Want to ride a motorbike along the whole length of Vietnam as an adventurous traveler, or take a short trip inside the city? Don’t wait anymore! Read this article carefully and get ready for your road trip. We will guide you through buying and renting motorbikes in Saigon.
Benefits of Having a Motorbike in Saigon
As you may know, the motorbike is the main form of transportation in Vietnam, especially in Saigon where you will see millions of motorbikes flowing organically in the streets. Upon your first step in this country, you will more than likely feel overwhelmed by the motorbikes but their sounds and unique ways become familiar as you spend more and more time here.
Public transportation does exist in Saigon, but it’s not typically in good condition and it’s often without English instructions (except for a few buses). Taxis are more expensive and sometimes you need to bargain as well. Moreover, sitting in a bus or taxi and getting stuck in traffic for long hours is really uncomfortable.
That’s why having a motorbike is the best way to get around Saigon, but I only recommend it to people good at riding motorbikes. Save money, be flexible in time, go to every corner of Saigon’s small alleys, or go on a road trip to the outskirts of Saigon. There are so many benefits to having a motorbike in this vast and great city.
Motorbike Rental Procedures
For motorbike rental, there are different procedures depending on the rental shop and the length of the rental. If you stay in a hotel and rent a motorbike from the hotel for a few days, the hotel will not require a deposit. If you rent directly from a rental shop, you need to give your passport to the owner until you return the motorbike or deposit an amount of money (from 1.5 million VND to 3 million VND). Leaving a passport with a shop while you travel the whole country is not ideal, so an alternative can be suggested. Often rental shops will accept a different form of valid identification or even a copy of the passport.
The rental shop will give you the blue registration card for the motorbike if you buy this motorbike. The blue card is enough evidence in Vietnam to prove ownership. However, the name cannot be changed on this card. If the blue card is lost, it can not be replaced. So take special care of it.
Things to Check When Renting and Buying a Motorbike
You must first decide which kind of motorbike to rent: automatic or manual. Automatic motorbikes are easy to use, for both experts and amateurs alike. Manual motorbikes are a little bit more complicated and require a higher level of motorbike and traffic awareness. However, it is fuel-efficient, and suitable for steep mountain passes and roads because these bikes typically have more powerful engines. Therefore, the auto motorbike is good for riding around the city, on the smooth and flat road, whereas manual motorbikes are ideal for conquering mountain roads and long road trips.
You must check the motorbike before renting. Ask the owner for a trial run. Then, check whether the breaks (handbrake, footbrake), lights, indicators, horn, wheels, and tires are in good condition. At least one wing mirror is required by Vietnam law. Take a video in front of the owner of the bike, this way when you return, you can’t get charged for scratches that were already on the bike.
Some owners will fill the gas tank, but most leave it empty. Therefore, you should ask them about the gas before renting. The rental price with a full gas tank is more expensive, and the difference is around 50,000 VND. If the gas tank is empty, ask the owner for the nearest gas station to fill up the tank before riding anywhere else. It usually takes around 50,000 – 70,000 VND for a full gas tank, depending on the bike.
If the motorbike is having problems, do not bring it into a random bike mechanic. Call the owners and they will fix it for you. If not, you will responsible for any damage to the motorbike because mechanics that are not trusted by your renter can replace parts with bad accessories, which makes the motorbike fall apart farther down the road.
Make sure there is a parking lot to park your motorbike or store security to watch over it. Some motorbikes even have a steer column lock. You don’t want your motorbike to disappear right? In addition, security guards will protect the motorbike but they will not look out for helmets or other accessories. Therefore, bring valuable things with you when you leave your motorbike, leave your helmet inside the seat, or lock the helmet to the bike. If you have a nice full-face helmet, definitely take it with you as these are more valuable and are often stolen.
You must be even more careful checking your bike before purchase. If something like the horn or wheel is not functioning, try to negotiate down the price. You can even have the bike checked by a mechanic to ensure that it’s in good shape. However, after you buy the motorbike, spend the money to maintain the bike. Changing the oil every 1,000 kilometers keeps the motorbike working properly. Bring an extra tire tube with you to make sure that no motorbike mechanic charges you too much for a flat. Other things that can wrong with a motorbike to keep in mind: old battery failure, spark plug burn-out, no electric start, lights out, no horn, a new key that does not fit perfectly. Be cognizant of your bike’s problems and continually monitor what can go wrong. Older bikes typically have more problems but they are cheaper.
If you want a bike for a long adventure through Vietnam, the best places to look are expat Facebook pages. Here you will encounter many overpriced Honda Wins and other descent bikes. You will often message somebody selling their bike and meet them to check it out. I suggest bringing a friend with you, that way one person can take the bike for a test drive while the other person stays and chats. This ensures that the buyer feels comfortable that you won’t run off with the bike. Make sure you really ask every question about the bike, check it over thoroughly, ask about trips they have had on the bike.
If you are buying from a Vietnamese local, make sure you have the capability of translating. Some things are very difficult to communicate and you don’t want to miss anything. To also ensure your satisfaction, have a price in your head that is the absolute maximum. Negotiate from this price down, pointing out the flaws and greeting the seller with a smile. Another easy way to buy a bike is to rent first, then negotiate a sell if you truly like the bike. Many rental shops will sell their bikes for a fair price.
Pro Tip: Honda Nouvo bikes are often rented or being sold, these bikes, regardless of model, all have very similar keys. This means that somebody can steal your bike very easily. There are key makers all over Saigon and other cities that can make keys that work enough in any Nouvo bike.
Traffic Laws and Things to Know
Saigon is famous for its crazy traffic, so you should be extremely careful when riding here on your first day. My best advice is to actually take a motorbike or Grab bike taxi to experience the traffic on the back of a bike with an experienced driver first. You will get used to it after a few days. But here are a few tips and things to be aware of on the road.
Always wear a helmet when riding, and there can only be two people on a motorbike. People drive on the right side of the road in Vietnam, so keep this in mind if you grew up driving on the left. Notice that there are specific road signs that indicate whether a lane is for a motorbike or car.
Beeping is important to let people know where you are. Beeping in Vietnam is not considered rude, so don’t worry when you hear beeping, it’s only an indication of location. Turn on your turn indicators when you want to make a turn through traffic, like in any country. The best way to make a turn through heavy traffic is to wait for more motorists to join you, then all go at once. Traffic stops for you. Maybe motorists won’t even stop for you, but be confident and keep driving. As long as you go slow, you can thread your way through traffic, usually, motorists are very aware and swerve around you. Motorists sometimes don’t stop at traffic lights, but ignore them and follow the rules for your own safety. You will even see drivers driving on the wrong side of the road, most people do this out of convenience, simply be aware and have your head on a constant swivel.
Like in every country, do not drink alcohol when anticipating riding a motorbike, although one beer is acceptable. Police will catch and fine those who drink too much alcohol.
According to Vietnam law, people who ride motorbikes with an engine capacity under 50cc don’t need to have a driving license. Therefore, you can choose this kind of motorbike if you want to get around the law but you do need an international license when driving all other motorbikes.
Finally, make sure you have travel insurance when traveling to Vietnam. It’s better safe than sorry and bills can soar without it, in case something happens on the road.
Read More: How to Win at the Game of Saigon Traffic
Long Trips Tips and Tricks
If you plan to travel from the south to the north of Vietnam by motorbike, keep in mind these tips and tricks before you leave.
Rent a high-quality helmet, which covers your full face and has a windshield. There is a lot of dirt on the road so a helmet with an eye shield is ideal. Buy protective clothes such as gloves, knee and elbow wraps, reflective cloth, and first aid kit to protect yourself as much as possible on the road. Prepare a waterproof bag to store your passport, the registration card of the motorbike, and other important papers. A rain suit is also necessary because the weather in the north, center, and south of Vietnam is different. You need to check the weather before you go and prepare appropriate warm clothes. When the wind is on your skin, it can feel way colder.
Keep a safe distance between the motorbike and the car in front of you, especially on the mountain road. Beep before you drive through a blind bend, in case there is another motorbike or car coming from the opposite direction. Stop at the gas station, or drink stall after one to two hours driving, so both you and the motorbike can have a break.
Reliable Motorbike Shops
The rental price per day is around 80-150K VND for a manual motorbike, 150-250K VND for an auto motorbike, and more than 250K for the higher-grade motorbikes. If you rent for one month or more, the price will be lower. By the way, two helmets should always be included in the price.
The purchase price varies, especially for foreigners, 6,5 million VND to 65 million VND (300 USD to 3,000 USD), depending on the old or new model, engine capacity, manual, or auto.
Some motorbike shops deliver the motorbike directly to the airport, train station, or your hotel, but some do not. The list below includes information on reliable motorbike shops in Saigon. You can find a good shop below and contact them before arriving in Saigon a few days in advance to arrange the delivery schedule.
Shops with Delivery Service
Address: B2-00.01 Sarimi, 72 Nguyen Co Thach Street, An Loi Dong Ward, District 2
Phone number: (+84) 128 875 8055
Address: 263 Nguyen Trong Tuyen Street, Ward 10, Phu Nhuan District
Phone number: (+84) 946 666 566
Vi Na Sat
Address: 19 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1
Phone number: +(84) 913 122 111
Shops without Delivery Service
Address: 368 Vo Van Kiet Street, District 1
Phone number: (+84)28 6683 3796
Saigon Scooter Centre
Address: 151 Luong Dinh Cua Street, An Phu Ward, District 2
Phone number: (+84) 903 013 690
Address: 182/5A De Tham Street, District 1
Phone number: (+84) 909 283 280
With this comprehensive guide to renting and buying motorbikes in Saigon, you can plan your motorbike trip now. Have a look at our other articles on Christina’s Blog to make your trip run smoothly with Best Time to Visit Saigon, Travel In and Around Saigon, and Saigon’s Best Off-the-Beaten-Path Locations.