Renting a motorbike is one of the best ways for backpackers to explore the chaotic streets of Hanoi. Zipping around the city by motorbike gives you a thrilling taste of local life and the freedom to travel at your own pace.
However, with Hanoi’s reputation for wild traffic and questionable driving practices, renting a bike can also be daunting for foreigners. This handbook will walk you through everything you need to know to safely rent a motorbike during your travels in Vietnam’s capital.
Overview of Renting Motorbikes as a Backpacker in Hanoi
Hanoi has a thriving motorbike culture, with bikes crowding every street and alley. For tourists, joining this motorized mayhem may seem equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. However, with the right preparation, renting a motorbike can be one of the most adventurous and enjoyable parts of backpacking in Hanoi.
It gives you the flexibility to explore attractions across the sprawling city, from the Old Quarter to West Lake and beyond. Zipping down tree-lined boulevards or cruising narrow village lanes, you’ll get an intimate look at daily life beyond the tourist traps. Plus, you can stop wherever you please – for a bánh mì sandwich, a cup of coffee, or to chat with friendly locals.
Renting a motorbike also allows you to easily access sights on the outskirts of Hanoi. Cruise out to ancient temples, traditional craft villages, or stunning mountain landscapes. With your own set of wheels, Hanoi becomes your gateway to northern Vietnam’s natural and cultural treasures.
Why Rent a Motorbike as a Backpacker in Hanoi
Here are some of the best reasons to rent your own motorbike for exploring Vietnam’s capital:
- Flexibility: Go wherever you want, whenever you want, without relying on group tours or public transportation. Want to cruise Hanoi’s Old Quarter at sunrise? Or spend a full day wandering village backroads? You have complete freedom to customize your own Hanoi itinerary.
- Affordability: Renting a motorbike is significantly cheaper than hiring a car and driver or even taxis and Grab rides. For less than $10 USD per day, you can have your own transportation. With gas costing less than $1 USD per liter, cruising by bike is also budget-friendly.
- Independence: Avoid herding onto packed tour buses. With your own motorbike you control the route and the pace, skipping crowds and tourist traps. It’s just you, the open road, and new discoveries around every corner.
- Adventure: For thrill seekers, joining Hanoi’s motorbike madness offers an adrenaline rush unlike any other. The rewarding feeling of surviving Vietnam’s chaotic roads lets you earn serious travel bragging rights.
- Cultural Experience: Live like a local by adopting Vietnam’s favorite form of transportation – the humble motorbike. Interacting with locals at gas stations and coffee stops gives you a more authentic slice of local life.
Pros and Cons of Renting a Motorbike in Hanoi
While renting a motorbike opens up amazing opportunities for travel in Vietnam, the road is not without its risks and challenges. Consider both the rewards and the potential downsides before cruising off into the Hanoi traffic.
Pros of Renting a Motorbike
- Total Freedom: With your own motorbike you can go anywhere, anytime, with no fixed schedule or obligations. Feel like stopping for a lakeside sunset? Do it. Want to explore villages for the day? Just point the bike and go.
- Cost Savings: Hourly and daily motorbike rental rates are very affordable, starting around 60,000 VND ($3 USD). This is significantly cheaper than hiring a driver or even Grab motorbike taxis, especially for full days of exploring.
- Breezing By Traffic: Motorbikes can zip through gridlocked traffic and park anywhere. No waiting for buses or fighting for a taxi. For covering long distances across Hanoi, motorbikes are efficient and convenient.
- Access to Outskirts: A motorbike allows you to venture beyond central Hanoi to craft villages like Bat Trang or mountain towns like Ba Vi National Park. Public transit to these places is limited, but a bike gets you there easily.
- Unique Perspective: Seeing Hanoi from the seat of a motorbike gives you an up-close look at its chaos and rhythms. You’ll gain insights that you’d miss speeding by in a taxi or tour bus.
Cons of Renting a Motorbike
- Dangerous Traffic: Hanoi traffic is notoriously chaotic, with drivers not following lanes or traffic signals. The accident rate is very high, so you need to be extremely cautious.
- Getting Lost: The narrow streets of the Old Quarter are like a maze. Without solid navigation skills, you risk getting lost in a bewildering tangle of alleys.
- Breakdowns & Accidents: Mechanical problems or accidents can happen anytime. You’ll need to know how to handle breakdowns or get help if there is an accident.
- Pollution & Noise: Hanoi’s loud, petrol-fumed streets may overwhelm those not accustomed to traffic. Wearing a mask helps against pollution, but the noisy chaos remains.
- Theft Risk: Unattended motorbikes, especially at night, are at risk for theft and vandalism. Be sure to park in safe, well-lit areas and lock the handles.
Types of Motorbikes for Rent in Hanoi
Hanoi has a diverse fleet of motorbikes available to rent. Here are the main types of bikes for cruising the Vietnamese capital:
>>> Go Beyond: Essential Motorbike Rental Requirements in Vietnam: A Comprehensive Guide
- Most common rental bikes
- Gear shifts operated by hand
- Takes practice to use smoothly
- Models like Honda Wins, Yamaha Nouvos
Manual bikes give you full control, but require coordination with hand shifting and foot braking. They’re the best choice for experienced riders.
- No gear shifting needed
- Smooth acceleration and braking
- Models like Honda Airblades, Yamaha Jupiters
Automatics are easier for beginners, but offer less power for highway riding. If you’re not comfortable with manual shifts, an automatic is a good alternative.
Motorbikes with Driver
- Ideal if you’re not a confident motorbike operator
- Hire an experienced driver with a bike
- More expensive than renting just a bike
Having your own driver allows you to sit back and focus on the sights instead of the road. Some travelers feel safer having a local navigate Hanoi’s chaotic streets.
>>> Learn More: Navigating Motorbike Rentals in Hanoi for Beginners
Where to Rent Motorbikes in Hanoi
Hanoi offers lots of options for securing motorbike rentals. Shop around to compare rates, bike quality, and service.
Rent From Your Hostel
Many Hanoi hostels offer motorbike rental services or partnerships with rental shops. Ask at your accommodation’s front desk about motorbike availability and rental rates.
Pros: convenient, may get discounts as a guest, bikes are likely decent quality
Cons: limited selection, may pay higher rates than shops
Local Motorbike Rental Shops
Neighborhood rental shops offer rock-bottom rates, but service may be hit-or-miss. Look for reputable shops near your hostel.
Pros: very affordable, plentiful options, can see bikes in person
Cons: sales pressure, quality not guaranteed, parking challenging
Online Rental Companies
Book motorbikes online in advance from companies catering to travelers. Quality and service are reliable.
Pros: vetted bikes, easy booking, good service, helmets included
Cons: pricier than local shops, less flexibility, require deposit
No matter where you rent, inspect bikes carefully and confirm details like price, deposits, and insurance coverage in writing.
Documentation You’ll Need to Rent a Motorbike
To legally rent a motorbike in Vietnam, you’ll need:
- Valid driver’s license from your home country
- Passport to confirm your identity
- Deposit, typically around $50-$100 USD, paid in cash in VND
An International Driver’s Permit (IDP) translates your license but is not required. Be sure your home license remains valid for your whole Vietnam trip.
Carry your passport and driver’s license anytime you’ll be riding. Legal penalties for driving without proper documentation are severe.
Inspecting the Motorbike Before You Rent
Give any rental bike a thorough inspection before agreeing to the rental. Test ride it briefly around the block too.
- Check tires for adequate tread depth and inflation
- Test brakes for proper grip and stopping power
- Verify lights – headlight, brake light, blinkers all working
- Check mirrors are intact and adjusted properly
- Examine engine for leaks and strange sounds
- Try gears & accelerator for smooth shifting/power
Take photos capturing any existing scratches or damage before you drive off. You don’t want to be blamed for pre-existing problems when you return the bike.
Average Motorbike Rental Prices in Hanoi
Motorbike rental prices vary considerably depending on bike style, quality, and rental provider. Here are typical rates:
- Older manual bike – $3-6 USD per day
- Newer automatic bike – $6-10 USD per day
- Weekly rates are often discounted around 20% lower than the daily rate multiplied by 7 days
- Deposits range from $50-100 USD, depending on the bike’s value
Many rental companies include helmets, locks, and basics like a basket or storage box. But verify exactly what’s included so you can request needed add-ons.
Other Motorbike Rental Fees to Know
Beyond the base rental rate, be prepared for these additional charges:
- Parking fees if you garage the bike overnight or at destinations
- Gas costs – fuel averages under $1 USD per liter
- Extra driver fees – additional charge for a 2nd person to drive the bike
- Discounts for rentals over 1 week; weekly/monthly rates
- Insurance fees or waiver to reduce liability for damage to the bike
Always confirm the full price including taxes, surcharges, parking, insurance, etc. before committing. Negotiate discounts for longer rentals.
The Motorbike Rental Agreement – Read Carefully!
The rental contract is a legally binding agreement – violate the terms and you could forfeit your deposit or face financial penalties. Before signing, understand key points like:
- Your liability for loss/damage to the vehicle
- Limits on where/when you can ride the motorbike
- Who else (if anyone) is permitted to operate the bike
- Procedures if the bike breaks down or is in an accident
- Fuel costs and whether you must refill the tank
- Required safety gear like helmets
- Penalties for late return – often 5% of the rental fee per extra hour
Take photos of the contract and your license/passport to protect yourself in case of disputes over damage, terms, or your identity.
Safety Gear to Use When Renting a Motorbike
Riding in Hanoi traffic demands protective gear for safety. Always wear:
- Helmet – most shops provide one, but check its quality and fit
- Face mask – reduces pollution; buy locally for less than $1
- Long pants/sleeves – prevents abrasions; wear breathable fabrics
- Closed toe shoes with traction; sandals or slip-ons are risky
- Gloves are optional for grip and preventing blisters/burns
Pack sunglasses and rain gear too. Apply sunscreen and reapply often. Stay well-hydrated.
Wear bright colors or reflective strips to be visible. Avoid loose clothing that could catch on the bike.
Driving Laws and Tips for Motorbikes in Hanoi
To stay safe on Hanoi’s chaotic roads, you must adapt to local driving etiquette. Keep these laws and tips in mind:
Obey Basic Traffic Laws
- Drive on the right side of the road
- Stop fully at red lights and stop signs
- Use turn signals when changing lanes or turning
- Yield to traffic when entering roads
- Stay under speed limits – typically 40-60 km/hr in cities
- Drive slowly – speeds over 40 km/hr are difficult with traffic
- Cover brakes and be ready to brake suddenly
- Watch out for pedestrians and motorbikes entering roads
- Keep distance between other vehicles – traffic can stop unexpectedly
- Stay alert – avoid using phones or distractions while riding
Allow Extra Time
- Expect delays – traffic jams are common, especially during rush hours
- Leave early – sights often open by 7am, so get an early start
- Take breaks – Hanoi’s traffic is exhausting; stop for rests and hydration
Patience and caution will get you to your destinations safely. Never drive while impaired.
Hanoi’s tangled streets make GPS navigation essential, even for experienced riders. Download these helpful apps:
- Works offline if you pre-download Hanoi map
- Provides turn-by-turn voice directions
- Can plan routes avoiding highways or toll roads
- Good offline Hanoi map available
- Lets you bookmark key spots like your hotel
- Route planning and turn-by-turn guidance
- Order GrabBike taxi rides if lost or in breakdown
- Use GrabCar for emergencies needing 4-wheel transport
- Pay digitally – no need for cash
Try apps ahead of time at home or on hotel WiFi. Carry power banks to keep your phone charged.
What to Do During a Breakdown or Accident
Hope for the best, but plan for the worst by preparing for potential mishaps on the road:
For minor breakdowns:
- Try to coast safely to the roadside
- Call the rental company for assistance or repairs
- Use breakdown coverage if you opted for insurance
If there is an accident:
- Move to a safe location and check for injuries
- Call emergency services if needed
- File a police report at the nearest station
- Contact the rental company to report damage
- Get contact details and insurance data from the other party
Stay calm. Arrange a taxi or ride share to return to your hotel. Use your travel insurance and credit cards to recover costs.
Returning Your Rental Motorbike in Hanoi
To get your full deposit back, return the bike in good shape:
- Refuel the tank or pay any fuel charges per contract
- Wash off major dirt at a gas station
- Inspect for new dents, scratches or damage
- Show rental agent existing damage from before
- Return at the arranged time to avoid late fees
- Get receipts for fuel, rental fees, and deposit returns
Returning bikes after hours leaves them vulnerable to theft. Lay out rental terms for night returns at pickup.
Alternative Transportation Options in Hanoi
If you decide riding a motorbike in Hanoi is too risky, safer transportation alternatives include:
GrabBike Motorbike Taxis
- Order bikes via the Grab app; pay digitally
- Experienced drivers navigate Hanoi’s traffic
- Provides helmets; can carry a passenger
- Inexpensive way to reach major sites
- Routes connect Old Quarter to Hoan Kiem Lake, museums
- Stops are spaced far apart; can be slow
Cyclos and Pedicabs
- Let a driver pedal you around in these three-wheeled bikes
- Found in Old Quarter, near Hoan Kiem Lake
- Agree on fares beforehand; about 20,000 VND per hour
While less adventurous, these options provide safer transport across Hanoi. Weigh them against renting your own motorbike.
>>> Get More Details: Demystifying Motorbike Rentals in Hanoi: A Complete Guide
For daring travelers, renting a motorbike unlocks Hanoi’s possibilities like nothing else can. Cruising busy boulevards, winding through ancient alleys, and escaping to villages – you’ll experience sides of Hanoi most visitors miss.
But preparation and caution are key. Respect the very real risks of Hanoi’s roads while embracing the rewards of independence and flexibility. Use this handbook as your guide to safely navigating chaotic Hanoi on two wheels. The memories and thrills will stay with you long after you return home.
Strap on a helmet, kickstart your motorbike adventure, and let Hanoi’s manic streets show you a wild ride you’ll never forget!