Vietnam is famous for its bustling city traffic and scenic rides through rice paddies and jungles. For many travelers, renting a motorbike is one of the best ways to experience Vietnam. The freedom of riding your own motorbike allows you to explore at your own pace. However, there are some important things to check before renting and riding a motorbike in Vietnam. Following these tips will help ensure a safe and enjoyable motorbike trip.
Research Reputable Rental Companies
The first step is finding a reputable company to rent from. This will help avoid common motorbike rental scams in Vietnam.
Read Online Reviews
- Search travel forums like Tripadvisor or Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum for recent first-hand reviews of motorbike rental companies. Look for consistent reports of good service and well-maintained bikes.
- Check Facebook groups like Vietnam Backpacker Tips or Vietnam Motorbike Tours for recent recommendations. Experienced travelers often post reviews in these groups.
Ask Locals for Recommendations
- Fellow travelers, your accommodation owner, or tour guides can suggest reputable companies they have used without issue.
- Ask for recommendations in Facebook groups focused on the specific area you plan to rent in.
Check Company Website and Social Media
- A professional website and active social media pages signal an established company.
- Look for many recent photos of their rental bikes and shop facilities. This helps verify they have a large fleet of quality bikes.
“I shortlisted a few companies based on reviews online, then visited their websites and shops before choosing one. Going in person helped me verify they had a solid operation.” – Liam S., Australian motorbike renter
Inspect the Motorbike Thoroughly
Do a thorough inspection of the motorbike before accepting it. Check the following areas carefully:
Check Tires and Brakes
- Inspect tires for adequate tread depth. Look closely for cuts, bubbles, or bulges.
- Test the brakes at low speed. Make sure they don’t feel too soft or pull to one side.
Ensure Lights and Signals Work
- Turn signals, headlight, brake light, and horn should all activate properly.
Look for Leaks or Damage
- Scan the engine and under the bike for any oil leaks.
- Check that the chain, seat, mirrors and other parts are undamaged.
Test Acceleration and Handling
- Accelerate gently and brake a few times to ensure it runs smoothly.
- Weave slightly at low speed to check steering and suspension.
“Don’t just glance the bike over. Really look over every detail to make sure it’s completely roadworthy.” – Sanjay K., motorbike traveler
Clarify Insurance Coverage
Understand what insurance is included, exclusions, and any extra coverage options:
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Ask What is Included and Excluded
- Basic coverage often excludes damage from crashes or theft. Ask the rental shop to explain all exclusions.
Consider Purchasing Extra Coverage
- Optional insurance can provide protection for damage or theft for an added fee. This provides peace of mind.
Keep Proof of Insurance Documents
- Carry proof of insurance coverage at all times when riding. This is required if you need to make a claim.
“I opted to get full coverage even though it was more expensive, which really helped when I had a minor accident on my rental. The process was smooth thanks to having insurance.” – Lucas C., Italy
Check License Requirements
Different licenses allow you to ride various motorbike sizes legally:
Research License Validity for Foreigners
- Vietnam recognizes valid licenses from many countries. Check official government sites to confirm yours qualifies.
Obtain International Driving Permit if Needed
- Some countries require an IDP motorcycle endorsement to ride legally in Vietnam. Obtain an IDP before your trip if needed.
Bring Your Home Country License
- Carry your valid driver’s license from your home country with you when renting and riding. This provides proof of your riding credentials.
“I researched Vietnam’s license rules for foreigners before my trip. My UK license was valid, so I just brought it along each time I rented a bike.” – Leila T., United Kingdom
Learn Traffic Rules
Familiarize yourself with Vietnam’s standard traffic laws to avoid issues while riding:
Drive on the Right Side of the Road
- Vietnam drives on the right side, which may take adjustment if you’re used to left-side driving.
Obey Speed Limits and Signs
- Stick to speed limits, which are generally 40-60 km/h in urban areas and 90 km/h on highways. Running red lights risks severe fines.
Watch for Vehicles Driving Against Traffic
- Be extremely cautious of oncoming traffic, as some vehicles drive into incoming traffic to pass others.
Yield to Vehicles Entering Roundabouts
- Traffic already in the roundabout has right of way. Use caution when entering and exiting.
“Refresh yourself on traffic laws before riding so you avoid common mistakes. The rules in Vietnam are not always the same as what you may be used to.” – Arun K., India
Prepare Essential Riding Gear
Riding with proper gear greatly improves your safety and comfort level while riding a motorbike in Vietnam:
Helmet – Must Be High Quality and Undamaged
- Only use a full face helmet with a clear visor. An intact, quality helmet is essential for preventing serious injury.
Face Mask – Protects from Dust and Pollution
- Masks make breathing easier and prevent illness.
Gloves – Improve Grip and Prevent Sunburn
- Look for padded gloves with protected knuckles. Gloves provide protection in case of a fall.
Raincoat – For Unexpected Showers in Rainy Season
- Bring lightweight rain gear during Vietnam’s rainy season from May to September.
“Don’t even think about riding in Vietnam without a proper helmet, mask, gloves and other gear to protect yourself.” – Matt P., Canada
Be Aware of Common Rental Scams
Some unscrupulous rental companies take advantage of unsuspecting travelers. Avoid the following scenarios:
- Some shops rent out bikes with mechanical issues or damage, then overcharge for repairs when returned.
Hidden Fees and Charges
- Additional hidden fees may be added upon return, like cleaning or parking fees. Get all costs in writing up front.
Retaining Passports or Deposits
- Unprofessional shops sometimes improperly retain passports or full deposit after rental to coerce additional fees.
“Don’t hand over your passport as collateral. Use a credit card for your deposit instead, so it’s easier to dispute any bogus charges.” – Isabel R., Spain
Take Clear Photos
Photographing the bike when renting and returning provides you important documentation:
Capture Any Existing Damage
- Take pictures showing any scratches, dents or other damage to the bike at pickup.
Document the Odometer Reading
- Take a clear photo of the odometer to record the bike’s mileage at pickup and return.
“Always take photos right when you get the bike so you have proof of its exact condition in case any disputes arise when you return it.” – Gustav V., Sweden
Pay Deposits and Fees
Use caution when paying deposits and rental fees:
Put Deposits on Credit Card if Possible
- Paying deposits by credit card provides recourse if unjust charges are made.
Keep Receipts for All Transactions
- Retain all paperwork, including fee breakdowns, in case you need documentation.
“I paid deposits using my credit card and immediately emailed myself images of all receipts so I had records.” – Matilda R., Australia
Practice Riding Skills
Take time to get accustomed to operating the motorbike before heading out:
Get Used to Controls and Handling
- Practice in a parking lot to learn the location of controls while seated. Test handling by weaving cones at low speed.
Drive Conservatively Until Confident
- Once comfortable with operation, start riding nearby to build skills before longer excursions. Get used to motorbike handling, braking distances and power.
“I spent over an hour riding around near the rental shop to get fully used to the bike’s handling before I set out to explore.” – Mikolaj K., Poland
Plan Your Route
Determine your route and destinations using helpful tools:
Use Google Maps or Maps Apps
- Download areas to your phone for offline navigation. Apps like Maps.me provide Vietnam maps.
Select Less Busy Roads When Possible
- Plan side routes and backroads to avoid heavy city traffic. Apps with motorcycle mode provide suitable routes.
“I used the Vietnam map in Maps.me and selected the motorcycle option for routing. This guided me on the best backroads.” – Ellie D., England
Be Prepared for Breakdowns
No matter how well you prepare, there is always a slight chance of breakdowns or accidents when riding in Vietnam. Minimize issues by:
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Carrying the Rental Company’s Contact Info
- Save phone numbers and location info to easily contact them if assistance is needed.
Having Cash for Repairs or Transportation
- Keep emergency cash on you for mechanical repairs, tire changes, or taxi rides if required.
Knowing How to Safely Pull Over and Assess Issues
- If the bike has problems, carefully pull off the road and determine the cause. Call the rental shop if it is unfixable.
“On a long ride, my bike started overheating. I safely pulled over and messaged my rental company. They promptly brought a replacement bike.” – Ricardo T., Portugal
Return the Bike on Time
Avoid extra rental fees by returning your motorbike promptly as agreed:
Avoid Late Fees by Returning Promptly
- Return the bike at the exact time specified in your rental contract to prevent late charges. Set reminders on your phone.
Refill the Gas Tank
- Check your contract’s return fuel policy. Typically you must return with a full tank.
Clean Any Major Dirt or Debris
- While you don’t need to wash the bike, remove any mud or oil spills before returning.
“I made sure to return the bike on time and with a full tank to avoid any extra charges.” – Amelie L., France
Get Your Deposit Refund
Follow this process to ensure you receive your deposit refund smoothly:
Have the Rental Shop Confirm Bike Condition
- When returning the bike, oversee as they inspect it for any new damage.
Request Deposit Refund in Writing if Issues
- If they claim deductions for repairs, formally request the refund in writing while disputing damages.
Allow Time for Refund Processing After Return
- It can take over a week to process deposit returns. Follow up if it has been long without receiving funds.
“I emailed the rental company requesting my deposit return along with photos showing the bike’s condition. They promptly refunded without issue.” – Marco D., Italy
Renting a motorbike can take your Vietnam travels to the next level, allowing you to fully experience Vietnam’s landscapes and cities at your own pace. By carefully researching rental companies, inspecting bikes, following traffic laws, using safe riding practices, and properly documenting your rental, you can have an adventurous trip riding a motorbike through Vietnam with peace of mind. Taking the time to prepare will help ensure an awesome experience.