Tips for cycling in Vietnam
Replies: 13 - Last Post: Feb 13, 2013 6:17 PM Last Post By: ralphnhatrang
Sep 14, 2012 4:32 AM
Tips for cycling in VietnamI've just finished 5 days of cycling from Hanoi, Vietnam 600kms south to Phong Nha nature reserve. Here are a few simple tips for anyone wanting to do something similar:
- buy a detailed road map if you don't have GPS access. Spend as much as you have to, you will need it to avoid half a day of backtracking if you get lost
- you'll be able to stock up on water, soft drinks and cookies en route, but get your energy bars and other supplies in the city
- avoid highway 1, use the Ho Chi Minh road. You can expect only 50 - 100 vehicles passing by each hour, it's beautiful, green and quiet
- you can expect to stay at villagers' homes but don't expect a good night's sleep. give them some money - around 100,000d should do, more if they feed you.
- in larger towns, try find hotels not located on the main road. people shouting across the road and motorcycle youths hanging out at 1am are not rare occasions in this situation
- start looking out for a river for your midday break at around 11.30am. riding from 12pm to 2pm is exhaustingly hot
- take a rope in case you hit an indomitable hill. truck drivers may try to extort money out of you for loading your bike, but motorcyclists are usually happy to tow you for a short distance.
- google maps has a handy 'earth' view with topography. examine the next days' route beforehand to get a sense of where the hills are and plan your riding around them
- waterproof EVERYTHING for when it rains, using ziplocks for the electronics - the water will get in everywhere and it may rain like crazy for hours!
- take earplugs for the traffic noises if your route takes you through major cities.
- get a face mask for exhaust fumes. you will not need this on the Ho Chi Minh highway
- never finish the last of your water on the road, sometimes the next shop is 15 kms away
- everyone will be saying hello to you, ration your energy because it can become tiresome
Sep 14, 2012 9:42 AM
1Just one comment, being the worrywart I sometimes am. Be careful taking a dip in the river if there is vegetation around as in SE Asia you can catch bilharzia that way. Someone here in Vancouver a few years ago went swimming in the Mekong River and got a big brain tumor of cysts that had to be removed.
Sep 14, 2012 12:18 PM
Sep 16, 2012 2:58 AM
3Cyclists in Vietnam will find these publications useful and available from Fahasa Bookshops.
Travel Map of Vietnam 1:1,250,000, Nha Xuat Ban Ban Do Cartographic Publishing House. It is a fold open map with the southern half of VN on one side and the northern half on the other, updated annually and shows some main routes not in VN Road Altas below. Costs 25,000dong.
Tap Ban Do Giao Thong Duong Bo Vietnamese road atlas, Nha Xuat Ban Ban Do Cartographic Publishing House, 210,000 dong, . Most maps are 1:500,000, with some around major cities at 1:160,000.
Using two maps will allow you to get off Highway 1 as much as possible.
Warning: Place names on maps can be vastly different from names on km posts and what the locals commonly used. For example, Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh v Saigon, Dien Xuan v Dat Set,
Tra Lien v Khanh Le. Do take this into account when travelling.
Sep 17, 2012 11:05 PM
4Good info Serious.
Ralph, I'm cycling HCM Hwy out of Hanoi next Feb down to last cross over point into Lao (Attapeu). Would u recommend both maps or will just the 1st one suffice. Presume Fahasa Bookshop is in hanoi?
Sep 17, 2012 11:31 PM
5The Travel Map 1:1,250,000 is quite adequate and shows both the coastal highway and the Ho Chi Minh Highway, but you get much, much more detail in the Vietnam Road Atlas. It costs 210,000 dong, which is around $10US.
Fahasa Bookshops are in most major cities.
Edited by: ralphnhatrang
Sep 18, 2012 11:27 PM
Sep 19, 2012 2:35 AM
7Hi Stacky (and Ralph). Once you pick up the HCM outside Hanoi, you can follow the Kilo markers which all have Duong HCM written on them!
Seriously though a good map is always helpful to find towns, accom, distances, etc. I like the map book because I like maps and read it like some people read a novel. Got it in front of me now! The sheet map that Ralph talks about will almost certainly be adequate and also lighter, cheaper, etc. I used something like that for my first N>S trip. Its up to you.
I can't remember which bit of the HCM you are taking when it splits just inland from Dong Hoi. The normal (more touristy) and easier route is to take the eastern or coastal branch (Duong HCM Dong) then go on H1 via Hue and Hai Van Pass, rejoining HCM at Thanh My.
The alternative (Duong HCM Tay) keeps going on an inland route through some pretty tough looking terrain with few towns. This route looks very interesting, but I have heard rumours you need a permit as it pases through sensitive areas. Anyone done it?
Be prepared for some chilly and wet days on the northern section at that time of year.
PS (I won't go on about the TdF, Olympics and One Dayers this summer)
Sep 19, 2012 6:16 AM
Sep 19, 2012 11:50 PM
9Thanks Simon, yeh plan to hit the coast around Dong Hoi & go & see the tunnels.
I don't recall any one dayers or the Olympics but the Para Olympics were awesome though. If the TdF is the Tour de France does that mean one of u poms won? Must have been drinking the same water as old Lance!
Feb 2, 2013 3:11 AM
10Going south Ha Noi to HCM in February. I forgot about the south easterly wind that comes up every day. I had to leave at sun up each day and it was still a problem. Going north would have allowed me to sleep in and then have the wind behind me.I should have gone north
Feb 5, 2013 4:55 AM
11All cyclists please note: prevailing winds in Vietnam are generally north to south November to April and south to north May to October. There is usually a one month change over period between the seasons.
Feb 11, 2013 3:51 AM
Feb 13, 2013 6:17 PM
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