An Introduction to Motorbike Rental in Vietnam (Updated 2023)
Travelling Vietnam by motorbike is, by far, the best way to experience this wonderful country. Getting a rental motorbike in Vietnam means you are on your own two wheels. You can access remote villages, view awe-inspiring landscapes, and travel mountain passes.
Whether you’re a novice rider or just starting to research on the best way to experience the country by motorbike, Hidden provides a complete guide to Vietnam motorbike rental — legalities, renting vs. buying, bike types, and general maintenance tips among others. We look at how to rent a reliable motorbike, along with the necessary legal and safety precautions, to start you off on the journey of a lifetime.
Before You Ride…
Before you hop on a rental motorbike in Vietnam, it’s best to reflect on your riding knowledge, comfort, and skill level. How much riding experience do you actually have? Are you well enough prepared to manage Vietnam’s legendary traffic? If you decide not to ride a motorbike yourself but still crave the experience of a motorcycle trip, then read our article on Guided Motorcycle Tours in and around Hoi An.
If you choose the self-guided route, then to drive a motorbike over 50cc you are required to have a Vietnamese motorcycle licence or an equivalent license in your home country plus an International Drivers Permit (IDP). It gets more complicated as the IDP’s from some countries are not recognised in Vietnam. Having recognised licenses is required for validating any travel insurance claims in the unfortunate event that you are involved in an accident.
Whether you’re an established rider or a novice, the Hidden team has the advice to get you clued up on the legalities, help you find your ideal motorbike rental, and get you out on the road in Vietnam.
Can I Legally Ride a Motorbike in Vietnam?
To ride legally in Vietnam, you’ll need a Vietnamese driver’s license or a license in your home country plus an International Driver’s Permit (IDP), which is recognised by the Vietnamese authorities. If you want to convert your IDP into a Vietnamese driver’s license, then you’ll need to have a visa for a minimum stay of three months.
Unfortunately, the law is a bit in flux. Even an International Driver’s License may still not be recognised, as the agreements vary on a country by country basis.
Hidden Hint: If you want to avoid the headache of legal uncertainties and are just planning to ride around town, then you can always rent a 50cc scooter or electric bike. A license is not required to ride either of these.
If you decide on a rental motorbike, then do some research before you set out to see if the IDP from your country is currently recognised by Vietnamese authorities. Research this on the official government site for your country, since legal information on traveller’s forums can quickly become outdated or be misleading.
Many travellers do ride motorbikes without the proper documentation; and in Hoi An, there have been very few reported instances where a tourist has been pulled over for this (unlike further south in Mui Ne, where police are constantly pulling over backpackers). The proper documentation will be required in the scenario that you get into a serious accident and want to file a claim with your travel insurer.
Insurance and Road Rules
We highly recommend getting travel insurance. It’s affordable and will cover you in the event of a serious accident (e.g. World Nomad’s Traveller’s Insurance). Even if you aren’t seriously injured, you may be accountable for the injuries of others in a collision. In some cases, you may be held in the country until you’ve paid off medical bills for anyone injured (which can run into thousands of dollars). Some rental agencies also offer insurance, so research on this as well.
Finally, when riding a motorbike rental you’ll want to know the rules of the road in Vietnam. While Vietnam traffic can seem like chaos, there are driving laws that most locals (usually) follow. The speed limit for motorbikes in residential areas is 40 km/hr and 60 km/hr on highways. Cars have a slightly higher speed limit, and you’ll want to stay to the right to let them pass. It is illegal to weave through traffic, and although you’ll see taxis or the occasional biker do this, don’t follow their example! Follow these laws along with wearing a helmet ( also required by law), and you’re set to go.
Why Rent Instead of Buy?
Some argue that it is more cost efficient to buy and sell a motorbike in Vietnam than to rent one. While this can be true if you plan to stay for several weeks or have flexible travel dates. It is less so if you’re here for a shorter amount of time since you’ll need to factor in the buying and selling process. Keep in mind also that rentals can be extremely cheap here.
You’ll often find that your accommodation (or an associate of your accommodation) in Vietnam can offer you a motorbike rental for as low as 116,000 VND (5 USD) per day. This is a good option if you’re just looking to get around town. However, without the support of a motorbike rental company, you may end up dealing with bike maintenance issues and be forced to pay for repairs on your journey through Vietnam.
Reputable Rental Companies
For this reason, Hidden recommends going with a reputable motorbike rental company in Vietnam. Many rental companies offer a 24/7 helpline, maintain their bikes with quality parts, and cover on-road repair costs. They often offer full face helmets, too, which is something you would have to purchase on your own otherwise. The higher cost, which usually amounts to 232,000 VND (10 USD) per day, is worth it for the support and peace of mind.
Another perk of using a motorbike rental company in Vietnam is the option of one-way rides, such as the stunning trip over the Hai Van Pass from Hue to Hoi An. Motorbike rentals companies will deliver your luggage to your destination in Vietnam for little to no added cost, and many have offices in major tourist hubs where you can drop off your bike (even if you’ve come from elsewhere).
Renting a Motorbike that Suits Your Needs
With so many bikes out there to choose from, it can be difficult to make a decision on what the best option is for you. Below, Hidden covers motorbike rental options for tackling all kinds of trips in Vietnam: from easy, level roads, to rugged mountains and everything in between.
Hidden Hint: If you intend to buy a bike, then visit a hire company to try out a few before you start shopping for one.
While it’s not actually a motorbike, electric scooters (or e-scooters) are a great option to consider if you simply want to take day trips around town. You’ll find motorbike rental stores that provide scooters with 50cc equivalent power, and you don’t need a license to ride them in Vietnam. You should check with your insurance about cover when driving even these bikes. They’re not something you’d want to consider for trips heading too far out of the city though.
A fully automatic rental motorbike is ideal for beginners or anyone looking for a fairly easy ride around Vietnam. You won’t have to worry about shifting gears or having the bike stall at stop lights. Also, your feet will always be tucked under the front of the scooter, staying dry when it rains!
While it is less fuel efficient and bulkier than most manual options, automatic bikes are great for single or multi-day excursions on paved roads. This includes the Hai Van Pass—just don’t expect to take them off-road or on steep hills.
A semi-automatic motorbike offers more power than an automatic. Helpful for tackling mountain passes at higher speeds. You’ll just need to shift gears if you opt for this kind of bike since no clutch work is required. Semi-automatics are also slimmer and make for a more comfortable solo ride. (If you intend to sit at the back of one, then you may want to reconsider, especially if you are a relatively tall person.)
Manuals are generally a bit cheaper than a semi-automatic bike, commonly bought by backpackers travelling through Vietnam. There’s a steep learning curve to working the clutch if you haven’t done this before. You may encounter some embarrassing moments at intersections when your bike stalls and traffic takes off around you in all directions. Spend some time test driving a manual at a rental store to see if working a clutch is something you’re comfortable with or not.
Determining if your Bike is Reliable
Reputable motorbike rental companies in Vietnam do their best to ensure they have a fleet of newer model motorbikes for rent and that older model are only repaired with quality parts. This might not be the case for all companies, though. Regardless, you should know what to look for to ensure your motorbike does not break down unexpectedly.
The Check List
When you find a bike you like, follow this process to ensure it is in top condition:
- Start the bike and see if it holds an idle well (an idle is when the bike engine runs without you turning the throttle).
- Test the front and rear turn signals and lights as well as the brake lights.
- Press the horn and make sure it is easy to press and loud. You will be using it often!
- Check the condition of the tyres. If they are balding, then you may not have good traction in the rain.
- With the bike on the centre stand, spin the back wheel to make sure it does not wobble or vibrate.
- Take the bike for a test drive, and test both brakes. They should feel tight and allow you to come to a quick stop. If not, then they should be able to fix this on the spot.
- After test riding the motorbike at a higher speed for 15 minutes or so, stop and let the engine idle for a bit. Make sure the engine is still behaving as it did when you first started it up. Ensure that it doesn’t ‘kick’ or perform in an unstable way.
- Turn off your bike after the engine is warm from a long test ride. Wait a bit to see if there any oil leaks—a sign that the engine is not in good condition.
From the moment you take off from the rental motorbike lot, you’ll be seeing Vietnam in a whole new way. You can now take the scenic route through the rice paddies! Or easily do a quick trip and pick up your favourite banh mi sandwich on a whim. While enjoying your new found freedom, keep these general maintenance tips in mind:
Ask your motorbike rental company how much your motorbike should cost to fuel up in Vietnam. When running low on gas, find a reputable gas station with a metered gas pump and pull up to the attendant. They will first ask you how much money you would like to spend. You can either provide an amount or ask them to fill the tank up entirely. Either way, just make sure you end up paying the amount shown on the pump.
Ask your rental motorbike agency how often you should change the oil for your particular bike in Vietnam. Most bikes require an oil change every 500 to 1,000 kilometres. Changing the oil should cost 100,000 VND (4.35 USD).
Ask for a chain tension inspection every 800 kilometres, and tightening costs between 20,000 to 25,000 VND (around 1 USD).
Ask to check your tyre pressure at the same time you check your oil. Keep in mind that few places actually test the tyre pressure. It is common for them to be dangerously over-inflated. Pressure gauges are cheap and easy to obtain. So it’s best to ensure the tyres are inflated to the PSI written on the sidewall of your motorbike.
Before you ride, go through this checklist to ensure as smooth and safe a trip as possible:
- A helmet! Get a full face helmet if possible. Better yet a DOT-compliant helmet from out of the country if you have the option to do so. If neither is an option, then get a ¾ helmet, which is better than nothing.
- A rain poncho. If you forgot one and you have already arrived, there are plenty of stores that sell motorbike ponchos.
- Closed-toe shoes (hiking shoes at minimum).
- Motorbike gloves (any will do).
- Long pants
You can get 5GB of LTE data for around 100,000 VND (4.35 USD), and this will help tremendously with navigation. If you change course or need info on the next gas station, this will be a lifesaver. Rental companies may also require that you message them on WhatsApp in the case your motorbike has issues. Some will only reimburse you for repairs if you follow this process.
Hidden Hint: Download offline maps for Google Maps or Maps.me in case you don’t have service.
Your passport and a passport photocopy
You may be asked to leave your passport with the rental agency in Vietnam as a deposit for the motorbike. A passport photocopy is required when you check into any accommodation in Vietnam.
Instead of providing the rental company with your passport for a deposit. Instead pay a 7,000,000 to 11,595,000 VND (300 to 500 USD) refundable deposit. Many motorbike rental companies in Vietnam also offer a credit card deposit, which is our recommended option.
Hidden Hint: If you pay a cash deposit pay in VND, then the deposit will always be returned to you in VND, so you’ll get the exact equal amount back.
Finally, bring plenty of water, a paper map (as a backup), a waterproof case for your phone, and sunblock. All this, along with a sense of adventure and good humour, will prepare you for the inevitable challenges you will face while riding in Vietnam.
Regardless of the bike or riding experience you choose in Vietnam, enjoy the ride! From stunning coastlines and rural villages to the splendour of the Hai Van Pass and Hoi An, you are sure to have an unforgettable trip on wheels.
If you prefer to have a professional lead the way, then take a look at our guide on the Best Guided Tours to and from Hoi An. With all these resources at your fingertips and a bit of preparation on your part, you’ll be able to get the most out of your Vietnam motorbike experience.