Are you planning on buying or renting a motorbike in Vietnam?
If yes, the first question you should (seriously) ask yourself is whether you can drive well. You have probably noticed that few rules apply when it comes to traffic in Vietnam. You should always be extremely reactive and able to anticipate changes, either because of a pothole on the road or a driver suddenly switching lanes without warning. Accidents are very common - I witness one at least once a week in Saigon. Do not make the mistake of not buying a medical insurance.
Rent or Buy? Used or New?
If you are certain you can drive, then you should decide whether you want to rent or purchase a motorbike/scooter. Renting a basic motorbike is cheap, less than 50$ per month. It will save you a lot of hassle as you won't need to register your purchase and you won't need to make repairs if needed. Read our guide Top 5 Tips to Rent a Motorbike in Vietnam for more information.
Only if you have a resident card, you may choose to buy your motorcycle. Choosing a used one will be much easier to register and it will save you a ton of paperwork.
Motorbike Driving Licenses in Vietnam
Regarding the driving licenses and permits in Vietnam, the A1 license allows you to drive a bike up to 175cc. Foreigners living in Vietnam can have their national driving license translated to Vietnamese and will be granted a Vietnamese license without passing any exam. If you country's driving license does not include two-wheelers, then you will be required to pass a very easy test. The cost to obtain the A1 license should not be more than USD 50 with an agent.
In case you want to ride a “real” bike, a genuine A2 is required. The down side to this is that it costs over USD 1,000. A cheaper route to the A2 is to get an invitation from a bike club. Obviously, the authorities want to control the number of people owning a more powerful ride than the police have. Police bikes in Vietnam have 400cc engines.
Choosing the right motorbike for you
As in most countries, what you drive often gives people a hint about what kind of person you are. Many of us look fondly at our first rides, whether it was borrowing our parent's car for the night or working long summer hours to pay for that first used car that we inevitably sold. The unluckiest of us took those cars and demolished them. One thing is that first car is a special one. It gives you that first taste of independence. Vietnam also has its own 2 wheeled rides and we will try to give you a non-exhaustive list of the different rides in Vietnam. Shakespeare once wrote that the cowl doesn't make the monk. Shakespeare might have been right in 16th century England but in modern HCMC, he couldn’t be so wrong.
Look and style-conscious Saigoneers love a Honda SH or a Vespa scooter
To many Saigonese, a bike’s appearance unveils its price tag. But hang on! You should know that there are 2 schools of thought when riding these bikes. One faction drives along in a SH or a Vespa made in Vietnam (with maximum price of USD 7,000), while the other will spend at least USD 8,500 to import their ride from Italy. The difference is slight to the uninitiated but the discerning Saigonese will know the difference. SHi are also higher than other bikes. Therefore, its driver and his partner can enjoy looking down on others, inflating their ego yet slimming their wallet. Note that SHi owner will always park pay a bit extra to park their bike in where it can be seen. The two schools definitely have their own values, but all have the same stylish manner and similar accessories. Indeed, those bike owners all wear wide sunglasses, trendy clothes and most distinctivelya 1.10-meters tall leggy girl riding pillion like a praying mantis ready to devour her prey.
Vespas are most alluring to the Saigonese artist. Hundreds of garages inVietnam restore those old bikes. While it’s not too expensive to buy an old-school Vespa, restoring and maintaining it to its former glory will cost a pretty penny. Certainly, one looks cool riding this classic bike butbeware, it’s hard to start and the backseat can be less comfortable. Therefore, consider having a back up ‘Dream’ if you want to own a vintage Vespa.
Family and price-sensitive men ride Honda Wave or Honda Dream
The Dream is strong, economical and a friendly-fixer ride that has been themainstay of Vietnamese daily life for generations. However, you lose style points for the basket up front. Although it is extremely useful to store your raincoat and other goods, you’ll end up looking like you borrowed your father’s ride. However, the Xe ôm (moto taxis) will answer you with unruffled equanimity as they don’t bother with such trivial issues. These two motorbikes usually come with manual transmission.
Younger expats and middle class Vietnamese favor a Honda Nouvo, a Honda Air-blade or a SYM Attila
The Nouvo and Air-blade scooters are a well-matched pair and created a turning point in Saigon’s 2 wheeled landscape.Suitable to the new bourgeoisie, it’s the same size of a Wave or a Future but does away with the basket up front and has a nifty container underneath the seat. It is reasonable both in price and usage and is an automatic ride, which is convenient when stuck in Saigon traffic jam. Besides, this is a model that you will also often see “pimped” out with neon lights or truck klaxon horns.
Older expatriates and classic bikes amateurs choose the Honda 67
Photo by: Minh Cobain
In early the 1960s, the Japanese built Honda 67 was used throughout the south of Vietnam. After the conclusion of the American war, northerners finally got this classic and reliable ride. The Honda 67 is a very low bike with a very small motor and almost no chassis. It certainly has a nice vintage look but don’t expect to go faster than an electric bike with this. The main advantage of this bike is that it is easy to fix wherever you break down. You see quite a bit of foreigners riding these bikes.
If you are decided about buying a motorbike, you can check the following locations (in Ho Chi Minh City):
For finding a used motorcycle, you can check the area between Trương Quốc Dung and Phan Xích Long on Hoàng Văn Thụ in Phú Nhuận District. It has several used motorbike shops.
If you want to purchase a new one, it is better to go directly to the official motorbike dealers shop. In District 1 of Saigon, you have the following: