Operation: Vietnam Road Trip

Ever since I watched the Top Gear “Vietnam” special back in December 2008 – I’ve wanted to buy a motorbike and do a Vietnam Road Trip.

Specifically -drive from Hanoi in the North to Saigon in the South.

Visiting Vietnam has also been on my list of must travel to countries for a long time prior to the Top Gear programme.

Now, obviously we aren’t going to be doing it in 10 days or trying to replicate the craziness that the lads did on the show.

We want to do the same route, and that’s it. Over a period of 28 days (Vietnam Visa time limit).

At Long Last!

Finally on Monday we fly to Hanoi from Vientiane here in Laos.

So what’s the plan for the month that we plan on being in Vietnam?


Ordinarily, I would have been doing some extensive research about most of the major details/problems that we may face while there.

However, we both felt that just turning up and “winging” it could provide a more rewarding experience overall.

Obviously there are some concerns with taking this approach(more about that later), but it will be an adventure.

Some Issues Along the way

So, there are a few concerns that will accompany both the lack of planning AND the trip itself(even if we had planned every step of it)

1. Safety

This is the greatest concern by far naturally.

While reading up different travel forums months and months before we even left Ireland, everyone was saying that doing a trip like this is nothing but madness.

I can understand why some people would be terrified to hop on a bike and drive around Vietnam – the traffic is mind boggling alone.

But those same people also said that same about driving around Thailand on a scooter.

Obviously you can’t control how others drive either in cars or motorbikes, but as long as we take our time and do all we can to minimize any risks on our side – then what else can be done realistically?

I don’t drive fast, we take our time and we always wear our helmets.

I think the ones who are most afraid of the idea of driving in Vietnam are the ones who either don’t drive in their own country, or either haven’t driven a scooter or motorbike before.

2. Lack of Manual Motorbike Experience

While I’ve driven on scooters plenty of times in Thailand and other countries before – they’ve all been “automatic”.

The type of motorbike I’m looking to buy in Hanoi is probably going to be a Honda Win.

More importantly, it’s going to be a manual operated bike as we were told for a trip like this – the manual operated bike would be more suited to the job in question.

I’ve never even driven a manual motorbike before.

While it won’t be rocket science to get the hang of, it will take a day or two to “unlearn” my scootering skills that I’ve developed over the past 7 months of shamming around Thailand. ๐Ÿ™‚

3. Internet Connection

Ahhh yes, there’s the good old WiFi necessity sticking its head up again.

This is actually another concern for us now that we run a few businesses online.

While we plan on having mobile internet on our phones, we still would need to have a stable connection in order to do our emails etc.

Going without a connection for a few days isn’t really an option at this stage of our online development.

4. Getting Lost

This is 100% going to happen – multiple times over the trip.

There is just no point in thinking that things will run smootly.

They won’t. As I said above, we plan on having 3G internet and using Google maps to help us navigate around.

5. Break downs

Another certainty.

The good thing about driving on a Honda scooter or motorbike in Vietnam is that there are literally a plethora of garages everything with a Honda sign outside.

Everyone that recommended the trip said that if you break down on the road – night or day that there will be plenty of locals who will help sort you out with the nearest “mechanic”.

Flat tires, lights not working, running out of fuel and bits falling off the bike are all going to be part of the daily routine I suspect.

6. Space

Since Florence won’t be driving her own bike, she’ll be sitting behind me as the co-pilot for the trip.

Bearing this in mind, we had to ship back home half of our clothes and other items before we left Chiang Mai and just take 1 backpack and 1 day pack with us for the rest of the trip.

So the set up for the bike is going to be me, Florence, 1 backpack, 1 day bag.

There can be all sorts of additional racks and extensions welded onto the back of the bike so this isn’t too big of a concern for us.

7. Route

Again, this concern relates back to not having done much planning etc. We want to get to Saigon(or Ho Chi Minh City if you prefer).

That’s a rough distance of 2,000 km.

In between Hanoi and there, we really don’t have any idea of where we are going to stop etc.

I suppose that’s all part of the fun though.

8. Driving Illegally

It’s now mandatory that in order to drive in Vietnam – you need a valid Vietnamese licence.

This has also become common place in Thailand as well – which obviously makes sense.

But since my own drivers licence expired back in September, and I can’t get it renewed until I return, I’m therefore unable to apply for a Vietnamese licence.

So if we’re stopped on the bike by the cops – it’s a fine OR a bribe – whichever is the cheaper of the two ๐Ÿ˜‰


With those few concerns out of the way, all that’s left to say is that we are mad excited at the prospect of exploring Vietnam by motorbike.

The GoPro has really come into its own the past few weeks and has being getting quite a lot of action.

That coupled with the D7100 SLR will provide some quality footage of the trip hopefully.

Ideally, we want to take enough footage every day and then at the end put together a nice little video montage lasting about 3 – 5 minutes.

After we finish in Vietnam, we’ll be hopping over the border into Cambodia for about another month there.

Next Stop – Hanoi, Vietnam!

Vietnam Road Trip