I’ve been travelling around Vietnam for around 7 months now and one thing is for sure-if you’re thinking of staying here for a while you’re going to have to get some sort of motorbike to make getting around a little easier.
The motorbike is king here, with import tax on cars at 100% and bikes generally dirt cheap, it’s the only way to get around.
No License No Problem…
Like Thailand and other SEA countries you’re not going to get too much hassle from the cops here if you don’t have a bike license. Most of them don’t speak English and the majority wont stop you unless it’s close to some public holiday like TET and they are in dier need of some extra cash. This doesn’t mean that you don’t need a licence here however.
I’ve been told that the test is really easy, basically a figure 8 for a few minutes and you’re set to go. Even is you fail this a small lobby (bribe) placed into the hands of the the instructor will ensure a smile and a ‘pass.’ The tricky bit is the written test that is entirely in Vietnamese. This is the stumbling block for most foreigners and the main reason they don’t bother getting a license. You can get your license from home translated though if you have one apparently.
The roads are getting better, especially here in Da Nang where they are fairly wide and open but it’s still gets really busy in the early mornings and between around 4-7pm.
To say driving in Vietnam is Dien or crazy is an understatement. It has to be one of the most dangerous places in the world to ride a bike; I see accidents on an almost daily basis and safety is not a concern here for most riders. You are required to wear a helmet here but most are just token flimsy plastic skid lids that offer no real protection. The general consensus is the largest vehicle always has right of way and that the horn rules. People will always pull out without looking and you are always expected to give way. Drink driving is also a real problem here with the law not really caring if you’re wasted on a bike. Texting and using a cellphone while riding is really common, as is loading as much crap as possible onto your bike as possible, including all your family!
Types of Motorbikes in Vietnam
Generally semi-auto bikes such as the Honda Wave are the most popular here.
You can pick up a second hand Honda Wave for around 4 million dong (roughy $170) that should last you a year or more. Most expats do this and then sell it when leaving for around the same price they paid for it.
Other popular bikes include the classic Minsk which seems to be preferred by travellers and people riding South to North, or the other way..
Rent or Buy?
Another popular question is whether you should bother buying a bike here or just rent one. The price to rent is around 1 million dong plus per month, so it makes sense to buy if you’re staying a while. A really good site to find used bikes and lots of other stuff is chotot.vn but make sure to take a local Vietnamese friend with you, as a Westerner here you’re unfortunately open to scams and excessive pricing…but you knew that right?