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Old Sep 13, 18, 8:45 pm
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: EWR, SLC, SGN
Posts: 1,056
Originally Posted by CrazyInteg View Post
Phu Quoc is not bad for a beginner riding a scooter there.
Here are some general tips:
I echo the above, there is real risk of bad accidents or death if you drive in Vietnam.

That link is not so great, but they are correct Ninh Binh is a very nice area to rent and ride a motorbike. Lots of small roads and trails through the hills and countryside and rice fields. The Me Kong delta is also a nice place to ride. Da Lat and the mountains, and coastal areas around Phan Thiet/Mui Ne up through Da Nang are nice to ride, but a quite a bit more dangerous as the trucks plying the routes are careless about crossing the center line and overspeed quite often. If you can afford to go to a nicer place, you can get an off-road bike and go some really beautiful places around Da Lat and stay away from the main highway. Phu Quoc is nice, I rode for a week there and enjoyed it. But there are some reports that police are frequently out and pulling over tourists there. is a good app for driving, as you can see offline and the road size/type is more easily distinguishable than google maps. As an aside, the Angkor Wat area is also an excellent area to ride.

Here are my motorbike rules for tourists (a bit long, might make a wiki and put there in the future):
1. Be aware you will always be liable. An int'l driver's license is not enough here, you will still be liable in public opinion and in courts if you are involved in any accident.
2. There are traffic rules. Just because you don't understand them, does not mean they do not exist and that you can do anything you want.
3. The general rule is whoever is in front has the right of way.
4. Non-cars and motorbikes have some additional peculiarities. Trucks do what they want, buses also are likely to do as they please and have angry drivers sometimes, but will cede to trucks usually. Bicycles go slower and often are used by kids and children, and you're generally expected to go around them. They will not always look behind for traffic before turning or merging etc.
5. Motorbikes are required to stay on the right side, either in the right lane on multi-lane streets in the city, or on the edge of the road/highway on one-lane roads. Sometimes there will be a small two-meter-ish lane on the right for motorbikes.
6. Blinkers are required, even if the road turns and you are forced to turn as opposed to choosing to turn.
7. Flashing headlights or honking means that people want the right-of-way. Legally speaking, remember number 1 , you will be liable even if you had the right of way. Practically speaking, you do not have to allow them to go first. But if you do not it sometimes becomes a game of chicken at that point. A motorbike coming from behind you is not much of a threat in chicken. A dump-truck in front of you wanting to turn across your lane is a obviously a different matter.
8. The police are kind enough to let you pay your fine on-the-spot. Usual fines for foreigners are 200k, but if you have a bunch of 500's in your wallet you might be expected to give one or two of those. The old "I don't speak Vietnamese" is much much less likely to suffice nowadays, as many police speak English and are willing to use gestures.
9. Do not carry a nice camera around your neck while driving, or leave your bag just sitting on the motorbike between your legs. Motorbike thieves in the city will grab them, even at risk to tipping you over and causing an accident. Use something with a strap over your neck or shoulders for a bag. For cameras and phones keep them in the motorbike or in the bag and not visible.

Some discussion then on the above:

Re: 1 - The public believes any accident with a foreigner involved is the fault of the foreigner. You will get yelled at. And if serious the police will also hold you liable because unless you get a license here you are not legal to drive. The last fatal accident I recall the foreigner was long term here, and had to pay a fine of 30 or 40 thousand dollars and got deported, but did avoid jail time if I recall, which angered the public. Future cases might not be able to avoid jail time due to the outcry. If it's a small accident, there will be some theatrics and yelling or arguing, then they will propose a number you need to pay. It will probably not be extortion high, but will probably be a little higher than they need to fix the motorbike.

Re: 3 - If you're behind, then you have to be prepared to swerve and go around people. Being in front with the right of way, you can stop in the road, cross to turn left from the far right of 8-wide motorbike lanes full of traffic, turn for u-turns, etc. Vietnamese do not use the brakes as much, they swerve, so you need to be not "tailgaiting" and give some space, and be aware the person in front of you might swerve around someone stopped in the road in front of you and then you will have to swerve or run into them, or if you are back further you can brake. If you constant brake a lot, you run the risk of being hit from behind as people do not expect it.

Also, people will enter the road without looking because if they get in front of you, then you have to go around them. So if you're driving, do not drive on the far right of the road, as people approaching from your right side will not slow down or yield when turning, even on a red light. You are better off leaving some space to your right side for any motorbikes entering the road. The sweet spot is generally the middle of the right lane, so people speeding by on the left have room and people entering the road from the right without yielding have room.

About renting a motorbike: They call scooters motorbikes here when using English. Motorcyles are above 250cc. Some newer highways allow motorcycles but not motorbikes. Most you will see are 110cc to 135cc. Rental motorbikes are often lower quality. You have to leave an ID, usually a passport, and there is no contract as that link says unless you are at a more professional place that will rent motorcycles, or you're renting long term. For this reason it is often more comfortable for foreigners to rent from their hotels, as they have a copy of your passport already. I've left my passport without incident multiple times. Friends have said they don't have their passports and been able to leave their driver's license, but usually that option is just for locals. 150k to 200k for 24 hours is usually correct. You should ask where the closest gas station is, as it will often be nearly empty when you pick it up. 50-70k will usually fill the tank of a motorbike. Helmets are required for drivers and pillion riders. Be sure they fit before you leave, especially if you have a big noggin. Many are small. They are not good quality either, and are more for style and to not get pulled over than for safety. Thankfully safer full helmets are becoming more and more common here, but you will not find them for free with rentals. You can buy a cheapish full helmet for 30-45 dollars if you want, or some places do sell very nice helmets.

Last edited by maverick17; Sep 13, 18 at 8:56 pm
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