What motorcycle to buy in Vietnam

Vietnam truly is a motorcycle paradise and in some of its biggest cities the number of registered motorcycles actually exceeds the number of households. And as it is – for this particular reason – becoming more and more popular destination among travelers, there is now an entire motorcycle market where travelers buy and sell.

That makes the trip much easier. You could save a couple of dollars if you bought a bike from local people but you would have to spend so much more time to find a good one and might have a difficulty with the language as well. Getting a motorcycle from a fellow traveler actually works pretty well and in some places is only a matter of hours.

There are several kinds of bikes that travelers use. Let’s have a look at what you can and actually should buy.

A manual old rusty motorcycle

In Vietnam, the word “backpacker” sometimes seems to be a synonym for Honda Win. With price tag around $250, it is usually a #1 choice for travelers and there is a reason for it.

This motorcycle was produced around 2007 as a copy of a real 70’s Honda and was quite popular among farmers around the entire country. And while nowadays local people use them less and less, spare parts are widely available literally anywhere in Vietnam and everybody knows how to repair them. Having big wheels and enough space to attach a backpack, this amazing motorcycle has taken — despite reputation — thousands of travelers around this wonderful country.

My Honda Win in Ha Giang province. Big enough to carry two people and all their stuff, powerful enough to get us to the most remote region of Vietnam.

And as I have previously owned two different Honda Wins, I can definitely recommend this machine as well.

Espero Detech

In 2017, backpacker areas in Vietnam started filling with upgraded Honda Wins usually named Espero Detech. While the construction remains the same, instead of buying a ten year old machine, you can now buy a brand new or just slightly used manual motorcycle for $400 to $600.

Semi-automatic Bikes and Scooters

Overwhelming majority of Vietnamese people use scooters. Without the need of shifting, it is a very comfortable mean of transport into city traffic jams and trips to the local beach. Some travelers use scooters as well and eventually ride them across entire country.

Unfortunately, scooter is a very useful machine only up to some degree and using it for a trip across entire country is something I do not recommend. Not only wheels on scooters are usually smaller so you might get in trouble on some roads, since the engine lacks shifting, going to steep hills will become a problem too. And if you have a breakdown, all repairs will take much longer since it is necessary to remove all those plastic covers first.

I understand it might be quite tempting to stay in your comfort zone and buy a scooter with an automatic transmission, I have been there too. But believe me, your trip will never be as fulfilling as if you buy a real motorcycle. As it might sound strange, Vietnam is one of the best places to learn an entirely new skill – to ride a manual motorcycle. An entirely new skill you will take home with you for ever.

Keep reading to learn where and how to actually buy the motorcycle.