South to North Vietnam Motorbike Route – HCMC to Hanoi

If only one revel in may outline Southeast Asian adventures, it will be motorbiking throughout Vietnam. Whether or not north-to-south or south-to-north, a 2000 km traverse of Vietnam’s hyperkinetic highways and twisting nation roads by yourself two wheels is a adventure that can go away you with tales to inform for future years.

Like many vacationers, a pal and I began our motorbike expedition with simplest tough plans. Underfunded and driven for time, what must were a leisurely wreck in Ho Chi Minh Town turned into a frenzied blur in our rush to hit the street for Hanoi.

However only one month later, we had skilled the whole thing you should ever hope for in a street travel. We’d chased the horizon on razor-thin mountain passes, shared moonshine rice wine with gap-toothed villagers, and willingly were given misplaced within the huge great thing about Vietnam’s awe-inspiring surroundings.

We’d additionally had greater than our percentage of roadside breakdowns, unsuitable turnings, and shut calls with visitors! Learn how to dodge the prospective pitfalls and, as a substitute, tips on how to benefit from the considerable alternatives in this fantastic journey.

On this article, we will be able to duvet:

  • When to consult with
  • Getting a motorcycle
  • Licenses and necessities
  • The course & itinerary

When to Discuss with

If conceivable, plan your travel between October and November or between March and April.

  • The dry season runs from October to April.
  • The wet season is from Would possibly to September, with the heaviest rain all through June and July.
  • The dry seasons are cooler, whilst the wet seasons are warmer and extra humid.
  • The coldest months are from December to February, with a minimal temperature of 48°F (9°C).
  • It’s freshest from July to September, with a most temperature of 84°F (29°C).

Getting a Motorcycle

Must I hire or purchase? It’s undoubtedly conceivable to hire a motorcycle for the entire travel. A number of condo corporations have workplaces in each HCMC and Hanoi. You’ll be able to acquire your motorbike from one place of business after which merely hand it again on the different finish.

Remember to get your motorbike inspected.

Renting a motorcycle

Professionals of renting:

  • If you choose a credible, well-reviewed corporate, the motorbike must be in very good operating order. That suggests fewer maintenance-related complications alongside the way in which.
  • Condominium corporations can be offering up to the moment recommendation relating to your course. This lets you keep away from roads which can be tricky to journey because of upkeep or climate stipulations.
  • Within the tournament of an twist of fate with some other motorist, the condo corporate can negotiate with the opposite birthday party in your behalf.
  • Gets rid of the effort of re-selling the motorbike.

Cons of renting:

  • Doubtlessly costlier. A one-month condo from a credible corporate prices round $250 for a 110cc semi-automatic motorbike or $450 for a 150cc handbook transmission motorbike. You gained’t have an asset to re-sell on the different finish.
  • In case you’re on a versatile agenda, then renting would possibly tie you down. Each further day you stay the motorbike will upload on your invoice. The additional value would possibly discourage you from spending that additional day on the seaside or taking a spontaneous facet travel.
  • Harm will value you. You should definitely learn your contract with the corporate. Harm to the motorbike may upload a hefty top class on your invoice.

Purchasing a motorcycle

It’s value doing a little right kind analysis and environment apart no less than a few days to discover a excellent device. I say this from a sour revel in! We hurriedly purchased our motorcycles, a Suzuki GN125 and the ever present Honda Win 100cc, from fellow backpackers and hit the freeway after a couple of fundamental exams.

The outcome? A large number of breakdowns, prime restore prices, and way more time wasted than we had ever stored via hurrying.

Professionals of shopping for:

  • You’ll be able to move any place, anytime, for then again lengthy you need. Heard about an unmissable facet travel or an interesting native competition? You’ll be able to take at all times on the earth to revel in it and not concern concerning the condo invoice.
  • Doubtlessly inexpensive. I bought my motorbike in Hanoi for 80% of what I paid for it. Many of us if truth be told flip a benefit! There’s a burgeoning business in second-hand bikes in each HCMC and Hanoi’s traveler communities.
  • Proudly owning your personal motorbike. Name me sentimental, however I beloved having a device to name my very own for a couple of weeks. It turned into a real go back and forth spouse!

Cons of shopping for:

  • Purchase a second-hand motorbike, and you’re taking a jump of religion. All of the restore prices (and the time it takes to mend them) will probably be yours.
  • Purchasing and promoting a motorcycle takes time and generally is a trouble.
  • Any problems with the motorbike’s prison standing are yours to take care of.

At the traveler circuit, there are lots of, many battered previous motorcycles on the market that are meant to were scrapped years in the past. Until you’re a seasoned mechanic, you’ll be able to simply select a lemon! You must be expecting to pay round $200 – $400.

Right here’s a handy guide a rough tick list to get you began:

  • Be additional cautious when purchasing from vacationers! A pleasant smile and inspirational tales from the Hai Van Move aren’t any replace for mechanical wisdom and right kind upkeep.
  • Hanoi’s Previous Quarter and Pham Ngu Lao Boulevard in HCMC are each backpacker districts, house to a number of second-hand motorbike retail outlets. You’re going to most definitely pay a top class, however their motorcycles must have no less than been serviced.
  • Anywhere you purchase, and irrespective of the vendor’s assurances, get a moment opinion. Discover a mechanic to test the motorbike over prior to delivering your cash.
  • Robust lighting and horns are completely very important.
  • You should definitely get the motorbike’s possession paperwork, referred to as the Blue Card.
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Tip: As an alternative of attempting to find a purchaser after you have completed your adventure, publish commercials on-line no less than per week prior to you arrive. Having doable patrons coated up will make the method a lot more uncomplicated.

Licenses and Necessities

Formally, to journey in Vietnam, you’re required to carry a motorcycle license in your house nation and an International Drivers Permit (IDP). In truth, maximum foreigners listed here are unlicensed, who prefer to stay a couple of bucks on the in a position for any police “fines”.

Take a look at our travel necessities article for more info on packing in your bike travel.

The Path & Itinerary

Virtually each traveler chooses to start out and finish their adventure in Hanoi and HCMC’s vacationer districts (Previous Quarter in Hanoi, District 1 in HCMC). The whole lot you should want is to be had right here, from motorcycles and spare portions to scrumptious pho noodles and pleasant recommendation from the resorts.

Probably the most direct course between HCMC and Hanoi is 1700km. But it surely wouldn’t be an relaxing journey. The itinerary detailed beneath is round 2400km and can display you the Vietnam you got here right here to peer!

Image of the road on the trip south to north in vietnam
At the street.

Google maps hasn’t but stuck as much as Vietnamese riding stipulations, so don’t believe its estimated adventure instances. Between visitors, poorly surfaced roads, rain, breakdowns, and preventing for pictures, we continuously doubled the estimates!

The Expressways are a up to date addition to Vietnam’s shipping community. Those multi-lane highways are off-limits to all bikes, so you should definitely plan round them. All Expressways are categorised with a code beginning with “CT”, adopted via a host, i.e. CT01 or CT14.

Hitting HCMC’s infamously frenetic visitors may also be intimidating, even supposing you’ve gotten prior revel in on a motorcycle. In case you’re utterly new to motorcycles, the busy streets aren’t where to be informed! Discover a quiet automotive park or facet side road and provides your self time to be informed the fundamentals. Take a look at our article on driving in Vietnam right here.

Observe: Day after today-by-day itinerary accounts for driving days simplest. In truth, you’ll need to spend a couple of nights in some puts to try the native attractions and provides your butt a relaxation from the lengthy days within the saddle! 

Day 1: HCMC to Vung Tau – 105km

Time to hit the freeway out of Ho Chi Minh!

The primary day takes us to Vung Tau, a favourite beach getaway for the HCMC locals. It feels nice simply to be out of the town and at the open street! In case you’re in want of a few solar, sea, and sand, then you should take the following day off and laze at the mile-long seashores. However, a greater wager can be to look forward to the ocean at Mui Ne.

Day 2: Vung Tau to Mui Ne – 160km

Coastal driving and perspectives over the South China Sea anticipate! 

Sadly, Mui Ne has received a name as a hotspot for bribe-hungry police they usually’re identified to prey on unlicensed foreigners on motorbikes. So, if that comes with you, simply have a couple of bucks in a position, be well mannered, and don’t talk English. They must quickly can help you move in your means.

In case you’ve been ready since Vung Tau to really feel sand beneath your toes, Mui Ne gained’t disappoint! It’s house to giant sand dunes and seaside chalets all alongside the seafront.

Day 3: Mui Ne to Dai Ninh – 163km

Get in a position for a surprising day’s driving!

As an alternative of taking essentially the most direct course, practice the street to Phan Ri Cua prior to heading West towards Dai Ninh. This pretty coastal course passes thru sand dunes and overlooks the ocean. And, highest of all, there’s virtually no visitors.

Don’t be expecting an excessive amount of from Dai Ninh; the one reason why to stick here’s to get a divorce the lengthy adventure to Da Lat. However, being virtually unfastened from vacationers, you are going to be a neighborhood famous person! Over dinner, we had been roped right into a half-serious ingesting festival with six extremely enthusiastic locals. We had been obviously a interest to them, they usually took nice glee in our response to their paint stripper-grade rice wine! 

Image of Daniel with locals in Vietnam during his motorbike trip
Putting out with locals.

Day 4: Dai Ninh to Da Lat – 42km

From right here, we’re getting into the espresso nation. For the following couple of days, row upon row of espresso crops dominates the fields and hillside terraces. We had been stunned to peer folks sun-drying espresso beans on tarps in entrance in their properties. Vietnamese java may well be world-famous, however its manufacturing continues to be amazingly conventional.

Arguably certainly one of Vietnam’s maximum picturesque cities, Da Lat is a gorgeous French colonial-style hill castle. You’ll be able to simply spend a few days wandering across the town middle, tasting the native espresso, and playing the early morning perspectives over the misty, pine-clad valleys.

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Day 5: Da Lat to Nha Trang – 138km

Contemporary from the at ease setting of Da Lat, it’s time to go again to the coast. And the course there contains one of the memorable roads of our whole adventure: The Khanh Le Move. An exciting descent thru valleys and gorges down into the rural lowlands. It’s a biker’s dream!

By contrast to Da Lat, Nha Trang has a certain birthday party vibe. Be expecting to be approached with tempting (or no longer so tempting) gives on cocktails and suspiciously colourful beverages buckets!

Day 6: Nha Trang to Buon Ma Thuot – 180km

Right here’s a chance to be informed from our errors! From Nha Trang, we headed as much as Hoi An at the primary freeway, QL1A. On mirrored image, it used to be no longer the most suitable option! QL1A (additionally identified in some portions as AH1) is the principle freeway from North to South, and it draws the entire heaviest visitors.

A phrase of caution about Freeway QL1A (AH1):

In case you concept that common Vietnamese roads had been chaotic, QL1A is on some other stage! Some sections are leading-edge, however others are horribly out of date. The locals’ “hope and a prayer” way to overtaking turns into frightening in no time whilst you’re going face to face with vehicles at freeway speeds.

QL1A at evening? Fail to remember it.

At some point, we’d fallen in the back of agenda and had been left with 40km of night-time freeway between us and our beds for the evening. The next two hours had been, no doubt, the scariest I’ve ever spent on a motorcycle!

Vehicles with complete beam headlights mercilessly overtook our trail, and the (common) hindrances had been virtually inconceivable to keep away from at anything else greater than 20kph. Using at the onerous shoulder used to be your best option till my pal just about collided with a villager who used to be laying their vegetation out to dry. Unbeknown to us, the unlit onerous shoulder is, it seems that, a well-liked location for drying vegetation, a night-time walk, or perhaps a fast sleep!

Some driving on QL1A is inevitable, however attempt to keep away from it in any respect prices. There may be virtually at all times a more secure and extra scenic selection.

The street to Buon Ma Thuot and up thru Pleiku to Kham Duc avoids QL1A altogether. It’ll lead you deep into the agricultural espresso nation and thru rolling mountains, farms, and fields. There are many small guesthouses to stick at and cultural attractions to peer. I want we’d long gone this manner!

Day 7: Buon Ma Thuot to Pleiku – 175km

Pleiku continues to be slightly untouched via tourism, so be expecting a relaxed keep! It’s additionally house to a fantastic instance of Taiwanese structure, the Minh Thanh Pagoda. It’s nicely value a consult with if in case you have time within the afternoon.

Day 8: Pleiku to Kon Tum – 60km

The path to Kon Tum continues alongside slim, winding, and extremely picturesque nation roads. It’s time to settle in for a at ease day’s journey!

Day 9: Kon Tum to Kham Duc – 170km

A protracted day within the saddle! The slim, dusty roads wind thru fields and small cities, making for a fantastic adventure. Simply permit quite a lot of time to achieve Kham Duc as a result of street speeds listed here are low.

Day 10: Kham Duc to Da Nang or Hoi An – 127km

You’ll be able to make a choice from staying in Da Nang or Hoi An. Da Nang is extra geared for ex-pats, with a lot of Westernized bars and eating places. Hoi An, however, is undoubtedly a vacationer mecca. It’s in particular famed for its insanely affordable personalized garments. It is advisable to simply spend weeks available for purchase and markets right here and now have extra to peer.

Attempt to time your travel to coincide with the per month lantern competition. A shocking gala of sunshine and colour, it’s each dazzling and sublime. The photographs you are taking right here would possibly simply make your top-photos-ever checklist!

Day 11: Da Nang or Hoi An to Hue – 91km or 120km

The Hai Van Move!! Unquestionably essentially the most noted street in Vietnam and to not be neglected. We spent an unforgettable day gunning our motorcycles over this mountainside and ingesting within the cliff-edge perspectives.

Hue is incessantly lost sight of in vacationer itineraries, but it surely warrants extra consideration. The previous the city, specifically, is easily value taking the time to go searching. It’s house to centuries of tradition and historical past, such because the Imperial Fort, a fantastic capital from an historical dynasty.

In case you’re in search of one thing a little bit other, take a look at the deserted water park. Hidden deep within the jungle, the park is a peculiar and slightly creepy ghost the city that makes an off-beat vacation spot for an afternoon travel. A chum described it because the Angkor Wat of theme parks.

Unfortunately, Hue used to be additionally the place my pal and I needed to phase tactics. After an epic adventure in combination, we shared some ultimate beverages and reminisced on one of the travel’s wilder recollections. There were many! It used to be time to hit the street by myself. However, as someone who has traveled to Vietnam can inform you, it’s by no means lengthy prior to you notice a pleasant face alongside the way in which!

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Day 12: Hue to Dong Ha – 70km

A brief day’s journey, taking the roads alongside the coast.

Dong Ha is house to the Vinh Moc Tunnels, a relic of the warfare with the American citizens. Much less noted than the Cu Chi Tunnels however similarly attention-grabbing, the Vinh Moc Tunnels housed a whole North Vietnamese village that moved underground to flee the carpet bombing.

Day 13: Dong Ha to both Dong Hoi or Khe Sanh – 105km or 61km

At Dong Ha, it’s choice time! The usual course? Or the adventurous course??

The usual means continues up the coast to Dong Hoi, a small the city that boasts 12km of white sandy seashores and a scattering of traveler bars and resorts.

The adventurous means takes you onto the fabled Ho Chi Minh Path…

The Ho Chi Minh Path has turn out to be one thing of a legend in traveler folklore. A secret, wartime observe utilized by the North Vietnamese to move infantrymen, spies, and provides, the path draws a gentle move of adventure-hungry wanderers. Sadly, I couldn’t sign up for them; motorbike reliability problems stored me at the well-worn highways.

However, for those who do make a selection this course, right here’s an outline of what you’ll be able to be expecting…

  1. First day: To Khe Sanh. And, via all accounts, an early evening is very important as a result of the following day is a monster!
  2. 2nd day: From Khe Sanh to Phong Nha-Ke Bang Nationwide Park. 250km of winding, mountainous roads thru a few of Vietnam’s maximum moderately populated geographical region.
  3. You’ll have to pack meals and can want to bottle up additional gasoline for the motorcycles. There’s nowhere to replenish available in the market!
  4. With between 8 and ten hours of driving, it gained’t be a very simple day. However that is touted as certainly one of Vietnam’s maximum faraway and impressive rides!

Day 14: Dong Hoi or Phong Nha to Vinh

Whether or not you’ve gotten stayed at Phong Nha or Dong Hoi, the following day finishes again close to the coast in Vinh.

In case you’re at the Ho Chi Minh Path and need to proceed alongside the trail much less traveled, take the QL15. Differently, you’ll be able to persist with the coast however virtually wholly keep away from the QL1A via taking the maze of a long way quieter and extra scenic roads that run each to the left and proper of it.

Day 15: Vinh to Ninh Binh – 250km

The penultimate prevent and a protracted day’s journey! If you are taking the minor roads, it’s round 8 hours.

Since I’d heard that Ninh Binh’s sundown used to be impressive, I made an early get started from Vinh. Arriving that night time, it used to be lovely disappointing to discover a gray, modern-looking sprawl! The place’s all this herbal good looks that they had promised!?

Fortunately, the virtually overwhelmingly well mannered and useful owner of my guesthouse got here to the rescue. Where I had heard about used to be referred to as Tam Coc, a 15-minute journey away.

And believe me, it used to be definitely worth the wait! Tam Coc is understandably described as Halong Bay on land. Expansive, lime-zest inexperienced paddy fields stretch into the space, punctuated via huge rock formations that upward thrust virtually vertically out of the bottom like huge, craggy tombstones.

For the closing hour prior to sundown, it used to be in reality surprising. And the easiest encore for Vietnam’s herbal good looks prior to diving into the cosmopolitan bustle of Hanoi.

Day 16: Ninh Binh to Hanoi Previous Quarter – 92km

The house stretch!

Inevitably, the freeway will get increasingly more demanding as you means the capital, however simply bring to mind the chilly beer and scrumptious meals looking forward to you on the different finish! Touring south to north in Vietnam is certainly one of the nice street journeys, and also you’re only a few km from the end line!

Your Journey Awaits

Image of the Hai Van Pass in Vietnam
Hai Van Move. Photograph: Peter Nijenhuis

To hit those splendidly haphazard roads by yourself two wheels is to give up to the Vietnamese revel in. Occasions that you’ll be able to’t regulate will occur. Characters and attractions that you just hadn’t imagined will turn out to be actual. There may be merely no higher solution to rise up shut and private to those surprising landscapes and the individuals who name them house than on two wheels.

In case you’re in a position to throw your self within the deep finish and settle for the demanding situations, motorbiking throughout Vietnam is without doubt one of the maximum rewarding and whole go back and forth reports you should ever have.

Reached Hanoi however nonetheless no longer had sufficient!?

Check out the Ha Giang Loop. It’s a impressive four-day journey within the hills of northern Vietnam.

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