Renting a motorbike is one of the best ways to explore Hanoi and northern Vietnam. The traffic and roads can be intimidating for foreigners, but with this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know for a safe and scenic motorbike trip.
Some key benefits of renting a motorbike in Hanoi include:
- Freedom and flexibility to travel at your own pace
- Ability to reach places that are not accessible by public transport
- Cost-effectiveness compared to organized tours or taxis
- Immersing yourself in local Vietnamese culture
Compared to using buses, trains, or even grabbing taxis, having your own set of wheels lets you stop wherever you please and change plans spur of the moment. It’s an adventurous way to experience Vietnam’s countryside, cities, and highways.
Choosing a Rental Company
With so many rental companies to choose from, it’s important to find one that is reputable and trustworthy. Here are some tips:
- Ask fellow travelers for recommendations – Find out where other tourists have had good experiences renting bikes in Hanoi. Popular rental shops include Cuong’s Motorbike Adventure, Offroad Vietnam, and Hanoi Motorbike.
- Look for well-maintained bikes – Inspect the bikes yourself to make sure they appear properly serviced and are in good working order. Avoid companies with dirty, worn out bikes.
- Don’t fall for scams – Only work with companies that are transparent about deposits, rent, insurance, etc. Avoid places that try to rush you or don’t satisfactorily answer all your questions.
- Read reviews online – Check sites like TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet to see feedback from past customers. This will help identify reputable companies and ones to potentially avoid.
As one traveler said about their rental experience:
“We rented from a highly reviewed company for peace of mind. The bikes were newer models and very well maintained. The staff also took time to explain everything clearly with no hidden fees.”
To legally rent and drive a motorbike in Vietnam, you’ll need:
- International driving license – Be sure you have a valid IDP appropriate for motorbikes. Many rental shops require an IDP.
- Passport and visa – Have your passport ready to show proof of identification. Also have a valid Vietnamese visa if required for your nationality.
- Deposit – Most companies require a deposit of around $50-$100, reimbursed when you return the bike undamaged. Some may also run a credit card authorization as a security deposit.
- Rental agreement – You’ll need to sign a rental contract and likely show your driver’s license. Make sure to read and understand all terms and conditions.
- Extra insurance – Consider supplemental insurance for damage coverage beyond your deposit. This provides peace of mind in case of crashes, theft, or other unforeseen issues.
Inspecting the Motorbike
Give any rental bike a thorough inspection before hitting the road. Here’s what to check:
- Tires – Ensure tires have sufficient tread depth and are properly inflated. This helps avoid blowouts or other tire failures.
- Brakes – Test front and rear brakes to make sure they slow the bike effectively. Brakes are crucial for Vietnam’s chaotic traffic.
- Lights – Make sure headlights, brake lights, turn signals and running lights are functioning properly.
- Oil & fluids – Check that enough engine oil and other fluid levels without any leaks.
- Throttle – Twist the throttle to confirm it’s smooth and responsive when accelerating.
- Mirrors – Adjust mirrors so you have good rear visibility for lane changing and passing.
- Horn – Test the horn works. You’ll need it to honk and signal to other drivers.
- Locks – Make sure ignition key and any bike locks work properly to prevent theft.
Also take clear photos capturing any existing damage for reference in case of disputes later on. Thorough inspections go a long way!
>>> Unearth More Information: Scooters, Motorbikes and More: A Renter’s Guide to Hanoi
Safety Gear & Equipment
Vietnam mandates helmet use when riding a motorbike. Beyond that essential piece of safety gear, other recommendations include:
- Helmet – Only use a high quality helmet that fits you properly. Avoid cheap helmets that won’t protect your head in a crash.
- Reflective vest – Wear a bright reflective vest over your clothes to be more visible to traffic.
- Closed toe shoes – Wear sturdy shoes or boots to protect your feet and ankles. Never ride in sandals or flip flops.
- Gloves – Motorcycle gloves protect your hands in a fall and make long rides more comfortable.
- Rain gear – Bring a lightweight rain jacket or poncho during Vietnam’s wet season.
- Day pack – Use a small backpack to carry essentials like snacks, phone, wallet, map, etc.
- Bungee cords – Handy for strapping bags and other items securely to the bike.
Riding fully geared up minimizes injury risk and prepares you for Vietnam’s varied riding conditions.
Rules of the Road
While Vietnam’s roads seem chaotic, there are some basic traffic laws and norms you should know:
- Drive on the right – Keep to the right lane unless passing. Watch out for vehicles driving against traffic flow.
- Yielding – Yield to vehicles joining from the left. Also yield to larger buses, trucks, and cars.
- Speed limits – Limits range from 30-60 km/hr in urban areas, but aren’t often followed. Use caution and go slower if needed.
- Passing – Use horns and lights to indicate passing on the left. Pass with care.
- Traffic lights – Traffic lights are suggestions more than laws in Vietnam. Proceed cautiously through intersections whether green or red.
- Lane splitting – It’s common to pass between cars or ride along the road shoulder. Do so slowly and watch for opening car doors.
- Defensive driving – Expect other vehicles to pull out suddenly. Drive proactively and always watch your surroundings.
With attentiveness and defensive techniques, motorbiking in Vietnam can be manageable and enjoyable!
Popular Routes & Destinations
With the freedom of two wheels, there are endless possibilities for motorbike adventures out of Hanoi. Here are some top destinations and routes to consider:
Day trips from Hanoi
- Ba Vi National Park – Ride northwest of Hanoi through mountainous scenery to Ba Vi with temples, pagodas, and hiking trails.
- Perfume Pagoda – South of Hanoi, explore the Perfume Pagoda’s remarkable temples and shrines built right into limestone cliffs.
- Tam Coc – Cruise through the dramatic karst rock formations of Tam Coc (“Halong Bay on Land”) just a few hours south of Hanoi.
Northern loop routes
- Ha Giang – Do the epic route far north through mountainous Ha Giang province, with jaw dropping scenery.
- Mai Chau – Journey west through rural villages and rice paddies to overnight in scenic Mai Chau.
- Pu Luong – Discover the nature and remote villages of Pu Luong reserve on roads less traveled.
- Ba Be National Park – Ride to Ba Be National Park to boat on the lake and see waterfalls amidst lush peaks.
- Hai Van Pass – Cruise over the mountainous Hai Van Pass and continue following the coastline to Hoi An, Danang, and beyond.
- Cat Ba Island – Take the ferry with your motorbike over to Cat Ba Island for beaches, hiking, and water activities.
With any route, build in plenty of stops to fully soak in the scenery, interact with locals, and try amazing Vietnamese food along the way.
>>> Examine in Depth: A Guide to Motorbike Rental, Laws, Road Safety for Tourists in Hanoi, Vietnam
Packing & Preparation
A well-planned packing list and preparation helps ensure a smooth motorbike trip:
What to pack
- Rain gear – Waterproof jacket, poncho, rain pants, or other rain protection
- Layers – Light jackets, long sleeve shirts, etc. to adjust for Vietnam’s varied climates
- Comfortable clothes – Opt for flexible fabrics like athletic wear that are comfortable to ride in all day
- Sun protection – Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses to shield from Vietnam’s intense sun
- Toiletries – Any essential toiletries, medications, first aid supplies needed for overnight trips
- Snacks – Bring snacks like fruit or energy bars to refuel when riding in remote areas
- Phone charger – Bring a power bank and motorcycle phone mount to charge on the go
Luggage and cargo prep
- Use modular bags like duffels instead of rigid suitcases if needing to transport luggage
- Pack most belongings in a backpack you can wear while riding
- Tie luggage firmly to bike using cargo netting or bungee cords
- Waterproof your belongings by packing in dry bags or plastic bags inside luggage
Proper loading, restraint, and waterproofing prevents losing belongings on bumpy rides.
>>> Uncover More: The Backpacker’s Guide to Motorbike Rentals in Hanoi
Rainy season precautions
- Check weather forecasts and avoid riding during heavy rains or storms if possible
- Pack high visibility rain gear and waterproof phone/wallet storage
- Equip your bike with working headlight and increased tire tread for wet roads
- Go slower and allow extra stopping distance during downpours
- Have emergency cash in case you need to stop at a hotel or cafe to wait out rains
With the right preparations, rainy rides can still be adventurous and enjoyable!
Potential Issues & What To Do
Hopefully your rental experience goes smoothly, but it’s wise to be prepared if any problems arise:
- Stop somewhere safe and call the rental company if possible for assistance with repairs or towing
- Troubleshoot minor issues like flat tires yourself using the bike’s tools and your own capabilities
- If stranded in a remote area, seek help from nearby houses, shops, or passing motorists to make repairs or call the rental shop
- For minor accidents with no injuries, exchange information and move vehicles out of traffic flow
- For injury accidents, alert emergency services right away and do not flee the scene
- File a police report as required. Rental companies also require reporting accidents for insurance claims
- Get contact details and photographs documenting damage to vehicles and property
- Download offline maps like Google Maps on your phone to maintain GPS guidance without cell service
- Bring a physical map or directions as a backup in areas with no data connectivity
- Ask local residents for directions; Vietnamese are usually very helpful toward lost tourists
- Head towards major landmarks, highways, or cities to reorient yourself if extremely lost
Staying calm, using common sense, and seeking local help will resolve most issues should they arise.
Returning the Motorbike
To wrap up your rental when returning to the shop:
- Inspect the bike thoroughly again for any new damage
- Fill up the gas tank to avoid fuel surcharges
- Clean off any major dirt or mud from using the bike
- Remove all belongings you brought along on the trip
- Settle any rental extensions or additional charges
- Get your deposit refunded after the staff verifies the bike’s condition
- Check that any traffic violations were not wrongly issued under your name
Returning a tidy bike on time, undamaged, and with a full tank ensures you get your whole deposit back and avoid extra charges. Enjoy the rest of your adventures in Vietnam!
Renting a motorbike provides an unparalleled experience exploring Vietnam at your own pace. We hope these tips give you the knowledge and confidence to safely navigate Vietnam’s roads less traveled. With the right preparation and respect for local driving culture, an awesome adventure awaits!