Before I begin this article, I want to make it clear that I recommend every single one of you to get on a motorcycle at least a few times throughout your trip in Vietnam. Going to Vietnam without doing so shall be considered nothing less than blasphemy. Now that that is out of the way, let’s get started!
Cost of Motorcycling in Vietnam
If you have friends that traveled to Vietnam, then there is a strong chance you heard their crazy stories about how they biked their way across Vietnam. I know I have! And the story usually goes something like this.
“OMG man biking through Vietnam was the most incredible thing ever! I saw some crazy landscapes, had wonderful experiences with locals, and nearly killed myself a few times. Still though, if there’s one thing I’d recommend it’s that you get a Honda Win for 200-250 as soon as you get to Vietnam and motorcycle your way through the country. By doing so you will save loads of money on transportation and be more free to choose your trajectory!”
Sound familiar? Well if not, then it’s definitely for the best! And if you have, please take a moment to read this article before making this impulsive decision that may put a much larger dent in your budget than you expected. I had a dream. A dream of motorcycling through Vietnam to new unexplored lands, living as free as the wind. But these dreams were quickly extinguished by the harsh reality of the Honda Win. I thought it would be the most fun and cost-effective way, but learned quite the opposite.
Unless you are an avid motorcyclist who understands motorcycles, and has experience riding them, I would not recommend buying a shitty Honda Win. Why? Because although the costs of individual parts are not expensive, various costs related to upkeep, replacements, and resale value accumulate like crazy.
Before I go in more detail on my experiences with these motorcycles, I want to provide a list of accurate costs of motorcycling in Vietnam.
Alt Ways note: I want to make it as clear as possible that I am not telling you not to motorcycle. You can always rent motorcycles for $5-10 a day for daily excursions, or pay a lump sum to motorcycle between different cities (such as Hoi An to Hue for $40 and they carry your bags from one city to the other for you). What I am saying is that you should beware and do thorough research before buying a Honda Win or any other bad quality motorcycle.
Monetary Cost of Motorcycling in Vietnam
These costs come from first hand experience of over 5 different travellers. Keep in mind that these are Vietnamese prices, and therefore often times you will be charged (or they at least will try to charge you) more. The one time I had a flat tire they would not accept to charge me less than 300 000 ($15 US), while the right price is between $5 and $7 US.
Cost of motorcycle parts (kd = thousand dong) (dollars in US)
-Back tire: 300 Kd ($15)
-Back air chamber: 100kd ($5)
-Front brake: 80 kd ($4)
-Oil pump: 300 kd ($15)
-Piston bloc: 700kd ($35)
-Air filter: 50kd ($2.5)
-Footrest: 40kd ($2)
-Luggage rack: 40 kd ($2)
-Chain Kit: 300 kd ($15)
-Replace lost key: 140kd ($7)
-Change full key hole: 380,000 – 450,000 depending on model ($19-$22.5)
-Oil change should cost between 80 to 100kd (every 500 km)
-Each welding should cost 10 kd (50 cents)
-Tending the chain is 10 kd (50 cents)
Recurring costs throughout the trip
Certain costs are to be expected to keep your motorbike running during your trip.
Oil change – $2-5 US (40,000 – 100,000 Dong) – Every 500 KM you will need to do an oil change. There are over 3 000km between Ho Chi Minh and Saigon, so you can expect $10-$30 US right there.
Gas – $3-4 per full tank (60,000 – 90,000 Dong) – A full tank will last you on average about 150km if you are really using up every bit of fuel you have left.
Air Pressure – Should be free but sometimes they make you pay 50 cents or $1 (10,000 – 20,000 Dong).
Lost investment cost – all in US dollar
When you buy your used motorcycle from other tourists or garage shops you can expect to pay anywhere from $150 (unprobable) to $250 (probable). Tourists are often desperate to sell their motorcycles as they are leaving in less than a week and don’t want to lose their initial investment. Note that if they sell it a garage they will get $130-140 so keep that in mind when negotiating.
When you sell you used motorcycle to other tourists or garage shops you can expect to receive $130 (probable) – $250 (unprobable). You will be desperate to sell it before you go, so odds are that you will either sell it to a tourist for around $200, or at a garage shop for $130-140.
So, let’s say you manage to buy it for $180, and resell it for $140 (this is a realistic scenario) you will have paid $40 for the motorcycle for a month. Not bad by itself, but with all the other costs and pains you will see that it’s a pretty high cost compared to an open bus ticket (which is $40).
There is another great in-depth guide about the economic costs of motorcycling through Vietnam by Vietnam Oracle that I would recommend if you still looking for more information!
Physical Costs of Motorcycling in Vietnam
There are various physical downers to riding across all of Vietnam, many of which you don’t think about before first getting on a motorcycle.
Asscheeks on fire – Trust me, in 40 degree humid weather, when you are on a motorcycle for more than 2-3 hours in a row you will be in pain. I am sure this goes away with time, but wow is it painful your first few times!
Burn mark on inside of right leg – Unless if you are a seasoned professional, you probably will not remember that there is a crazy hot exhaust chamber made of metal that heats up during your entire trip on the right side of your motorcycle. So, you can expect to forget at least once and have a reminder for the rest of your trip, and most likely a scar to remember for the rest of your life. Note, sometimes it’s on the outside of your left leg because you touch your partner’s exhaust instead LOLS.
Severe injuries – Not to scare anyone, but I met a local who told me he once saw someone’s brain fly out. Pretty messed eh?! Now I am not saying this will happen to you, it will most likely not… hopefully… but please note that the larger the vehicle, the more ‘rights’ it has on the road. It will not stop for you even if it means it will hit you. I can’t stress this enough. Couple this with windy thin mountainous roads that sometimes have potholes and sand on them, and you have yourself a great accident-prone environment, in a country where you will probably have to be evacuated if you mess up bad enough (I met a traveler who had a friend evacuated, this cost her over 15K not covered by her travel insurance). After 6 hours of consecutive driving when you are getting tired and emotionally drained, and it is getting dark outside so you are in a hurry, not to sound pessimistic but odds are against you.
Mental strain – Your phone is dead and you just got a flat tire, 15K from the closest village in any direction (which is often straight or back). Do you walk the walk, or try to stop people in the street so they can help you? Mission time!! Good luck!!
Here is another great one, which actually happened to me. I will eventually write the full story in a separate article, but for now here is the synopsis! Let’s say you lost your keys to your motorbike. Trust me, you DO NOT want this to happen when you are renting out a bike like we did. We were at the My Son Temple an hour away from Hoi An, and lost the keys during our visit within these wonderfully beautiful ruins. After 3 hours looking for the keys, we realized that we probably wouldn’t find them and a guard offered we call a garage man to jump start the motorcycle. This was no easy feat. He had to take the front end apart pretty much entirely, cut the wires connected to the key hole, and rewire it so that it would start without a key. But little did we know that it would not turn off anymore!! Jokes on us! So on our way back, we couldn’t get gas, and the fuel needle was near empty the first half, and way past empty the second half. As if this weren’t enough, 10k from our destination, the second cell phone went out of battery (our gps) and we got a flat tire, which also couldn’t be repaired as the motorcycle would not stop hahaha. I laugh today, but riding those 10k on a flat tire without gps on a motorcycle that was pretty much out of gas at night in a foreign country with locals honking and pointing at your tire to let you know you have a flat tire is what I call a messed up alternative experience. But those are the ones that build us and make us stronger!!
Alternative Options compared to costs of motorcycling in Vietnam
There are other alternatives that allow you to move across the country.
Open Bus Tour – Open Bus Tickets allow you to jump on and off the sleeper buses across the country for a month (or more as there are no dates on the tickets so no way for them to know its been a month or not).
Local Buses – As you are a foreigner it will probably end up costing you the same amount to take different company buses each time, but this does allow you to choose where you are going next.
Hitchhiking – You can totally hitchhike from place to place, but don’t expect it to be easy as there are very few autonomous vehicles, most of them being buses which will not stop to pick you up for free. If you pack light enough you could probably get a local to let you hop on his or her motorbike with you! If you are with a partner,
I wouldn’t recommend this option in Vietnam. If you do want a trip full of hitchhiking, I strongly recommend going to central america as we had a blast hitchhiking our way across 6 countries!
Summary of costs of motorcycling in Vietnam
So let’s do a little math. Assuming you are going on a 1 month trip across Vietnam, here are the costs you can expect. This assumes you have a 30 day trip, and averages out the amount of small, medium, and large expenses you will probably incur with your motorbike.
|Costs||Buy Motorcycle||Rent Motorcycle|
|10 Small breakdowns||$15||$0|
|4 Medium breakdowns||$30||$0|
|1-2 Large breakdowns||$40||$0|
|Gas, Oil, & Tending chain||$50||$10|
|10 Days Rental Cost||$0||$70|
|Open Bus Ticket||$0||$40|
They say there is nothing worth more than freedom, so, considering all this, will you choose to buy a motorcycle and hope for the best, or simply rent from time to time to get your thrill without all the hassle that come with the naive ownership of one? Please let me know in the comments!!
Funny Story – How I Bought and Sold a motorcycle in 24 hours, in my first 24 hours
Funny Story – The most stressful 30k of my life – My Son Temple to Hoi An
The Alternative Ways aims to become the #1 guide to alternative travel experiences. What’s Alternative Travel? Traveling becomes alternative as soon as you leave your comfort zone and experience awesomeness. Our mission is to give you the necessary tools and inspiration to step out of this comfort zone and travel, so you may find your true way. Please comment on your experience motorcycling through Vietnam! If you enjoyed this article I invite you to like my page on Facebook and subscribe to my monthly newsletter.
The Alternative Ways
Yuuuup totally experienced some of these costs! I still want to motorbike around SE Asia, but not sure if I’ll buy or stick to renting. Thanks for your insights! 🙂