Cycling in Vietnam: Kit, Tips, Routes & More

Expedition: Vietnam to Cambodia Cycle

360 Expeditions

In this article, we explore the ins and outs of cycling in Vietnam, discuss a few different routes, offer top tips, and provide excellent reasons to bite the bullet and commit to an adventure of a lifetime.

There’s nothing quite like exploring a country by bicycle. For many of us, it’s the perfect mode of transport. Quick enough that you can conquer large distances. Slow enough that you see almost everything along the way.

On a bike, you’re out in the world, feeling the sun, wind and rain on your skin. All of your senses are stimulated. The smell of fresh cooking sneaks up on you as you pass families preparing dinner. The sound of water rushes by as you ride along a river bank. Energising sunrises and glorious sunsets bookend the day, while the vivid greenery and colourful flora make for vibrant, unforgettable landscapes.

Cycling in Vietnam means experiencing the country in a way few visitors ever get to do. In all its glory, one pedal stroke at a time.

Cycling in Vietnam

In this article, we explore the ins and outs of cycling in Vietnam, discuss a few different routes, offer top tips, and provide excellent reasons to bite the bullet and commit to an adventure of a lifetime.

Why cycle Vietnam?

Why wouldn’t you want to cycle Vietnam? If you’re not already excited by the prospect of exploring one of Asia’s most fascinating and enjoyable nations, here are a few reasons you should consider it.

  • Breathtaking landscapes and epic scenery

From the hustle and bustle of the modern metropolis that is Ho Chi Minh to the labyrinth waterways and floating markets of the Mekong Delta, the secluded mountain idylls of the highlands and the cascading rice paddies of the north, Vietnam is non-stop beautiful.

  • A vibrant and captivating culture

Vietnamese culture is the product of a remarkable blend of influences, incorporating elements of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, bearing the marks of European colonialism, and building on historic Chinese, Champa and Khmer civilisations. It makes for a unique and vibrant cultural experience, with plenty of engrossing history to explore and appreciate.

  • Mouthwatering cuisine

Vietnamese cuisine must rank amongst the best in the world. Fresh, flavorful and regionally diverse, it is one of the healthiest (and most delicious) you can find. From satisfying bánh mì thịt baguettes to the phenomenal national dish, phở, Vietnam is a foodie’s paradise. Particularly if you love a little street food.

  • Vietnamese hospitality

There aren’t that many countries that boast as welcoming and friendly a people as Vietnam. Vietnamese hospitality is second to none and cycling through the country gives you the opportunity to meet and engage with locals far more easily.

  • Diverse terrain and an achievable challenge

The country is also very geographically and geologically diverse, meaning you will likely pass through varied landscapes and enjoy several different natural ecosystems. While the terrain can be challenging, a long cycling trip is perfectly feasible. This is not a Pyrannean odyssey or Alpine adventure. There may be a fair bit of up and down, rutted roads and muddy tracks. But you don’t need to be Bradley Wiggins to get by.

Exploring your route options

Vietnam is a big country. Long and slender, it covers 331,700 square kilometres. So there are plenty of places to explore and exciting routes to follow. With that said, we think there are three main routes that every travelling cyclist should consider.

  • Ho Chi Minh to Angkor Wat

Ho Chi Minh to Angkor Wat is the most appealing and enjoyable long-distance route in Vietnam. Yes, it incorporates a section in Cambodia. But this only improves the experience.

Typically taking place over six to eight days, with an average of 70 km of cycling each day, it begins in the southern city of Ho Chi Minh, heads into the heart of the Mekong Delta, using ferries to cross waterways, and across orchards and canals to Can Tho. From there, it is a two-day cycle to the chaotic Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, and then two more to the world’s largest religious complex, Angkor Wat.

The route has been refined over many trips and includes some of the best riding in the country, as well as countless cultural highlights. When it comes to cycling in Vietnam (and Cambodia), it is the creme de la creme.

You can learn more about the route and check out a full itinerary on the 360 Expeditions Vietnam to Cambodia page.

  • Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi

This route takes you from Vietnam’s southern tip to the country’s northern capital, Hanoi. In doing so, it covers around 1,700 kilometres, at times skirting the coast and, at others, heading inland to conquer the hills. As the ride covers such a large distance, there is no established route and you may spend more time on busier roads than you would with other routes.

  • Central Vietnam

Central Vietnam is home to fantastic beaches and some of the country’s most historic cities, including Hue and Hoi An. Much of the cycling is along the coast. As such, you will enjoy plenty of gorgeous beachside views. It is also possible to cycle around the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, where you will find the largest cave in the world. Overall, this area is great for short day trips by bike. But it can be difficult to connect everywhere into a single, coherent and enjoyable route.

What about kit and equipment?

When it comes to kit, you will need all your usual cycling gear. Rather than provide you with a long list here, check out our tailored kit guide. However, we will quickly discuss a few extras people often forget.

Staying hydrated is essential, so good water bottles and bladders are a must. Likewise, protection from the elements (and local wildlife) should extend beyond clothes and encompass sunscreen and insect repellent. A lot of people also worry about whether to use flats or cleats. We recommend going with the pedal you most feel comfortable with. Cleats are often considered a tiny bit more efficient, but the difference is negligible over long distances and at slower speeds. In most cases, flat pedals guarantee greater comfort without sacrificing power or efficiency.

Top tips for cycling in Vietnam

To get the most from your trip, we compiled a few top tips. Here are five insights gleaned from our years of experience organising cycle adventures.

  • Hit Vietnam at the right time of year

The Vietnamese climate is heavily influenced by monsoons, so timing your trip well is essential. We reckon the best cycling period runs from October to March, as you benefit from lower temperatures, drier conditions and fewer tourists. Leave it any later, and temperatures in Cambodia start to hit 35-40℃, making bike touring uncomfortable.

  • Leave time for off-the-bike activities

Whether cooling down in the pool after a day in the saddle or exploring the ruins at Angkor Wat, it pays to make sure you have plenty of time to enjoy off-the-bike activities. After all, the trip is just as much about enjoying Vietnam as it is about riding your bike.

  • Visas are easy (and not always necessary)

One of the great things about cycling in Vietnam and Cambodia is how easy it is to sort out your travel arrangements. At the time of writing, British passport holders can enter Vietnam for a maximum of 15 days without a visa and you can get your Cambodian visa at the border.

  • Choose your bike carefully

Selecting the right bike makes all the difference when it comes to enjoying your trip. You will probably tackle a variety of surfaces, so we recommend a lightweight XC mountain bike. There is no need for full suspension and you could probably cope on a fully rigid bike, but a hardtail model with front suspension is a good choice.

  • It’s not a race

Bike touring in Vietnam is best enjoyed at a steady pace. It’s not the Tour de France and racing through your itinerary means you will often miss the experiences that make the biggest impression. Settle into your rhythm, soak up the spectacular surroundings and don’t make it a suffer-fest.

Cycling Vietnam with 360 Expeditions

At 360 Expeditions, we organise the popular Vietnam to Cambodia cycle expedition. Consisting of six days and approximately 440 kilometres of cycling, it follows the Ho Chi Minh to Angkor Wat route detailed above. For more information on the itinerary, as well as answers to trip and kit-related enquiries, check out the Vietnam to Cambodia cycle page or reach out to our friendly 360 team.

Vietnam to Cambodia Ride

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