Motorbiking In Vietnam
If you’ve ever been to Vietnam, then you know there is only one traffic rule everyone abides by; The motorbike is king. The motorbikes on the road outnumber cars 3-1. If you’ve heard the roads there are insanity, they are, but the flow of motorbikes is almost like the flow of a river, and everyone squeezes in where they can. This can make the idea of riding one yourself quite intimidating. Especially since road laws seem to be more suggestions than strict rules. You should, however, get yourself a bike. As long as you move when they do, keep your eyes open, and mind the flow of traffic (it is not, in fact, a free for all) then you will be fine.
Motorbikes are clearly the easiest way to get around in Vietnam. It allows you the freedom to stop where you want, when you want, and see things you wouldn’t otherwise. While there, my group got google maps can’t even pin us lost, and during that terrifying stint through some hillside villages, we found the best pho of the entire trip. The trick is to find a reputable bike rental. While in Hoi An we tried three different locations before finding one that wasn’t shady and had bikes that actually worked (our first two had faulty brakes and an engine that liked to shut off). Especially in the big cities, there are rental places everywhere competing for your business. From my experience, the best choice is Motorvina (their website is linked below).
The bikes are larger than most shops have on hand, well maintained, and come with safety equipment. They have English fluent staff at every location, and will pick you up if there’s a break down. Don’t feel the courage to strike out on your own? They have tons of bike tours to choose from that include all the spots you would want to see. If you choose to go your own way they provide really helpful maps (saved us during that bit where we were lost) and will take the time to tell you the best routes to see everything on your list. You can even rent helmet mounted go-pros should you so desire.
The real treasure of these bikes is short hops from one city to the next. They have locations in all of the main cities (Hanoi, Phong Nha, Dong Hoi, Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An, Quy Nhon, Pleiku, Nha Trang, Da Lat, Mui Ne, and HCMC), and you can leave your bike at any of these locations, not just the one you originally rented from. Travel in Vietnam is relatively cheap, but taking the bikes across the country was really the best way to see the country side, and get away from the heavy tourist areas while still staying overnight in main hubs. They will use your luggage as collateral and have it waiting at the shop in your destination city where you can trade your bikes for your bags. We did this with no problem and everything arrived in one piece.
Anywhere you choose to rent from will ask for some form of collateral. If you only have the bike for a day or two, an ID should suffice, though some places will require your passport (specifically the actual passport, copies are not enough). At the Hoi An location I gave them my passport card (a really handy thing in cases like this and not much else), but my friend got by with an expired school ID. We rented for four days while in Hoi An with our ID’s, traded our ID’s for our bags when we were ready to trek to Da Nang, and once again traded our ID’s for our bags when we arrived. It was simple, the cheapest option, and really really fun.
It can be scary at first, but easy enough once you get the flow of the traffic. Just pay attention to how the people around you move, and try to do the same. Flying through the Vietnamese country side was the most freeing and adventurous experience I’ve had on a vacation, and was easily my favorite way to travel. I really do recommend Motorvina as they have a great reputation and the best service/accountability of any of the shops I found, but should you go elsewhere, be careful and do your price comparisons and everything should work out just fine!