Saigon to Hanoi: The Scenic Route

Introduction  |  Route Map  |  Photos  |  Video

Me (left) & Sam (right)

Eight years ago I came to Vietnam to do a TEFL course in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). On the first day of the teacher training course I met lots of new and interesting people. One of them, Sam, became one of my closest friends. Sam left Vietnam after 7 months, but now he’s back for three weeks to finish what he started eight years ago: riding the length of the country on a motorbike: Saigon to Hanoi!

Our journey will be just shy of 2,500km. The vast majority of the roads will be quiet and scenic: from dry, sandy, coastal back-roads in the south, to meandering mountain passes in the central provinces, and the increasingly famous limestone landscape along the Lao border on the Ho Chi Minh Road, near Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. Only 200km of the entire route will be on the notoriously dusty, dirty, and busy Highway 1: most of the time – if all goes according to plan – we’ll have the roads to ourselves.

I’ll be adding photos to this post over the next couple weeks as we make our way from Saigon to Hanoi. You can also follow our road trip on my Twitter, Facebook and Google+ pages, where I will be posting updates, photos and videos along the way. Below are a map of our route and a video of some of the places we are going to see. (Thanks go to the ever-efficient staff at Rent a Bike Hanoi for providing us with one of our bikes).

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ROUTE MAP:

Key:

– CLICK on any of the PINS to see a PHOTO and DESCRIPTION of the place it marks

– RED PINS: some of the bigger towns and cities on the route

– BLUE PINS: scenic spots and places of interest

– GREEN PINS: places I’ve written guides to on VietnamCoracle.com and links to them


View ‘Saigon to Hanoi: the Scenic Route’ in a LARGER MAP

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Selected Resources What’s this?

PHOTOS:

Saigon | The Coast | The Mountains | Hanoi

Saigon: 1-3 Aug

Finding a helmet that fits isn't easy!
8 years of waiting for that hit of Vietnamese caffeine: strong!

 


Selected Resources What’s this?

Just another lunch in Saigon

 

Reunion: meeting up with old acquaintances
A bit of tennis in the sunshine

 

Searching for some 'pick-me-up' herbs for our long journey, in Saigon's Chinatown
1-2-3 YO!! Last night in Saigon

 

The Coast: 4-10 Aug:


Selected Resources What’s this?

Taking time out on the ocean road
Street food doesn't get any better than this! (Phan Thiet city)
Riding through dramatic storms on the coast road
Breakfast on the street: the graffiti on the wall says 'noodle soup'
Lunch on the rocks on Hòn Góm sandbar: miles of empty beach

 

Sea snails with lemongrass & coriander in Quy Nhơn city
Admiring the view south of Quy Nhơn.
Delicious little bánh bèo rice cakes by the roadside in the countryside
Sam's birthday present: cocktails by the pool at Life Wellness Resort, Quy Nhơn

 

The Mountains: 11-20 Aug:

View from the first of many mountain passes (Quang Ngai Province)
View from the first of many mountain passes (Quang Ngai Province)

 

Camping on our first night in the mountains, by a river in the jungle
Bathing in the river by our campsite
Bathing in the river by our campsite

 

A warming lunch of 'mountain' food in rainy, misty Kon Tum Province
A warming lunch of 'mountain' food in rainy, misty Kon Tum Province

 

At A Luoi my speedomter reached 100,000 kilometres!
At A Luoi my speedomter reached 100,000 kilometres: took 6 years to get there

 

Fueling up for a day on the road with 3 strong Vietnamese black coffees (A Luoi, Thua Thien Hue Province)
Fueling up for a day on the road with 3 strong Vietnamese black coffees: A Luoi, Thua Thien Hue Province

 

Campfire in the Truong Son Mountains, near the Lao border
Campfire in the Truong Son Mountains, near the Lao border

 

The West Ho Chi Minh Road is spectacular & completely empty
The West Ho Chi Minh Road is spectacular & completely empty

 

Taking it all in!
Taking time on the road to stop & take it all in!

 

Dog meat is very popular in northern Vietnam...and it's delicious.
Dog meat is very popular in northern Vietnam...and it's delicious.

 

Waterfalls offer great massages!
Waterfalls offer great massages!

 

A last goodbye to the mountains at sunset
A last goodbye to the mountains at sunset

 

Hanoi: 21-23 Aug:

Made it! Sam & I after a celebratory run around Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi
Made it! Sam & I after a celebratory run around Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi
Street food in Hanoi is always excellent: this is Bun Rieu Nam Bo
Street food in Hanoi is always excellent: this is Bun Rieu Nam Bo
Sam bids an emotional farewell to his bike (The Red Growler) in Hanoi
Sam bids an emotional farewell to his bike (The Red Growler) in Hanoi

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VIDEO:

A montage of scenery & sights on our route (for more videos from our trip click HERE):

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Selected Resources for Travellers & Expats:  What's this?

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133 Responses to Saigon to Hanoi: The Scenic Route

  1. Surinder Mann says:

    Hi Tom,
    Just this morning I thought of traveling to Vietnam for three weeks coming March, and was lucky to hit your site which is very informative and useful, though I still need to go through all the emails and your responses to them,
    I intend taking a road trip and have the following queries please and seek your assistance.
    1. Which route covers the maximum ‘must see places’ in Vietnam; as well as covers the mountains as well as the beaches.
    2. I am quite comfortable riding a bike, but is there any chance of getting a car or a camper for the trip.
    3. Is it convenient to find home stays, back packers hostels along the route, or is hotels the only option. I prefer these to hostels.
    4. I would be traveling solo, how safe would that be.
    5. Is there a possibility to find like minded travel partners for the road trips,.
    6. What kind of comfortable budget must one be planning on a three week trip.
    7. Which bike would you recommend which is stable on the road and has power as well.
    8. Does one need an international driving licence for riding a bike.
    My apologies , if that was too much to ask, may have some more as well 🙂
    Thank you for the good job you are doing in assisting the travellers with your experience.
    Cheers,
    Mann

    • Hi Mann,

      For a choice of routes take a look at my 5 Suggested Routes from Saigon to Hanoi. Some of them cover the mountains and the coast. And then for the northern mountains, take a look at my Northern Routes Archive.

      At the moment, foreigners are not allowed to rent cars.

      In the bigger towns and cities you can always find lots of hotels and hostels, but in smaller places you can find ‘nhà nghỉ’ – these are local Vietnamese guest houses – you can read more about them here.

      Yes, travelling solo in Vietnam should be fine. It is still a very safe country to travel in. Just take all the normal safety precautions you would when travelling in any other country and you should be fine.

      You will probably meet other riders on your road trip and in the towns you stop at. You can also post on the Vietnam Back Road Facebook page if you want to find other people to travel with.

      I’ve written a guide to expenses for a motorbike road trip in Vietnam here.

      There are lots of bikes to choose from. Personally, I use an automatic scooter, which is fine for all the routes on this website. But some people prefer a semi-automatic, or a bigger bike that can also go off-road. Try contacting some of the trusted and reliable motorbike rental companies listed in the right sidebar and bottom of every page of my website to see what bikes are available. Try Rent a Bike Vietnam, Tigit Motorbikes, and Dragon Bikes. You can mention Vietnam Coracle if you like, they know me.

      Technically you need a local driving license to ride in Vietnam, but in reality very few foreigners riding in Vietnam have one. You can ask for more information about this from the rental companies too.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  2. Laura says:

    Hello,
    That looks so amazing what you did! I’m going to Vietnam tomorrow and thought about doing a bike tour as well…
    Do you think this route is okay for a solo female traveler ?
    And did you rent the motorbikes there or are those yours ?

    Cheers Laura

    • Hi Laura,

      Yes, doing this kind of trip as a solo female is fine – and you’ll definitely bump into other travellers along the way.

      This is quite an old post now, so for much more recent route advice and information take a look at my 5 Suggested Saigon-Hanoi Routes.

      I own two bikes, but renting is easy and efficient these days. Check out the links in the right sidebar and bottom of this page (and all my pages) for my recommended and trusted bike rental companies. Just email any of them for more information. You can mention Vietnam Coracle if you like, they know me.

      For more helpful bits and pieces, browse my Resources Archive.

      I hope this helps get you started.

      Tom

    • sandro says:

      Laura i wish you all the best! i plan doing that in february and am now collecting informations. can‘t wait to do this trip. enjoy jour time and good luck & great memories.
      cheers, sandro 🇨🇭

  3. David says:

    Hi Tom —

    For first time visitors to Vietnam, do you recommend taking the direct coastal route from Nha Trang to Mui Ne or the inland route from Nha Trang to Dalat to Mui Ne?

    Thanks.

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