Pop quiz: What’s the most common form of transportation for most Vietnamese people?
The one used by everyone, from framers taking their ducks to market to full families going on vacation?
It’s not cars, buses, or trains. Oh no. The most popular vehicle in Vietnam is the motorbike.
In this post you’ll learn all about Vietnamese motorcycle culture. From its fascinating origins, to the cost of buying a bike (they’re really cheap!), to tips for keeping yourself safe while cruising around the country.
A Brief History Of Motorbike Travel In Vietnam
(Sights Like This Are Common)
Transportation in South East Asia is a little different from what you might be used to back home.
Unlike the West (where everyone drives cars or rides the bus), the people of Vietnam get around on motorbikes.
These are small motorcycles (kind of like dirt bikes) that almost every single Vietnamese person owns. You’ll see whole families crowded on to the back of a bike, or farmers driving around with cages full of ducks and geese.
Sometimes you’ll even see people speeding around with explosive barrels of gasoline strapped the seat of their motorcycle. Talk about living dangerously!
Why are motorbikes so popular in Vietnam? Good question! From what I can tell it has to do with price.
Because of taxes and import laws, owning a car here can be super expensive (like three times as much as buying one back in the U.S.A.). In comparison, you can buy a motorbike for less than the price of a dinner date in most Western cities.
How Much Does It Cost To Rent (Or Buy) A Motorbike?
(These Types Of Bikes Can Be Rented For $50 A Month)
Motorbikes are surprisingly cheap. Way less expensive than owning a car in America.
At my first apartment you could rent a motorbike for as little as $50 a month. This is pretty standard around the country, although occasionally you’ll find bigger discounts.
If you plan on living in Vietnam long-term, you’ll want to buy your own motorbike.
This is a cheaper option since many used bikes cost as little as $450 to $500. Sometimes, I you look hard enough, or have a local friend help you, you’ll be able to find older bikes in the $150 to $200.
If you’re used to car shopping in America (where a new vehicle can set you back $30,000) you’ll love how affordable Vietnamese motorbikes are.
You can travel around the country on your very own motorcycle for less than the cost of an iPhone.
Motorbike Travel Vietnam: How To Stay Safe
(Traffic Can Be Brutal Here)
Driving motorbikes is fun, but you have to be extremely careful. Traffic (especially in Ho Chi Minh City) can be crazy. People are zipping around in every direction, switching lanes without warning, and running red lights.
Getting “caught off guard” in these situations is dangerous. To get around during rush hour (or on weekends) requires skill. Before you hop on a motorbike you’ll need to have some training.
I’d recommend taking a motorcycle safety class in your home country so that you know exactly how to drive a bike.
They have safety courses all over the United Sates and enrolling in one will teach you lifesaving skills about operating your motorbike through heavy traffic, harsh weather, and all kinds of other obstacles.
When you get to Vietnam, you’ll also want to pick up a Vietnamese motorcycle license. Motorbike riders are required (by law) to have one. If you don’t you can be fined by the police, and your insurance won’t cover you if you get in an accident.
Getting your license can seem a little confusing at first (when I got here I had no idea where to apply for one), but luckily there’s a nifty guide that can help you out.
How To Get Your Vietnamese Motorcycle License In Just 7 Easy Steps is a concise report with step-by-step details on getting your very own motorbike license. It helped me a lot and can clear up your confusion too.
(Wear A Face Mask To Stay Safe)
In addition to having a license, here are some other safety tips:
- Always wear a helmet, it can save your life.
- Carry a rain poncho in the storage area of your bike. This way you’re prepared in case a storm breaks out.
- Buy a dust mask and wear it while riding, it keeps dust and exhaust out of your nose
- Throw a first-aid kit in your bike’s storage area, if there’s ever an accident you’ll be prepared.
- Don’t drink and drive! Spending $4 on cab fare is a lot cheaper than spending 6 months in the hospital.
- Pay attention! Being aware of your surroundings will keep you from getting in any accidents.
- Wear pants, long sleeves, and gloves. If you get into a crash they’ll save your skin (literally).
If you follow these simple steps, you’ll be able to drive around safely and without any problems. Just being aware of what’s going on (and not doing anything stupid like drunk driving) will help you avoid 95% of potentially dangerous situations.
Overall, riding motorbikes is fun and easy. But you do need to stay focused and be smart while you do it. Otherwise you can end up seriously injured.
(Taken While Riding My Motorbike Along The Coast)
You can’t truly experience Vietnam without spending time on a motorbike. Taking slow scenic drives along the beautiful coastline, exploring hidden towns off the beaten path, or driving your date home on a starry Friday night.
As much fun as it is to cruise around on your bike, you need to exercise some common sense too. Learn the rules of the road, pay attention, and (above all else) stay safe.
By doing this you’ll be able to fully enjoy biking around Vietnam’s bustling cities and gorgeous countryside.
P.S. If you want to have motorbike adventures of your own, be sure to check out How To Get Your Vietnamese Motorcycle License.