Motorbike Road Trip Expenses in Vietnam: Tips for solo travellers

Motorbike Road Trip Expenses in Vietnam: Tips for solo travellers

I receive lots of emails from readers wanting to know how much a motorbike road trip through Vietnam will cost. Below, I’ve put together a list of necessary expenses and worked out what an average daily budget might be while on the road in Vietnam. These costs are based on hundreds of road trips that I’ve taken – both solo and in a group – over many years of motorbiking in Vietnam. Of course, to a certain extent, expenses for a motorbike road trip in Vietnam will depend on how much you want to spend. In general, I have assumed that most travellers on motorbike rides in Vietnam fall into the budget to mid-range category, and are willing to stay in local guesthouses and eat local food. I have estimated the following prices accordingly, so you can relax and stay within your budget.

A motorbike road trip through Vietnam is an unforgettable experience: but how much does it cost?

Motorbike Rental |$10 per day

One of the biggest expenses will be your motorbike. For this, there are two options: rent or buy. However, the rental market in Vietnam is increasingly sophisticated, and the only real reason to buy your motorbike is if you’re particularly keen on the idea of ‘owning’ it, or if you’re planning on travelling for more than a month. Generally speaking, if you rent a motorbike the cost will be around $10 a day for a standard automatic or semi-automatic model. (But if you plan on renting a bigger, more powerful motorcycle, prices are significantly higher.) If you buy your motorbike, the cost will be around $200. Please note: in the right sidebar and bottom of this page, I advertise for specific motorbike rental/buying companies that I trust, have personally used, and vouch for. These companies all offer excellent services and I highly recommend contacting them for full details about their bikes and prices.

Rent

If you choose to rent your motorbike, you should do so from a reputable company: Flamingo, Tigit Motorbikes, Dragon Bikes, Style Motorbikes, and Rent A Bike Vietnam are all professional, efficient and reliable rental services, and they can arrange pick-up and drop-off in specific locations around the country. Rental costs per day will depend on what kind of motorbike you want. But, for the most common motorbikes – standard automatics or semi-automatics – the average cost per day is around $10. You will need to pay a deposit (or in some cases the full amount) before you set off. Style Motorbikes, Dragon Bikes, Flamingo, Rent A Bike, and Tigit are all highly experienced with years of service behind them. These days, the rental process is very streamlined and easy to follow. Increasing demand and competition is continually raising the standards of motorbike rental in Vietnam: it’s now easier and better value than ever before.

Buy

You can buy a used motorbike, such as a Honda Win, for as little as $200 by scouring the backpacker areas of Saigon and Hanoi, and searching traveller forums. But 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. You will also 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. 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 bike from a random garage or backpacker, their only incentive is to sell their bike as quickly as possible, regardless of quality, condition, or value for money. My advice is to rent, unless you intend to ride Vietnam for an especially long period of time, or if you know enough about bikes to make a good assessment of the quality of bikes for sale.

Accommodation | $5-15 per day

Once you have your motorbike, your biggest daily expense while on the road will be accommodation. One of the best ways to save on accommodation is not to travel alone: sharing the cost of a room between (at least) two people can halve the cost of sleeping. (I include accommodation recommendations for all budgets within my Motorbike Guides, and I write independent reviews to specific accommodations all over Vietnam in my Hotel Reviews Archive.)

Guest house, hostels

Unless you’re sticking entirely to the beaten track, you will be spending many of your nights on the road in nhà nghỉ (local guesthouses). These can be found all over the country – even in the remotest regions – and are usually great value for money. Averaging 200,000-400,000vnđ ($9-18) for a double, twin, triple, or quadruple room, they are particularly good value for couples, two travelling friends, or a small group of travelling companions. If you’re travelling alone and you bargain politely you should be able to get a room for 150,000vnđ ($7). (For much more about nhà nghỉ read my guide to local guesthouses here.) In well-established tourist enclaves, such as Saigon, Dalat, Mui Ne, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue, Phong Nha, Halong, Hanoi, Ha Giang, and Sapa, there are a good number of classic backpacker-style hostels, offering dorm rooms starting from $5 a night.

Homestay, air BnB

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 in the country. The price for a mattress on the floor under a mosquito net in highland destinations, such as Ha Giang, Sapa, and Mai Chau, can be as little as 40,000-80,000vnd ($2-$4) a night. Of course, you are also expected to buy into the family-style dinner (which would put the price up by at least 100,000vnd), but, if you’re on a tight budget, there’s no reason why you can’t just pay to sleep and not eat. Homestays are becoming more common throughout Vietnam, even in lowland areas such as the Mekong Delta, so it’s always worth seeking them out. (To get an idea of what homestays are like, take a look at my Homestays Archive.) Airbnb also lists some surprisingly cheap homestay-style accommodations, so checking their listings wherever you are in the country is worthwhile.

Camping

One way to significantly reduce the cost of accommodation is to camp. This is definitely an option, especially on remote stretches of road, such as the Western Ho Chi Minh Road, or where there are designated campsites, such as the Ocean Road, and camping can be an extremely rewarding experience. However, if you intend to ‘wild camp’, it does mean taking more equipment on the back of your motorbike and you should 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 Archive.

Resort, hotel

Mid-range travellers will find plenty of hotels and resorts in all cities and popular tourist destinations, but not in more out of the way regions. If your accommodation budget stretches beyond $20 a night (or if you’ve had a particularly hard few days of riding and want to recuperate) there are some very good value mid-range hotels across the nation, but of course your general budget will suffer as a result. However, I still think it’s worth splurging occasionally – it’s a lot of fun. For some examples the kind of mid to high-end accommodation available in Vietnam, browse through my Hotel Reviews Archive.

Fuel | $2-4 per day

How much you spend on gas will depend on the distances you intend to cover each day, and on the type of motorbike you’re riding. A long day on the road in Vietnam is around 300km; a short day is around 100km. Of course there will be days when you will be static and this will offset the average daily cost for gas. Most standard motorbikes have a 3-5 litre tank which will take you around 100-250km, depending on the condition of the motorbike and the terrain you’re covering. At the time of writing (March 2018) gas prices were creeping up again, at around 20,000vnđ per litre (less than $1). A full tank costs between 60,000-100,000vnđ ($2.50-$4.50). On average – over your entire road trip, taking into account the days that you will be static – you will probably only use one tank of gas per day.

Food & Drink | $7-11 per day

When it comes to food – and especially drink – how much you spend is down to you. If you eat local street food for all your meals (which in itself is a great experience), then you could spend as little as 25,000vnđ ($1) per meal. If you are eating locally, a large, hearty breakfast or lunch accompanied by a coffee or a soft drink should never really be more than 50,000vnđ ($2) per person. Dinner can be just as cheap but, after a long day in the saddle, most travellers feel the need for a few ice cold beers and a relative banquet. This will probably double the cost: 100,000-200,000vnđ per person will get you a feast, including alcohol. When you’re riding along the coast, it’d be a shame to miss out on the seafood, but this too can cost a little more. If you eat at restaurants serving Western food, this will also raise the cost of eating. Based on a bowl of noodles and a coffee for breakfast, a soft drink and a rice-based meal for lunch, and a large dinner with beers, 150,000-250,000vnđ ($6.50-$11) per day should comfortably cover the costs.  When riding in isolated areas of the country, most meals will be at quán cơm phở (local rice and noodle joints) which you can read more about here. (I include recommendations of places to eat and drink in all of my Motorbike Guides, as well as independent reviews and guides to eating and drinking all over the country in my Food & Drink Archive.)

Additional Costs | $1-5 per day

Allow at least a few dollars per day for extra costs. These might include entrance tickets for attractions, sites, museums; minor motorbike repairs, such as a flat tyre; roadside snacks like a packet of biscuits; and lots of water to keep you hydrated. Also, leave room for some ‘luxuries’: a sunset cocktail at a smart beach bar, or a Western meal in a big city after days of eating rice in the mountains.

Total Daily Costs: $25 | $35 | $50 per day

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 your motorbike. 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 Ascetic Backpacker budget and you really want or need to stay within a tight budget, you can probably manage to shave off a couple of dollars (50,000vnđ) a day from this estimate. If you’re on the Flashpacker budget you shouldn’t have any problem staying within these costs, especially if you’re an experienced traveller in Asia. And, if you’re a Mid-Ranger, with $50-$100 to spend each day (covering two people), you’ll live and ride very comfortably indeed:

  • The Ascetic Backpacker: $25 (570,000vnđ)
  • The Flashpacker: $35 (800,000vnđ)
  • The Mid-Ranger: $50+ (1,100,000vnđ)

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