The streets of Hanoi are a chaotic symphony of buzzing motorbikes. Over 5 million bikes zigzag through narrow alleys and broad avenues alike, dominating the transportation landscape. For visitors, joining the frenzy on the back of a bike is one of the best ways to dive into local culture. With this handbook, you’ll learn everything you need to rent, drive and park a motorbike like a pro in Vietnam’s capital.
Choosing the Right Motorbike
With countless bikes for hire across Hanoi, selecting the right set of two wheels can be overwhelming for first-timers. Here’s a breakdown of the most common types available:
Manual vs Automatic
- Manual – The gearshift and clutch control takes some practice but allows more control over acceleration and braking. Ideal for confident riders.
- Automatic – No gear changing needed, just accelerate and brake. Easier for beginners and low-speed urban driving.
- 50cc – The smallest engine size available. Best suited to lighter loads over short distances.
- 110cc – A good balance of power and efficiency for the average rider.
- 125cc+ – More powerful engines capable of higher speeds and heavier loads. Ideal for long distances.
Classic vs Modern
- Classic – Retro styled manual bikes like Hondas and Vespas. Offer great styling but less stability.
- Modern – Newer automatic models from Yamaha, Suzuki etc. Improved safety features but less character.
When choosing your wheels, factor in:
- Your experience level – Beginners are better off on automatic 110cc+ bikes.
- Rental duration – Short half-day rentals may only have 50cc bikes available.
- Passengers – Double riders will need 125cc+ engines with enough power.
- Driving conditions – Manual bikes handle highways better. Automatics are great for city start-stop traffic.
Renting Motorbikes in Hanoi
Once you’ve settled on the right bike, it’s time to lock in your rental. There are several options across Hanoi:
Many hotels offer motorbike rental services for guests. The advantages are:
- Convenience of renting on-site.
- May offer discounts for guests.
- Hotels handle maintenance and repairs.
- Provides helmets and rain ponchos.
The downside is limited selection compared to dedicated rental shops.
Private Rental Shops
For the widest selection under one roof, private shops are the way to go. They offer:
- Huge range of bike models and engine sizes.
- Flexible rental terms from 24 hours to monthly.
- Comprehensive insurance policies.
- Extras like saddlebags and phone holders.
On the flip side, larger deposits are often required.
Recently, peer-to-peer bike rental platforms like Turo have expanded to Hanoi. Benefits include:
- Lower rates than other options.
- Direct communication with the owner.
- Customizable rental terms.
Pay close attention to condition of bikes and insurance coverage when going peer-to-peer.
No matter where you rent, you’ll need:
- International license – Required for foreigners renting without a Vietnamese license. Be sure to carry it when driving.
- Passport and deposit – Around 5 million VND deposit is standard.
- Rental agreement – Details bike condition, rental rate, deposit, insurance coverage etc. Thoroughly inspect and photograph bike at pick-up.
- Negotiation – Rates are often negotiable, especially for longer rentals. Haggle respectfully.
- Helmets – Request two quality helmets. Substandard helmets offer little protection.
Hitting the Road
Before twisting the throttle, focus on riding safely by:
>>> See more: A Thorough Guide to Renting Motorbikes while Visiting Hanoi
Wearing Proper Gear
Beyond a helmet, wear:
- Enclosed shoes for protection. Sandals or flip flops can be dangerous.
- Long pants and sleeves to shield from sunburn and road rash in the event of a fall.
- Rain poncho during wet weather. Bikes offer little protection from heavy rain.
Put safety first by:
- Keeping moderate speeds and distances from other bikes.
- Using turn signals early so other drivers anticipate your movements.
- Employing your horn judiciously to indicate passing on the left.
- Staying alert and avoiding mobile phone use while riding.
Understanding Traffic Flow
Hanoi’s traffic follows unique rhythms:
- Motorbikes filter forward through slow or stopped car traffic.
- At intersections, bikes flow together without stopping then gradually filter into position.
- Lane markings are loose suggestions rather than rules. Bikes often cluster four or more across.
- Traffic police may manually direct priority at busy junctions during rush hour. Know their signals.
The densely packed Old Quarter north of Hoan Kiem lake presents challenges:
- Hundreds of narrow one-way streets follow no discernible pattern. Use navigation apps to avoid getting lost or stuck down dead-ends.
- Avoid main streets like Hang Bac and Hang Dao during peak times. They become jammed with bikes at standstill.
- Instead take parallel side streets like Hang Buom and Hang Dieu to skirt the worst congestion. Just watch for pedestrians.
- Around Hoan Kiem lake stick to the outer lane and watch out for tourists crossing unpredictably.
Parking, Fueling, and Maintenance
Finding parking in Hanoi’s urban density can be tricky:
- Hotel or hostel grounds and dedicated parking lots are safest if available.
- Curbside parking on wide sidewalks is common but check for restrictions and use wheel lock.
- Never park on street corners or block building entrances and alleys. You will be towed or ticketed.
- Many common streets become pedestrian-only on weekends. Avoid parking there if possible.
Keep your rental running smoothly by:
- Filling up frequently at one of Hanoi’s many petrol stations. Longer distances between fewer stations outside the city center.
- Performing basic maintenance checks like tire pressure, fluid levels, lights etc.
- Reporting any issues immediately to rental shop to avoid blame for damages.
Additional Riding Tips and Resources
Master Hanoi’s motorbike culture with these additional tips:
- Download useful navigation and parking apps like Maps.me, PocketBike, Xe Ôm, and AirPark. They make navigating simpler.
- Carry ID and rental agreement at all times in case of accidents or police stops.
- Learn basic hand signals to communicate pulling over, turning, slowing etc.
- Use useful Vietnamese driving phrases like “Bên trái đi” (going left) and “Cho tôi đi qua được không?” (can I drive through?).
- Join local motorbike forums and groups to connect with experienced Hanoi riders able to provide personalized advice.
>>> Suggestion: A Guide to Motorbike Rental, Laws, Road Safety for Tourists in Hanoi, Vietnam
While first-time riders may find Hanoi’s motorbike scene chaotic, following this guide will give you the knowledge to rent, navigate and park a bike with confidence. Soon you’ll be zooming through Vietnam’s capital like a local. From choosing the perfect ride to hitting the road safely to finding parking, use these tips to master motorbike rentals and unlock the very best of the city. The thrilling streets of Hanoi await. All that’s left is to grab your helmet and go experience them for yourself.
Answering Common Questions
Renting and riding a motorbike for the first time in Hanoi understandably raises many questions. Here are answers to some frequent queries:
Do I need a motorcycle license to rent a bike in Vietnam?
Technically no, but foreigners renting without a Vietnamese license are required to show an IDP (International Driving Permit) or valid license from their home country.
What is the average price for a motorbike rental in Hanoi?
Rates range widely, but expect to pay around 100,000 to 150,000 VND per day for a 110cc automatic bike from a rental shop.Hotel rentals, 50cc bikes, and longer rentals of a week or more will be cheaper.
What deposit is required for motorbike rentals?
Deposits range from 2 million to 5 million VND depending on the bike. Expect to pay around 5 million VND at most shops, which will be refunded when you return the bike undamaged. Hotels may only charge 1-2 million VND.
What is covered under standard insurance policies?
Basic coverage usually includes liability for any injuries or property damage to third parties. It does not cover damage to the bike itself, so comprehensive policies are recommended.
Can I cross into other provinces on a rented motorbike?
Usually no. Rental agreements limit bikes to Hanoi and immediate surrounding areas. Long-distance trips require notifying the rental shop and paying surcharges.
What should I do in case of an accident on a rented motorbike?
First, seek medical attention if required. Notify the police immediately and contact the rental shop with details. Comprehensive insurance should cover any repairs but you will need a police report.
Is driving in Hanoi as chaotic as it looks?
At first glance it appears incredibly chaotic! But experienced riders say you soon adjust to the flow of traffic. Defensive techniques like driving slowly and using your horn help you adapt.
What essential gear should I pack for motorbiking in Vietnam?
Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, face masks for pollution, rain ponchos, and always wear enclosed shoes and long sleeves. And don’t forget a phone mount for navigation apps!
Hopefully these answers help prepare you for renting and riding bikes in the organized chaos of Hanoi’s streets. Just take it slow until you adjust to traffic patterns. Stay alert and follow the tips in this guide for happy and safe motorbiking!