1) Start early
Specially in the hottest months it is worth to wake up before the sunrise and pedal through the first hours of the day, when it is not yet too hot. You will still get some heat in the hottest months, that’s why it’s recommended to stop from 12 to 2pm.
2) Drink, drink, drink
Sometimes is so hot and humid that you will be sweating much more than you notice, so you’d better drink as much as possible and do as many stops as you need. Generally in our tours we stop every hour to refill the body with fluids. You’re not wasting any time, being dehydrated would make you much slower.
3) Take backroads
Although in Vietnam roads are not too congested as soon as you leave major cities, it is worth taking back roads when possible and melt into the rural landscape, rolling gently through rice paddies and enjoying the silence, which will only be broken by children shouting “hello”.
4) Learn a few words in Vietnamese (or hire a tour with local guide)
If you plan to travel without the support of a tour, you’d better know at least a few words in Vietnamese. Once you are out of big cities it’s not easy to find someone who speaks English and the communication barrier can be a source of stress and can make your trip less enjoyable. That’s why if you’re new in the country we recommend that you hire a tour with us and just focus on enjoying. Words like “o dau”, “nha nghi” (guesthouse), khac san (hotel), nha hang (restaurant), sua xe (repair bike) are quite handy but you are likely to mispronounce them because of the tones.
5) Travel light
Unless you travel through the Northern Highlands during winter, you won’t need many clothes and they will easily dry after you wash them. One of the advantages of the tropical climate is that you don’t need much to go around, so you should just pack what you really need. Consider that hotels and guesthouses are very cheap and provide all the basic needs.
6) Beware of mosquitoes
Not that you need to be obsessed with them, but a mosquito repellent at night will make your sleep more relaxing and will avoid you worrying about dengue fever and other diseases. It’s not so easy to find repellent once you are in the countryside so you should pack it in advance.
7) Waterproof bags
You should travel light, but your bags should be waterproof, specially if you travel during the rainy season. If the rain is not too strong you can keep pedaling, it is actually very refreshing and you will feel like you go back to childhood. If it pours so hard that you can’t even see the road, stop by at a café and rest. It will stop at some point.
8) Sturdy bike
The bike choice depends more on the person, some would take a mountain bike wherever they go and others will sacrifice convenience for the light feeling of a road bike. Even if roads in Vietnam are generally well paved, they are not so clean, and punctures are very frequent. It is also likely that you go through unpaved stretches, that’s why we recommend a mountain bike or a touring bike. Cyclo-cross ones can also work if you want to feel lighter but not too fragile.
This is another thing you should pack in advance. Although now it is possible to find some sunscreen in pharmacies, usually the quality is not very good. It’s better to get one in advance, you can find them in cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City or Danang.
10) Be flexible
This tip applies for any cycling trip, but specially in countries like Vietnam, where what you initially plan might not happen. This shouldn’t be a problem, one of the joys of tour cycling is being up for adventures and being able to overcome small problems and inconveniences. What if you did less km than initially planned that day? Just relax and enjoy.