Saigon to Hanoi by Motorbike: 5 Suggested Routes

First Published April 2016 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

INTRODUCTION | ROUTES & MAPS | RELATED POSTS

Riding from Saigon to Hanoi by motorbike is probably the most popular road trip in Vietnam, and it’s unquestionably one of the best ways to experience the country. For years, travellers simply took the most obvious route: Highway 1. Today, however, thanks to ambitious road building programs, there are far more scenic, pleasant and less trodden ways to ride between the country’s two main cities. Having ridden south to north on numerous occasions (the first time, predictably, on Highway 1), I’ve put together the following 5 suggested motorbike routes from Saigon to Hanoi, so that travellers who are planning this road trip have more of an idea of the kind of options available to them.

Saigon to Hanoi by Motorbike: 5 Suggested RoutesNew roads have opened up exciting & scenic routes for riding between Saigon & Hanoi

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SAIGON TO HANOI: 5  SUGGESTED ROUTES


ABOUT THESE ROUTES:

The main objective of these routes is to get from Saigon to Hanoi on good roads, passing good scenery, and avoiding traffic-clogged arteries, such as Highway 1, as much as possible. New roads are constantly being constructed, thus improving journey time and opening access to more parts of the country. The suggested routes below are based on my own experience of riding south to north. I’ve designed each route to suit the needs of different travellers; based on scenery and/or time frame. For each of the 5 routes I have: given it a name, written a short description and bullet points of essential information, illustrated it with an image, and plotted it on a map. The route maps include markers containing links to any Vietnam Coracle guides that are relevant to the route, where you’ll find more detailed information about that particular section of the road trip. For other useful resources that will help you plan your Saigon to Hanoi road trip, such as expenses and weather, see Related Posts.


THE ROUTES:

Click a route from the list below to view the map and read the details:

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1. THE CLASSIC:

  • Total Distance: 2,770km
  • Average Duration: 2-4 weeks
  • Road Conditions: paved rural & coastal back-roads, new & old highways
  • Navigation: mostly simple, some tricky bits in central areas
  • Scenery: coast, highlands, mountains, limestone, cities, villages, cultural sites

IMAGE: The Classic route between Saigon and Hanoi

Saigon to Hanoi by Motorbike: The Classic Route


DESCRIPTION: Weaving a course between coast and highlands, The Classic route is equal parts beach and mountain. Quiet, stunning coastal roads in the south and central provinces yield to a mighty landscape of limestone karsts on the Ho Chi Minh Road in the north-central region. Popular towns and sights, such as Mui Ne, Dalat, Nha Trang, Hoi An, the Hai Van Pass, Phong Nha Caves and Ninh Binh are all covered; but so too are off the beaten path areas, such as the beaches around Quy Nhon, the coastal back-roads north of Hue, and the Western Ho Chi Minh Road. It’s the perfect balance of must-see sights and hidden gems. Zoom in on the map below and click the map symbols for links to my guides to specific locations. Enjoy the ride!


ROUTE MAP: red pins mark major towns, all other markers are links to my guides to specific areas.

  • [View this map in a separate window HERE]

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2. THE BEACH BUM:

  • Total Distance: 2,050km
  • Average Duration: 10 days-3 weeks
  • Road Conditions: new coastal highways, paved rural back-roads
  • Navigation: fairly simple, some tricky bits on the central coast
  • Scenery: coast, beaches, fishing villages, farmland, beach towns, cultural sites

IMAGE: The Beach Bum route between Saigon and Hanoi

Saigon to Hanoi by Motorbike: The Beach Bum Route


DESCRIPTION: Echoing Vietnam’s curving coastline for nearly 1,300km, this is the route to choose if you enjoy sand between your toes, playing in the surf, and the sound of the sea at night. Avoiding Highway 1 for most of its course, The Beach Bum route uses jaw-dropping new coast roads and rarely-ridden coastal back-roads to take you to countless deserted beaches, sleepy fishing villages and hedonistic beach towns. Calling in at established beaches, such as Mui Ne and Nha Trang, this route also covers up-and-coming coastal regions, such as Phan Rang, Cam Ranh and Quy Nhon, where the sand and sea are almost completely undisturbed. When the beaches lose their gloss in the north-central provinces, this route takes to the hills along the Ho Chi Minh Road, for a good dose of limestone magic, including the caves at Phong Nha. Zoom in on the map below and click the symbols for links to my guides to specific beaches and coast roads. Enjoy the ride! 


ROUTE MAP: red pins mark major towns, all other markers are links to my guides to specific areas.

  • [View this map in a separate window HERE]

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3. UNCLE HO’S ROAD:

  • Total Distance: 1,880km
  • Average Duration: 10 days-2 weeks
  • Road Conditions: highways & paved mountain roads
  • Navigation: simple & straightforward for the majority of the route
  • Scenery: agricultural plateaus, mountains, limestone, minority villages, war vestiges

IMAGE: Uncle Ho’s Road: the Ho Chi Minh Road from Saigon to Hanoi

Saigon to Hanoi by Motorbike: The Ho Chi Minh Road


DESCRIPTION: Surely one of the most evocative road names in the world, The Ho Chi Minh Road is now a fully paved passage from the south of Vietnam to the north. Uncle Ho’s Road might be the shortest route in this list, but it’s also the most mountainous; following the Truong Son Range, which forms the jagged, high-peaked spine of Vietnam. From vast agricultural plateaus, where tea and timber grow in equal number, to the ragged edge of the frontier lands along the border with Laos; from teetering passes above roaring rivers on the western branch-road, to the limestone wonderland at its northern ‘neck': you’ll bear witness to some of the most dramatic scenery Vietnam has to offer. Sparsely populated for much of the route, some thriving cities (such as Buon Ma Thuot) and charming towns (such as Kon Tum) offer human interaction, as do the multitude of ethnic minority hamlets lining the way. Geological wonders abound, punctuated by war vestiges with hauntingly familiar names, like Khe Sanh. Enjoy the ride!    


ROUTE MAP: red pins mark major towns, all other markers are links to my guides to specific areas.

  • [View this map in a separate window HERE]

[Back to Routes]


4. THE BIG ONE:

  • Total Distance: 4,180km
  • Average Duration: 3-6 weeks
  • Road Conditions: highways, new coast & mountain roads, paved back-roads
  • Navigation: requires regular map checks & occasionally asking locals
  • Scenery: coast, rivers, limestone, mountains, minority villages, cities, cultural sites 

IMAGE: The Big One: the scenic route between Saigon and Hanoi

Saigon to Hanoi by Motorbike: The Big One Route


DESCRIPTION: If time is no object, and you want to see everything there is to see between Saigon and Hanoi, both on and off the beaten path, The Big One has it covered. This meandering route zigzags up the country on mountain passes, coastal back-roads, the Ho Chi Minh Road, and new national highways, to create a road trip of epic proportions. Taking in all the best beaches in southern and central Vietnam, twisting through remote valleys in the Central Highlands, corkscrewing through limestone forests on the Western Ho Chi Minh Road, and following shimmering rivers from source to mouth; this is the definitive south to north route. Major towns and tourist hotspots, such as Nha Trang, Dalat, Hoi An, Phong Nha Caves and Ninh Binh, are woven into this itinerary to balance all the off-the-grid exploration. Don’t forget to zoom in on the map below and click the symbols for links to my guides to specific regions and sights. Enjoy the ride!


ROUTE MAP: red pins mark major towns, all other markers are links to my guides to specific areas.

  • [View this map in a separate window HERE]

[Back to Routes]


5. THE EASY RIDER:

  • Total Distance: 2,230km
  • Average Duration: 2-4 weeks
  • Road Conditions: good highways, some back-roads
  • Navigation: easy to follow, a couple of tricky bits on the central coast
  • Scenery: mountains, farmland, coast, cities, fishing villages, cultural sites

IMAGE: The Easy Rider route between Saigon and Hanoi

Saigon to Hanoi by Motorbike: The Easy Rider Route


DESCRIPTION: Specifically designed for travellers who want a less complicated (but no less scenic) passage from south to north, The Easy Rider route sticks to good-quality roads on a relatively direct route from Saigon to Hanoi which is easily navigated. Switching from coast to highlands on several occasions, this route threads an arcing path through some of Vietnam’s most attractive eye candy: Dip your toes in the southern waters of Mui Ne, Nha Trang and Quy Nhon; escape to the cooler climes of mountain towns such as Dalat and Kon Tum; enjoy the cultural delights of Hoi An and Hue, connected by the Hai Van Pass; and gaze in awe at the limestone dreamscape of the Phong Nha Cave system and along the Ho Chi Minh Road. This is a good, time-saving alternative to The Classic route. Make sure you zoom in on the map below and click the symbols for links to my guides to specific sites along the way. Enjoy the ride!


ROUTE MAP: red pins mark major towns, all other markers are links to my guides to specific areas.

  • [View this map in a separate window HERE]

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RELATED POSTS:

        •  Expenses for a Road Trip:

        •  Which Road Maps to Use:

        •  Weather in Vietnam:

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Selected Resources for Travellers & Expats:  What's this?

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74 Responses to Saigon to Hanoi by Motorbike: 5 Suggested Routes

  1. Reut says:

    Hey!

    THANK YOU so much for this detailed maps and information!!
    I can’t decide which route to take, the first one or the last one.

    We are landing in 26th of January in Saigon.
    We booked a hotel in there, also in DaLat (28th).
    Planning driving from Saigon to DaLat to all the beach road.
    We only booked a hostel in Phong Nha (6th of February) because we want to do the cave treks, and then booked a hotel in Hanoi (11th).
    We have a flight from Hanoi in the 15th of February.

    Which route will be the best? You think we will be able to do it withing 20 days overall?

    • Hi Reut,

      If you only have 20 days I would recommend doing the Classic route because the Big One is too long to comfortably ride in that amount of time. 20 days should be just about right for the Classic.

      I hope you enjoy it,

      Tom

  2. Kristina says:

    Hi Tom!

    Love reading your website! My husband and I are planning a trip to Vietnam (south to north) in February. He wants to rent a motorcycle from Hoi An to Hue for part of our trip, what would be the best company to rent from? Motorvina has good reviews online, thoughts?? He’s an expirenced rider here in the US. Also can you take a look at our itinerary and let us know what you think of it, if it’s too much or tiring to do in little time…

    Saigon 2/10-2/12
    Flight to DaNang take taxi to
    Hoi An 2/12-2/14
    Motorbike to
    Hue 2/14-2/16
    Flight
    Hanoi 2/16
    Overnight train to
    Sapa 2/17-2/20
    Overnight train
    Hanoi 2/21
    Bus to
    Halong Bay/Cat Ba Island 2/21-2/24
    Bus to
    Hanoi 2/24 then take flight back to Saigon 2/24-2/26

    Thank you so much for your time!

    • Hi Kristina,

      Yes, it’s quite a busy schedule, but it’s doable if you book all your accommodation and transport in advance – then you won’t need to waste time sorting it out and worrying about it while you’re there.

      I’ve never used Motorvina so I can’t vouch for them, but I have had very good experiences using either Rent a Bike Vietnam or Tigit Motorbikes. They both have offices in Danang and can arrange pick up/drop off in Hoi An/Hue. There are links to both companies in the right sidebar and bottom of all my pages. You can mention Vietnam Coracle if you like, they know me.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

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  4. Matt says:

    Hi Tom

    If one plans to navigate using Googlemaps, GPS on a phone. How good is reception generally to rely on this?

    Thanks

    Matt

    • Hi Matt,

      In general, it’s pretty good, especially in coastal areas. In some mountainous areas you may not get reception and the Western Ho Chi Minh Road is very isolated at times. But on the whole using Google Maps is fine. It’s a good idea to take a decent map as well, though. Try the Travel Map of Vietnam, it’s good and updated every year.

      Tom

  5. Ana Nabais says:

    Hi Tom!

    It’s awesome that you give us all this information.
    I have already read a bunch of your articles to make some decisions.
    But i still have some doubts.
    I’m going with 4 girlfriends (we are portuguese) to Vietnam from February 25 to March 11.
    We arrive at Hanoi and we have to departure from Ho Chi Minh.
    We are planning the trip and we are thinking about: stay 2 days in Hanoi, go to Sapa (a friend told me about the night train), then Halong Bay (i know its not the perfect weather in the North but we have to go to Halong BaY!!) – maybe a tour of 2 days and one night; then go down to Hoi An (everybody talks very good about Hoi An); then we were thinking about the Pongour Waterfalls, then Con Dao for 2 or 3 days by plane probably from Ho Chi Minh or some city around (i read your article about Con Dao and Pho Quoc and i think Con Dao is more our thing because of the WOW factor!), and then end at Ho Chi Minh, spend there 2 days and come back. What do you think? Is it surrealistic for a 2 weeks trip? Is that somewhere awesome that is missing? I’m sure there are a lot, but one or two that you think is mandatory maybe! We are not going by motorbike, just bus, train or plane. Motorbike in Con Dao and maybe if we stop on our way down in Ninh Binh (i heard its very beautiful ride in this area). What do you think?

    I’m sorry for the big testimony!

    Thank you so much,
    Ana

    • Hi Ana,

      Yes, that’s a good itinerary. But it’s a bit busy. You should cut out Pongour Waterfall to save you some time. Also, if you want to stick rigidly to your plan, try to book your transport before you get to Vietnam, because that will save you time and effort once you are here.

      Con Dao in March should be OK for weather. Remember that it’s a very quiet place. If you want beach bars etc then you will prefer Phu Quoc. But both are nice in their own way.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

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  7. Yotam Martin says:

    Hi Tom,
    I can’t really tell how much i have got from your website in only few days.. that’s amazing.

    Wish you can help me on this:
    I’m trying to put Google Maps to navigate me while driving on the different routes that you created so it will tell me directions so I wont miss any turns on the way…

    Thanks!

    • Hi Martin,

      Thanks.

      I’m not sure how you can do that. I think it’s probably easier to keep a copy of the map open on your phone and check it against your Google Maps GPS position every now and then.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  8. Glenn says:

    Hey Tom.

    Great website! Loads of useful info on here. My girlfriend and I land in Saigon on 1st December and plan to ‘loosely’ follow your classic route so cheers! Keep up the great work Sir. :)

  9. Dave Edwards says:

    Thanks for making your maps exportable – I like to have the terrain base map, plus add any other bits I fancy. I’ve now got some of your maps ready to go for tomorrows trip, though I can’t help getting the feeling that I’m funimentally cheating doing this. The experience comes from getting lost and figuring out how to get by anyway.

    Are you based in Vietnam?

  10. Great site! Could you point out the point on the Ho Chi Minh Highway with out a filling stationwould be cool to know as I’m doing it in a few weeks? Once again Great work!

  11. Michael says:

    Hello,
    I have 3 weeks to go from Saigon to Hanoi on motorbike. I would like to do the classic route, but not sure how much time to spend in each place (mui ne, nah trang, hoi an, caves….) or how long it takes to drive from place to place. I was wondering if there is a sample itinerary for the classic route? Thank you.

    • Hi Michael,

      It’s very difficult to estimate time between each place because it depends so much on the individual.

      In general, 3 weeks is a good amount of time to ride the Classic route. You can roughly estimate driving time based on an average speed of 40-50km per hour. Then divide that by the total distance, which is 2,770km for the Classic route.

      In general, a long day of riding is 200km or more. A good (not too tiring) average daily distance is 100-150km. But of course it depends on how comfortable you are riding a motorbike and other things like weather.

      For a route as long as this, it’s more about the journey that the destinations at the end of each day. However, good places to spend a couple of nights and break the driving along the way are, Dalat, Nha Trang, Quy Nhon, Hoi An, Hue and Phong Nha. It’s best to take it as it comes and see what you feel like once you get to these places. Unless you are travelling during a national holiday, there is no need to reserve accommodation in advance.

      For more detailed information about certain places and parts of the Classic route, click on the links within the map pins, which will take you to my specific guides to that area.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  12. Jurally says:

    Hi Tom!
    First, thank you so much for your very useful info and definitely you have an awesome website.
    I am planning to visit Vietnam and explore it by bike. I never experience riding a motorcycle but I think that’s not a problem for I can make myself prepare prior to that. My concern are; I just noticed you used a Yamaha Nouvo Automatic (correct me if I’m wrong) for the whole course of your travel -how did it go? Is it reliable compare to a semi or manual? How many times did you stop for a day to fill the small tank? Are there a lot of gas station and bike repair shop in case it need so along the road? That’s all for now…
    Hope to hear from you soon and good luck to your next venture. Take care!

    Cheers,

    Jurally

    • Hi Jurally,

      Yes, that’s right, I use my Yamaha Nouvo for all my road trips in Vietnam. It’s been very reliable for me. The tank is 4 litres and lasts for 120-150km depending on the condition of your bike and the roads you’re riding. Semi-automatics, like the Honda Wave, will do more mileage. There are gas stations almost everywhere in Vietnam, and if there’s not then they’ll be people by the roadside selling gas in bottles. The only section of road where you might not find gas is the Western Ho Chi Minh Road from Khe Sanh to Phong Nha, but they are currently building a gas station there now.

      There are motorbike mechanics by the road throughout Vietnam. The word is sửa xe. They can fix most problems on common motorbikes like the Nouvo or Wave.

      For a good comparison of available bikes in Vietnam, take a look at Tigit Motorbikes – there’s a link to their website in the right sidebar of this page or above this comment section.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  13. Jason says:

    This is incredible. Thank you so much for helping all of us out.

    My wife and I are doing the trip in February. We bought motorcycles a few months ago so we can learn to ride in Canada and not try to learn in the hectic Vietnamese traffic. We are looking to have a full 3 weeks in Vietnam and are thinking of doing the Classic Route. I’ve heard some people take their bikes on a train in the North towards Hanoi to save a few days. Do you have any experience with that? We were hoping to do a quick tour of Sapa, but are stretched for time so any time we could save would be great, but we also don’t want to miss the “must-see” areas on the route.

    • Hi Jason,

      Yes, you can put you bike on the train anywhere on the main line between Saigon and Hanoi. However, in most cases your bike will travel on a different train to you, and it will not arrive at your destination until 1-3 after you do. This is because freight space is busy and limited on the north-south services. The company that deals with transporting your bike is called Door to Door. They have an office in every main station on the line and a very clear list of prices between all the stations. They are usually very efficient and will be able to tell you when your bike will arrive at its destination. Just don’t lose the receipt they give you!

      Also, there are several local express train between certain points on the line, such as Saigon to Phan Thiet, and you can simply ride your bikes onto these trains. In addition to this, the Hanoi to Lao Cai (Sapa) trains also allow you to take your bike with you on the same train.

      A great little motorbike route around Sapa is the Sin-Ho Loop.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  14. Dan says:

    Hi Tom,

    First off, your site is amazing man – so many great tips and detailed info. So helpful, thank you!

    I’m currently planning a trip from Saigon to Hanoi, but unfortunately haven’t got much time, with only two weeks to squeeze it in. I’m torn between the Classic and Easier rider route and need some advice – which do you think is best in this time frame? Am I missing out too much by going for the easier-rider (Goden loop, coastal road north of Quy Nhon, Western Ho Chi Minh Road, Ninh Binh) or would it be a stretch to fit in? I don’t mind putting in in the extra km’s if need be.

    Cheers,
    Dan

    • Hi Dan,

      With only 2 weeks you will be riding a lot of the time regardless of which route you choose to take. You can cut corners here are there: for example, you can always just take Highway 1 north from Quy Nhon to Hoi An. However, if there is one section I would most advise you not to cut it would be the Western Ho Chi Minh Road: it’s an extraordinary bit of road and there’s nothing else quite like it on any of the routes.

      I hope this helps you plan your route,

      Tom

  15. Kai says:

    Hi Tom

    Firstly, thank you for all the useful information on your website. It has really aided me and my gf in the planning of our bike trip of Vietnam. We are aiming to go from Hanoi to HCMC but we need some advice in which route to take. I wanted to visit the north before heading south and we were torn between doing the NW ( Sapa – Sin ho – Son La – Moc Chau – Mai Chau) or whether we should head to the NE (Sapa – Ha Giang – Cao Bang – Ban Gioc waterfalls – Ba Be lake) before travelling down towards Ninh Binh. Which would you recommend? And what are the main differences between the NE and NW of Vietnam?

    Cheers!

    Kai

    • Hi Kai,

      Well, the northwest and the northeast are both spectacular regions. The northwest is the roof of Indochina – the scale of the mountains and the landscape is larger than anywhere else in Vietnam. It’s a big, long loop but the roads are mostly in good condition as they are mostly highways (with the exception of the Sin Ho road, parts of which are still undergoing maintenance). The northeast is not as high as the northwest but it is prettier and more exotic – it’s characterized by limestone mountains and river valleys. The roads are smaller on this route but most of them are in decent condition.

      I wouldn’t want to have to choose between them :-) But, I would say the northwest is slightly easier because of the roads, so if time is an issue choose this. The northeast can be slightly more unpredictable because it is more off the beaten, so it really just depends what you’re looking for.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Kai says:

        Hi Tom

        Thanks for the advice. As we are planning on going during rainy season I think perhaps you’re right NW maybe the easier option. Though time isn’t really an issue so I may still give Ha Giang a little look before going to Sapa and then head towards Sin Ho after.
        But if we were to take the NE route how would we get from Lang Son down to Ha Long bay? Are there any places you can recommend stopping en route? We were thinking maybe taking the highway 4B towards Cam Pha.
        Cheers!

        • Hi Kai,

          Yes, that’s right, you can take Highway 4B down to the coast from Lang Son – it’s a good ride. Apparently there are some good little roads running along the Chinese border in that area, but I have not had a chance to ride them myself yet.

          As for stopping on route, you might want to check out Van Don Island – the big one just east of Cam Pha – there’s some great scenery and accommodation around the main town of Cai Rong here.

          Tom

  16. Charlie says:

    Hi Tom.
    I travelled with some friends through Vietnam in May. Thank you very much for the guide, its helped as a lot. It’s an amazing journey that I recommend everybody to do it.
    In addition to this I would like to recommend Cat ba, and if you are going to sapa to take the AH14.
    The roads are quite well. If you take the loop between Hue and Phong nna, be aware of taking fuel in some bottles just in case. You never know

    Great post, i will recommend this place

    • Hi Charlie,

      Thanks. Good to hear you enjoyed your road trip through Vietnam.

      Yes, I also like Cat Ba, and AH14 to Sapa is good, especially now that the new expressway (for cars only) has taken most of the heavy traffic off AH14.

      The stretch which it is necessary to take gas with you is between Khe Sanh and Phong Nha which I mention in Section 5 of my Ho Chi Minh Guide here.

      Tom

  17. Felix says:

    Hi, thanks for you routes. Me and my girlfriend are currently doing the classic one.

  18. Mike B says:

    Hey Tom,

    Hope all is well. I have already started my journey from Hanoi to Saigon and at the moment I am in Hue. After driving a lot, I do plan to stay here for a few days to rest up. It’s actually big country and you can do a lot of driving here!…haha.

    I wanted to say thank you because your website has been very invaluable to me. I have been wanting to come to Vietnam since I was a kid and your information has helped make it an even better experience then I had originally conceived of.

    I am following ‘The Big One’ since I have an adequate amount of time in Vietnam. I have gone off your trail at times since I am a interested in the history of the Vietnam War and I wanted to visit some of the old sights of the conflict. Otherwise, I am on the trail and the sights have been amazing throughout the north of Vietnam. It really is an absolutely beautiful country and the Ho Chi Minh Road is one that must be taken. Those mountains and views…wow.

    Now I will be continue ‘The Big One’ into the South and I can’t wait for what lies ahead. If your route south is as pleasant as the route that I followed north, then I’m sure it won’t disappoint…haha.

    Take care Tom and thanks again for the sight. There is so much great information that I’ve even shared it with other fellow motorbike travelers who didn’t know about it. Take care!

    Mike

    • Hi Mike,

      Thanks! It’s great to hear that you’re enjoying your epic ride through Vietnam and that my site has helped you along your way.

      I hope you’ll find the south as good as the north. Personally, I like the south just as much as the north, but it is very different – you’ll be in coastal regions more often, although the mountains as still good too :-)

      Enjoy the rest of The Big One!

      Tom

  19. Joe says:

    I reversed the Classic Route in Google Maps. It took 30 mins or so to realign the route so I thought I’d share the link to save people some time.
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=1fvo_A0zBXqsUvZdB2U9yWjyRl2U&usp=sharing

  20. Chris says:

    Hi Tom!

    First of all, awesome website. Especially this page is helping me A LOT for planning my bikeride.
    I’m doing the Classic, although from Hoi An to Hue I’m taking the high pass :)

    My only concern is HCMC – Da Lat. Is this doable in 1 day? Or is it possible to take my bike with me on a train? I assume it’s hard to buy a good bike in Da Lat.

    Also, the timing is still very hard to plan. Is January a good month or would July or even October better?

    • Hi Chris,

      January is excellent in the south and Central Highlands, however it will get significantly colder and greyer the further north you go. October is a better time because conditions will be similar across the country: warm, sunny, but still some tropical downpours, and also, if you’re unlucky, it’s typhoon season in central and northern regions. I’ve written in detail about weather here.

      HCMC to Dalat is not doable in one day if you take the route I suggest in The Classic. You can put your bike on the train from Saigon to Phan Thiet (Mui Ne) – more information about that here. Or, if you really want to get to Dalat in one day, you could take Highway QL20 instead, which is the most direct route, but it’s not very nice.

      You can probably buy a decent bike in Dalat, but it won’t be as easy as in Saigon. You could also buy your bike from Tigit Motorbikes (see the link in the sidebar and above the comments on this page) in Saigon and have them send it to Phan Thiet by train. There’s more information about buying/renting motorbikes in this guide.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Chris says:

        Thanks!

        I think I take the early morning train to Mui Ne with my Saigon bike.
        So I can check out the dunes and then move on to Da Lat. Think I have my route complete now… January 2017 it is!

        Thanks for the great tips! Is there a way I can donate you a cup of coffee for all the time you put into this? ;)

        • Chris says:

          I mean October 2016 of course ;)

        • Hi Chris,

          Great. I’m sure you’ll have an amazing trip.

          If you want to ‘donate’ to Vietnam Coracle there is a way: if you ever use Agoda to book any hotels (in Vietnam or anywhere in the world) just start your search from the search box in the right-sidebar of any of my pages: if you end up making a booking then I receive a small percentage :-)

          Tom

  21. Kevin Williamson says:

    Hi Tom.
    I used your web site for information and routes for a 3 week trip around south Vietnam. The information from your site used was never ending. It made what could have been very difficult trip a great trip. I will be back again next year for 4 weeks and looking at your north to south routes. Great keep it coming.
    kev.

    • Hi Kevin,

      Great to hear that, thanks!

      4 weeks is a perfect amount of time to have for a south to north road trip, so I’m sure you’ll have a blast again. I’ll do my best to keep posting stuff you like :-)

      Tom

  22. Katie says:

    Hello,
    Me and my boyfriend are looking to do the ‘easy rider’ route in a few weeks. However, I am struggling to find towns which we could use as a stop off point between Hanoi and the Cuc Phuong National Park. Do you have any suggestions of where to stay? The same with the route from cuc phuong national park and phong nha. As they’re such large distances between each I was hoping to get your opinion on where you stayed/where is accessible. Thanks so much! For newbies like us, your route has pretty much planned our whole trip for us :)

    • Hi Katie,

      From Hanoi to Cuc Phuong you should be able to comfortably ride that in one day.

      From Cuc Phuong to Phong Nha is a long way, but it is relatively easy riding. There are guesthouses (nhà nghỉ) dotted along the highway at fairly regular intervals. Cam Thuy has some, Pho Chau too, and also Huong Khe (which, incidentally is where I am right now!).

      The reason I’m in Huong Khe is because I’m updating and extending my Ho Chi Minh Road guide so that it will include the entire route from Saigon to Hanoi. This means they’ll be more information about places to stay etc on the journey from Hanoi to Phong Nha, so stay tuned for that – it should be published within a few days. If you want to get an email notification when it’s published you can subscribe to my posts here if you like.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Katie says:

        Thank you! This helps a lot with my planning. Are there many guest houses in Cuc Phuong that aren’t too far off the route?
        I will definitely will keep an eye out for that. Thanks again.

        Katie

        • It depends if you’re going to go right into the park or not: the Ho Chi Minh Road goes through the park but the park entrance is round the other side. There’s a good homestay that’s in Cuc Phuong National Park but also on the Ho Chi Minh Road called Quang Duc Homestay – that’s assuming it’s still there: I’ll know in the next couple of days when I ride through there – again, that’ll be in the new Ho Chi Minh Road guide :-)

          Tom

  23. Tom says:

    Hi Tom,

    Me and a friend are heading off to Thailand on the 2nd May, then going through Cambodia and Vietnam, and then finally onto Indonesia. We have 30 day visas for Vietnam, however we have still set aside around 3 weeks in Vietnam. Overall, which of these routes did you find the most enjoyable, and which would you most recommend for an inexperienced rider? We’ve heard some bad stories regarding Highway 1, so ideally we would like to avoid this as much as possible.

    Looking forward to hearing from you,
    Tom

    • Hi Tom,

      All of these routes are equally enjoyable and all stay off Highway 1 as much as possible.

      With 3 weeks you are best sticking to The Classic and/or the Easy Rider. This is because they are both doable in your time-frame, pass through both mountains and coast, and require fairly simple navigation. However, if you really want to stay away from any traffic at all then consider taking Uncle Ho’s Road – the initial hour out of Saigon is quite busy but after that it is relatively quiet all the way to Hanoi (I am currently updating and expanding this guide to the Ho Chi Minh Road – it will be finished in about a week).

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  24. RaT says:

    Hi Tom,

    just wanted to say “Huge Thank You” for all your previous posts (as this one combines many of them into single one).

    We spent 2 months on Vietnamese roads, starting in North West – Dien Bien Phu and ending on Ha Tien border crossing with Cambodia.

    Your website was our guide and without it we would never discover many beautiful spots and amazing roads connecting them into unforgettable journey !

    Riding in Cambodia is little bit different, less tarmac & more dirt, less traffic, little bit more corrupted cops ;)

    Few little tips from us – Check Quan Lan island – accessible from Van Don ( Cai Rong ), next time you pass around Cana, take snorkel gear with you and just few kms south of the town ( opposite the eateries on main road ) jump to the water, coral wonderland will swallow you :)

    Keep posting !

    RaT

    • Hi RaT,

      Thanks! Great to hear you enjoyed you road trip in Vietnam and that my guides helped you along the way.

      Cambodia sounds a bit different but still lots of fun I imagine.

      Thanks for the tips – I’ll have a look for that coral near Ca Na! And I went to Quan Lan years ago but have been meaning to go back there for a long time – I hope I’ll make that trip soon.

      Enjoy the rest of your adventures.

      Tom

  25. Joe says:

    1. You mention Saigon to Hanoi quite a few times, are there any particular benefit of doing this direction rather than north to south?

    2. I was looking at your “Saigon to Hanoi – The Scenic Route”, it seems to be quite close to both #1 and #5. Are either of these adapted from the Scenic Route? Which would you recommend for first time long distance riders?

    3. The image for Uncle Ho’s Road looks really nice. Do you know if that particular road is in either route #1, #5 or the “scenic route”?

    Thanks a lot for this article, it’s really useful for our planning.

    • Hi Joe,

      No, there’s no reason you should start in the south and go north – either direction is good. However, because most travellers do go from south to north it is easier to buy bikes in Saigon and easier to sell bikes in Hanoi. But really it depends on what you want first: beaches or mountains – because most of the coastal scenery is in the south and centre, and most of the best mountainous scenery is in the centre and north.

      Yes, the Scenic Route is quite similar but not the same as either #1 or #5 when you study them more closely. #1 and #5 go from coast to mountains on two or three separate occasions; the Scenic Route only does it once. #1 and #5 go through Dalat, the Scenic Route does not. There are other differences, particularly the coastal roads. The bottom line is that you’re better using the map on this page because they are the most recent and they cover everything the Scenic Route does anyway.

      The image for Uncle Ho’s Road is from the Western Ho Chi Minh Road, which is included in #1.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Antek M. says:

        I think South to North is better also in terms of landscapes – South is really nice, but the more to the North you get, the better and more dramatic it becomes. I think it’s better to keep the best for the end of your trip ;)

        Also people in the South are bit easier to “manage” and bit friendlier, so you’ll get time to get used to things.

        • Hi Antek,

          Thanks for your opinion. Yes, you’re right about the scenery getting more dramatic as you ride further north. But it’s also great when riding north to south: coming down off the high (often cool and misty) mountains to the brilliant sunshine and open spaces of the coastal back-roads in the south. I love the journey is both directions! :-)

          Tom

          • Antek M. says:

            Ok, I need to take back those words about people in the North being less friendly. It’s a common opinion and having freshly arrived in the north when writing those words I was bit influenced by it, but after having spent some longer time here I don’t think there’s really big difference. Most people are very friendly and nice, few (mainly in touristic areas) may try to scam you (or at least overcharge).

            But the landscapes… those are just wow here ;)

          • Hi Antek,

            Yes, I agree. Although, unfortunately, there’s no doubt that overcharging is more common in the north than the south :-(

            Tom

  26. Unnamed traveller says:

    Great Post!

    I have around 3 weeks to spend in Vietnam. I am not a huge fan of beaches but like good landscapes, food and parties. Which route would you personally recommend among the five?
    Also, is it possible in Vietnam to get a bike from Hanoi and leave it at Ho Chi Minh City?

    Cheers.

    • Hello Unnamed Traveller!

      There’s plenty of great landscapes in the mountains, but the parties are mostly by the coast (with the exception of Phong Nha, where a healthy influx of backpackers leads to many a social evening).

      I would suggest you ride either the Classic route or the Easy Rider route. These give you lots of mountain scenery but also drop down to the coast in places like Mui Ne, Nha Trang and Hoi An/Hue where you’ll find the parties.

      For motorbike rental in Hanoi check out Rent a Bike Vietnam (there’s a link above this comment section to their website) or Flamingo Travel – both should be able to arrange picking up your bike in Ho Chi Minh City.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  27. Dan Andrews says:

    Such a great post Tom, I have so many memories of Vietnam and this brought them all back. Would love to follow some of these in the future! I did a 3 week ride south through the Mekong + Cambodia in 2008 and it’s one of my favorite trips ever :)

  28. Tom says:

    Excellent info as ever Tom. I’m in Cambodia at the moment and heading to HCMC in two days to start a ride up to Hanoi. I’ve been inspirered by your site and this new info is very welcomed and perfectly timed! Thanks, Tom

    • Thanks, Tom.

      Great to hear that you’ll be here soon to start this road trip. I hope this article has given you more ideas to play with. Do let me know of any updates on road conditions etc when you’re on the road – that kind of ‘real time’ feedback really helps to keeps my guides as current as possible.

      Thanks and enjoy the ride!

      Tom

  29. Andy says:

    Hi Tom

    Love the article – i’ve been saying for years now I will do this. Just told my wife I am going to do it …. she didn’t actually say no!! I have a few tips for tourists to VN on my blog too at http://saigonbuddytours.com/blog/
    cheers
    Andy

  30. Simon says:

    This is superb Tom, I think maybe we could make this a feature on our facebook page Vietnam Backpacker Sales or even on my travel agency website http://www.travelagenthanoi.com for all the backpackers travelling by bike. We see a LOT of people buying and selling bikes on our site, so this would be very very helpful to them.

    Contact me to discuss in more detail.

    Regards
    Simon

  31. Brent says:

    Awesome post mate, really love the information and detail you go into to provide to everyone very beneficial.

    Do you ever venture / cross boarders into Laos or Cambodia on your bike?

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