Thanks to the boys of Top Gear, motorbiking through Vietnam has become the thing to do when you’re in the country, and honestly I had a complete blast doing it!
There are many reasons why Vietnam has caught such a reputation. The country is long and relatively narrow, making it very manageable to ride from the North to the South or vice versa. Roads here are mostly paved and easy to drive. It’s fairly easy to purchase a motorbike and quite economical if you can sell it when you’re done. While legally you’re supposed to have an international motorbike license to ride, most people will easily overlook that slight issue without hesitation.
But the absolute most rewarding part of riding your way through this country is the magnificent views! This country is so beautifully dramatic and dynamic. From majestic misty mountains to relaxing coastal shores. Having the luxury of exploring these parts of the country on your own time is well worth it.
Let me start off by telling you I knew nothing about bikes and scooters before my trip. That’s how easy it was to pick up!
So here’s what I’ve learned when buying a bike in Vietnam:
The number one, cardinal rule of buying a bike is getting the valid blue card with it – that is if you want to ever resell the bike. The blue card is the bike’s authentication. Most information on the card doesn’t matter. Just make sure the license plate matches the bike’s. Without a blue card, the bike is worth nothing – like Nirvana without Kurt Cobain.
Mechanics would pay you a pinch of the price for the bike without a blue card, as all they can do is take it apart for its parts or sell it to another backpacker at a major discount.
There are three types of bikes you can choose from. For the short-term journey, they honestly can all do the job perfectly well and only offer slight variations. It mostly depends on what you want.
I’ve met a ton of people who did the journey on an automatic bike, even to the northern parts of the country, where the mountains are steep and the roads are pockmarked.
Automatic bikes have just as much horsepower and are actually way more comfortable. They have less moving parts, which means less trips to the mechanic.
They’re also a great choice if you plan on selling it. There are many backpackers that look for automatics, as well as locals.
A common automatic bike is the Yamaha Nouvo
Similar to automatics, they’re really easy to learn to ride. The advantage they have over automatics is that when going up and down mountains, there’s more control and options with changing gears. These scooters are usually smaller and more nibble then their automatic cousins.
A common semi-automatic scooter is the Honda Wave
Many travellers take this opportunity to get their first full on motorcycle. And why not? They’re accessible, easy to drive and low on the commitment scale. And you’ll look pretty bad ass driving one!
The only issue with manual bikes in Vietnam is that for the amount backpackers are usually willing to spend, they tend to be on the fake and crappy side. Most I came across were counterfeits from China and replaced with parts that were already faulty to begin with.
Regardless of which type of bike you get, regular tune ups should be incorporated into your journey.
I ended up getting a semi-automatic Sym. Here’s why:
- My main priority was to cruise and enjoy the country, enjoying the beautiful sceneries on the way. The less I had to worry about when driving, the better!
- My budget was important. Automatic scooters were the most expensive of the three choices, probably because they’re predominately real products.
- I wanted to stay away from counterfeit semi-automatic bikes, in hopes of decreasing any reliability issues.
I was really happy with my scooter. She never let me down and aside from my regular tune ups, I only visited a mechanic because I got a flat tire.
Charm Tip: However, if I were to do this all over again, I would’ve paid more attention to the brand of my scooter. I didn’t realize how much other backpackers cared about the brand, regardless of the condition of the bike. All they want is a Honda Win (manual) or a Honda Wave (semi-automatic), real or counterfeit. For more tips on how selling your bike, read my other post here.