Hanoi’s Old Quarter is one of the most fascinating areas to explore in Vietnam’s bustling capital. This historic district dates back over 1000 years and still retains much of its ancient architecture, vibrant culture and distinctive charm. One of the best ways to fully immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and energy of the Old Quarter is by renting your own motorbike for independent exploration.
Renting a Motorbike in Hanoi
Renting a motorbike offers flexibility to explore the winding streets and tucked-away alleys of the Old Quarter on your own schedule. Here are some tips for renting a motorbike in Hanoi:
- Hotels and travel agencies – Many hotels and tour agencies in Hanoi’s Old Quarter offer motorbike rentals right onsite for convenience. Prices are often a bit higher than renting directly from a shop.
- Dedicated rental shops – For the widest selection and best prices, head to a dedicated motorbike rental shop. Recommended options include Cuong’s Motorbike Adventure and Offroad Vietnam.
- Cost – Expect to pay around 50,000 to 100,000 VND ($5-10 USD) per day. Automatic bikes may cost slightly more.
- Inclusions – Rentals typically include a helmut, bike lock and basic insurance. Be sure to verify inclusions before renting.
- Condition – Carefully inspect bikes for defects before renting. Check tires, lights, brakes and gas level. Test drive around the block if possible.
- Avoid scams – Only leave your passport temporarily as a deposit. Pay only after verifying bike condition. Get all fees and inclusions in writing.
- Maps – Obtain a good map of Hanoi, or download an offline map app like Maps.me to help navigate while touring.
Driving Safety Tips
Driving in Hanoi can be a bit chaotic, so following some basic safety tips will help ensure an incident-free motorbike adventure:
- Obey traffic laws – Though traffic rules are not always closely followed in Hanoi, obey signs and signals as much as possible for safety.
- Drive defensively – Constantly watch out for pedestrians, food carts, bikes and other motorbikes around you. Drive slowly and anticipate sudden stops.
- Allow extra time – Congestion is common in the Old Quarter. Leave ample time to reach destinations without needing to rush or drive recklessly.
- Stay alert – Be conscious of vehicles, people and objects around you at all times. Don’t get distracted by sights and maps.
- Keep belongings secure – Use interior bike storage or a backpack to safely store your wallet, phone, camera and other valuables while driving.
Top Attractions & Areas to Explore
The maze-like streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter are packed with historical and cultural sights. Here are some top attractions not to miss on a motorbike tour:
Street Food Stalls & Markets
Stop frequently to sample tasty Vietnamese street foods like pho, banh mi, and streetside egg coffee. Can’t miss spots include:
- Ta Hien Street – Nightlife hotspot with tempting happy hour specials at bars and restaurants.
- Hang Ma Street – Lined with street food stalls serving northern Vietnamese dishes.
- Dong Xuan Market – Hanoi’s largest covered market selling everything from fresh produce to clothing and souvenirs.
Marvel at ancient palaces, temples, gates and other architectural wonders. Top sites include:
- Bach Ma Temple – Stunning 9th century temple honoring a legendary horse.
- Thang Long Imperial Citadel – Ruins of the 11th century home of Vietnamese dynasties.
- Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural – Stunning ceramic wall art depicting Hanoi’s history and culture.
- Hang Dao Night Market – Historic open air market running along Hang Dao street.
Museums & Galleries
Stop to admire artifacts and artwork at top museums like the Vietnam National Museum of History, Vietnam Military History Museum and Vietnam Women’s Museum.
Shop ’til You Drop
Test your bargaining skills shopping for handicrafts, artwork, souvenirs and clothing. Best shopping streets include Hang Gai, Cau Go and Ta Hien.
>>> Further Information: Ultimate Guide to Renting Motorbikes in Hanoi’s West Lake
Guided Motorbike Tours
Prefer to leave navigating Hanoi’s chaotic streets to a professional guide? Consider booking a guided motorbike tour.
- Don’t have to locate attractions or navigate confusing streets
- Knowledgeable guide provides cultural insight and safety tips
- Avoid getting lost or venturing into unsafe areas
- More expensive than self-guided rental
- On a set schedule, less flexibility
- Group tours have less personalized experience
- Hanoi Motorbike Tour – Highly rated company offering small group tours of top attractions.
- Vietnam Scooter Tours – Emphasizes food tours and backstreet exploration for more local experience.
- Hanoi Vespa Tours – Vespa scooter tours add vintage vibe – ride in style!
Guided tours typically last 4-8 hours and cost $50-100 per person. Evaluate options to find the right tour fitting your interests, group size and budget preferences.
>>> Additional Resources: Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem: Motorbike Rentals & Exploration Tips
Motorbiking Do’s and Don’ts
Follow these tips for a safe, respectful and low-stress motorbike experience in Hanoi’s Old Quarter:
- Drive slowly, especially on narrow streets
- Wear a helmet and closed toed shoes
- Dress modestly when visiting temples
- Be alert for pedestrians, children and animals
- Keep belongings securely stored
- Drink and drive – strict DUI laws enforced
- Honk your horn excessively
- Drive at night until accustomed to roads
- Leave laptops, cameras or valuables on an unattended bike
- Disobey traffic laws – police do issue tickets
Using common sense and following traffic laws will help ensure your motorbike Old Quarter experience is smooth, safe and enjoyable for all.
Go Into Detail: Revving up in Hanoi: The Ultimate Motorbike Rental Guide
Parking & Addresses
Finding parking and locating specific addresses can be tricky in the congested Old Quarter. Follow these tips:
- For parking, look for lots with attendants, fences and locked gates if possible. Politely request attended parking if uncertain.
- Chain helmets and bikes together and remove valuables. Never leave items in unattended basket compartments.
- Have your destination address written in Vietnamese to show locals for help finding parking areas or specific locations.
- Download offline maps like Maps.me to have addresses mapped out ahead of time in case you get turned around in the maze of streets.
Conclusion & Final Tips
Exploring Hanoi’s magical Old Quarter by rented motorbike allows you to fully immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of this historic district at your own pace. Follow the tips in this guide for a safe, low-stress journey. Key takeaways:
- Rent from a reputable shop and inspect bikes carefully before accepting
- Drive defensively and obey traffic laws
- Focus your explorations on attractions aligned with your interests
- Allow 2-3 full days to explore the area sufficiently
- Bring a mobile phone and go with a friend if possible for safety
- Approach locals politely if needing directions – they are usually very helpful!
With its ancient architecture, vibrant culture and mouthwatering cuisine, Hanoi’s Old Quarter offers an intoxicating blend of experiences. Renting a motorbike makes it easy to dive into the action at your own pace. Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smells – just ride slowly and safely. Let the magic of the Old Quarter come to life on two wheels!