Car & motorbike
The relative affordability of vehicle hire makes the latter a popular option. Having your own set of wheels gives you maximum flexibility to visit remote regions and stop when and where you please.
The major considerations are safety, the mechanical condition of the vehicle, reliability of the rental agency and your budget. Don’t think about driving a car yourself in Vietnam (a motorbike is challenging enough) and moreover, hire charges for the car include a driver.
Motorbikes can be rented from cafés, hotels, motorbike shops and travel agencies. If you don’t fancy self-drive, there are plenty of local drivers willing to act as a chauffeur and guide for around US$6 to US$10 per day.
Renting a 100cc moped is cheap from around US$5 per day, usually with unlimited mileage. To tackle the mountains of the north, it is best to go with a Minsk. The ‘mule of the mountains’, these sturdy Russian steeds don’t look up to much, but they are designed to get you through, or over, anything. They are available for rent from specialist shops in Hanoi. For the ultimate experience in mountains of the north, consider joining a motorbike tour to discover the secret backroads.
Most places will ask to keep your passport until you return the bike. Try and sign some sort of agreement – preferably in a language you understand – clearly stating what you are renting, how much it costs, the extent of compensation and so on.
If you are travelling in a tourist vehicle with a driver, then it is almost guaranteed to be insured. When it comes to motorbikes, many rental bikes are not insured and you will have to sign a contract agreeing to a valuation for the bike if it is stolen. Make sure you have a strong lock and always leave it in guarded parking where available.
Do not even consider renting a motorbike if you are daft enough to be travelling in Vietnam without insurance. The cost of treating serious injuries can be bankrupting for budget travellers.