In some ways, all travel is the same. You go to a particularly notable spot, take some pictures and then go get some local food. This is the basic pattern that tourists have been following for generations. If you are looking to create a more unique experience and get a real taste of the country then there is no better way than motorbiking across it.
Whether this is your first trip out of the country or the way you plan to spend your retirement, motorbikes provide an excellent way for you to become deeply acquainted with the country and put you on an awesome adventure. Although this guide specifically focuses on biking across Vietnam, the general strategies could be applied to nearly any country!
A lot of travelers are nervous about driving in new countries, and who can blame them! For this reason they tend to stick to modes of transportation such as planes, trains, busses and taxis. However, think about some of your own favorite places in your country. Chances are that a lot of them are not accessible via those means or would be very time consuming and expensive.
Some people may ask then, “why not rent a car?” Cars do provide a lot of these advantages, and do benefit from being able to travel faster and be safer than motorbikes. Nonetheless there are several distinct benefits to using a motorbike.
Parking is the biggest factor. In Southeast Asia, you can essentially park a motorbike anywhere. Not only this, the fees for putting them on things like ferries or bridges are very cheap. Traffic is also a problem in nearly every city and instead of sitting around in gridlock for potentially hours, motorbikes can weave through this and save you a lot time.
There are also much more economical. Renting a motorbike for several weeks will cost you about the same amount as having a car for a few days and they are incredibly fuel efficient.
The last reason is a little more intangible. There is just something more fun and adventurous on a bike. It simply feels like more of an adventure. And because of their size, you can take them down smaller roads, bumpier paths and other places where a car just would not be able to go.
Selecting a Motorbike
Any place you stay in Vietnam is likely to provide motorbike rental service. Depending on the quality of your hotel/hostel, these bikes may be anywhere from mediocre to bad condition. In fact, a lot of times, if you rent a motorbike from a cheaper place, it will often just be the personal bike of someone who works there. Although these can be fine if you are just trying to go around a city and see the local sights, you should not trust them to take out in the country. Also, you typically have to return the bike where you rented it.
One thing you can do is buy a bike. Most people recommend Honda bikes, but there are many quality manufacturers. Many people who buy motorbikes to travel around the country will turn around and try to sell them to someone like you and the cycle continues.
Although this can be a good strategy, there are two potential flaws in it. There is no guarantee that someone will buy your bike in the time you have remaining. If this is the case, you might have to sell it for next to nothing or find someone else to sell it for you. Either way, it is not particularly fun.
The second issue is that there is no way of determining what has been going with that bike. If it has been properly maintained and so on. You can take it to a mechanic who can perform a service check but a thorough one might cost you.
A Better Strategy
Fortunately in Vietnam, there is awesome company called Tigit Motorbikes. You “buy” a bike from them and they guarantee buying it back from you. For example, you buy a bike for $1,000 USD and they will buy it back for $800. So essentially all you are doing is paying to rent it. For this reason, this is a great way to easily earn some points on your travel credit card.
Nonetheless, it generally works out to being the same as if you had just rented a bike from any other place. However, they have very high quality bikes that have been properly maintained so you do not have to worry about breaking down in the middle of nowhere. Not only this, you can buy the bike in one city and return to any other city where they have an office.
Even if you are not travelling back to one of those cities, you can just arrange to put it on a train. This allows you the convenience of being able to go wherever you want. Best of all, they are super helpful and provide you with maps, and suggestions of where to stay, eat and so on and can help you if you run into any trouble on the road.
What Else You Need
The bike is obviously the most important part. However there are some crucial additional supplies you will need:
- Sim Card
- 55 Liter or more backpack
- Rope and Bungie Cords
- Helmet (Not only to save your brains, but it is illegal to ride without one!)
- A Mount or Pack so you can see your phone while driving (for maps, not texting!)
An Incredible Adventure
After you have arrange all these things, it is really up to you where to go. In Vietnam, there are so many beautiful places. An incredible place to visit is Hoi An, which is a must-see for anyone taking time to visit the country. The best thing you can do is talk to some fellow travelers and hear where they thought was good and where wasn’t.
But at the end of the day, remember, it is your adventure so get out there and have some fun!