Vietnam still lacks efficient public-transport systems that benefit tourists looking for full access to the country. Walking can only provide you so much depth to a city. Large volumes of traffic and the humidity can make cycling exhausting. Hailing Taxis are a bingo of driver irresponsibility; Will they take you to the right place? Could they overcharge you? Will they drive safely? (NB: I’ve rarely experienced any problems with drivers but it’s not uncommon to hear tourists talking about taxi scams). Grab seems marginally better with it’s cheaper rates and destination input but none of these services give you full autonomy in Vietnam like a motorbike does.
Is Driving a Motorbike in Vietnam Legal?
The short answer is; if you don’t have a local driving license, you’re not driving legally. Information on tourists driving motorbikes appears conflicted and ever-changing. There are ways for foreign residents to obtain local driving licenses in Vietnam but none of the procedures are simple and will take up a sizable chunk of your holiday time. Furthermore, very few insurance companies will cover you driving in Vietnam without a license. It’s best to fully understand the implications if something does go wrong when deciding whether to rent a motorbike.
It’s also worth considering that accident rates in Vietnam are high. A horrifying statistic than I recently read was that there is one death per hour on roads in Vietnam on average. Motorbike rental is increasingly popular for people travelling Vietnam and those that have done it will mostly tell they wouldn’t have travelled any other way. Nevertheless, be warned that it does come with risk. Be sure to know your motorbike, drive slow, understand how roads work here and always drive with caution. And wear a helmet!
Why the Motorbike is Best in Hue
- While Hue is really small, places of interest are spread throughout the city. If you’re planning on walking around Hue, you may find you’re limited to the tourist trail of the Citadel and the backpacker’s area.
- Motorbikes and bicycles are the only forms of transport available for anyone with a thirst for autonomy. Once you’re riding around, the city is your…clam. Everywhere is accessible at a fraction of the cost of a taxi or private car hire.
- Motorbikes have two seats! Share a bike with another traveller, take a partner or even pick up a hitchhiker. Freedom on where you travel. Freedom on who you’re with.
- The roads in Hue are particularly poor compared to other cities throughout Vietnam. Firstly, the age of the city means that roads don’t cope well with heavy traffic. Secondly, a large amount of recent construction on the water infrastructure system means that a lot of roads have been dug up and have yet to be properly repaved. Cars drive slowly through these roads when they receive heavy traffic and it’s doubly daunting for cyclists.
- The motorbike doesn’t incur the same sensual restrictions as a car. A full panoramic of your surroundings without the intrusion of a car roof. The wind in your face. The fragrances and miasmas up your nostrils. This is Vietnam.
When Renting a Motorbike in Vietnam
Motorbikes are readily available in Hue for rental and purchase. Motorbike rental can be from 100,000VND upwards depending on the model of bike and how old it is. Different companies will also include various amenities such as helmets and rain jackets with the motorbike rental. Most require some sort of identification submission to the rental company in case the bike is stolen or you run in to some trouble. Obviously, motorbikes are prone to breakdowns and owners are usually more than happy to assist you if you find yourself stuck without a mechanic nearby.
When you’ve found a bike that suits you, it’s best to check a few things before you drive off on your adventure:
- Can you drive a motorbike?
- Understand how to start and stop the bike as well as the gear system (if there is one).
- Make sure you can open the fuel tank and check how much fuel is already in the bike.
- Where the nearest petrol station is from the rental company.
- How to open the compartment under your seat (if there is one).
- Are you comfortable with how your helmet fits?
I’ve never had to deal with a bad rental company. Most services are friendly and experienced in renting to travellers on all levels of driving experience. Nevertheless, there’s one family-owned business in Hue who we think can’t be beaten.
Hoang’s Motorbike Rental Service in Hue
Hoang and his family have been operating their rental service for more than 10 years. Based just 2 kilometres from Hue City centre, their motorbike rental company boasts a large variety of bikes for riders of all levels of experience. While we haven’t done enough research to support their claim they are the cheapest in Hue, motorbike prices range from 80,000VND per day upwards.
What we do know is that Hoang’s business is the friendliest in town. He is always prepared to go the extra mile for his customers and provide any assistance for customers interested in motorbike rental. If something goes wrong during your rental, Hoang is always at hand to be of assistance. Hoang has a reputation among foreigners in Hue, not necessarily because he’s the cheapest or has the highest quality bikes but because he is honest and sincere. In a country where tourists often feel they overpay for services, Hoang is trustworthy and fairly-priced.
As well as short-term motorbike rental, Hoang also buys and sells motorbikes to both the local population and travellers passing through. If you’re looking for a motorbike to take you through the rest of your trip in Vietnam, Hoang can find you a bike that will suit all your needs. As of recently, Hoang can also organise car rentals although drivers must have an international license. All information is available on Hoang’s website.
How is the best way to travel in Vietnam? Are there any other modes of transport which you prefer? What are some of the best drives in Vietnam? Feel free to comment below!
Photos by Ana Fortuna except where credited