The word ‘vacation’ often conjures up images of a beautiful day, clear aquamarine waters, a mojito and a comfy lounger on the beach. Vietnam has those things, and you can quite easily enjoy yourself for weeks on end in its balmy waters. However, the absolute best adventure (and best vacation) is to hit all of Vietnam’s beautiful natural wonders by winding your way down the coastal highway on a motorcycle road trip!
The Basics for a Vietnam Motorcyle Road Trip
Getting a motorcycle in Vietnam & some key motorcycle safety tips
Instead of opting for overnight buses, trains, and all other forms public transportation, I arrived in Hanoi one muggy morning and immediately set off in search of a two-wheeler of some sort that I could ride down to Ho Chi Minh City, a little over 1500 kilometers to the south.
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It’s easy to purchase a motorcycle here, but it’s also incredibly important to make sure you are getting a safe and reliable ride as well as making sure you have all the requisite trappings of a motorcyclist. That means some must-have safety gear such as motorcycle boots, padded jacket and proper helmet.
Starting out – what you should and shouldn’t plan
There is an unavoidable amount of uncertainty that goes along with a Vietnamese motorcycle road trip adventure. While you’ll end up seeing some of the most beautiful places in the world, you will also end up spending time in some less-than-ideal rest stops or hotels with questionable (or no) plumbing. Roll with the punches and it’ll be the most enjoyable vacation of your life!
Pack a comprehensive first-aid kit, make sure you are up to date on your immunizations, and buy yourself a Vietnamese SIM card. They are cheap and the country is completely covered by WiFi and data connections.
For those novice motorcyclists (such as myself), stick to the main highway that traverses the country from north to south. The AH1, as it’s known, is perfectly paved and impressively covered by auto and motorcycle repairs shops every few kilometers.
Breakdowns are going to happen
The one instance where I was left scratching my head was on a back road, somewhere in between Nha Trang and Mui Ne in the center coast of the country. My engine died. No warning or anything, just a sinking feeling in my gut when I realized my accelerator was no longer accelerating.
It was nearing twilight and there were some ominous clouds hanging over my head ready to explode into a storm at any moment.
Within minutes, two kind local gentleman had ushered me off my broken bike. One gestured that I should take a seat behind him on his scooter and the other threw my bike into neutral.
These two lovely folks then used the power of the scooter to push my motorcycle to the nearest repair shop…nearly 15 kilometers away.
Any what did they want in return? Just a smile and a handshake!
The route & the best pit stops along the way
Where you should stop and what you should see!
I started in Hanoi and drove south, but plenty of folks start in Ho Chi Minh City and drive up north. Whatever way you slice it, you’ll experience the same mind-blowingly awesome scenery and natural wonders Vietnam has to offer.
The Phong Nha caves are quickly becoming a hotspot for tourists looking to experience their immense size and majesty. Make a pit stop in Dong Hoi or Dong Ha, both coastal cities about two days worth of easy riding from Hanoi.
After visiting the caves, continue down south to the city of Hue, which is jam-packed with history. Hue is located near the demilitarized zone that marked the split between the south and north of the country during it’s long and bloody war with America. Visiting, you’ll get a uniquely Vietnamese perspective on the conflict.
After Hue, make your way to the charming city of Hoi An, part of which has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site! Here, you can shop in the central market and get some clothes or shoes custom-made by master tailors and craftsmen.
From Hoi An continue south towards Qui Nhon, where you’ll find a small fishing village called Bai Xep. Here, you can get a taste of truly Vietnamese culture and hospitality on some beautiful beaches.
Da Lat, a city that is in the central highlands is one amazing ride away from Nha Trang, a large industrial tourist hub. Don’t spend too much time in Nha Trang, but use it as a launching point to get to Da Lat, where you’ll be treated to (supposedly) some of the best coffee in the world and some traditional silk factories.
Ho Chi Minh City
This one speaks for itself – Ho Chi Minh City is modern, expensive, and busy. After a long motorcycle journey, arriving in the middle of the world’s busiest rush hour is a thrill that is best followed by a beer and a hot shower at one of the city’s luxurious (yet affordable) hotels.
About the Author
Over the past 10 years, Laura Knight has been a motorcycle rider. She has built up an incredible passion for travelling by motorbike and always wishes to contribute to motorcyclist and traveler community. This is the reason why she created MotorManner.com where her passion is turned into useful and interesting information to the motorcycle and travel lovers.