If you are planning a cycling tour of Vietnam, then here is some tips and advice from me, based on 3 long cycling tours of Vietnam, during the past 13 years, as well as several smaller cycling trips around the country. I will never get tired of cycling Vietnam.
Are the roads in Vietnam good for cycling?
Vietnamese school girls cycling.
The roads of Vietnam has many bicycles and because of that the cars, trucks and busses are used to having bikes next to them and that is a good start. There is usually a fairly nice shoulder on the vietnamese roads for soft traffic, making cycling there quite good. Traffic is often quite congested though, so it’s often not a good place to cycle fast, but if you are happy rolling down the road slowly, like I am then you should be quite happy there. Some people who have cycled Vietnam a few years ago might tell you that the busses and trucks are speeding like crazy and making it dangerous for cyclists, and that used to be true, but in recent years the maximum speed allowed for vehicles in Vietnam has been cut down a lot and traffic today runs very slow compared to other countries, but there are hardly any traffic jams as it’s mostly scooter traffic you have there and not big cars.
Is cycling Vietnam safe?
In the past, Vietnam was a risky place to cycle, but since they started regulating the traffic speed on the vietnamese roads, it has become a very nice place for tour cycling in my opinion. You just need to get used to the high number of scooters around you, but they are not driving aggressive in Vietnam and even if you literally have millions of scooters on the roads of Vietnam, I do not really find them a pain in the ass, cause they are mostly very well behaved, compared to most other countries in Southeast Asia and the rest of the world for that matter.
Beautiful vietnamese traffic police girl.
What about accommodation along the road?
The entrance to a typical vietnamese budget hotel.
I have found Vietnam to be one of the easiest countries in Asia to find accomodation along the road, as long as you are happy to pay 8-10 dollars for a simple room. Small private hotels are popping up all over the place in Vietnam as long as there is a main road. It’s usually just a regular narrow 3 story house, like the ones most vietnamese families have, where they rent 3-4 rooms out on one floor, but they are very efficient and I find them great value. The reception area is always on the ground floor, with space to drive you bicycle, scooter or car in to the reception area and park it there for the night.
What about getting spare parts for your bicycle in Vietnam?
Roadside bicycle mechanic in Vietnam.
On my first cycling trip to Vietnam in 2002 it was a real pain to get spare parts in Vietnam, or buy a proper bike for that matter. These days things have changed quite a bit and as long as you are in a town of reasonable size then you will have at least one shop that sells decent quality bikes, usually from Taiwan (who makes very good quality bikes) and they will have spare parts for them too. In smaller towns you will most likely only have stores that sells cheap chinese or vietnamese produced bikes, but they will still be able to fix a flat tire or changes some spokes for you and they will do it for 1-2 dollars on most occasions.
Best and worst places I have cycled in Vietnam.
Vietnamese cyclist in the Mekong Delta.
The worst places to cycle in Vietnam is in my opinion on the big highway 1, that connects north and south. This is where you have the highest number of trucks and busses who are the single biggest pain in the ass when you cycle Vietnam. My favorite part of Vietnam for cycling is the Mekong Delta, where you have hundreds of small roads you can turn off to and get off the beaten track. Traffic there is less intense and people are super friendly.
And finally the very best thing about cycling Vietnam.
- Me and my bicycle in Vietnam.
Very often when I talk to people who have been to Vietnam like me, then they piss and moan about the vietnamese people, who they say are unfriendly and always try to rip them off. I can assure you that this is very unlikely to happen when you travel by bicycle, cause you get off the trodden tourist and backpacker trail and when you do that in Vietnam, you will find some of the most open and friendly people you will come along in Asia. It’s mostly backpackers who hate the vietnamese, but they also act like pack animals in Vietnam and all travel the same route and stay in the same hostels and don’t really meet other vietnamese than those who serve them food and drink and sell them things. And these vietnamese often just look at backpackers as a bunch of cheap charlies who won’t pay the real cost of things and vietnamese do not have the same facade as thais for instance, who will often smile and say think you even if they think you are a total idiot. Vietnamese are much more direct in this matter, but I think this is great as it makes it easier to create lasting friendships with vietnamese than with most other nationalities in the region, in my opinion.
On the road in Vietnam.
And put on top of that, that Vietnam has some of the best and healthiest food on the planet and you can maybe understand why I love cycling Vietnam and why I have been to the country 26 times so far.