Exploring by cycle or cycling is fast becoming a trend that not only appeals to the healthy youth ready to backpack, but to a larger demographic of tourists who want to go deeper, and in a more authentic way, in to a country. Vietnam tours are unique in this aspect, as the country boasts over 30 million motorcycles and countless bicycles.
Despite the rough roads and somewhat unreliable public transportation, the country is extremely bike friendly. This is something the intrepid and adventurous cyclist can take advantage of. Exploring on a motorbike can also be a great excuse to linger at your favourite beach, or maybe spend a night or two at that hotel you have been reading so much about in Hanoi.
Navigating through the streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh may sound like a nightmare, as Vietnam truly has some of the worst traffic in Southeast Asia. But your bike (motor or cycle) will easily squeeze through the traffic and you will easily be able to find great parking spaces all around the city. When travelling further afield on Vietnam tours, many buses and ferries allow bikes to travel, which makes it easier for you once you arrive at your chosen destination.
Biking is also a great solution for the thrifty traveller who wants to stretch the funds, and perhaps explore the nooks and crannies of cities or tourist spots. Depending on how much time you have, on a bike you can squeeze in a few “off the road” sites alongside the regular tourist areas encountered on Vietnam tours.
Motorcycles and bikes are incredibly cheap to buy, rent and maintain here. It seems every corner has a bicycle or motorbike repair shop, although you may be surprised at what they use to repair your tyres!
How To Do It
Renting bicycles in Vietnam is cheap – but be warned, the locally made bikes might as well be made of dreams, they break so easily. Invest your money in a Chinese bike and insure you hire from a reputable company. The easiest way to go is to bring your own bike, but be wary – high tech features (like your meter or your drink slot) might be stolen even if the bike itself is chained up.
For motorcycles, if you are lucky, you may end up with a Honda or a Vespa in great condition. Make sure you know how to inspect your motorbike and how to negotiate (read, nag until the prices go down). Westerners, although respected and well-liked, can expect higher prices.
You can also look for Vietnam tours that offer a cycling or biking in the itinerary. You will be guaranteed fabulous views and the vitality of the sun on your back and an open road before you.
Some Safety Reminders
Regardless of whether you are cycling or on a motorbike, make sure you wear a helmet. Make sure your motorbike or cycle has a working horn, as well. You will need it to get through the chaotic traffic of the cities and they can also be handy on the open roads.
Finally, make sure you always have access to clean drinking water. Store some purification tablets in your backpack or bring bottled water with you.