Things You Need To Know Before Buying a Motorbike in Vietnam

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Something that was always on my bucket list was cruising the length of Vietnam on a motorbike. I was able to tick this off my list in 2019 even though when I arrived in Vietnam, I has no idea how to ride a bike with gears.

The old trustworthy Grace

Know How to Ride

Now it sounds like a obvious one but I even went against this tip when arriving but in general I would suggest that you have some experience on a bike. I had already owned a scooter for a few years, so I was comfortable on a bike, I just had to get used to the gears.

The roads in Vietnam are crazy especially in the cities, I remember in Ho Chi Minh it was perfectly acceptable to drive along the foot path if your turning was blocked by traffic. I even drove past two police officers while doing this and I didn’t even turn their heads. If you have little or no experience, then you will struggle to get to grips with the rules (if the exist) of the road.

Pongour waterfall, just south of Dalat.

Join a Backpacker Group on Social Media

Not to say that all the shops are untrustworthy or that all backpackers are trustworthy but usually in the big cities the shops tend to just get the bikes, repaint them and do just enough to keep them running without spending any money on new parts, then they resell the bike for double the price.

There really are plenty of bikes in circulation to buy, I found many people selling them in the groups I joined and that’s how I came across my bike, Grace. When buying a bike get it checked over by a mechanics first, once he gives you all clear then go ahead and buy it. Also you can get some great insights into the best places to visit and also places to avoid. I also found that many people offer up a lot of useful advice so if you have are questions or queries you can post them on there.

Getting caught out by the Vietnamese weather

Know a Little About Mechanics

If you have a little bit of mechanical knowledge it will really help you not only buying the bike but also along the way because. If you bought the classic knock off Honda Win it is sure to breakdown at some point. I am not talking about being able to take the engine apart, just simple stuff like how to adjust the carburettor and knowing the different parts of the bike. You need to fully check a bike over before buying and if you are ever unsure as to take it to a garage to get it checked first.

 It will save you so many trips to the mechanic. Usually if I had an issue it was something simple that I could have done it myself. To get it fixed was usually really cheap but it’s just a hassle having to go to the garage.

Being greeted by the locals in Bao Loc

Blue Card!!!

Never buy a bike without a blue card. This is sort of like the bikes registration paperwork, if you ever gets stopped by the police apart from your license this is the first thing that they will ask for. Always check the serial numbers match the blue card and the bike. You ask the owner if you can’t find them or just google it. If the blue card is missing or the information doesn’t match up, then move on otherwise you risk not only losing the bike but your freedom or a chunk of your cash too.

Think About What You Wear

Whenever I set off on any long or semi long-distance drives, I would always wear my helmet, gloves, boots and jeans. Don’t get me wrong it was hot, but I had heard a few horror stories about people getting into accidents wearing a t-shirt and flipflops.

Here is one story that I heard first-hand. So, I met this other backpacker traveling up Vietnam I was going down. He told me about how he had an accident while riding, he came off his bike (not going overly fast) and scraped hit foot along the concrete. The problem was that he was wearing flip flops so it took the skins off of the top of his foot. Unfortunately, his insurance wouldn’t pay out as he didn’t have the correct paperwork to be riding in Vietnam, so he ended up having to pay ridiculous amount of his own money in hospital bills

Ready to go with helmet, jeans, jacket, boots and gloves (in my pocket).

Plan Your Route

Sometimes I would just set out with no destination and see where I ended up. When doing longer journeys though I do suggest planning ahead. You can use the backpacker groups and other blogs to get tips on where is best to go and what routes to avoid (cough, police checkpoints, cough).

Something I often do while travelling is check the route on google maps satellite view to see if there are any interesting places to stop along the way. The fastest route isn’t usually the best route, I found that the main highways can be pretty bland in some parts. The backroads are much more scenic and will give a much more authentic feel as you will experience the more rural Vietnam.

 There are some many small coffee stands and food stalls dotted along the road so you can stop at anytime for food or a drink (Vietnamese coffee is amazing so is the nước mía which is sugarcane juice).

Also make sure to reach you destination by nightfall. I always avoided the big roads at night as the truck driver are not the most cautious people and come screaming past at Mach 10 which is bad enough in the day.

Bikes can also provide a comfy recliner.

International Driving License and Insurance

Even if you have the correct vehicle on your countries license you will still end up with a fine if stopped by the police as you need an international license not just in Vietnam but many Asian countries.  It’s actually pretty easy to get an international license and it is pretty cheap (I used this website). It goes without saying that you should have some form of travel insurance but be sure to double check if you are covered riding your bike or not. I was never stopped in three months driving around Vietnam and I had no accidents but for me it was for my peace of mind. It could really ruin your trip ending up with a hefty hospital bill.

Sugarcane juice, I did find one place selling it for $0.20 per cup.
Delicious Vietnamese coffee.

Start Re-selling Early

I saw countless people panic selling their bikes on backpacker groups with only a few days before they had to leave. I even ended up selling a stranger’s bike for them after they left in Danang. My tip would be to post it for sale around a month before you leave, just make sure to include the date that people can come to check it. If worse comes to worse you can sell it to shop but they will knock a big chunk off the price as they know you are desperate.

There are shops that offer one-way rentals and there are also shops that will buy the bike back off you at the other end. The longer you have the bike for the less money they will offer you to buy it back. I bought my bike for $200 in the north of Vietnam, drove it for 6 months around Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and I ended up selling it in Laos for $230 in total.

The views around Bao Loc are incredible.
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