One of the greatest experiences in my life is riding a motorbike around South East Asia. My love for motorcycles started back when I was in America and only grew stronger since I’ve been living in Asia.
Right now, I am sipping a Ca Phe Sua (iced coffee with milk) sitting along side a small bay packed with brightly colored wooden fishing boats. I’m the only person in this café and all I hear is the sound of waves gently crashing up against the docks. I would have never found this place if I didn’t have my own bike to go exploring.
In south east Asia, motorbikes are not just toys for people to ride around as a hobby. Motorbikes serve as the family vehicle as well as the work truck. You will see some wild shit out here.
Families of six piled onto a shitty little scooter. Construction workers hauling ladders and building materials. A crazy old guy hauling a dozen cages with live chickens. It’s really amazing what these people can accomplish on a little scooter.
Many people say riding a motorbike in Vietnam is dangerous… I wont deny that fact, but I would say it’s not as bad as it looks. The traffic is horrific in Ho Chi Minh City but somehow it works. Everyone just cruises along at under 40 kph and weaves around each other. It’s more like walking fast then riding.
If old ladies and little girls can do it then so can we! Just learn how the traffic flows. Take it slow and stay vigilant. You should be fine.
Whenever there’s some douche bag speeding down a side street on a Ducati, no helmet, with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth it’s always a retarded foreigner. Locals rarely do this type of shit and I’d say the idiot foreigners on bikes are more dangerous then riding along side the locals. I always steer clear of these dumb fucks.
Tips For Buying a Motorbike in Vietnam
The first thing you should know is it’s illegal to own a motorbike in Vietnam if you are a foreigner. However, you can buy a bike and keep it in a Vietnamese persons name. When I purchased my bike it came with the blue registration card with a Viet guys name on it. Just make sure the card is legit and it matches the bike you are buying.
The beauty of riding in Vietnam is that the laws are pretty relaxed. You have to be doing some real dumb shit to be stopped by the police. I have ridden all over Saigon and Nha Trang for six months and I’ve never even had a cop look at me. Well, there was that one time when a cop starting blowing his whistle at me at a red light. I just pretended I didn’t see him and took off. 😉
Honestly, if you visit Vietnam for a month or so you might not see a cop the whole time. It’s not like Thailand where there’s an officer on every corner. The police often turn a blind eye to foreigners too. Some idiot foreigners take advantage of this by riding without a helmet, speeding and acting like a cunt. Don’t be one of those assholes.
Where To Buy a Motorbike
My favorite place to look is craigslist. This is a free classified ads website where you can find all kinds of stuff for sale. There’s a huge selection of bikes in the big cities. There’s not so many listings in smaller cities so if you’re out in some small town you might need to hit the streets with your Vietnamese girlfriend to find the deals.
Riding across Vietnam seems to be a backpackers right of passage these days. Every year thousands of people come to Vietnam to make the cross country journey. They usually buy a bike in Hanoi and then sell it once they reach Saigon, or vice versa. Often, they wont make it the whole way and need to sell the bike somewhere in the center of the country.
This is a great opportunity to get deals! Most backpackers buy bikes for around $250. This will get you an older piece of shit bike that has been rebuild a few times. Usually it comes with straps, helmets and rain gear. It’s not a luxurious ride but it will get you around.
Most often, the tourist will be in a rush to sell the bike so they can catch their flight out of Vietnam. You will see ads saying MUST SELL TONIGHT! MAKE ME AN OFFER!
I bought my bike for $100 from a guy who was getting on a train in a few hours. He said if I didn’t buy it he was going to give it away. You can score some good deals if you’re patient. In fact, I have a few bikes now that I’m going to flip for some extra beer and blowjob money. 😀
What Kind of Bike Should You Buy?
You will see all kinds of bikes for sale but I recommend sticking to the classics. Honda Win, Honda Wave, Honda Dream, Yamaha Nuovo. You can score a decent one of these for $200- $300 and it should be running well enough. Parts are everywhere and you can get the thing serviced on any street corner.
I would avoid the Russian Minsk and custom bikes for sale. I am intrigued by the café racers and other cool custom bikes but they are often over priced and built using scrap parts in some back alley. No thanks. Cool to look at but I don’t trust it getting me across the country.
I would also avoid the big cruiser style motorcycles such as the Honda Shadow and Suzuki GS. These look cool, and I would love to ride a “real motorcycle” but let’s face it, they are big, heavy and awkward in city traffic. A smaller scooter is much more practical for the streets of Vietnam. Preferably an automatic.
I’m no mechanic but I usually check out the bike and take it for a test drive. I will ride it hard and get it up to top speed. Make sure it runs good and shifts though all the gears properly. Test the breaks, lights and signals.
Getting minor work done on these bikes is cheap but you want to make sure you wont be dumping money into it right away. Take it to a mechanic if you’re really concerned. When buying a $200 bike I will just check it out for myself.
In Vietnam, you can’t own a bike over 175cc without a special license. This is expensive and the big bike will make you a target. I remember riding in a pack of twenty or so bikes. Everyone stopped at the red light and a cop walked out in the middle of the traffic and pulled over one bike… A big street bike… These bikes are rare and they will bring you unwanted attention from the police as well as thieves.
Also, there’s really no place you can enjoy a big bike here. You would be riding in second gear forever. Even in the country side you have cattle crossing the street, kids playing in the road and large trucks weaving in and out of your lane. 125cc is just fine.
I hate to sound negative but you really can’t own anything nice here. When you park at a café or a club, the security will shuffle the bikes around to make room. Sometimes your bike will be scratched up against another bike. I often come out and see some guy just sitting on my bike smoking a cigarette.
I’ve lost a cable lock and a mirror before… I’ve also had my bicycle and my flip flops stolen. Just remember, if it’s not bolted down, it will be stolen in Vietnam… I have a shitty scratched up bike and if it was stolen today I wouldn’t give a fuck. Buy something that’s cheap and doesn’t attract attention. Just my two cents.
Do You Need Insurance?
I don’t know… Do you? I’ve never looked into that. I don’t have medical insurance or insurance on my bike. But I also fuck whores bare back so I like to roll the dice. 😉 Just telling you how I play it, this is not advice.
Just be sure your bike is not stolen and you have the blue card. If you don’t drive like a maniac, it’s highly unlikely you will be stopped by police. If you do get pulled over most things can be resolved with a small
I always keep a few 200,000 VND notes in one pocket and my wallet hidden in another pocket. If I have to part with $10-$20 then so be it. I’ve never had any kind of problems thus far.
Absolute worst case scenario is they impound your bike. I’ve never heard of this happening to anyone I know. My bike is a cheap piece of shit so they can have it. I would buy another one that same day.
Must Have Accessories
Vietnam is pretty much lawless except you must wear a helmet. This seems to be the only law people obey out here. Like I said, foreigners often get a pass on this and I know guys who never wear a helmet. I think it’s silly to be that one guy in traffic without a helmet so I always wear mine. It’s always wise to blend in.
If you’re going to wear a helmet you might as well wear a good one. Most of the helmets here are complete garbage. They are just flimsy plastic lids that do nothing but keep you above the law.
Shop around for a quality helmet that fits you properly. I am still looking for a decent full face helmet. Not only do full face helmets offer the best protection in the event of a crash, they also keep the dust and debris from hitting your face and eyes. Trust me some of these roads are dusty and when the wind blows it can blind you.
Buy some rain gear. Get a good poncho and keep it folded up neatly under you seat. The rain comes quick and without warning. When it rains it fuckin pours so I would park the bike and go indoors if possible.
Buy a good heavy duty poncho. The cheap thin plastic ones rip easy and they are considered disposable.
You may want to buy some straps or bungee cords if you’re taking a long trip. This will allow you to strap down your bags to your bike. Be sure to buy a tarp to cover up your luggage in case it rains.
Most bikes have a feature where you can lock the steering column. This prevents a thief from rolling your bike away and stealing it. If your bike doesn’t have this feature or it’s broken (like mine) then buy a chain or cable lock to secure your bike.
Vietnamese thieves are damn good at what they do… But if you can slow them down a bit then they might just pick an easier target.
Should You Rent or Buy?
If you are staying in Vietnam for longer then one month I think you should buy. For my one month rental it cost me $85. I was able to buy a bike for this same amount and I can sell it at a later date. Bikes are very cheap here so it doesn’t make sense to rent one long term.
Most of the rentals here are complete shit anyways so it’s not like you’re getting a shiny new ride for your holiday. Also, owning your own bike gives you the freedom to travel to another city without worrying about returning it.
The best way to see Vietnam is by motorbike. This country is so beautiful! Wild cities, a long gorgeous coastline, beautiful mountains and rice paddies. It’s something everyone should experience at some point in their lives.