When you visit Vietnam, the first thing you will notice is ‘so many motorbikes in Vietnam’. Especially when you are in big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. If this is your first time visiting Vietnam, then crossing is a stressful game. Am I right?
Motorbike is the main transport used in my country. You might wonder how many motorcycles there are in Vietnam. Is it safe to travel by motorbike? If you want to try to ride a bike in Vietnam, is it safe to do so? Do you need a driver’s licence for it?
For a motorcycle trip through Vietnam safely, here are things you need to know:
Riding a motorcycle in Vietnam
Ten years ago, I organised a tour for a group of Singaporean tourists in Hanoi. I went to meet them at their hotel in Hanoi on my motorbike. One of them asked me, “can I ride a motorbike in Vietnam, Thu’?”Of course, you can but I think it will be a bit dangerous for you. How about I ride you around the city”.
Then, I rode her around on my bike. I knew that she could ride by herself, but it would be dangerous for an international tourist to ride a motorbike without practising. Let alone that you also need a licence to ride a motorbike above 50cc in Vietnam.
This is my answer for anyone asks the same question: “Can I ride a motorbike in Vietnam?“. You can ride a motorbike in Vietnam, but you will need a legal licence (officially). Better to practise riding a bike in a safe place, not so clouded, before you head to a busy road if your licence in your country is accepted in Vietnam.
Do you need a licence to ride a motorcycle in Vietnam?
Yes, you do.
You need a legal licence to operate a motorbike from 50cc and above. When I type this topic on Google, I found one blog in which the guy shared his experience of riding a motorbike from the South to the North of Vietnam.
I was a bit disappointed when someone commented on the blog and asked this question: “Do I need a licence to ride a motorbike?
Can you guess the answer?
His answer: “Here in Asia, I carry around a “cop wallet” with around £3-4 (in the local currency) and when I get pulled over I just show them that.”
Thank you very much for the advice. As a Vietnamese person, I don’t feel insulted, but I feel disappointed. These might be unspoken rules in some countries, but I am sure this person should know better. Corruption is a bad thing to promote, don’t you think?
The most important thing is your own safety. Do you know that you can go to jail if you have an accident and kill or hurt someone badly?
I met a friend in Australia when I first came here. She used to live in Vietnam for five years. She had an accident, and unfortunately, she cannot walk again. She rode her bike without a licence. She is still angry at the Vietnamese authorities who were involved in her case. I feel really sad for her.
I don’t want to scare you off. But the reality is, please think about your safety and others. There are consequences, after all.
One person my husband knows had an accident in Vietnam and injured another driver. He was sent to court; his family had paid a lot of money (US$ 40,000) to get him out of Vietnam. Otherwise, he could have been in jail in Vietnam for a while.
My point is if you can, please follow the law then it will protect you for some certain.
Riding a motorbike in Vietnam without a licence
You can actually ride a motorcycle in Vietnam without a licence for a motorbike under 50cc.
Up to this time, when I am writing this blog. You don’t need a driver’s licence to ride a motorbike in Vietnam with a motorbike under 50cc.
Then, if you really want to have a motorbike trip through Vietnam, what do you do?
Tips to have a safe motorcycle trip through Vietnam
1. Good Gear and Practise your skills
Assuming you have your legal licence. Safety first, you should have a good helmet when you are riding a motorbike in Vietnam. Many helmets have poor quality in Vietnam. So, pick a good quality one for yourself.
Then you should do is practise your riding skills. The road in Vietnam is very different. People in big cities don’t really care about other motorcycle riders. So you better practise first before you are heading on the road.
2. Let others ride you
It is an easy option. As I said, the motorbike is the most popular transport in Vietnam. So, a motorbike taxi or “xe ôm” in Vietnamese, is the safest option for you.
Especially when you are in big cities like Hanoi, Danang, or Ho Chi Minh city. This is a very easy and safe option. Well, if you fancy a tour option, then book a motorbike tour like these:
Note: Please ask for the option with a driver, not you, unless you have practised your skills, hold a legal licence, or ride a motorbike under 50cc.
3. Buy Insurance
Let me tell you something. I used to work in the tourism industry in Vietnam. Most tour operators in Vietnam will exclude travel insurance unless specifically asked for one. Then, we would help you to find the right package for you at your expense.
So make sure that you have travel insurance when you are travelling to Vietnam. Plus, with the Covid 19 circumstance, then it is a good idea to be covered.
4. Travel with an experienced tour operator
I sound like an unadventurous mother, right? Yes, I am a mother… ‘unadventurous’… not really.
If you want to ride a motorbike throughout Vietnam, please book your tour with a verified local travel agent. They know the roads. They know the rules. They will cover you when you need them. Plus, you don’t have to worry about accommodation, food, etc.
Note: Check with them if you ride your bike. Do you need a licence? If not, then is it legal? Can they ensure that you will not get in trouble if the police ask you?
Do what you can so you know you are safe. There are unspoken rules that only Vietnamese people know and can help you to deal with problems when it happens.
5. Try in the city first
I think around 80% of tourists who go to Vietnam will arrive in Hanoi, Danang or Ho Chi Minh city. So, if this is your first time in Vietnam. There are many companies that organise scooter tours and motorbike tours in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city.
Try to take some motorbike trips in these cities before you take a big trip.
6. Don’t ride on busy roads with trucks
For local people, the most dangerous roads often are busy roads with lots of trucks. We often avoid using these roads. If we have to use them, we will drive carefully on these roads and often pick a quiet time (e.g., during the day, not at night).
7. Be careful on the public holidays
I think it is true everywhere. You must be very careful on the road on public holidays because people go out and drink.
Most men in Vietnam drive when they have already had drinks. The alcohol limit is not popular in the countryside. So be careful on the road on those days.
Good to know:
How many motorbikes in Vietnam?
According to the 2020 statistics, there are more than 65,000,000 (65 million) registered motorbikes in Vietnam.
Two in three people own a motorbike. This number is only the official registered motorbike.
Is it safe to ride a motorcycle in Vietnam
Yes, if you follow the general rule.
As a Vietnamese person, I have ridden a motorbike since I was 18. So as long as you don’t do stupid things like speed up, or travel late at light on busy roads, you will be fine.
I feel it is much safer to ride a motorbike in Vietnam than in Australia. The speed limit in Vietnam is very low. We can only ride for 30-40km/hour. Because it is way too many motorbikes, you cannot speed up.
Enjoy your time in Vietnam, and be careful when you ride a motorbike. Without a licence, pick a 50cc Honda cup like my husband!!
Although I often tease him, I really appreciate his decision!
Dis-claimer: All of the content in this blog is based on my own personal experience. However, I have included some links that you might find useful – and I do make a little money if you use them.