Motorbikes are an iconic part of Vietnamese culture, especially in busy cities like Hanoi. For visitors, renting a motorbike can be an adventurous and convenient way to explore the city. This thorough guide covers everything you need to know to safely rent and ride a motorbike during your time in Hanoi.
Background on Motorbikes in Vietnam
With over 45 million motorbikes zipping around, Vietnam has one of the highest motorbike ownership rates per capita in the world. Motorbikes outnumber cars by about 10 to 1 in Vietnam. As the capital, Hanoi is the epicenter of motorbike culture. Locals rely on motorbikes for everything from commuting to work, transporting goods, and traveling between cities.
For tourists, motorbikes provide an affordable and quick way to maneuver congested city traffic and tucked-away alleys. The motorbike gives you the freedom to venture beyond main tourist sites at your own pace.
Benefits of Renting a Motorbike in Hanoi
Here are some of the top benefits of renting a motorbike during your Hanoi visit:
- Convenience – Quickly and easily reach attractions on the outskirts of Hanoi
- Cost savings – Cheaper than hiring a taxi or private car service
- Flexibility – Create your own itinerary and go where and when you want
- Thrills – Feel the rush of the busy Hanoi streets
- Perspective – Get an authentic understanding of local life by seeing the city as locals do
Importance of Safe and Responsible Riding
While riding a motorbike in Hanoi can be an incredible experience, safety should always come first. As a visitor, it’s important you educate yourself, follow the laws, drive defensively, and always wear a helmet.
Responsible motorbike rental and riding helps prevent accidents, violations, and other issues that give motorbike tourists a bad reputation. This guide will provide tips to ensure you are a safe, courteous motorbike driver during your Hanoi travels.
Choosing Where to Rent Your Motorbike
The first decision is where to rent your motorbike from during your time in Hanoi. You have two main options – renting from your hotel or renting from an independent shop around town.
Hotel vs Independent Motorbike Rental Shops
There are pros and cons to both options that are helpful to consider:
1. Hotel Motorbike Rentals
- Convenience of renting right from your hotel
- May have an established relationship and negotiated rates
- Bike likely checked and maintained
- Limited selection of bikes
- Rates may be marked up compared to shops
- Less flexibility for pick up/drop off
2. Independent Rental Shops
- Wider variety of bike types, sizes, and models
- Lower rates than hotels
- Flexible with pick up and drop off
- Have to travel to shop location
- Bike condition may vary
- Vetting shop’s reputation is on you
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What to Look for in a Reputable Rental Company
If going with an independent shop, here is what to look for to identify reputable businesses:
- Reviews – Search online reviews and travel forums for feedback.
- Bike Quality – Inspect bikes for wear and tear before committing.
- Rates and Packages – Compare pricing and inclusions (helmet, insurance, etc).
- Customer Service – Ask questions to gauge responsiveness and friendliness.
Two recommended rental shops in Hanoi are Cuong’s Motorbike Adventure and Hanoi Motorbike Rental. Both offer quality bikes, good customer service, and reasonable rates.
Insurance, Permits, and Documentation
Before picking up your rental, make sure you understand the documentation and legal requirements.
Importance of Insurance
Purchasing insurance from your rental company is highly recommended. It will protect you in case of accidents, theft, or damage to the bike. Often only a few extra dollars a day.
International Driving Permit
While your home license may work, getting an IDP is safer since it legally clarifies you are allowed to drive in Vietnam as a tourist. Can easily get one before your trip through AAA or similar organizations.
Your rental shop will advise if you need additional paperwork like a temporary Vietnamese license or registration. Know that police in Vietnam do check tourist documentation.
Types of Motorbikes and CC’s
Hanoi rental shops offer everything from scooters to dirt bikes in 50cc to 175cc sizes. As a beginner, a 100cc-125cc bike is recommended. Here’s a quick overview:
Common Engine Sizes
- 50cc – Best for new riders. Less power, lighter, and more manageable.
- 100cc-125cc – Ideal blend of power and stability for novice riders.
- 150cc-175cc – Quicker acceleration but harder to handle at low speeds.
Major Bike Types
- Scooters – Automatic, good balance, and storage under the seat. Great urban runabouts.
- Underbones – Manual shift, improve stability at higher speeds. Nimble and popular.
- Dirt Bikes/Motocross – For experienced riders. Not ideal for city conditions.
- Automatic – No gear shifting needed, focus just on acceleration and braking. Easier for beginners.
- Manual – Require shifting gears yourself. Give you more control but take practice.
Ideal Size for Beginners
For your first time riding in Hanoi, a 100-125cc automatic scooter or underbone will offer the best blend of stability, comfort, and ease of handling in busy streets.
Inspecting and Picking Up Your Rental
Don’t just hop on the first bike they hand you. Inspecting the motorbike first and taking it for a test ride are important.
Look over these elements before committing to a specific bike:
- Tires – sufficient tread without cracks or bulges
- Brakes – brake pads not overly worn, fluid levels
- Throttle – snaps back quickly when released
- Mirrors – positioned to see behind you clearly
- Lights – working headlight, brake lights and turn signals
- Horn – gives a solid honk when used
- Locks – key inserts and turns smoothly
Do a walk around and sit on the bike to check comfort and stability too.
Take the bike around the block first before heading into traffic. Get a feel for acceleration, braking, turning, and gear shifts. Don’t be shy about requesting a different bike if needed.
Request Safety Equipment
Always wear closed toe shoes and long pants. Request a helmet in your size, a poncho or raincoat if storms are expected, and a bike lock for when parked.
Pickup and Return
Understand the pickup and return process including:
- Required documentation
- Gas requirements (do they provide full or require refill)
- Deposit amount
- Business hours
- Return condition expectations
Having this information ensures a smooth rental experience.
Riding Safety Tips for Hanoi Streets
Now for the most critical part – how to safely navigate the organized chaos of Hanoi traffic. The first rule is to always drive defensively. Be alert, patient and prepared to react.
Defensive Riding Tips
- Cover brakes when stopping, ready to brake suddenly
- Watch out for pedestrians, they have right of way
- Check blind spots changing lanes
- Keep distance from other vehicles
- Pull off road if needed to re-orient yourself
Driving on Hanoi Streets
- Expect intersections to be four-way stops, take turns slowly
- Pass slower traffic on left when safe
- Follow flow of traffic, avoid going against traffic
- Stay away from road edges where bikes get stuck
Traffic Rules and Courtesy
Obey basic rules like traffic lights, posted signs and speed limits. Drive courteously:
- Allow merging when lanes narrow
- Don’t honk your horn excessively
- Use hand turning signals
- Pull over if many bikes stack up behind you
By law, helmets are required – so always wear one. Also use:
- Sunglasses to block dust
- Face mask to filter pollution
- Gloves improve grip and prevent sun burns
- Light jacket for rain or cool nights
Great Motorbike Routes and Trips from Hanoi
Once you are comfortable on your bike, there are endless places to explore. Build confidence first then venture further.
>>> Explore: Mastering Motorbike Rentals: The Ultimate Hanoi Handbook
A. Top Destinations for Day Trips
Here are some favorite destinations perfect for day trips from Hanoi:
- Perfume Pagoda – Ascenic temple and shrine complex about 60 km from Hanoi.
- Tam Coc – Lush rice paddies and limestone mountains. Under 100 km away.
- Ba Vi National Park – Mountain forests with hiking trails and fresh air. Around 60 km west.
B. Routes to Avoid Initially
As a new rider in Vietnam, avoid these routes at first as they are high traffic and long distance:
- Noi Bai Airport Route
- Freeway to Sapa or Ha Long Bay
- Highway 18 through Ninh Binh
C. Maps, Apps and Navigation
Have a plan for navigation. Options include:
- Downloading offline Google Maps of Hanoi
- Using apps like Maps.me that don’t need data
- Bringing a physical map as backup
- Asking locals for directions
D. Building Confidence Over Time
The more you ride in Hanoi, the more comfortable you’ll become:
- Start with short trips under 50 km
- Work up to heavier traffic areas
- Practice gear shifts and parking
- Gain experience in different conditions like night riding or rain
- Consider joining a motorbike tour group
Reflect after each ride on what went well, what you can improve, and where you want to go next. Enjoy the ride!
Hopefully this guide has provided a thorough overview of renting and riding a motorbike in Hanoi – from choosing a rental shop and bike, to handling Hanoi traffic, to exploring favorite routes around the city.
The key is to educate yourself beforehand, invest in protective gear, inspect your bike thoroughly, drive defensively at all times, start slow, and continually build skills.
Riding a motorbike through Hanoi can create lifelong memories if done safely. Use this guide to set yourself up for success.
In closing, follow these final tips for an awesome motorbiking experience in Hanoi:
- Obtain an International Driving Permit and insurance before your trip
- Reserve a bike from a reputable shop in the 100cc-125cc range
- Familiarize yourself with road signs and rules in Vietnam
- Pack proper riding gear – helmet, sunglasses, gloves etc
- Drive conservatively until you adjust to traffic flow
- Start with short trips and work your way up
- Enjoy the freedom of exploring this incredible city on two wheels!
Answering Common Questions
Here are some common questions and answers related to Renting motorbikes in Hanoi:
What documents do I need to rent a motorbike in Hanoi?
Most shops will require your passport and visa. Having an International Driving Permit and motorbike insurance is also recommended. Some may ask for a deposit or small rental fee.
Can I use my home country license?
Technically yes, but an International Driving Permit strengthens your case if ever questioned by police. IDPs are easy to obtain before your trip.
What is the traffic like in Hanoi?
Hanoi traffic is very congested, with motorbikes, cycles, cars, buses and pedestrians sharing the road. It can seem chaotic but follows an organized system. Drive patiently, defensively and always watch out for others.
Is it safe for beginners to rent in Hanoi?
It is safe if you educate yourself beforehand, start with short rides, drive cautiously and wear protective gear. Choose an automatic scooter under 125cc and build confidence slowly before riding at night or in rain.
What should I look out for when inspecting a rental bike?
Check the tires, brakes, throttle, mirrors, lights, horn and locks function properly. Make sure it feels stable and comfortable to sit on. Take a short test ride around the block.
What essential gear should I pack?
Always pack a quality helmet, gloves, eye protection, covered shoes, rain poncho and face mask. Bring a phone mount, offline maps, power bank and bike lock too.
What routes are good for beginners from Hanoi?
Short trips under 50km to Perfume Pagoda, Tay Ho West Lake or Van Mieu are ideal when starting out. Avoid long distances on highways at first.
How can I find my way around Hanoi?
Using offline maps on a phone is best. Bring a physical map as backup. Apps like Maps.me work offline. Practice key destinations first before venturing too far.
What if I have an accident or break down?
First, remain calm and move to the roadside. Call your rental company for assistance or advice. Have emergency numbers, license and insurance ready in case authorities are involved.