Guide To Buying A Motorbike In Southeast Asia

Buying A Motorbike In Southeast Asia View

Every second backpacker you meet in Southeast Asia talks about riding scooters around Thailand or taking a motorbike across the length of Vietnam. It has almost become a rite-of-passage for travellers in Southeast Asia to jump behind the handlebars of a Honda Wave or Win and zoom through the countryside. After our 8 months and 15’000km riding across the region, we can honestly say that this is perhaps the best way to explore the countries of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. For those that want to do it themselves, here is our guide on buying a motorbike in Southeast Asia.

Do I Need Travel Insurance?

Legally, no. Intelligently, yes. Accidents do happen every day and, unfortunately, we have had a few friends be seriously injured and worse, killed on the roads in Southeast Asia. Motorbiking is dangerous, and there is no denying that.

You might think that this won’t happen to you, or that if you are injured that medical care is cheap. But not if you end up in a serious condition or have a collision with another person and you are liable for personal injury. Seriously consider getting travel insurance before you ride a motorbike in Southeast Asia!

If you know the right company, you can even buy travel insurance while you are already on the road (in case you have already started your trip). If you want to know more, read our article Do I Need Travel Insurance.

We recommend World Nomads.

What Type Of Motorbike To Buy?

The most popular types of bikes found in Southeast Asia are 100-125cc scooters, in particular Honda Waves and Honda Dreams. These solid, reliable bikes seem to last forever, and finding parts to fix them is extremely easy. If you ride big bikes back in your home country you may be put off at the thought of downsizing to a moped. Before you write them off completely however, keep in mind just how hard it will be to find parts for a CBR600RR in rural Cambodia.

In Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia another popular option is a Honda Win. These are actual motorbikes as opposed to scooters, with a full manual transmission and taller suspension. Finding parts for these are also a piece of cake and just about every mechanic in Southeast Asia will have no problem fixing one.

Another thing to keep in mind is licensing. In Vietnam, any engine over 175cc requires special permits – not something that one can attain in a month, or even 3 month long stint in the country without putting in considerable time and effort. For the sake of ease, we recommend buying a motorbike with a smaller engine size. Also you will unlikely be able to utilise a big bike to its full potential on much of the traffic-filled, potholed roads of Southeast Asia.

Our recommendationBuy a Honda Win or Honda Wave.

Honda Win Buying A Motorbike In Southeast Asia

Manual Or Automatic?

We suggest buying a full manual or semi-automatic bike. NOT an automatic. Automatic bikes are more expensive to fix, burn through a lot more fuel and are far less trustworthy if you are riding on mountainous or gravel terrain. Take our word for it – if you are riding down a steep dirt road, you are going to want the option of selecting your gear before descending.

If you are worried that you don’t have the skills to ride a semi-automatic bike, relax! They are very easy to ride and after about one hour of practice you will be building your confidence up very quickly. It is not complicated.

Scooter In Thailand Buying A Motorbike In Southeast Asia
Our scooters we rented to do the Mae Hong Son Loop in Thailand. Great, reliable bikes.

What Do I Need To Buy A Motorbike?

Buying a brand new motorbike in Southeast Asia may require a lot of paperwork. In Thailand for example you need a housing agreement to prove you actually live there. However if you are only planning on riding your motorbike for a few months, getting a second hand bike is the best option. For this you only really need a fistful of cash. Just make sure that the previous owner gives you the registration papers. In Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia most people just leave the bike registered in the original name as they don’t need to be renewed.

If you are thinking about crossing borders with your motorbike, we recommend buying a Vietnamese-plated bike. These can enter Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam legally with minimal fuss. Any other registration can be very difficult to move across borders without full ownership of the bike.

Buying A Motorbike In Southeast Asia
Lesh’s trusty Honda Win outside of Nha Trang in Vietnam.

Do I Need A Licence?

Technically yes, you do need a licence. In Thailand, Cambodia and Laos an International Drivers Permit will be enough to avoid trouble with the police (although Cambodian police are quite corrupt and may not accept it). In Vietnam a local licence is required, however this is very rarely enforced. Chances are you will never be pulled over by a police officer in Vietnam unless you are involved in an accident or are driving in an unsafe manner.

Keep in mind that your travel insurance will not cover you unless you have a valid licence accepted in the country you are riding in. This means your car licence from back home doesn’t cover you for riding a motorbike in Cambodia or Laos. In Vietnam you WILL NOT be covered by insurance unless you get a Vietnamese licence. Remember all this next time go to open the throttle around a blind corner.

Laos Road Buying A Motorbike In Southeast Asia
A typical road in Northern Laos.

How Much Should I Spend?

You can really spend as little or as much as you want on a bike. As a rough ballpark figure for backpackers, you should be looking at around US$250 for a second hand Honda Win or Wave. This can vary by a couple of hundred dollars either side depending on condition, where you buy it and brand. Bikes in Cambodia and Laos are more expensive.

The local price on a Honda Win in Vietnam is closer to US$100, but don’t expect to get one for this price unless you have a Vietnamese friend who makes the purchase for you.

Cash Buying A Motorbike In Southeast Asia
About to hand over all our money for two motorbikes in Luang Prabang, Laos.

Buy From A Backpacker Or A Shop?

If you go to any of the backpacker districts in Vietnam, you will find hundreds of people selling their motorbikes. You can usually get a better price for a motorbike off of a backpacker, as they are often short of time when it comes to selling. But don’t be a douche bag and throw out a ridiculously low-ball price in the hopes of screwing another backpacker out of $50. Remember, we are all travellers and should all look out for each other!

Something to keep in mind when buying a motorbike off of a backpacker is that some (not all) try to spend as little money as possible on maintenance and repairs. If a biker tells you they did one oil change in 2000km, their bike is probably going to fall apart on you. You can almost tell straight away from the person and the way their bike looks whether they took care of it or not. Use your instincts.

If you buy a motorbike from a shop they usually do a full service before they sell it. The cost of these bikes will usually be higher, but they often come with a riding lesson and some gear. From the larger and more reputable shops they may even have a guaranteed buy-back scheme at the end of your adventure.

This is not to say buying a motorbike off of a backpacker is a bad idea – they at least know the recent history of the bike compared to a shop that just bought it from someone. Just make sure they regularly maintained it.

Cow Traffic Buying A Motorbike In Southeast Asia
Watch out for the traffic in Southeast Asia.

What To Look For When Buying A Motorbike In Southeast Asia

Most motorbikes in Southeast Asia have ridden thousands and thousands of kilometres around the region. Luckily they are reliable and often get new parts throughout their entire history. If you are unfamiliar with motorbikes and engines, be sure to at least look at these few things when you take it for a test ride:

  • No fluid leaks.
  • Cables and springs are in good condition.
  • Tyres have tread.
  • Brakes work.
  • Headlight, brake lights and indicators work (cheap to fix if not).
  • No corrosion on battery terminals or wires.
  • Suspension not too soft.
  • Mirrors (yes you will need these).

Note that your odometre and speedometre will probably not work. This is normal when it comes to motorbikes, and chances are if you get it fixed that it will break again one day soon. Don’t stress about this. Also remember that repairs are cheap in Southeast Asia. You can buy an entire new engine for US$50 if you go to the right place.

When taking your motorbike for a test ride make sure you take it out on a highway (if possible) and really push the engine to near full speed. This is the only way to know whether the engine is actually in good condition. Most bikes sound fine in third gear pottering along at 20km/h. You really need to start hitting 50 or 60 to see if the bike starts shaking violently or if it starts spluttering. Do a brake check at a decent speed as well. If you can, ride up to about 40km/h and brake hard in a straight line (remember not to lock up the front brake). If a kid runs out in front of you, you are going to want to know you can actually stop the bike.

Cambodia Vietnam Buying A Motorbike In Southeast Asia
Lesh loving the ride from Snoul to Mondulkiri in Cambodia

Selling Your Motorbike

Once you have reached the end of your adventure you are going to want to sell your motorbike again. The easiest way to do this is to sell it directly to a motorbike repair shop. You will not get a great price for this, but at least you will get something and it is hassle free.

If you are desperate to get some more cash back for your bike, your best bet is to sell it to another backpacker. Go to a popular hostel in a backpacker district and make a poster. Also make an advert on an online classifieds website such as Craigslist or an expat site.

Ma Pi Leng Road Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure North Riding Motorbike Ha Giang Buying A Motorbike In Southeast Asia
Riding a motorbike in Southeast Asia could be the best adventure you ever do! Don’t miss out!
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86 thoughts on “Guide To Buying A Motorbike In Southeast Asia”

  1. From VN with love. Nice journey

    • Thank you so much

  2. WOW. So much good information here. I’m planning a backpacking trip to vietnam next year and had thought about buying a motorcycle but wasn’t exactly sure on the way to go about it. I had never even thought of buying from a fellow backpacker so that has given me a whole new avenue to pursue. I’ve got my klr for sale on (a free listing) currently so once that sells I’ll be well on my way to finalizing the trip of a lifetime. Thanks again for all the well laid out information!

    • Definitely buying from a fellow backpacker is the way to go. But definitely inspect the bike. Some people do not treat their bike very well at all. You seem like a savy bike owner so I think you’ll know way more than most about bikes. Have a great trip and all the best selling your bike.

  3. Take time to look at the battery level and the condition and check for leaks in the exhaust and ensure it’s a legal motorbike part that has been fitted. Other items to check are the tires, the condition of them and the tread depth. When you go out for a test drive take notice of the steering, the steering stops and any damper that may be fitted and of course the general performance such as smooth gear changing.

    • Great tips. Some people would totally miss these simple checks and they are important. Thank you for your comment Sany.

      • I would like to know about those back racks. Any word on em?

        • Check the frames condition and welding. Place a bit of pressure on them to see how much weight.

  4. Amazing post, thank you! Do you recommend one or two bikes for a couple? We rented one scooter in Bali and got by, but didn’t have all our stuff (two 7kg book bags).

    Also, we are considering getting a motorcycle license in SE asia (we are already in Malaysia and traveling around for a while) since we don’t have one in any county, and don’t have international DLs. Do you have experience with this, and do you recommend any countries in particular?

    • Hi Monica, if you are doing long distances definitely 2 bikes. We had an international license. I know you can get a local license but it maybe in the countries language,. All the best

  5. Thanks for a great article!! It inspired us to rent a motorcycle and take a 2 night side trip to Nong Kiew from Luang Prabang. It was a great adventure for us! It was a blast to see the countryside and visit with the locals in small towns. We also did some great side trips from Chiang Rai. A 150cc motorcycle worked well for us in Laos, as the road conditions favored the stability and forgiving suspension of a motorcycle over a moped.

    • One of my kids is now living in Hoi An and will be living there for a couple of years I suspect and their scooter has just died, how to I go about finding a lightly used scooter as a replacement?

  6. HI! Really enjoy all the info on this site. I am in VN right now and wanting to buy a motorbike. I am the careful type and am looking at a 50cc supercub (thailand import) new. Will that be fine to do some sight seeing throughout the country? Thank you for your advice

    • Hi Jacira – I am in HCMC AND I am selling my motorbike (I bought it NEW last month and travelled from Hanoi to here) – great trip, no problems at all, ready to hit the road again 🙂
      I can give you tips for travelling/ hotel I stayed etc + place where you can sell it for a fair price in Hanoi if that’s your plan

      Details: Honda Win Espero 125cc
      $500 incl 2 helmets, blue card, map
      price negociable

      this is the Vietnamese version of Honda, and not the Chinese one (better to avoid the Chinese one)
      contact via whatsapp: +447702407724

  7. Do you need a moterbike driver license, or just a car driver license? Really helpfull post ! thanks

    • Technically by the law, you do need a motorbike license but it is not enforced. If you do rent / buy a motorbike, do be aware of your insurance policy. If you have an accident they will not cover you as you don’t have a motorbike license in the country you are in.

  8. Hi guys! This is a good read. I’ve been looking for info about buying Honda 110 Wins from Vietnam and found your blog post insightful. Anyway, my boss is interested in buying and importing 2 Honda 110 Wins into California from Vietnam. Do you have an idea what is required to do this and approximate expenses / times / best method? Would appreciate your inputs. Thank you!

    • Hi Angel, we would have no idea about importing. Sorry. Thanks for checking out our site. All the best. 🙂

  9. i bought a new honda CB300f in thailand 2015…actually no sense buying second hand at that time. had it 8 month – costed med 20000 baht and a few oilshift. The reason – 30 horsepower, light and ABS brakes – heavy enough to kick a dog away. TOok it to cambodia and back – little hassle at the border. GOes between 30-40 km/l – now you can get around 90.000 baht. Watercooled – very easy run machine. Not so difficult crossing borders i hear. But its Asia – so you never know. lasse7hotmail

  10. Hi NomadAsaurus !! first of all thanks for your great help and sharing your beatiful experiences … I want to do Laos and Camboia by motorbike, hopefully I can also go through with the byke to Thailandia… my question is:

    Do you think is worthy to go to Hanói to buy the motorbike and start the bike trip from there? I wanted to skip Vietnam as I have visited the country already… I am currently at Chiang Mai so I will have to go back to Bangkok buy a fly ticket from there, 70USD … more money and more days … but I am afraid that if I give a try directly in Laos I might not find bikes offer or a really high Price?

  11. Hi John

    I am a 65 year old male living in HCMC.
    I am 1.7 meters tall & weigh 74kgs & my VN wife weighs 40kgs.

    I have never owned or driven a motorcycle; but do have a car license. Since living in HCMC I have always used taxi’s but being a retiree that is proving to be expensive.

    I am interested in Buying my first motorcycle & have identified these features which are important:
    – Safe
    – Mechanically Reliable
    – low maintenance
    – Light
    – Easy to ride

    I will only use the motorcycle for SHORT trips around hcmc; to go shopping or go out visiting with my Vietnamese wife.

    I would like your suggestion regarding the following:

    1. What motorcycle brand & model do you recommend I buy?

    2. Should this be new or used?

    3. Can you recommend dealers to buy from?

    4. I will require lessons; how & from whom do you suggest I get these?

    I appreciate & thank you for your unbiased objective recommendations. Luigi

    • Hi, no idea if you are still shopping. I have extensive experience as a scooter and motorcycle buyer and operator. If you want reliable my opinion is Honda is your brand of choice. For model, new I would suggest the Honda Lead. Really can’t speak to buying used as that depends entirely on condition and treatment of previous owner(s). Used from a franchised dealer is the best idea per potential resolution of any issues within a certain time after purchase.

  12. Hello I am with my girlfriend and we would like to buy à motorbikes …. She cannot drive so I would like to know if the Honda wave 100 is powerfull enoygh for 2 and if we can put 2 backpacks on it ?

    Thank you

    Ange and Charlotte.

    • Only if you want to travel very slowly and stay to the coast roads because you won’t make it up the hills on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Even then, the bike is physically too small for two adults and two backpacks.

      Two-up calls for a “real” motorcycle and, hopefully, at least 150cc. That’s going to cost more AND give you a much more comfortable ride for the three weeks it takes to travel between Saigon and Hanoi.

      My recommendation is that you rent a bike from Flamingo Travel, either in Hanoi or Saigon. They will ensure that the bike is adequate for your trip, give you an emergency contact number for use throughout your trip, and supply you with a basic tool kit. When you finish your trip, you turn the bike in and walk away. Buying a bike usually means from a backpacker, and 90% of those bikes are a POS that have NOT been properly maintained and pretty much guarantee you’re going to have breakdowns (plural). Even if you don’t have mechanical problems, you get to waste a few days trying to sell the bike when you finish. Unless you’re crossing international borders or living here, don’t buy a bike. Even some of the ex-pats who live here rent because it’s a LOT less hassle than owning.

    • Only if you want to travel very slowly and stay to the coast roads because you won’t make it up the hills on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Even then, the bike is physically too small for two adults and two backpacks and the suspension cannot handle the weight over VN’s roads for an extended period of time.

      Two-up calls for a “real” motorcycle and, hopefully, at least 150cc. That’s going to cost more AND give you a much more comfortable ride for the three weeks it takes to travel between Saigon and Hanoi.

  13. Hey Guys, thanks for the great page!!really helpful!
    We are Francois and Giulia and we are traveling from thailand to Laos,Cambodia,Vietnam!
    we just figure out the possibility to travel by motorbike for all the way and we ll love to do it!
    WE are in THAKHEK right now, tomorrow we will do the loop and we are looking for a HONDA WIN to do it, and use that motorbike to go south until we can!

    some other backpackers around want to sell their motorbike??
    it ll be so perfect for us!!!
    thank u so much and let us know as soon as possible!!!

    • If you buy a bike from a backpacker, you’re asking for TROUBLE! Most never do any maintenance or repairs unless they’re stuck and think that topping off the oil is the same as changing it. Spend a little more to buy from a reputable shop and you’ll save yourself time and money in the long run.

      • Lolz ‘reputable’. Bikes are so cheap here, and with small bikes it is easy to determine whether it has been looked after. I would only recommend buying a new bike from a dealer, nearly all of them selling secondhand bikes are very much overpriced and very good at cheating… There are no trading standards here.

        • You are right that “there are no trading standards here.” This is the capitol of “Buyer Beware”!

          You, Ben, may be able “to determine whether it has been looked after”, but at least 80% of the people buying these bikes have never ridden before and are NOT mechanics.

          There are a couple good dealers in Saigon and Hanoi, including Flamingo Travel. Cong, the Manager in Saigon, is also an excellent mechanic and a man of integrity. You will pay US$50-100 more for a Win from him. For that you will get a bike that has been thoroughly gone over and everything that was questionable is either repaired or replaced. You will get a tool kit, spare tubes, and a 24-hour phone number to call if you have an issue on the road–related to the bike or not. They also guarantee that they will buy the bike back at the other end for a previously established price; minus appropriate damage from abuse/misuse/accidents, if any.

          It’s like insurance. It’s cheaper not to buy it… unless you need it and then it’s too late. If you want to take two to three weeks to ride between Saigon and Hanoi (or the reverse, their main shop is in Hanoi) and cannot afford $200-250 net for your transportation, then you should take the bus.

          In the interest of full disclosure, I have purchased two motorcycles and two scooters from Flamingo in the past 14 months. One motorcycle, a Yamaha YBR, I rode from Saigon to Hanoi and sold back to them. NONE of the bikes have ever had one mechanical problem that was due to something that should have been addressed before I bought it. The two scooters are still going strong more than one year later… because I do basic maintenance when or before it’s due. Take care of your bike and it will take care of you.

          To the OP and anyone else who is looking to buy a Win… you are the only one who can decide from whom you will buy your bike. My question to you is this: Do you want a riding experience that is relatively trouble-free or one where the places you stay for a day or three are determined by where your motorcycle breaks down?

          Enjoy your ride!

  14. Hey mate, great article!
    I just did the trip from Hanoi to Saigon a few weeks ago. Since I met a lot of guys who did’nt have a clue about motorbikes, I wrote a more detailed guide on buying a Honda win.

  15. “The local price on a Honda Win in Vietnam is closer to US$100” – Not true !!! the local price for a chinese Win in good condition will be around 150 $ in the countryside, close to 250 $ in big cities. But for an original Honda Win made in Japan or a Sufat (built with Honda Japan standards) the price can reach 600 $ and you won’t find one below 450 $ as it is very sought after and much appreciated by vietnamese people. out of reach for most backpackers. Anyway, thanks for this great article and tips !

  16. Great article, thanks a lot guys!

    • You’re welcome Josu 🙂

  17. If you are travelling on a motorbike in Vietnam, the central region (Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An) may have one of the safest (ie. least dangerous) roads in the country. And the scene along the roads are just magnificent.

  18. Nice article guys – really informative.
    We are in Luang Prabang right now and really want to find 2 Honda wave/win. We didn’t figure out the spots here and there are only really expensive ones on findinlao and Craig’s list. Do you have an advise where we can buy them?

    • Ask around in hostels and places like Utopia, and look online. We found ours on an expat forum on the net. Sorry we can’t help any more. Good luck though!

  19. Hi there

    I start my motorbike trip in vietnam tomorrow and want to take my bike to cambodia. As i do not have a motorbike license (i’ve got a swiss one for a car) is it still possible to cross the border?

    Thanks im advance

    • Will this be your first time on a motorbike? Without a motorbike license in your home country and an international driving license, you will be riding illegally in Vietnam. That is usually not a problem, though if you get stopped by the police, it might get expensive.

      I strongly recommend that if this is your first time on a motorbike you spend a couple days getting acquainted with the driving customs in the big cities. Once you do that, you should be OK in the more rural areas.

      There are quite a few posts on my blog about riding a motorcycle in VN and Laos, some of which may be of help.

      • Hi John

        Yes i did alot of dirtbiking and im feel very comfortable on them. I just spend my first 2 days driving them in vietnam and its all fine 🙂 Bought a nice Win!

        But back to my question: As i do not have a motorbike license is it still possible to cross the border with the bike to cambodia? I’d love to explore cambodia with the bike aswell and sell it somewhere there.

  20. My PCX150 cruises at 70mph and is cvt belt transmission. 128mpg so far, what makes you think that automatic bikes drink fuel? Utter tosh!

  21. Awesome Guide guys. We are heading to SE Asia in a few months and I would love to buy a bike and ride around Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Do you guys think its feasible to just buy one bike for two people with 40L backpacks? Pssst…. I am not sure if Jazzy can handle a bike by herself but don’t tell here I said that 😀

    • Yes, it’s do-able. BUT…

      People will tell you it’s do-able on a WIN… and it is, if one of you wants to walk up some of the bigger hills. I strongly recommend a Yamaha 125YBR, Suzuki GN150, or bigger bike. You will pay more up-front and you will get more back when you sell it. Flamingo Travel in HCMC and Hanoi is one of the few places that usually has a couple offerings from which you can choose. Contact them before you arrive.

      If you have US$4000, I’ll sell you my Honda Steed (400cc). It’ll be for sale on-line soon.

  22. Really tempted to do a similar thing. Drove an automatic scooter around the Vietnamese countryside in 2014 & really enjoyed it. Tyre went in a village in the middle of know where & a really nice family helped me. Was thinking after visiting Thailand to buy a bike in Laos, then hit Cambodia & Vietnam. Any more advice would be welcome guys!?x

    • It’s VERY difficult to get a non-Vietnamese bike into VN and those who do have only 30 days before having to take it out again. If you try to sell it in VN, you will not have legal VN papers, so will get pennies on the dollar.

      I recommend starting in VN because, relatively speaking, Lao and Cambodia are easier.

      Also check out the posts about going between the three countries. If I remember correctly, Cambodia to Lao is easier than Lao to Cambodia… IF I remember correctly.

  23. Vietnam recognizes International Drivers Licenses now so as long as you have a motorbike license in your home country it will be accepted in Vietnam regardless of how long your there for or your visa you.
    You don’t need a Vietnamese license to ride there now legally prior to 2015 you did.

    • Thanks for the update dude.

  24. Hi guys, I read your amazing blog; it’s full of informations and advices.
    I’m going to Ho Chi Minh on the 25th of October and my aim is to buy a motorbike (100-120cc) there and travel around Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand in one month. I just have an international drive license. How can I apply for a vietnamese license?

    • You cannot get a Vietnamese licence if you are only in the country for a month I’m afraid. Must be a resident or be on a long-term visa.

      • Please forgive if this is a repeat…

        As of 01 January 2015, an IDL is accepted in VN along with your valid license from your home country. It is only legal for a motorcycle/motorbike, however, if you have a motorcycle license at home.

        Also as of 01 January 2015, anyone with a valid driver’s license at home, a three-month visa, a week or 10 days in one place, and about US$320 can get a real VN driver’s license valid for whatever you’re licensed for at home. The license is good for the duration of your visa and can be renewed for a pittance.

        • Cheers for the details John 😀

    • Wow you will need more than 1 month , that can be more pain than pleasure but let me know how you get on , and please take care

      • Definitely need more than one month!

  25. I got my bike in Vietnam, and will be heading out soon to tour Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos.

    One thing I’m wondering is if you guys traveled with all the tools to change a flat tire. I’ve never done this, so I’m thinking I should practice taking the wheels off before I leave.

    • Hey Terry. We had some basic tools, but not the stuff to change a flat tyre. There are mechanics and tyre changers everywhere in Southeast Asia, and getting a puncture fixed or buying a new tube is super cheap.

      • IF you’re on a smaller bike. Anything 150 or over, I would (and do) carry spare tubes. The first time I rode from Saigon to Dalat, I needed the rear one for my 400cc Honda Steed. It also helped to have larger tire spoons–the mechanic was thankful for the saved energy.

  26. Thank you Buddy.This is extremely valuable to me. I am planning to sell my Scooter online

  27. Like many I am keen to follow in your foot steps, can you tell me the best time of year to do a bike tour of SE Asia. thinking of doing a two to three month tour. I know that the region has different weather patterns just wanting general guide lines. sorry if this has already been covered.

    • That’s a tough one, as the weather is quite different all over the region. But as a general rule of thumb, we would suggest December to April. Keep in mind though that Northern Laos and Northern Vietnam have different seasons to the south. Ride safe Jeremy.

  28. Thanks for the nice tip!

    If I buy Vietnamese-plated bike, can I cross border to Thailand and sell the bike overthere?

    • Yes you can, but you need special permits. Check out our ‘border crossing’ article.

      • Ahhh Just found this post. So it is possible to sell the Vietnamese plated bike in Thailand? I plan to ride from HCMC to Bangkok and would like to sell when I arrive so I can take a flight back home.

  29. Where inn Laos i can Buy “Vietnamese-plated bike” and what are the document i may require to collect ?

    • Best to Google “motorbike for sale Laos”, and ask at popular hostels. You need the blue registration form and the import form.

  30. Hi guys, thanks for this guide, clears up a lot of stuff,

    I was wondering a couple of things though. Right now I’m in Pai, Thailand and planning to go to Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia to ultimately come back to Bangkok with a bike. I’d rather have a 250cc enduro bike for the trip (something like a honda Baja 250 or Honda XR250). But my main concern is getting a bike in Laos and not being able to cross into Vietnam or Cambodia with it. How would you guys tackle this, as I don’t see myself going to Vietnam first only to return to Laos and then Cambodia, seems a bit unnecessary.

    • A larger bike will definitely bring more troubles at borders as you will stand out more. Also keep in mind that to ride anything bigger than a 175 in Vietnam requires special permits. If you get pulled over and don’t have them, the police may confiscate your bike. Also having a larger bike will make it MUCH harder to get parts and maintenance should you break down anywhere outside of a larger city. Consider renting a 250 enduro bike in each country you are in. It means you won’t be able to cross borders, but it also means you have support should you break down. Ride safe Dennis 🙂

      • Back home I had a Yamaha DT175 2 stroke, would be the perfect bike for those roads but I’d doubt they have anything else than Honda there. And now I’m kind of torn between getting a Honda Super Cub 110, Sufat Won 110 or a Honda Wave 125.

        After reading a post on GT Rider I won’t be going for a Honda Win. I’ve currently been riding a Honda Wave 125 for a week and it’s fast and nimble, just not very comfortable :D. On top of that I have a 70 liter backpack and another 25 liter backpack and I’d doubt the Honda wave has places to mount racks (but hey who knows, this is Asia after all)

        Was wondering where in Laos I could pick up a bike with Vietnamese plates? Worst case I’d have to rent one in Laos and buy one in Vietnam but I’d rather avoid that option.

        Thanks for writing this blog post and replying 🙂

        • The benefits of having a Honda is you will find parts anywhere for cheap. Not the most comfortable, especially if you are a bigger guy or have a lot of luggage, but the locals can sure fit a hell of a lot on their bikes 😉

          Check out some online classifieds for a bike in Laos. We just did some Googling to find ours. Also check out some of the South East Asia backpacking groups on Facebook. Ride safe Dennis!

    • Last year, I bought a honda baja 250cc from dirtbike travel. It has to say that the baja works as a bullet, very strong and reilable. Difficult to find those bike in Ho Chi Minh but alot in Hanoi with some shop as,
      believe in me, it worth for long trip

      • A Baja 250 would be much more comfortable for sure. Did you have any breakdowns?

  31. Hello! Excellent guide. Thank you!

    I’m off backpacking to Laos next year with my family (husband, 2 boys aged 9 and 11). I’ve heard of people buying tuk tuks and driving them through Laos. Is this common? Any thoughts on this? And most importantly, would it be safe enough for us and our boys??

    • We’ve heard rumours of people buying tuk tuks in Laos, although we’ve never personally met anyone who has done this. If you end up buying one, please let us know about your adventures!

    • You can sell a Vietnamese registered moto in Cambodia without problem and leave by plane from Cambodia. There are many Viet registered motos here. The police aren’t interested in the hassle of stopping you in Phnom Penh unless its a serious accident. In Sihanoukville the cops make a livng out of stopping foreigners on motos and make up all sorts of stories that your breaking the law. Tell to go and get stuffed that you’ll report them to the tourist Police. If you can learn in the Khmer language “what’s the difference between a thief and a policeman – Answer: Thieves don’t wear uniforms.

  32. Hey guys – great guide! We bought our bike in Vang Vieng Laos for $300 (a very very lucky find, with Vietnamese papers and plates) and sold in Hoi An, Vietnam for $250 — it’s definitely true, you sped more outside of Vietnam. For selling we put adverts on craigslist and couchsurfing, but we had the best luck with just a simple print our piece of paper taped to the back of our luggage rack “FOR SALE” and our vietnamese phone number and email. That worked in two days time!

    • That’s awesome you found a Vietnamese plated bike in Vang Vieng. We saw a few there as well. And to sell it in Hoi An in only two days is pretty sweet. Nice work Jenia! Thanks for reading 😀

    • one question- did you had any problems leaving Vietnam without your bike? I just read that people entering the country on a bike must leave the same way. is it true? I am planning to get a bike in Vietnam and sell it in Cambodia or Laos.

    • Brilliant , i am going to Cambodia and want to buy a Viet registered bike with luck and ride it back into Vietnam. Did you cross back into Vietnam ok?

  33. Great outline on the motorbike experience in SE Asia. I’m one of the many who did the Vietnam trip as well as riding motorbikes in the region and in S/C America and India. I’ve ridden for years at home but SE Asia is a whole different animal!

    Is it dangerous? It can be of course, my tip is to avoid the highways and larger roads as much as possible. Aside from being less dangerous they offer a much more scenic route, and that’s why you’re on a bike in the first place right!

    When buying a bike ask whomever you’re purchasing it from to show you basic maintenance that anyone can do (adjusting brake cables, checking/changing spark plug, etc). Ask them the top three things to check for if your bike won’t start – anyone knowledgeable will tell you that it requires compression, spark and fuel, without each of those three you won’t be going anywhere. There are easy ways to check each of these.

    As for buying/selling a bike – I’d agree that a backpacker who has just ridden one will know what they had to do in order to keep their bike running. Ask what had to be replaced and when, if they don’t know or hesitate on answers you may be getting a dodgy bike. But as stated above just because you’re buying from another backpacker don’t be an asshole and try to get it for a steal. Consider what you’d be paying for bus and taxi rides and know that you’ll easily make back that extra $50 they’re asking.

    • Brilliant tips Frank! Thanks so much for taking the time to write it down for us and our readers. Ride safe mate 😀

  34. This guide is top notch, 100% fantastic. It’s great that you’ve been able to put your own experiences and knowledge into such a reliable resource.

    Great work both of you.

    • Thanks very much Dale. It seems we may have found our niche with motorbiking in South East Asia, haha.

  35. I love reading your updates, but it worries me that many naive travellers will travel by bike without knowing the dangers. In Vietnam around 10,000 people die on the roads every year and two thirds are on mopeds or bicycles. Without insurance, if you injure a vietnamese person or at worst cause a fatal accident there can be a hefty prison sentence. Lots of vietnamese avoid the licence issue and never learn how to drive properly but go on the roads every day. I have seen many accidents and injuries on the roads. I hope everyone reading your brilliant and informative adventures understands that it comes with risk and isn’t always fun.

    • It is true that a lot of people don’t think about the risks involved with motorbiking in Southeast Asia. We try to tell people to be careful. Unfortunately a lot think that they are on holiday and therefore invincible. Thanks for the great comment though Jo. Ride safe.

    • This is a great guide, thanks!
      I have a question though on selling the bike: If I buy a bike in Vietnam and ride through Laos and enter northern Thailand, can I sell the bike there and leave the country at an international airport? I only have one month to travel and will be starting from Saigon, so I wont’t be able to make the return trip. Thanks in advance for replies!

      • As far as we know Mark, they stamp your passport saying you entered on a motorbike, and therefore have to leave with one. Perhaps sell in Luang Prabang, then just rent a scooter for Northern Thailand.

        • Thanks for all the helpful information on this site!

          Mark what did you end up doing? I want to ride from HCMC to Bangkok and am in a similar situation.

    • Roughly 31,000 people per year die in accidents in the United States every year. When you account for population size difference, the fatality rate is about the same as in America.

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