Saigon to Hanoi by Motorbike: 5 Suggested Routes

Last updated March 2017 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle


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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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.


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

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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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]

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  • 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]

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  • 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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        •  Expenses for a Road Trip:

        •  23 Differences from South to North Vietnam:

        •  Weather in Vietnam:

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

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

  1. Charlotte says:

    Great articles all very helpful

    Can anyone advise if it’s realistic to come into vietnam from cambodia via the crossing Hoa lu and then travel up to the crossing into Laos via dak rang on what looks like the main road the 14.

    we get a 15 day visa and wanted to do this journey at the end of this month.

    Will this be feasible in the time given and interesting along the way? Also current weather and road conditions?

    Two people on a Honda win (previously travelled vietnams coastline by bus for a month)

    Any help appreciated thanks

    • Hi Charlotte,

      As far as I know the Hoa Lu border is open, but I don’t recognize the name of the other one you mention. I’m not sure how easy or not it will be to take your bikes across the borders, but the route you’ll take once in Vietnam will be QL14 and QL15 which is the Ho Chi Minh Road – it’s in good condition and scenic. 15 days is plenty of time.

      Weather should be OK, but you will get some rain too.

      For more information about border crossings try searching the Vietnam Back Roads Facebook book page.

      I hope this helps,


  2. Quinten De Smet says:

    Hi Tom,

    First of all, what a wonderful blog! It helped me a lot with the planning of the trip :)
    I will go to Vietnam in late September, early October.
    I’ll fly to Hanoi, and from there i will go to Saigon (The Big Route with probably some detours)
    I was wondering if i should go to Sa Pa (north of Hanoi). It is a detour of 300km, but i don’t know if it’s the correct time to go to the north in october.



    • Hi Quinten,

      Yes, September and October is a good time to be in the north in general, so depending on how much time you have in Vietnam, I would recommend taking a trip up north – perhaps following one or more of my Northern Routes.

      Remember that you can put your motorbikes on the train from/to Hanoi and Lao Cai (Sapa) – that way you won’t have to ride all the way there and back again. If you plan to ride in the northeast, be aware that some of the roads, particularly along the Chinese border near Ban Gioc Waterfall, are often in bad condition.

      I hope this helps,


  3. Emanuel says:

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the great article!

    Im going to be landing in Saigon in July and plan on traveling up to Hanoi within about 2.5-3 weeks. A few questions:

    1) I’ve never really driven a motorbike before (I’ve driven a moped if that helps) but Im a pretty fast learner. Im going to be going with my girlfriend as well, and plan on sticking her on the bike with me. What would you say on a scale from 1-10 is the level of danger in this situation? And is there any route safer than the others?

    2) If we only have about 17-21 days, would that mean only staying in one place per day, and having to ride everyday? Or would we be able to stick around in a certain place for a few days.

    3) Lastly, if we plan on doing lets say half the trip by bike, and the other half by quicker means of transport, would any of the following be feasible (in your opinion): to start driving from Saigon up until about Hoi An and sell my bike there, taking train/bus etc from Saigon to Hoi An and buy a motorbike in Hoi An and bike all the way up to Hanoi and sell in Hanoi, or neither?

    Thank you very much in advance!


    • Hi Emanuel,

      Most ‘motorbikes’ here are more like scooters – either automatic or semi-automatics – so you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting used to that. The problem will probably be dealing with the traffic and lack of ‘riding discipline’ in the big cities – if you’re not used to Vietnamese traffic this may come as a shock. However, once you are out of the city there’s very little traffic indeed. Also, all my routes try to stay off busy main roads as much as possible, but of course they can’t always be avoided. I can’t give you a danger level on a scale of 1-10, but ride carefully and sensibly and you should be absolutely fine.

      3 weeks is a pretty good amount of time to have. Whether you have time to spend more than one day in some places will depend of how much riding you want to do each day: some people prefer to ride long distances (200-300km upwards) and then stay a couple nights somewhere, but other people prefer riding shorter distances (100-150km) each day and just staying one night in most places. Average riding speeds in Vietnam (depending on the roads, of course) are about 40-60km per hour. With 3 weeks it’s probably best to ride each day for a few days and then stop for two days in one place, then repeat this pattern for each of your 3 weeks.

      Yes, you can do either of those options. However, instead of buying a random bike, it’s much easier, more reliable, and pretty much the same price to buy/rent a bike from one of the reputable rental companies. The following companies are all excellent and offer pick up and drop off in Saigon, Danang (Hoi An), and Hanoi: Tigit Motorbikes, Rent a Bike Vietnam, and Style Motorbikes – there are links to all three of them 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,


  4. Rike says:

    Hey Tom,
    wow, this comment section is exploding! :) More greetings from “Life’s a Beach” just south of Quy Nhon – what a gem! Took the wooden bridge mentioned in another comment to get back on 1A and then 1D after a visit of Ghen Da Dia – 2000 D for bicycles, great option to avoid some kms – and also fun: )
    Thinking about cutting inland from here before getting back on the coast for Hoi An like you suggest in most route options. I just wondered: Can you tell me for what reason you go north for quite a bit after Quy Nhon and then west instead of taking the seemingly more straightforward connection, QL19 from here to Pleiku?
    Just the nicer road? Or anything on the coast to check out that I’m missing? I’m on the bicycle, so especially with all those climbs, looking to avoid all unnecessary detours :)
    Thanks for taking the time!

    • Hi Rike,

      Good to hear you’re enjoying Life’s a Beach’.

      The reason I go north from Quy Nhon is that it’s a good, long stretch of coastal back roads leading all the way from Quy Nhon to Tam Quan. Unfortunately, after that you have to join Highway 1 for a bit until turning off due west for Ba To and continuing up to Kon Tum (which is also a very scenic road).

      But sure you could just take QL19 up to Pleiku instead. Either way you’re going to be doing quite a lot of climbing! :-)

      Another route you might be interested in joining in this area is the Road East of the Long Mountains – fantastic scenery, very light traffic, and good road conditions.

      I hope this helps,


      • Rike says:

        Thanks heaps, Tom! I’ll let you know which one I chose – if I don’t turn away crying … :)

      • Rike says:

        One last question for you on this stretch, if you don’t mind, Tom: Just wondering why you chose to go east to Hoi An after Thanh My – to enjoy the HCMH as long as possible? Would the Champa temples further south be worth passing by though? Your jungle temple pic looks tempting, too!

        I made it up to Ko Tum, the 19 was in a rather poor conditions with massive potholes in some stretches, absolutely stellar in others. Lots of truck traffic all the way. I turned of after

        • Rike says:

          reaching DT 670 which was, while more scenic, not a lot if fun to ride: 50kms of even more potholes. But interesting to See how the population and architecture change along the way!

        • Hi Rike,

          Thanks for the road updates. Yes, that’s the problem with taking the highways – the trucks.

          Yes, I stay on the HCM Road as far as Thanh My to make the most of that scenic section of road. Although both west-east roads (QL14E & 14B) connecting the HCM Road with the coast near Hoi An are good.

          The Cham temples at My Son are good, but they are incredibly popular so it can get really crowded there sometimes.

          Enjoy the ride,


  5. Jason says:

    Hi Tom,

    Awesome post! Question for you. My friend and I will have ~3-4 weeks in Vietnam in mid-July/early-August and I was wondering whether motorbiking from HCMC to Hanoi would still be doable/safe/fun during the rainy season? Would you recommend the Classic route? Thanks for all the great info!


    • Hi Jason,

      Yes, the Classic route in July-August is absolutely fine – weather conditions are pretty similar throughout the country at that time of year: hot and humid with tropical downpours. So, apart from occasional heavy rain, you shouldn’t have any problems riding then.

      I hope this helps,


  6. Dan says:

    I notice none of the maps contain Sapa. Is it not worth it after seeing everything before?

  7. Mark says:

    Hey Tom, I’m at “Life’s a Beach” now as I head North, I’m one of the many many people here who are getting great value out of your route guides, can’t thank you enough!

    It seems you haven’t published a more detailed guide on the area between the Hon Gom Sandbar and around Hoi An, so I thought I’d share my thoughts. is a little wooden bridge that I saw off to the side following your route, and crossed just for fun. They charged me a 3,000 Dong toll (each way…) and there was a sign suggesting 1,000 might have been more appropriate. I can’t vouch for the quality of the roads to get there from your route (and cutting out the QL1A bridge), but this was a treat and well worth checking out to consider putting your suggested route over it next time you’re in the area.

    • Hi Mark,

      Thanks. It’s great to hear you’re enjoying your road trip.

      Thanks for the tip. Yes, you’re right, I haven’t written a detailed guide to that coastal area, although I’ve been planning to for a while now. I wasn’t allowed to cross that bridge last time I was there, so it’s great to hear that it’s possible now. I’ll definitely check it out next time I’m there.


  8. Petr Baru says:

    Hi guys, how can I use the map? I want to use it in my phone like navigation, but I could not find any option how to do that. When I try to make it on my own, it always find me other route.

    Thanks Petr

  9. dust7878 says:


    Do you have any recommendations on a route between Hanoi and Cat Ba Island, via Hai Phong. I’ve seen multiple people advising against it online.

    Google seems to recommend either QL5B which looks like a brand new major expressway that would probably have lots of truck traffic or AH14, which I imagine would have less traffic due to QL5B.

    What are your thoughts?

    Dustin from Canada

    • Hi Dustin,

      Yes, that’s the problem with riding from Hanoi to Hai Phong – it’s an industrial belt so unless you take a really circuitous route it’s not going to be a beautiful ride. As far as I know bikes can’t take the new expressway on QL5B, because it’s vehicles only. AH14 is the old main artery between the two cities but, now that the new expressway has taken some of the load off it, this is probably a better option.

      I hope this helps,


      • dust7878 says:


        Follow up question, will the ferrys from Ben Binh in Hai Phong to the south of Cat Ba Island take motorbikes, or is the best option Dinh Vu to Cat Hai Island, then the second ferry the rest of the way to the Northwest of Cat Ba Island?


        • There’s now a road bridge between Hai Phong and Cat Hai Island. I don’t have up to date information about putting bikes on the boats because I haven’t done it for a long time. But there used to be two types of boats: fast passenger boats, and slower car ferries.


  10. Cezar Biegun says:

    First of all, as I told you via messenger your blog is an absolute legend. I am glad I found it myself before I realised you’re recommended in LP guide too, congrats! We’re cruising through Vietnam using your tips n tricks and we’re planning our route everyday using your maps (mix of classic and beach bum). We do not take a lot of organised trips and people we meet usually speak little or no English so I have several questions to ask and maybe we get answer here from you or one of readers. So…
    1. What on earth are all these huge huge nets on stilts on rivers?
    2. What’s up with all these abandoned/empty hotels by the sea some 7km south of Vinh Moc tunnels? There’s like 2 completely abandoned resorts and 5 maybe 6 still operation but empty hotels here. Looks a bit post-apocalyptic.
    3. Follow up question. Roadside hotels/motels that cost 200-250k with breakfast and are almost empty – how do they survive?
    4. Who is eating frogs/crocs/snakes/lizards? Is it just prank food for tourists commonly found in big asian cities? Beijing and Bangkok are full of crickets/scorpions/bugs and other theoretically edible stuff. Or is it for locals too? Because we never come across any place serving let’s say snake or lizard unless it’s an eatery designed for tourists. We’ve not found dog meat yet but I guess we’re not north enough yet (Phong Nha tonight).
    5. Is there a reason why left lane is slower than middle or second from left? Slow trucks almost always take left lane and buses and other trucks must take over from the right.

    I think that’s it for now haha.

    Thanks again and good luck on your future travels!


    • Hi Cezar,

      The huge nets are for fishing – as far as I understand the nets are submerged during high tide and then, when the tide goes back out, the fish get caught in the net – it’s low maintenance fishing :-)

      Loads of big projects, like resorts, get started but never finish because the money runs out or they hit some official or bureaucratic problem which leads to the ‘hotel shells’ that you’re seeing.

      Most of the hotels outside of major tourist areas are empty during the week, but they make all their money on the weekends and public holidays from domestic tourism, which is huge at the moment.

      Frogs, snakes, and dog etc are all widely and regularly eaten by many Vietnamese. Dog is becoming an ever more complicated issue in Vietnam, but there are dog meat restaurants all over the country, especially the north. The words in Vietnamese are thịt chó or cầy tơ. Cat is common too in the north. It’s not a tourist thing.

      I think trucks are officially supposed to take the middle lane, but they only do so if they know that a particular stretch of road is watched by police. However, the discipline of truck drivers has improved over the last couple of years.

      I hope this answers some of your questions :-)


      • Cezar Biegun says:

        Thank you very much for your reply! This does answer my questions, cheers!
        I’m still wondering about these nets, sometimes they are a good few meters above water level – tides wouldn’t be so high would they? I still need to take a pic of one of these bad boys and post link here so we’re sure we talk about same thing;)

        Why is dog eating an issue? Is it not quite legal, or frowned upon or?

        Cheers from here,105.4329475,18z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x3e0f109fdfcf8d90!8m2!3d19.3230049!4d105.4329402
        We’ve found this motel today and it’s best $11 ever spent. You could add this to your maps – make sure you check it out on your next trip. Best value for money in Vietnam so far. Good local BBQ eateries nearby, ATM across the street, bike repair shop, beer shop all in one place. Secure indoor parking, great rooms and fab staff. Now I sound like I work for them haha. It just feels so good to get a 250k hotel that looks better than some +500k we experienced – especially after 4h ride in rain.


        • Hi Cezar,

          The hotel sounds good. I’ll check it out.

          The issue with dog started with Western visitors to Vietnam disliking the practice of eating it, and now many of Vietnam’s urban youth take the same attitude towards it. But it’s totally legal still.

          Maybe the nets can also be manually lowered into the water.

          Enjoy the rest of your ride,


  11. Chops says:


    Just wanted to start off by saying this site is amazing and appreciate all the work and effort you’ve put in. We’ll be going back to Nam next week and this will be the first time outside of the south. We are planning to do a slightly modified (adding Da Lat) Beach Bum route from the north to south and wonder if I was being overly ambitious about our schedule/timing. Currently we land 03/02 (from the states) and need to be in Saigon by 03/18. To save some time we figured we’d take the night train from Hanoi to Dong Hoi since it seems like the longest stretch (503km) without anything significant in between (planning on going to Phong Nha Caves from Dong Hoi). Just a few questions if you don’t mind

    Are we going to miss anything worthwhile by taking the train instead of riding to Dong Hoi?
    What about Sapa and Ha Long Bay? From reading around March wasn’t the best month to go experience these spots in addition to the 2-3 needed for each
    Is 16 days a stretch to make it down to Saigon? We are currently estimating 40km/hr average?
    Besides the major cities is there anything else we should check out?
    Currently planned:
    Dong Hoi
    Hoi An
    Quy Nhon
    Nha Trang
    Da Lat
    Mui Ne
    Anything we should just skip in general? Added Quy Nhon there since Hoi An to Nha Trang was going to be another 500km ride.

    Any advice, recommendations, or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again for all your time and keep up the great work!

    -Best Regards,

    • Hi Chops,

      I think it’s a good idea, given your time frame, to take the train from Hanoi to Dong Hoi, and also to skip Sapa and Halong Bay, which, although still very scenic, are far too busy these days.

      After that, your itinerary looks fine to me: 16 days in enough time to do it in, considering you have travelling and riding experience in Vietnam already, and your estimate of 40km per hour is also spot on. It’s also a good idea to stop in Quy Nhon because that’s a great place.

      You might consider going from Phong Nha to Hue via the Western Ho Chi Minh Road (Phong Nha to Khe Sanh to A Luoi and down to Hue on Road QL49) instead of along the coast, because this is one of the best rides in Vietnam. You’d need to allow 2 days to ride Phong Nha to Hue via this route.

      I hope this helps,


  12. Adam says:

    Hi Tom, I am currently cycling around Vietnam and have been for the last six months. I’ve done the Delta and followed your route for camping the Ocean road and also the HCM route from Pleiku to Danang. Your info has been most helpful and I thank you.
    Today I shall cycle into Hanoi and I am thinking about exploring the mountains to the NE and NW of Hanoi again using your routes as a guide. How doable do you think it is on bicycle? How do the climbs compare with Hai Van Pass and the two passes from Qui Nhon to Pleiku, plus the climb from Mai Chau to Hoa Binh ?
    Cheers for any useful info you can give me.

    • Hi Adam,

      Riding the northern routes by bicycle would be very challenging but also very rewarding. Some of the passes are very steep and long – comparable or more so than the other passes you mentioned in the south.

      But the scenery is superb so, if you have time and are willing to put the effort in, then I’d definitely recommend you try it out.


      • Adam says:

        Cool, my biggest worry is not so much the climb but as the availability of food and lodging, as a climb can nearly always be walked and bicycles were originally called push bikes. I have camping gear but would rather only use as an emergency.
        Thanks for your reply,

  13. Chris says:

    Hi tom, love the work keep it up brother! I’ve travelled vietnam before and done biking in parts as well but never the whole thing. i plan on doing so this summer and i was just wondering what the policing is like? what are my chances of getting caught illegally and can you just bribe the police? and lastly would you recommend starting from south to north or north to south or is it the same experience? looking forward to heading back from you, Peace.

    • Hi Chris,

      Which way you do it depends on the time of year, because of the different weather conditions in the north and south of the country. However, if you’re travelling during the summer, the weather is pretty good and pretty similar nationwide: hot, sunny, and humid, with tropical storms. Another factor that might help you make your decision is that, in general, the north is more about the mountains and the south is more about the beaches.

      The legal side of things is a famously grey area. The bottom line, for now at least, is that the vast majority of foreigners riding bikes in Vietnam do not have a local license. Police do sometimes stop foreigners, but usually you will just have to pay a standard ‘fine’ of around $10. You could also ask the rental company or shop where you get your motorbike if they have any more advice about this.

      I hope this helps,


      • Chops says:

        Hey Tom,

        Does Vietnam accept International Driving Permits now? or is it just easier to pay the “fine” and go about your way?


        • Hi Chops,

          There was talk about that, but ultimately I don’t think anyone (including the traffic police) really know what the situation is. So the ‘fine’ is still the easiest way. Remember to be particularly careful around Mui Ne – take the alternative route to avoid the police – more here.


          • Chops says:

            Yeah I doubt anyone in Vietnam police force was informed of the update, but AAA has them listed as a valid country now


            I think it’s more for travel insurance purposes than actual law enforce encounters.

            With that said, you wouldn’t be familiar with any travel insurance coverages that would cover licensed motorcycling? I know worldnomads do but after reading 10+ pages of negative reviews on their claim process I am very hesitant to throw money their way

            • Hi Chops,

              Yes, insurance is an issue – it’ll be difficult to find anyone that’ll insure you without a license, although I think you can get cover up to 125cc bike if you shop around and pay a premium for it. But I don’t know a specific company though.


  14. Nathan Kessel says:

    Thank you so much for the fantastic guides!!!
    I’ve settled on the Classic route and am in Da Lat right now, but have a few clarifying questions:
    When do you think is the best time to check out the three beaches between Nha Trang and Quy Nhon? Can they be done while driving to Quy Nhon?
    The route to Hue to Phong Nha looks really long, and the route from Phong Nha to Ninh Binh looks near impossible to complete in one day– how long do you think these drives would take? Is it necessary to find a place to sleep between Phong Nha and Ninh Binh?
    Thank you again– I’m really excited being able to do this fantastic route you’ve shared here!

    • Hi Nathan,

      Yes, the beaches between Nha Trang and Quy Nhon are all possible to visit while riding to Quy Nhon. Note that the red markers on the map do not necessarily represent each day on the road: they simply mark major settlements or places of interest along the way. The other map markers – like the beaches, for example – contain links to my guides to that specific place or region.

      Therefore the route from Hue to Phong Nha is not intended to be completed in one day: you could stay a night in A Luoi or Khe Sanh along the way, for example. Likewise, from Phong Nha to Ninh Binh isn’t intended for one day: you could spend at least one night along the way. For more details about the ride and places to stay along the way on the Ho Chi Minh Road, take a look at sections 4 to 8 of this guide.

      I hope this helps,


  15. Reut says:


    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,


  16. 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
    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,


  17. Pingback: A Mad Tea Party between Hội An and Nha Trang – Be mo' in motion

  18. Matt says:

    Hi Tom

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



    • 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.


  19. 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,

    • 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,


  20. Pingback: 23 Differences from South to North Vietnam » Vietnam Coracle

  21. 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…


    • Hi Martin,


      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,


      • Martin says:

        Ehhh that smeshes me a bit down -.-
        Its not possible to ride on the maps?
        For sure checking with google GPS is fine but is there no option to display the route and your ATM position?

        Will do the big one including the Delta and SAPA from the first of March to end of Mai! :D

        • Hi Martin,

          Yes, that aspect of Google Maps is not available in Vietnam right now, so there’s nothing I can do about that. I am working on a Vietnam Coracle map app that would address this, but it is a long way off. So, for now, you can try to export my Google Maps to and then you should be able to follow them with gps.

          I hope this helps,


          • Martin Gerstmann says:


            That sounds good cause i used during my hole tripping.
            I will give the export-import thingy a try, fingers crossed this works out :)

          • Martin Gerstmann says:

            The dot.KMZ download and import worked.
            I think its worth to mention the Google/GPS/ stuff in an short article.
            It helps a lot if you know the shit ^^

            Is it possible to meet this incredible blogger and motorcycler somewhere in Vietnam? :D

            Greetz from Japan, acutally Im German but who cares :P

  22. 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. :)

  23. 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?

  24. 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!

  25. Michael says:

    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,


  26. 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!



    • 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,


  27. 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,


  28. 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.


    • 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,


  29. 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?



    • 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,


      • 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.

        • 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.


  30. 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.


  31. Felix says:

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

  32. 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!


    • 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!


  33. 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.

  34. 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,


      • Chris says:


        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 :-)


  35. 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.

    • 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 :-)


  36. Katie says:

    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,


      • 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.


        • 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 :-)


  37. 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,

    • 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,


  38. 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 !


    • 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.


  39. 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,


      • 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! :-)


          • 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 ;)

  40. 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?


    • 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,


  41. 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 :)

  42. 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!


  43. 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

  44. 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 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.


  45. 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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