Traveling the countryside, coasts and mountains of Vietnam on your motorcycle is perhaps the most beautiful way to explore this country.
In this dossier, we explain in detail how to buy your bike yourself and get around Vietnam, but also in Laos and Cambodia.
WHY TRAVEL BY MOTORCYCLE?The benefits include
Driving outdoors, on winding mountain roads, in the middle of beautiful landscapes or in the wild traffic of major Asian cities is a unique experience that provides a good dose of adrenaline.
Traveling by motorcycle makes it easier for you to explore the most remote areas, where public transport does not go. Unlike the bus, you always have a 180° panoramic view and can stop whenever you want to enjoy the landscape or take pictures.
You are also close to the premises. You ask for your route, discuss during your stops and are led to exchange with garages to maintain and repair your vehicle.
The motorcycle is an extremely flexible means of transport. You can very quickly change your schedule, make a detour, stay longer in a place you like or shorten your stay and get to your next destination quickly.
You are not constrained by public transport schedules and can visit countries at your own pace. It is also a relatively economical means of transport, as a used motorcycle is not very expensive and does not consume much fuel.
Motorcycle travel is not just a pleasure. You have to deal with sometimes chaotic traffic, pollution, accident risks, and lousy weather.
You must also be careful where you leave your vehicle when you are not on it so that it is not stolen.
It is a rather only means of transport because even if you travel with several people, you cannot talk when you are driving.
Traveling by motorcycle can also be tiring. You must always be attentive and cannot rest like on a bus or plane.
You will also have to face additional costs to get to the islands, as you will have to transport or store your bike.
BUY OR RENT YOUR MOTORCYCLE?By renting a motorcycle or scooter, you will have a newer vehicle with fewer mechanical problems.
If you don’t have much time in the country, renting two-wheelers in different places will allow you to make long trips by bus or train. Your tour will, therefore, be less tiring.
However, renting a motorcycle in Vietnam costs between €5 and €10 per day. Buying a regularly used bike like a Honda Win usually costs between €200 and €250, but you can then resell it for almost the same price at the end of your road trip.
Buying a motorcycle is cheaper than renting one.
Example of a one-month trip:
Rent a motorcycle
Rental: 8 € per day = 240 € per day
Fuel, maintenance, and repairs: 100 €
Total: 340 €
Buy a motorcycle
Purchase price: 250 €
Fuel, maintenance, and repairs: 120 €
Selling price: 230 €
Total: 140 €
If you plan to travel more than a few days by motorcycle, it is clearly more financially advantageous to buy one and then resell it at the end of your trip than to rent one.
Also, if you rent a motorcycle, you will have to take it back to its rental location, and you will not be able to leave the country with it. You will also have to respect the return date set in your rental contract, which reduces your freedom.
You also take the risk of being victimized when you return your vehicle. Indeed, some unscrupulous rental companies sometimes charge for repairs, even if you have not damaged the bike.
BUY A NEW OR USED MOTORCYCLE?Buying a new motorcycle is expensive and requires a lot of paperwork.
This is why almost all travelers who buy a motorcycle in Vietnam choose a second-hand model.
WHERE TO BUY A MOTORCYCLE?Entering Cambodia and Laos with a Vietnamese motorcycle is possible. On the other hand, it is very complicated for a foreigner to come to Vietnam on a motorbike that does not have a Vietnamese plate.
It is for this reason that backpackers who travel by motorcycle in Southeast Asia buy their vehicles mainly in Vietnam, mostly in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.
It is also possible to buy a motorcycle in Cambodia or Laos. However, if you also plan to visit Vietnam, you will need to buy one that has a Vietnamese plate. You will find them quite quickly, as many backpackers sell their Vietnamese motorcycles in these countries.
Buying a motorcycle in Thailand is much more expensive and complicated because you need to be able to prove an address on the spot. This is why very few travelers buy their bikes in this country.
WHO TO BUY HIS BIKE FROM?About two-thirds of travelers who buy a motorcycle in Vietnam buy it from another backpacker. Most of the others buy it in a local garage. Finally, some buy it directly from a local resident, but this is rare.
Buying your bike from another travelerMotorcycle travel in Southeast Asia is widespread, and there is a real second-hand vehicle market among travelers. In Vietnam’s backpacker districts, you will find hundreds of motorcycles for sale. You will usually get a reasonable price, as they often have little time to sell before they leave.
It is possible that the bike suffered a little during the trip. However, you can talk directly with the traveler who sells it to you and gets an idea of the care he has taken when using it.
How to find motorcycles sold by travelers?
On Facebook groups: mainly Viet Nam Backpackers Travel and Sale, but also Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam Backpacker / Traveler, Vietnam Backpacker Sales, Vietnam Backpacker Motorbike Market, Hanoi Massive and of course Tourdumondiste.com | The community
By word of mouth, by talking to other travelers
Via the ads posted in youth hostels
Looking at the “for sale” signs on motorcycles on the streets or even on the chest or back of sellers. The roads where you are most likely to find them are Bùi Viện Phạm Phạm Ngũ Lão in Ho Chi Minh City and Mã Mây in Hanoi.
Facebook groups are full of ads for expensive motorcycles
Buy your bike in a local garageYou will probably pay a little more for your motorcycle by buying it in a garage, but you will know that it has been professionally serviced.
Some salespeople may give you a short driving lesson to help you take charge of the vehicle. It is sometimes possible to negotiate a buyback in advance at the end of the trip if you plan to make a loop. In this case, ask that the amount is written on a piece of paper that you will keep.
How to find a good garage?
- By talking to other travelers
- By searching on forums and Facebook groups of travelers
- By looking at the garage notes on TripAdvisor
How to choose your bike?Displacement cylinder
Special permits are required for motorcycles over 175cc, but in any case, it is recommended that you do not exceed 125 cubic centimeters. Indeed, beyond this capacity, your travel insurance will not cover any medical or repatriation expenses in the event of an accident.
Don’t go too low either, because North Vietnam and Laos are mountainous. Below 100 cc, your bike will not be powerful enough to carry you and your equipment on steep roads.
The right displacement range for passengers is therefore between 100 and 125 cc.
Manual / automatic transmission
If you plan to travel out of the cities and travel long distances in the countryside or in the mountains with your motorcycle, it is recommended to choose a bike with a manual or semi-automatic transmission, not automatic. Learning is really not complicated.
Automatic models consume more fuel and cost more to repair. They are also dangerous on steep roads, especially if they are gravel or wet because you do not have the option of downshifting during the descent to use the engine brake. This forces you to brake harder, which increases the risk of slipping.
The model used by almost all backpackers in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia is the Honda Win. It’s a real bike (not a scooter) with a beautiful vintage look, a manual transmission, and good suspensions and generally a displacement between 110 and 125 ccs.
This is a prevalent model. It is used by almost all premises in mountainous regions. It is therefore easy to find spare parts to have it repaired anywhere in case of a problem. Besides, it has enough space to hang a bag and has a range of about 300 km.
The Vietnamese market was flooded with Chinese copies of the Honda Win. These copies do not always have an excellent reputation for reliability. However, they have the advantage of being very cheap. It is challenging to find a real Japanese Honda Win in Vietnam anyway.
Most backpackers are therefore satisfied with Chinese copies and are most often happy with them. Detech and Sufat are the ones with the best reputation for reliability.
We sometimes see backpackers on a Honda Minsk, but we don’t recommend it. It is an old Russian model that is difficult to drive, noisy and smokes a lot. Only some tourists use it. It has a terrible reputation among Vietnamese people, and garages rarely have the parts to repair it.
Some travelers who are really uncomfortable with the idea of riding a handcycle choose a Honda Wave scooter. This model is as powerful as the Honda Win, but its automatic transmission is not recommended for mountain driving. Also, it does not have much space for your bag.
A used Honda Win will cost you between $150 and $300 (120 – 240 €), depending on its condition, equipment, and your negotiating skills.
We did a small survey of travelers. Here are the average prices they paid:
Purchase from another traveler: $250 (€200)
Shopping in a garage: $290 (235 €)
What to check before buying your bike?To properly evaluate a motorcycle, it must be possible to test it on the road. If you have never ridden a bike before, you can ask the seller to give you a ride. Push the engine hard and test the vehicle at just over 60 km/h. It must be perfectly stable and not vibrate excessively. Remember to wear a helmet when testing a motorcycle.
Check the oil level. If there are no more, run away. The owner probably did not maintain a sufficient oil level during his trip, which likely damaged the engine. If there are still any, ask how often they were changed and when the last one was changed.
Many local sellers hide the rust with paint. Rust is not very serious as long as there are no cracks. These cannot be obscured by paint.
The electric starter
Check that it works. You don’t want to be stopped in the middle of a crossroads surrounded by thousands of scooters and have to start again with the kick.
Headlights and indicators
The different positions of the front and rear lights and turn signals must work.
The clutch must be hard but comfortable. If the bike moves when it is engaged, move on.
If you’ve never ridden a motorcycle before, it can be difficult to check. Clutch quickly, the speed should pass without any problem.
It must be well greased. Also, check its tension by lifting it up with a wrench, it should not be too loose.
Check that they are inflated, that they do not have cracks on the sides and that they are not too worn. If they are smooth, do not buy the motorcycle or have them replaced. Beware of new tires, they can skid. So be careful for the first few days.
There should be no shortage of rays, and they should not be broken or twisted. To check that the rim is not warped, put the motorcycle on the stand and turn the wheel in the vacuum. Put a fixed object next to the side. If the distance between the object and the rim is not constant, it is because it is veiled.
The front brake is on the right hand, the rear brake on the right foot. Perform a straight-line brake test at about 40 km/h. No need to go so far as to lock the wheels, they must not secure before the very end of braking. Test the front and rear brakes carefully.
Check that the wires on the handlebars and clutch are in good condition.
Take a ride with the motorcycle and listen if there are no suspicious vibration noises or friction.
Press the handlebar fully to test the springs. You must not hear any strange noise. There must be no grease on the suspensions. Leaks are sometimes blocked with a piece of tissue or toilet paper.
It must work. In Southeast Asia, the horn is essential. It is an integral part of the way we drive.
It is common that one is missing or even that there is none at all. Check that they are present, in good condition and not moving.
Check that it does not show any signs of corrosion.
The odometer, speedometer and fuel gauge may not work. Don’t worry, it’s normal. You will learn very quickly how to estimate your speed without a meter and can look directly into the tank for any remaining fuel.
Don’t expect to find a motorcycle with a lockable container, it’s sporadic.
What documents do I need?The “blue card.”
It is the equivalent of the French registration document. Do not buy a motorcycle without a blue card and check that its number matches the license plate number. If the police arrest you, you will have proof that you didn’t steal it.
She doesn’t need to be in your name. Almost all backpackers drive without putting their motorcycles in their name, it is not mandatory.
Don’t lose your blue card, because it is almost impossible to resell a motorcycle without this document.
No need to try to pay for your purchases with this credit card, it won’t pass, no need to try to pay for your purchases with this credit card, it won’t move.
International driving license
Since December 1, 2014, it is no longer mandatory to have a local driver’s license to travel by motorcycle in Vietnam. According to the Consulate General of France in Ho Chi Minh City, you can present your international license together with your country’s driving license.
The international permit is also recognized in Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand.
To find out how to apply for an international permit, consult our file on administrative procedures.
It is strongly recommended to be covered by travel insurance. Indeed, in the event of a severe accident, there is a good chance that you will be transferred to Thailand, where the best hospitals in Southeast Asia are located. It’s costly.
You can be covered by your credit card (limited to the first three months of travel) or by specialized insurance (see our travel insurance comparison).
Most insurance policies cover the operation of motorized two-wheelers up to 125 ccs. You must have a B permit. It is not necessary to have a motorcycle license, nor even to have followed the practical training for driving motorcycles which is mandatory in France. It is however recommended to support it before your departure to train.
Please note that only medical, hospitalization or repatriation expenses can be reimbursed, provided you wear a helmet.
Make sure you are covered by your motorcycle injury insurance and make sure you are covered by your motorcycle injury insurance.
According to the survey we conducted for our travel safety file, motorcycle and scooter accidents account for one-third of all accidents involving world travelers. It is, therefore, best to be very careful on the road, especially if you are not used to riding a motorcycle.
Travel insurance is not motorcycle insurance. If you have an accident, damage to your vehicle, the one you hit or the medical expenses of a person you would have injured is not covered.
Taking out local motorcycle insurance is very long and complicated. This is why almost all travelers drive without motorcycle insurance. In Southeast Asia, people are not used to taking steps. In the event of an accident, the problem will generally have to be resolved amicably. However, the risk of severe personal injury remains minimal with a motorcycle.
The fact of not having motorcycle insurance will not usually cause you any problems with Vietnamese police officers. In Laos and Cambodia, they may sometimes use it as an argument to impose a “fine.”
Note: If you rent a scooter or motorcycle and have an accident, your insurance will ask you for the rental contract including the name of the lessor, the model of the bike, the dates and the price of the transaction. If you rent a vehicle from a private individual, there is no document, so the insurance does not apply.
What equipment should I bring?You can find all the necessary equipment on site. Apart will probably be provided with the bike.
In Southeast Asia, the use of masks is mandatory for both drivers and passengers. If you do not wear one, the policy may stop you, and in case of an accident, you will not be covered by your travel insurance.
Choose a full face helmet and make sure it fits. Avoid “bowl” helmets. They have a good vintage look, but they do not protect the face well in case of a fall. It is also essential to have a visor to protect you from rain, dust, and insects.
The helmet will often be sold with the bike, but if it is not suitable, do not hesitate to buy another one.
HJC Helmets and Protec Helmets in Hanoi offer helmets to international standards from €10 and are very popular with expatriates.
Avoid “bowl” helmets. They do not protect the face well. Avoid “bowl” helmets. They do not protect the face well
The major cities of Southeast Asia are very polluted, and there is a lot of dust. If you plan to spend a lot of time in the town, buying a mask may be a good idea.
You will find unmarked masks for about 50 cents, but don’t expect them to protect you from anything but insects. Instead, choose one of the following brands: Kissy, Lucky, AnviLife, Dr. Kim or Karibon. You can easily find them for about €1.50.
The idea is to have a reinforced motorcycle jacket that will protect you from burns in case of a fall. Otherwise, choose a coat that is quite resistant.
To avoid getting wet if the rain starts to fall when you are on your motorcycle, bring a thick poncho. It is also possible to find rain suits on site.
A pair of pants
Motorcycle pants are ideal, but most travelers drive in jeans. Never drive in shorts, skirts or dresses.
Few travelers use them, but they protect their hands in case of a fall.
Always drive in closed shoes, ideally with high heels. Never ride your motorcycle in flip-flops.
They will prevent you from being dazzled by the sun.
It will be used to attach your bike when you are not on it.
A tarp or garbage bag
They will allow you to wrap your pack to protect it from rain, mud, and dust.
They are essential to attach your bag to the luggage rack on the back of your motorcycle.
A telephone holder
It is a small plastic holder that allows you to attach your smartphone to the handlebars and use it as a GPS, with a map application. It’s very convenient in the city. It saves you having to stop at every corner to check your phone.
However, avoid using it in the countryside, because if you take a pothole a little too fast, your phone may come off the hook.
One or more luggage racks
Chances are that the bike you will buy is already equipped with a metal rack at the back to hang your bag. If not, have one installed by a garage.
For a long trip, it is better to have a motorcycle for everyone, because traveling together on the same one is quickly uncomfortable.
If you nevertheless choose to travel together on the same bike, you can have side racks installed. These are L-shaped metal structures, welded to the motorcycle on either side of the rear wheel.
Ideally, folding luggage racks with hinges are ideal. Once they are folded, your bike will not be more comprehensive than any other, and you can board a bus, train or boat. If your luggage racks are not foldable, you will need to have them dismantled by a garage before loading your motorcycle.
Avoid stacking your bags transversely on your rear carrier. The iron bars that connect it to the saddle could break.
You can have good luggage racks installed in a garage for about €35.
With side luggage racks, it is possible to carry two large backpacks; with side luggage racks, it is possible to take two large bags.
A local SIM card
Buy a local SIM card. It will allow you to make calls without spending a fortune and to have data, even without WiFi. It will cost you about €3.
Water and food
It is essential to drink a lot when you are on the road. You get dehydrated quickly on a motorcycle, and you don’t necessarily realize it. Also, bring some snacks during breaks.
Customize your bike
Now that your bike is equipped, you can customize it. Give it a little name. If you are motivated, you can even buy a few cans of paint and customize it to your taste!
How to drive?Do you need to know how to drive a motorcycle already?
No, it is not mandatory. Many travelers are riding a motorcycle for the first time in Southeast Asia. They are very easy to handle, and the person from whom you buy them will gladly teach you how to drive them and shift gears. However, if you are riding a motorcycle for the first time, be very careful on the road, especially in large cities.
If possible, avoid starting driving in an area where traffic is too heavy or at peak times. If you want to put all the chances on your side to prevent an accident, you can take your motorcycle license at home before you leave.
Safety on the road
In shorts, flip-flops and without a helmet, the perfect example of what not to doIn shorts, in flip-flops and without a mask, the perfect example of what not to do
It is no secret that riding a motorcycle in Southeast Asia is dangerous. Traffic can be substantial, traffic regulations are poorly enforced, roads are sometimes in deplorable condition and are slippery when wet or dusty.
In Laos and Cambodia, there are not many people, and people drive quite quietly. In Vietnam, on the other hand, you will have to face a real cloud of scooters. They come from all over the big cities.
The road along the coast of Vietnam is also bustling. Apart from the Hue – Danang section, which offers beautiful landscapes, it is better to take the path that passes through the interior of the country. Traffic is much quieter there.
Here are some tips to minimize the risk of accidents:
Choose a good helmet and always drive with it, even in hot weather.
Do not leave any part of your body visible. Wear a jacket, pants and closed shoes.
Do not place your bag too much at the back of your luggage rack, it will unbalance your bike. It must be straddling between the saddle and the luggage rack.
Do not drive too fast and remain attentive to the road at all times.
Never drive at night.
Take regular breaks.
Do not drive when you are too tired and/or have been drinking.
Always drive as far to the right of the road as possible, as vehicles in front of you have an unfortunate tendency to bite on your part of the way.
On downhill slopes, especially on wet, sandy or dusty roads, downshift to use your engine brake.
Do not brake too hard, especially with your front brake.
Follow the “biggest vehicle wins” rule. Pretend that cars and trucks always have priority over you.
When a vehicle is passing in front of you, you may have to be moved to the side of the road. Decelerate to avoid slipping.
You will often see motorcycles or scooters driving in the opposite direction. Be vigilant and, of course, do not do like them.
The implicit rule of the premises is to only deal with what is happening in front of them. Again, don’t do like them and look around you.
Feel free to use your horn to warn of your approach, indicate that you are doubling, etc. In Southeast Asia, the use of the horn is an integral part of the way people drive and often replaces the use of mirrors.
Really slow down as you approach the speed bumps (groups of five or ten white transverse lines). They can be very slippery.
Pay particular attention to road debris, potholes, and stray animals.
Cards and applicationsThe countries of Southeast Asia are experiencing very rapid economic development. The road network is constantly evolving. As a result, there is no map showing all the roads. The best way to get a clear picture of roads and their condition is to cross-reference three types of sources: paper maps, online maps, and local knowledge.
The Vietnam Back Roads Facebook page can also be useful for information on routes and road conditions in Vietnam.
A paper map is helpful to plan your itinerary, but the main problem is updating. So choose a recent map.
Michelin publishes a map of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.
You will have no trouble finding gas to fill up, there are many stations along the roads.
Off the main roads or in the mountains, people sell gasoline in old soda bottles.
On most motorcycles, the fuel gauge does not work. You have to open the tank to see how much fuel you have left. You will soon learn to estimate where you stand.
Always refuel before going to the mountains, as it is more difficult to find fuel. You can also take a bottle of gas with you, just in case.
The tank of a standard motorcycle contains 3 to 4 liters of petrol with which you can drive between 100 and 200 km depending on the terrain you are riding on. Motorcycle days can range from 100 km for the shortest to 300 km for the longest. Some days, you won’t drive at all. On average, you will probably fill up about one tank a day. At about €1 per liter, this will cost you €2 to €3 per day.
Feel free to see very wide on travel times. You can easily double the ones indicated by Google Maps. Roads that look big on the maps sometimes turn out to be simple dirt roads.
Also plan to take rest breaks, as the driving is quite tiring over long distances. Besides, your bike will probably have minor mechanical problems that will slow you down.
Traveling together on the same motorcycle
If you move as a couple, it can be tempting to go along on the same bike. Many travelers do so. It saves money on the purchase price and on gas. Also, one of you may not feel comfortable driving a motorized two-wheeler.
As indicated in the “Equipment” section, you can have side racks installed in a garage to carry your bags.
However, a long journey for two on the same motorcycle can become really uncomfortable for the passenger in the long run. Besides, your travel insurance limits you to a bike of fewer than 125 ccs so it may be at risk in the mountains. You will probably have to go down and sometimes push when the climbs are too steep.
If you are traveling in pairs on a Honda Win, we recommend that you choose one with an engine of at least 120 ccs.
Traveling with two on a Honda Win is not very comfortable, but it is feasible; moving with two on a Honda Win is not very comfortable, but it is possible.
Is it possible to transport your motorcycle by bus or train?Some sections on major four-lane highways are not really pleasant to drive. This is the case, for example, of the main road between Hoi An and Nha Trang in Vietnam.
Motorcycles are sometimes prohibited and, when they are allowed, you will breathe exhaust fumes and face cars that are moving dangerously to your side of the road.
Feel free to “cheat” and take a night bus or train to avoid this type of trip. You are not in a competition where you lose points if you have not made 100% of your journey by motorcycle.
You can also use this technique to get out of big cities like Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi without having to deal with traffic and pollution in the suburbs.
Most buses accept to carry motorcycles, provided they have enough space in the luggage compartment. Transportation costs about the same as a passenger seat.
If you send your bike by train to Vietnam, you will not travel with it. It will be transported in a freight train and will take between two and five days to reach its destination. In high season (January-February and June-August), it is possible that your motorcycle may be refused to board.
To send your bike by train, follow these steps:
Motorcycle ride to the station between 7am and 5pm (avoid lunch hours)
In Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi, ask for the office of the freight company Door to Door. In other stations, if there are none, ask for a freight office).
Indicate where you want to send your bike, ask for the price and when it will arrive.
Give your passport, blue card, and phone number and pay. We will issue you a receipt.
Your bike will be prepared for the trip. Mirrors, gasoline and luggage racks will be removed, and it will be wrapped to protect it.
Get to your destination by the means of transport of your choice.
When your bike arrives, we will call you back, or you will receive a text message. At the station, ask for the freight office. Your documents will be checked, and your motorcycle will be put back on the road (mirrors, luggage racks…). However, you will need to
How to manage police officers and corruption?In Vietnam, it is sporadic to be arrested by police officers, as they usually do not speak English. As long as you put on your helmet, do not speed and are not involved in an accident, chances are you will never have to deal with them.
The only exception is Mui Ne, where the police have long had the bad reputation of extorting money from motorcycle travelers. It seems that this practice is now under control, but they now confiscate motorcycles in case of speeding. So avoid this area if you can or at least be very careful not to exceed the speed limits.
In Laos and Cambodia, some police officers are corrupt, and you may be arrested. They will tell you that your international license is worthless (even if it is not true) that you do not have insurance. You will usually get away with it for the equivalent of a few euros. In Cambodia, this type of scam is prevalent in Sihanoukville and also sometimes in Phnom Penh.
Put on your helmet and respect the speed limits, the basic rules to avoid problems with the police put on your mask and respect the speed limits, the basic rules to avoid problems with the police.
Here are some tips to avoid getting plucked:
Always put on your helmet.
Do not speed. Be particularly careful when approaching cities, where the speed limit drops sharply.
If a police officer signals you to stop, try to stop your bike where there are people.
Do not leave your key on the ignition, turn off the engine and store it in your pocket.
Pretend you don’t speak English and wait. After a while, he may get tired of it.
First show him photocopies of your papers.
Never give him your passport or keys.
Keep small amounts of money in separate pockets: the equivalent of €2 in one pocket, €5 in the other in case he insists and the rest elsewhere.
In Cambodia, you can request a “Sombot” receipt. If he writes a receipt, he can’t keep the money to himself. He will, therefore, be willing to lower the price to avoid having to make one.
Always be polite and don’t get angry.
How to cross borders?On the border between Laos and Cambodia, corruption is a real problem; on the border between Laos and Cambodia, crime is a real problem.
You can enter Cambodia and Laos on any motorcycle. In Vietnam, on the other hand, you must have a bike with a Vietnamese plate.
To avoid being bothered, the basic rule is to buy a motorcycle with a Vietnamese plate. You can buy it in Vietnam, but you will also find it in Laos or Cambodia without any problem because many “motorcycle packers” finish their journey and sell their motorcycles in these countries.
Some customs officers are corrupt so you may have to pay bribes to get on your motorcycle (see our tips to avoid problems with customs officers and the list of the most common border scams).
It is theoretically possible to enter Thailand with a motorcycle from Laos or Cambodia, but it is very complicated. Indeed, your name must appear on the blue card, which implies lengthy procedures in Vietnam to have the motorcycle put in your name.
Also, Thai authorities will ask you to complete transportation information, crew list, passenger list, and temporary import and export form. In practice, it is scarce for travelers to continue their motorcycle journey from Laos or Cambodia to Thailand.
Cambodia – Vietnam border
You can cross by motorcycle via one of these five border crossings:
- Slime / Moc Bai
- Kaam Samnor / Ving Xuong
- Phnom Den / Tinh Bien
- Prek Chak / Xa Xia
- Le Thanh / O Yadao crossing
Laos – Vietnam border
You can cross by motorcycle via one of these six border crossings:
- Sop Hun / Tay Trang
- Na Maew / Nam Xoi
- NamCan / Nam Khan
- Nam Phao / Cau Treo
- Dansavanh / Lao Bao
- Bo Y / Ngoc Hoi
Laos – Cambodia border
Veun Kham / Dom Kralor
Be careful, although there is nothing legally prohibiting the passage with a motorcycle between Laos and Cambodia, corruption is a real problem at this border post. Some backpackers have been refused passage.
VisasDepending on the country, you may need a permit to enter the country.
Laos: You must obtain an arrival visa valid for 30 days. It costs $30.
Cambodia: You need a visa that will be valid for 30 days. You can obtain your permit on arrival ($30) or request an e-visa ($37) before arriving at the border (which avoids having to pay an “extra charge”).
How much does a motorcycle trip to Southeast Asia cost?A trip with your motorcycle to Southeast Asia costs between 20 and 30 € per day. Prices are relatively similar in Vietnam and Cambodia and slightly lower in Laos.
The resale price of your motorcycle is generally almost the same as the purchase price, so it will only cost a few dozen euros maximum.
So how is the budget allocated?
Fuel: 2 to 3 € per day
The tank of a standard motorcycle contains 3 to 4 liters of petrol with which you can drive between 100 and 200 km depending on the terrain you are riding. Motorcycle days can range from 100 km for the shortest to 300 km for the longest. Some days, you won’t drive at all. On average, you will probably fill up about one tank a day. At about 80 cents a liter, this will cost you 2 to 3 € per day.
Accommodation: 5 to 10 € per day
Compromise will be your most significant expense. The best way to save money is to travel together and share a room.
Guesthouses: They offer an excellent quality/price ratio. You will find them everywhere. A room costs between 7 and 14 € per night with a double bed or two single beds. If you travel alone, you can find rooms around 5 €.
Hostels: In large tourist cities, you will quickly find youth hostels for backpackers, from 4 € per night for a dormitory bed.
Homestays: In remote areas, especially in the mountains of northern Vietnam, you will find the cheapest accommodation. A mattress on the floor with a mosquito net costs between 1.5 and 3 €. Your hosts will expect you to eat with them, which costs 3 to 4 € more, but if you have a reduced budget, you don’t have to.
Hotels: If your accommodation budget exceeds €20 per day, you will find many hotels in tourist areas.
Camping: Camping can allow you to reduce your accommodation budget significantly. However, you will need to bring much extra equipment on your bike. You can camp near low-traffic roads or in campsites (there are many along the Ocean Road in Vietnam). Count between 2 to 4 € to pitch your tent and about 5 € to rent one.
Food and drinks: 6 to 9 € per day
Your food budget depends a lot on where you choose to eat and your alcohol consumption.
Hearty breakfast: 2 €
A menu in the street: 1 €
Simple dinner: 2 €
A large meal with beer: 3,50 to 7 €
Other expenses: 1 to 5 € per day
Count a few more euros a day for visits, parking, maintenance and minor repairs on your bike.
How to resell your bike?Once your road trip is over, it’s time to resell your faithful steed.
If your bike has been damaged, take it to a garage first before putting it up for sale.
Plan a short week between the end of your trip and your authorized end date in the country to have time to find a buyer. If you are caught up in time, it is effortless to sell it in a garage, but you will then get much less money from it.
Almost all travelers sell their motorcycles to another backpacker. All you have to do is post an ad on the dedicated boards in the significant youth hostels, on the Facebook groups mentioned at the beginning of this folder or on Craigslist. Be sure to specify the equipment you sell with your motorcycle: helmets, tensioners, tarpaulins…
You can also put a “for sale” sign with your phone number and email on your bike, or even walk around with a sign on your back. Moreover, of course, talk to as many people as you can about your bike, you may find a buyer by word of mouth.
If you didn’t get ripped off when you bought your bike, you could easily resell it for almost the same price as you bought it. Some travelers manage to resell it at the purchase price, sometimes even a little more expensive. Very few people lose more than €50 between the two transactions.