Guided vs Self Guided Motorbike Tours in Vietnam

a group of local motorbike tourers at a homestay in Nghia Lo

Table of Contents

Motorbike Tours are Popular in Vietnam

Motorbike tours in Vietnam have become a popular way of exploring the country’s stunning landscapes, rich culture, and diverse cuisine. With its winding roads, majestic mountains, and picturesque countryside, Vietnam offers an unforgettable experience to those who are willing to embark on a motorbike trip. While some may find it intimidating to navigate the roads and traffic of Vietnam, many tourists find it to be an exhilarating and unique way of exploring the country. Touring allow visitors to discover hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path destinations that may not be accessible by car or public transportation. Whether you choose a guided or a self-guided tour, a motorbike adventure in Vietnam is sure to leave you with lasting memories.

Guided and Self-Guided Tours

Guided motorbike tours in Vietnam are usually led by an experienced tour guide who provides a structured itinerary, transportation, and accommodations. These tours can be customized based on your preferences and skill level, and they typically offer a higher level of convenience and safety. You could choose one of our tours such as the Lake Loop.  On the other hand, self-guided tours give you the freedom to plan your own itinerary, choose your own route, and explore at your own pace. While they are more affordable and offer a greater sense of adventure, they also require more planning, preparation, and flexibility. One of our many blogs could help you to plan this. For example, finding out about insurance in Vietnam could be a life saver. 

Ultimately, the choice between guided and self-guided tours depends on your travel style, experience level, and personal preferences.

Guided Motorbike Tours

Benefits

1. Safety

Guided tours can offer several safety benefits to riders. They typically provide a support team with mechanics and drivers who can assist riders in case of any problems on the road. Additionally, touring with a guide usually follows pre-planned routes that have been vetted for safety, reducing the risk of getting lost or encountering dangerous areas. Finally, professional guides who are familiar with the local roads and can help riders navigate through the chaotic traffic conditions and avoid potential hazards. They will also have a first aid kit, training and experience of how to deal with emergencies.. 

2. Convenience

Guided tours are generally more convenient than self-guided because they take care of many logistical aspects of the trip. They typically include transportation to and from the airport, as well as accommodations and meals along the way. This means that riders can focus on enjoying the journey without having to worry about finding hotels or restaurants. Additionally, they usually have a support team that can assist riders with any mechanical or medical issues that may arise, making the trip less stressful and more enjoyable. Pre-planned itineraries that take riders to the most scenic and interesting destinations are often provided, saving them time and effort in planning their own routes. Overall, guided motorbike tours offer a hassle-free and comfortable way to experience the beauty and adventure of Vietnam on two wheels.

3. Local Knowledge and Expertise

This is by far the biggest advantage. A local guide on a motorbike tour in Vietnam can have more knowledge and expertise for several reasons. They are likely to have grown up in the area and have a deep understanding of the local customs, traditions, and culture. It is more likely that they are familiar with the roads and terrain in the area, including any potential hazards or challenges that riders may face. On top of this, local guides can offer recommendations for local cuisine, attractions, and activities that may not be well-known to outsiders. 

Easy rider in ha giang with customer
Having a guide can make a solo trip much more fun.

Drawbacks

1. Cost

The high cost of a guided tour is usually the biggest deterrent. One of the biggest expenses is a professional guide with a tourism license. Professional guides who are knowledgeable about the local area can provide valuable insights into the culture, history, and traditions of the region are hard to find. This expertise and knowledge comes at a premium.

Additional services such as accommodation, meals, and transportation are typically included in the overall cost of the tour. This convenience factor can make guided tours more expensive than self-guided tours, where riders have more freedom to choose their own accommodation and meals based on their budget.

Higher-end motorbikes are often used and these are more expensive to rent or purchase than the standard bikes used for self-guided tours. The cost of maintaining and repairing these motorbikes is also higher, which is reflected in the overall cost of the tour.

It is hard to put a value on the added sense of security and peace of mind that comes with having a professional guide and support team. However, riders can rest assured that this is factored in by the tour company. 

2. Lack of Freedom and Flexibility

A guided motorbike tour can be less flexible than a self-guided one because the itinerary is pre-planned and the tour group must adhere to the schedule. This routine can become tiresome for  the guide and it may show in their level of enthusiasm when touring. In contrast, a self-guided tour allows for more freedom and flexibility for you to explore the country at your own pace and make changes to your itinerary as needed.

Examples of Popular Guided Motorbike Tours in Vietnam

Take a look at the map above and you will see that there are many options to choose from when thinking about a motorbike tour in Vietnam. 

In the North of the country you could take The Great Loop or Waterfall Run. If you wished to drive from Hanoi to Danang or vice versa, you could follow either the High to Low or the Run to the Sun route. 

Also, if you were to fly into Saigon, then you could Top to Bottom or Coastal Cruise

Self-Guided Tours

Benefits

1. Cost-effectiveness

Self-guided motorbike tours in Vietnam are more cost-effective than guided tours for several reasons. It is because they allow you to plan and manage your own itinerary, the kind of bike you use, accommodation, and meals. All of this can significantly reduce the overall cost of your trip.

2. Freedom and Flexibility

Making your own tour allows you the freedom to travel at your own pace and explore your own interests. You can choose which destinations to visit, how long to stay in each place, and where to eat and sleep. This means that you can tailor your trip to your budget and preferences, and avoid paying for activities or services that you are not interested in.

3. Adventure and Spontaneity

You can be more flexible with your travel plans. Changes can be made to  your itinerary at any time, depending on the weather, road conditions, or your own preferences. This means that you can avoid unnecessary expenses, such as cancellation fees or extra transportation costs, that may be incurred when following a guided tour itinerary.

4. Authenticity

Guiding yourself can be a more authentic and immersive way to experience Vietnam. Without a guide, you have to navigate the country on your own, which can lead to unexpected encounters, authentic experiences, and a deeper understanding of the local culture and people.

getting the XR 150 ready to get back on the road again after a picnic lunch in Dong Van, Ha Giang
Small group numbers is a definite benefit of being self-guided

Drawbacks

1. Safety Concerns

When taking a self-guided motorbike tour in Vietnam, there are several safety concerns to keep in mind. Firstly, traffic in Vietnam can be chaotic, and it is important to be aware of local road rules and customs. The traffic in Vietnam may look crazy at first, but it is like a river and when you are in it, you have to flow. This can be very daunting for many and having a seasoned veteran on hand can be very helpful. 

Additionally, it is important to note that without a valid International Driving Permit (IDP) or Vietnamese license, your travel insurance will not be valid. Even if you have a motorbike license in your home country, you are still considered to be riding illegally within Vietnam if you do not have these. Take a look at our blog on how to drive legally in Vietnam

What is more, some insurers may exclude “motorbike touring” for policyholders from particular countries of residence. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you have the proper documentation and insurance BEFORE embarking on a self-guided motorbike tour in Vietnam

2. The Language Barrier

The language barrier can be a challenge when taking a self-guided tour. While many Vietnamese people speak some English, the level of proficiency can vary, and there may be communication difficulties with locals in rural areas. Additionally, tourists may struggle to read signs or menus in Vietnamese, which can make it difficult to navigate or order food. On top of this, Google translate does a very poor job and can often lead to more confusion. 

3. Lack of Local Knowledge and Expertise

A lack of knowledge and expertise can be a significant problem when taking this kind of tour in Vietnam. Without knowledge of the local terrain and road conditions, riders may find themselves in challenging situations, such as steep and winding mountain roads, which can be dangerous, especially during rainy or foggy weather conditions. Once again, our friend Google can turn into more of an enemy in some situations. Moreover, it is important to have some mechanical experience in order to be able to perform basic repairs on the bike in case of breakdowns or other issues during the trip.

This lack of knowledge of the local language, customs, and geography can lead to getting lost, missing out on important landmarks or tourist spots, and experiencing difficulty in finding accommodation or suitable places to eat.

Having a local expert on hand can also help if there is a need to deal with the local authorities or law enforcement. Tourists may be unaware of local traffic laws, which can result in hefty traffic fines or other legal issues.

How to Choose between Guided and Self-Guided Tours

When choosing between a guided and self-guided motorbike tour in Vietnam, there are several factors to consider. Here are some of the most important ones:

Experience and Expertise

If you are an experienced rider and have a good knowledge of the local terrain, language, and culture, then a self-guided tour may be a good option for you. However, if you are new to motorbiking or unfamiliar with the region, a guided tour may be a safer and more enjoyable option.

Safety

Guided tours typically have the advantage of having a support vehicle and experienced guides who are familiar with the local roads and traffic laws. This can be particularly important if you are traveling in remote or mountainous areas where road conditions can be challenging. Don’t forget that any decent guide will have a first aid kit and know how to use it.

Costs

Self-guided tours are typically less expensive than guided tours since you do not have to pay for the services of a guide or support vehicle. However, keep in mind that you will need to rent a motorbike, obtain the necessary permits, and pay for your own food, accommodation, and fuel.

Flexibility

Self-guided tours offer more flexibility in terms of itinerary and schedule, as you can plan your own route and travel at your own pace. Guided tours, on the other hand, may have a fixed itinerary and schedule, which may not be suitable for all travelers.

Language and Cultural Barriers

If you do not speak the local language or are unfamiliar with the local culture, a guided tour can be a great way to learn more about the region and interact with local people. Some people may find this fund and adventurous. However, guides can provide valuable insights into local customs, history, and traditions, which can greatly enhance your overall travel experience.

Group Size

Guided tours typically have a fixed group size, which can be either an advantage or disadvantage depending on your preferences. If you enjoy meeting new people and traveling in a group, a guided tour may be a good option. However, if you prefer more privacy and independence, a self-guided tour may be the better choice.

Ultimately, the decision between a guided and self-guided motorbike tour in Vietnam depends on your individual preferences, experience, and budget. It is important to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each option and choose the one that best suits your needs and interests.

DAY 5 - Taking the bamboo ferry to Khau Vai, Ha Giang
Freedom is the greatest benefit of guiding yourself - Don't worry Danny will help via Whatsapp

Tips for Making the Most of Both Kinds of Tour

A motorbike tour through Vietnam can be an unforgettable adventure, full of stunning scenery, fascinating culture, and delicious food. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your experience:

Plan Your Route

Before setting off, plan your route and make sure to research the terrain and weather conditions. Vietnam has a diverse landscape, from mountainous regions to coastal areas, and different seasons can affect road conditions. You may also want to consider visiting popular destinations such as Ha Long Bay, Hoi An, and Hue. All of which are possible, depending on which tour route you choose to take. 

Choose the Right Bike

Choose a bike that is suitable for the terrain and your level of experience. It is also important to ensure that the bike is in good condition and comes with appropriate safety gear.

Rentabike Vietnam has a range of automatic, semi-automatic and manual bikes available and you can always ask us for our advice on which is best for you and your trip.

Stay Safe

Always wear a helmet and protective clothing, ATGATT and follow local traffic laws. 

Keep a safe distance from other vehicles and be prepared for unexpected obstacles such as potholes and animals on the road. If you are not confident in your riding abilities, consider a guided tour with an experienced local guide.

Immerse yourself in the Culture

Vietnam is a country rich in history, culture, and traditions. Take the time to explore local markets, temples, and museums, and try new foods and drinks. Learn a few basic phrases in Vietnamese, and interact with locals to gain a deeper understanding of the culture. Browse our blog to find interesting articles about the places you will visit or the local customs like Lunar New Year and Mid Autumn Festival.

Take Plenty of Breaks

Riding a motorbike can be tiring, so take plenty of breaks to rest, hydrate, and refuel. Stop at scenic viewpoints or hidden gems along the way, and take the time to appreciate the stunning landscapes and local life. Put these breaks into the plan. If you don’t use them and arrive at destination early, it is the least of your problems. Pass the beer 🙂 

Capture your memories

Bring a camera or smartphone to capture the moments that will make your trip unforgettable. Take photos of the scenery, people, and food, and make a travel diary or blog to share your experiences with others.

By following these tips, you can make the most of your motorbike tour in Vietnam and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Andrew driving a Honda Master in Ha Giang
Driving self guided means you have to carry EVERYTHING yourself

Now, you can see that both renting a bike for a self-guided tour and booking a fully-guided tour have their advantages and disadvantages. The decision depends on various factors such as experience level, budget, and personal preferences. Hopefully, this article has helped you decide what is best for you. 

Rentabike Vietnam can cater for both options, so get in touch and start planning your trip today.

Quick Connect

Honda XR 150 motorcycle rental

Engine Type

air cooled, OHC, single cylinder

Displacement

149 cc

Bore X Stroke

57.3 mm x 57.8 mm

Ignition

CDI

Fuel System

20 mm piston valve carburettor

Compression Ratio

9.5:1

Starter

electric with kick starter backup

Gearbox

5-speed

Front Suspension

telescopic fork, 180 mm axle travel

Rear Suspension

single shock swing arm, 150 mm axle travel

Front Brakes

dual piston caliper, 240 mm disc

Rear Brakes

mechanical drum

Front Tyres

90/90 19

Rear Tyres

110/90 17

Wheelbase

1362 mm

Seat Height

825 mm

Ground Clearance

243 mm

Kerb Weight

129 kg

Fuel Capacity

12 litres

Dimensions

2091 mm (L) x 811 mm (W) x 1125 mm (H)

Honda CB 500X motorcycle rental

Engine Type

liquid cooled parallel-twin four stroke

Displacement

470 cc

Bore X Stroke

67 mm x 66.8 mm

Ignition

PGMI – FI

Fuel System

fuel injection

Compression Ratio

10.7:1

Starter

electric

Gearbox

6-speed

Front Suspension

41 mm SFF-BP USD Forks

Rear Suspension

Prolink Mono with 5 stage pre load adjuster

Front Brakes

dual 296 mm discs with 4 piston calipers; ABS

Rear Brakes

240 mm disc; ABS

Front Tyres

110/80R19M/C (59H)

Rear Tyres

160/60R17M/C

Wheelbase

1445 mm

Seat Height

830 mm

Ground Clearance

180 mm

Kerb Weight

199 kg

Fuel Capacity

17.7 litres

Dimensions

2,155 mm (L) x 830 mm (W) x 1,410 mm (H)

Honda CRF 300 motorcycle rental

Engine Type

single cylinder, DOHC, liquid cooled

Displacement

286 cc

Bore X Stroke

76 mm x 63 mm

Ignition

Full Transistor Digital

Fuel System

PGM-FI electronic fuel injection

Compression Ratio

10.7:1

Starter

electric

Gearbox

5-speed

Front Suspension

43 mm telescopic upside down

Rear Suspension

Prolink Mono with 5 stage pre load adjuster

Front Brakes

256 mm disc, 2 piston caliper

Rear Brakes

220 mm disc, single piston caliper

Front Tyres

80/100 21

Rear Tyres

120/80 18

Wheelbase

1455 mm

Seat Height

880 mm

Ground Clearance

285 mm

Kerb Weight

142 kg

Fuel Capacity

7.8 litres

Dimensions

2230 mm (L) x 820 mm (W) x 1200 mm (H)

Daily

Total

Rider (XR 150)

$140

Rider (CRF 300)

$180

Rider (CB 500X)

$180

Pillion

$120

Damage Waiver

$20

Private Room

$40

Support Vehicle

$150

Tourist

One-Way

Expat

Pricing

N/A

N/A

Damage Waiver

$0/day

N/A

N/A

Security Deposit

N/A

N/A

Required Docs

passport

N/A

N/A

Mileage Limit

unlimited

N/A

N/A

Touring

N/A

N/A