What Roads and Conditions Can I Expect?
First, let’s talk about the roads itself. Roads in Vietnam have names and certain markings, so it’s handy to know about the road terminology in Vietnam.
There are several road types in Vietnam:
National Roads (QL) – National roads are paved and are in the best condition. Also, AH1 is another name for QL1A, which is the main highway. Most travelers prefer to ride on QL roads, as they are in the best condition. They are a bit dangerous because of the massive number of crazy truck and bus drivers that will be taking these roads. Also, you won’t see much amazing scenery on these roads (other than the routes beside the coast).
Super Highway (CT) – If you’re navigating Vietnam by motorbike, avoid these roads. Why? It’s simple. These roads are reserved for cars only, so you aren’t allowed to drive on these roads by motorbike.
Countryside Road (DT) – Countryside roads differ in condition. Most of them have holes and can be demanding to ride on. Also, watch out for the cows on the roads of this type, as these roads tend to connect villages along some major locations. Make sure to not drive at night on these roads, as there won’t be any light source other than your bike light.
Very Small Road (TL) – These roads are single tracks and are pretty rare. If you don’t drive in remote areas, you will most likely avoid these.
On many roads, you can expect lots of dust and flies, especially near rice paddy fields! Also, cows are a regular part of traffic, so it’s not weird to see them just chilling out on the road!
What about the weather conditions in Vietnam? Is it safe to ride during rain storms? The weather varies drastically depending on the region.
- December to February – it is pretty cold during this period, and you can even see snow in the northern provinces!
- March to May – this is the best time to ride around the North, as the weather is calm.
- June to August – pack up your rain gear, as this is the time of the rainy season!
Central and South Vietnam
- July to October – rainy season. Pack up your rain gear!
- September to December – possibility for a cyclone. They are not frequent though.
Other than that, the climate in Southern Vietnam is mostly stable and should be enjoyable for a motorbike journey at any time of year.
Some Rules of the Road…
If you catch yourself in the traffic of Vietnam for the first time, you may be surprised by how chaotic it might be at times. There are some laws to obey on the road, but most of the people don’t pay too much attention to them. The road conditions aren't the best, and there are a lot of contenders in traffic.
In theory, you should drive on the right side, but you will soon realize that this rule isn’t universally applicable in Vietnam. Especially in large cities like Hanoi and Saigon, where the traffic can get so crowded that you will just swerve around like doing a slalom and honk to indicate that you want to pass.
Speaking of horns, they are an important indicator in the Vietnamese traffic, and you will need to use it a lot. Horns indicate the right of way; if you honk aggressively, you will be granted the right of way.
But, not everyone with the honk has the same right of way!
The biggest vehicles on the road are trucks and buses, and they are a sort of “road champions”. That means that they ordinate the flow of traffic and have the highest right of way on the road. So, when you hear a buzzing truck or bus honk, move away! They usually move at thundering speeds, and it’s not wise to oppose that - especially when you’re on a motorbike.
The speed limit is 60 km/h on the highways and 40 km/h or even less in towns. It is advisable to obey these limits, but if you’re feeling more adventurous and lucky, it’s your responsibility!
There are some police checkpoints on the roads of Vietnam, especially on highways, but they tend to leave foreigners alone. Slow down a bit when passing by these checkpoints to avoid unnecessary attention. If you manage to be involved in an accident though, be prepared to pay a hefty fine!
Driving Legally in Vietnam: Get a Vietnamese Driving License!
So, now that you know some basic rules of the road in Vietnam let’s check out our Hanoi to Saigon route!
Which Route Did We Take?
It took us exactly 30 days to get from Hanoi to Saigon by motorbikes. The route we took during these 30 days took us 3,400 km. Our main destinations on this route are:
- Hanoi – 3 days
- Ha Long - 1 day
- Trang An - 1 day
- Cau Giat – 3 days
- Phong Nha – 1 day
- Hue – 2 days
- Da Nang – 4 days
- My Son – a day trip from Da Nang
- Hoi An – 1 day
- Kon Tum – 1 day
- Quy Nhon – 1 day
- Nha Trang – 1 day
- Phan Thiet – 4 days
- Saigon – 1 day
Having so many destinations on our motorbike trip list gave us an opportunity to rest after a long ride. Believe me; the motorbike isn’t the most comfortable vehicle to drive on! Especially when there is a weather shift every once in a while.
At one moment it’s blissfully sunny. Another moment, it’s raining, and the road offers new challenges.
Our goal was to spend at least a day at each destination to get a feel of every destination. From the busy streets of Hanoi to natural paradises of Ha Long Bay and Trang An, Vietnam has a lot of things on the table. Especially for first-time visitors to Asia. You may even experience some cultural shocks on the way!
I’m sure that every traveler will find something to his liking in Vietnam. If you’re a foodie, you will definitely enjoy their diverse and fresh cuisine. Surfers will enjoy the enormous waves of the South China Sea on the south, in Mui Ne.
But, you most likely are interested in how is it on the road from Hanoi to Saigon. We must say, it was a really challenging experience, but one of the most rewarding experiences that we had in our lives.
Prepare to spend a lot of time on the road. Traveling from Hanoi to Saigon is challenging not only because of the many different conditions that can be on the road but also because of the time it takes to reach the destinations.
Note: Keep in mind that the average speed we drove was about 60 – 70 km/h.
Here is the map of our route from Hanoi to Saigon to get a better understanding of how long this journey is actually:
Now, sit back, get a cup of tea or coffee, and let’s go on a journey from Hanoi to Saigon!
Route #1: Hanoi to Ha Long
First, the basic stuff. As you can see on the figure above, the route we took from Hanoi to Ha Long is 173 kilometers long, and by calculations of Google Maps, it should take for about 3 and a half hours of driving.
Of course, you have to take in consideration that this calculation is made for ideal conditions, but as we said numerous times before; expect the unexpected in Vietnam! Some stops will be needed to refill gas, eat, drink and rest from time to time.
After buying our motorbikes and the necessary accessories, we spent a day practicing in the heavy traffic of Hanoi and its labyrinthian alleys. It was a preparation for much more; the highway.
Preparing for the first genuine ride in Vietnam!
Finally, the day has come, and after packing up, we embarked for Ha Long Bay. Even before we left Hanoi, on the road to the city exit, Lovel lost the part of the main stand on his bike while passing the Nhan Tan bridge.
It wouldn't be fun if there weren't some breakdowns on the road!
Well, that wasn’t a problem for the mechanic on Highway 14 (AH14). The good thing about highways is that there is always a mechanic around, so if you manage to get a breakdown on your bike, you will be safe to know that a mechanic is a dime away!
You can find mechanics virtually anywhere, the challenging part is getting to understand them.
About the conditions on the AH14 itself:
- It is a hectic road – lots of trucks and buses you will need to watch out for
- As on every highway, there is a track for motorcycles, making it easier for motorcycle drivers to avoid the potential overwhelming traffic flow. (Note: watch out for those pesky rocks that may find themselves at the motorcycle tracks!)
- During the low season, rain may toughen up the conditions drastically! (Note: you will get used to it, trust us!)
Some 20 km later, we’re connecting to the National Road 18 (QL18) that we will follow for the rest of this route, as it flows through the city of Ha Long. This route is less dangerous than the AH14 as it is considered as a more remote road. Nevertheless, there is still a lot of traffic flow here.
Enjoying the sunset before a Pho break!
How a typical highway restaurant looks like.
QL18 flows through a lot of highway villages. There is always a place around where you can eat, drink delicious and strong Vietnamese coffee and tea, and just relax.
Note: Your back will thank you for taking a break occasionally!
The QL18 route we took strategically bypassed Hai Phong (it is the third largest city in Vietnam and its largest port town).
This road is also pretty calm during nighttime. (which will come around 6 P.M.)
Heavy rain can come at any moment, so it’s always great if you’re prepared. We didn’t have decent raincoats yet, so we had to stop for half an hour and marvel at the flooding capabilities of rain in Vietnam.
This is how downpour looks like in Vietnam.
After waiting out the rain, we finally entered the Ha Long City. We really enjoyed the roads in the city itself, lots of curves and you can really feel the adrenaline pumping through these roads.
Yet again, we were met with an example of Vietnamese hospitality here. We were on the road for almost 9 hours, and we stopped to rest a bit before coming to our booked homestay. Two locals were sitting at the table beside ours, and they invited us to sit with them.
Tasting rice wine with friendly Vietnam locals. Don't ask about the blurriness!
Imagine the situation: there is a huge language barrier between us, we can’t understand a thing from them, and they can’t understand a word from us. An amazingly ridiculous situation. But when they started with offering rice wine shots, we knew what they’re up to. After all, this is a huge part of their culture, and this was a way of welcoming us to Ha Long. Thanks to these guys for a fun time!
Now, for some numbers.
It took us 8 and a half hours to get from Hanoi to Ha Long along this route, and we only passed 173 km. The rain can significantly slow you down, so it’s really smart to get some decent raincoats that will make you able to drive during heavy rain.
We stayed at Ha Long Bay for only two nights, but it definitely left a huge first impression.
The place we stayed in for two nights was Ruby Halong Homestay. We were in a room with four bunk beds, and there was a balcony with a beautiful view. Free breakfast is included too. A pretty decent place to stay in, far from the city center. Just make sure to check out at the right time!
What to Do in Ha Long in two nights?
- Cruise around the city and immerse in the vibes!
- Explore Tuan Chau island! (it has awesome beaches with a beautiful view over the Bay)
Describing this place in a few paragraphs is really hard. We managed to avoid the tourist crowds and got to see the amazing UNESCO-protected Ha Long Bay for ourselves. Also, the city bursts with genuine atmosphere and we didn't see so many tourists around!
After staying for two nights in Ha Long, it was time to set off to our third destination; Trang An!
Route #2: Ha Long to Trang An
The route we took from Ha Long to Trang An is 190 km long, and it should take almost 4 hours to finish according to the calculations from Google Maps. We took the route via QL10 to avoid the urban area of Hai Phong.
Someone is packing for the road to Trang An, someone is checking the map, and someone is taking photos! A dream team for sure!
Packing up again, we set off immediately in the morning, as we knew that this route would take us much longer than the time Google Maps has calculated.
Taking a quick cigarette break and observing the traffic flow.
First, we drove for 84 km (from Ha Long to Hai Phong) on QL5B. This road isn’t paved, so it’s a bit dangerous as there are no designated lanes on the road. You just have to adjust on the flow of traffic, and everything will be fine!
The awesome limestone formations on the road are just jaw-dropping!
The scenery on this road is fantastic, you can see the limestones all around! Really mesmerizing road to drive on, just remember; pay attention to the road as well as your surroundings. You never know what might end up in front of you if you’re not focused.
After the first slice of the road, the rest of the route is just QL10.
The village intersections are traffic hot spots.
This national road goes through many villages when you can just stop and enjoy the sip of the signature Ca Phe Sua!
Taking a break and enjoying a sip of local coffee - ca phe sua!
Anyway, this road isn’t paved like QL5B, so pay extra attention to lanes. There are also a lot of trucks and buses on this road.
How being chased by a storm looks like.
We were lucky enough to even drive on nighttime, which we definitely wouldn’t recommend while making a motorbike trip through Vietnam. The storm was chasing us during the whole way after switching to QL39A for some 10 km.
One thing that is also challenging while driving during nighttime in the countryside is the visibility. The roads are poorly lit, and there are flies everywhere. Remember, there are a lot of rice paddy fields in the countryside areas of Vietnam, so these fuckers will constantly try to get under your eyes.
If you close your visor, it’s even worse, as the flies will just pop into it, and decrease your visibility even more.
After a bong hit, mechanic was ready to have fun with the Honda Wave!
The energetic kids entertained us while waiting for mechanic to fix the bike.
We ended up in a small village just after Nam Dinh where we waited for the mechanic for almost an hour.
Anyway, the goal on this route is to pass through Thai Binh and Nam Dinh. Soon after, you will arrive in Ninh Binh, where you will most likely be exhausted from the long trip.
Finally arrived to Ninh Binh!
Sitting down and having dinner and a smoke is a great way to deal with exhaustion.
We finally arrived in Trang An Nature House after 10 hours on the road. The high quality of this accommodation pleasantly surprised us. Also, the view over Trang An was priceless. The hosts were also delightful!
Of course, this route shouldn’t objectively take you guys 10 hours; it will definitely depend on your driving skill as well as the general weather conditions on the road. And always keep this in mind: don’t drive during nighttime as many sorts of wild beasts will attack you! (referring to pitch-black roads, infinite flies and storm chasing us during the ride)
What to do in Trang An in Two Nights?
- Visit Mua Caves and enjoy the epic view over the Trang An Grottoes!
- Do a river tour through Trang An Grottoes!
- Cruise around Trang An and marvel at the epic landscape!
- Check out the Bai Dinh Pagoda; the largest Buddhist temple in Vietnam!
Trang An pleasantly surprised us; no huge tourism, absolutely epic landscapes, and dusty roads that are perfect for a motorbike ride! Also, we were lucky enough to explore this wonderful place during constant heavy rain. This gives it an absolutely different feel though.
We stayed two nights in Trang An. It was time to start riding to our next destination; Cau Giat!
Route #3: Trang An to Cau Giat
Before embarking on the road again, we made sure to fill up with coffee and tea and get some energy from just looking at the epic landscape around us.
Enjoying the local coffee and tea before hitting the road.
This view awaits you every morning in Trang An Nature House!
This route is pretty straightforward, as you will be mostly driving on the QL1A, the main highway in Vietnam. The road is paved and passes through a lot of highway villages where you can find food, drink and bike mechanics virtually anywhere. This journey goes for 156 kilometers and should take you about three and a half hours to complete.
Getting out of Trang An is a bit challenging, as the road condition is very poor.
Expect some off-road conditions while in Trang An!
After getting out of Trang An, connect to the countryside road DT491 and follow it until you get to QL1A. On the way to Cau Giat, be prepared for rainy conditions during the low season and a lot of traffic from both sides.
During low season, rainy conditions can complicate traffic conditions.
Cau Giat is a village located just right on the QL1A, which makes it a quite busy town. We didn’t actually stay there all four nights, as we found great accommodation on the beach some 17,5 km northeast from Cau Giat.
Anyway, expect some high traffic density on the way to Thanh Hoa, and watch out when the rain starts pouring!
Don't be fooled by the sights of paddy fields in Hoang Mai Village; there are some nasty holes in the road there!
Our bungalow was just beside Quynh Phuong beach!
To get to Quynh Phuong Beach from Trang An:
- When you reach Hoang Mai village, turn left after 2 km
- Continue along the DT537A road until you pass the bridge over Hoang Mai river
- You’re on the beach!
This time, we were getting more confident on the road and managed to get from Trang An to Cau Giat area in under 4 hours of driving.
We stayed in a bungalow on the Quynh Phuong Beach which wasn’t the best place to stay at. But, it was immediately beside the beach, so you could just get out and jump in the sea. That was the best part of this accommodation!
Cau Giat was an interesting place as it looks like an uninteresting village at first glance, but there is a volunteer community rising, and the local community is warm and welcoming.
What to Do in Cau Giat in Four Nights?
- Relax on the Quynh Phuong Beach!
- Take a night walk on the beach!
- Go hiking on Hon Da Bang!
- Get some fresh fruit on the fruit market on Cau Giat!
- Taste the best Banh Mi in the village!
- Busking on the QL1A overpass with curious children!
- Cruise around the alleyways of Cau Giat!
- Have some fun with the volunteer community!
Four nights in Cau Giat was really an awesome experience. David and Lovel got to meet the volunteer crew Antonio was hanging out with. He volunteered with Starlight for five months. Also, we discovered that a lot of exciting things hide in plain sight in seemingly regular highway villages on the QL1A road.
Special thanks to Thach for letting us sleep in his house for one night!
After four awesome nights in Cau Giat, it was time to say goodbye and set off for our next destination; Phong Nha National Park!
Route #4: Cau Giat to Phong Nha
The next part of our route is starting from Cau Giat, passing through Vinh and driving through the idyllic countryside to Phong Nha. This part of the route is 246 km long, and it took us 7 hours to reach our hotel in Phong Nha.
And of course, coffee break before hitting the main road.
Ready for the road ahead!
Starting from Cau Giat, just drive along on QL1A to Vinh. There we sat down for some coffee and to rest for the road ahead. After saying our goodbyes to our dear friend, the road to Phong Nha awaited us.
Note: You may already know it, but in Vietnam, it’s really, really hot. And the UV index is very strong, even when it’s cloudy. Prepare to endure some sunburns or get a sunscreen. We also love to wear long-sleeved shirts that are chilly and protect from the sunburns!
Basically, we are just following the QL1A from Vinh for another 163 km before transitioning to the countryside road.
Trying to hide from the sun during a cigarette break.
You will get familiar with this sight during some time on the road.
Walking inside a roadside restaurant like an amateur biker crew!
One of the numerous mechanic checks on the Sufat Win.
On the way, you will pass through many familiar highway villages, towns and rice paddy fields, catch time to rest and eat as well as find numerous mechanics (you will need their services a lot, trust me!).
The magnificent golden highway sunset!
You may even be lucky enough to catch a beautiful sunset!
As you’re driving pretty close to the rice paddy fields on this section, you will be constantly harassed by flies. They will do their finest to get inside your eyes, but it’s still bearable during the day.
Be prepared for an occasional night ride too.
When the night comes, they are entirely different beasts. They will harass you until you get off QL1A and connect to the DT2B road. Then, just ride along this road for another 24 km, and you will reach Phong Nha!
Arrived to Phong Nha!
We were driving during nighttime for at least 3 hours, and the DT2B road is just pitch darkness, with a few villages in between. Make sure that you pay attention to the road and check your lights if you want to stay on your bike!
We stayed in the Rose Hotel for a night. It has an amicable staff and great rooms for three people! We definitely enjoyed our stay there.
This ride was really worth it, as Phong Nha is really a fantastic place.
Did you know that the largest cave in the world, Son Doong cave, is located here? Sadly, you need a tour guide to explore it, and the tours cost approx. $3000! Not for a budget traveler, for sure!
Don’t worry about that though! Phong Nha is a vast place filled with lots of untouched nature and beautiful caves. You can squeeze out the beauty of it on a budget for sure!
What to Do in Phong Nha in Two Nights?
- Cruise around and marvel at the magnificent nature!
- Explore the numerous caves around! (we visited Paradise Cave)
- Explore the villages along the Ho Chi Minh Trail!
As we said before, Phong Nha National Park is a beautiful place. The scenery is jaw-dropping, and you can drive through lush jungles while exploring the numerous caves around.
After filling up the batteries in the marvelous nature of Phong Nha, it was time to embark to Central Vietnam and get to Hue, the former capital of Vietnam.
Route #5: Phong Nha to Hue
Riding from Phong Nha to Hue is a combination of countryside roads and the well-known QL1 highway. This route from Phong Nha to Hue is 206 km long, and it took us 5 hours to reach Hue.
Prepared for the route to Hue!
We packed up our things, refilled the tanks on our bikes and set off to Hue at noon. As we were riding through early afternoon, it was really smoking hot!
Note: Make sure to pack up a lot of water to stay hydrated!
When getting out of Phong Nha, we took the QL16. This road goes through the countryside and is full of dust and flies. After 36 kilometers, near Dong Hoi, we connected to QL1 highway, which we followed all the way to Hue. This time, the traffic wasn’t that heavy.
Note: On most roads in Vietnam, there is a lot of dust and flies, and sometimes, it can be harder to manage than the traffic itself!
This section of QL1 features some epic landscapes. You can realize that you’re reaching Central Vietnam at this point.
One of the numerous breaks. near the rice paddy fields, flies excluded.
Didn't expect the beautiful sight of sand dunes on the way to Hue!
Stretching out near the Buddhist graveyard.
Passing through rice paddy fields and sandy dunes, you will almost forget how much dust and flies have come in your way!
Sugar cane juice is a great refreshment!
Also, there are a lot of places besides QL1 where you can get a refreshing Nuoc Mia or sugar cane juice! Really comes perfectly during the hot afternoons!
The entrance to Hue.
After five hours of driving, we finally reached Hue! We found our hotel in the center of the city and just walked around as the night was getting close by.
The balcony view from the Anh Xuan Hotel.
We stayed in Anh Xuan, near the Perfume River. It wasn’t the coziest place, especially for three people. It had a beautiful balcony view though, so bonus points for that!
What to Do in Hue in One Night?
- Walk alongside Perfume River!
- Visit the amazing Imperial City complex!
- Explore the Abandoned Water Park!
Hue isn’t that big of a city, and it’s really easy to immerse yourself in the vibes. Just walking around the Perfume River during the night or exploring the city center is terrific in its own right. Of course, there are some things that you absolutely shouldn’t miss while in Hue!
After paying a visit to the former royal city, it was time to ride to Da Nang!
Route #6: Hue to Da Nang (via Hai Van Pass)
You can get to Da Nang from Hue via two routes:
The thing is, the QL1 route is reserved for four wheeled vehicles only, so your only pick if you're on a motorbike is the Hai Van Pass.
If you ever watched Top Gear (the old school one!), you may remember Hai Van Pass from one of their episodes. We were hyped on this road as it is said that it is one of the most scenic roads in Vietnam. Of course, we chose the Hai Van Pass route, and it didn’t disappoint.
Hai Van Pass route will take a bit longer than via QL1. It’s a 10 km difference, and we think that if you are an adrenaline junkie, you will love the Hai Van Pass route!
Preparing for the road to Da Nang!
After exploring Hue, we packed up and were ready to go in the late afternoon. As you can see on the Google Map slice above, the route from Hue to Da Nang via Hai Van Pass should take almost 2 and a half hours on a distance of 100 km.
Be sure to check these 21 useful mobile apps that will save you so much time in Vietnam!
Even though Hue is a relatively smaller city, it can get crowded in the rush hour.
Getting out of Hue and its area was the longest part of the route, as it is quite a busy city. Also, many narrow alleys and road constructions on the southern exit!
On the way to the Hai Van Pass!
Awaiting the sunsets on the road and just observing has become a kind of a ritual.
The moment you get out of Hue, you will connect to the QL1 highway and continue through scenic route for another 66 km, before reaching Hai Van Pass. Now, at this section, you should turn right on the scenic Hai Van Pass! As this section of QL1 is not reserved for motorbikes and oil trucks, you will need to take the Hai Van if you're on a motorbike.
Preparing to hit the Hai Van Pass!
Curvy roads like this are common on the Hai Van Pass.
Before getting on Hai Van Pass, what you will need is to prepare yourself for 21 km of absolutely epic road that is very curvy. If you drive at night, drive slower, as there are a lot of touristic buses and trucks on these narrow and curvy roads!
You will pass along some fantastic scenery through this road and will really get in the flow while riding these 21 kilometers of road.
Observing Da Nang from the top of Hai Van was an epic feeling!
Checking out the view from the Hai Van hilltop during the day is just as epic!
After a while, you will get to the top of the hill and be greeted with a fantastic view over Da Nang!
The main viewpoint is filled with trash!
The descending road to Da Nang is amazing!
The second part of the road is even more epic, as you’re getting more and more closer to the Da Nang City. Be careful how fast you are driving though, as the road is really narrow!
Lone beach on the outskirts of Da Nang.
After some 9 km of the road, the Hai Van Pass is over, and now you can connect to the QL1 and continue on to Da Nang!
We reached Da Nang from Hue in 2 hours via Hai Van Pass. Da Nang amazed us with its liveable atmosphere and proximity to the sea. We can say that we fell in love with this city as we rebooked our hostel to stay just one more night! It is the paradise for expats, for sure!
Da Nang skyline; as seen from the Fedora Hostel rooftop.
We stayed in Fedora Hostel, which was simply amazing for the price! You also get free breakfast included, and the rooftop has an epic view over Da Nang skyline.
Fun fact: After the motorbike trip with David and Lovel, Antonio eventually came back and set up his home base in Da Nang!
What to Do in Da Nang in Five Nights?
- Take a day trip to Ba Na Hills!
- Take a day trip to My Son!
- Relax on the beach during the day!
- Explore the beach during the night!
- Hike the Marble Mountains and enjoy the views over the city!
- Enjoy the light show from the Dragon Bridge!
Da Nang is a wonderful seaside city and is full of things to do! The main thing going for it is, of course, the beach; but the people and the general vibe are just too charming to let go of so easily. If you have less than 5 days you can easily explore Da Nang in 3 days or even 2 days. We took a bit more time to relax after a tough trip.
Da Nang really left a huge impression on us three, but it was time to continue our Hanoi to Saigon road trip and set off to Hoi An!
Route #7: Da Nang to Hoi An
Hoi An is very close to Da Nang. It’s only a bit more than 30 km away! We decided to stay in Hoi An for a night as we heard from so many people on the road that it’s simply a must-visit!
Ready to conquer more roads!
Said goodbyes to the awesome folks at Fedora Hostel, where we’ve been staying in Da Nang for all these nights, and set off to Hoi An!
Getting out of the Da Nang City was easy enough. We already ran into our first problem on the outskirts of Da Nang – Antonio had no gas left in his bike!
One of the many micro problems on the road.
Nothing that two guys with one flask can’t handle! David and Lovel found a gas station nearby, filled a bottle with gas, and filled the tank of the juiceless Honda Win!
After this, you just have to follow the Lac Long Quan for some 30 km, and you will arrive in Hoi An! This journey should take about 40 minutes, but we arrived there in 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Chilling out on the homestay balcony.
The accommodation we stayed in was Joy Hoi An Homestay. I would gladly recommend it to anyone looking for budget accommodation in Hoi An. It is in proximity to the city center but also located in the calmer area.
This is how tourist contamination in Hoi An looks like!
Hoi An was an interesting place to say at least. It didn’t leave a huge positive impression on us as we realized that it has got a huge tourist contamination problem! Streets are obnoxiously crowded, and you will be looked upon as a tourist by most vendors.
What to Do in Hoi An in One Night?
- Enjoy the huge waves on Cua Dai Beach and sip a beer or two!
- Explore the town on-foot!
- Taste some epic food at the Food Market!
- Just marvel at the colonial architecture!
- Night walk will leave you speechless!
Make no mistake; Hoi An is an absolutely gorgeous little town. No wonder that it’s rated one of the top Asian cities to visit. Its architecture will leave you speechless! Lots of the wonders of this city will be hindered by huge tourist crowds and aggressive marketing on all sides.
We even came back to Da Nang the same night for a special reason, but we knew that a huge distance was waiting for us between Hoi An and Kon Tum!
Route #8: Hoi An to Kon Tum
This was definitely the most challenging section of the journey for us. Before you tackle the Ho Chi Minh Trail, I just want to stress this: be prepared!
By that I mean:
- Prepare your bikes for this route!
- You will need a few bottles of gas, as there are a limited number of gas stations on the Ho Chi Minh Trail!
- Prepare your mind for many obstacles ahead!
- Don’t ride during the night!
As you can see on the figure above, the road from Hoi An to Kon Tum is 282 km long and is a very challenging one. Make sure to start early in the morning, as you most likely won’t make it in 6 hours, as Google Maps say!
Note: It took us three a whopping 12 hours to reach Kon Tum from Hoi An!
Packed up for the challenging road ahead.
After packing up for the long journey ahead, we crossed the southern Cua Dai bridge and stopped at the mechanic to check our brakes.
Checking out the brakes at the roadside Xe May.
An abandoned house on the side of the countryside road.
Then, we continued 10 km on the Road 129 before turning right. We continued for another 10 km, where we connected on the QL1 highway.
Antonio got his tire busted, so David and Lovel waited for him on the nearby gas station for half an hour. We also had some hot tea, as the rain has started pouring. This was the moment when we knew – this was going to be a ride!
Now, on the QL1A, after riding for 2,5 km there will be two bridges en route to Hoi An/Da Nang. We crossed the left bridge to the village on the DT611 countryside road.
Some 22 km later, we’re already on the QL14E National Road! We stayed on this road for another 59 km before connecting to the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
One of the numerous cows you may encounter on the road. Thankfully, this one wasn't blocking the road.
The road quality on the QL14E isn't the best.
Be prepared for many hazards on this road including cows on the road and lots of holes to watch out for! But, not all is bad on this road! You will pass along some amazing scenery that will be simply jaw-dropping!
The amazing view on the beautiful nature in the Central Highlands.
Close up on one of the peaks overlooking the Ho Chi Minh trail.
Gotta be careful on this road!
The jungle gets much dense in this part of Vietnam.
You will be tempted to stop many times just to observe the magnificent scenery!
When we reached AH17 (or the Ho Chi Minh Trail) from QL14E, we were hungry as wolves, to say at least!
Two portions of this, and we're good to go!
Rice wine collection.
Luckily, there was this place at the intersection of these roads where we got filled up with food for the rest of the road!
Little did we know that this would be the most challenging part of our journey. There was 136 km of just the Ho Chi Minh Trail to get past by. And, wow, has it been a ride!
The Ho Chi Minh Trail is an amazing road to ride on for sure! There will be more of that fantastic scenery I mentioned before and lots of holes and cows in between. But when the night comes…
The dark side of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
When the night comes, the dark side of the Ho Chi Minh Trail shows itself. We were even lucky enough to ride on heavy rain and to be split up with no cash. We also had just one gas bottle on our three bikes!
This segment of the Ho Chi Minh Trail is pitch darkness, with just some little poles to light up the way for you. At the time we were driving, we were the only crazy people to ride on this rain. We saw just trucks passing by, with no motorbike riders on sight.
What a sigh of relief it was when we finally reached a village on this route!
Thankfully, we reached civilization at one point, found an ATM, and refilled our bikes!
But, the rain didn’t stop. The darkness didn’t go away. This was just the beginning, albeit on a more positive note for now. There was even a moment where there were a few cows just chilling in pitch black on the road. If someone was riding over 30 km/h, it would’ve been a disaster, for sure!
With the half of the Ho Chi Minh Trail done, we reached a place where we could rest and wait out for the rain to stop. It didn’t stop at all, and we wanted to reach Kon Tum as soon as possible.
Warming up with coffee and tea for the second half of the journey.
Waiting out for the heavy rain to calm down is a questionable decision in these parts of Vietnam.
To summarize, the Ho Chi Minh Trail is filled with holes and many other hazards; it’s a challenging and rewarding road once you manage to complete it!
A few hours later, we finally reached QL14E again. There was just 43 km more of riding in the rain, but now, there were lights from the settlements on the way! Also, much fewer holes and unexpected obstacles like on the Ho Chi Minh Trail that we conquered mere moments before.
After getting in Kon Tum, we really felt tired from 12 hours on the road. We also felt that satisfying feeling knowing that we conquered this path on heavy rain and pitch-darkness.
The view from the Hotel Window balcony.
Checking out the horizon from the Hotel Window rooftop.
We stayed in Hotel Window for a night, which is pretty decent for the price you pay. Also, you get a balcony and a rooftop to chill on!
After petting ourselves on the back for achieving such a feat, we were ready to explore Kon Tum the following day.
And my, what a surprise Kon Tum was! It was one of our favorite destinations on our journey. This place just radiates with different kind of vibe than anywhere we’ve been in Vietnam, and that’s what makes it so charming!
What to Do in Kon Tum in One Night?
- Check out the Wooden Catholic Church!
- Visit the Kon Tum Museum!
- Visit the Hue Chieu Tu Buddhist Temple!
- Visit the Wide House (or Rong House)!
- Enjoy the vibes on the Kon Klor Suspension Bridge!
- Visit the Kon Klor village!
Kon Tum is a pleasant place with lots of history. It is also filled with amazingly friendly people. What we want to make known are the numerous ethnic minority villages around Kon Tum. You can explore some of them without a permit. Meeting these ethnic minorities will be one of the most pleasant experiences you will have in Vietnam. Also, lots of magnificent landscape around!
We were debating whether to go to Pleiku next or Quy Nhon. The shore prevailed in the end. So, our eyes were set on Quy Nhon!
Route #9: Kon Tum to Quy Nhon
After riding a 12-hour route to Kon Tum, we were prepared for a bit longer ride too from Kon Tum to Quy Nhon. The journey from Kon Tum to Quy Nhon is 193 km long and should take about 4 hours, based on the calculation by Google Maps.
Ready to hit the road to Quy Nhon!
This Hanoi to Saigon route segment takes us through the southern exit of Kon Tum, connecting again on Ho Chi Minh Trail for a bit (AH17).
Thankfully, you will need to ride 14 km on this road, and it’s not that challenging like in the hills north of Kon Tum.
After you do this section of AH17, you will need to turn left and connect on the DT670 road.
Sharing some candy with adorable local kids.
Cows can be used for transport too here!
Just at the beginning of this countryside road, we ran into some kids to whom we decided to share some candy we had on us!
Cows blocking the road.
Lots of holes on the road and random rain showers sum up this route.
This countryside road can be compared to the AH17 segment we took on the way to Kon Tum. Spectacular scenery, lots of random rain bursts, cows on the road and many, many holes along the way.
After riding for 44 km, we arrived in Kon Dong village that is situated just on the connection to QL19 highway.
The delicious spring roll!
Local kids playing cards.
There, we had some excellent spring rolls that filled our energy up for the road ahead. Also, observing the local life in this village was immensely fun!
QL19 is, for the most part, a decent road to drive on. It goes for 117 km, right through to QL1A highway. On this road, we finally found out what the branches on the road should signalize:
Lovel passed on the road section where there was a huge branch of the road that was blocking an oil leak. He passed right over the oil and fell from his bike. Ouch!
So, when you see a branch blocking a section of the road, think of it as a signal of road hazard. You’ll thank us later!
The curvy road segment starts here.
On the halfway to Quy Nhon, the road will get curvy a lot. Also, goats may end up in front of you, so tread carefully, especially if you drive during the night.
Some spectacular scenery awaits too!
Preparing for the night ride... again!
Checking out the rest of the road to Quy Nhon.
At the end of the road, you should connect to AH1 (or QL1A) and stick to it for 8 km. Then, connect to QL1D and ride for 9 km. At the end of this road, you will finally reach Quy Nhon. We drove for 8 hours between Kon Tum and Quy Nhon. That also includes an occasional break and filling up the gas on the bike.
We got to our accommodation, Hotel Tran Anh, late in the night and got up on the rooftop to check out the city skyline.
What to Do in Quy Nhon in One Night?
- Enjoy the view from Vung Chua Mountain!
- Ride to Phuong Mai Peninsula!
- Visit Eo Gio and chill out on its beaches!
We didn’t know what to expect in Quy Nhon. It surprised us with its chilled-out vibe, no tourist contamination, and beautiful beaches.
Quy Nhon was a great place to relax in before riding to Nha Trang. We would definitely recommend visiting this peaceful beach town and immersing in its vibes!
Route #10: Quy Nhon to Nha Trang
The route from Quy Nhon to Nha Trang is one of the most scenic we have encountered on our motorbike journey from Hanoi to Saigon. It goes for 215 km and consists of QL1D and QL1A roads. This route took us 6 and a half hours to complete.
Ready to hit the road to Nha Trang!
After packing up, we were ready to leave Quy Nhon at early afternoon. Go to the southern exit of Quy Nhon, right after Big C supermarket, and connect to the QL1D road. You will ride for 27,5 km before connecting to QL1D. This road is in good condition and goes right beside the sea. Some amazing scenery will await you on the way.
The mesmerizing scenery on the road to Nha Trang.
After connecting to QL1A, just stay on that road until you get to Nha Trang. It’s 188 km long, and it’s the entrance to the southern part of Central Vietnam that looks amazing by the way.
You will pass along numerous rice paddy fields, be overwhelmed by the number of trucks on the road and the beauty of the coastal towns. Also, you can see many islands from the shore!
South Central Vietnam is nothing short of breathtaking.
We humans can be tiny creatures sometimes.
South Central Vietnam is full of fertile valleys.
A colorful fishing village.
Rocky island on the way to Nha Trang.
There is also a cozy coffee place near Hao Son lake that has hammocks and is perfect for rest time!
Chilling out on the hammock and sipping coffee, just perfect!
You will pass through Tuy Hoa and Ninh Hoa before eventually reaching Nha Trang.
Sadly, we just had time to stay here for just one night, as we wanted to split the ride to Phan Thiet into two parts.
We stayed in Eighteen House PDC, which was a decent accommodation. It had a rooftop to chill out on too!
The view from the Eighteen House rooftop.
What to Do in Nha Trang in One Night?
- Explore the numerous beaches!
- Visit the Po Nagar Cham Towers!
Nha Trang has become an increasingly popular tourist destination thanks to the proximity of Champa ruins and many islands. Also, the party scene here is apparently bustling, so if you’re looking for a touristic place in Vietnam, Nha Trang is the one.
Route #11: Nha Trang to Phan Thiet
After spending less than a day in Nha Trang (and trying to find something to eat during Siesta time), we found a mechanic who tampered with our bikes for several hours. In the end, we started the second part of the ride to Phan Thiet just before it got dark.
The route from Nha Trang to Phan Thiet is 242 km long, and it should take about four and a half hours based on the calculations by Google Maps. Our ride from Nha Trang to Phan Thiet took us almost 9 hours!
Starting from Nha Trang, we drove along the Tran Phu road, where it was crowded with buses and bikes. Getting out of Nha Trang took us almost an hour because of the high conservation of touristic buses on this road.
Driving through the city, we connected to QL1C and drove for some 11 km before reaching the QL1A.
This section of QL1A is split into two segments:
- Bigger segment is reserved for buses, cars, and trucks.
- Smaller segment is reserved for motorbikes – very crowded!
The QL1A was split like that for another 10 km before getting on the real road. It was already dark, so we couldn’t see much of the scenery. The road is generally in a decent condition, some parts near Cam Ranh were hard to drive on because of very low visibility.
After passing Cam Ranh, we drove through the scenic route that connects to a beautiful chilled city called Phan Rang. If you didn't know, kitesurfing in Phan Rang is one of the best in the country!
This section was 173 km long, and we found a great place for seafood and coffee (with hammocks too!).
Someone enjoys seafood, someone doesn't.
When you reach Phan Ri Cua, that is the time to switch to the DT716B road. This section is 24,4 km long and will take you along the White Sand Dunes. The road is in pretty good condition, and during the night, there is almost no traffic.
Also, when riding this road during the night, you just get that feeling like you’re at the end of the world. You can see the black void that the sea is forming, and you can feel the sand from the dunes splashing over your face. Really an unforgettable feeling!
Riding through the pitch black void.
Anyway, when you reach the end of this section, now is the time to get cautious.
There are a lot of talks on police patrols patrolling the DT716 road, just between White Sand Dunes and the Red Sand Dunes.
Where you may run into a police patrol.
To avoid the unnecessary danger of a police patrol, we took an alternate route that is two times longer on a distance perspective, but safer from the law perspective.
If you get caught by Vietnamese police, how should you deal with them?
The alternate route, bypassing the patrol.
The alternate route connects to DT715 countryside road and is decent to ride on. This section should take you about 40 minutes to complete. Voilla! You’re in Phan Thiet, and you avoided the dreaded police patrol!
Sunlight Bungalow was perfect for a few days of relaxation.
We finally came to our Sunlight Bungalow and were amazed by what we got for such a low price!
Now, Phan Thiet is an amazing place to relax in! There is something for everyone; pristine beaches, crazy nightlife, surfing opportunities, epic waves and much more!
We stayed there for five nights, and even though the weather hasn’t served us in the best way possible, we really enjoyed Phan Thiet!
What to Do in Phan Thiet in Five Nights
- Try the seafood and coconut juice!
- Visit Red Sand Dunes and White Sand Dunes!
- Check out the Fairy Stream!
Phan Thiet has become an increasingly popular destination for foreign visitors to Vietnam, and for a good reason.
After recharging our batteries from the long trip we had so far, it was time for the last ride!
Route #12: Phan Thiet to Saigon
The final section of the Hanoi to Saigon route is 197 km long, starting from Phan Thiet and ending in Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City). It took us about 5 and a half hours to reach our final destination.
Preparing for the final ride on this journey.
After packing up and saying goodbye to the awesome Phan Thiet, we set off for Saigon! The route is pretty straightforward; you leave Phan Thiet and connect to QL1A. Expect to ride on QL1A for the whole duration.
Lots of lush forests on the way to Saigon.
Lots of hillside too!
The road to Saigon can get dusty and crowded by trucks.
Enjoying a quiet moment on the road.
Southern Vietnam offers some amazing scenery, but also lots of dust and truck traffic jams on the road! Watch out how fast are you driving, as the truck drivers are even crazier when it comes to speed!
Early sunset in Long Khanh.
Halfway on this first segment, when you reach Long Khanh (after 126 km), stay on QL1A.
Waiting for the third biker on the intersection before Saigon.
After 21 km there will be an intersection between QL1A and QL51. Keep to the right and stay on QL1. Eventually, you will reach Saigon.
You know that you've reached Saigon when you end up in a traffic jam like this one!
You will be met with massive traffic once you reach the outskirts of Saigon, so riding to the city center should take a while. You will enter an intersection of QL1A and QL52, so now, it’s up to you which road will you take based on where are you staying in Saigon.
We were staying in District 1, in Saigon Fantastic Hostel, so we took QL52 on the intersection.
Here, we finally knew – we seized Saigon! We immediately left our things and started to explore District 1. Didn’t have much time to explore further though; David and Lovel had to catch the morning plane to Hanoi the following day and we needed to figure out how to sell our motorbikes in the last minute!
A journey from Hanoi to Saigon is an unforgettable experience. You will learn so much about the culture of Vietnam and its people. Most likely, you will meet amazing people that will broaden your horizons.
Vietnam has a layout that makes it perfect for making a motorbike trip. This is just one of the many routes that you can take from Hanoi to Saigon.
Remember, take some necessary precautions before starting your trip. Make sure that your bike is in decent shape and that you have all the essential accessories. Also, bring loads of water with you, as you will need to stay hydrated at all times.
The budget isn’t that much of a problem too.
Once you’re ready, enjoy every moment of the ride. You will remember it for a lifetime!
We hope that we’ve given you enough information on just one of the many routes you can take from Hanoi to Saigon. If you have any questions or something to add, please do so in the comment section below. Cheers!