The dizzying traffic of Hanoi can be intimidating for visitors. Swarms of motorbikes weave through the streets in complex flows that seem chaotic yet orderly at the same time. For tourists though, joining the motorbike commotion is one of the best ways to dive right into the energy and vibrance of Vietnam’s capital city.
Zooming through the tangled lanes of the Old Quarter, breezing along tree-lined boulevards, and cruising past scenic lakes and temples – motorbiking allows you to truly immerse yourself in Hanoi’s sights, sounds and smells. It offers an up-close perspective of daily life and a thrilling way to discover lesser-known pockets around the city.
This comprehensive guide will equip you with everything you need to know to rent a motorbike and explore Hanoi by motorbike like a local. From choosing the right bike, safety tips, recommended routes, top attractions, and day trips – let’s rev up and ride!
Background on Motorbiking in Hanoi
In Hanoi, motorbikes are the main mode of transport for locals. It’s estimated there are over 5 million motorbikes traversing the city streets! Motorbikes outnumber cars 4 to 1 in Vietnam, with many households owning at least 2 bikes.
Zigzagging mopeds dominate the roads as people from all walks of life rely on them to commute to work, transport goods, and travel quickly through congested streets. Visitors soon realize it’s often faster to travel by motorbike than car or bus.
Given how ubiquitous and integral motorbikes are to getting around Vietnam, it’s no wonder motorbiking has also become a popular activity for tourists in Hanoi. Zooming by landmarks and dodging traffic makes for an adventurous and cultural experience quite different from back home.
However, you’ll need to be prepared for Hanoi’s relatively chaotic traffic system. Lanes are more like suggestions, parking happens on sidewalks, and traffic flows according to its own rhythms. As overwhelming as it looks, there is an order – you just have to be alert, patient, and maintain a cool head.
Choosing the Right Motorbike
The thrill of motorbiking in Hanoi starts with choosing your ride. Motorbikes in Vietnam typically range from small automatic mopeds to manual transmission geared motorcycles. When selecting a bike, here are key factors to consider:
This affects power and speed. 50-110cc is suitable for beginners, while 125-250cc offers stability at higher speeds on highways or long distances. Anything above 300cc is very powerful.
Automatic is easier for new riders, while manual allows switching gears and more control. Consider your skill level.
Size and Weight
Lighter mopeds around 100kg are good for squeezing through narrow lanes. Heavier bikes above 150kg handle better at high speeds.
Comfort and ergonomics are also important – test drive to find the optimal size for you.
Condition and Durability
Inspect lights, mirrors, brakes, tires. Newer well-maintained bikes are ideal. Review the rental company’s service and maintenance records.
Required Paperwork for Renting
To rent a motorbike in Vietnam, you’ll need:
- Valid passport – The rental shop will make a photocopy of your passport for their records.
- Motorcycle license – An international or Vietnamese license classifying you for the bike cc you wish to rent.
- Deposit – Ranges from $50-$100 depending on the motorbike’s value, to cover any damage.
- Signed rental agreement – Spells out terms, conditions, deposit amount, and liability. Read carefully!
Some shops may require you leave your passport as the deposit during rental. Consider bringing a passport photocopy instead (along with original passport), so you don’t risk losing it.
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Where to Rent Motorbikes in Hanoi
Hanoi has no shortage of motorbike rental shops, though service and bike quality varies enormously. Researching rental companies with solid reputations will help ensure a smooth, enjoyable experience.
Top places to consider renting in Hanoi:
- Cuong’s Motorbike Adventure – High quality bikes, good service and prices. Helpful owner.
- Tigit Motorbikes – Rave reviews for well-maintained bikes, safety guides and route maps provided.
- Hanoi Motorbike Rental – Flexible policies, solid bikes, experienced mechanics for quick fixes.
Ask fellow travelers, check recent online reviews, and confirm license requirements before choosing a rental company. Proximity to your hotel is also convenient.
Many cafes and hotels around town also offer bike rentals with mediocre quality. Specialized shops are best for longer rentals and tours.
>>> Discover More about: Exploring Hanoi on Two Wheels: Detailed Motorbike Rental Costs
Inspecting the Motorbike Before Renting
Thoroughly inspect a motorbike before handing over your deposit and hitting the road. Look for:
- Fluids – Check oil and fuel levels to ensure they can last your rental period.
- Tires – Ensure no cracks, bubbles, obstacles stuck in treads. Tread depth should exceed 1.6mm.
- Brakes – Test front and rear brakes respond adequately. No grinding noises.
- Lights – Turn signals, brake lights, headlights, high beams all functioning.
- Odometer – Document the bikes mileage before and after renting. Some shops charge for kilometers ridden.
- Mirrors – Fully secured and angled properly to eliminate blind spots.
- Helmet – Try on the helmet for proper fit. Must be high quality with unscratched visor.
- Locks – Handlebar and helmet locks work properly. You’ll need these for parking.
Any issues? Notify the rental company before taking the bike and ask for a different motorbike that meets standards. Don’t discover problems mid-route!
Safety Tips for Motorbiking in Hanoi
Motorbiking in Hanoi’s chaotic streets is not for the faint of heart! Follow these essential safety tips:
- Look ahead – Anticipate hazards like pedestrians or vehicles swerving into your path.
- Watch your sides – Motorbikes, bicycles and cars may try to squeeze in from left or right lanes.
- Cover brakes – Keep hands ready to brake as conditions change rapidly. Don’t rely solely on horns.
- Never assume right of way – Yield and let others go first, even if you technically have the right of way.
- Helmet – Use properly fastened helmets at all times. Helmets reduce fatal injuries by 42%*.
- Sturdy shoes – Protect feet and ankles. Never wear sandals.
- Jackets, pants – Prevent abrasions in a crash or fall. Avoid shorts.
- Gloves – Guard hands from debris, burns from hot exhaust pipes.
- Drive slowly – Rarely exceed 30-40km/h to react better to hazards.
- Focus – Avoid mobile phones or distractions. Pay 100% attention to the road.
- Allow space – Keep safe distance from vehicles in front to brake gradually.
- Use lights – Turn signals warn others of your maneuvers, and make you visible.
- Rain – Reduce speed. Allow 4-10x normal braking distance on slick roads*.
- Night – Drive slowly. Use lights properly aimed. Be vigilant of pedestrians in dark clothing.
- Heat – Wear sun protection. Stay hydrated. Take breaks to avoid heat exhaustion.
Following basic safety precautions will help ensure an incident-free motorbiking adventure in Hanoi’s hectic traffic!
Recommended Routes & Attractions in Hanoi
Armed with your motorbike and safety know-how, it’s time to hit the open road! Here are suggested routes and top attractions to see by motorbike:
The vibrant historic heart of Hanoi with over 1000 years of history. Navigate narrow shop-lined lanes and experience traditional tube houses, eateries, temples.
Top Attractions: Đồng Xuân Market, Bach Ma Temple, Hoan Kiem Lake
>>> >>> Read More: Explore Hanoi’s Old Quarter: Motorbike Rentals & Guide
Leafy boulevards and charming French colonial architecture around Hoan Kiem Lake. Feel like you’re in Paris!
Top Attractions: Hanoi Opera House, Hotel Metropole, St. Joseph’s Cathedral
Ho Chi Minh Complex
Explore memorials and monuments dedicated to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s revolutionary leader.
Top Attractions: Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, One Pillar Pagoda, Presidential Palace
Hanoi’s largest lake offers a relaxing escape from the city center. Ride the 17km loop and visit adjacent temples.
Top Attractions: Tran Quoc Pagoda, Quan Thanh Temple, Truc Bach Lake
Long Bien Bridge
Cross the historic cantilever bridge over the Red River for scenic city views at sunset.
Temple of Literature
An oasis of serenity and Hanoi’s oldest temple, dedicated to Confucius. Wander through well-preserved courtyards.
Pace yourself and don’t overpack the itinerary. Part of the joy of motorbiking is pulling over spontaneously when something piques your interest!
>>> Additional Resources: Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem: Motorbike Rentals & Exploration Tips
Popular Day Trips Out of Hanoi
Make the most of having your own set of wheels by taking scenic day trips out of Hanoi and exploring beyond the capital:
Ha Long Bay
- What – UNESCO World Heritage Site with 3000+ limestone islands rising from the emerald Gulf of Tonkin. Serene natural beauty.
- How – Join a guided day cruise from Hanoi through the stunning islands and waters.
- What – Dramatic limestone karst scenery with immense rock formations, rice paddies and caves to explore.
- How – Drive 2.5 hours west. Hire a local rowboat to traverse the waterways.
- What – Complex of Buddhist temples and shrines within the Huong Tich mountains. Site of spiritual pilgrimage.
- How – Drive 1.5 hours south to perfume pagoda cable car. Hike around temples on mountains.
Ba Vi National Park
- What – Untouched wilderness with hiking trails past misty hills, lakes and tropical forest. Get close to nature.
- How – Drive 1.5 hours west of Hanoi. Trek through lush jungle terrain.
Wherever you go, prepare properly for longer trips: check directions, fuel up, pack supplies, let someone know your route. Enjoy beautiful open vistas you simply can’t experience by bus or train!
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Revving a motorbike through the mesmerizing chaos of Hanoi traffic and disappearing down little alleyways is an experience not to be missed. With proper preparation, safety precautions, and recommended routes, motorbiking unlocks Hanoi’s vibrance, flavors and secrets like nothing else.
Renting a motorbike allows you to immerse yourself in Hanoi’s kinetic energy at your own pace – pausing to sip tea at a sidewalk cafe, conversing with locals at markets, feeling the wind zip by ancient temples. You steer your own journey.
This guide has equipped you with everything needed to start your engines and take off on an unforgettable motorbiking adventure in Vietnam’s captivating capital. Now just buckle up your helmet, embrace the thrill of the ride and let the city streets pass you by on two wheels!