The Ultimate Guide to Cycle Touring Vietnam

When I decided to sell my mountain bike and exchange it in for a touring bike, load my whole life into two bags, and fly to Vietnam to ride from Hanoi to Saigon, I had no idea how I was going to accomplish it or what route I was going to follow. I did some research and discovered a few blogs of individuals who had done it previously, but while reading them, I was disappointed to see that they had either done it with a tour group or had taken trains or buses across vast portions of the nation in order to accomplish it in a particular period of time.

Each of these are great and I would never knock someone for doing any kind of adventure that gets them out there, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted some info on the nitty gritty details on how long it would take, what to expect with food and accommodation, and any unexpected high and low points that were likely to be met along the way. The one or two who had cycled the whole way just didn’t go into the depth I was looking for.Now that I’ve finished my trip, this is that guide. The real day to day with all of the joy and all of the gore.
Broken into two parts so as not to make it too much of a mammoth read, part one is Hanoi to Hoi An, part two Hoi An to Saigon.

Read to the end for my packing list, notes on prices and hotels, and some more general planning information.

Getting Started

What I didn’t realise before looking into this was that you can take your bike on most airlines as part of your 30kg baggage allowance. On some of the other blogs I’ve read, people have bought their bikes in Hanoi, and while it is true that you can get some decent touring bikes, I wanted to get mine in the UK to have the time to make some adjustments such as adding mud guards to the front and back (the roads can get disgusting over here) as well as adding front and rear lights with a dynamo hub, which charge as you cycle.

These seemed like an unnecessarily expensive addition, but I’m so glad that I did it now, never having to worry about my batteries running out and leaving me in the pitch black when cycling. I didn’t think I’d do much riding in the night, but I hadn’t thought about popping out for dinner in the evenings or cycling to the nearest bar for a chill out after a long day in the saddle.



I had also assumed that I would have to pay a fair whack to add my bike as oversized baggage, but so long as it’s boxed up according to airline guidelines, and together with your other bags doesn’t come to more than a combined 30kg, you are good to go!! Check each airline’s rules though as they may vary.

Side note: Long haul flights have always been my nemesis as I have a dodgy back, but this time I bought a foot hammock and I swear to god it made the entire thing so much more bearable. I still barely slept, but I didn’t get off the flight at the end in extreme pain, or spend the entire flight fidgeting trying to find a comfortable position. For less than a tenner, do yourself the favour!

In Hanoi

Once in Hanoi, give yourself a few days at least to get over the jet-lag, get used to the heat, and generally have a look around! Plus, it is too much of an amazing place to skip over. Give yourself one day to get used to the traffic too. It is truly insane. My best advice is to take it slowly and ride like you own the road – use big hand signals to show that you are crossing, and then just go for it at a steady pace. Fast moves or stopping and waiting for traffic is more likely to get you into an accident than just going for it – in an amazing way the other traffic will notice what you are doing and part like the red seas either side of you. I have watched countless tourists crossing roads who stop in the middle of the road as they think a motorbike is going to hit them, and then that motorbike does hit them, but only because it had calculated for them to have carried on walking. Complicated maybe, but you’ll get used to it. Right of way tends to be given to the one who looks least like they’re going to stop. Except for buses and lorries. They definitely get right of way!!

Note: Click here for a day by day itinerary including kms cycled and hotel names of where I stopped, along with whether I would recommend them or not (some I would definitely NOT recommend so it’s worth plotting a different route). If you open it in a new window you can track my notes along with the days and names of places, or download it, print it out and use it as a guide as you go!

Alternatively, open the link below to see all of the places I’ve pinned on the way down!

Note: Unfortunately, while saved places (hotels and food) are showing, my labels aren’t working for literal turn by turn directions, but keep checking back as I am working to try and fix this issue.

My Map of Vietnam

Time and Distance

Everyone is different. Maybe you’re already a super athlete who has a wealth of saddle experience under you. Maybe you’ve never ridden further than to the local beach. I fell into that last category, and so started off pretty slowly! By the end of the trip though I found that anything less than a 70km a day meant I had a full afternoon off to chill out, watch movies, go for coffee or catch up on some writing. Around 90km a day felt like a decent ride, and my longest day was 130km and I was bloody exhausted after that! Definitely start off slower than you mean to go on to allow for adjustments to yourself, your bike, your baggage and your pace.

Some cycle tourers start cycling as soon as light breaks so that they can finish before the heat of the midday sun, but I found that once I’d built up a base tan, I actually quite enjoyed riding through the day. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too unbearable while I was moving (unless it was up a hill!), but rather the heat hit me as soon as I stopped. Everyone is different though. Maybe I’m just too lazy to wake up at 4.30am!!

For this trip, which ended up being 2,210km in total, I gave myself two months. To be honest, I could easily have done it in 6 weeks while still having enough days off. Two months is a really cruisy relaxed length of time that means you have enough room to take a week off once or twice if you find somewhere you really love.

The food

Vietnam is famous for its food. It is full of flavour, delicious, and available in abundance for a pittance. In the cities and tourist areas. Outside of that, not so much!! The majority of my meals were ‘Bun Bo’ which is rice noodles in broth, with slices of beef on top. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Add lime and chilli flakes or sauce to give it more of a kick, and dunk salad leaves in it, but apart from that there’s not much you can do to it. It is delicious, but when you’ve eaten it every day for a week, can get a bit samey. People have asked why I didn’t try anything different and the answer is, when you’re in a little village in the middle of nowhere, quite often that is the only option you have. Eating out is for people who have enough money, and there is very little money in the Vietnamese countryside. So my advice is take some snacks if you think you’ll struggle with the same meal every day, and make the most of finding different food in towns.

street food in vietnam

As the day starts so early here due to the incredibly hot weather, Vietnamese lunch time usually starts at 11.30 as the workers have already been hard at it for hours by then, and so plan to make your lunch stop before 12.30 or 1pm at the absolute latest. After that, you are highly likely to be waved away by the owner as they have already closed. This happened to me three times, even though I pleaded in Vietnamese for something, thinking they would do it for the money. Nope.

If you’re lucky you’ll pass a ‘com binh dan’ (come bing zan) place, which we also call “point and rice”. Get your rice piled up on your plate, point at all the other things you want piled up on top of it that are laid out in bowls in a glass cabinet at the front of the restaurant, and the owner will tot up the price according to what you have. Most breakfast and lunch options will be between 25-40,000vnd, depending on how high you pile your plate! I use these places as a protein feast, as I found that I was craving more protein than the few slivers of beef in my noodles could provide.

Read also: Why Sushi Is The Perfect Meal For Solo Travelers?


My main advice is: take plenty of water!!!! I usually go though 4.5 – 6 litres of water while I’m cycling, and then more when I’ve stopped for the day.

Do yourself a favour and get two of these bottles each. I cannot stress enough how amazing they are. They keep your water icy cold all day long, regardless of how hot it is outside. Every morning I buy two cold 1.5l water bottles and split one of these between the two insulated ones (750ml per bottle), then bungee cord another onto my back rack. In the 30+degree heat, you will be thanking me when the sweat is pouring off you and your throat is parched.

Warm water just doesn’t quench the thirst half as well as lovely cold water does. There are plenty of cafes along the way that serve sweet cold coffee (caphe sua da) or sugar cane juice (nuoc mia), usually recognisable by the hammocks strung up all over the place (a cyclists dream!). While they often won’t have bottles of cold water for sale, they will usually happily fill up your now empty water bottles with ice (da), which you can then top up with the bottle you’ve bungeed onto your back rack.

The roads

I would strongly advise staying off the main roads as much as you can the whole way down. Some days it’s unavoidable, especially if you need to cover some serious miles, but not only are roads safer the smaller they are, but they also wind through some of the most beautiful villages, rice paddies, and farming areas, and show you the real side of Vietnam. They also keep you away from the petrifyingly fast buses, pollution belching lorries, and general dirtiness that follows the highway. Plus, you’re here to see the beautiful countryside, not dirty motorway cities.

country roads in vietnam

When on the highway (called the QL1), always be aware of what’s going on around you. There is a fairly wide hard shoulder, but mopeds pull out into the road all the time without looking if there’s any traffic coming, and if you need to swerve into the proper lane, chances are there’ll be a bus or a lorry hurtling past you at the same time. Also be aware of people driving directly at you, vehicles parked on the hard shoulder, animals lying down in the road, and pot holes. If you see them coming in time, fine! If not, scary moments ensue. If you do need to overtake anything, and you will, frequently, check over your shoulder with plenty of time, and make it clear that you’re pulling out onto the main lanes so that traffic behind you can adjust accordingly. Sounds basic maybe, but it seemed like every time I took my attention off the road for a second, something jumped out of nowhere to try and knock me off!

One of my main annoyances the whole way down the country was the old overtake-then-cut-you-up move. Buses, lorries, mopeds, doesn’t matter which. They’ll overtake you, and as soon as they do, slow down, pull in front of you and stop at the side of the road to pick up or drop off something, causing you to come to a standstill instead of just waiting behind you and stopping once you’ve passed. Nothing you can do about it, just a heads up!

The Journey

I was lucky enough to have two of my favourite people from Hanoi join me on my first day’s ride out of the city, giving me time to settle into the touring life with a bit of company. Hazel takes all credit for plotting out this first day, and she picked a stunner of a route. If you head west out of the city from Au Co (Tay Ho) along the dyke road, you can then hook through some beautiful small villages and past numerous pagodas to Ba Vi, roughly 53km in all. This was a nice gentle intro to cycling in Vietnam, and keeps you away from the main roads as much as possible.

From Ba Vi I dropped down to 30 – 45km a day for the next couple of days so that I could practice navigating on the tiniest lanes, as they tend to be a bit of a maze, and despite google’s best efforts sometimes turn out to be tiny mud tracks between paddies rather than actual paths. So much fun to wobble along, but don’t expect to get many km under you when you’re doing this all day! I soon learned to work out which routes were likely to be nice quiet paths, and which were just more hassle than they were worth though.

You can get to Hoa Binh in one day from Ba Vi, but I would recommend heading to Uncle Ty’s Farmstay for a night, and then heading through the smallest villages you can find to the DT446, rather than taking the main road all the way around the mountains. For the first week or so cycling, expect lush green rice paddies, quaint wooden houses that look like they stepped out of a different era, and impressive mountains surrounding you on all sides.

Mountain roads in Hoa Binh


While a bit of a nothing place in itself, Hoa Binh offers a few options on where to go next. Option one, which was my first plan, was to head west over the mountains on the DT433 to Da Bia, then further on to Ngoc Nhem homestay, where I was going to get a boat across the lake to Pu Luong national park (I found out on the way that as it was a chartered boat and not a normal service, it was going to be 1,000,000vnd for me and my bike, but still wanted to splash out on it as I knew it would be amazing).

Unfortunately, the food poisoning I had picked up after Ba Vi really kicked in after 18km of brutal hill climbs, and two days of no food, barely any sleep, not keeping much water down, and intense freezing goosebumps despite being in 38 degree heat meant that by the time I reached Da Bia, I knew I needed to turn around rather than push on the next 35 mountainous kilometres. I must say, I have lived in Vietnam for many years, and food poisoning is very rare. I’ve only ever been ill once before, so this was just a bit of bad luck rather than something you need to be worried about.

I also went in monsoon season (clever I know) and the floods had washed away a large portion of the road. Being told by the guesthouse that I “might make it” if I pushed my bike in parts, it seemed wiser to turn back and choose a different route. If I was doing it again (sans food poisoning) I would definitely keep going though as the route I ended up having to take was not ideal, and even feeling as horrendous as I did, I couldn’t help appreciate just how beautiful the original route was.

Read also: How to See the Highlights of the Icefields Parkway

Asian Highway 13 (AH13)

Option two is to take the AH13 over a different mountain and then either head west to Pu Luong, or carry on to the QL12B and stay in Cuc Phuong National Park. It is stunning there. With this option, you can make a short detour north to Ninh Binh if you have the time. While it is a spectacular place, and the limestone mountains, cycle ride to Hoa Lu ancient temple, boat trips on the river, and steps up to Dragon mountain are all worth doing, in my opinion riding through the mountains and rice paddies of Mai Chau and Pu Luong (stay at Pu Luong Treehouse!) are far more memorable. Plus the road south from Ninh Binh is a bit of a nightmare as you have to cycle through kilometres of stone grinding factories and the air literally full of stone dust. As a result of this I ended up with a bit of an eye infection which made my entire face swell up, so I’d suggest taking a pack of antihistamines or hay fever tablets with you – every time the road dust and grime made it flare up again, one of these tablets brought it back down again.

Thanh Hoa

Thanh Hoa is a pretty nice city but not being used to doing so many km in one day I was exhausted from the ride and so rather than explore, found a lovely hotel in the outskirts where I could shower off the grime and just sleep in a comfy bed.

If you feel like you still have the energy though, Sam Son beach is just around the corner and has a lovely but touristy stretch of clean sand which is lined with hotels. I was too exhausted to push on that same day and so planned to make it there the next day, have a lovely day sunbathing and reading, and probably find somewhere along the seafront to stay for the night. However, it started to rain as soon as I got there so I decided to carry on to the next stop which was also a beach resort.

Big mistake #1. This next resort was disgusting. The beach was absolutely covered with rubbish of all sorts, including dirty used needles, and so any thoughts I’d had of jumping in the sea at the end of a long day of cycling were spoiled by the thought of stepping on a needle and ruining the rest of my life with some kind of disease. The same went for the next two seaside hotels I stayed at – the beaches outside of touristy areas are so uncared for and used as hot spots for junkies and dumping grounds for rubbish. There is nothing more heartbreaking than being at a beautiful stretch of coast but not being able to go onto it because it has been so abused and so neglected that it is simply too dangerous to do so.

For this reason, I might recommend sticking inland and getting some mountain air until you reach Vinh. This is pretty much the only stretch where I wished I had stayed inland rather than searching for the coast, but at the same time I did cycle through some truly adorable villages that were straight out of the 1800s. I’m still undecided if they were worth it for the atrocious accommodation I stayed in for those few nights (think stinky unfriendly villages, skanky rooms with condoms still left in horrendous bathroom bins…) Definitely not touristy areas. Although I did also go in complete off season so was often the only person there, and had very little choice as to what was even open at the time. I guess it depends whether you’re ready suffer the mountains!

If you don’t want to have to cycle the mountains, another option would be to cycle through the coastal villages in the day, and then head back up to the highway to a guesthouse (Nha Nghi – ngya ngyee) rather than looking for a beach-side guest house like I did, as like I said, there is actually some beautiful cycling around this area, especially as it is surrounded by fishing villages that are so old and rustic that it’s hard not to stop every ten minutes just to take photos. From fish and flatbread drying on the road, to red-tile roofed stone houses nestled in rice paddies, and the tiny lanes connecting villages lined with straw like something out of the olden days, it is really a quaint part of the country, and something that becomes less apparent the further south you go.



On reaching Vinh

Not ever having done a cycle tour before, by the time I reached Vinh I was pretty tired, so I decided to treat myself and have two days off in a pretty swanky hotel (a whole $10 per night!!), during which time I had lovely lie-ins, went for a little cycle around the city without panniers on my bike (luxury!), and drank some delicious dark beer while doing some writing at a restaurant called Vuvuzela, just down the road from the hotel (again a luxury in my eyes!). Taking days off whenever I became tired was something I learned to do after a while (at the start I felt guilty for some reason for not cycling every day – I didn’t really know what cycle touring entailed and had a crack pot idea that you just keep on going day after day. Sometimes I’m a muppet!), but the days off are what make you really appreciate not only where you are, but also the days in the saddle. As soon as you get to the point where you are simply wanting to get to the next town without caring what you cycle through on the way, take some days off. Your body needs to recharge, your muscles need to unwind, and your bum definitely needs a break!

For the first few weeks, I thought saddle sore was a myth. My bum was fine, it wasn’t sore, and at the end of every day I felt fine. Once I got bike fit though and started spending more and more hours in the saddle each day, I realised that I had simply not been cycling far enough each day to feel the effects! Saddle sore is a very real thing, and once it takes hold, you need a day out of cycling shorts to give it a rest! Unless you’re on a real time constraint, which I wouldn’t recommend as there are so many lovely spots to stop along the way, give yourself at least one day off for every four or maximum five days in the saddle.

Continuing after Vinh

Once out of Vinh, there is a mix of having to take the main QL1, and being able to skirt off along gravel tracks through scatterings of tiny ancient houses, buffaloes languishing in lakes and little children riding bicycles along mud tracks. Leaving by the QL8B is the nicer option, away from the busiest traffic. Unluckily, half way to my next stop the screw snapped off both of my front pannier racks – I don’t know if they had been screwed on too tightly and the bumping roads had done their damage or if the screws just weren’t good enough for the job, but it was a reminder to keep my tool kit well stocked – five super thick black zip ties later, I was able to secure the racks again, but this is something that I soon made sure I stocked up on – the number of things you can repair with a zip tie and some gorilla tape is amazing.

It’s also a testament to the Vietnamese at how amazing they are at fixing things – stop at any garage and point out the problem, and within an hour you are likely to be back on the road again only a dollar or so lighter! Zip ties are a stop-gap but not good enough for another 1800km of cycling! Sometimes the garages are nothing more than a guy squatting on the floor with an oily engine in a million parts in front of him, but he will be as good as, if not better than, any swanky garage you can find. A full tool kit with spare inner tubes as well may add a fair bit of weight to your bags, but I’d rather carry the extra weight than be caught out in the middle of nowhere with no way to fix my bike. I also have six spare spokes gorilla taped to the main frame of the bike just Incase. By the time I carry all the water I need each day, a little bit of extra weight means nothing anyways! People keep asking me how heavy all my kit is and I have no idea – I have what I need and that’s just how it is!

Phong Nha

Back to the journey though, and the next absolute must on your way down is taking the DT2B to Phong Nha. Recently made world famous for having the largest cave in the world – Son Doong cave – this fairly touristy spot offers a fab mix of chill hostel time, party spots if you want them, and a whole range of outdoor activities such as cave treks, kayaking, jungle walking and boat trips. I only booked for two days but ended up staying around five, and by far the highlight was Hai’s Eco Conservation jungle trek. After a bit too long spent at the monkey sanctuary seeing all the heart-breakingly sad monkeys who will hopefully all be rehabilitated into the wild (stick with it, it gets better), the trek takes you way off the beaten track into the jungle, through dense undergrowth to a mouth-watering bbq lunch at the base of a cliff cooked on an open fire, before an uphill trek back through the jungle to the semi enclosed areas where monkeys become re-introduced to the wild.

Extremely fun, breathtakingly beautiful, with a lovely stream pool to swim in at the end, it is definitely worth the money. Easy Tiger hostel is a great base for all of this: the dorm rooms have a bathroom each, nice large bunk beds, the food is great, the swimming pool is lovely and cool, and they have an impressive stack of information and a free information talk each morning on all of the different cave trips you can do.


Dong Hoi

When back in the saddle, give yourself a short day and make your next stop Dong Hoi. I had planned to go further and only stopped here as I picked up a really heavy cold in Phong Nha and couldn’t cycle any further that first day as I was just wiped, and I now wish I’d stayed longer! This is another thing I wished I’d done more of – every now and then I’d be cycling through a town or city on the way to the next place, and because I’d decided I was leaving, I would just carry on even if I wanted to stay longer. Stupid I know.

I guess it’s because I was packed and mentally prepared to move on, but I will definitely go back to Dong Hoi one day to have more of an explore. Right on the sea, it is a fishing town that has such a welcoming, friendly feel. Find somewhere near the river and take a walk along its shores as the sun is going down. When leaving, head across the Song Nhat Le river and turn immediately right along the river bank, and hopefully you’ll be able to see the crazy contraptions fishermen use to slide ginormous blocks of ice from their warehouses onto the boats across the road.


As these ice slides cross the whole road, I had no option but to stop and watch, upon which the fishermen called me onto their boat to take a selfie with them before I carried on, them laughing and smiling happily as they showed off what they were doing. This road then takes you over the dunes and through some more adorable villages, well away from the bustle of the highway. I had a massive grin plastered on my face for most of the morning.

QL1 or QL15

Then comes the next big decision: do you take the QL1, which is the standard highway; the QL1A, which runs directly through the sand dunes; or the QL15, which takes you closer to the mountains. I took the QL1A, but make sure you have enough water if you go this way!! For 33km you will see nothing but sand to your left and right, with a mainly straight road ululating over the dunes ahead of you. Maybe a bit boring, but a pretty cool spot for some photos, and it makes you feel at times like you are the only person around and have somehow jumped into a different country! There is zero shelter from the shade though, so like I said, plenty of water, and either take a snack or eat as soon as you meet back up with the QL1 at the end of it. I was starving by the time I reached the end.

After this it’s a pretty self explanatory stretch to Hue, where I’d suggest at least one day off to summon the energy to struggle up the Hai Van pass. I’d recommend doing the pass in two days – one to get from Hue to reach the bottom of the pass where you can stay in a place on or near the little island at the bottom, and then another day just to go up and over and get to Danang or Hoi An. It is steep, windy, and feels like it’s going to go on forever, but man is it beautiful.

You’ll definitely want another two days off in Hoi An too for exploring, getting clothes or shoes tailor made, which is what the town is most famous for, and hitting the beach and having a good old wander through the beautiful UNESCO town. Touristy it may be, but it’s still one of my favourite spots in Vietnam.

You’ve also reached the half way point pretty much, so revel in the bragging rights, send some post cards back home, and I’ll pick up the rest of the journey in a new blog post!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it safe to cycle in Vietnam?

Yes, cycling in Vietnam is really safe. Vietnam is a fantastic cycling destination in general. That is, practically every big bicycling destination has a sufficient number of bike repair shops and technicians. However, be aware that most of them may be unable of handling your complicated gears and special requirements bikes. Vietnamese people drive on the left side of the road.

Hanoi is a wonderful destination on a Vietnam trip since it is designed for cycling, and it is the ideal spot to get to grips with the chaos of Vietnamese traffic and street life. The city’s slow moving and relaxed back ambiance makes travelling about on a bike simple and hassle-free, with stunning lakes, parks, and wonderful tree-lined boulevards.

Cycling has several health advantages, so why not include it into your holiday plans? It’s more fun than sweating for hours at the gym since you get to go sightseeing at the same time. Cycling is a cost-effective mode of transportation, particularly for budget tourists.

Is Vietnam good for solo female Travellers?

YES. Vietnam is one of the safest nations for solo travellers. There is a well-established tourist path, which implies a wide range of hotels and transportation alternatives. Pickpockets snatching bags and mobile phones as they fly past on scooters are the primary thing to be careful of in bigger cities, but you’d have to be really unfortunate to fall prey to this. Women travelling alone in Vietnam will typically feel at ease. You’re unlikely to see any Law and Order-style killings while you’re here since violent crime is exceedingly rare. However, you may encounter those who may attempt to pick your pocket or take your mobile phone while passing by on a motorcycle. Harassment and assault are uncommon, however to avoid attracting unwanted attention, solitary female tourists in Vietnam should avoid wearing exposing clothing such as shorts and tank tops.

Does Vietnam have good roads?

Despite being one of Asia’s smaller economies, Vietnam is among those in the forefront of the infrastructure race. Because vehicle travel is the most common mode of transportation in Vietnam, the highway system is critical. It is believed that Vietnam’s highway system today has 90 routes linking the north and south, totaling 15,360 kilometres. The road network in Vietnam is adequate, however the quality of the roads varies greatly from acceptable to horrible. During the rainy season, road conditions might worsen. Roads in Vietnam are numbered, with Highway 1 between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City being the principal north-south route.

Are there heavy traffic in Vietnam?

I suppose it all depends on what you’re accustomed to. If you are from New York City region, you will be most likely accustomed to traffic.
I don’t believe traffic is a problem if you are an experienced cyclist who is comfortable riding alongside cars. One thing I’ve noticed in Vietnam is that since there are so many motorbikes on the road, automobiles are accustomed to travelling alongside two-wheeled vehicles.
You can absolutely avoid traffic on highways near the shore, and on my recent journey to the Central Highlands, I was riding on the major highway between cities and traffic was relatively minimal.

Of course, traffic in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi is very congested and chaotic. When it rains, the traffic delay worsens due to the addition of floods. During a rainstorm, taxis are particularly difficult to catch or wave at. Again, since it is largely bikes and slow moving vehicles, I believe it is simple and enjoyable to ride after you grasp the particular laws of the road.

Is Vietnam friendly to foreigners?

The Vietnamese people are kind and welcoming. If there are visitors, whether familiar or unknown, the Vietnamese will do their utmost to be attentive and welcoming, providing the greatest facilities and cuisine. Because Vietnam is a varied nation, so are Vietnamese values and beliefs, as well as its language and culture. But they all have one thing in common: they love to smile and are really interested in getting to know their foreign guests.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Vietnamese society is that individuals are frequently hesitant to accept aid from others because they see appreciation as a kind of obligation. Lauding someone in his presence is generally considered flattery and, in certain cases, ridicule. This is also true in the Vietnamese work culture, where someone who is congratulated on particular accomplishments would generally demonstrate his humility by passing the compliment on to others.

Read also: Top 10 Ways to Meet and Make Friend on the Road

Other notes and prices:

  • If you want to head to Buddhist temples along the way, be respectful and cover up a bit more than you would be on the bike. Wear long trousers and a long shirt, or one that covers your shoulders at least. I have leggings and a long top in my bag anyways as the mountains can get cold in the night, especially if you’ve been hot all day, so just pop them on while you’re in the temple.
  • Haggling is not really a thing when you’re not in touristy places. I’ve generally found that the prices in the countryside markets etc are a really decent price. However, haggle within reason if you feel the need in the really busy places. But don’t be an idiot about it – do you really need to argue over 25p?
  • Hotels and guest houses in general cost around 250,000vnd per night in the north, and 200,000 in the south. This seems to be a room price not a per person price, so it’ll be cheaper if you’re a couple.
  • Nicer hotels will be 300,000vnd+, but I only used these when I was shattered and in need of some serious comfort. Otherwise, grim as they may seem from the outside, the guest houses are all fairly ok. Dorm beds in hostels range from 100,000-195,000, averaging at about 150,000, but are only ever in tourist hot-spots. If you’re a couple though, the price of two dorm beds would make it cheaper to just stay in a nice hotel.
  • Food prices are fixed. Any kind of noodle-broth-meat combination will be between 20-35,000vnd depending on the size of the bowl and how much is in it.
  • A 1.5l bottle of water will cost between 8,000-15,000vnd. Nine times out of ten it will be 10,000vnd, but some touristy places or cities bump up the price a bit. Any more than 15,000 and I walk away – it will be 10,000 again in the next shop down the road probably.
  • A decent meal out in a nice place can be anywhere from 65,000 to 150,000+. I tend to eat as cheaply as I can on the road and then splurge when I’m having days off, but it’s all on you and your budget.
  • Lastly, do not be afraid of the street food! It is cheap, delicious and filling. What might look like a grubby stall on the street will serve some absolute gems. Give it a go, make notes on what you like, and be brave!

How to find a hotel:

The easiest way to make sure there is somewhere to stay at the end of the day is using google maps. Plan out roughly how many km you want to cycle each day, zoom in on the town or area you want to stay in, and search either hostel, hotel or nha nghi (guesthouse). This last one is likely to get you the most hits. Chances are that even if Google doesn’t show anything, you’ll end up cycling past one anyways, but better to be safe than sorry.

My packing list

This is the full list of what I took with me. I somehow managed to get my bags very well balanced first try, so make sure your left and right ones weigh the same so you aren’t wobbling all over the shop.

Handlebar bag:

– Sun cream (bring from home! They are ten times the price here)

– Sunglasses

– Mosquito Spray (sold in almost any pharmacy, the lavender one here is great – better than deet!)

– Snacks (almonds, sweets etc)

– Phone (buy a sim with 4G in Hanoi or Saigon)

– Waterproof phone case (hard to look at your phone for directions in a downpour otherwise!)

– Penknife

– Pen

– Small notebook

– Gorilla tape

– Zip ties x10

– Headphones (I put the right ear in and listened to podcasts the whole way down!)

Front Pannier 1 (main things I need as soon as finished)

– Scruffier shorts, vest, bra, pants & flip flops for wearing out to find food

– Pyjama shorts & vest

– Passport case with spare money, insurance docs etc

– Bikini and sarong

Front pannier 2:

– Walking shoes/ trainers

– Rain coat

– Small bag with spare torch, earplugs, eye mask (hostel kit)

Rear pannier 1 (sports stuff):

– Sports shorts

– Vest x2

– T-shirt

– Towel

– Shoulder bag with kindle and notebook for taking out in evening

– iPad

– Bag of charging cables

– Long sleeved top and leggings

– Socks x1 for hiking

Rear pannier 2 (normal clothes)

– Shorts x2

– Vest x3

– Undies x5

– Sports bra

– Normal bra

– Toiletries bag

Also on bike:

– Water bottle x2

– Waterproof first aid kit

– Tool kit

– Bike lock x2 (one to lock front wheel to bike, one to thread through this and lock to post/tree etc)

– Bungee cord x2

– GoPro on handlebars

– Bike computer to track kilometres


I’m a writer, new mom and foodie. I love sharing what I know while making others feel beautiful. On this blog, I share my healthy lifestyle, simple meals, fitness tips and experiences.

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Kara Bout It