Vietnam is perfect country for a motorbike tour
Buying a motorcycle in Vietnam
Renting a motorbike, scooter in Vietnam
How to ride safe in Vietnam without an experience
Join an awesome one-day motorbike tour
Step 1: Observe the road and master being a pedestrian
I hope that this comes as no surprise, but if you can’t figure out when its safe to cross the road, or in Vietnam simply how to cross the road, then you really shouldn’t be riding a powerful and dangerous machine around. So, it’s only logical that this is the first step to nail before learning to ride a motorbike in Vietnam. Elsewhere in the world this is somewhat simpler but with Vietnam being a nation of unruly, motorbike packed roads, this is essential.
The roads in southern Vietnam are generally wider (thanks French colonization) than they are in the north, but both should be tackled in the same way.
How to cross the street in Vietnam
Check the traffic before you step out onto the street (you don’t want to jump straight into the path of a zooming bike), then generally speaking, continue to cross the street regardless of on-coming motorbikes. This is where most people panic but it is okay, we promise. The safest way to cross the street is to walk slowly and at a steady pace. If you rush or walk at an inconsistent pace (read: panic) then oncoming motorists can’t accurately judge to avoid you.
Of course, always cross at traffic lights or zebra crossings when possible. Yes, despite the crazy roads there are actually designated crossing areas! But they aren’t without their challenges either – at traffic lights almost all but the right hand turning traffic will cease, so you still have to have your wits about you when crossing (oh Vietnam you are confusing, right?). Zebra crossings don’t mean that traffic will stop, but they are a designated area for pedestrians to cross which means that oncoming traffic will be more aware of the potential for people to be on the road. If you find yourself worried that you won’t be spotted by oncoming traffic, then do as the locals do and raise a hand up in the air like a beacon.
Just be consistent in your walking pace and you wil
Once you have figured out how to cross the road, it’s time to get on the back of a motorbike and experience being in the thick of it. Yikes I hear you say (and if you aren’t then its most likely because you haven’t seen rush hour in Vietnam first hand).
Motorbike taxis, in Vietnamese called “xe ôm”, can be found relatively easily. Look out for men lounging on bikes at junctions and street corners – more often than not they are drivers waiting for passengers.
Use Uber or Grab motorbike taxis
If you’re not comfortable with just hopping on a strangers bike (as a young female I definitely am not) then fear-not as there are other options for getting a motorbike taxi in Vietnam. It amazed all my friends back home to find out that Uber is uuuber popular in Vietnam (see what I did there) and of course they’ve adapted to their market. As a result, Uber offers both car and motorbike travel options! Upon opening the app, you can just swipe along to the motorbike options.
But Uber isn’t the only app offering motorbike taxis. Asia has its very own Uber equivalent called Grab. The app works in a similar way, but where Uber offers a price estimation and the final total is determined upon arrival (route dependent pricing), Grab offer a set fare for your journey based upon the time of day and current traffic. Grab is often cheaper for short distances, and Uber cheaper for longer distance. Download them both and try them out. Aside from giving you a chance to get used to being on the back of a motorbike, they’ll definitely be of use if a monsoon starts thundering down!
Whilst on the back of a motorbike you’ll feel yourself starting to get more comfortable and able to read the traffic. Imagine you were driving yourself and pay close attention, deciding when you would go and looking out for hazards. You’ll find that in no time you are itching to be in control of the bike yourself (especially if you find yourself riding with a driver who has no sense of direction).