Expenses for a motorbike road trip in Vietnam
I receive lots of emails from readers wanting to know how much a motorbike road trip through Vietnam will cost. Below, I’ve put together a list of necessary expenses and worked out what an average daily budget might be while on the road in Vietnam.
These costs are based on hundreds of road trips that I’ve taken – both solo and in a group – over many years of motorbiking in Vietnam. Of course, to a certain extent, expenses for a motorbike road trip in Vietnam will depend on how much you want to spend. In general, I have assumed that most travellers on motorbike rides in Vietnam fall into the budget to mid-range category, and are willing to stay in local guesthouses and eat local food. I have estimated the following prices accordingly, so you can relax and stay within your budget.
Relax and stay within budget on your Vietnam road trip
Below I’ve outlined all basic daily expenses for a motorbike road trip, followed by an estimated total daily budget
Motorbike Rental: $10 per day
One of the biggest expenses will be your motorbike. While some people choose to purchase a used motorbike at the start of their trip and sell it at the end, it’s much easier – and much more common – to rent a motorbike from a reputable company. Rental costs per day will depend on what kind of motorbike you want. But, in general, a standard automatic or semi-automatic motorbike should cost around 200,000vnđ (under $10) per day. If you’re renting for a week or more you should be able to negotiate a discount. Flamingo Travel and Rent a Bike Hanoi are both professional, efficient and reliable rental services. You can buy a used motorbike for as little as $200, but you will have to spend money on maintenance before (and, most probably, during) your trip, which will probably double the cost.
Rent a standard motorbike for around $10 a day: it’ll take you anywhere you want to go
Accommodation: $10 per day
Once you have your motorbike, your biggest daily expense while on the road will be accommodation. Unless you’re sticking entirely to the beaten track, you will be spending most nights in nhà nghỉ (local guesthouses). These can be found all over the country – even in the remotest regions – and are usually great value for money. 200-300,000vnđ ($10-15) for a double or twin room makes them particularly good value for couples or two travelling companions. If you’re travelling alone and you bargain politely you should be able to get a room for 150,000vnđ ($8). For much more about nhà nghỉ read this. One way to significantly reduce the cost of accommodation is to camp. This is definitely an option on remote stretches of road, such as the Western Ho Chi Minh Road. However, it does mean taking more equipment on the back of your motorbike, and you should be very careful when choosing a site to pitch your tent. For more on camping in Vietnam read this.
Camping can cut costs on a motorbike road trip in Vietnam
Fuel: $3-$4 per day
How much you spend on gas will depend on the distances you intend to cover each day, and on the type of motorbike you’re riding. A long day on the road in Vietnam is around 300km; a short day is around 100km. Of course there will be days when you will be static and this will offset the average daily cost for gas. Most standard motorbikes have a 3-4 litre tank which will take you around 100-150km, depending on the condition of the motorbike and the terrain you’re covering. At the time of writing (April 2015) gas prices were extremely low. At around 18,000vnđ per litre, a full tank only costs around 50-60,000vnđ ($3). On average – over your entire road trip – you will probably only use one tank of gas per day.
Buying gas at an ‘unofficial’ filling station in the Central Highlands
Food & Drink: $6-$10 per day
When it comes to food – and especially drink – how much you spend is down to you. Eat local street food for all your meals – which in itself is a great experience – and could pay as little as 20,000vnđ (under $1) a meal. A large, hearty breakfast or lunch accompanied by a coffee or a soft drink should never really be more than 50,000vnđ ($2) per person, if you are eating locally. Dinner can be just as cheap but, after a long day in the saddle, most travellers feel the need for a few ice cold beers. This will probably double the cost: 100,000vnđ per person will get you a feast, including alcohol. When you’re riding along the coast, it’d be a shame to miss out on the seafood, but this too can cost a little more. Based on a bowl of noodles and a coffee for breakfast, a soft drink and a rice-based meal for lunch, and a large dinner with beers, 140-200,000vnđ ($6-$10) per day should cover it. When driving in isolated areas of the country, most meals will be at quán cơm phở (local rice and noodle joints).
Typical $2 meal on the road in Vietnam
Additional Costs: $1-$5 per day
Allow a few dollars per day for extra costs. These might include entrance tickets for attractions, sites, museums; minor motorbike repairs, such as a flat tyre; roadside snacks like a packet of biscuits; and lots of water to keep you hydrated. Also, leave room for some ‘luxuries’: a sunset cocktail at a smart beach bar, or a western meal in a big city after days of eating rice in the mountains.
A few luxuries on a road trip are hard to resist
AVERAGE TOTAL DAILY COST:
Bear in mind that the calculations below include daily motorbike rental cost, which, in reality, will be paid as a lump sum when you pick up your motorbike at the start of your trip. These costs are per person, per motorbike, per day: travelling two on a motorbike or travelling in a small group will significantly reduce the average daily cost because you will be sharing the expenses for room, food and gas:
THE ASCETIC: $25 (500,000vnđ)
THE FLASHPACKER: $35 (750,000vnđ)