Saigon to Hanoi by Motorbike: 5 Suggested Routes

Last updated March 2017 | 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]

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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]

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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:

        •  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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206 Responses to Saigon to Hanoi by Motorbike: 5 Suggested Routes

  1. carley holmes says:

    Hi Tom

    Amazing website, really helpful.

    Just wondering if you could offer some advice. We are going starting in Han oi, going to Hay Long Bay and then making our way down to Saigon, we want to see amazing views, the best cities and beach too, which route would you recommend for this, we are coming on 2nd january for 24 days but want to stop over at a few places for a couple of nights too.

    Thank you in advance. 🙂

    • carley holmes says:

      Sorry and Mountains*****

    • Hi Carley,

      If you want to see beaches and mountains with around 3 weeks on the road then you should consider the Classic, Beach Bum and Easy Rider routes. You can combing and mix them up if you want. And remember that at that time of year the weather is best south of Nha Trang. Anywhere north of Hue can be quite cold and bleak in January. So that’s something to bear in mind if you’re looking for warm weather and beaches.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  2. Chad says:

    Hi Tom! Just wanted to say this site has been amazing in my planning and appreciate all the work and effort you’ve put into it.

    I’ve read that the ride from Nha Trang to Qui Nhom has some very beautiful spots, but also know that it routes through Hwy 1 at some parts. I’ve been told to avoid Hwy 1 so was curious how safe/unsafe that route would be. Any input would be super helpful.

    Assuming I will be taking the coast up to Qui Nhom and then heading West, would you suggest going to Pleiku before Kon Tum? Or would it be alright to skip Pleiku.

    I’m bringing my own motorcycle gear over along with my helmet that has a tinted visor. Would there be any reasons why a tinted visor wouldn’t be a good idea?

    I appreciate any help! Thanks!

    • Hi Chad,

      The coastal route between Nha Trang and Quy Nhon doesn’t go on Highway 1 all the way, as long as you follow the coastal route in the map from my Beach Bum route. From Dai Lanh you turn off Highway 1 all the way through Tuy Hoa to near Chi Thanh where you rejoin Highway 1 but it’s a particularly scenic section of Highway 1. Zoom in on the map to make sure you get the right roads.

      Skipping Pleiku is fine. And a tinted visa is fine too, as long as it doesn’t get scratched easily.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  3. Daniel says:

    Hi,

    I will drive from HCMC to Hanoi. I have 4 weeks for this. I’ll begin on 12 December. I can pitch a tent. Never drove a scooter! Want to see most interesting free places in Vietnam like caves, waterfalls, charming small cities. I heard Scenic route is very nice. What route can you suggest?
    Second question. How can I transfer your exact route so it could navigate me in google maps on my smartphone? Can’t sort this out :/

    You’re doing absolutely awesome work, pity a lot of people don’t know your site!
    Best regards

    • Hi Daniel,

      All of the 5 routes on this page have caves, waterfalls, small towns etc. It just depends on your time-frame and if you want to be by the beach on in the mountains more. Perhaps you can combine the Beach Bum with some of the off-the-beaten-track sections of the Big One.

      To get the routes onto your phone you need to export the maps to KML and then onto maps.me. You can do this by opening the tab in the top left corner of any of my Google Maps (where the three vertical dots are), then selecting Export to KML, then uploading that file to maps.me. That way you can follow your current gps position on any of the routes.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Daniel says:

        Actually, I’m not intersted in beaches. Is Scenic route is easy enough for somebody with no experience riding scooter or should I pick one of your “5 suggester routes”?

        Thanks that helped. 😀
        Daniel

        • Hi Daniel,

          If you prefer mountains and you’re a first time rider I think Uncle Ho’s Road would be the best route. Also, I’ve written a full guide to the entire route here. Or you could try the Easy Rider which is specifically designed to be easily navigable.

          The Scenic Route is good too, but there are some slightly more ‘difficult’ roads on it.

          Tom

  4. Mich says:

    Hi Tom, thanks for all these writeups, really incredible collection of guides. I’m contemplating getting a bike to ride through the country, potentially on the beach bum itinerary you listed, and have some questions:

    * All your itineraries are south-north, is there any specific reason other than you’re maybe based in the south?

    * I would be nervous about theft, how do you go about choosing where to park and what not to avoid this? Do you run a chain lock through the front tire or something like that?

    * is 18 days enough time to enjoy the beach bum tour without being constantly on the move? I’d like to at least take a break for a few days in Hoi An

    * seems your links to bike shops are all rental options, maybe I’m paranoid but I get nervous about my deposit and whether I’ll get dinged for little stupid things at the end of the trip, vs. just buying a bike. In Thailand everywhere is notorious for trying to wring money out of tourists for “damage” that often was there to begin with

    * any equipment you’d recommend bringing along for a relative beginning like gloves? I saw some other blogs saying bring a helmet but that seems a bit ridiculous, I’m travelling as light as possible with a 30L bag

    That’s all I got for now, thanks for your time!

    • Hi Mich,

      Yes, you can ride any of the routes from north to south or vice-versa. Time of year is a consideration when choosing which way to do it – take a look at my Weather Guide for more details.

      Most places – hotels, restaurants, beaches etc – have their own little parking lot. You usually receive a ticket for your bike and a security person will take care of it. But when stopping by the side of the road in remote areas you could lock the wheel if you feel nervous about leaving it unattended. In general it’s fine, but obviously don’t leave your bike out of sight for an extended period of time if there’s no one around to look after it.

      The total distance of the Beach Bum is 2,050km. So 18 days is fine – you’d only need to average around 100km per day. But of course if you stop in Hoi An for a few days that will significantly change your necessary daily average. You’d need to ride at least 2 days over 200km in order to stay static in Hoi An for a few days and still complete the Beach Bum in 18 days.

      The links to my recommended motorbike rental companies are all very efficient, professionally-run and highly rated. You don’t need to worry about being scammed in any way. You can mention Vietnam Coracle if you like, they know me. And, in the unlikely event that you do have a bad experience renting from them, please let me know.

      You don’t need to bring a helmet – they’re available here, and rental bikes often give you a choice of helmets too. Gloves are only necessary if you are riding in the highlands during the winter months.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  5. Alex says:

    Hi Tom,

    Sorry if this is a stupid question, but on your Google maps for each route, is there a way to measure distances between points of interest (travel times and distances) to get a rough idea of where we will be along the route for each day? And what would you say would be the average time riding each day on the “Classic Route” around 3-4 hrs?

    Thanks for all your help, this website has already helped me immensely preparing for my trip.

    Cheers,
    Alex.

    • Hi Alex,

      I don’t think you’d be able to get Google to tell you distances and times unless you redraw the route on another Google Map.

      Riding time depends a quite a few different factors. But as a general rule, on good roads your average speed will be about 40-50km an hour, but that doesn’t include stops for photos, gas etc. So at a leisurely pace you can reckon on around 100km every 3 hours. 150km a day is a very nice, easy, doable daily average, but it’s also possible to do a lot more if you start at a decent time in the morning.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  6. Daniel says:

    Hello,
    Which month do you recommend to ride from Hanoi to Saigon? I have two options: 4th of December and 1st of february. December would be better for me, but if difference of joy is big I can ride in february.
    Best Regards.

    • Hi Daniel,

      Well, both of those options the weather will be best in the south: once you get north of Danang you may find it gets colder and grayer, because the north gets a real winter. If you ride during February, you will probably overlap with the Tet Lunar New Year celebrations – this is very interesting but it’s not great for travel, because many businesses close and most of the nation goes on holiday so places become busy.

      So perhaps December would be your best option.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  7. Dave says:

    Hi Tom,

    Came across your site tonight and I’ve spent longer than I’d care to admit scrolling through some of the trips you’ve done – there’s some great stuff here.

    I’m planning on doing a trip in early December from Da Nang to Ha Noi. On the section of your ‘Classic’ route where it goes inland from Hue and up the Ho Chi Minh Road are there plenty of nha nghi/hotels? That’s the route I’d like to take but I just wanted to check that there are places to stay as it’s quite a long way from there to the red dot at Phong Nha.

    Also, how long would you recommend budgeting for Da Nang – Ha Noi.?

    Thanks for your help and keep up the excellent work,
    David

    • Hi Dave,

      Yes, there are places to stay – hotels and nha nghi – along the Ho Chi Minh Road. For much more detail take a lot at sections 4-8 of my Ho Chi Minh Road guide, which includes places to stay and stop along the way. The one section where there aren’t regular guest houses is the Western Ho Chi Minh Road between Khe Sanh and Phong Nha, but there is now a convenient small hotel right in the middle of that section in Long Son.

      You could spend anything between 5-10 days between Danang and Hanoi, depending on how much riding you want to day each day and how much you want to stop along the way.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  8. crunch says:

    Hi! This is a great guide – thank you so much!

    Quick question: For a new / inexperienced rider, which is the easiest / least tricky route that you would recommend? I’m planning to do this with a couple of friends, but I personally don’t ride and am planning to learn as much / as well as I can for a few days in Ho Chi Minh before heading out.

    If you have any tips / tricks / contacts in Ho Chi Minh who might be able to give me a riding lesson or two, that would also be much appreciated!

    Cheers, and thanks for contributing to the travel world!
    crunch

    • Hi Crunch,

      Uncle Ho’s Road is probably the easiest to navigate and is relatively low of traffic-clogged roads, plus it’s the shortest in terms of distance. Another option is to take the Easy Rider.

      Some of the recommended motorbike rental companies (see the right sidebar and bottom of this page) may be able to help you practice before you leave. Try contacting them. You can mention Vietnam Coracle if you like, they know me.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • crunch says:

        Thanks for the suggestions! I did get in touch with the motorcycle companies and one of them offered to teach me (and waive the lesson fee if I rented from them) so that’s definitely helpful. Thanks so much!

  9. Lockie says:

    Hi Tom
    Great info and good work your doing , lived here for 6 yrs now but am going to ride down to Kien Giang from Danang with my dog would you sugest the HCM raod the best and quickest option also was thinking it willl take me 3 1/2 days riding to sgn , i know the riding conditions of Vn just wondering best option to go concidering i have my dog and really dont want to run the gauntlet of Highway 1 with the crazy buses trucks etc etc ,

    cheers and hope to hear from you
    Hoping to set of in 2 or 3 days from now
    Lockie

    • Hi Lockie,

      Yes, the Ho Chi Minh Road is probably the easiest and (for the most part) quiet and direct route, but you still have to deal with horrible dust and trucks for the last hour or so getting into Saigon.

      From Saigon to Kien Giang you could follow one of my Mekong Routes – much better than the main highways, but again you still have to battle the traffic getting out of Saigon.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  10. Jay says:

    Hi Tom,

    First up, mad props for putting together probably the most detailed riding guide going around the interwebs at the moment. This thing has helped me in so many ways already. You sir, are a legend!

    Me and some mates are looking at doing the “Classic” route for the 15-16 days we have in Viet, as it looks the most enjoyable. I’ve read through some of the other comments here in terms of timeframes and realise we may need to cover a few extra km’s to do it in this timeframe. So my question is if we are to do this route, is there a certain section we could skip/ride through or an earlier finishing point that might save us a bit of time? Anything you think we won’t be missing if we skip, really. We are riding Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh so were looking at the maps and thinking say, if we finished up at Nha Trang would we be missing anything from there, the rest of the way to H.C.M ??

    Thanks heaps for your help!
    Jay.

    • Hi Jay,

      Yes, I think that either finishing in Nha Trang or starting in Dong Hoi (for Phong Nha) would work. It also depends on the time of year you’re planning to ride the route, because of weather. For example, the north gets a real winter from around late November to February, while the south has good weather at that time of year. (See this Weather Guide for more info).

      With either of those ‘short cuts’ you should have enough time to ride the route, but you’d still need to cover quite a lot of kms over several days in order to finish on time.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  11. Bree says:

    Thank you so much for the detailed routes! It helps soooo much. I’m hoping to do the big one and heading to Ninh Binh tomorrow but want to additionally include some of the many national parks along the way. For example, the ride from Ninh Bing to Dong Hoi or Hue is quite long. And I notice Pu Mat takes up quite a lot of space west of Vinh. Do you have any experience/info about this area? (other than the Kem Waterfall) Is driving that far west worth it?Everything I look up doesn’t really offer a lot of info. I also have camping stuff with me and would love to utilize it as I haven’t much in my trip yet. Is Bu Gia Map worth the ride out of the way? Have you been?

    I can easily incorporate Bach Ma and Chu Yang into my trip but would love any extra info if you yourself have been there!
    Thank you for this resource and for all your help!!!!!

    • Hi Bree,

      It depends how much time you have and what the weather is like. The area around Kem Waterfall is very scenic and largely off the beaten path so if you have time I would recommend going there and exploring the wider area too, like Pu Mat National Park, for example. There’s not that much tourist development or infrastructure there yet, but ‘wild camping’ is great there, providing you do it sensibly, of course. Perhaps read some of the tips for ‘wild camping’ in Vietnam in this guide first.

      There are many national parks in Vietnam, but personally I don’t think it’s worth putting aside the time for Bu Gia Map and Chu Yang – you will be riding through so many beautiful areas (especially on the Ho Chi Minh Road) that you will see and be in plenty of excellent natural landscapes without detours to specific national parks. However, I would recommend checking out Back Ma if you have the time.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  12. Jake says:

    Hey Tom this was an awesome article along with your webpage. I had a few questions. I’m hoping to have 18 days. I want to start from Hanoi and go to HCMC. I would love to follow the classic route. Do you think this gives me ample time?

    I would love to explore cities along the way and don’t want to be overly rushed. Should I potential try to shorten the classic to make it more feasible with the time I have?

    Also if I decide to go with the classic, what is a reasonable mile/km goal to set for a day?

    I really want to see the cities you have label along the way and not just pass through them.

    Thank you
    Jake.

    • Hi Jake,

      18 days is enough time to ride the Classic route, but how much time you’ll have to explore the cities along the way depends on your riding experience and stamina. For example, if you rode every day over the 18 days, you’d need to average around 150km per day. This is very doable and not particularly tiring or long in the saddle, but it’s still around 4 hours of (fairly leisurely) riding each day. Add to that a couple of days in a couple of cities and you’d need to cover around 200km per day in order to fit it all into 18 days. So from this you can start to get an idea of how your time might work out.

      If you’d prefer to cut out some bits of the route in order to spend more time exploring the cities along the way, you could consider starting in Hue (most motorbike rental companies can arrange this) and ending in Phan Thiet, where you can put your bike on the train to Saigon (more details about that here).

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Andi says:

        Hi Tom, thanks for the awesome guide! Sounds very promising.
        Thanks Jake for the questions you asked, we were wondering the same thing. Right now we are in Hanoi and getting prepared for our tour.
        But i have another one: Tom, I was wondering if you have those routes as gps-files aswell, since your premade routes can not be navigated offline in google maps.

        Thanks,
        Andi

        • Hi Andy,

          Yes, Google offline doesn’t work for my maps in Vietnam, but you can export my maps (export to KML option in the dialogue box at top right of my Google maps) to maps.me and follow them like that. I’m aware that this is an issue and am trying to create an app to address this, but that will take some time. For more about maps.me and other maps see this Map Guide.

          I hope this helps,

          Tom

      • Jake says:

        Awesome. Thanks Tom. I think I’ll do the entire classic route because it is too hard to resist. Once again thank you so much.

  13. De-Sean says:

    Hello Sir!

    I currently live in Shanghai China, and i’m planning to take the motorbike drive in late January. However, I am planning to go from Hanoi down to Saigon. I saw your routes, and thought that I could just follow it backwards down to Saigon. I want to take a trip to Ha Long Bay first for a few days before going to Hanoi, and I was wondering if you have any sources about finding a motorbike in the Hanoi area.

    Thank you!

    • Hi De-Sean,

      Yes, sure. There are lots of reliable motorbike rental companies in Hanoi. Take a look at the trusted rental companies recommended in the right sidebar and bottom of this page (and on every page of my website). Contact any of them and they can give you a quote. You can mention Vietnam Coracle if you like, they know me.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  14. Marden says:

    G’day Tom,

    My wife and I are heading to Vietnam at the end of October 17. I ahve been trolling the internet looking for best routes and stumbled upon yours. WOW, I am impressed. The routes you have proposed ahve taken alot of the guess work out of for me and I truly approeciate that.
    As motorcyles are not actually that great for locking your things in, what is it like when you see a spot that looks good for a bit of look. Is it advisable to carry all your gear with you or are there locals for a few dong will look after your gear? I am not looking forward to carrying my wifes back pack 🙁
    Thanks again for a great web site.

    Cheers,
    Marden

    • Hi Marden,

      Personally, I leave the bulk of my luggage strapped on the bike (it’s just clothes etc so nothing valuable) and I take my smaller day pack with me which has all my valuables in it. This works fine for me, but obviously you should try not to leave your motorbike and belongings unseen for too long. Most of the time you can keep it within sight anyway: for example, if you want to stop by a river for a swim, just leave the bike by the roadside so you can keep an eye on it while you’re in the river.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  15. Amauri says:

    Hi Tom,

    I got so excited about your website that I want to motorbike, but I don’t have any motorbiking experience.
    Cycling I do everyday, scooters I have done, but not this. That having said…

    I have about 14 days to travel between Saigon and Hanoi or the other way around (whatever you recommend).
    I like the beach bum route, because it seems easier and safer for a first timer, but Uncle’s Ho’s Road seems amazing as well (again, whatever you recommend).
    So, where should I start (Hanoi or Saigoin), which route is easier, what parts by motorbike and where/when to send my motorbike on the train?

    I will be arriving next week!

    Many, many thanks,

    Amauri

    • Hi Amauri,

      I think, at this time of year, you should consider starting in Hanoi and finishing in Saigon. The weather should be pretty good at this time of year, but you may get quite a bit of rain in the central provinces.

      If you’ve ridden a scooter before you should be OK riding in Vietnam, with the possible exception of the big cities, where the traffic is dense and chaotic – obviously you’ll need to take it slowly when you first start out in Hanoi, but once you’re a couple hours out of the city it’s much quieter.

      14 days is fine but it’s not that long, so you’ll probably be riding every day. Uncle Ho’s Road is the shortest and most direct of these 5 routes and it’s easy to navigate so that’s a pretty good option. Or, if you want to mix some beach time in there, consider the Easy Rider or Beach Bum.

      For bike rental and information check out the trusted companies listed 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 get you started,

      Tom

      • Amauri says:

        Hi Tom,

        Thank you so much for the quick response.
        If I need to skip one part and send the motorbike by train. Which part would you recommend?

        Cheers,

        Amauri

        • Hi Amauri,

          Well, that would depend on which route you choose. If you decide to do one of the coastal routes, it’s quite easy to put your bike on the train from Phan Thiet (Mui Ne) to Saigon. Or for any of the routes you could start in Dong Hoi and ride up to meet the Ho Chi Minh Road at Phong Nha and start the route from there. Some of the bike rental companies should be able to arrange for you to pick up the bike in, for example, Dong Hoi if you contact them in advance. Another option is to start you trip in Danang, Hoi An or Hue, because all the rental companies have shops there.

          If you do plan to put your bike on the train for a section of the route remember that your bike doesn’t travel on the same train as you do and usually takes at least two days to arrive at its destination (with the exception of Phan Thiet to Saigon) – see this guide for more details.

          I hope this helps,

          Tom

  16. David says:

    Hi Tom –

    Thank you so much for publishing these helpful guides. Nice to see someone with in-depth knowledge sharing it through such detailed articles.

    I have a few questions:

    (1) If I plan to do the classic route at the beginning of February, does it much matter if I start in HCMC or Hanoi? I plan to complete the route in about 15-16 days so not sure if it matters, but my preference is for starting in Hanoi (but modified as noted below due to time constraints).

    (2) Am I missing much by taking a train/plane to Dong Hoi then traveling via motorbike to Phong Nha and starting the classic route there? I understand you mentioned that the northern parts of the route are the most spectacular, so just want to make sure I’m not missing anything unique by starting out there.

    (3) My girlfriend and I have never driven motorbikes so we plan to hire a tour guide + one other driver to drive us (each of us driving pilon behind a driver). Do you think this is smart or do you think we can learn quickly on the road going slowly? The tour guide is pretty pricey compared to doing it ourselves, but we’re not sure it’s safe to start our motorbiking experience on the roads of Vietnam.

    (4) When doing the classic route, is it ok to skip the one leg between A Luoi and Thanh My on the Golden Loop or should we take that leg and then backtrack? I noticed all other parts of the Golden Loop are covered by the classic route which is why I ask.

    (5) Of all the routes you mentioned, do you think the classic route is the best for first time visitors to Vietnam?

    (6) Are the red markers indicating the spots where one should rest for at least a night?

    Thanks again.

    • Hi David,

      Yes, it’s fine to go from Hanoi to Saigon, and starting in Dong Hoi is also fine.

      The driving depends on you really – whichever you feel safest and more confident doing. Because you’ll be starting the route in Dong Hoi you won’t be confronted with big city traffic immediately and this is a very good thing. Starting in Dong Hoi means a fairly gentle introduction to riding in Vietnam’s towns and then straight into the mountains on quieter roads. But Vietnam’s roads are dangerous and obviously you must be extremely careful. But the feeling of independence and freedom when self-riding these loops is unbeatable.

      Yes, you could skip A Luoi to Thanh My so you don’t have to backtrack, or you could skip the Hai Van Pass instead: it depends if you’d rather ride a mountains pass (A Luoi to Thanh My) or a coastal pass (the Hai Van Pass).

      Yes, the Classic is good for first time visitors, or you could also choose the Easy Rider. You have enough time with 15-16 days but not loads of time, so you will probably be riding almost every day.

      The red pins mark major towns or places of interest and are also possible overnight stops.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  17. Ian says:

    Hi there Tom,

    Awesome write up. I’m just reading through your blog and reminiscing about my time in Vietnam. Not sure if it is just me, but on Chrome, the maps appear to be out of order. Also, the Easy Rider map doesn’t show up at all on the page. Perhaps you want to check this out, to see if theres a glitch. Thanks so much for your awesome write up ands guides… If there is any way that I can join you and help run the site/ learn from you, please, please let me know. I want to be involved in anyways possible. Eager to share my online/media talents, writing skills, and passion for Vietnamese culture and travel/ living… thanks, Tom

    Warmly,

    Ian

    • Hi Ian,

      Thanks for your kind words. And thanks for letting me know about the glitches – I will check them out. I get help for a couple of people on the tech side of things, but I do lack knowledge when it comes to that, so I reply on readers to write in with updates or letting me know if they’re having problems with the site in any way.

      Thanks again,

      Tom

  18. Ben says:

    Hi Tom,
    Are there any routes you might be able to recommend that also include Cambodia and Laos? I arrive in HCMC in 3 weeks and plan to spend up to 2 months potentially riding around Indochina. I’m wondering if perhaps an initial side venture across to Cambodia and back to begin might be worthwhile, then your ‘Classic’ route, perhaps finishing with some northern Vietnam and Laos add-on…. any thoughts or suggestions here would be greatly appreciated.
    Love your site and helpfulness mate.
    Ben

    • Hi Ben,

      I don’t know Cambodia or Laos that well. Other riders speak very highly of Laos as a motorbike destination – check out Laos GPS for some more information.

      As far as I know, providing you have the papers for the motorbike, crossing those borders should be OK.

      You can try searching the Vietnam Back Roads Facebook group for more Laos-Cambodia border related advice too.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  19. John says:

    Tom, first of all, great guide! You’ve created a wealth of information here that has become a key resource as I plan my upcoming Vietnam motorcycle tour. Thank you.
    Do you have a guide on your preferred safety gear for the climate (helmet, boots, gloves), rain gear recommendations, and other essentials you like to have in your kit for long rides? It would be great to hear what your experience has taught.

    • Hi John,

      Yes, it’s a good idea, and it’s something I’ve been meaning to write up for a while, but unfortunately I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

      I’ve written about climate and weather here, so you can use that to get an idea of the kind of clothes you’ll need to pack according to different regions and different times of year.

      Regards riding gear, many ‘serious’ riders from abroad come to Vietnam with all the ‘serious’ gear but end up shedding it all once they get here, because conditions are usually (but certainly not always) so hot and humid. A good helmet and sunglasses are important. Everything else is kind of personal – in hot, lowland areas I ride in flip-flops, shorts, and sleeveless T-shirt, but that’s not for everyone, of course, and I don’t ride particularly fast or on a high-powered bike. Depending on the time of year, the highlands can get surprisingly cold, making it essential to have at least some cold weather gear.

      Other bits and pieces of this kind of information can be found in my Resources Archive.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

    • Liam says:

      Hi there, im currently in the north after following many of your routes and guideds and clocking up nearly 2000km we are on our way back to hanoi to head on a southern route, after seeing many mountains we are going to hit the beach bum route. I am just wondering if you can recommend any towns to stay to break the hanoi – phung na, hoi an – quy nhon sections up.
      Liam

      • Hi Liam,

        Good to hear that you’ve been enjoying your road trip so far.

        Between Hanoi and Phong Nha they are several places to break the journey. Take a look at my Ho Chi Minh Road Guide from section 6 to 8 (although, obviously, you will be riding it in reverse).

        Between Hoi An and Quy Nhon you could ride it in one day if you start in the morning, or break the journey at Sa Huynh or Tham Quan.

        I hope this helps,

        Tom

  20. Tim says:

    Hi Tom!

    First of all thanks for all the work you put in and all the detailed information you share! I’m currently riding your classic tour and love it so far!!

    I’m currently in quy nhon and am going to make my way up to hoi an via kon tum but one question, do you have any advixe how to find suitable hotels/hostels/other places to stay the night on your route away from the big cities (red marks)? I have no idea how to do it and the ride from quy nhon to kon tum is a bit to long for my taste to do on one day

    • Hi Tim,

      Good to hear you’re enjoying the route so far.

      Away from the bigger towns you can look out for signs saying ‘nhà nghỉ’ which means ‘local guest house’ in Vietnamese. Once you start looking, you’ll see them very regularly. I’ve written an article all about nhà nghỉ here.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  21. Fraser says:

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the detailed routes! I was thinking of doing the big one in Jan/Feb of 2018 but from Hanoi to Saigon. Whats with the huge time differences? Would 3 weeks be riding everyday compared to 6 weeks with days off at certain points?

    Cheers,
    Fraser

    • Hi Fraser,

      Yes, that’s right. And it also depends on your riding experience and endurance for sitting in the saddle for hours each day. 3 weeks is a pretty short amount of time to ride The Big One and you’d be on the move almost every day, but 6 weeks would give you enough time to stop for a day or two every now and then.

      Tom

  22. Christofer says:

    Hi Tom!

    Im flying to Saigon september 14 and was planning on doing the classic route, im flying back home october 8 from Hanoi, so I hope it will be enough time 🙂

    I was wondering what places along the way you would recommend to stay more than a day, maybe even 2-3 days? since most of the stops will just be over the night before keep on the ride.

    I was also wondering what places that I just cant miss to visit along the way up to hanoi?

    Tnx really mutch for this amazing guide, love your site!

    Keep up the good work, and sorry for my bad english 😉

    Greetings from Sweden

    • Hi Christofer,

      Three weeks should be enough to complete the Classic route. You’d only need to average less than 150km per day, so that is very doable. But, of course, every time you stop somewhere for a day and night then you will have to make up the distance the next day.

      There are lots of great places to stop along this route. It depends if you prefer established traveller destinations or less visited areas. Places like Mui Ne, Dalat, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue and Ninh Binh are very popular with all types of travellers – they are interesting, beautiful places with lots of accommodation, things to see, and opportunities to meet other travellers. However, if you prefer less visited places, consider taking your time along the coast north of Nha Trang up to Quy Nhon – these coast roads are very scenic and there are lots of good beaches – click the links inside the map pins on the Classic route map above for more details. After that, the Western Ho Chi Minh Road from Khe Sanh to Phong Nha is stunning so take your time on that too.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Christofer says:

        What do you think of my itinerary?
        Saigon 3 nights, phan thiet 2 nights, Dalat 1 night, Nha thrang 2 nights, qui nhon 1 night, kon tum 1 night, hoi an 2 nights, hue 2 nights, khe sanh 1 night, long son 1 night, pong nha 1 night, pho chau 1 night, vinh tien 1 night, nihn binh 1 night, hanoi 3 nights.
        Maybe cut down one night in saigon and make it 4 in hanoi and then split it up to be able to go to ha long bay?
        Any recommendations on good places to stay the night on theese places? 🙂

        • Hi Christofer,

          Yes, that itinerary seems fine to me. Personally, I would spend two nights in Quy Nhon and Phong Nha because they are great places and a bit less touristy than, for example, Nha Trang and Hoi An.

          For recommendations about places to stay in most of those places on the Ho Chi Minh Road section of your route, check out the relevant sections of my Ho Chi Minh Road Guide.

          I hope this helps,

          Tom

          • Christofer says:

            Okey tnx for the advice, then i might switch those then, so I stay 1 night in nha trang and hoi an, and two nights in quy nhon and phong nha instead! Yes okey im gonna read it!^^

            Tnx for all help!

            • Christofer says:

              One more question for you Tom, How and where do i park my motorbike during day and especially the night? Do you have a guide for parking in Vietnam? 🙂

              Tnx so mutch for all help!

            • At night, your hotel will take care of it. During the day if you stop at a cafe or a public beach there will be guards to look after it – they give you a ticket. Parking lot in Vietnamese is ‘giữ xe’. But when you stop at a random location, such as an empty beach, there will be no one there to guard your bike – make sure you don’t let it out of your sight.

              Tom

  23. David says:

    Hi Tom,

    I’m loving these scenic routes. Great post. My friend and I are arriving in Hanoi or Ho Chi Min this weekend. My question is which route do you recommend taking in terms of north to south (Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh) or south to north (Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi)? What are the positives and negatives of each of these 2 directions? We are looking to get the Honda XR 150 from Tigit or Fung.

    Thank-you!
    David

    • Hi David,

      You can ride any of these routes in either direction. Things to bear in mind when choosing whether to ride south-north or north-south are weather, time of year, and your preference of mountains or beach. At this time of year, the weather is pretty similar all over Vietnam – sunny, hot, humid, tropical downpours – so that’s not going to be an issue for you. As a very general rule: the northern half is all about the mountains; the southern half is all about the beaches. So if you have a preference between those, that should be able to inform your decision: for example, do you want beaches at the beginning or end of your ride.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  24. Jacira says:

    Hi Tom, I am really enjoying reading gthrouhallthe parts of your extensive website. At the moment I am in Quang Ngai teaching. I finish here early August and plan to take part of your big One route on. I have a Honda SuperCub 50cc. Your advise: will it be enough to take me around most places in Vietnam? What parts do I need to be wary of? I would like to go as far as Ha Giang……

    Thank you for your help.

    Jacira

    • Hi Jacira,

      Technically, a Honda Cub in good condition could do the route, but it would be a massive strain on the bike and it would be very slow and noisy going up the steep hills, not to mention a little uncomfortable. So, if possible, I would try to arrange a different bike for the trip: any ‘normal’ bike is OK – Honda Wave etc.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  25. Giorgio says:

    Hi Tom,
    thank you so much for this amazing guide! Me and my girlfriend are planning a motorbike trip from Hanoi to Saigon, and i was wondering if you know a good place where to buy a motorbike and what i should check before to buy, as well as what kind of documents i need.
    Cheers!!

    • Hi Giorgio,

      For buying bikes I recommend using the trusted and reputable companies listed on my website, rather than just buying a bike from someone online. For example, you can buy your motorbike from Rent a Bike Vietnam, Tigit Motorbikes, or Style Motorbikes in Hanoi and then return it to them in Saigon and they will guarantee buying it back. There are links to all three of those companies in the right sidebar and bottom of all my posts and pages. You can mention Vietnam Coracle if you like, they know me.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  26. Luke says:

    Hello,
    At first I would like to thank you for your blog and the work you put on.
    I plans to arrive in Vietnam at the beginning of January for 25 days (where I have an evening out on the 25th of the afternoon in Saigon)
    I plan to travel from Hanoi to Saigon with a classic route supplemented with halong bay (possibly shortened) and additionally when I get to Saigon on a trip to Phu Quac island (If I stay at least 5 days to fly (I assume 7 days))
    How do you think this is real assumption? Is it better to drive to Saigon and then sell motorbikes and take public transportation to the island?
    I think I’ll be driving every day
    what do You think about it?

    • Hi Luke,

      Yes, if you want to ride the Classic route and visit Halong Bay and go to Phu Quoc in 25 days then you will most probably be riding every day. I recommend flying between Saigon and Phu Quoc to save time – there are lots of flights every day and prices are quite low because of competition – try Vietjet and Jetstar.

      For Halong Bay it might be better just to do a day/night tour from Hanoi instead, then start your motorbike trip after that from Hanoi.

      I also recommend getting your motorbike from one of the reputable rental companies in Hanoi: Rent a Bike Vietnam, Tigit Motorbikes, and Style Motorbikes. If you do this you can give the bike back to them when you get to Saigon – it’s very convenient. There are links to all three rental companies in the right sidebar and bottom of all my pages.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Luke says:

        Thanks for the reply.
        This is a preliminary plan, I do not know if on the way will not be less in which I want to be longer.
        The idea of ​​Phu Quoc is an alternative if I arrived in Saigon 6-7 days before leaving for Vietnam. Then I would take a two day break for a full relaxation by drinking coconut water and mentioning a trip to Vietnam.

        In the first option I wanted to buy honde Win very much but after reading reviews many people advise and recommend to rent honda Detech 120 cc for about $ 200 per month (I was recommended to Style Motorbikes) . Like you write in Hanoi and give Ho Chi Min.
        I also wonder about the option of renting a second motor in Ho Chi Min and returning to the island.
        But it’s just such a supplement, as I will be 2-3 days free is the only way to see the delta of mekong.

        I am an active traveler, do not like long breaks. In addition, I take a tent to sleep sleepers if I had a night on the road.
        I wonder about the daily budget of about $ 20-25, for fuel, food, accommodation and possible repairs. Do you think it will be enough?

        After that your blog is such a mine of knowledge that probably somewhere on my questions is hidden answer

  27. VV says:

    Hey Tom,
    Thank you so much for this. This is really useful I am completely following your maps for the journey I am going to start in a couple of days. 😀
    However, I needed your opinions on one thing. What places/cities/routes would you recommend during about 500km journey between Dong Hoi and Hanoi for taking rest for a night or to break down the journey into a couple of shorter ones?
    Looking forward to hearing from you.
    VV

    • Hi VV,

      There are a few convenient places to break the journey between Dong Hoi and Hanoi. First of all, make sure you take the inland Ho Chi Minh Road and not the coastal Highway QL1A. On the Ho Chi Minh Road between Phong Nha and Hanoi there are many places to stay for a night and break the journey – take a look at sections 6, 7, and 8 of this guide for all the information you need.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  28. Cale says:

    Awesome blog Tom. This has been super helpful and really ignited my passion for the trip.

    I’ll only have about 13-14 days and am thinking of doing the Beach Bum route. Any suggestions on where I should focus my time and good places to stop for overnight?

    Many thanks!
    Cale

    • Hi Cale,

      The most impressive stretch of coast on the Beach Bum route is between Saigon-Phan Thiet-Phan Rang-Cam Ranh-Nha Trang-Quy Nhon. These are all connected by fabulous ocean roads passing great beaches. Click on the relevant map markers on my Beach Bum route map and then click the links to my details guides to those sections of the route.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Cale says:

        Thanks for your quick reply Tom!

        If I were trying to do the Beach Bum route in 2 weeks, how far would be realistic and best to travel each day? Do you have any suggestions on what towns I should stop in for overnight, or any that I should stay in for a day or two?

        Many thanks!

        • Hi Cale,

          How far you travel each day depends on your motorbiking experience and how much you want/need to stop or rest along the way. In general, the roads are all pretty good on the Beach Bum route so you should easily cover 100-150km per day with lots of time to stop and swim and sight-see etc. Any distance between 200-350km is quite a long (and tiring) distance to cover in a day.

          For interesting destinations to stop along the way take a look at the links to my detailed guides to the sections of road that I mentioned in my previous comment – there’s lots of information in those guides about all the ocean road between Saigon and Nha Trang in particular.

          Tom

          • Cale says:

            Wow, now that I click on the details, I see how awesome your site really is!

            My travel plans have changes a little and now I only have 8 days in Vietnam. I am thinking I will ride either from Hanoi –> Da Nang or HCM –> Da Nang and am deciding between the two. I am wondering which of these two options you would suggest for someone visiting Vietnam for the first time? I am leaning towards Hanoi –> Da Nang because the Limestone Loop looks spectacular.

            Thanks again!

            • Hi Cale,

              It depends what time of year you are planning to travel and if you prefer mountains or beaches: If you are travelling between October and February you may find that the route from Hanoi to Danang is subject to bad weather, but Danang to Saigon the weather should be better; and if you prefer mountains then Hanoi to Danang is better, but if you prefer beaches then Danang to Saigon is better.

              I hope this helps,

              Tom

  29. 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
    Charlotte

    • 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,

      Tom

  30. 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.

    Cheers!

    Quinten

    • 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,

      Tom

  31. 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!

    Emanuel

    • 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,

      Tom

  32. 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!
    Rike

    • 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,

      Tom

      • 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,

          Tom

  33. 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!

    Jason

    • 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,

      Tom

  34. Dan says:

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

  35. 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.

    https://goo.gl/maps/t4CLaEHzKu32 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.

      Tom

  36. 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

  37. dust7878 says:

    Hi,

    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?

    Thanks,
    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,

      Tom

      • dust7878 says:

        Thanks!

        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?

        Cheers!

        • 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.

          Tom

  38. 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!

    Peace,
    Cezar

    • 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 🙂

      Tom

      • 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 https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Toan+Thu+Hotel/@19.3229696,105.4329475,18z/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.

        Peace,
        Cezar

        • 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,

          Tom

  39. Chops says:

    Tom,

    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:
    Hanoi
    Dong Hoi
    Hue
    Hoi An
    Quy Nhon
    Nha Trang
    Da Lat
    Mui Ne
    Saigon
    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,
    C

    • 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,

      Tom

  40. 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.
    Adam

    • 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.

      Tom

      • 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,
        Cheers
        Adam

  41. 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,

      Tom

      • 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?

        C

        • 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.

          Tom

          • 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

            http://www.ny.aaa.com/~/media/NEW/PDFs/Travel/IDPApplication.ashx

            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.

              Tom

  42. 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,

      Tom

  43. 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

  44. 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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  46. 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

  47. 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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  49. 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

      • 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! 😀

        • 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 maps.me and then you should be able to follow them with gps.

          I hope this helps,

          Tom

          • Martin Gerstmann says:

            Ouh!

            That sounds good cause i used maps.me 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/Maps.me 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? 😀

            Greetz from Japan, acutally Im German but who cares 😛
            Martin

  50. 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. 🙂

  51. 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?

    • Hi Dave,

      Don’t worry, you’ll still get lost sometimes! 🙂 Nothing ever goes 100% according to plan on Vietnam road trips, but as you rightly say, that is all part of the fun.

      Yes, I live in Vietnam. There’s a bit more about me on my About Page.

      Tom

  52. 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!

  53. 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

  54. 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

  55. 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

  56. 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

  57. 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

  58. 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

  59. Felix says:

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

  60. 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

  61. 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

  62. 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

  63. 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

  64. 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

  65. 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

  66. 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

  67. 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 😉

  68. 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

  69. 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 🙂

  70. 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

  71. 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

  72. 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

  73. 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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