Travel Happy Vietnam Vietnam On A Motorbike Part 3: Rules for Renting
If you’re going to hire a motorbike in Vietnam, best be aware of what you need to check to ensure hassle-free driving
I rented A LOT of bikes before I finally purchased one a year ago. And I’ve never had an engine break down on me. The Japanese, Korean and Chinese bikes sold here are very dependable workhorses.
But the engine is not your biggest worry. It’s the rest of the bike. My first stop when I rent a bike is always to head to a mechanic. I check the oil and get it changed if need be. That costs 3 USD, and it’s worth it–an engine seizing at high speed is not something to risk. I get the breaks tweaked to make sure they’re just right. Replacing a break drum costs about 2 USD. I make sure all the electrics are working. Again, a couple bucks is all it takes. Yeah, the person who rented it to you should have done all of these things, but often they don’t, and there’s no way to make them do it. There are two things you must insist on when renting, though–rear view mirrors and a helmet. These are the only two things the cops will stop you for not having.
Technically, you’re supposed to have a Vietnamese drivers’ license, but in practice, they are nearly impossible to get and the cops don’t care. However, if you cause an accident, not having a license may suddenly become a problem, and you are going to have to pay your way out of it. If you can, settle accidents without the involvement of the cops. It’s cheaper that way. And, sometimes, even when the accident isn’t your fault, you’ll have to pony up about 50 bucks anyway. Not fair, but that’s the way it goes.
I differ with with others on the issue of what kind of bike to start off on–I say, don’t start off on an automatic, step-over scooter. These things have hair trigger acceleration, no foot break, and the front wheel turns too easily. Start on a 100 CC bike with semi-automatic (clutchless) gears. The discipline of changing gears means you will build up to speed more slowly, and therefore, more safely. Yes, you’ll grind some gears at first, but what the heck, it’s not your bike! The front wheel is easier to control smoothly, and we all have that foot-break instinct from our first push bike when we were kids. And don’t fear the models with a clutch. It doesn’t take that long to get used to it, and it gives you more control and smoother shifting.