Considering to Buy a Motorbike in Vietnam?
Buying a motorbike in Vietnam and riding across this long country seems like an impossible task at first. What comes to mind? Insane traffic, crowded streets, corrupt police…
However, with a bit of guidance, it is actually pretty easy.
If you decide to motorbike across Vietnam you will have a very rewarding experience. The country is so diverse in culture. There are incredibly scenic motorbike routes such as the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the Ma Pi Leng Pass, and the Hai Vann Pass (Hue to Danang). And, I haven’t even mentioned the food yet…
Before you get on to exploring, you’ll need to buy a motorbike. Here I’ll give you my advice on the best type of motorbike for Vietnam, where to buy a motorbike in each major location, and how to check it properly before handing over the cash.
Remember, it’s easy to get screwed over, I’ve written this so that you don’t.
At the end of this post, I’ll also give you some tips on how to plan your motorbike trip across Vietnam.
Where to Buy a Motorbike in Vietnam?
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC)
I lucky enough to receive one great piece of travel advice for buying a motorbike in Vietnam, “find the guy next to the big neon bull.” At the time I had no idea what that meant. When you arrive at HCMC’s famous backpacker street “Pham Ngu Lao” you will figure it out quite quickly.
At one end of Pham Ngu Lao there’s huge neon bullhead called the “Crazy Buffalo”. Go to that sign, then head to the alley on the left. There you will meet a short Vietnamese guy fixing used motorbikes. He has a huge stash of motorbikes underground at an average price of USD 300.
Not all of his motorbikes are in great condition, so I suggest test riding first. Some have been crashed badly and fixed, others have been looked after pretty well.
If you’re looking to buy a motorbike in Hanoi then you should start off at the backpacker district in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Ngo Huyen is a crowded narrow laneway where you will find lots of hotels, guesthouses, travel agents, and the shop called Phung Motorbike. This guy has loads of new and used motorbikes for rent and for sale, which will have been serviced well.
You can usually buy a motorbike cheaper in Hanoi directly from another backpacker, however, it will not have been serviced and most likely has been crashed.
Also, be sure to check out my Hanoi travel guide while you’re there. There are plenty of cool things to do which you don’t want to miss out on.
There are regularly backpackers who ride from Ho Chi Minh City right up to Sapa. Those who opt for the bus from Sapa to Laos need to quickly offload their motorbike, usually with their tourist visa running out of time. You can quite often get a great bargain for a motorbike in Sapa, for as little as USD 100.
We actually sold two motorbikes there for a total of USD 200. The catch was that you had to take both or none.
Which Motorbike Should I Buy?
Here I will give you the common motorbike options. In short, the best motorbike in Vietnam for me was the Honda Win, but that might not be to everyone’s liking.
- Honda Dream, full-automatic, 100cc scooter. Price Range USD 200-300
- Honda Wave, semi-automatic 100cc motorbike. Price Range: USD 200-300
- Russian Minsk, clutch 125cc motorbike. Price Range USD 400+
- Honda Win, clutch 110-125cc motorbike. Price Range USD 300-400
Honda Wave & Honda Dream
If you want to go out looking incompetent and not looking a real biker then you can go for the Honda Wave or Dream. You get a nice comfy seat and a bike that changes gears easy. Really though, where is the fun in that? Would you really have motorbiked Vietnam or just scooter’d it?
The Russian Minsk which looks and sound awesome, any petrol head loves a two-stroke motorbike. You’ll love the smell of freshly burned oil as you creep up the mountain ranges. The suspension on the Minsk Sport version is great for off-roading and the seats are more comfortable.
However, with a Russian Minsk digging your own grave. Even a well serviced Mink will break down almost every day. Being an exotic machine means that repairs costs are higher. While many parts are interchangeable between the Japanese and Chinese motorbikes, none of them fit the Minsk. Carry lots of spares, or be prepared to search for a long time.
If you’re buying a Mink in Vietnam, consider the repair budget to be the same as the cost of the motorbike itself.
The best motorbike in Vietnam is no doubt the Honda Win. It has the best value for money and provides the best riding quality. With the Honda Win, you will be accepted by fellow riders as having a real motorbike. Importantly, the Honda Win will also offer that clutch control needed to ride the high mountain passes in northern Vietnam.
The Honda Win will break down as all motorbikes in Vietnam do. However, in the long run, the Honda Win in Vietnam is truly indestructible. Replacing a chain will cost up to $5 and even blowing up an engine will only cost $50 each time.
What to Check Before You Buy
If you have never ridden a motorbike in Vietnam, welcome. let me start by telling you that all budget second-hand motorbikes will have been crashed at some point. If you’re being told otherwise, it’s a lie.
Since these motorbikes have been crashed, they’ve been damaged, and not all have been repaired properly. Here are a few basic checks to make before you buy a motorbike in Vietnam:
- Check the rear swingarm is straight, those 2 forks holding the rear wheel in place. If the rear swingarm is bent then your ride will veer to the side every time you pass over a rumble strip or pothole.
- Check the headlight works and is powerful. Riding at dusk or night in Vietnam is going to be one of the most dangerous things you do in Asia. You are not always going to reach your destination in daylight hours, so be prepared.
- Make sure your battery properly charges and holds a charge. This is the steady power supply for your headlight if the battery is no good you’re going to have a weak headlight.
- Double-check the horn works. This is your new voice on the road, and you won’t survive far without it.
- Test the front brake before riding to quick. I didn’t, mine didn’t work properly, and I ended up running into a roadside stall before the deposit had even been paid while on the test run.
- Check that the motorbike has it’s Blue Card (registration papers)
Typical Cost of Motorbike Repairs
There’s no point denying the fact that your motorbike is going to break down. It’s inevitable. Here are some of the common breakdowns and how much you should expect to pay.
- Repair a tyre tube – VND 30,000 (USD 1)
- Change tyre tube – VND 50,000 (USD 3)
- Change an entire tyre – VND 200,000 (USD 9)
- Tighten chain – VND 30,000 (USD 1)
- Change engine oil and filter – VND 150,000 (USD 6.5)
- Repair cracked motorbike frame – VND 200,000 (USD 9)
- Replace rear swing arm bolt – VND 200,000 (USD 9)
Some repairs I recommend you learn to do yourself include; change the spark plug, clean the spark plug, adjust the brake and clutch cables, pump up your tyres.
Useful Tips for Motorbiking in Vietnam
After buying a motorbike there are a few useful accessories for your journey ahead. These items will make the journey much easier, much more rewarding and much more enjoyable:
- Bungy cords make tying down your luggage way easier. Seriously, it’ll save you at least 10 minutes every morning. Forget about clumsy old ropes. Be sure to grab a few spares as they also snap easily.
- Wet weather gear. Although it looks expensive now, it is worth every last Vietnamese Dong in your pocket. You’ll thank me when you get blasted by a thunderstorm up in the mountains.
- Essential spares include; headlight bulbs, fuel filters, fuel line hoses, tire tubes. They will all come in handy.
- Tools; spanner, hammer, hand tire pump – all the basics.
- A decent road map of Vietnam, this is essential for exploring the back roads!
MORE AWESOME VIETNAM ARTICLES YOU’LL LOVE
Where to Ride in Vietnam?
If you are rushed on time you might like to try this 2 Week Vietnam itinerary which will take you from Ho Chi Minh City in the south to Hanoi in the north. If starting in the south of Vietnam you might like to spend a few days exploring Ho Chi Minh city with this guide to the local attractions.
Heading north from Ho Chi Minh City your first stop may be Dalat, Nha Trang, and Cat Thien National Park. To learn more about these, and a further 23 destinations across the country, you cannot miss my epic Vietnam Motorbike Route. This details how I rode across the country for over three months.
These are the basics of buying a motorbike in Vietnam and getting yourself properly set up for the journey ahead. Don’t rush, take it easy and enjoy the ride!
USEFUL PRODUCTS FOR YOUR TRIP
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