Everything you need to know about getting a motorbike in South-East Asia

Whenever you visit South-East Asia, chances are that you will meet and greet people who have either got a motorbike, going to get one or just sold one. Riding a scooter or motorbike all the way down Vietnam for example has always been a rite of passage for first-time visitors.

Napping on Motorbike” by Hanumann is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Getting a bike is probably one of the best ways to explore so many fascinating countries as well as a genuine taste of freedom. It sounds so easy to just get a motorbike or scooter and go on an adventure BUT remember that you are still in a foreign country and need to take a few precautions.

Get travel insurance

Even though you will meet many travellers boasting about having no travel insurance, this shouldn’t encourage you from being discouraged from getting travel insurance. A lot of travel insurance companies don’t cover motorbike accidents because they can be dangerous but if you end up in an accident, medical care will be expensive. Find a good company and make sure to get insured.

Honda Win
Seger” by Ruly Aperta is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Choosing the right bike

The most common and popular bikes you can get in SE-Asia are 100-125cc scooters, especially the Honda Win and Honda Dream. These bad boys are reliable, easy to use and last for a pretty long time.

The Honda Win however is more popular in Vietnam and Cambodia and has a full manual transmission and taller suspension.

Keep in mind that in Vietnam, if your engine is over 175cc then you need a special permit that can take a while to get BUT you can opt for a 3 month visa. It’s usually better to get a motorbike with a smaller engine size and it’s a lot harder to use a big bike to its maximum capacity on the traffic-filled roads of SE-Asia.  

 Choosing manual or automatic

The problem with automatic bikes is that they come with a handful of problems. They are expensive to fix, use more fuel and are less trustworthy. Instead, choose manual or semi-automatic, especially since you can change gears when going up or down difficult hills or roads.

The things you need for a bike

Sometimes you might need a bit of paperwork but if you are only planning a few months then you might as well get a second-hand bike. Ensure that the previous owner gives you all the registration papers beforehand.

If you are planning to cross borders, it’s advised to get a motorbike that is Vietnamese-plated as these can enter Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia with great ease.

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