No. 1/ Driving license in Vietnam
As to every story, there’s two sides to this topic.
On one hand, Vietnam accepts international driving licenses. However, that is mostly a statement that goes around, in practice no international driving license is enough to drive in Vietnam. In order to drive legally, you’ll have to have your international driving license translated to Vietnamese. And that’s a tedious process that only gets easier if you’re working in Vietnam legally for over 6 months.
Unofficially, given that there’s practically no other way to move around Vietnam than drive a motorbike (sure, you can take a bus, but what kind of adventure is that:), the focus on the valid license is not too bad. Western tourists are rarely stopped by the police, either because they don’t speak English, or even if they did, your international license might still be in a language they can’t decypher – should you even have one. The only place we know that police is almost specifically focusing on stopping tourists is down in Mui Ne. You’re bound to be pulled over several times there, especially when driving to the sand dunes.
So to sum it up: most international driving licenses that include Vietnam in their permitted list are accepted in Vietnam. Just be prepared for police that either doesn’t understand an international license or might be picky will ask for a Vietnamese translation.
No. 2/ How to get insured
This question comes directly after the one with the driving license because it’s closely related. While you can purchase insurance in Vietnam before your trip, usually, from the perspective of a motorbike tour, the insurance will only cover you if you have a fully legal driving license. And as we already shared, that’s a bit of a grey area. However, in case you do have the license, you can try the local Bao Viet or the French insurance broker Gras Savoye Willis – or many others, including international names.
For the general tourist, we advise you purchase an insurance from your home country that covers a wider range of cases than that of a local company could offer. As far as we know, buying an insurance online is easy, cheaper than purchasing here in any office, and more convenient as it covers you better.
Please note that insurance is not included in the tour price because there’s no general option we could apply to all tourists and cases, so best is for the customer to have their own – if they wish. Most travellers already have one on arrival, that should suffice.
No. 3/ Is traffic really dangerous in Vietnam?
If you got to ask this question, it means you either already experienced or seen online videos of the notorious traffic in Vietnam. Often described as crazy, dangerous, manic, noisy and amazing in the same time, it sounds like it’s as if it was the biggest organised chaos in the world. Motorbikes here are kings of the road as they surpass all other vehicles in number combined.
Once you’re here, you’ll see though that there’s a short list of unwritten rules that 95% of drivers obey and drive by. This makes sure that this chaos never ends in a gridlock, keeps moving, and doesn’t end in accidents. That’s not to say there’s no accidents, but they’re quite rare compared to the number of vehicles participating, even compared to modern western statistics.
Fear not though, as our tour guides are experienced drivers and we will happily take you on a guided lesson if you need to up your courage before the trip.
No.4/ How to have a memorable motorbike ride in Vietnam?
Vietnam is in the position to be the number 1 spot in Asia for those who are looking for a motorbike adventure! That’s already a given and you need to do nothing for that to happen. From amazing mountain passes, rice or tea fields as long as the eye can see, flower fields, lakes, rivers and sea shores are just the natural wonders that you’ll see along the trip. Add to that colorful hill tribes, amazing waterfalls and resorts and incredibly kind people and hosts, you’re almost guaranteed to have a good time.
What to do to make it better? Choose the option to have a guide with you on your tour. Indeed, there’s a lot on TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet and WikiTravel about where you can go, but it pales in comparison with the places a tour guide can take you to. Not to mention the history, families, tribes, homestays and variety of selected local food he can add to the trip.
Where to go to make the best out of it? If you have the time, take the amazing full North-South or South-North tour. If you have less time, you should totally go for destinations in the North of Vietnam. The variety is much better here!
Pro tip to have a good driving experience on the road? Definitely using the horn. Most locals drive motorbikes with no mirrors, or even if they have, they don’t use them. The proper way to let someone know you’re overtaking them is to use the horn. When you as a driver hear the horn you need do nothing else but keep your pace and direction, so the person behind you using the horn can predict where you’ll be and can overtake you safely.
No. 5/ Tours say we can choose accommodations. Where is it best to stay?
The country has seen an incredible boom in tourist related services and infrastructure in the past few years. There’s a wide array of accommodation options wherever you are in Vietnam.
We know you need a good rest after 100-200km ride and we make sure you get the sleep you need to be fully energized the next day.
However, some of our tour destinations lead to more remote (and thus more beautiful) areas of the country, where finding a 3 or 4 star accommodation is not just impossible, it wouldn’t even match the experience we’re trying to give. Lucky for us though, local hotels and recently sprung up homestays are comfortable and offer a more authentic experience as well.
We recommend you try both options. Hotels are smaller than you’d be used to, but they do provide the basic amenities needed for a good night sleep. Homestays are possibly even smaller, but they come with the added stories of your welcoming family, locally cooked food and sometimes the experience of how locals actually live.
No. 6/ What is the best motorbike to choose for a good tour?
As you’ll see, most (90%+) Vietnamese people own small-capacity scooters for their every-day lives, these range between 100cc and 125cc, occasionally 150cc. Big bikes are rare because of the traffic conditions and convenience of driving a larger bike in the cities makes them impractical.
If you’re a beginner, we suggest either our fully automatic or semi-automatic range bikes for your trip. Automatic means you only need to worry about accelerating and using the breaks, same as on a bicycle but with even less effort as you don’t need to pedal at all. Semi-automatic is similar, but you do have to change speeds manually, and that’s usually a 4-speed option. These bikes are between 110cc and 135cc in power and will take you anywhere you need to go, but we wouldn’t recommend them for off-road, muddy or mountain paths.
If you’re already familiar with larger bikes or feel like it’s time to drive something more professional, we suggest our Manual bike range. They come in 150cc, 200cc, 250cc and 400cc capacity, mostly Honda XR models with some Suzuki as well. Ideal for off-road, with one or two people, these bikes will not meet a road they can’t conquer in Vietnam!
Check out our motorbike website for a full list of options and details.
No. 7/ How much in advance should we book a tour?
This is entirely up to you. We do suggest however to start discussions before you arrive to Vietnam. There are many tour companies here, but none of them are major enough to accommodate a large group on a last minute notice easily. We can, but we think it’s both to your benefit and ours to be well prepared.
Please try to contact us 2 weeks before your desired trip so we can sort out all options as soon as possible and have time to find you the best accommodation options as well.
No. 8/ How to pay for a tour? Can I pay online?
You definitely can book and pay for a motorbike tour online with Ride Vietnam! Using our easy calculator and booking page, you can select what kind of motorbike you’d like, how many days you have for the tour (or select a pre-made tour from the list) and the number of people in your group. Based on this our site will give you the price and ask you to confirm your booking by paying either a partial downpayment or booking the full tour in one go.
Our site currently uses PayPal and OnePay to process these booking requests, but should you need alternatives, we can find a solution that suits you both. Alternatively you can pay a downpayment to make a reservation and for us to start preparing, and you can pay the rest of the outstanding balance in person, cash or credit card, at our office in the old quarter
No. 9/ What to do with our big luggage or bags? We can’t take them on the motorbike
We occasionally get travellers who are touring the whole region and thus arrive with big and sometimes multiple bags that you obviously can’t fit on a motorbike.
In case of airplane luggage, we can store these bags in our hotel and you can get them back at the end of your trip. For this case we suggest a small repacking and taking only a backpack with all the things needed for the tour. Backpacks can easily be tied to the rack of the motorbike and come with you wherever you go.
In some cases however, you might want to ride two people on one bike, or the group is so big, there’s too many bags involved. For this we can arrange an additional vehicle dedicated to carry the bags and follow us on the tour. Of course the vehicle will not join us on off-road adventures, but each day as you arrive to your new accommodation in a new destination, your bags will be there waiting, safe and dry.
Please note this is an extra expense, but we do take into consideration the size of the group and budget it in a way that it won’t make it an extra burden.
No. 10/ What food or drinks are included in the tour?
Three full and hearty meals are included each day in the price of the tour. We can accommodate vegetarian meal requests as well, please let us know in advance.
Regarding drinks, the drinking habits of people vary a lot, and thus drinks are not included in the meal price. Rest assured any pit stop, hotel or homestay will have an option of healthy or alcoholic beverages at more than reasonable prices for any stomach. To give an example, a large bottle of water or a can of beer go for as low as $0.40 each.
You should know that Vietnamese cuisine is considered to be one of the best in South-East Asia and we make extra effort to make sure you try different meals and different kind of cookings along your trip. Meals are usually not heavy and always come with a lot of vegetable and healthy options.