FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs) ABOUT MOTORBIKING IN VIETNAM
Below are FAQs for motorcycle touring in Vietnam. For FAQs about motorbiking in Vietnam, please click here.
Why should I book a Freebird Adventures rather than a tour with another company?
Our riders tell us it’s because of our style. See: The Freebird Adventures Style.
What type of clothing should I bring?
Please note that Vietnam is a developing country and size selection and/or quality products are real issues. Local products are cheap but almost just one size for all or the quality is poor. Here are some suggestions:
– Clothing: helmet, rain gloves, Wellington boots (rubber boots for rainy season from April to September), summer gloves, balaclava, t-shirt, socks & underwear, long sleeved shirt, turtleneck shirt, extra jeans, light jacket, leather chaps, zip-lock bags, riding boots, bandanna, sunglasses, and goggles.
– Personal items: basic toiletries, emergency cash, sunscreen, and earplugs.
– Emergency items: first aid kit, emergency contact number, list medical conditions, list medications, flash light, chargers and duct tape.
– Miscellaneous: small towel, bath towel, trash bags, bungee cords, camera and cargo net.
Can you arrange accommodation for us in Hanoi?
We can make reservations for you at two hotels in the heart of Hanoi. In addition, we can also organize a car to pick you up from the airport. The central location makes it easy to get around the city and the hotel offers comfortable and spacious rooms in the US$30-80 per night price range (2 and 3-star standard). They also provide safe storage for baggage during the motorbike or off-road tours.
Do you carry everything on the bike, or would I leave some of my luggage at “base” until returning?
We don’t provide saddle bags as they block traffic when we ride through many towns on the road. It’s best to strap a medium size bag or rucksack onto the bike’s back rack. You can store any other luggage safely at your hotel or at our office.
Is an international licence valid in Vietnam?
Vietnamese laws require riders of all motor vehicles above 50cc to have a full Vietnamese driving licence (under 175cc is A1 and from 175cc is A2, 50cc or under needs road rules test certificate).
First, none of the foreign licenses is valid in Vietnam, including your country license. There are conflicting reports about this, but the reality is unfortunately not good news.
Fortunately, the good news is IDP (international driving permit, 1968 Convention) is now valid in Vietnam from August 1st 2016 with the 46/2016/ND-CP decree. However, this decree only covers countries that abide by the 1968 Convention on Road Traffic on IDPs. Many countries like Australia, UK, USA and Canada are not signatories to the 1968 Convention but abide by the 1949 Geneva Convention. Therefore, citizens of those countries are NOT able to drive in Vietnam with their IDPs. If you have a 1968 IDP, you can purchase an insurance policy easily for Vietnam. Please also bring your home country driving license with motorbike endorsement.
Please email us for more information about the Vietnam driving licence.
I hear the traffic is crazy in Vietnam. Is it safe?
Traffic in Hanoi is chaotic to the uninitiated driver. For this reason, we always use the easiest roads (even if they are longer) to get out of town. We can also arrange for riders to be dropped off at the city limits by taxi at a small extra charge if this is required.
Once out in the countryside, the level of traffic drops off remarkably and on some roads, it is possible to not pass a single vehicle for the whole day. That said, it must be emphasized that the conditions here are demanding and extremely defensive driving is imperative. All riders must be very careful and be fully aware that the purpose of the trip is not to ride performance bikes hard into the bends, but rather to trundle along nice and slow and enjoy the sites and sounds. Constant support from your guide will make your ride as safe as possible.
What do I do and expect when I have an accident?
First, our guide will call to the main office for help before the police come. Normally, the police will take all bikes and parties back to the police station and allow 24 hours for parties to settle before any legal action is considered.
Vietnam can be a very strange country regarding how the accident is solved, just as the way people ride. The bigger usually pay i.e car drivers to pay motorcyclists, motorcyclists pay cyclists etc. However, if you have an accident, first you have to talk with the other party (via our guide for translation) to find out who has to pay and how much. If an agreement is not reached, then the police can be called and they will do their job (usually takes time) and you may have to stay in Vietnam until they have the official report. Vietnamese people usually expect you to pay, even if you are right. Don’t be surprised and stay calm as your guide is well trained to help you to solve the situation.
If you purchased an insurance policy, at your request we will contact the insurance company and ask them for instructions. You may need to pay us for phone calls in this case, as international calls can become expensive.
I’m travelling alone, is it possible to join any existing groups?
Yes. Where possible, we will try to link solo travelers together who have similar motorcycle experience. The more advance notice with this the better. Any questions on this, just contact us and we will accommodate you where ever we can.
What if the motorbike breaks down?
As we value our motorbikes and our business depends on them, we maintain them to the highest standards. Should a breakdown occur though, we’ll do our best to get it repaired quickly. We don’t have an obligation to replace a motorcycle that has been rendered inoperable due to a traffic accident.
How do I stay in touch with home just in case of an emergency?
All our homestays and hotels have an internet connection which you can access through wifi. Just make sure that you have your smart phone with you and this isn't normally a problem.
When is the best time to come to the north of Vietnam for a tour?
There isn't really any particular 'best time' to ride. While in the North there are four distinct seasons, each with its own unique advantages. Summer runs from April to October, winter from November to March. The warmest months are usually June to August, the coldest month is usually February. Expect the possibility of some rain between April to August, the winter months are normally dry except when a winter storm may pass through.
How long do we ride each day?
A difficult question as in most cases we ride from morning to the late afternoon but on average not more than 200km per day. We try to get on the road early to make the most of the day and we enjoy plenty of lengthy stops to take in the amazing people, sights and scenery. On longer tours, we can accommodate a rest day from the saddle. Our bikes all have extra padding in the seats. Expect at least five hours driving time per day, but with plenty of stops this is likely to fly by.
What’s the minimum time to complete a good ride?
In order to get into the mountains and out of the delta plains, whilst completing a good loop, we need a minimum of four days. At a bare minimum, we can get onto some back roads and get a good taste of life on the road here in two days if you don’t mind a long day in the saddle. Check out our tour options or contact us to arrange individual requirements.
Can a non-riding guest join me on the trip?
Yes. Our support vehicles are sufficiently roomy and comfortable to provide an enjoyable ride for up to two non-riding companions. Guests who elect to pay the same rate as a rider will be guaranteed a reservation in the support vehicle. Guests who elect to pay the co-rider rate may ride in the support vehicle if space is available. Your tour group will remain close at all times, but the support vehicles make have to take slight detours at times due to the terrain the motorbikes are capable of. Let us know your requirements and we will happily accommodate.
What’s the best duration for a trip?
The perfect time frame to spend on the road would probably be eight or nine days, looking at a maximum of 12 days before the body starts to take the strain. However, for the indefatigable, we can offer a 16-day trek of the entire northern region of Vietnam or down on Ho Chi Minh highway. We know your time in Vietnam may be limited however, so we will arrange the best possible experience for the time you have available.
Where do the tours start from?
All tours start out from Hanoi between 8-9 am. Return to Hanoi is either by road or sometimes by overnight train. In case we send the motorbikes on the train, it costs more. We usually come back in Hanoi between 2-6 pm.
Do you need a deposit?
We ask for a deposit of US$200 – US$500 in order to secure your booking(s). We will provide you with the necessary account details to transfer this deposit into once a ride has been arranged to your satisfaction.
How do I pay you? Do you accept credit card payment?
Yes, we do accept credit card payment in our office. There is a bank service charge of 3% for Visa and MasterCard holders (4% for American Express card holders). At certain times, we may apply this surcharge as banks sometimes offer low or very low rates compared to free market rates. If the bank provides this lower rate, we will pass it directly to you. Deposit is made by your credit cards online, via a bank transfer or Western Union Cash Transfer. We ask that you transfer to our bank account a deposit and then final balance (cash is king in Vietnam) before the commencement of a ride. Unfortunately, PayPal applies very bad conditions to Vietnamese account holders and we don’t want you to pay more simply because of these conditions.
What other expenses should we expect? How much cash do we need to take with us?
In terms of costs, we cover everything except telephone calls, tips, souvenirs, drinks and personal medical insurance. As there are often some impressive crafts or unique souvenirs in the local markets we visit on the trail, consider around US$150–200 extra, depending on the length of your tour. This will depend entirely on your personal preference however.
How will I meet you in Hanoi?
We will arrange a pre-departure briefing session to introduce to you the route (with maps) and the minority peoples with whom we’ll come into contact, provide you with all the equipment and cover any other outstanding issues.
How is the Insurance to motorbike in Vietnam?
As a foreigner who is traveling through Vietnam, you will not be able to purchase insurance locally that you can actually use. Local sellers or other rental agencies might offer to sell you a 3rd party yellow insurance paper. For you, this does nothing. To have the yellow insurance is merely a guideline in Vietnam and you should not rely on it.
Before departing on your vacation, you will want to check with your local insurance agency about providing insurance for motorcycle riding within Vietnam. They will give you precise information on what they offer and how it might cover you in the event of an incident in Vietnam.
How to drive through Vietnam safely?
In Vietnam, you are likely to see motorcycles that are under 150cc and entirely devoid of safety features like brakes and lights. The motorcycles are probably carrying more weight than they should. Three passengers and a puppy is not an uncommon sight!! As well, it is common for drivers to talk on a cell phone with one hand and smoke a cigarette with the other. For this and many other reasons, traffic moves very slow and the locals are not used to high-speeds and fast movements. In Vietnam, you’ll want to drive slow and steady like the locals.
It is not advisable to drive faster than the locals as the Vietnamese were not trained in how to operate a motor vehicle safely. At any given moment they might turn without indicating, decide to go no matter what color a traffic light is, or not stop no matter how big the stop sign is. Driving is meant to be done at a leisurely pace and the more you can prepare yourself the easier it will be.
I have some questions that aren't answered on this list, where can i get additional information?
This is the easiest question of all. Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll receive a prompt response!! You may make a call locally at +84 935 64 2888. Our job is to make your motorcycle adventure as fun, safe and enjoyable as possible. Let us know how we can help!!