Bicycling across bridge
near Lai Chau in northern

Photo by Tom Barocan

Vietnam Bicycle Tours

Much of the advice here was provided by Tom Barocan of Tacoma, WA, USA

Click Here for an account Tom’s Self Guided Northern Vietnam Bicycle Tour in April ’05.

Riding a bicycle is a way of life in Vietnam. Everyone does it. Foreigners on bicycles attract a lot of attention. Especially if you’re on a upscale mountain or touring bike. Caution: Some roads in Vietnam will tear up a fancy road bike.

Organized Tours – Touring Vietnam by Bicycle is very popular. These tours attract a lot of participants. Many of these tours are fairly expensive. They provide support vehicles, meals, hotels, domestic transportation, mountain or touring bike (if needed) and other amenities for those on tour. Historic and cultural sightseeing excursions may be included. These tours start at about $1500 currently for 14 or 15 days. Airfare included from the west coast US start about $3000. Shop carefully!

A self guided Vietnam bicycle tour including international airfare from the west coast of the US can be had for the same price. $1000 for airfare and $25 to $30 a day for a self guided tour can be easily planned.

It is recommended that, even though inconvenient and costly, you bring your own bike. A Vietnam bicycle rental for adequate equipment is $10 + per day. Or you could buy one when you arrive. A 3 speed will be top of the line gear wise. Locally made bikes and Chinese imports will not hold up to the rigors ahead. Give renting or buying a bike careful research before committing. Once you leave home it’s too late.

The support vehicle is usually a major concern for touring bicyclists. Because there are so many Vietnam bike tours this breakdown concern is easily overcome. You wait by the side of the road, with your crippled ride, for transportation to the next town.

As the next bus or truck approaches you wave at the driver with your hand extended PALM DOWN. This is the traditional Vietnamese way to ask some one to come to you or stop. Motioning or waving the western way is frowned upon.

If the driver has room and he’ll usually make room, you haggle over a fare for you, your gear and bike. Be sure to bargain, its part of their culture. You may need to use sign language or pencil and paper to communicate. Start at ¼ of the asking price, ½ if you’re timid about bargaining or its raining.

Basic equipment repairs are easy to find. The Vietnam bicycle repairmen are very ingenious.

Your next concern will be the security of your bike – especially if it’s your own. Insist on keeping the bike in your hotel room – Even if you have to hump in up a few flights of stairs. Things that you think are attached to the bike will disappear. And the hotel staff may be even tempted to take it for a spin. Locking the bike in the hotel lobby may be deemed insulting by locals.

Terraced rice paddies
on the road to Sapa
near the China Border.

Photo by Tom Barocan

More information on VIETNAM CYCLING TOURS.

Further Advice

Ride in the cooler parts of the day and hydrate adequately.

Bring tools and any specialized spare parts.

Don’t ride at night!

Wear a helmet.

Get proper insurance for your trip. Medical and evacuation coverage is highly recommended. Riders on a Vietnam Bicycle Tours have been known to have accidents.

Reconfirm accuracy of maps daily with locals before you depart.

Plan your next hotel stop. Have the phone number available and have someone call ahead for you. The few cents you’ll spend may save some aggravation. Phone service in some remote areas may be questionable.

Consider the train for the Hue/Hanoi, or air for the Danang/Hanoi, portion of your trip.

Once the operational and security concerns for your bicycle are satisfied you’re just another traveler in Vietnam.

Vietnam mountain biking a tours are also popular.

Start planning your trip!

I have it on good authority that The Lonely Planet’s “Cycling Vietnam. Laos and Cambodia” is the definitive guide for bicycling Vietnam. It’s available on Amazon. Lonely Planet Cycling Vietnam: Laos & Cambodia (Lonely Planet Cycling Guides)

Check Tom Barocan’s account of his bicycle trip to Vietnam in Spring of 2005.

On one if my trips, I encountered a group of Canadian Bicyclists coming down the mountain from Dalat to Nha Trang. I was aboard an “open tour” bus headed up the mountain. We had stopped at the same roadside restaurant for lunch. When it was time to go it was discovered that the driver had backed into a mud puddle that was a little too deep. The bicycle tour support vehicle, with the help of passengers and bicyclists pushing, pulled the tour bus out of the hole.

They were a friendly, and most of all, helpful group. Fortunately, they were headed downhill and had plenty of energy! Their assistance was greatly appreciated.

See you on the road!

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