The Recommended Vietnam Motorbike Route
Vietnam is a country with limitless route options. There is no right or wrong route and no right or wrong section to drive. Some people come back yearly, just like a Ski holiday, and with each revisit they tackle a new set of roads. Don’t overthink your route, whatever you do, it is going to be good!
The country is rapidly changing and new roads open up yearly. Content from places like Tigit and VietnamCoracle can get outdated. However for Vietnam to gain popularity, we make it a yearly objective to go out there and find the latest and greatest routes to drive. The route documented within is what we think is the ultimate Vietnam motorbike routes for travellers.
If you’re not exactly sure what riding across Vietnam entails, then you should look at our article on navigating Vietnam where all your “logistical, gear and local culture questions are answered in painstaking detail “
- The Recommended Vietnam Motorbike Route
- How long does it take to travel each part of Vietnam?
- The South – Must do highlights
- Central Vietnam – Must do highlights
- The North – Must do highlights
- Places not to ride in Vietnam
- The Weather
- Choosing the right section to ride on a time budget
- How far is it possible to ride in a day?
How long does it take to travel each part of Vietnam?
When planning your route by motorbike consider Vietnam in three sections. This will allow you to skip some areas while spending more time in other more desirable locations.
The South is classified as HCM to Danang / Hoi An
Minimum 5 days. 4 days is possible with a big drive from HCM direct to Dalat.
HCM — > Cat Tien — > Dalat — > Nha Trang — > Quy Nhon — > Danang
How long: Normally 7 – 10 days (963 kms)
Central Vietnam is classified as anything from Danang to Hanoi
Minimum 5 days.
Danang — > Hue — > Khe Sanh — > Phong Nha — > Ninh Binh — > Hanoi
Phong Nha — > Mai Chau — > Hanoi
How long: Normally 7 – 10 days (770 kms)
The North is classified as anything above Hanoi
The North is subdivided into a further three sections
Ha Giang Loops – One week
The North East – One week
The North West – One week
How long: Combining all of the North, a total of three weeks of riding.
Optional – The Mekong Delta and Phu Quoc
We don’t really recommend driving the Mekong Delta. It is good for a motorbike tour where a guide has developed routes to avoid the chaotic traffic.
Minimum of 3 days.
Ho Chi Minh — > Can Tho — > Phu Quoc Island
How Long: 3-5 days depending on your love of wet markets and beaches (385 km)
The South – Must do highlights
DT725 – A road that connects Cat Tien National Park and Dalat. A road of open meandering corners that cut through a wide variety of different sceneries.
DT702 – A road that primarily starts after Mui Ne and continues through to Cam Ranh. The best coastal drive in Vietnam. This road goes as close to the sea as possible. It must be one of the best coastal drives in the entire world.
Ql27C – Connecting Dalat to Nha Trang. Although short, this road is a favorite among travellers for its quick and efficient pass connecting the two very different cities of Dalat and Nha Trang. Dalat being a cold and peaceful mountain city. Nha Trang being the coastal party centre of Vietnam.
DT669 – Loosely speaking, it connects An Khe to Hoi An. Documented in detail on the best way to drive from Nha Trang to Danang. The DT669 is incredibly remote, perfectly paved, fast and open. If you want to push your motorbike to its top speed, then this is the place to do it.
Optional Extra: QL55B – A favorite among expats creating short adventure loops close to Ho Chi Minh City.
Central Vietnam – Must do highlights
The Hai Van Pass – Arguably the most famous road in Vietnam for riding a motorbike. Easily accessible for any traveler. It connects Hoi An to Hue on a roughly 4-hour coastal drive that overlooks the sea and mountains. Famous and approachable to all is its main highlight. However, it is a long shot from being “the best road in Vietnam”. In many cases, it sends the adventure travellers off in the wrong direction, away from the far more impressive Ql14 on the Laos border.
Our “must do” route
Ql14 (Ho Chi Minh Road) – The Ho Chi Minh Road is the one and only “must do” road in Vietnam. This should be done at all costs and your entire holiday should be based around fitting this road in. A phenomenal mountain road used as a secret war trail in times gone by. It is a remarkable piece of engineering surrounded by spectacular beauty. It loosely connects the ancient town of Hoi An and the caves of Phong Nha, this road is simply a remarkable piece of holiday to be had.
The town of Mai Chau or Pù Luông – Ninh Binh is the famous tourist town in the area. However to access Ninh Binh on route from Hanoi puts a driver on a brutal two day highway drive. A much better option is to stay west on the Laos border and visit the stunning rice paddies of Pu Luong or the authentic small village of Mai Chau.
The North – Must do highlights
Ha Giang Loops – Ha Giang is one of the most spectacular places on earth. Deep valleys surrounded by mountain roads that provide you and your motorbike some of the best views on the planet. Despite its remote region and variable climate, it has become famous and accessible to most travellers with convenient little loops for any holiday length.
DT204 – Loosely speaking it connects Cao Bang to Ha Giang. This road is remote and beautiful. It climbs some remarkably steep cliff edges. It isn’t a road for beginners, but it is all paved and mostly drivable. It will give some drivers a scare at some of its steep descents.
DT 153 – A road that connects Lao Cai to Ha Giang (kind of). Not famous and rarely talked about. However, from my recollection, this is the most beautiful road in Vietnam. Perhaps I had a good day, but I recommend you go and drive it and decide for yourself!
Read more: Ha Giang Loops
Places not to ride in Vietnam
The Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta is hot, flat and busy. There is no real way to escape this. A fully guided tour that has years of route planning can navigate around the Mekong Madness to provide a feeling of remoteness. However, for the standard traveler, this is not really a section to “motorbike”. Having said that, for general culture and a relaxed holiday that is not based around covering hundreds of kilometers, it is a lovely option.
Hanoi to Halong Bay
The drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay is probably the busiest and the worst driving in the entire country. There is a reason why Halong Bay tours only operate from Hanoi by bus!
If you really must drive this horrific section, then head off to Cat Ba Island and run your Ha Long Bay tour from there.
Read More: The Best Motorbike Coast in Vietnam
For a full article on the weather please read the Weather article. There is no right or wrong time to travel Vietnam by motorbike. The South has different seasons to the North and a traveler committing to the entire country will experience the heat, the cold and the rain. We strongly recommend not planning your holiday based on the weather. Instead, read our suggestions on what to bring and wear and pack carefully.
Choosing the right section to ride on a time budget
Traveling on a limited time frame
Danang to Hanoi
For most people, the standard choice will be the Ho Chi Minh road between Danang and Hanoi.
This section has the “overall best road” in the country, being the Ho Chi Minh Road. It also has Hoi An, which tends to be most tourists favorite place to stay. The journey passes through Phong Nha which has the world’s largest cave, various other caves and limestone water of jaw-dropping beauty.
Finally a choice of Ninh Binh or Mai Chau, both excellent spots for the authentic homestay experience to really get involved in the Vietnamese culture.
Ho Chi Minh to Danang
The South contains all the beaches whilst managing to throw in some mountain glory to go along with it. The South has the most varied riding from the coasts to the mountains which combined with the gorgeous tropical heat, will likely be a decision made for many people.
Ha Giang Loops
The weather is volatile and unpredictable, but this is countered by incredible mountain beauty. For views that you will never forget, then Ha Giang is the place to be.
How far is it possible to ride in a day?
There is no mathematical equation to calculate the optimal time spent on a Vietnam motorbike route, and we cover this topic in detail on how to navigate Vietnam. Having said that, here are some general rules to follow.
- For most, everything on GoogleMaps in terms of timing needs to be doubled or tripled
- For most, a normal day is 150-200km on models 150cc and below
- On models above 150cc, 200-250km becomes normal and 300km is achievable
- There are hotels everywhere, so failing to reach the destination is not a problem
- A full day of driving includes coffee breaks, pictures, and generally, is relaxing, not stressful
Common mistakes when considering motorbike distances
- Booking everything in advance (apart from in High seasons and Vietnamese holidays)
- A concept of “driving a little bit” each day. Commit to a full day drive, then take a rest day
- Planning the holiday around “countryside hotels” is a mistake. The countryside is poor, not fun for a tourist. Make sure to try and commit to the next city or tourist town
- Not planning rest days. From experience, for every four days of driving, there needs to be at least one rest day