Vietnam is a popular destination for motorbike enthusiasts looking to explore the country on two wheels. With its scenic coastal roads, winding mountain passes, and interesting historic sites, Vietnam offers some of the best motorbiking routes in Southeast Asia.
Renting a motorbike is a common and affordable way to travel in Vietnam. However, with the variety of bikes available, it can be hard to choose the right one. The best motorbike to rent depends on factors like:
- Type of riding you plan to do
- Length of your trip
- Your budget
This article will discuss the pros and cons of different motorbikes for rent in Vietnam to help you decide which type is optimal for your trip.
Factors to consider when renting a motorbike in Vietnam
Before choosing a motorbike rental in Vietnam, think about:
Type of riding you plan to do
- Sightseeing in cities: Scooters offer ease of parking and navigation through congested urban areas. Automatic models like the Honda Airblade are popular.
- Long distance travel: Manual motorbikes have more power for cruising at higher speeds on highways. The Honda Winner is a common choice.
- Off-road/mountain routes: Dual-sport bikes like the Kawasaki KLX 150 are ideal for rough terrain with suspension and added ground clearance.
- Two-up riding: For carrying a passenger, larger displacement bikes over 125cc are best to handle the extra weight.
Length of your trip
- Day trips or short rides: 50-125cc scooters offer good fuel economy for shorter distances.
- Multi-day journeys: Larger 150-400cc motorbikes have relaxed cruising speeds and bigger fuel tanks best suited for covering long distances.
- Under $10/day: Basic 100-125cc vehicles with manual transmissions.
- $10-$20/day: More powerful 150cc+ motorbikes with optional automatic gear shifting.
- Over $20/day: High-end bikes with larger engine sizes (250cc+), ideal for two-up touring.
- Research bike options and reserve in advance during busy periods like Tet holiday weeks.
- Allow flexibility if your preferred model is not available. Automatic scooters tend to rent quicker.
Types of motorbikes available for rent
The most common types of motorbike rentals in Vietnam fall into two main categories:
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- 150cc engine
- 5-speed manual transmission
- Max speed of 100km/hr
- Good balance of power and efficiency
- Durable and easy to repair
Ideal for: Solo long distance travel, highway cruising
- 115cc engine
- Manual clutch
- Max speed of 90km/hr
- Nimble handling, sporty ride
- Lightweight, good gas mileage
Ideal for: Budget travel, shorter journeys, city driving
- 125cc engine
- Automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT)
- Max speed of 100km/hr
- Compact, lightweight
- Good storage under seat
Ideal for: Urban riding, beginner riders
- 110cc engine
- Automatic CVT
- Retro-styled step-through body
- Max speed of 80km/hr
- Easy to ride with low seat height
Ideal for: Female riders, city driving
Manual motorbikes are the most common rental bikes in Vietnam. Let’s look closer at their advantages and disadvantages:
Benefits of manual motorbikes
- More engine power and torque compared to automatic scooters
- Ability to downshift for better control in hilly terrain
- No need for costly CVT transmission repairs
- Cheaper rental rates on average
Drawbacks of manual motorbikes
- Requires using clutch and shifting gears
- Stalling more likely for new riders
- No reverse gear can make parking challenging
- Less theft-proof than scooters with key ignitions
Automatic scooters are gaining popularity in Vietnam’s motorbike rental market. Here’s an overview of their pros and cons:
Benefits of automatic scooters
- Super easy riding with no gears or clutch
- Ideal for new riders and city driving
- Streamlined step-through design on some models
- Key ignition reduces chance of theft
Drawbacks of automatic scooters
- Less power going uphill compared to manual bikes
- Transmission issues in some cheaper models
- Higher rental rates on average
- Not ideal for long high-speed rides
Popular riding routes and recommended motorbikes
The optimal motorbike rental depends largely on where you plan to ride in Vietnam:
North to South route
The classic route from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City is over 1600km on a mix of highways, rural roads and city streets. A manual 150-250cc bike offers a good balance of cruising ability and maneuverability. Models like the Honda Winner, Yamaha Exciter or Suzuki Raider are popular choices for the diverse conditions.
Exploring scenic coastal roads and the curvy Hai Van Pass along Central Vietnam is best on a lighter 125-150cc bike. The Honda Wave 125 or Yamaha Nouvo will allow you to ride comfortably along the oceanside routes.
Navigating steep mountain roads in northern Vietnam requires a bike with good torque and suspension travel. Enduro-style 150cc+ dirt bikes like the Honda XR 150 or semi-automatic Honda Vision 110 are ideal for the rugged terrain.
Factors to consider for safety
Riding a motorbike in Vietnam poses some inherent risks. Here are some tips on how to maximize your safety:
Get proper licenses
- Obtain a valid Vietnamese motorbike license or International Driving Permit (IDP).
- Bribes are common if stopped without a license.
- Collision coverage is mandatory and offered by most rental shops.
- Consider additional medical evacuation coverage.
Wear helmets and gear
- Vietnam has a mandatory helmet law. Ensure helmets are high-quality, not just plastic novelty ones.
- Jackets, pants, boots and gloves will prevent road rash in the event of a crash.
Check motorbike condition
- Inspect tires, brakes, lights and oil levels when renting.
- Test drive the bike around the block to check for issues.
Where to rent motorbikes
There are several options for finding motorbike rentals in Vietnam’s cities:
Many hotels offer motorbike rental services for guests, often at discounted rates for longer rentals. This can be a convenient option, though bike quality varies.
Small rental shops scattered throughout cities offer cheap rentals. Bargaining is expected and mechanical condition of bikes is questionable.
Reputable travel agents like Vietnam CORacle and Flamingo Travel provide quality rentals with extras like maintenance, luggage storage and guided tours.
Estimated rental costs
Rental prices fluctuate by season, bike type, rental shop and negotiation skills. Average rates:
- Manual 100-125cc: $5-10 USD per day
- Manual 150cc+: $8-15 USD per day
- Automatic scooters: $10-20+ USD per day
Tips like renting for a week or longer can lower the daily rate. Buying extra insurance tends to add $2-5 per day.
Tips for renting and riding motorbikes in Vietnam
Follow this advice for a smooth motorbike rental experience:
Negotiate rental costs
Don’t be shy to bargain – trying for 10-20% off list prices is expected. Offer to pay weekly or monthly rates for the best deals.
Check licenses and paperwork
Carry your valid driver’s license at all times. Photograph your rental agreement with details of damage deposits in case of disputes.
Practice riding before trip
If new to motorbikes, get accustomed to operating the clutch, shifting gears and balancing on quiet roads at home.
Learn basic repairs
study how to change spark plugs, fix flat tires and adjust chains in case of breakdowns in remote areas. Bring spare fuses, bungee cords and duct tape.
Prepare for weather conditions
Waterproof gear is a must during the rainy season. Check forecasts regularly and avoid riding in severe storms.
Common mistakes to avoid
By being aware of these frequent errors, you can have a safer motorbike trip:
- Forgetting to check insurance coverage details
- Not testing lights, tires and brakes prior to rental
- Lacking an International Drivers License and motorcycle endorsement
- Attempting to carry unsecured luggage like backpacks
- Riding without a helmet or adequate protective gear
- Drinking and driving – Vietnam’s drunk driving laws are strictly enforced
- Assuming right of way and not driving defensively
- Going too fast while still getting accustomed to the motorbike
- Neglecting to properly lock parked motorbikes or activate alarms
Alternative transportation options
While renting a motorbike is popular for independent travelers, it’s not your only means of transport in Vietnam:
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- Extensive network of public buses and sleeper coaches connecting all cities
- Operated by companies like Phuong Trang, Mai Linh, The SinhTourist
- Budget-friendly with tickets as low as $10 between major cities
- Can be slow, hot and uncomfortable for longer journeys
- Overnight trains with berths are a classic travel experience
- Reliable routes like Hanoi to Hue or Danang to Ho Chi Minh
- Book tickets in advance since berths sell out quickly
- More expensive than buses but with more space to rest
- Metered taxis available in all cities though quality varies
- Grab is the predominant rideshare app with cheap and accessible service
- Watch for “tourist price” scams from unmetered drivers
- Offer a good fall-back option if you decide motorbiking is not for you
- Growing in popularity, especially among solo travelers
- Allows stops at attractions not possible by motorbike
- Northern Vietnam has the best terrain for cycling trips
- Can be tiring and risky cycling long distances amid traffic
Conclusion and summary
Renting a motorbike provides an exciting way to explore Vietnam at your own pace. The best motorbike type depends on factors like your travel plans, experience level and budget. Practice defensive driving, always wear a helmet and take advantage of tips from local drivers to stay safe. A motorbike adventure will create unforgettable memories touring Vietnam.