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The Complete Guide to Cycling in Vietnam
By Pankaj Mangal •
Vietnam is a tropical country in South-East Asia located between the latitudes 8° and 24° N. The country is shaped like a slim, curving scythe, that is a narrow strip in the middle, and broader at either end, resembling Italy in shape. It has a long coastline along the South China Sea, which is a western extension of the Pacific Ocean. Vietnam is mostly hilly, with mountains accounting for over 40% of its land area, and is densely forested, with tropical rainforests covering some 42% of its landmass. Hills, tropical rainforests, and the Pacific coast are thus the dominant topographical features of Vietnam and one should expect them to make up a large part of the cycling experience in Vietnam. The north-eastern end of Vietnam, bordering China, called the Red River Delta is a fertile swathe of flatland that accounts for much of the country’s population and its agricultural productivity. Rice paddies are the dominant topographical feature of this region.
The country has a wet and generally pleasant climate with high levels of precipitation. Proximity to the sea and the presence of mountains have a moderating effect on the climate of most parts of the country despite its nearness to the equator.
Vietnam is extremely rich in biodiversity and is home to 16% of the world’s species of flora and fauna. It has a population of close to 100 million people, most of whom enjoy a relatively high standard of living. Agriculture, petroleum extraction, tourism, and of late, the services sector are the primary drivers of its economy. The country is relatively prosperous and is rated as among the fastest-growing economies in the world. Vietnam is recognized as a regional power in South East Asia, and globally, as a middle power in international affairs. The Vietnamese people are hardworking, welcoming, and proud of their rich heritage.
Why Choose Vietnam for Cycling?
Vietnam offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and friendly locals that make it an ideal destination for cycling enthusiasts. Here are some reasons why you should choose Vietnam for your cycling adventure:
a) Scenic Landscapes: From the lush paddy fields of the Mekong Delta to the towering mountains of Sapa and the breathtaking coastline of the central region, Vietnam's landscapes are diverse and awe-inspiring.
b) Rich Cultural Heritage: Vietnam boasts a fascinating history and diverse ethnic groups, each with its traditions and customs. Cycling through the countryside allows you to witness authentic rural life and interact with locals along the way.
c) Delicious Cuisine: Vietnamese cuisine is renowned worldwide for its fresh ingredients, vibrant flavors, and balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy tastes. Cycling through Vietnam allows you to indulge in delicious street food and regional specialties.
d) Welcoming Locals: Vietnamese people are known for their warm hospitality and friendly nature. You'll often find yourself greeted with smiles and waves as you cycle through local villages.
Essential Tips for Cycling in Vietnam
Before embarking on your cycling adventure, it's important to keep the following tips in mind:
a) Plan Your Route: Vietnam offers a multitude of cycling routes, each with its charm. Whether you prefer coastal roads, mountainous terrains, or rural paths, plan your route according to your fitness level and interests. Consider the weather conditions and the availability of accommodations along the way.
b) Pack Wisely: Pack lightweight, breathable clothing suitable for the tropical climate. Don't forget essentials like a helmet, sunscreen, insect repellent, water bottle, and basic bike repair tools. It's also a good idea to carry a map or a GPS device to navigate unfamiliar areas.
c) Stay Hydrated and Fuelled: Vietnam's climate can be hot and humid, so it's crucial to stay hydrated during your rides. Carry enough water and replenish your electrolytes with sports drinks or coconut water. Take regular breaks to refuel with local snacks or small meals to maintain your energy levels.
d) Be Mindful of Traffic: Vietnamese cities can be chaotic, with a mix of motorbikes, cars, and pedestrians. Stay alert, follow traffic rules, and use hand signals to communicate your intentions. When cycling in rural areas, be cautious of livestock and unpredictable road conditions.
e) Respect Local Customs: Vietnam is a culturally rich country with deeply rooted traditions. Respect local customs and be mindful of appropriate attire, especially when visiting temples or religious sites. Learning a few basic Vietnamese phrases will also go a long way in establishing connections with locals.
When to Go Cycling in Vietnam?
Choosing the right time to go cycling in Vietnam is crucial to ensure favorable weather conditions and an enjoyable experience. Like most tropical regions, Vietnam has hot summers, mild pleasant winters, and an extremely wet rainy season. Being located in the northern hemisphere, the best season for cycling in Vietnam is generally from September to May, with regional variations as described below:
Northern Vietnam: Northern Vietnam, including Hanoi, Sapa, and Ninh Binh, experiences four seasons: a) Spring (March to April): Spring in northern Vietnam is characterized by mild temperatures and blooming flowers. It's an ideal time for cycling, with pleasant weather and colorful landscapes.
b) Summer (May to August): The summer months bring hot and humid weather, with occasional rain showers. It can be challenging to cycle in the heat and humidity, but if you're well-prepared and take precautions, it can still be enjoyable.
c) Autumn (September to November): Autumn is considered the best time to go cycling in northern Vietnam. The weather is cool and dry, making it comfortable for long rides and exploring the scenic countryside.
d) Winter (December to February): Winter in the north can be cold, particularly in mountainous areas like Sapa. While the temperatures may be lower, it can still be a good time for cycling, especially if you're prepared with appropriate clothing.
In a nutshell, the cycling season in the northern mountains of Vietnam runs from late August to May. December and January are cold with light showers, and travelers need to prepare accordingly.
Halong Bay: Located in northeastern Vietnam, has a distinct weather pattern influenced by its coastal location. Understanding the weather conditions in Halong Bay is essential for planning your cycling adventure in the region. Here's an overview of the weather in Halong Bay throughout the year:
a) Spring (March to April): During spring, Halong Bay experiences mild temperatures and relatively stable weather. The average temperature ranges from 20°C (68°F) to 25°C (77°F), making it a pleasant time for cycling. However, occasional rain showers can occur, so it's advisable to carry rain gear and check weather forecasts before setting off on your cycling routes.
b) Summer (May to August): The summer months bring warmer temperatures and higher humidity to Halong Bay. Average temperatures range from 25°C (77°F) to 30°C (86°F), with July and August being the hottest months. While cycling during this time is still possible, it's important to stay hydrated, wear lightweight and breathable clothing, and take precautions against the heat and sun exposure. Be aware that summer is also the rainy season, so expect occasional heavy rain showers and thunderstorms.
c) Autumn (September to November): Autumn is widely considered the best time to visit Halong Bay. The weather is mild, with temperatures ranging from 20°C (68°F) to 28°C (82°F). The skies are clearer, and rainfall decreases compared to the summer months. This makes it an ideal time for cycling, as you can enjoy comfortable temperatures and beautiful scenery. However, it's still a good idea to check weather forecasts as occasional rain showers can occur.
d) Winter (December to February): Winter in Halong Bay brings cooler temperatures, particularly in the evenings and early mornings. The average temperatures range from 15°C (59°F) to 20°C (68°F). While it's still possible to go cycling during this time, be prepared with warm clothing, especially if cycling early in the morning or later in the day. Winter also sees a higher chance of foggy conditions, which may affect visibility, particularly on the water. Checking weather conditions and being flexible with your plans are advisable during the winter months.
In a nutshell, the cycling adventure season in this region runs from October to May. December and January can be cold with occasional rainfall. May to October is hot, with heavy rainfall in the months of August and September.
It's worth noting that Halong Bay can be a popular tourist destination, so the number of visitors may vary depending on the season. Peak tourist seasons, such as summer and holidays, may see more crowds and higher accommodation prices. If you prefer a quieter experience, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of spring or autumn.
Central Vietnam: Central Vietnam is a narrow crescent-like coastal strip that is at times only 60 km wide. As a result, it experiences coastal weather phenomena such as high rainfall and occasional typhoons during the wet season that runs from September to December.
Central Vietnam, including Hue, Hoi An, and Da Nang, experiences a different climate pattern with two distinct seasons:
a) Dry Season (February to August): The dry season in central Vietnam is characterized by sunny and hot weather. It's a great time for coastal cycling, exploring the beautiful beaches, and enjoying water activities. However, be prepared for high temperatures and consider starting your rides early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day.
b) Rainy Season (September to January): The rainy season brings frequent showers and occasional typhoons. Cycling during this time can be challenging due to heavy rain and potential road disruptions. It's advisable to check weather forecasts and plan your rides accordingly.
In a nutshell, the Best season to visit this region is from January to early September with the average temperature hovering around 30°C.
Southern Vietnam: Southern Vietnam, including Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, experiences a tropical climate with two distinct seasons:
a) Dry Season (December to April): The dry season in the south is the best time for cycling. The weather is relatively cool and dry, making it comfortable for long rides. However, note that temperatures can still be quite hot, especially in March and April.
b) Rainy Season (May to November): The rainy season in the south brings high humidity and frequent rain showers. While cycling is still possible, be prepared for wet roads and sudden downpours. The countryside is lush and vibrant during this time, but it's advisable to check weather conditions and plan your rides accordingly.
In a nutshell, Southern Vietnam is a year-round cycling destination on account of its pleasant tropical climate. April and May can be hot, but for the rest of the year, the temperature hovers around 30°C. There is moderate rainfall from May to early November but it settles soon, leaving the weather cool and the countryside looking lush. November to February is the best time for cycling in South Vietnam with warm weather, clear blue skies, and a light ocean breeze blowing in from the Pacific.
It's important to note that weather patterns can vary from year to year, so it's always a good idea to check the latest weather forecasts before your trip and be prepared for any changes. Additionally, popular tourist destinations can be more crowded during peak tourist seasons, so consider the balance between weather conditions and the level of tourist activity when planning your cycling adventure in Vietnam.
Where to Go Cycling in Vietnam
Vietnam offers a diverse range of landscapes and regions that are perfect for cycling enthusiasts. From scenic coastal routes to mountainous terrain and cultural gems, here are some of the top destinations for cycling in Vietnam:
Hanoi and Surrounding Areas: The capital city of Vietnam, Hanoi, serves as an excellent starting point for cycling adventures. Explore the city's bustling streets and immerse yourself in its rich history and culture. From Hanoi, you can venture out to the surrounding areas, such as:
- Ninh Binh: Known as "Halong Bay on Land," Ninh Binh is a stunning region of karst landscapes, rice paddies, and winding rivers. Cycle through the picturesque countryside and visit attractions like Tam Coc, Trang An, and Bai Dinh Pagoda.
- Mai Chau: Located in the Hoa Binh Province, Mai Chau offers beautiful rural scenery and the opportunity to experience the local hill tribe culture. Cycle through lush valleys, visit ethnic minority villages, and enjoy the tranquility of the area.
Central Vietnam: Central Vietnam boasts a diverse range of landscapes, from coastal stretches to mountainous terrain. Here are a few destinations worth exploring:
- Hue to Hoi An: Cycling along the coastline from the ancient city of Hue to the charming town of Hoi An is a popular route. Enjoy scenic views, explore fishing villages, and tackle the famous Hai Van Pass. Don't miss the chance to explore Hoi An's well-preserved Old Town.
- Da Nang: This coastal city offers beautiful beaches and serves as a gateway to numerous cycling routes. Enjoy the stunning coastline and visit attractions like the Marble Mountains and the famous Golden Bridge.
- Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park: Located in the Quang Binh Province, this national park is home to impressive cave systems and breathtaking landscapes. Cycle through the park and explore caves like Phong Nha Cave and Paradise Cave.
Northern Vietnam: Northern Vietnam is known for its stunning mountain ranges, ethnic minority communities, and terraced rice fields. Consider these destinations for your cycling adventure:
- Northwest Vietnam: Northwestern Vietnam, known as Tay Bac is a mountainous province that has a pleasant tropical highland climate that is favorable for cycling all year round. The region has some gorgeous scenery comprising mist-covered mountains, terraced fields, fast-flowing streams, and wildflower-covered hillsides. Vietnam’s highest mountain peak, Fansipan, standing 3143m above sea level is located in this region. A cycle tour in northwest Vietnam can also be combined with a trip to neighboring Laos.
- Sapa: Nestled in the Hoang Lien Son Mountains, Sapa offers spectacular views and opportunities to experience local hill tribe culture. Cycle through terraced rice fields, visit local villages, and immerse yourself in the region's natural beauty.
- Ha Giang Loop: The Ha Giang Province offers one of the most challenging and rewarding cycling routes in Vietnam. The Ha Giang Loop takes you through remote mountainous regions, breathtaking landscapes, and traditional villages. It's an adventure for experienced cyclists seeking a thrilling and immersive experience.
- Northeast Vietnam: Northeastern Vietnam is the region to the north of Hanoi. It has an interesting mix of topography. The region immediately to the north of the Red River Delta is plain, which rapidly gives rise to mountains yet again. On the east, the region has a small coastline along the Pacific Ocean. Northeastern Vietnam is also crisscrossed by a large number of rivers that add to the geographical diversity of its terrain.
Southern Vietnam: Southern Vietnam presents a different landscape and cultural experience. Explore the vibrant cities, picturesque countryside, and the famous Mekong Delta. Here are some destinations to consider:
- Ho Chi Minh City: Begin or end your cycling journey in the bustling metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City. Explore its historic landmarks, vibrant markets, and bustling streets filled with motorbikes. Don't miss a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels, a network of underground tunnels used during the Vietnam War.
- Mekong Delta: Cycling through the Mekong Delta allows you to witness the daily life of locals, floating markets, and scenic waterways. Explore the intricate network of canals, visit fruit orchards, and savor the unique flavors of the region.
- To Cambodia: Culturally and historically, Vietnam is a part of the larger Indochina region that also includes Cambodia and Laos. Biking Vietnam thus can also incorporate adjoining Cambodia which is home to the famous Angkor Wat temple. The Cambodian capital Phnom Penh is located in close proximity to Saigon and makes for a great cycle tour from Saigon across the mighty Mekong River which is the economic and cultural lifeline of Indochina. The terrain in southern Vietnam and into Cambodia, unlike the rest of Vietnam, is mostly flat.
These are just a few highlights of the many cycling destinations in Vietnam. Each region offers its own unique charm and cycling opportunities, allowing you to immerse yourself in Vietnam's natural beauty, cultural heritage, and local communities.
Best Cycling Routes in Vietnam
Vietnam offers an array of cycling routes catering to different preferences and skill levels. Here are some popular routes worth exploring:
a) Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi: This classic route covers approximately 1,700 kilometers and takes you through the heart of Vietnam. Starting from Ho Chi Minh City in the south, you'll pass through historic towns, coastal landscapes, and picturesque rural areas before reaching the capital city of Hanoi. The two largest cities in Vietnam are Hanoi located at its northern edge, which is also its capital, and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) at its southern tip, which is its most populous city. The ride takes you across the length of Vietnam, skirting its azure pacific coast and through its numerous hills, tropical rainforests, and rice fields, and is a great way to experience the country at close quarters. Ha Long Bay, one of the most recognizable sights in Vietnam and a UNESCO World Heritage Site is located close to Hanoi. The terrain around Hanoi and northern Vietnam, in general, is hilly and ideal for people who love hills. Southern Vietnam, around Saigon, is flatter and ideal for those who prefer riding on the plains.
b) Hanoi to Sapa: The journey from Hanoi to Sapa is a favorite among cycling enthusiasts. This route combines breathtaking mountain scenery, terraced rice fields, and encounters with ethnic minority communities. Sapa, nestled in the Hoang Lien Son Mountains, offers stunning views and a chance to experience local hill tribe culture.
c) Hue to Hoi An: Cycling along the coast from the ancient city of Hue to the charming town of Hoi An is a delightful experience. This route takes you through fishing villages, pristine beaches, and the Hai Van Pass, known for its panoramic views. Don't miss the chance to explore Hoi An's lantern-lit streets and its UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town.
d) Mekong Delta: The Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam is a lush, water-filled region known as the "rice bowl" of the country. Cycling through the delta allows you to witness the daily life of locals, floating markets, and scenic waterways. You can also take boat trips to explore the intricate network of canals and enjoy the region's unique cuisine.
Must-See Destinations for Cyclists
While cycling in Vietnam, make sure to include these must-see destinations in your itinerary:
a) Ha Long Bay: A UNESCO World Heritage site, Ha Long Bay is famous for its emerald waters and towering limestone islands. Take a break from cycling and embark on a cruise to witness this natural wonder up close.
b) Ninh Binh: Known as "Halong Bay on Land," Ninh Binh offers breathtaking landscapes of limestone karsts, rice fields, and winding rivers. Take a boat ride through Tam Coc or explore the ancient capital of Hoa Lu to delve into Vietnam's history.
c) Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park: Located in central Vietnam, this national park is home to the largest cave system in the world. Cycle through the lush surroundings and discover the mesmerizing caves, including the famous Son Doong Cave.
d) Da Lat: Nestled in the Central Highlands, Da Lat is a charming hill station known for its cool climate, colorful flower gardens, and French colonial architecture. Enjoy the picturesque scenery and explore the surrounding waterfalls and tea plantations.
e) Ho Chi Minh City: Begin or end your cycling journey in the bustling metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City. Explore its historic landmarks, vibrant markets, and bustling streets filled with motorbikes. Don't miss a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels, a network of underground tunnels used during the Vietnam War.
Accommodation and Bike Tours
Vietnam offers a range of accommodations to suit every budget. Along popular cycling routes, you'll find guesthouses, homestays, and small hotels. Larger cities and tourist destinations have a wide selection of luxury hotels and resorts. It's advisable to book accommodations in advance during peak tourist seasons.
If you prefer a guided cycling experience, consider taking going with a tour operator like us, Art of Bicycle Trips, specializing in cycling tours across Vietnam. We provide well-planned itineraries, support vehicles, bikes, and knowledgeable guides, and handle logistics such as accommodations and meals.
While Vietnam is generally a safe country for cycling, it's important to prioritize safety during your journey. Here are some safety considerations to keep in mind:
a) Wear a Helmet: Always wear a helmet while cycling to protect yourself from head injuries.
b) Stay Visible: Use lights and reflective gear, especially when cycling at night or in low-light conditions.
c) Follow Local Laws: Observe traffic rules and regulations, including wearing appropriate lighting and reflective gear when cycling at night.
d) Be Cautious of Traffic: Be aware of other vehicles and pedestrians on the road, and anticipate their actions. Stay to the right side of the road and signal your intentions.
e) Stay Informed: Check weather conditions, road closures, and potential hazards before setting off on your cycling adventure.
f) Insure Yourself: Consider travel insurance that covers cycling activities and provides medical coverage in case of any emergencies.
Vietnamese culture is deeply rooted in traditions and customs. It's important to be respectful and mindful of local etiquette. Here are a few cultural considerations:
a) Dress Appropriately: When visiting temples, pagodas, or other religious sites, dress modestly and cover your shoulders and knees.
b) Remove Shoes: Take off your shoes when entering someone's home or certain establishments, as a sign of respect.
c) Greetings: Greet locals with a smile and a slight bow. Learn a few basic Vietnamese phrases like "Xin chào" (hello) and "cảm ơn" (thank you) to show your appreciation.
d) Politeness: Vietnamese people value politeness and respect. Be mindful of your behavior and avoid confrontations or loud arguments.
Enjoy the Local Cuisine
One of the highlights of cycling in Vietnam is indulging in the local cuisine. Vietnamese food is known for its fresh ingredients, vibrant flavors, and balance. Don't miss out on trying these iconic dishes:
a) Pho: Vietnam's most famous dish, pho, is a flavorful noodle soup with either beef or chicken, topped with fresh herbs and condiments.
b) Banh Mi: This delicious Vietnamese sandwich combines French influences with local ingredients. It typically includes a baguette filled with various options like grilled meats, pâté, pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs.
c) Bun Cha: A Hanoi specialty, bun cha consists of grilled pork served with rice noodles, herbs, and a side of dipping sauce.
d) Banh Xeo: These savory pancakes are made from rice flour and filled with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, and herbs. Wrap them in lettuce leaves and dip them in a tangy sauce for a delightful bite.
e) Ca Phe: Vietnamese coffee is a must-try. Enjoy a cup of ca phe sua da (iced coffee with condensed milk) or ca phe trung (egg coffee) for a unique local experience.
As responsible travelers, it's important to minimize our impact on the environment while cycling in Vietnam. Here are a few ways to practice environmental responsibility:
a) Dispose of Waste Properly: Avoid littering and dispose of waste in designated bins. Carry a reusable water bottle and refill it instead of buying single-use plastic bottles.
b) Respect Wildlife and Natural Areas: Do not disturb or harm wildlife, and refrain from picking flowers or damaging plants. Stay on designated paths and trails to preserve the natural areas you're exploring.
c) Support Local Initiatives: Look for accommodations, restaurants, and tour operators that prioritize sustainable practices and support local communities.
d) Minimize Plastic Usage: Bring your reusable bags, straws, and utensils to avoid single-use plastic items.
Vietnam Visa Requirements
Residents from several countries have visa exemption status for tourist visits to Vietnam. For a full list of up-to-date visa-exempt countries, see the Vietnam Foreign Affairs website.
e-Visa – The ‘e-visa’ process is newer and more streamlined. You can apply for an e-visa through the government website, then, once approved, simply print it out and present it upon arrival in Vietnam. The additional benefit of the e-visa is that it's valid at land borders, not just airports. The processing time ranges from 2 to 7 working days. We recommend applying 2 weeks in advance to avoid unexpected delays. Read more about tourist e-visas for Vietnam at the Vietnam Immigration portal and apply there.
While applying online for an approval letter, please ensure that you have the following documents:
- Passport scanned copy: A scanned copy of your passport - front (main) page. It shouldn't be a mobile photo or a photo taken from a laptop. Strictly scanned copy done through a computer scanner.
- Passport size photo: portrait photo (4*6 size, colored photo, white background, straight looking without glasses). A photo taken from a mobile or laptop may or may not work, so I would strictly advise getting one made through a nearby photo studio (retail shop) that specializes in taking photos for visas.
Here is an excellent resource on Vietnam visas that may be worth looking at.
Cambodia Visa Requirements
Cambodia has three international gateways for arrival by air – Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville – and a large number of land borders with neighboring Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. Formalities at Cambodia’s international airports are generally smooth.
Travelers can get a Cambodia visa upon arrival at the airport with a valid passport for 6 months and no longer need to have a pre-arrival COVID-19 test, present a full COVID-19 vaccination card/certificate, or a passenger's health declaration form on arrival in Cambodia. Remote electronic temperature-checking systems remain at the entry and exit gates for Immigration officers to check and advise passengers who may have COVID-19 symptoms.
If crossing via land border between Vietnam and Cambodia through Chau Doc:
For our tours that involve land crossing via Vietnam, you can apply for a Cambodian visa at the border during your bike tour wherein we enter Phnom Penh from Chau Doc via boat. The port on the Vietnam side is Vinh Xuong border gate named Sông Tiền. Its counterpart across the border is Khaorm Sam Nor Kaoh Roka border gate, Kandal Province, Cambodia. Please bring 2 current colored passport photos and ensure you have the visa fee of US $30-40 each. Please note that e-Visa is not applicable at the port of entry during your bike tour. Please apply for a visa in advance with the embassy or obtain a visa on arrival at the port.
If crossing via land border between Vietnam and Cambodia through Ha Tien:
For our tours that involve land crossing via Vietnam, you can apply for a Cambodian visa at the border during your bike tour wherein we enter Phnom Penh via Ha Tien. The port on the Vietnam side is Ha Tien Landport (known as the Xa Xia border). Its counterpart across the Cambodian border is Prek Chak. Please bring 2 current colored passport photos and ensure you have the visa fee of US $30-40 each. Please note that the Cambodian e-Visa is not applicable at the port of entry during your bike tour. Please apply for a Cambodian visa in advance with the embassy or obtain a visa on arrival at the port.
For Visa on arrival at the Cambodian border, please make sure to bring the following things:
- 2 current passport photos
- Ensure you have the visa fee of US $30-40 each
- Passport copy
- Vaccine card copy (proof of vaccination)
Vaccines and Medicines
Although there are no specific vaccinations required for Vietnam travel by Vietnamese law other than potentially yellow fever in some instances, you are strongly recommended to meet with a medical provider to determine the vaccinations needed for Vietnam. Your medical provider will give you specifics on which vaccinations for Vietnam you are recommended to have based on your prior vaccinations and other health factors.
Our travelers normally don't do any special vaccination before visiting Vietnam and we also don't recommend any particular vaccine.
Here is an excellent resource for recommended vaccinations for Vietnam that may be worthy to look at.
Currency – The official Vietnamese currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). As of May 2021, One Dollar equals 23112 Dong. The American Dollar may be accepted as a mode of payment in large business establishments, especially in the two major Vietnamese cities, Hanoi & Saigon. In smaller business establishments, smaller towns, and in rural Vietnam, the Dong is preferred. Most ATMs will dispense only Dong. In neighboring Cambodia, ATMs dispense the American Dollar as well. Mastercard/Visa are accepted in large business establishments. You should keep some local currency handy at all times.
Transport – For traveling within Vietnamese cities, there are several options such as the Cyclo ( a three-wheeled bicycle taxi) and the Xe Om, a motorcycle taxi. One can also use taxi cabs to get around. There is a frequent intra-city bus service as well. For traveling between Vietnamese cities, there is frequent bus and rail connectivity. Saigon and Hanoi are connected by air service.
Language – Vietnamese (Tieng Viet) is the official language of Vietnam. English is widely spoken and understood by a large section of the population. French is also spoken and understood by many people, a legacy of Vietnam’s colonial past.
Culture – A large section of the Vietnamese population identifies as atheists, while Buddhism, Christianity, and folk religions are practiced by smaller numbers. Vietnamese people are generally warm and hospitable. However, one needs to be mindful of local traditions. It is advisable to dress appropriately when visiting sacred spaces or people’s homes. It is considered respectful to take off one’s shoes when entering people’s homes or religious places. Vietnamese people are generally polite and may not object to being photographed out of courtesy but it is advisable to seek people’s permission before doing so. Avoid photographing military establishments or military personnel in Vietnam.
Appliances & Devices - Vietnamese electricity supply voltage is 220V at 50 Hz. Most countries in the world use electricity at 220-240V except North America and Japan where 100-120V is used. You should check the back of your device to see if it is compatible with the voltage before plugging it in. Most hotels in Vietnam use two-pin Type A, Type C, and Type F chargers. If your device has a 3-pin plug, it is advisable to carry an adapter with you.
Mobile Coverage – Vietnam has reliable mobile networks in most regions except the remote mountains. You can use your mobile phone in most Vietnamese cities as long as you have global roaming activated. If you plan to stay longer, you can buy a local Vietnamese SIM card that you can use on unlocked mobile phones. Mobile internet is generally cheap and reliable in Vietnam. Viettel, MobiFone, and Vinaphone are the most popular Vietnamese network operators.
Cuisine – Vietnamese cuisine relies heavily on rice, soy, fish, and pork. Peanut sauce is also a part of several Vietnamese street food items. If you are allergic to any of these foods, you might want to inform your tour guide beforehand. Green tea is a popular beverage. Vietnamese cuisine is generally rich and varied and enjoyed the world over.
Religion – Vietnam is officially an atheist state. As per polls, a majority of the population doesn’t believe in a God. The others however practice Buddhism or are Christians.
Time Zone – The Vietnamese time zone is GMT+7.
What you may find – Conical hats: Traffic: Silk Shops; Rice paddies: Buffalos: Landscapes: Lot of two-wheelers.
Through the notes – Some references that will help understand Vietnam better
- Read Writings by Vietnamese writer Bao Ninh.
- Listen: to US-based Khanh Ly, a contemporary pop music icon
- Eat: the staple pho( noodle soup) or Ga Tan( stewed chicken with medicinal herbs, dates, and grilled baguettes)
- Watch: The Quiet American, based on Graham Greene‘s 1954 novel and starring Michael Caine.
- Drink: the cheap and widely available Bia Hoi (draught beer), and Ca Phe( coffee) served with condensed milk.
What to Pack
Some not to be missed essentials which can be carried
Clothing: Cycling Shoes, Rain Jacket, Dry bag, Sunglasses. If you are traveling to North Vietnam in December-January you might want to carry light woolens as nights can get cold.
Personal: Toiletries, Chargers, Emergency Cash, Medication,
Gear: You are welcome to bring your own gear, such as pedals, seat, helmet, toe clips, and cyclometer, to use with a bicycle. However, please inform us in advance if you choose to bring any of your own things.
Miscellaneous: Small towel, Waterproof cover, Plastic Bags, Hydration Kit, Journal, Notebook, Camera
Embrace the Adventure
Cycling in Vietnam offers a unique and adventurous way to explore the country's stunning landscapes and immerse yourself in its rich culture. Embrace the journey, interact with locals, try new foods, and savor every moment of your cycling adventure in Vietnam.
Check out some of our amazing bike tours in Vietnam. We beckon you to Vietnam by bike!