6/2014 at 05:56

awesome trip... you do realise that the top gear guys didn't actually do the whole trip, just filmed individual sections... so you have actually out-done 'bore-son and co'!

#5 gecktrek has been a member since 24/3/2013. Location: Australia. Posts: 149
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Posted by jonvdh on 16/6/2014 at 09:32

gecktrek I did not know that! I will have to add that fun bit of trivia to my keynotes :D

#6 jonvdh has been a member since 19/7/2013. Posts: 5

Posted by purcitron on 16/6/2014 at 09:57


this is great!
-how much were the bikes please?
-do you have map of your actual route?
-did you sell your bikes at the end of the trip?

#7 purcitron has been a member since 15/6/2014. Location: United States. Posts: 45
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Posted by jonvdh on 17/6/2014 at 00:39

Hi purcitron

-how much were the bikes please?
Bikes cost us $US350 each. We sold them at the end of the trip for a loss, we were considering donating them to locals but someone offered some cash to sway our minds :)

-do you have map of your actual route?


There's a more in-depth version I plotted on the website at

Are you planning on doing a similar trip yourself?

#8 jonvdh has been a member since 19/7/2013. Posts: 5

Posted by purcitron on 18/6/2014 at 00:31

-$350 seems reasonable for a last-minute purchase even though the bikes were beat-up
-thanks for the map. very cool.
-yes.. id like to take a similar trip. but much shorter.

-what would be a good 3-7 day motorbike route/section to see quintessential & beautiful vietnam (rice terraces, villages, hills, maybe even the sea coast) please?
-in your opinion, which is the best month to take such a trip? december-january? when did you go?

#9 purcitron has been a member since 15/6/2014. Location: United States. Posts: 45
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Posted by cronolegs on 19/6/2014 at 21:23

Posted from within Vietnam.

Your route looks good, but you make a big mistake after Danang.

Top gear sent everybody the wrong way over the Hai Van pass which is the far shorter and less beautiful journey to take.

Again to anyone doing this trip.
Get the right maps, get the phone support you might need if you want to venture into the real countryside of this country.
Do it properly and don't buy beaten up messes from other backpackers.
For $350 you could have bought a very good Win. Maybe you got lucky with yours, but it is a massive gamble buying from backpackers who have no idea about bikes.... and can only use Vietnamese mechanics who are not going to care about properly repairing a backpackers bike. - I am british, have a Vietnamese wife who translates for me...... and can translate for you...... to get the right prices and right service from mechanics.
Worth noting a $400 Win I guarantee buyback in Hanoi for $230 so you don't even need to bother trying to sell it.

I fix and sell about 3 bikes a day. Price is marginally more than what you buy from other backpackers. You get a route, phone support and help with putting your bike on buses and trains if you want to shorten your journey.
Generally..... a bit of customer service can go a long way.

Purcitron - (3-7 day trip)

Danang to Alluoi
Alluoi to Khe Sanh
Khe Sanh to Phong nha (see the worlds largest caves)
Phong Nha to Dong Doi (send your bike back to ho chi minh or hanoi by train and fly out from here)


#10 cronolegs has been a member since 12/4/2014. Posts: 6

Posted by purcitron on 20/6/2014 at 00:08

Jon.. thanks a million!
-during which month do you recommend to take such a trip please?
-is this the route which you are suggesting please?
-how many days does this route take please? i will probably not stop to see the caves. would like to see more of the coastline.
-can i also do it in reverse? i would like to visit both hanoi & HCMC and theopposite direction may be more convenient
-is it possible to do this route with a group?
-how is the GPS/navigation situation please?
-do i need a vietnamese motorbike license please?

#11 purcitron has been a member since 15/6/2014. Location: United States. Posts: 45
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Posted by riderman74 on 15/7/2014 at 03:53

Posted from within Vietnam.

For riding on Vietnam, you could check the below link to know more:

With 14 , 15 days, You could ride from the South to the North (or inverse) . Good luck!

#12 riderman74 has been a member since 18/6/2014. Posts: 10

Posted by larsay on 20/7/2014 at 01:57

Posted from within Vietnam.

Well, let's put it that way : foreign or international license is not accepted here, driving without a Viet license is illegal, and only residents can get one. However, we are in a weird situation where it is illegal but tolerated everywhere to a point where the police might stop you for not having a helmet or driving over the speed limit, 2 bid NO-NOs here, and they will never ask you for your driving license, they know you do not have one. The result : I travel constantly by motorbike everywhere in the country (last trip in Februray : 14 days between Chau Doc and Saigon + smaller trips) and never had a problem ; just respect the laws (helmet, speed, etc.) and stay ALERT.

I do not recommend a 100cc ; it's a little "short" in the mountains of the North, where you have long steep passes. A 125cc is better. Some will tell you "rent a dirt bike" ; completely useless ! The locals go on appalling trails with a good Honda 125, and the roads you will take are no appalling trails. Good maps are available abroad and here and you have signs and milestones practically everywhere ; never used a GPS !!!!.

One problem with motorbike rental ; with a very few exceptions, you have to bring it back to where you have rented it (or arrange for its return, not cheap !). Xhat I do is go to a large town (by train, bus ou plane), rent a bike locally to make a circuit around, give it back, continue to another town and same short rental. In Vietnam, there are always public buses and minibuses oin from A to Z (the comfort is not always guaranteed !) and they are very cheap. I did 15 days between Hoi An and Dalat through the Central Highlands like that and it worked perfectly.

As for the best months to travel in Vietnam, it's tricky, so here it is :

Because of differences inlatitude and the marked variety of relief, the climate varies considerably fromthe north to the south. The North:
- Perfectin October-November and April-June: temperatures between 21 and 28º. The best periodsto visit the North, though, in May, yougenerally encounter frequent short rainfalls,normally in the evening.
- December to March: rathersunny winter, butcold (12-18º in the delta, 5-12º in the mountains). January and February arenot good months because of the cold and frequent thick fog in the mountains (itcan go down to 0°C at night in Sapa).
- July to end of September is the “summer” season;30-40º is the norm ; July is aperiod of sometimes violent but generally short rains.
Ofcourse, the temperatures are higher and more humid in the delta than in themountains.
The Center:
February to May is the bestperiod, theworst being between September and end of January, when it rains often andheavily (frequent coastal typhoons in September and mainly October, monthduring which Hoi An is often “under water”). It is noticeably cooler in theHighlands (Dalat, Bon Mê Thuôt) than on the coast.
Dalat, at 1500 m altitude,benefits from a very pleasant climate year around, but you need a warm sweaterin the morning and evening in January and February.
Temperatures in the southern plains (Ho Chi MinhCity and the Mekong Delta) vary less over the course of a year.
- Bestseason from December to April, March and April being the hottest months (35º average).
- Worst period from July to September, veryhotand humid, with nearly daily rains.

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#13 larsay has been a member since 20/7/2014. Posts: 45

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