I have been contacted a number of people that have a desire to cycle in Vietnam. Often when I am on tour, I will pass a couple with veins swollen and sweat pouring as they make their way along the highway on the grand Vietnam adventure. Vietnam has a mystery and attraction that has many wanting to do an “extreme” or “ultimate” adventure type of holiday. Yea….. you are my kind of tourist, but the problem is that often we end up traveling on the advice of other travelers that have visited here and think they know where to go and what to see, or rely on Vietnamese tour companies that think they knoe what a traveler wants, but is usually way off the mark. 99% of visitors travel the same place and the same routes because the tourism infrastructure here is set up that way. I fell into the same thing 15 years ago, and am happy that I saw all the main tourist spots, but in my mind, a person that wants to cycle Vietnam will want to experience Vietnam, and not the artificial nature of the well worn tourist trail. If you want to visit all the classic places such as Mui Ne, Nha Trang, Hoi An, and Hue, you will spend most of your bicycle adventure just trying to stay alive on the dangerous highway number 1. I do not recommend anyone driving or cycling this road unless absolutely nessessary. Even I avoid it with both motorcycle and car. Roads in Vietnam are especially dangerous at night when traffic being forced onto your curb lane are blinded by trucks and busses over bright lights. There is no way a cyclist can be seen even with all the led lights flashing. I will try to be objective since in the past when I was still fit, I had similar thoughts, but now I often just shake my head and think “what the hell are they doing?” So….. Let’s start with some basic information.
A decent hybrid bicycle can be purchased here new for about 175 usd. You can bring your 3000 dollar bike if you want, but why?? Attachments for luggage or bags are hard to find. You will have to bring those from home. You
will not need any emergency repair kits or other such things as repair shops are everywhere, and if you are stranded, the local people are MORE than helpful. Everything you need such as clothing, hygiene and dental, rain gear, and goodies to give to the kids are easily obtainable so do not over pack. There is no such thing as camp sites. Try to finish your day by 4 pm and look for “Khac San” (hotel), Nha Nghi (guesthouse) or if desperate, Nha Tro (buildings with a room for rent) Though Vietnam is a very safe country to travel, people are poor and is you sleep out of doors, you are at risk to have your possessions disappear on you. Expect to give up your passport to the place you lodge. They are required to take your passport into the police station and register you nightly.
Food, water, medicine, and almost anything else you can think of is readable available. Do not worry about being overcharged…. That mostly happens on the well worn tourist track. My experience is that most local people are fair and rarely try to take advantage. ** I can edit this part and add information you need if you leave a comment below the post**
So here is the dilemma for most cyclists. You want to see the more popular sights such as Saigon, Nha Trang, Hoi An, and Hue, however, you want to do this by bicycle. If this is your desire, I suggest doing a combination of bus and riding as there are sections of highway that are simply too ugly. If I was to do such a trip based on my extensive travel in Vietnam, the following is how I would probably go. I can only recommend some basic routes as many of the roads I normally travel on are not on any map and Google maps has a long way to go before mapping
most of the beautiful side roads. Let me start in the South and head North.
All of the roads are very busy in the Mekong and getting to the best spots are difficult. I suggest taking a local tour that provides bikes. You can ask my friends at V’Explore travel for more information.
From Saigon I would make my way Cat Lai ferry via Luong Dinh Cua Street. From there turn right on Nguyen Thi Dinh and follow it to the end where the ferry crosses. The fare is less than 20 cents to cross. Stay on road
ST 769 and do not be tempted to follow all the traffic on Ton Duc Thang…. Just keep goping straight and follow the route to the town of Long Thanh. Find your way through town and continue on DT769 to the town of Dau Giay. From there take QL 20 and head up to Bao Loc and then Dalat. There are many beautiful side roads that can be taken, but you may have to do some research. From Dalat, take the beautiful dt723 to Nha Trang or continue on to Lak Lake on QL27. Either way, the next day head to Buon Ma Thuot. From there head north to Kon Tum. They have started a very ambitious highway improvement project and the roads are currently bad and will be for a number of years. Alternatively you could head to Tuy Hoa on back roads via QL29 and then take a bus to Quy Nhon. From there you can make your way to Kon Tum via QL19 and TL670. Now it is just a matter to head through Kham Duc on AH17 and to Hoi An via QL14e. Congratulations!!! You did it with no Highway 1. QL 20 is bad enough.
From Hoi An you can ride up to Danang along the coast, however, you may consider bussing it over the Hai Van Pass and on HWY 1 to Hue. After Hue I suggest making your way to Phong Nha and further north from there. I only have limited experience north of Hue so I will stop my suggestions at this point.
IT will be an amazing adventure. Those who want to cycle Vietnam are in for the experience of a lifetime.
Again…… If you want further detail of suggestions, please ask in the comment section.