Time to hit the road!

Saigon to Hanoi: The Scenic Route

*Please note: this is a very old post; for more recent information read Saigon to Hanoi: 5 Routes

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).

Selected Resources What’s this?
Me (left) & Sam (right)

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Route Map


  • 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

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Saigon: 1-3 Aug

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

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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Selected Resources What’s this?


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

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Leave a Comment

Questions, updates and trip reports are all welcome. However, please keep comments polite and on-topic. See commenting etiquette for details.

  1. Surinder Mann says:
    January 28, 2018 at 11:16 AM

    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.

    1. Tom says:
      January 29, 2018 at 3:09 AM

      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,


  2. Laura says:
    October 3, 2017 at 9:50 AM

    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

    1. Tom says:
      October 3, 2017 at 9:56 AM

      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.


    2. sandro says:
      November 14, 2017 at 9:14 AM

      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:
    September 18, 2017 at 8:35 AM

    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?


    1. Tom says:
      September 18, 2017 at 10:51 AM

      Hi David,

      Both are good for first time visitors, but I’d probably choose the coastal route, because the roads are generally in good condition, fabulously scenic and fairly quiet. However, it depends more on what you’re looking for: beaches galore, or mountain scenery and a beach at the end.

      I hope this helps,


      1. David says:
        September 18, 2017 at 2:55 PM


  4. Mark says:
    March 26, 2017 at 11:44 PM

    Hey, you say that your friend came back to Vietnam to finish what he started. Does this mean he failed the first time? Or did he come back and pick up where he left off?

    1. Tom says:
      March 28, 2017 at 12:25 AM

      Hi Mark,

      No, he started all over again, because the first time he tried to ride the length of the country his bike broke down and so he ran out of time.


  5. Gavin says:
    December 13, 2016 at 5:15 AM

    Hi Tom,

    Website has been very helpful, originally with my 27 day trip i planned to do 10 in Cambodia but now im thinking do all of it in Vietnam by bike and skip Cambodia, especially since i go from Jan to Feb through the spring festival so i think it would be good for me to shack up somewhere for a few days over that and take my time with the whole trip. Unless you have any alternate suggestions, maybe you think I could do both? I start HCMC finish in Hanoi 27 days later but would need days either side to buy and sell bike.

    Unfortunately none of your maps work on my computer. When i click them and sign in google says ‘admin.google.com is for G Suite accounts only. Regular gmail accounts cannot be used to sign in to admin.google.com.’ Dont really know that that means but maybe its down to me being in China and having to use a VPN, could you please privately email me all of your recommended routes if its not too much trouble: gavin.bray@hotmail.co.uk

    Secondly, how easy are road signs to follow in vietnam? are they numbered or are they in vietnamise which would be more difficult to follow.

    Any maps you recommend buying beforehand?

    Weather across Jan- Feb looks dry and mild, so just some warm clothing for on the bike?

    Also any apps you recommmend for any aspect of being in Vietnam but particularly for maps, as i saw previously you mentioned google maps is not perfect.

    Thanks in advance

    1. Tom says:
      December 15, 2016 at 12:56 AM

      Hi Gavin,

      Yes, I think you should spend all 27 days in Vietnam, but of course I’m biased. There’s plenty to keep you busy in Vietnam for a 27 day road trip. But you should be aware that the weather will be progressively colder and wetter as you move from south to north at that time of year. Take a look at my Weather Guide for more details.

      Strange about the maps, but yes maybe it’s because you’re in China. I have emailed you links to the 5 route maps.

      Road signs are not too difficult to follow in Vietnam, but don’t rely only on them to find out if you’re going in the right direction. If you constantly cross-reference my routes maps, the GPS on your phone, a paper map, road signs, and your own instinct and sense of direction you should be absolutely fine. My favourite paper map is the Travel Map of Vietnam, it’s updated every year. More details about that here (note: the road atlas is now out of print)

      You’ll definitely need cold weather clothing in the north at that time of year – don’t trust the weather forecasts for Vietnam, they are generally unreliable.

      Maps.me is another good map app to have, but Google Maps is better now than it was before – just don’t put you’re faith in any one map – always cross-reference.

      If you’re planning on buying a motorbike and then selling it at the end of your trip, I recommend you contact Tigit Motorbikes. There are links to their website in the right sidebar and bottom of all my pages. You can mention Vietnam Coracle if you like, they know me. For a bit more information about buying/renting motorbikes read this.

      I hope this helps,


  6. Nynne Munk says:
    October 28, 2016 at 12:21 PM


    Awesome post about your trip – sounds absolutely amazing! I’m planning on doing the same trip from December 21st till January 13th – do you think that would be fine for a timeframe? Also, I really wanted to spend a couple of days at Ha Long Bay, but don’t know if I can fit it into the trip – would that require extra time, or do you think it’s doable? Last question – do you know if there are any particular places to find a travel buddy? I don’t mind doing parts of it alone, but would also like company (especially if the bike breaks down and I panic 😉 ).

    Thanks for all your advice!


    1. Tom says:
      October 28, 2016 at 1:14 PM

      Hi Nynne,

      2-3 weeks is a decent amount of time to do it, but the more time you have the better your trip will be. How long it takes depends on which route you choose. For a more south to north route ideas and details about the time it takes, have a look at my 5 Suggested Routes from Saigon to Hanoi.

      You could do a quick day/night tour of Halong Bay direct from Hanoi if you really want to fit that in.

      For finding travel buddies, you can try posting on the Vietnam Back-Roads Facebook page.

      You might also want to think about the weather at that time of year (it’s better in the south in December), and take a look at my Expenses guide too.

      I hope this helps,


  7. Charline Moreau says:
    October 13, 2016 at 9:14 AM

    Thank you so much for the info and your posts!
    In december during christmas and NYE I plan to do a motorbike ride in the south of vietnam, wanting to start from Da Nang/Hoi, ride to Saigon, maybe explore some outlaying islands if I have enough time and take my return flight directly from Saigon
    Is there any possiblity to give the bike back in Saigon??
    Also, I am a girl and 24 years old. Do you think it is an issue to travel alone? I will make overnight stops at backpacker hostels most probably.
    Any recommended routes along the coast?
    Thanks a lot for your help in advance!

    1. Tom says:
      October 13, 2016 at 12:25 PM

      Hi Charline,

      Travelling as a solo female in Vietnam shouldn’t be a problem. Vietnam is still a very safe country in which to travel. Take all the usual precautions that you would when travelling to any other country and you will be fine.

      Yes, you can arrange a bike from Danang and give it back in Saigon. Try contacting Rent a Bike Vietnam (they have an office in Danang) and Tigit Motorbikes in Saigon – there are links to both of them in the right sidebar and bottom of this page. For a bit more information about renting motorbikes read this.

      For coastal route ideas from Danang to Saigon, take a look at the relevant parts of my Beach Bum route. Also, browse through my Coastal Routes Archive to see what appeals to you. Definitely don’t miss the superb Ocean Road from Nha Trang to Saigon.

      I hope this helps,


  8. Luke says:
    September 23, 2016 at 5:06 AM

    Hi Tom,

    Very impressed n interested these your trail stories, also I have a plan to motorbike trip during 10days from HCMC till Hanoi.
    Every your pictures makes me happy and fun.
    Is it possible to ride this trail within 10days? I’m opened with any your tip or comment.
    I’m really lookin forward to flight Vietnam on next week. XD
    Thanks for these your stories.


    1. Tom says:
      September 23, 2016 at 8:48 AM

      Hi Luke,

      Firstly, please take a look at my 5 Suggested Routes from Saigon to Hanoi.

      With only 10 days it is possible to ride from HCMC to Hanoi but you will be riding a lot every day, and with 10 days you should only do it if you have experience riding a motorbike.

      If you do a shorter ride you will have more time to enjoy it. There are lots of good rides in the south that are easily accessible from HCMC. Take a look at my guides to road trips in southern Vietnam HERE.

      I hope this helps,


  9. Alex says:
    August 23, 2016 at 6:46 PM

    Nice Layout Tom.
    Gonna Be In Vietnam from Sept 20-0ct 25
    Considering doing your Classic Route.
    Just wondering how weather will be riding this time of year.
    Foresee any problems?
    Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    1. Tom says:
      August 23, 2016 at 11:19 PM

      Hi Alex,

      September is a good all-round time of year to do it – it’s hot, sunny, wet and humid across the country. If you’re unlucky then you might run into a typhoon in the north-central provinces, but there’s not much you can do about that except wait it out for a couple of days.

      For more detailed information about conditions, take a look at my Weather guide.

      I hope this helps,


  10. David says:
    July 24, 2016 at 3:53 AM

    Hey Tom
    Just started to look into doing a road trip from South to North Vietnam and your blog is a great way to start when it comes to excellent information.I havent had time to read all the comment to see if someone else has asked or not ,but when on your motorbike in the hills and more rural routes how often are there stops to fill up with petrol? I have problems and worry in the Highlands of Scotland sometimes ,is it the same as Thailand/India where there are random stalls with Evian bottles filled up?
    Hope you can help and many thanks for saving me a lot of time.

    Plus answering all of the comments !!! in this busy world so very commendable!



    1. Tom says:
      July 25, 2016 at 12:25 AM

      Hi David,

      For the vast majority of areas in Vietnam, getting gas is not a problem at all. Just as you say, either there’s a gas station or a rudimentary gas ‘station’ in the form of a small pump or bottles of gas. In most of my guides, if there’s a section of road that has limited gas stations on it then I will mention it. In particular, the Western Ho Chi Minh Road between Khe Sanh and Phong Nha is very isolated. However, there is a gas station under construction there right now which will probably be finished by the time you visit.

      I’m glad you like the site. If you’re riding Saigon to Hanoi, don’t forget to have a look at my 5 Suggested Routes. I hope this helps.


  11. Ross Chandler says:
    June 12, 2016 at 7:22 AM

    Hi Tom,
    This is a great resource. Thank you!
    I’m organising my first bicycle tour for Dec-Jan riding from HCMC to Danang. I’m looking at taking this route. From my research a lot of people have commented that the ride from Dalat to Nha Trang is very nice. I’m wondering if I should head straight for the coast from HCMC as you describe or head North-east first till I hit Danang and then get on the coastal route. Have you done both of these routes?

    1. Tom says:
      June 12, 2016 at 8:09 AM

      Hi Ross,

      Assuming you haven’t already seen it, please take a look at this guide first, and then get back to me if you need any more details.

      I hope this helps,


  12. Nasci says:
    May 17, 2016 at 4:04 AM

    Hi again Tom.
    The recent news about ex-HCMC trains to Da Nang now leaving from Bien Hoa has made me slightly nervous, as I was planning on taking the train, along with my bike on it, back to Da Nang in mid-July after coming down the coast from Da Nang.
    I was wondering if you’ve heard of tix being hard to get bc of the station change, or if you would know when tix for July would be on sale, if there is any system like this for tix?
    Tix for passengers can be bought online in English I see, but I was wondering what can be done to get a tix for the bike ahead of time, perhaps from overseas. I’d be stuck if I was not able to put my bike on the train when I arrive at the station in Bien Hoa sans tix for the bike.
    Any advice?
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Tom says:
      May 17, 2016 at 5:04 AM

      Hi Nasci,

      According the the government, the bridge should be fixed by July.

      Anyway you can still send your bike by train from Saigon to Danang, it just takes a bit longer than usual. You should probably allow at least 2-3 days for your bike to be transported from Saigon to Danang by train. Alternatively, you should be able to transport it by bus – in which case you will be travelling on the same bus as your bike (when you go by train, your bike will not be travelling on the same train as you).

      As far as I know, it is not possible to book bikes on the train online. However, you should be able to book your passenger and your bike tickets at Danang train station before you ride south to Saigon. The bike transportation company is called Door to Door – look for their office at Danang station – they are usually very efficient and have all the prices listed. Or you could ask your hotel in Danang to book it for you.

      I hope this helps,


  13. Tommy says:
    April 28, 2016 at 12:08 PM

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks so much for all of the information on your website. It is beyond helpful. I’ve been living in HCMC for the past year and have yet to visit the rest of the country so I’m planning the motorbike trip.

    The part I’m unsure about is Pu Mat National Park. I’ve just calculated my route and distance at about 270 kilometers from Phong Nha National Park. I’m using your route from Phong Nha to Pu Mat. Were you able to drive there in one day? And was accommodation available at Pu Mat National Park? I read briefly about Thai or Dan Lai Village on their website, but I can’t seem to find more on it.


    1. Tom says:
      April 28, 2016 at 1:18 PM

      Hi Tommy,

      Take a look at my more recent article: 5 Suggested Routes from Saigon to Hanoi. You’ll find more information on routes there.

      There wasn’t much at Pu Mat National Park when I was there. But there are guesthouses in the towns on Highway 7. Yes, if you wanted to you could ride from Phong Nha to Pu Mat in one day, or you could stop for the night in Pho Chau instead.

      Last time I was in the area, some homestays were starting up around Con Cuong but I couldn’t find information online about it.

      If this is your first road trip out of Saigon Pu Mat is fairly off the beaten path.

      I’m currently on the road in order to update my Ho Chi Minh Road Guide (which includes Phong Nha and Pho Chau). It should be finished in the next few days – if you want to get a notification when it’s published you can subscribe to my posts here.

      I hope this helps,


  14. Tom says:
    April 20, 2016 at 3:59 PM

    Great article, thanks for taking the trouble. I am planning to do this next year in two weeks, i see from some other comments that this is do-able providing we are happy to ride every day. Is it generally easy to walk stright into accommodation when you arrive or is it better to try to book the next night’s stay in advance? there will be 6 of us traveling.

    Thanks in advance

    1. Tom says:
      April 21, 2016 at 1:40 AM

      Hi Tom,

      Yes, two weeks is OK for this route, but as you mentioned, you’ll be riding every day. For much more about routes, time and distances from Saigon to Hanoi take a look at my most recent guide here.

      It’s not really necessary to book accommodation in advance unless you are travelling on a national holiday. However, with 6 of you in the group and with a relatively short amount of time for the trip, it might be a good idea to book at least some of your hotels in advance. If you do decide to book any in advance it would be great if you started your hotel search from the Agoda search box (in the right sidebar of this page and all my pages) as I will receive a small commission from Agoda if you end up making a booking – which is, of course, much appreciated.

      Have a great trip,


  15. Rich says:
    March 25, 2016 at 4:34 PM

    Hey Tom,

    Trip had been fantastic so far, but I have another question for you.

    I’m currently in Hue and want to make it to Khe Sanh to pick up the Ho Chi Minh Road. I know I can take highway 1, but I could also take a more indirect route of rt 49 to the HCMR south of Khe Sanh and work my way north. Is there any reason, aside from the extra hour of travel time, that I might not want to do that (bad roads perhaps)? Is the drive significantly nicer? don’t mind the extra time, just want your opinion on which would be the better route. Thanks!

    1. Tom says:
      March 26, 2016 at 12:04 AM

      Hi Rich,

      Yes, Road QL49 is a better option, however a couple of readers have mentioned that there is some construction on that road at the moment. Another option is to take the coastal back-roads from Hue to Dong Ha and then head up to the Ho Chi Minh Road at Khe Sanh on Road QL9 – zoom in to the relevant section of this map to see the coastal back-roads from Hue.

      I hope this helps,


      1. Rich says:
        March 29, 2016 at 10:04 AM

        Tom, this was great. Thanks so much.

        If you had three days of riding between Photo Chau and Hanoi, what would your ideal route be? Doing my planning now and would love to hear your thoughts.

        1. Tom says:
          March 30, 2016 at 2:15 AM

          Hi Rich,

          I’d head north on the Ho Chi Minh Road to Hanoi, but with some detours and stops along the way: If time allows, I’d go up west on Road QL7 to the limestone landscape, rivers and waterfalls around Con Cuong; I’d ride at least some of the Limestone Loop; I’d spend a night somewhere near Cuc Phuong National Park (the Quang Duc Homestay, if it’s still there), or take a look at Ho Citadel.

          I hope this helps,


  16. Rich says:
    March 18, 2016 at 6:37 AM

    Hey Tom

    I’ve been following your route the past few days and it’s been truly wonderful. Thank you so much for all the work you put into the site. Its been my primary resource. I bought the day pass at the Ho Tram Resort and Spa yesterday and really enjoyed it. Unlike anything I could ever afford in the states.

    Anywho, I have a question for you. Right now I’m in Mui Ne. Do you think, provided I start at dawn, that I could get to Nha Trang before dark tomorrow and still be able to properly enjoy the beauty of the coast? I’ve read the three guides between the two cities and there seems to be a ton of beautiful spots. If I were to stop for some pictures, a few bites to eat and a dip or two, is getting to nha trang by sundown doable? I lost a few days of my trip due to visa issues, so I’m looking to make up some ground where I can. I have a friend in Nha trang who I’d like to spend 2 nights with while still reaching Hanoi by April 3rd.

    Thanks again for the guides and appreciate any insight you might have.

    1. Tom says:
      March 18, 2016 at 9:59 AM

      Hi Rich,

      Great to hear you’ve been using my site and that you’re having an awesome time!

      Yes, the ride from Mui Ne to Nha Trang is very scenic indeed. And yes you can do it in a day including stops for photos, food and swims.

      However, make sure you follow the exact route laid out in this map. Almost the entire route is on excellent, new, beautiful coast roads (only a total of 50km is on Highway 1). So whatever anyone else says, follow that map! 🙂

      I did it again just a couple of days ago. Enjoy!


      1. Rich says:
        March 18, 2016 at 11:38 AM

        Tom! The map is perfect. Thank you!

  17. Pat says:
    March 5, 2016 at 9:14 AM

    Hi Tom
    First of all, thanks for writing such a damn good guide for motorbiking round Nam. Most of the routes you have detailed have made their way into my own 2 month itinerary from Hanoi to HCMC. I’m sure you’ve probably been asked this before but do you know of any contacts in Hanoi that would help us buy a bike for myself and my partner. We are looking for a quality bike but one that won’t break the bank. I’ve had a look at Tigit and other rental companies but they look quite expensive with most of their prices being well over our budget. We were looking more for someone honest and reliable who would for a fee help us in choosing our bikes.

    1. Tom says:
      March 5, 2016 at 12:49 PM

      Hi Pat,

      Yes, it’s a common question but with no easy answer. The bikes at Tigit are relatively expensive but they are in good condition and Tigit guarantees they will buy back the bike at the end of your trip for around $200 less than the price you bought it for – so it works out as a pretty good deal. At least try contacting them to ask.

      Your other options are Cuong’s Motorbikes in Hanoi (I think he still sells bikes), or Flamingo Travel – you can mention Vietnam Coracle if you like, they know me.

      Or you could scan the noticeboards in backpacker hostels and cafes in Vietnam, or join the Expats Ho Chi Minh Facebook page – there’s a lot of bikes get advertised for sale on there.

      I hope this helps,


      1. Pat says:
        March 5, 2016 at 2:56 PM

        Much obliged!

  18. Tom Randon says:
    March 2, 2016 at 1:00 PM

    Hi Tom,

    Me and friend of mine of travelling around SE Asia in May for 3 months. I’m so excited to be undertaking the route around May time and it took some convincing for my friend to try this adventure but I think you’ve convinced him just as much as me. We’re looking a buying motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh and riding along the same route as you towards Hanoi. As we are backpackers, ideally, we wouldn’t want to be carrying additional weight such as tents etc.

    Along this route, is there a variety of places to stay overnight or is buying a tent recommended? Would 3 weeks be enough time to undertake this journey but also explore places such as Mui Ne, Halong Bay and Nha Trang?

    Any additional advice would be extremely helpful.


    1. Tom says:
      March 3, 2016 at 1:14 AM

      Hi Tom,

      No, it’s not necessary to take a tent with you, it’s just fun to camp sometimes when you get the opportunity. There are hotels and guesthouses everywhere – even in remote areas you will always find at least one nhà nghỉ – this means local guesthouse in Vietnamese – read more about that here. The only part of the Scenic Route that you won’t find a nhà nghỉ is on the Western Ho Chi Minh Road – the 240km stretch from Khe Sanh to Phong Nha (read more about that in Day 4 of this guide and check the comments at the end of the guide as some readers mention a new guesthouse on this route).

      3 weeks is a good amount of time to have for the Scenic Route. You should be able to fit in a couple of nights at Mui Ne, Nha Trang and Ha Long as well.

      If you’re looking to buy bikes in Ho Chi Minh City then try Tigit Motorbikes (there’s a link to them in the sidebar and bottom of this page) – they sell reliable bikes and will guarantee buying them back at the end of your trip.

      I hope this helps,


      1. Tom Randon says:
        March 3, 2016 at 8:29 AM

        Hi Tom,

        Thank you very much your advice! Overall, which do you think would be the most cost effective? Buying or renting bikes?

        Thanks again,

        1. Tom says:
          March 3, 2016 at 12:57 PM

          Hi Tom,

          Well there are a few factors to consider in making that decision: the longer you have in Vietnam the easier it is to buy a bike – this is because it can take a while to find a bike to buy in the first place and then it can take a while to find a buyer to sell it to at the end of your trip. Also you may have one or two technical hitches along the way which might set you back a day or two. However, Tigit Motorbikes guarantees buy-back at the end of your trip – so that’s a good option.

          Renting a bike is better in the short term because the bike will be in good condition so you shouldn’t have any technical problems (and even if you do Rent a Bike gives you a number to call in such situations), and you can secure you rental bike in advance so you don’t have to go around trying to find one when you arrive in Vietnam.

          Time effective=rent one. Cost effective=buy one (if you have a long time in Vietnam). In your case, with three weeks, either option is good. Try contacting Rent a Bike and Tigit and see what they can offer you.

          I hope this helps,


          1. Tom Randon says:
            March 3, 2016 at 4:23 PM

            Hi Tom,

            Thank you so much for the information! I’ve just spoken to my parents about this (obviously they don’t sound too keen), but is there any possible way to say this is safe?

            Thanks again,

            1. Tom says:
              March 4, 2016 at 2:34 AM

              Hi Tom,

              Well, road rules – if you can call them that – are very different (and often perplexing) in Vietnam and the traffic in large cities and on Highway 1 can be terrible. However, the whole point in all my motorbike guides is to stay away from busy roads and therefore avoid the traffic and dangers usually associated with riding in Vietnam. In fact, for most of the Scenic Route traffic is extremely light. Obviously, you should be very cautious and ride with care. The bottom line is that there is simply no better way to experience Vietnam than on a motorbike. If you don’t feel comfortable riding yourself then you can always contact Easy Riders and go on the back on one of their bikes instead.


  19. JT says:
    February 12, 2016 at 8:54 AM

    Hey, I’m going to vietnam and looking for a way to ride a motorcycle from HCMC to Hanoi. Ill be going from the 20th of March to the 10th of April. Was wondering if two weeks is enough time plus a couple days extra just in case. My flight leaves from HCMC so I would like time to get back. Do you recommend flying back or train back? Is it possible in that small time frame /w sightseeing as well?

    1. Tom says:
      February 12, 2016 at 4:07 PM

      Hi John,

      Two weeks is possible to ride this route, but you will be driving pretty much every day. You should fly back because this will save you time and the flights are usually the same price as the train anyway.

      March/April is a good time of year to do this ride. Try to roughly plan your route – day by day – before you get here, because with only two weeks you don’t have that much room to maneuver. However, with some planning, you should be able to have a really good trip.

      I hope this helps,


  20. Jeremy Kemp says:
    February 11, 2016 at 9:44 PM

    Hey Tom!

    Some friends and I are planning on doing a trip similar to yours this May-June. Rent-A-Bike Hanoi seems to only have pickup locations in Hanoi and in Da Nang. How did you get yours in HCMC? Any other advice for doing this kind of trip during that time of the year?


    1. Tom says:
      February 14, 2016 at 8:24 AM

      Hi Jeremy,

      I’m pretty sure Rent a Bike do pickups in HCMC too – email them to be sure. If not, you can try Flamingo Travel too.

      May-June is a good time of year to do it – hot, sunny and with some tropical downpours all over the country.

      I hope this helps,


  21. Melissa Buluran says:
    February 4, 2016 at 8:26 AM

    Hello! Thank you so much for all your advice and stories you’ve been posting. It’s been helping my journey through vietnam a lot. Do you have any recommendations as to where to stay between hoi an and kontum?

    1. Tom says:
      February 4, 2016 at 11:30 PM

      Hi Melissa,

      You can try Kham Duc as a place to break the journey between Hoi An and Kon Tum. There are decent guesthouses there – including the Be Chau Giang Hotel at 94 Pham Van Dong Street.

      Or Dak Glei also has a couple of good guesthouses (nhà nghỉ) on the main road too – like Hotel Tuan Lan at number 377

      I hope this helps,


  22. Inge says:
    February 3, 2016 at 11:22 AM

    Hey! Good website.

    I was wondering if you can help us.
    Me and my friend buy 2 yamaha nouvo.
    We are looking for a map for motorbikes/ scooters and that we can avoid the highway 1.
    We have 6 weeks for vietnam and cambodja. And 3 weeks for Myamar.
    Can we take the scooters with us to MM?

    Please let me know.

    Greetz Inge and Chrid

    1. Tom says:
      February 3, 2016 at 11:48 PM

      Hi Inge,

      Take a look at my Motorbike Guides Archive – all my guides are about staying off Highway 1 as much as possible so you will find lots of maps and more information in these guides.

      To get an idea of where things are, take a look at this route map and click on the map pins for links to my guides.

      For more advice about maps and expenses and more, see my Resources Archive.

      I’m not sure about taking your motorbikes to Myanmar – that would mean you have to take them across 3 separate border crossings: Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia, and Thailand. It seems unlikely, but try Googling it of more information.

      I hope this helps,


  23. Sven and Marvin says:
    January 18, 2016 at 5:08 PM

    Hi Tom,
    me and my son Marvin are just back from “The Scenic Route”.
    We made it from Hanoi to HCM City and it was amazing!!
    Thank you so much for inspiring us to this great adventure and for your great and helpful posts.

    Sven and Marvin

    1. Tom says:
      January 19, 2016 at 12:07 AM

      Hi Sven and Marvin,

      Great to hear that your road trip went well. I’m happy to have been of help to you both. I hope you get another chance to come back to Vietnam for some more adventures 🙂


  24. bryony says:
    December 30, 2015 at 4:26 AM

    Hi there.
    I wondered if you could at all email me the map of your route from south to north please. I can’t seem to see it/load it.
    bcalcott87@gmail.com is my address. Thanks

    1. Tom says:
      December 30, 2015 at 4:56 AM

      Hi Bryony,

      Check your inbox, I sent you a link to the map. I hope it works.


  25. Jame Ng says:
    December 26, 2015 at 3:51 AM

    Great trip guys, I’m doing HCM to by motorbike in 1 weeks time, anywhere I can see specifics of your route? Im mainly looking for a rough idea of the time taken between each place you visited.

    1. Tom says:
      December 26, 2015 at 7:05 AM

      Hi Jame,

      It depends on which part of the route you want more specific details about. I suggest you take a look at this route map and click on the pins for links to my guides to specific areas. Or you can browse through my Motorbike Guides Archive.

      Once you have a clearer idea of where you want to go, let me know and I can give you some more detailed advice.

      I hope this helps,


  26. Stefan says:
    December 25, 2015 at 12:48 PM

    I did the loop in the north today and it was terrible.

    I drove 40 km or something like that in mud. And nothing else. Maybe the road was better when you where there.

    On your map it’s the loop where the second green pin is placed if you see it from hanoi.

    Maybe good to know for everybody who wants to do the trip soon.

    Very nice website by the way, very useful and good writing.

    Thank you very much for that.

    Cheers Stefan
    The Netherlands.

    1. Tom says:
      December 25, 2015 at 12:59 PM

      Hi Stefan,

      I’m sorry to hear that. Yes, I’ve been riding that loop for years and it’s been good: the problem is that many roads are being upgraded, so this means that a road that is good one year might be terrible the next year while they are working on it, but then the next year when they have finished it will be in perfect condition again.

      Thanks for letting me know the current condition on that road: my motorbike guides rely on people like yourself sharing their experience of road conditions.

      Thanks for the update, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your trip (without muddy roads!)


  27. German says:
    December 14, 2015 at 7:43 PM

    Hi great advise , doing Saigon-Hanoi solo starting today, once in Hanoi I will intent to cross into Laos and Cambodia, and back in Saigon I have spare 3 months for this trek, any advise? security? crossing the border? thanks

    1. Tom says:
      December 15, 2015 at 12:33 AM

      Hi German,

      I know that it is possible to do that border crossing into Laos, but I have never done it myself, so I don’t have any advice to offer you about that. You could try contacting Flamingo Travel or Rent a Bike Vietnam to ask if they have any experience of crossing the border into Laos.

      If you need any more route advice for Vietnam, then let me know.


  28. Latoya Vincent says:
    December 9, 2015 at 8:37 AM

    Good way to write it

    1. Tom says:
      December 9, 2015 at 9:08 AM

      Thanks! 🙂

  29. Joe says:
    November 26, 2015 at 12:28 PM

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for your post, me and my friends are planning on doing the same trip by motorbike in June/July. We’ve given ourselves about 5 weeks to do the trip.

    Firstly I was wondering whether it was possible to do the whole route you did, but never go on the highways? We want to stay off them as much as possible.

    And secondly I was wondering whether as we are going to be there for longer, whether there was anywhere extra you would recommend us to go visit?

    I think we are going to try and camp as much as possible, your post has really inspired us and is basically everything we want to do. Any tips would be much appreciated.

    Thank you very much,


    1. Tom says:
      November 27, 2015 at 2:02 AM

      Hi Joe,

      5 weeks is a great amount of time to have for a north-south ride. Yes, you’ll be able to do the Scenic Route and yes you can pretty much stay off Highway 1 (that’s the only highway you really need to be concerned about staying off) most of the way. Also take a look at my Two Month Road Trip Diary and Route Map for my ideas.

      In general, the south is about the coast and the north is about the mountains. So a good way to plan your trip is to have a look at my coastal guides and thread them together. If you stay on the coast in the south between Saigon and Hoi An/Hue (or even all the way up to Dong Hoi) you only need to spend about 250km on highway 1 – the vast majority can be done on back-roads. Zoom in close to the relevant areas of this route map for more ideas.

      From central Vietnam all the way to Hanoi it’s all about the Ho Chi Minh Road. You can join the Ho Chi Minh Road from many points along the coast. Some of the best places to head up from the coast to the Ho Chi Minh Road are at Quang Ngai to Kon Tum, Hoi An to Thanh My, Hue to A Luoi, and Dong Hoi to Phong Nha.

      As you have quite a bit of time, I suggest you ride from south to north at your own pace and then, depending on how much time you have left, go further north to the big mountains: any of my northern routes are fantastic.

      I hope this helps.


  30. Mark Burgess says:
    October 21, 2015 at 1:32 AM

    Im going to throw yet more praise in your direction Tom. Class mate, thank you very much. EVERY question I have has been answered exploring the ‘links and crannies’ of this article.

    Im arriving for my trip on the 6th Nov and staying for a month, a little loop of the south to get a Phu Quoc island visit in and then once ive found my bike im off to follow in your foot steps with a detour to get a suit from Hoi An and a ill be finishing with a few days exploring Ha Long Bay. Sell the bike and either fly back down to HCM or catch a train.

    Thank you for the inspiration chief.

    1. Tom says:
      October 21, 2015 at 3:53 AM

      Thanks, Mark.

      Great to hear that you’ve found inspiration for your Vietnam trip on my site – that’s what it’s all about! 🙂

      Sounds like a good plan to me. I hope it turns out to be a fabulous journey.


  31. Colin says:
    October 4, 2015 at 12:28 PM

    Hi Tom
    I came across your blog and thought about cycling from HCMC to Hanoi, reading about highway 1 makes the adventure sound suicidal but was wondering if I could use the coastal roads all the way ?? Is the Ho Chi Minh highway advisable on a bicycle ? Your scenic route seems pretty good to me ! I’m planning 2 months to do it and arrive in HCMC beginning of march, what do you think ? Any advice is welcome , thankyou

    1. Tom says:
      October 5, 2015 at 12:47 AM

      Hi Colin,

      Yes, cycling is good in Vietnam – providing you’re fit enough to handle all the hills – but Highway 1 is not the way to do it. All my motorbike guides can be used as cycling guides too, and they all stay off horrible highways as much as possible.

      The Ho Chi Minh Road is fabulous and generally light on traffic, but it is extremely mountainous, so there are lots of serious climbs by bicycle.

      The general rule is: stick to the coastal backroads in the south and head west to the mountainous Ho Chi Minh Road in the north.

      In the south it’s pretty easy to stay on coastal roads: for example, from Saigon to Nha Trang, only 25km is on Highway 1 (see this guide). From Nha Trang to Hoi An it’s still possible to stay on smaller roads most of the time, but it requires a bit more work and map reading. Then from Hoi An or Hue it’s easy to head west and join the Ho Chi Minh Road for the spectacular trip all the way to Hanoi.

      I would recommend you to take a look at this route map to get an idea of where everything is, and then to browse through my motorbike guide archive to see which ones you like the sound of, then you can start to piece together your own cycling itinerary.

      Don’t worry about time – the advantage of cycling is that you can always load your bike onto a bus or train to your destination point if you run out of time.

      I hope this helps,


  32. Arthur says:
    October 4, 2015 at 3:14 AM

    Hi guys,

    This is the Holy Grail, I could have not hoped for a better inspiration.

    Here is my custom version inspired from yours, just few additions.


    My questions:
    – Planning to do it Mid November to Mid December. Is it doable weather wise in that period?
    – Do you reckon a month is enough to do your route + the extras?
    – How much can we expect to pay and where could we buy the motorbikes in Saigon?
    – What do you reckon should be a budget for 2 for the month?

    Thanks a lot!


    1. Tom says:
      October 5, 2015 at 12:35 AM

      Hi Arthur,

      The route looks good. A month is fine, but stay as flexible as possible: many people make the mistake of trying to fit too much into too short a period of time. You will probably find that you will adjust your route when on the road.

      For more advice about weather take a look at this guide. At that time of year, you should have good weather anywhere south of Nha Trang. Anywhere north of Nha Trang will be a mixed bag of decent sunny days, and cold rainy days, especially as you move further north. Therefore, I would recommend making the most of the southern part of your itinerary – along the coast – where the sun should be shining and the coastal landscape should look great.

      How much you pay for a motorbike depends on which model you’re looking for and the condition of the bike. $200-400 should cover most purchases of a common bike – such as a Yamaha Nouvo, Honda Wave, Win. You can start looking at forums such as the Expats Ho Chi Minh Facebook page to get an idea of what’s available and for how much. You can also contact bike rental services, such as Flamingo Travel, Rent a Bike Vietnam, TIGIT as they sometimes have bikes to purchase. When in Vietnam, take a look at noticeboards in popular backpacker hostels and cafes in and around Pham Ngu Lao street.

      For detailed information about how much to budget for a Vietnam road trip read this guide. But bear in mind that prices always go up (perhaps add a dollar or two to the quotes in the guide).

      Have a great trip,


    2. Stefan says:
      December 25, 2015 at 12:57 PM

      Nice route, but you forgot about one thing I suppose.

      Ha gianh in the north. I did the north a week ago. Little bit cold but the most awesome views ever.

      In would skip salary for it.

      I hope I’m in time with the advise.

      Cheers stefan

      1. Tom says:
        December 25, 2015 at 1:02 PM

        Hi Stefan,

        I didn’t forget about it: it’s all here.

        Also, if you’re interested in more motorbike guides check out this 2 Month Road Trip Route Map and browse through my Motorbike Guides Archive here


  33. Holly says:
    August 17, 2015 at 2:56 AM

    Hello 🙂

    Have found this very helpful with our journey so far! Thank you!

    We are currently in hue city and riding up to dong hoi for some caving adventures. I was looking at the route you took from Phong Nha up to Hanoi and was wondering if there are roadside hotels/small towns for accommodation? I would much rather take this route than the coastal roads if possible.

    Let me know, thanks. Holly.

    1. Tom says:
      August 17, 2015 at 3:01 AM

      Hi Holly,

      Yes, definitely take the inland route from Phong Nha to Hanoi, as this is much more scenic that the coastal route. Yes, there are roadside hotels: mostly guesthouses called nhà nghỉ in Vietnamese – read more about them here.

      If you find good quality, good value cave/trekking tours when you are in Phong Nha then please let me know the details.



  34. Andrew says:
    June 16, 2015 at 11:34 AM


    I was just wondering what the purple lines as opposed to the blue lines were indicating? Just an alternate route?
    If I was to go the route of buying a used bike in HCMC, and selling in Hanoi, is there any suggestions you have for finding a decent bike?


    1. Tom says:
      June 17, 2015 at 2:44 AM

      Hi Andrew,

      The purple line in the central section is not drawn by me: Google Maps updated their system in late 2014; during the process they messed up some aspects of my maps. Just ignore it. Also, I have just published a new map that may be useful to you, see it here

      To buy a bike in HCMC join the Expats Ho Chi Minh facebook page – there are often bikes to buy on it. Check the noticeboards in your hotel/hostel in Saigon. Also, try contacting bike rental agencies to see if they have any used bikes for sale or other advice about where to get one: Flamingo Travel and Saigon Scooters would be good places to start.



  35. john doe says:
    April 20, 2015 at 8:25 PM

    Very helpful post and blog. I have been thinking about a similar trip. I ride motorcycles here in the states. Do you think 3 weeks is enough time for me to do the HCMC – Hanoi trip? I plan on buying a flight into Saigon and a flight out of Hanoi and winging it; using your map as a reference…

    1. Tom says:
      April 21, 2015 at 3:00 AM

      Hi John,
      Yes, three weeks is a good amount of time to have if you want to complete the Scenic Route. That will give you enough time for some decent stops and detours.
      Hope you enjoy it.

  36. Jonas Egli says:
    April 20, 2015 at 8:11 AM

    This looks awesome!
    I’m also planning to do the same with my friend from north to south.
    But imt worried about not having a vietnamese driving licence so my insurance wouldn’t pay me if i’d have an accident. How did you manage this?
    Thank you for answering

    Best regards

    1. Tom says:
      April 20, 2015 at 8:35 AM

      Hi Jonas,

      Yes, you’re right, your insurance will not cover you if you do not have a Vietnamese license. The vast majority of motorbike road trippers in Vietnam do not let this stop them. I suggest contacting Flamingo Travel or checking out the recent links posted on Motorbiking Vietnam Facebook page to get more information about how to apply for a Vietnamese license.

      Whether or not you have a local license, the best way to avoid any complications is to ride responsibly and carefully.

      I hope you will get a chance to make your Vietnam road trip.


  37. Dan says:
    April 19, 2015 at 4:00 PM

    Hi Tom!
    I’ll be in Vietnam next month, flying into Hanoi May 9 and out of Ho Chi Minh City on June 8. I’m traveling solo and am planning on buying a bike and riding north to south. I would love to spend some time in the north before heading south but I’m not sure if I would have enough time to do both considering I would have to buy and sell the bike in this timeframe. I am not trying to overplan anything at this point as I don’t know what to expect, but I’m looking for some recommendations! I would be open to doing a tour in the north before buying a bike, or seeing the north by bike and then taking a train with my bike from Hanoi to a spot further south in order to stay on schedule. What do you think? With my time frame, what should be my priorities and must-see spots? Also, any info on where to keep/lock up the bike at night. Thanks!

    1. Tom says:
      April 20, 2015 at 6:43 AM

      Hi Dan,

      Firstly, wherever you stay in Vietnam there’s almost always secure parking – be it a guesthouse hotel, bar, restaurant – so you don’t need to worry about that. Just make sure whenever you park it that you take the parking ticket – and don’t lose it.

      A month is a good amount of time to have for a north to south road trip. May has reasonably good weather across the country – hot and humid with some tropical downpours, especially in the afternoons.

      You don’t really need to buy a motorbike unless for some reason that’s what you really want to do. Good rental agencies, such as Flamingo Travel and Rent a Bike Hanoi, are very efficient, affordable, and can arrange to pick up the bike in Saigon or wherever your final destination is.

      The north has some of the best riding in Vietnam. But it’s a deceptively large area. So you should choose the part you most want to cover: The Extreme North, the Northeast, or the Northwest. You can get a good idea of what’s available by browsing the relevant posts in my Motorbike Guides section.

      I would spend a week riding one of these northern sections, then start heading south. You could either put your bike on the train down to Dong Hoi, or simply take the Ho Chi Minh Road down from Hanoi instead – this is an easy, but relatively uninteresting ride, until you get to around 100km north of Phong Nha Caves.

      From Phong Nha Caves/Dong Hoi take the Western Ho Chi Minh Road which is utterly stunning. Stay on the Ho Chi Minh Road south all the way to A Luoi or Thanh My where you can choose to turn east towards Hue or Hoi An respectively.

      South from Hoi An it’s all about the beaches. Try your best to stay off Highway 1 and take the smaller, quieter backroads along the coast. I’ve covered this extensively from Vung Ro Bay, to Nui Chua Coast Road, to Mui Dinh Promontory and the Southeast Loop all the way down to Saigon – look for the relevant posts in my Motorbike Guides.

      Remember that, although putting your bike on the train is a good option, usually your bike will take 2-3 days to arrive at the destination station.

      I will be posting an article about road trip expenses in the next few days so look out for that.

      I hope this helps. Have a great road trip.


  38. Imran Hawkins says:
    March 27, 2015 at 3:49 PM


    This looks awesome! Me and my brothers are planning on travelling by motorbike from south to north and we have 5 weeks.

    I am thinking of doing this route and staying off highway 1 as much as possible.

    Out of interest, did you camp out of necessity? Or would we be able to find places to stay along your route?


    1. Tom says:
      March 28, 2015 at 7:20 AM

      Hi Imran,

      It’s not necessary to camp if you don’t want to. There are always local guesthouses, even in small villages – they are called Nhà Nghỉ in Vietnamese – read more about them here.

      The only section of this trip where you will find it difficult to find a place to stay in on the Western Ho Chi Minh Road. This is 240km without any accommodation. However, it’s one of the best roads in Vietnam. You can ride it all in one day if you start early. Read more about that here.

      Have a great trip.


  39. craig says:
    February 17, 2015 at 9:59 AM


    That route looks fantastic. Brilliant write up.
    One question…did you have to take extra fuel when you went through the mountains, ie in bottles, or was fuel easy to come by?

    Cheers bud

    1. Tom says:
      February 18, 2015 at 2:22 AM

      Hi Craig,

      There are regular gas stations on the vast majority of roads on this route. The only section you need to carry fuel is the Western Ho Chi Minh Road: You can read about that in detail on DAY 4 of this guide.

      Other than that you bike shouldn’t go thirsty 🙂


  40. Martin says:
    February 4, 2015 at 4:40 AM


    That’s a really awesome travel report, really very helpful. I am planning to do a similar trip from Hanoi to HCMC with my girlfriend, starting next Monday the 9th of Feb 2015 and leaving HCMC by plane on the 1st of March.

    I plan on using your travelogue and map as an info resource during the trip. Do you think google maps will work on my phone (with a Vietnamese card) in Vietnam?



    1. Tom says:
      February 7, 2015 at 8:07 AM

      Hi Martin,

      Yes, Google Maps will work in the vast majority of places you’ll be travelling through. However, always cross-check the route with a ‘real’ map before taking a road you’re not sure about – Google Maps is far from flawless. Read my post about which maps to use here.

      You’ll have a good three weeks on the road which is just the right amount for this trip. Please note that since Google Maps relaunched their system a couple months ago some details on my maps have been automatically changed. I am in the process of correcting all my maps but this takes some time.

      Remember that the weather might not be great in the northern half of Vietnam at this time of year, but it’s perfect in the south. Zoom in close on my map so that you don’t miss the small ocean roads along the coast in the south.

      Have a great trip,


  41. Tue says:
    January 15, 2015 at 9:55 PM

    Hey Tom,

    I’m currently planning a solo trip through Vietnam. This page has been really helpful in mapping my route. I was just wondering if you had an estimate on how much you spent total (gas, hotel, eating expenses), if you don’t mind sharing of course!


    1. Tom says:
      January 16, 2015 at 8:30 AM

      Hi Tue,

      If you’re travelling solo you can do it on around 400-500,000vnđ ($20-25) a day. That’s assuming you eat local street food (under $2 a meal), stay in local guesthouses called nhà nghỉ (150-200,000vnđ [$7-10] a night) and don’t drink that much alcohol. Also, it depends on how far you ride. On average reckon on about 100,000vnđ ($5) for gas each day each day. However, gas is so cheap at the moment it doesn’t really matter 🙂 For more about local guesthouses read this.

      I hope this helps,


  42. Barney says:
    January 11, 2015 at 11:17 AM

    A very nice breakdown of the trip I plan on doing in a few weeks time. A few questions, did you take malaria tablets for this trip and how often were you pulled over by police? I’m still debating whether or not to go through the process of converting my UK licence to a Vietnamese one for the trip. Any advice would be appreciated. Cheers

    1. Tom says:
      January 16, 2015 at 1:18 AM

      Hi Barney,

      No I didn’t take malaria tablets. On my first trip to Vietnam, when I was 17, I took the tablets. I’ve never taken them again. I sometimes travel Vietnam with friends visiting from the UK who start taking the tablets, but give it up after a few days.

      How often you get stopped by the police is down to chance (and to some extent how you drive). I wasn’t pulled over once on my 2 month trip of 9,000km. Drive slowly and safely (always wear your helmet) and you shouldn’t have any trouble. If you do get stopped, smile, be polite and they’ll probably just wave you on your way. However, if they persist give your motorbike rental company a call.
      Have a great trip,

  43. John Mazuroski says:
    January 1, 2015 at 4:28 PM


    thanks for sharing your adventure. My wife and I plan on following the same route for the month of February. However, she would be riding on the back of my pack so we will have to pack as light as possible. Do you still recommend the automatic Yamaha Nouvo or would you recommend another bike due to there being two people on it?

    Do you find it safe camping? Any places in particular do you recommend?

    Did you ever have to pay a bribe for driving illegally? If so, how much should I offer the police?

    Also,do you by chance have a list of the items that are absolutely necessary to bring?

    Thanks again for sharing this and Happy New Years!

    1. Tom says:
      January 6, 2015 at 8:55 AM

      Hi John,
      Yes, an automatic Yamaha should still be fine. You can also rent saddle bags from some motorbike rental places, like Rent a Bike Hanoi and Flamingo Travel. But you certainly will need to pack light.
      Camping is good, but you should make sure you’re not visible from the road, and preferably hidden from view of passersby. Try not to attract any attention. The Western Ho Chi Minh Road is very isolated so it makes sense to camp there. But there are nhà nghỉ (local guesthouses) everywhere so you never really HAVE to camp.
      If the police stop you, then you may have to pay a fine. 200,000 ($10) is standard. Keep hold of your keys, smile and be polite: don’t offer money immediately as this may appear rude.
      I’ve been meaning to write a post about what to bring on a road trip in Vietnam, but haven’t got around to it yet. A rain poncho, penknife, warm clothes (for the mountains), flashlight, map, loose fitting clothes you don’t mind getting very dirty (these will be your driving clothes), keep your cash in 2 or 3 separate places in case one stash gets lost or stolen.
      Click the highlighted links in this comment for more information.
      Have a great trip!

  44. Anthony says:
    December 9, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    Hi guys, great ride

    I plan to do similar route with my partner and bags on the one bike. Probably the Yamaha nouve, so you was on highway one more in the south, is there still beach roads whilst avoiding HighwAy 1

    1. Tom says:
      December 12, 2014 at 1:29 AM

      Hi Anthony,
      No, you can still stay off Highway 1 most of the time in the south. Some of the roads are small and a little difficult to find, but if you zoom into my map of the Scenic Route you can see them.
      In particular, don’t miss the Nui Chua Coastal Road between Phan Rang and Nha Trang and the Ocean Road between Saigon and Mui Ne.
      You can also have a look at my map of Two Months on a Motorbike for more coastal route ideas.
      Please note that since Google Maps have updated their entire system recently, some of my maps have been automatically changed – I’m in the process of going through them all and fixing them.

  45. Fleur says:
    December 8, 2014 at 3:14 PM

    Great post, very inspirational! We arrived in HCMC today and we are still in doubt if we want to buy two motorbikes and drive all the way up to Hanoi. Our main concerns are the Vietnamese driving license which we don’t have, and our insurance will not cover a thing if we get into an accident somewhere. Any tips, advice or just anything that would make us help to cut the knot?

    1. Tom says:
      December 9, 2014 at 1:25 AM

      Hi Fleur,
      Yes, you are supposed to have a Vietnamese driving license, but in reality the vast majority of foreigners on the road in Vietnam do not. No, your insurance won’t cover anything that might occur while driving on Vietnam’s roads without a local license. However, this doesn’t stop most people. I think there’s no better way to see Vietnam than on bikes, but of course you should be extremely careful. Once you are out of the big cities and off Highway 1 traffic is not so much of an issue. If you decide not to drive yourselves, you could try the Easy Riders instead. Google them – you’ll find lots of info. They’ll take you on the back of their bikes pretty much anywhere you want to go. Bear in mind that many places north of Nha Trang (and certainly north of Danang) can experience pretty wet, grey, cold weather at this time of year. Stick to the south for sun and warmth.

  46. Lewis says:
    November 17, 2014 at 7:32 AM

    Hi Tom

    Thanks for posting this route it sounds amazing and something I am definitely going to do! Just out of interest how long did it take you?


    1. Tom says:
      November 17, 2014 at 11:23 AM

      Thanks, Lewis.
      If you follow this exact route then you’d need at least two weeks. 3 weeks is ideal as you would have enough time to stop for more than 1 night in places you find interesting, and you wouldn’t need to be driving all the time. It all depends on the route you take. If you go the shortest (and most uninspiring) route on Highway 1 then you can do it in 6 days.

      1. Lewis says:
        November 19, 2014 at 5:31 AM

        Thanks Tom I have 4 weeks in Vietnam so will opt for the 3 week option as I want to spend some time in Ha Long Bay.

        Thanks Again 🙂

  47. Pris Li says:
    November 14, 2014 at 8:51 AM

    Hi Tom,

    Amazing trip 🙂 My friend and I are doing the same but in car (we don’t trust ourselves with bikes 😉 ). I wanted to know if along the way you encountered communications issues? We don’t speak a word of Vietnamese and we were wondering if stopping in the small towns or villages or on the road side for food would be a bit complicated?


    1. Tom says:
      November 14, 2014 at 11:31 AM

      When I first started taking these trips I only had a few words of Vietnamese and I got on fine. Vietnamese people are friendly, hospitable and helpful so you shouldn’t have any problems communicating with them. Using the ‘international travellers’ sign language’ goes a long way, as it does in any country you visit 🙂

  48. Motorbike Vietnam says:
    November 11, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    It’s great story! Thank you so much for sharing the incredible motorbike trip through Vietnam!

    1. Tom says:
      November 12, 2014 at 1:39 AM


  49. Gracia says:
    October 27, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    Hi Tom,

    My friends and I are planning on driving ( possibly hire a car with a driver) from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi but we only have a week to do this because we have unfortunately already bought tickets to return home via Ho Chi Minh. Any recommendations on places to stay or city to stop by on our way up, or any idea on the cost for the entire week to hire the car and driver?
    Any suggestions would be great, because we haven’t finalized on the driving idea (if it takes too long we might just fly up)


    1. Tom says:
      October 27, 2014 at 10:46 AM

      I don’t know about costs of hiring a car and driver. It’s a long way to go in just a week. The total distance (on the shortest route between the two cities) is 1700km. That would be all on Highway 1, which although scenic in places, is not a great way to see Vietnam. If you do decide to do it I would stop in Mui Ne, Nha Trang, Quy Nhon, Hoi An, Hue, Dong Hoi and Ninh Binh before arriving in Hanoi – but, like I said, that’s all on Highway 1.

  50. Chelsy Hutton says:
    October 19, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    Hello, my partner and I are wanting to do this route but the opposite way, do you have any recommendations for places to stop over on the way? any towns we should avoid etc..


    1. Tom says:
      October 24, 2014 at 12:51 AM

      Hi Chelsy,
      Have a look at the route map on this page for interesting places to stop along the way. Avoid Highway 1 all you can, because it’s being upgraded at the moment so parts of it are a mess.

  51. Artur says:
    October 17, 2014 at 9:14 AM

    Hey Tom,great job very useful!
    Me and a fried are planning to do basically the same trip ,but we are going trough Laos and Cambodia as well.
    We will be doing a short documentary in each country,my question is : do you know any kind of cultural festivals that happens in the month of May that worths the visit?We rather go to the very traditional ones,the ones that nobody is usually interested… And what’s better,buy or rent a bike?
    Thank you,


    1. Tom says:
      October 24, 2014 at 12:46 AM

      Hi Artur,
      People who buy bikes for a couple hundred dollars usually sell it when they’re finished. The advantage of buying is that you don’t have to return it to the rental company when you finish your ride. Renting gives you a little extra security because if something goes wrong you can contact the rental company. But depending on the rental company you may have to return your bike to the company’s office in Hanoi or Saigon. Try Rent a Bike Hanoi and Flamingo Travel for rental options.
      I’m not sure of festivals in May. In the northwest there are great markets every Sunday in most mountain towns. These are busy and colourful events. Bac Ha is the most famous but it’s touristy. For a more authentic experience try other villages in the northwest. Have a look at my Sapa-Sin Ho Scenic Loop and my upcoming guide to Sapa-Ha Giang (to be published in next couple days) for some ideas.

  52. alan simpson says:
    August 3, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    Inspiring mate, I live in Vung Tau and I’m planning a cruise up maybe as far as Da nang, but will stay in budget hotels. Yamaha Nouvo, is the bike I had one for three years, one of my all time favorite bikes , “bullet poof”, (135 LX), no fuel injection, just a big carb, two up cruising at 80- 90 km/h with bags, good handling and brakes, cheaper than a honda as well. I now have a 750 shadow, but it’s still manageable and lopes along. thanks for the road tips.

    1. Tom says:
      August 4, 2014 at 6:36 AM

      Thanks, Alan. Yes, I’m happy with my Nouvo too – it’s everything you need for an on-road bike, but it doesn’t handle too well in mud! Have a great road trip up to Danang and check out some of the backroads along the coast on my map on this page.

  53. goodwin says:
    March 2, 2014 at 3:47 PM


    How much was petrol per day for you guys?

    1. Tom says:
      March 2, 2014 at 11:13 PM

      It depends on how far you drive each day and on what bike you’re using. But in general, between 100-200,000VND ($5-10) a day, based on driving between 100-350km a day.

  54. Rocke says:
    February 17, 2014 at 3:26 AM

    How many kilometers would you say it is between Nha Trang and Qui Nhon, and then between Qui Nhon and Kon Tum? We’re planning a trip from HCMC to Hoi An in April, and are planning to follow the first half of this guide. It looks amazing!

    1. Tom says:
      February 17, 2014 at 4:09 AM

      It’s around 250km from Nha Trang to Quy Nhon if you stay on the roads that I’ve suggested in this post (it would be around 30km less if you stay on Highway 1 the whole way).
      From Quy Nhon to Kon Tum it’s just under 200km if you go on Highway 19. But, I would suggest taking the road from Quang Ngai up to Kon Tum instead (as the map in this post shows) because it’s more scenic, and sees less traffic. This route is much further – around 350km – but it’s worth it.
      From Kon Tum to Hoi you can take the Ho Chi Minh Road to Kham Duc (see my post about Ho Chi Minh Road for more info) and then take Highway 14E from Kham Duc down to the coast and up to Hoi An.

  55. Eric Zachanowich says:
    November 6, 2013 at 3:41 AM

    Wow, amazing. Me and a friend are planning on doing the same thing and after seeing ho successful your trip was we are thinking about doing the exact same route. What types of tips can you give us? What bikes should we get? We’re planning on camping like you guys did as well. This is awesome.

    1. Tom says:
      November 7, 2013 at 9:32 AM

      Hi Eric,
      Yes, it’s a great route because it stays off main roads most of the time – some of the roads along the coast in the south aren’t marked on Google Maps so I had to draw them on – you’ll see them if you zoom in on my route map on this page. All the GREEN PINS on the map have links to my guides to those particular sections.
      As for bikes, I drive an automatic Yamaha Nouvo – they’re pretty common here and really good for road driving. The only reason you’d need a bigger ‘proper’ motorbike is if you’re planning on going off-road, which doesn’t apply to this route. Rent A Bike Hanoi is great for bike rental, or see the Travel Information section on any of my Motorbike Guide articles for other bike rental outlets.
      Camping is great, but you’ll need a good tent if you come during the rainy season. Also, it’s best to make sure you camp somewhere where you won’t draw attention, otherwise you could get moved on by the local authorities.
      If I can be of any more help, feel free to contact me.

      1. alex says:
        September 8, 2014 at 11:26 AM

        hi Tom,

        looks amazing, planning something very similar, just to clarify, can you rent a bike in saigon and drop it off in hanoi? do you know if any service like this exists?

        1. Tom says:
          September 9, 2014 at 2:33 AM

          Hi Alex,
          This is becoming a problem that motorbike rental places will have to address. You should be able to send your bike back on a train from Hanoi to Saigon. But you’ll have to negotiate this with the motorbike rental place because obviously they’ll need some kind of guarantee that you’ll do it. Try Rent a Bike Hanoi (mentioned in this post) – they’re based in Hanoi, but they can send the bike down to you in Saigon by train and then you drive it back up to them in Hanoi – just make sure you work it all out well in advance.
          Good luck.

  56. Sam Mather says:
    July 29, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    Second time lucky! Good work, Tom, as ever. See you very soon!