Tom Divers is the founder and creator of Vietnam Coracle. He’s lived, travelled and worked in Vietnam since 2005. Born in London, he travelled from an early age, visiting over 40 countries (he first visited Vietnam in 1999). Now, whenever he has the opportunity to make a trip, he rarely looks beyond Vietnam’s borders and his trusty motorbike, Stavros. Read more about Tom on the About Page, Vietnam Times and ASE Podcast.
An independent motorbike road trip in Vietnam is an unforgettable travel experience, but how much does it cost? In this guide, I’ve summarized the essential expenses for a road trip in Vietnam and calculated an average daily budget. Certain expenses are fundamental and unavoidable, but others are optional and depend entirely on how much you want to or can afford to spend. Even within the necessary costs, there are different levels to choose from according to your budget. The information in this guide is designed to help travellers estimate how much their road trip in Vietnam will cost.
EXPENSES FOR A MOTORBIKE ROAD TRIP
A Guide to Daily Costs & How Much to Budget
In this guide, I’ve outlined all the basic daily expenses for a motorbike road trip in Vietnam, followed by estimates of total daily costs. This guide covers the most essential components of a road trip, from motorbike rental to accommodation, food and drink to gasoline. I’ve given a detailed summary of each major daily expense so that travellers can work out roughly how much to budget for a road trip in Vietnam. Bear in mind that prices in this guide are only approximate and, of course, subject to change. (For more useful resources, take a look at Related Posts.)
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*Road Safety & Disclaimer: Riding a motorbike in Vietnam – or anywhere in the world – has its dangers. I would hope & expect anyone who chooses to pursue a self-drive road trip based on the information on this website does so with care, respect & due diligence. I encourage careful riding & adherence to road rules, but I am not responsible for the legality or manner in which you ride, nor any negative consequences which may result from your decision to ride a motorbike in Vietnam: you do so at your own risk. Read more >
Motorbike Rental: $7-$15/day
The biggest single expense of your road trip will be your motorbike. Whether you rent or buy, the payment is made up front in one lump sum at the beginning of your road trip. And, in the case of rental, you’ll be required to pay a deposit. The rental market in Vietnam is now highly sophisticated and efficient, meaning the only reason to buy your motorbike is if you’re planning on being in Vietnam long-term: significantly more than a month. Ultimately, it’s cheaper, more convenient, safer and better in every way to rent than buy. Details below:
Renting a Motorbike: There are lots of excellent motorbike rental companies in Vietnam and competition keeps standards high and prices reasonable. If you choose to rent your motorbike, you should do so from a reputable company, such as Tigit, Flamingo, Rent A Bike, Dragon Bikes and Style Motorbikes* to name just a few. These are all highly professional and reliable rental services that are represented in major cities across Vietnam and can arrange pick-up and drop-off in specific locations nationwide. Rental costs depend on the model of motorbike and how long you rent for. Standard models – 110cc-125cc Honda/Yamaha automatics or semi-automatics – work out between $7-$12 per day if renting for at least a couple of weeks. This represents extremely good value for money. Even bigger bikes, such as the Honda XR manual and many others, work out as low as $15 per day if renting for a month. The bottom line is that for $150-$350/month you can rent a wide range of good motorbikes for the duration of your road trip.
Remember that rental bikes are well-maintained (it’s in the rental companies’ interest to keep their motorbikes in good condition) and often include certain accessories, such as good helmets, rain ponchos and luggage racks, as standard. What’s more, all good rental companies offer 24-hour assistance. In addition, there are lots of tempting optional add-ons, such as sat-nav, GIVI bike boxes and more. However, once you start adding extras, your daily costs quickly spiral. The rental companies’ websites are increasingly user-friendly and easy to navigate, and the whole rental process is much more streamlined than it used to be. The bar keeps being raised. So why wouldn’t you rent? The only reason, from a budget traveller’s perspective, is that you are required to pay a deposit: generally between $300-$1,000 depending on the motorbike model.
*Please note: This website sometimes carries advertising for motorbike rental companies that I know, like, personally use and/or vouch for. Although I respect and value these companies, I am not affiliated with them in any way.
Buying a Motorbike: You can buy an old manual motorbike, such as a Honda Win, for as little as $200 (5,000,000vnđ) by scouring the backpacker areas of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi or searching online marketplaces, such as Facebook and Craigslist. However, to find a better quality second-hand motorbike, such as a 110cc Honda Wave/Honda Blade semi-automatic or 125cc Yamaha Nouvo/Honda Air Blade automatic, you will need to spend more: $250-$350 (6,000,000-8,500,000vnđ). In the case of a Honda Win, you will likely have to spend money on maintenance before and, most probably, during your trip, which, aside from being a nuisance (and a safety risk), will increase the costs considerably. Another drawback of buying your motorbike, is that you will lose a couple of precious days at the beginning of your road trip trying to find a suitable bike to buy, and, at the end of your road trip, trying to find a buyer to take it off your hands.
In addition, unlike the rental companies who have a vested interest in keeping all their bikes well-maintained and in good condition because they will be using them again and again, when you buy a motorbike from a random person, their only incentive is to sell the bike as quickly as possible, regardless of quality, condition or value for money. Remember, too, that when you buy a motorbike, you must have the accompanying ‘blue/green card’. Even if you buy a rock-bottom priced Honda Win for $200, your savings, if any, are minimal compared to the monthly price of renting a motorbike. Given all of the above, I strongly recommend renting instead of buying, unless you intend to be in Vietnam for significantly longer than a month or if you have enough mechanical knowledge to assess the quality of bikes for sale.
Your biggest daily expense while on the road will be accommodation. In the cities and major tourist destinations you can find everything from dirt cheap dorms to astronomically priced luxury resorts. But, on the road in the countryside, the choice is generally limited to cheap local guesthouses, mini-hotels and homestays. One of the best ways to save on accommodation is not to travel alone: sharing the cost of a room between two or more people can halve the price of sleeping. If you’re a budget traveller, you should be able to keep average accommodation costs down to $10 per night. Details below:
Guest Houses, Hostels & Mini-Hotels: Unless you’re sticking entirely to the beaten track, you will be spending many of your nights on the road in nhà nghỉ (local guest houses). These can be found all over the country – even in the remotest regions – and are usually good value for money. Often family-run, nhà nghỉ offer simple, clean, comfortable accommodation with private bathrooms: they are essentially mini-hotels. Averaging 200,000-400,000vnđ ($8-$16) for a double, twin, triple, or even quadruple room, nhà nghỉ are particularly good value for couples, two travelling friends, or a small group of travelling companions. If you’re travelling alone you should be able to get a room for 200,000-300,000vnđ ($8-$12). (I’ve written more about nhà nghỉ on this page.) Dorm-style ‘backpacker’ hostels are common in well-established tourist enclaves, such as big cities and popular destinations. These can be very cheap (100,000vnđ/$4 per night), convivial and traveller-friendly places for a night or two.
Homestays & Airbnbs: In certain regions of Vietnam, particularly in the northern mountains, homestays in traditional wooden houses offer some of the cheapest (and most atmospheric) accommodation available anywhere in the country. The price for a mattress on the floor under a mosquito net in highland destinations, such as Hà Giang, Mù Cang Chải, Sa Pa, Pù Luông and Mai Châu, can be as little as 50,000-100,000vnđ ($2-$4) per night. Generally, guests are also expected to buy into the family-style dinner (an additional 100,000-200,000vnđ), but there’s no reason why you can’t just pay for your bed and opt out of the food. Homestays are becoming more common throughout Vietnam, even in lowland and coastal regions. However, ‘homestay’ has become a buzzword that is now given to a range of non-homestay accommodation, so bear this in mind if booking online. (Check out my Homestays Archive). Airbnb in Vietnam lists some surprisingly cheap, budget and homestay-style accommodation. It’s worth checking Airbnb listings wherever you are in the country. However, Airbnb hosts usually prefer travellers who are staying for a minimum of 2-3 nights.
Camping: One way to significantly reduce the cost of accommodation is to camp. However, camping is only really an option on more remote or sparsely populated stretches of road, such as the Western Ho Chi Minh Road and the Pine Tree Road, or where there are designated campsites, such as along the Coast Road. Camping can be an extremely rewarding experience, but if you intend to ‘wild camp’, it means bringing all the equipment with your on the motorbike. In addition, you need to be very careful when choosing a site to pitch your tent. (For more about where and how to camp in Vietnam, take a look at my Camping Archives.
Hotels & Resorts: Mid-range travellers will find plenty of good-value hotels and resorts in all cities and popular tourist destinations, but not in more out of the way regions. If your accommodation budget stretches between $20-$50 a night, there are some excellent mid-range hotels across the nation. Personally, I like to treat myself to a night somewhere nice after a week or two of ‘roughing it’ in the mountains. Check out my Hotel Reviews Archive for independent recommendations of places to stay throughout Vietnam.
Food & Drink: $10-$25/day
When it comes to food – and especially drink – how much you spend is down to you. On the road in rural areas of Vietnam, if you eat like a local, you can keep food and drink costs very low and still be highly satisfied with the quantity and quality. However, in the cities and tourist hotspots, prices are generally higher than the countryside, and there’s more variety and choice to tempt you. If you’re a fussy or unadventurous eater, or if you don’t like local food, or if you have specific dietary requirements, then you will likely end up spending more for your meals, or going hungry, or simply not enjoying food on your road trip, which would be very sad, indeed. The best way to keep food costs down is to travel with an open mind and an open palate.
If you eat at street food vendors and local rice and noodle joints (quán cơm phở) for all your meals, then you could spend as little as 25,000-100,000vnđ ($1-$4) per meal. Likewise, if you drink bottled water, soft drinks, Vietnamese iced coffee and local lager, you’ll never spend more than 10,000-20,000vnđ (under $1) per drink. For example, a hearty breakfast of cơm tấm (rice and pork) or phở (beef noodles) with a cà phê đen đá (iced black coffee) and a big 1.5 litre bottle of water will set you back around 50,000-70,000vnđ ($2-$3). Lunch will be something similar, and dinner might be a relative feast in a local rice eatery with several meat and vegetable dishes, soup and cans of beer. This will probably cost around 100,000-200,000vnđ ($4-$8). Bear in mind, too, that eating alone can sometimes be more expensive than dining in a group. Vietnamese food is often intended to be eaten family-style, so whenever possible eat with friends, not alone, especially dinner. The bottom line is, you could eat and drink well for as little as 200,000vnd ($8) per day.
If, however, you eat Western food and dine only at ‘tourist-friendly’ restaurants, you can essentially double all the prices listed above. If you eat burgers instead of rice, drink cappuccinos instead of Vietnamese-style iced coffee, craft beer instead of local lager, then you’re looking at a daily food and drink budget of around 350,000-500,000vnđ+ ($15-$20+). Having said that, when you’re on the road in the countryside, there are fewer opportunities to eat Western food or drink craft beer, so there’s no alternative but to eat locally and, therefore, spend less.
*Check out my Food & Drink archives for lots of information, recommendations, reviews and practical guides to eating and drinking across the nation.
Daily expenditure for gasoline depends on a number of factors: the distances you’re covering, the terrain you’re riding through, the type of motorbike you’re on, and the amount of luggage/passengers you have with you. At the time of writing (September 2022), gasoline prices were around 25,000vnđ per litre (just over $1). Most standard motorbikes have a 4-5 litre tank (although bigger, ‘real’ motorcycles have much larger tanks: usually over 10 litres). Therefore, a full tank costs around 100,000-125,000vnđ ($4-$5). Depending on the condition of your motorbike, the terrain, and the weight you’re carrying, you might expect a full tank on a standard bike to take you between 150km-200km. To put this into perspective, a long day on the road in Vietnam is 250km+; a short day is under 100km. However, if your motorbike is weighed down with luggage and a pillion, or if you’re riding through mountainous landscapes on very steep roads, or if your bike is an older model, these things can reduce your range by as much as 50km per tank. Another factor to take into account, if you’re on a multi-week road trip, you’re unlikely to ride long distances every day: from time to time you’ll take a ‘day off’ and be static for 24 hours and therefore not ride much at all. These ‘days off’ will offset the long riding days and, over the course of your road trip, reduce the average daily expenditure on gasoline. Taking all these things into consideration, you will probably only use one full tank of gasoline per day on average across your entire road trip.
Inevitably, there will be extra costs every day that you should allow $5-$10 to cover. These might be practical things – mobile phone credit and data, entrance fees to museums, sites and national parks, minor repairs to your motorbike, roadside snacks and water – but also little ‘luxuries’, such as a sunset cocktail at a smart beach bar, a present for a friend or family member back home, a Western meal in a big city after days of eating rice in the mountains, or a round of beers for your new local friends in a mountainside eatery. If possible, don’t budget too strictly or be too tight with your spending; leave room to be flexible and generous – both to yourself and to others.
Total Daily Costs: $30-$45-$60/day
Below, I’ve estimated average daily costs for three different budgets: ‘Bikepacker’, ‘Flashpacker’ and ‘Mid-Ranger’. Bear in mind that the calculations below include the cost of your motorbike, which, in reality, will be paid as a lump sum at the start of your trip: either when you pick up your motorbike from the rental company or when you buy it. The following estimates are per person, per motorbike, per day. Travelling two on a motorbike or travelling in a small group will significantly reduce the average daily cost, because you will be sharing the expenses for room, food and gas.
If you’re on the ‘Bikepacker’ budget and you really want or need to stay within a tight budget, you can probably manage to shave off a few dollars a day from this estimate. If you’re on the ‘Flashpacker’ budget, you shouldn’t have much problem staying within these costs, especially if you’re an experienced traveller. And, if you’re on the ‘Mid-Ranger’ budget, you’ll live and ride very comfortably indeed:
The Bikepacker: $30+/day (700,000vnđ)
The Flashpacker: $45+/day (1,050,000vnđ)
The Mid-Ranger: $60+/day (1,400,000vnđ+)
*Disclosure: I never receive payment for anything I write: my content is always free and independent. I’ve written this guide because I want to: I like this route and I want my readers to know about them. For more details, see my Disclosure & Disclaimer statements and my About Page