Renting a motorbike and exploring Vietnam by road is an adventurous and freeing experience. With its beautiful landscapes, friendly locals, tasty cuisine, and historic sites, Vietnam is a wonderful country to discover on two wheels.
However, road conditions in Vietnam can be hazardous, with high volumes of traffic, reckless driving, and poorly maintained roads being common issues. As a foreign visitor unfamiliar with these conditions, you must take precautions to stay safe. Wearing proper safety gear is essential.
Here is a comprehensive overview of the motorbike safety gear you need when renting and riding a motorbike in Vietnam, including helmets, protective clothing, eye protection, first aid kits, navigation aids, insurance coverage, and more. Following these recommendations will help ensure you have a safe and enjoyable motorbike trip.
Wearing a helmet is mandatory by law for all motorbike riders in Vietnam. More importantly, a helmet can be a lifesaver in the event of an accident.
Must wear a helmet
The Vietnamese government enforces helmet laws strictly. You can be fined for not wearing a helmet while operating a motorbike. Police frequently stop foreigners and inspect to ensure helmets are being properly worn.
Do not think you can get away with buckling a helmet on the back of the bike just to show police if stopped. You must properly wear the helmet at all times when riding.
Types of helmets
There are two main types of helmets to consider:
- Full face helmet – Covers the entire head including chin and has a visor to protect the face. Recommended for safety.
- Open face helmet – Covers top and sides of head but leaves face exposed. Less safe but cooler in Vietnam’s hot climate.
Full face helmets provide maximum protection, as impacts can happen to the chin and face area. Models with detachable visors allow you to flip up the visor when stopped, improving ventilation. Open face helmets are less safe but offer increased air circulation.
For safety, go with a full face helmet. Bring sunglasses to wear beneath the visor to reduce glare. Apply sunscreen prior to wearing the helmet to avoid increased exposure to sunburn.
Make sure to choose an approved safety standard helmet like DOT or Snell rather than a cheap novelty helmet. Try on different sizes to get the right fit. The helmet should be snug but not painfully tight. Fasten the chin strap so the helmet stays on if you shake your head.
Jacket and Pants
A durable jacket and pair of pants can prevent harmful abrasions and lacerations in the event of a crash while riding a motorbike.
Protective jacket and pants
Look for a jacket and pants designed specifically for motorbike riding. They should be made of leather, cordura, or other abrasion-resistant materials. Choose garments with padding and armor to shield elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, etc. Jacket should have strong zippers and waist adjustments to keep it from flapping.
Avoid shorts and skirts
Do not attempt to ride a motorbike in Vietnam while wearing shorts, skirts, or flimsy attire. Exposed skin is vulnerable to severe road rash injuries. Long pants and closed toe shoes are absolute minimums. Boots and a durable riding jacket are recommended.
Dress conservatively out of respect when visiting temples and rural areas. Removing a jacket is fine when stopped if you need relief from the heat. But keep arms and legs covered while riding.
Gloves serve two important functions – protecting your hands and improving grip control.
Protect hands in a fall
Gloves shield your hands and prevent abrasions if you fall off the motorbike or are struck by a passing vehicle. Get full-finger gloves with padded palms and reinforced material on the back.
As Vietnam import site Xgear notes:
“Gloves will be the difference between brush burns and shredded tissue in a spill. The palm heel and padding zones on the glove’s palm significantly decrease the injuries from hitting the ground or sliding across pavement.”
Provide better grip
Gloves also improve your grip on the handlebars, especially in wet weather. Sweaty palms or rain can make your hands slippery. Proper riding gloves give needed abrasion resistance and grip.
>>> Learn More: How can I find rentals with well-maintained bikes in Vietnam?
Boots or shoes
Your footwear needs to cover and protect your feet and ankles when riding a motorbike.
Choose shoes or boots that at least come up over your ankle bone. Basketball or running shoes are acceptable. Tall motocross style boots provide maximum protection and support.
Avoid flip-flops and sandals
Never attempt to ride wearing flip-flops, sandals, or other loose footwear. They offer zero protection in a crash and can easily fly off your feet. Always wear proper enclosed footwear.
Shielding your eyes from blowing debris, insects, and sun glare is advised when motorbiking in Vietnam.
Shield eyes from debris
Vietnam’s roads often have significant grit, sand, dust, and traffic pollution swirling around. Quality shatter-resistant sunglasses, goggles, or a helmet visor protect your eyes from these irritating particles.
Sunglasses or goggles
If wearing an open face helmet, always equip wrap-around sunglasses or protective goggles. They should be securely strapped on. For full-face helmets, the tinted visor supplies needed coverage. Carry extra sunglasses in case the first pair gets lost or broken.
Tropical rainstorms are common in Vietnam. Being caught wearing inadequate rain protection can ruin your trip.
Poncho or rain jacket
Pack a lightweight rain poncho or waterproof jacket. Avoid ponchos that could flap around dangerously at speed. Opt for rain gear designed for motorbike riding.
Keep grip in wet weather
Riding safely in wet conditions requires specialized tires and caution slowing down. But having proper rain gear helps maintain your grip on the handlebars to control the bike. Store gear low on the motorbike to avoid interfering with balance.
First aid kit
Carrying a first aid kit is advised when motorbiking in Vietnam, as minor scrapes and injuries do occur.
Stock your kit with common medical supplies – gauze pads, bandages, antiseptic cream, antibacterial wipes, tape, scissors, pain relievers, etc. These will allow you to treat small cuts, abrasions, and sprains on the go.
Also consider bringing emergency essentials like a flashlight, whistle, flares, space blanket, and pocket knife. These could prove invaluable if stranded roadside after an accident or breakdown.
Navigating Vietnam’s chaotic traffic and complex road networks can be challenging. Bring maps and navigation aids.
GPS or offline maps
Motorbike rental shops can provide disposable paper maps free or for a small fee. For navigating longer distances, install a good offline map app like Maps.me on your smartphone and pre-download relevant Vietnam maps. A dedicated GPS unit is another option.
Know route before departing
Never start riding without clear knowledge of your planned route and destination. Carry a physical map as backup. Pull over regularly when using phone maps to avoid distracted driving. Avoid night riding in unfamiliar areas.
Accident insurance coverage is required by Vietnamese law when operating any motor vehicle.Purchase adequate insurance in case you require medical treatment or evacuation.
Medical and accident coverage
By law, you must have a minimum of 15 million dong insurance coverage from authorized Vietnam insurers. Your travel insurance may already include this for rental vehicles. Check that accident coverage is included before purchasing extra.
Required by law
Do not drive uninsured to avoid fines. Carry proof of insurance documents when you ride. The minimum legal medical coverage is low. Consider taking out supplemental coverage for complete protection.
Renting a motorbike can let you experience Vietnam’s landscapes, culture, and cuisine in an immersive way. But Vietnam’s roads are hazardous for even experienced riders. Equipping yourself properly with safety gear is crucial.
Being prepared with safety gear is essential
By wearing a quality helmet, protective clothing, eye protection, gloves and boots, and packing first aid and navigation tools, you can minimize the risks. Check required insurance coverage. Drive cautiously and defensively.
Follow local laws and drive carefully
Respect all traffic laws, signs, and speed limits. Be alert to reckless drivers. Get accustomed to driving on the right side. With the proper safety gear and careful driving, you are sure to have an incredible motorbiking adventure across Vietnam!
So inspect and wear all your gear, learn some basic motorcycle maintenance tasks, and head out to enjoy Vietnam’s open roads – safely prepared for an unforgettable experience!