Finding a Vietnam Motorbike
A complete guide to renting a motorbike for your Vietnam road trip
So you’re looking for the perfect companion to motorbike Vietnam? Look no further. In this guide I give you the pros and cons of renting vs buying, details on where to get a bike, and which bikes are best for the ride.
Like many of my posts on such topics, this guide is written keeping in mind that some readers have tons of motorbiking experience, while many others have little to none. For those with experience, here is a table of contents to jump forward if needed. The topics that are colored red, are ones that have particularly useful information for every rider, no matter their experience level. Though, I do believe that anyone new to riding in Vietnam can gain useful information throughout this whole post.
Large Motorbikes Are Very Expensive in Vietnam
Vietnam has an incredibly high tax rate on any motorbike over 175cc. Because of this, those looking for a bike over 150cc, or those of a taller or heavier build will have a more challenging time finding the right bike. For beginners and average sized folks, finding a bike is rather simple and cheap.
If you are one of the larger bike folks, don’t fret. At the end of this post is a list of bikes and resources to find those bikes. Larger bikes are uncommon, so you’ll want to reserve the bike a few months in advance. Also, some rental companies require you to have a proper motorbike license to drive in Vietnam before they will lend you a 150cc+ bike. Make sure to check their policy. If you’re interested in getting a Vietnamese Motorbike License, click here.
Rent or Buy a Motorbike?
Before looking for a bike you will need to weigh the option of renting or buying a bike. There are pros and cons to both. One of the most important factors that you will need to consider is whether or not you plan to take your bike across the border into Laos or Cambodia. To cross the border you will need to show Proof of Ownership, via a blue card. Without a blue card you will likely be turned away at the border. You will also need your blue card if you decide to skip sections of the country by putting you and your bike on the train.
- Easy to return the bike at the end of the trip
- Some renters cover maintenance and breakdown expenses
- Some renters offer bike damage insurance and emergency transport for an additional fee
- Most renters offer 24/7 customer service
- You won’t be able to take the rented bike across the border unless you work out a deal with the renter.
- You will likely need to put a safety deposit down for the bike. Sometimes this fee is considerably high. For example a XR150 safety deposit runs $800 USD and above.
- Some companies require a motorcycle license to rent anything over 150cc
- If you are a savvy shopper, have mechanical experience, and have time to sell your bike at the end of the trip renting may be the more expensive option.
- With ownership you will have a blue card for your bike, which is needed to cross the border or ship your bike on the train.
- If you take care of the bike, and are a savvy buyer, owning a bike can be cheaper than renting.
- Given that you can afford it, you can buy any bike of any size.
- You will need to assume full responsibility of the bike. Whatever breaks you will have to bare the expense.
- Finding the right bike can be time consuming.
- Find parts for bikes that aren’t common rental bikes may be difficult
- Selling the bike at fair value may take some time.
What Motorbike should you ride in Vietnam?
The bike you choose to ride will greatly affect your enjoyment and safety during the trip. Think of it as hand picking your travel companion for the duration of your vacation! You will want a bike that can handle your route of choice, is reliable, fits your body, and isn’t too hard on the rear end!
When deciding what bike to use during the trip you will need to take in consideration of these factors:
- Vietnam traffic moves rather slow, and curvy roads aren’t very reliable. There are few opportunities to open up larger bikes.
- Vietnam’s roads, especially in the north can be rather rough.
- Where do you plan to go? Review your planned route to determine the type of terrain you will experience. Some routes require off-road capabilities.
- Your size and weight
- Will you have a passenger with you?
- How much luggage will you be carrying?
- The availability of parts for you bike. See “Bike Options” below.
- Your budget
- Manual or semi auto? Fully manual is prefered, but always avoid automatic gearboxes. See below.
Gearbox options: Manual, Semi Automatic, or Fully Automatic?
For a trip through the country I suggest avoiding fully automatic bikes, and finding yourself a manual bike. However, if a manual bike is too challenging opt for a semi auto. Why not fully automatic? Fully automatic gearboxes are great for the city; but they are expensive to fix, and experience difficulties when riding in steep terrain, especially under load. With a manual and semi auto gearbox you have the option of engine braking when going downhill, and downshifting to maintain power when going uphill. IF you plan to tour in the mountains of the north the ability to downshift is absolutely essential.
Common Vietnam motorbike Options
With the above factors in mind, here are a list of options I recommend.
These bikes are the most common for their size or class, meaning that in the event of a breakdown or mechanical problem parts for these bikes are more likely to be available and cheaper than other comparable options. I recommend sticking to these bike options.
The Iconic Vietnam Motorbike -
The Vietnamese Detech (The Honda Win knockoff) 110cc, 120cc, 127cc, Manual Gearbox.
The Vietnamese Detech (The Honda Win knockoff) 110cc, 120cc, 127cc, Manual Gearbox.
The most common choice by backpackers, but relatively not an enjoyable way to travel. Compared to a true Japanese motorbike, most Honda win knockoffs are dangerous and unreliable. Used bikes can be found for ~$250-300usd.
The Detech is the most popular choice among backpackers. They have become the iconic Vietnam motorbike of young gap year folks because they look spiffy, and are dirt cheap (~$250 – $300usd). Because of this they are easy to find, and easy to sell. Nearly every mechanic carries spare parts and can get you back on the road WHEN you do have some sort of mechanical issue. They are cheaply made, and prone to issues. Additionally, most backpackers are inexperienced with maintaining their bike.
Cheap and badly maintained bikes are a good recipe for a death trap. If you go with this option be ready for (kinda) unexpected problems. Because of lack of maintenance experience, and the abundance of cheap chinese parts, most of these bikes are piles of crap.
When shopping make sure to look for the “Detech” models. There are many variations of the knockoff Honda Win, such as the Espero, and the Sufat. All of them are crap, but the best of the variants are probably the Detech variants. Again, I don’t recommend this bike as a cheap option, or a safe one. It looks cool, but it will slowly pull cash from your pocket. If you are doing a longer trip, this bike may eventually cost you as much as renting or buying/selling a more reliable option like the Honda XR150L. If you’re doing a short trip of a week or so, you might be able to squeeze the life out of it for the trip -which is why most of these bikes are garbage.
I’ve ridden the length of Vietnam on a Detech. It did the job, but was not half as enjoyable as riding a properly sized and built bike. My Detech was somewhat reliable and was safe only because I was constantly chasing mechanical issues and carried my own tools.
Note: If you go for this option, don’t be fooled by folks offering “genuine” Honda Wins. Genuine Wins are expensive collector items that don’t go for cheap. If you think you have found a genuine Win check the blue card for “Honda” on the info. Also, check for an electric starter, the originals are kickstart only. And finally look at the gearbox for the Honda logo. If it passes these boxes, take it to a mechanic of YOUR choosing to get their opinion.
- Cheap to buy
- Easy to fix
- High availability of parts
- Looks pretty cool
- Easy to sell
- It will teach you a thing or two about mechanics.
- Problem prone
- Very uncomfortable in long rides
- Frequency of maintenance and repair stops may not be enjoyable
- Many parking garages in Hanoi wont take them in (locals think you will abandon your POS bike there for them to trash)
- Small engine and frame size make it not ideal for heavier loads
- Likely a frankenstein of chinese parts, leading to reliability issues
The Honda Wave, 110cc Semi Auto gearbox
The Semi Auto budget bike, good for short beginners. Can buy them used for about $300usd.
The Honda wave is a very common bike of the locals. Parts for them are cheap and easy to find (many fit the Honda win), and word is that the bikes are extremely reliable. The semi auto gearbox is straightforward to use, making it a good option for those who are shy of a fully manual gearbox. HOWEVER, because they are so common, most used ones have unreliable chinese parts on them. Like the Honda Win knockoff above, second hand ones are likely to have issues on longer journeys. However, if you source one that has been well maintained and uses all original manufactured parts, it’s likely to be super reliable.
- Abundance of parts
- The seating position can be more comfortable compared to the Honda Win
- Very reliable if maintained properly
- Small engine and frame size, making it not ideal for heavier loads or taller people
- Small fuel tank, meaning more fuel stops
- You will have to remove your bag to fill up the petrol under the seat
Honda XR150L, Manual Gearbox
Recommended choice for new riders. Solid bike for all terrain. Little tall for those shorter than 1.7m (5’7). I’ve seen used one go far $1,400usd give or take.
The Honda XR150L is the most common dual-sport motorcycle in Vietnam. The bike is fast enough for the majority of the roads you will encounter in Vietnam, and has enough power to comfortably cruise uphill. Additionally, the dual-sport type is perfect for comfortably riding the array of road conditions Vietnam will throw at you.
This bike has the highest seat height of the 150cc and below bikes, sitting at 825mm. For those shorter than 1.7m (5’7) this bike might be a little challenging, as only your toes will likely be able to touch the ground.
Because it is a genuine Honda product, when maintained properly they are very reliable. However, if you have any major problems parts may take some time to arrive and private mechanics may be reluctant or unable able to help. With that being said, any mechanic can help you with basic maintenance such as oil, tire patches and chain tightening. If you go with this option make sure to carry spare tubes, and maybe a chain.
- Very reliable
- 12 liter fuel tank for nice long rides
- Comfortable suspension
- On and off road design
- Large enough for 2 riders
- Expensive to buy
- You will likely need to wait for parts
- Small backseat for bag storage
- Requires a large deposit to rent
- May take time to sell after the trip
Yamaha Exciter 150cc, Manual gearbox
The sporty choice for paved road routes.
This bike is the go to for the local cool kids. If there was a Fast and Furious Vietnam edition, the Yamaha Exciter would be a flagship bike of the franchise. Lightweight and optimal gearing make this a quick bike for a 150cc! However, its comes at a cost. The seating position can be rather uncomfortable on long rides, and the small suspension and wheels don’t do much for the lower back and rear end. Additionally, if you plan to wander off the pavement the short travel in the suspension and smooth tires will lead to difficulties. If riding North to South, this bike should do just fine.
Comparable bikes can be found, such as the Honda Winner and the Raider. But the Exciter is probably the most reliable of the bunch.
- You’ll get the attention of the cool kids
- Awesome handling in the corners on smooth roads
- Decent price/ value balance
- Parts shouldn’t be much of an issue to find.
- Can become rather uncomfortable
- Small fuel tank
- You will need to remove luggage to refuel
- Little off road capabilities
Honda CRF 250L, Manual Gearbox
The perfect bike for touring Vietnam, and a good option for larger individuals.
If money isn’t much of an issue and you plan to explore everything Vietnam has to offer, this is the best all around bike for most individuals. At 250cc, the bike offers enough power and top speed for an average sized individual, while staying maneuverable in tight off road situations. Because of the road conditions of Vietnam, this bike offers enough power and speed for most folks. Additionally, this is arguably one of the most reliable bikes on the market in Vietnam. If maintained properly, this bike will likely last longer than you would ever want to ride. However, because of Vietnam import tax rates, this bike is very expensive ($8-14k USD) which makes it uncommon compared to smaller bikes. If you experience a significant mechanical issue you will have difficulties getting back on the road. It’s best that you rent this bike with breakdown coverage, or have some mechanical experience to handle the issues on your own. If you go with this option make sure to carry spare tubes, and maybe a chain. If you’re going to be doing a bunch of offroading, some spare clutch pins might be a good idea.
It’s also worth mentioning that the seat is a bit high. For new riders shorter than 1.75meters (5’9) the bike is a little challenging. You’ll spend a decent amount of time on your toes.
- Powerful enough for most roads conditions in Vietnam
- Very reliable
- Comfortable ride
- Large fuel tank
- Very expensive
- Finding parts is challenging
- Parking will be a pain in the ass in Hanoi
Need a larger bike??
Above 250cc there is no “common” make or model. Though, there are options. Tigit Motorbike and Flamingo Travel are your best bet for renting larger bikes. You may also have some luck in facebook groups for buying. Read below for more details.
Motorbike Rental and Sales options in Vietnam
Facebook Buy/Sell groups
Facebook is a very useful resource in asia. There are plenty of motorbike buy sell groups on Facebook.
If you are dead set on getting a Honda Win Detech, and are confident with your ability to inspect the reliability and safety of a motorbike, facebook groups are the cheapest option. You can also find some stylish cafe racer style bikes and larger CC bikes in these groups.
If you aren’t confident in your ability to inspect a Honda Win, I suggest purchasing one from Style Motorbikes, or taking the bike to a mechanic for a quick look over before making the purchase. Most mechanics will do it for free, some may charge you 10,000vnd (~$0.43USD) or so. Make sure to ask the price before having them do anything to your bike.
Dragon Bike Tours
With Dragon Bike Tours you can rent in Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi, and drop the bike off at various train stations throughout the country. They have 110cc – 150cc with dual sport options, solid bikes, and competitive prices.
Dragon Bike Tours does offer solid motorbike rentals at very competitive prices. Dragon Bike Tours has one location in Ho Chi Minh City, however they will ship a bike via the train to a station of your choice. Additionally, some customers have been able to borrow the ownership documentation needed to cross the border with the bike. I personally turn to Dragon Motorbikes when I need to rent a 150cc or lower bike.
Rent & Buy: Hanoi, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City
Honda Win Detechs, selection of bikes from 110cc – 150cc, safety gear
Style Motorbikes has a reputation for having excellent customer service. Style Motorbikes is a good place to get a reliable Honda Win Knockoff. They also rent Honda XR150s.
They offer one way rentals between Hanoi, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City. For those that will be crossing the border they offer to buy back your bike if you finish the trip at one of their locations. They also have a decent selection of Motorbike gear. Refer to the link to see their selection of bikes and more details.
Rent and Buy: Ho Chi Minh, Dalat, Hue, Hanoi
Wide selection of bikes, great service, larger motorcycle options available.
Tigit Motorbikes is a very reputable company with lots of experience helping backpackers and travelers with their motorbike needs. They have 4 locations for pick up and drop off throughout Vietnam; Ho Chi Minh, Dalat, Hue, and Hanoi.
Tigit firmly believes that no one should ride a Honda Win Detech. With that being said, you won’t find any at Tigit. However, Tigit offers a large selection of motorbikes from 110cc Honda Blades to 400cc Royal Enfield Himalayans. Tigit also offers a compelling sell buy option so you can take the bike across the border. They also have a wide selection of riding gear and bike accessories.
Flamingo Motorbike Tours – Rent & Buy: Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Hoi An
Best option for larger bikes. 50cc – 1000cc off road and Dual-Sport options.
Flamingo Motorbikes is a reputable place to rent and buy higher CC bikes. They don’t mess around with beginner bikes. They mostly provide services for experienced riders looking for a solid ride. Make sure to reserve bikes from them well in advance. I once tried to rent 2 CRF250Ls and they were not available for 2 months.
Thanks for checking this out. I hope it has helped you find the ride for your trip!
Make sure to check out other articles about planning, and some of the route guides for more info.
Also, follow 2wheelsvietnam on the gram, and join the facebook group!
Until next time, love peace and engine grease. 🏍