If you’re thinking of bike touring Vietnam, then we say, good for you, you adventurous soul! Vietnam is a spectacular destination, and travelling Vietnam by bike is the ideal way to get off the tourist trail. Bike touring Vietnam can be challenging though! Read on to find out if cycle touring Vietnam is right for you.
What’s in our guide to bike touring Vietnam?
1. Food & Drink in Vietnam
2. Accommodation & Camping in Vietnam
3. Vietnam Roads & Traffic
4. Dogs & Other Dangers in Vietnam
5. Cycle Touring Budget for Vietnam
6. Organized Bicycle Tours in Vietnam
We spent two years bike touring in 22 countries around the world, including Vietnam. Bike touring Vietnam is highly challenging, both physically and mentally, but also incredibly rewarding.
Our Vietnamese cycle tour took us from Vietnam’s northern border with China (where we cycled for 4 months), along the coast to world-famous Halong Bay and into Hanoi, one of our favourite Asian cities. From there, we went west, scaling the incredible heights of the Annamite Mountains, the most spectacular mountain pass we climbed in our 2-year tour.
We’ve also spent almost a year total in Vietnam, travelling in all sorts of ways.
On our bike tour in Vietnam, we loved:
- Finding our way along forgotten rice field trails
- Meeting local people who weren’t involved in the tourist industry
- Navigating our way through Vietnam’s strange and beautiful food culture
If you want to challenge yourself on a bike tour in Vietnam, here’s…
Everything you Need to Know Before Bike Touring Vietnam
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If you’re an omnivore and not squeamish about eating food that you can’t quite identify, Vietnamese food will easily fill your hungry cycle tourist belly.
In the cities and main tourist destinations, you can find huge bowls of noodle soup, fragrant stir fries, and all kinds of meat for just a few dollars a meal. Breakfast bahn mi are a great source of fuel for the road too, and usually cost 50 cents to a dollar.
Outside the cities, omnivores might find that lunch is weird bowl of noodles with god-knows-what inside, while dinner might not be much better. Dog meat is very common (look for the words Thịt chó on restaurant signs) and in certain areas, horse meat is also served. But hey, if you eat meat already, what’s the difference, right?
Vegans and vegetarians will have no problem getting fed in the big cities and tourist destinations.
For vegans, it’s almost impossible find food away from the cities, unless you speak perfect Vietnamese! Though tofu is very common, we still had to eat a lot of eggs while bike touring Vietnam because we couldn’t get any other protein.
We also had to compromise a few times and eat noodle soup that was clearly made with bone broth. As long as we weren’t shovelling hunks of meat into our mouths (which happened accidentally more than once), we felt lucky!
Good snacks are also a little hard to come by in the Vietnamese countryside. There are plenty of odd crisps and other packaged crap, but you’re better off stocking up on locally packaged nuts and dried fruits at roadside stalls when you see them!
Before we got to Asia, we sent all our camping equipment home. Though some cycle tourists do camp in Asia, we were more than happy to end up in a hotel or guest house each night.
For a start, it’s not easy to find a camping spot where the entire village will come out to greet you and have a chat in Vietnamese.
Fresh water is almost impossible to come by as well, so you’ll have to carry a lot of bottled water to you campsite. Also, it can be extremely hot and sticky in Vietnam, so it’s pretty wonderful to have a shower available at the end of the night.
Plus — and this is a big plus — accommodation in Vietnam is surprisingly high-quality and very inexpensive. For $10-15/night (or less depending where you are) you can get a clean, pleasant little hotel room with a private bathroom and breakfast included. Why would you want to camp?
We’re not gonna lie, traffic in Vietnam can be a total fucking nightmare. Sorry for the language, but you will also use that word a few times while you’re bike touring Vietam!
However, once you get used to the rhythm and rules of the road in Vietnam (which are entirely different than the rules in the west), it can be pretty fun!
We cycled all over Hanoi and loved the dodge ’ems style road crossings. Traffic moves really slowly, so it doesn’t feel as dangerous as you might think.
If this is your first cycle tour, well, frankly, you might want to work up to Vietnam. We had 10 months of cycling under our belts by the time we got there, so it’s hard to picture what the traffic might do to a newbie. Our friends at Going Slowly hated their Vietnam experience, so read their post to get a different perspective.
Outside of cities, roads are often isolated and empty. But, as with most countries, the two worst types of vehicles are trucks and tourist busses! Trucks are huge, lumbering, overfilled, and not too concerned for your safety. Tourists busses are too wide to move over and always in a rush.
The roads themselves are actually OK (better than, say, Lithuania), but you will have to be on your guard for potholes and random road debris.
Need some new bike touring gear? We use (and love!) these:
As we mentioned earlier, they eat dogs in Vietnam. This means that there aren’t a whole lot of strays wandering around to take a bite out of cycle tourists calves as they ride by! Silver linings, people.
Aside from traffic, Vietnam is an extremely safe country to travel in. We’ve spent the better part of a year there through our various travels and never once felt threatened or at risk in any way. You could probably leave your fully loaded bike unlocked just about anywhere and come back to find it surrounded with curious kids, but otherwise untouched.
Bike touring pro tip: Never leave your fully loaded bike unsupervised no matter how safe you feel!
Perhaps the greatest news about cycle touring in Vietnam is how freaking affordable it is! For a couple, you’re looking at $30/day if you’re conservative in your spending. Even if you’re not, you’ll find it a challenge to spend $50/day. There’s just nothing to spend your money on! Vietnam is the ideal destination for a budget-friendly bike tour.
If you prefer to go on a supported bike tour in Vietnam, we recommend checking out these tours.
Intrepid 15-Day Vietnam Bike Tour
This tour takes you from vibrant Hanoi, through rice fields, over mountain passes, and past spectacular beaches all the way to Hanoi. It will also allow you an insight into rural culture in Vietnam that you wouldn’t necessarily get on your own!
Grasshopper Adventures Highlands & Coast of Vietnam 7-Day Tour
If I were designing a bike tour of Vietnam for myself, this is exactly what it would look like. This tour takes you through remote areas of the Central Highlands and then down to the coast, where you’ll cycle fishing villages and enjoy the beauty of Vietnam’s sea. The tour finishes in Hoi An, our favourite spot in all of Vietnam!
Central Vietnam Cycle 9 Days
This tour takes cyclists through my favourite region of Vietnam, from Hoi An to Phong Nha. With shorter days and a little less cycling than most bike tours, you’ll get plenty of opportunity to enjoy the other activities that this amazing region has to offer.
As Asia bike tour specialists, Grasshopper Adventures can offer a wider range of experiences in Vietnam. Check out their range of Vietnam tours, including their fab-sounding Mekong Bike & Boat Adventure!
So, is bike touring Vietnam right for you? Are you planning a trip soon or just dreaming? Have you cycle toured in Vietnam before? Let us know in the comments!
♥ Happy mindful adventures, Jane & Stephen
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