Traveling Vietnam by motorbike has definitely made it into our Top 50 Adventure Holidays list. To date, this motorbike trip, which consisted of me riding across the whole length of Vietnam for over six weeks, is still one of the best adventures of my life.
Read through my experience below! And if you want more information as well as suggested route itineraries, check out the Vietnam travel guide which my partner and I co-authored.
This travel guide has all the top motorcycle routes in Vietnam as well as other tips and information which aren’t published online. Regardless of whether you are a seasoned motorbike driver or a beginner, this adventure is definitely one for the books!
Vietnam by Motorbike
I was in a hostel in Hong Kong, exactly one month into my first backpacking trip, when I started making small talk with a guy I just met. I can’t remember much of the conversation apart from him insisting that if I did one thing during my travels, it should be to travel all over Vietnam by motorcycle.
Five months after that conversation, I was on a sleeper bus from Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh Vietnam, getting ready to buy a motorcycle. The next few weeks, I found myself riding over 3,500 km through jungles, cities and villages.
I crashed my motorcycle around midnight at the top of mountains near the Chinese border, I ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere, and more importantly, I made memories that I would never forget.
I didn’t spend long in Ho Chi Minh. I did the typical tourist activities but mainly spent my time checking out different motorcycles to buy. A lot of that was spent trying to haggle down the prices and test riding them to see if they were okay.
Within the first night, I had met two guys who had the same plans as me and we ended up doing the whole route together. Soon, another guy joined us along the way and on our first stop, I met a silly cute girl named Anna. (my partner in crime, who I run this travel blog with)
✨The 1 Thing We Never Leave Home Without…✨
Coming from someone who has been traveling the world for the last 8 years AND has been in the hospital 2x, travel insurance is something everyone NEEDS to get. Get a quote below!
Reminder: You Need Travel Insurance!
Make sure you wear a freaking helmet! Trust me. A motorbike landed on my head and I would not be writing this if it weren’t for that helmet.
Also, make sure you have travel insurance, and don’t scrimp on it either! We recommend World Nomads for their good adventure travel coverage. The other option you can check out is SafetyWing, although their coverage for adventure travel is minimal.
If you’re planning on driving a motorbike through Vietnam, it’s important that you have the right type of license for it in order for your insurance to fully cover you.
Motorbikes Available in Vietnam
Our trip was made up of four guys and four motorcycles. Three Honda Win manual 110cc and one automatic 125cc Scooter. There are a range of motorcycles available but these two types will be the main ones you will come across.
All bikes had covered a lot of kilometers in their time (I’m talking 80,000Km plus which for a bike is a lot!) and were old. Needless to say, we all had mechanical issues during the ride.
If you can think of it, it happened to us. Punctures, bike racks snapping in half, gearboxes breaking, electronics failing, suspension snapping, oil leaking, brakes failing and the whole bike going up in flames! (yep, that was my bike).
However, the beauty of riding a motorcycle in Vietnam is there’s always someone who can fix your bike in sight, usually for very cheap. Some will try to take advantage, but it is nothing a little haggling can’t solve.
Read: Guide to Buying and Selling a Motorbike in Southeast Asia
If you’re looking for bikes, check out Tigit Motorbikes. They have a good range of motorbikes to rent and buy, when in Vietnam.
What Motorbike Did I Get?
I bought an orange Honda Win manual 110cc for $250. (Don’t ask why I chose that color!) It came with ropes to strap my backpack on, one helmet, the backpack rack and half a tank of gas.
Vietnam by Motorbike: My Recommended Route
We started in Ho Chi Minh, and rode all the way up to Hanoi.
After Hanoi, myself and Steven (one of the guys I met in Ho Chi Minh) actually kept our bikes for another 10 days and continued to ride all around North Vietnam. The photo below shows our route across Vietnam.
Vietnam By Motorbike Map
Quick Facts About My Vietnam Motorbike Route: Hoi Chi Minh to Hanoi
- Ho Chi Minh to Mui Ne took 1 night and 2 days (we got lost).
- Mui Ne to Dalat took 1 day (approx. 8-10 hours)
- Dalat to Nha Trang took 1 day (approx. 8 hours)
- From Nha Trang, we did a 3 day ride inland trip all the way up to Hoi An.
- After Hoi An, we did the High Van Pass or “Top Gear Route” all the way to Hue. This took approx. 8-10 hours as again we got lost.
- After Hue, we did another 3-day leg going inland, staying on the Hanoi trail.
Related: Vietnam by Motorbike: 8 Things You Should Read First
Our first day riding was one of the most eventful days we had. We left Ho Chi Minh a little bit after breakfast. Soon, we encountered three breakdowns, crazy traffic, night driving with no lights and even ended up getting lost after just three hours.
Let’s just say it was an awesome start to our adventure.
The first night was also a story in itself. We pulled up in the middle of nowhere and asked if this guy had anywhere for us to sleep. Amazingly, the guy owned a small bar/ barbers (Yes, you read that right!).
He took us around the back (don’t worry, not to kill us) and ripped a piece of wood from a door frame, placed it on the floor, hung up a mosquito net, and VOILA! The three of us had a bed for the night.
Oh, one of us also got a free haircut!
The first half of this epic journey saw us riding along highways, across mountains and coastlines.
The scenery was amazing and different every time we set off. Most days would consist of around 9- 14 hours riding. Why so long? Well, we rode the most scenic routes and took no shortcuts. Yes, our butts were sore after a few days.
Insider Tip: If you want to spend less time riding, stick to the coast. There are more direct routes and the roads are a lot faster. The view won’t be as good though – bare that in mind!
The first half of the journey finished in Hoi An, a small town known for its “old town” and a beautiful river and beach nearby. They also have the ever so popular “Why Not” bar, which let’s just say always leads to an eventful night (5 bucks unlimited drinks kind of eventful).
By this point, we all had broken down and my bike had seen the worse of it. My bike quickly got the name the “Phoenix” as it burst into flames while I was riding out of Nha Trang.
One mechanic, 10 minutes and $3 later, she had risen from the flames and was back on the road. She took me around 400 km further to Hoi An before calling it a day again.
The second half of the journey saw us riding all the way to Hanoi, where we said goodbye to two of the guys from the Wolf-pack (Yes we had a name!). We then continued to do a loop around the North before finishing back in Hanoi.
This was where we sold our motorbikes to the next adventurous backpackers for the same price we bought them. That’s right, we sold them for $250, which was what we bought them for. Considering we (meaning I) had broken down a lot and put around $120 into it, we felt this was a fair price.
We were honest with the guys buying our bikes and I think they respected that, so they quickly bought them from us. It was a sad day, if I’m honest. We had just spent 6 weeks riding these bikes almost every day and had gone through a lot.
The second half of the journey was where we rode through jungles and over rough terrain. We as a group had one big crash and a few small ones in between.
Despite all the misadventures, we were all having the time of our lives.
We rode the “Top Gear” route, Hai Van Pass, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh trail, and in my opinion, the best route of all – the road to Sapa.
In short, we did it all. If you’re thinking of doing this, check out our route and I highly recommend you stay as inland as you can. The jungles, rivers, waterfalls, and the amazing roads will blow you away.
What is Vietnam Like?
Good morning Vietnam!
The country has everything from jungles to beaches to as much noodle soup as you can handle. You will experience crazy parties in Hoi An, Hanoi, and Halong Bay. You will relax on beaches and hike through the rice fields of Sapa. You will experience the cooler temperatures while canyoning in Dalat (climbing down waterfalls!).
Compared to Mui Nei where you will slide down sand dunes, fall in love (in my case), and possibly windsurf (if it’s the season!). There is a water park in Nha Trang, a one-of-a-kind cave in Hang Song Don, and mountains up in the north, which you will never ever forget.
Overall, it is a breathtaking country!
The Experience of Riding a Motorbike Across Vietnam
Riding a motorbike across Vietnam is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
If you are heading there, I would highly recommend either buying a Honda Win manual 110cc or if you are not a confident rider, a scooter. One of the guys who rode with us bought a scooter and he broke down the least, so it’s not a bad option.
As far as adventure goes, this is right up there.
You have danger, adrenaline, enjoyment, and hard times all in one. It is the ultimate recipe for an adventure. You will meet people there who will become your friends for life. Just recently, we traveled through Holland and met up with Steven. The guy put a bed in his kitchen so we had a place to stay the whole time we were there.
If you talk to any backpacker who has traveled through Vietnam, I would bet 9 out of 10 times you will hear they had a great experience. They might differ in their opinion about the country, but I bet they had a great time.
In short, buy a motorbike already and travel across Vietnam. This will be a story to tell the grandkids.
If You Can’t Drive a Motorbike…
Lastly, if you want to experience even a tidbit of this incredible motorbike experience but can’t legally drive a motorbike, you can go on various motorbike tours.
Here are a few of the popular ones all over the country.
Helpful articles for traveling around Vietnam
- What to Eat in Vietnam
- What to Do in Vietnam
- Basic Vietnamese for Travelers: Essential Phrases You Need to Know
36 thoughts on “Vietnam by Motorbike: The Best Six Weeks of my Life”
Travelling to Vietnam in 2 days and am planning to roughly follow your route!
One question! was your route dangerous at any points? with regards to traffic and lots of lorries? I was hoping to stay well away from places like Highway 1 for example!
Hey @camihay:disqus Yeah, in a general sense, traffic is everywhere, especially when exiting the major cities. It’s going to be hard to avoid traffic in Vietnam. I did Highway 1 for a little bit but as long as you take it easy, you should be fine. Best your luck and enjoy your trip! It will be epic!
Omg I’m getting excited about Vietnam just from reading this article! Sounds like you guys had the time of you’re lives! My boyfriend and I are planning to travel around Asia via motorbike too. I’m just concerned as neither of us have motorbike licenses and have never driven one before. Would you recommend taking lessons beforehand? I know you guys didn’t have licences but were you paranoid that you’d get pulled up and be asked to show a licence, or did you hear any stories in regards to that? I’m just second guessing motorbiking across asia purely because of that!
Hi @disqus_8HHr69B49M:disqus I rode from bottom to top and never got asked. (I only had my UK license.) Here in Asia, I carry around a “cop wallet” with around £3-4 (in the local currency) and when I get pulled over I just show them that. I would definitely advice to practice first. Try learning in a place that isn’t so busy. We have an ebook coming out for Vietnam which has a big section on motorbike riding! Will let you know when its out and hopefully it will help answer some questions you have x
Thanks so much for the quick reply! Yes please let me know when your ebook comes out, I would love to read, hopefully before we leave in November! 🙂
Thank you so much for this blog! im planning on doing this exact tour with one my my mates in november! There are so many negative articles out there about Vietnam on a bike! mostly saying this trip is way to dangerous because of the other vehicles. what advice do you have for staying alive on the roads, like did you tend to stay away from the major highways?
Hey @lukebulk:disqus – no problem man!
I know, one of the reasons I had to write this. Trust me- doing this will be one of the best things you ever do in your life!
Advice- We pretty much rode everywhere. Highways, jungles, no roads, cities, mountains you name it haha I would just make sure you always wear a helmet. Your brakes are in good condition and when you hit corners take them with caution. Some trucks don’t care which side of the road they are on. You are expected to get out of there way.
Connect with us on fb > https://www.facebook.com/adventureinyou
and message me anytime if you need any more advise.
@adventureinyou:disqus Wow, serious trip! A few questions;
1) Approximately how much did it all cost (excluding flights)?
2) What did you do with your bikes when you weren’t using them? i.e. how did you lock them up, where did you keep them etc..
3) How easy was it to sell the bikes on in Hanoi?
1) Man if i am honest I can not remember haha. A usual month in Asia is around 600-800 usd. I think thats a comfortable budget there. If you bike it, it will still be around that as transport cost is more than you will spend on gas
2) We always just user the Steer Lock- most places along the way have somewhere you can leave your bike overnight. We had no issues with this and i didn’t meet anyone who did also.
3) Super easy – it took me 2 days. People are either buying or selling. Head to one of the big hostels and you will have no problem. Leave 3-5 days to sell just to be on the safe side.
Hope this helps @georgeellwood:disqus , connect with us on FB and if you need any more advise fire your questions at us 🙂
Cheers for reading !
What a crazy awesome thing to do! Wow! And I thought I was adventurous by taking the bus in Vietnam…haha!
haha Those buses are scary though!
I have never driven a motorbike but I’ve always wanted to learn… I’m heading to Vietnam next summer and reading this has really made me think that maybe I could do that, too.
You really could @reverieintechnicolor:disqus. If you need any advice message us on FB 🙂
This is really cool! I’ve only toured parts of the United States by motorbike. I definitely need to broaden my horizons!
Hey @joeankenbauer:disqus – yes go for it!! I need to ride the states next. It’s on my to do list haha
This sounds crazy, amazing and incredible. I can imagine how much fun you had guys even though all the parts were not easy and comfortable. I liked it. Just a question, did you have a license for riding a bike?
hey @mansoureh:disqus – I do but none of the other guys did! We were never stopped but I can imagine if you were this could be a problem. However I am sure you could come to an agreement to sort it out… not that I’m encouraging anything 😛
hahah! If they stop me I refer to you 😉 😛
What an adventure…Vietnam by motorbike, it looks fantastic! At first reading the title I was like “Oh my god that is hard core!” but after reading it doesn’t seem as scary, with great company and THOSE views 😀 Great resource for anyone looking to see Vietnam from a unique perspective and feel completely independent.
Cheers Mel – It wasn’t too scary 🙂 Thanks for giving it a read. Appreciate it!
This sounds amazing! Seriously amazing, I’m currently trying to convince my partner to do this with me now. We will be in Vietnam in a couple of months and I hadn’t thought about doing this but now I want to.
Great post! It’s really convinced me to do it! 🙂
Awesome!! Do it. If you want to ask anything us please feel free to drop me an email 🙂 Happy to help!
LOL As Im reading this article Im thinking what an amazing adventure you had, one that I would never be brave enough to try, but wondering what I would say if my daughters said they were doing this so just cracked up when you say this is a ‘Don’t tell your mum’ kind of trip, totally agree.
ha Glad it made you laugh. It made my Mum laugh when she read it also 😛
This is what I call an adventure! Clearly something not to tell not only your mum but also anyone’s mum!
Vietnam’s scenery is beautiful and really asks for a road trip. With so many breakdowns and problems, did you learn all about fixing motorbikes? 🙂
Hey @hugo_cura:disqus – cheers for reading! I did. Not much I admit! But the basics of fixing electrics. some minor wheel problems and suspension. The daily things that went wrong ha
Great advice to travel Vietnam by motorbike! As a mom, I both agree and disagree with the statement about not telling your mom. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, but I always want to always know what exactly they are doing. And yes WEAR A HELMET! 😉
Thanks for reading @disqus_Rl5LLgNyEp:disqus – Always wear a helmet. Can’t stress that enough 🙂
This sounds like the greatest adventure ever! Never rode a motorbike in my life but for the sake of this kind of adventure I would learn it immediately. I’m glad you survived your Phoenix motorbike though 😀 I hope to travel to SEA next year, so I’ll keep your article in mind.
Ah thanks for reading @TheAmbitiousBee:disqus – Keep it in mind. 2 of the guys riding with me had never ridden before and they picked it up rather quick! One opted for an automatic scooter. That’s a great option also 🙂 Have fun and safe travels!
This article makes me scared and excited at the same time! It’s something that really sounds like a once in a lifetime experience. I have always wanted to go hiking through Vietnam. Your pictures look beautiful, and it looks like I would stumbled across some amazing scenery there!
Thanks for reading @Fromtourist2local:disqus and the photos don’t do it justice really ha I was using an old camera back then.
If you go there. Take your time and enjoy the many different types of scenery 🙂
Great adventure! We tried hitchhiking in Vietnam nearly 7 years ago and didn’t have the best experience, as people always wanted money and we got into some unpleasant situations about that. So I guess, you have chosen the best way to see the country. Travelling across Vietnam on a motorbike sounds like the best option given the freedom it offers and the amount of off-the-beaten-path places you are able to visit. But I’m surprised you weren’t worried about the way people drive in cities. Ho Chi Minh City is a crazy place for driving! (By the way, I love your “Adbenture Meter” 🙂
Ah sorry to hear that. To be honest I wasn’t worried as I had ridden a lot before, but I can imagine if you are not confident it would be terrifying! Ha It is super super crazy. Just riding around the city is one hell of an adventure!
Thanks – still working on finalising the adventure meter but it’s getting there 🙂
Hi Tom, I’m Sean’s Sister. Really enjoyed this article! You guys did a great job and got some wonderful shots, even though there are stories that make me nervous! My partner and I are heading off to SEA in just a month’s time and are really considering giving this a go. Thank you for the great read. All the best! Rachael 🙂
Hi Rachael! Thank you so much for reading. Really appreciate it 🙂
I can not recommend it enough. I managed to talk your brother in to it so I hope I can convince you 🙂 Ha. I’m sure Sean can help you with planning it but if you need anything else, please let us know!