Bike trips are no more confined to the borders of a country. International borders between countries are more accessible by road than ever. The over-landing culture has been picking up in popularity and riders from across the world have been taking up inspiring and adventurous journeys on their motorcycles.
Well, you must be wondering is that even possible living in India? Yes, it is! The recently inaugurated, India- Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway makes for the perfect international bike trip of a lifetime. This ride will traverse across the neighboring countries of Myanmar and further to Thailand, going down south to Cambodia and, finally, to Vietnam in just as less as 4 weeks.
Here are some essential tips on how to plan your bike trip to Vietnam:
Make up your mind!
No plan comes into existence if there is no idea generated in the head. If you have come this far, we can dare to assume that you had the idea, but haven’t started planning it out yet. Or maybe you have, but you still have some doubts that you would like to clear before embarking on such a fulfilling, but at the same time demanding journey.
How long will you travel and how?
Well, this one is an easy question to answer. You will have to be ready to ride for long hours at a stretch as you’ll be covering a distance of approximately 9000km in a span of 4 weeks. As this is going to be a very long journey, you need to be prepared mentally and physically. Daily physical exercises before the trip will be useful, but it is even more important to exercise whenever you have the opportunity during the trip given the long hours in the same sitting position on the bike while riding.
Passport and Visa requirements
If you don’t have a passport, you should apply for one as soon as possible. Passport application in India has been made rather easy and trouble-free with the introduction of a single-window application and issuance system. You can visit the below-mentioned website and follow the steps to apply online. You can get a passport in 2 weeks if all the documentation is done properly and all the formalities are fulfilled on time.
Link to apply online: https://portal2.passportindia.gov.in/AppOnlineProject/online/procFormSubOnl
If you already have a passport, check that it should not expire within 6 months of your travel date. Further check the visa requirements for Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam properly to avoid any kind of immigration complications that might happen later on. Be well prepared in advance and apply for e-visa for all the four countries at the same time in order to get the formalities done at the soonest. Vietnam usually takes 5 working days for processing for e-visa. Make sure to keep all the necessary documents required and keep a printed copy of e-visa. Also, you’ll require a motor vehicle pass called “Carnet” separately for Myanmar and “Carnet De Passage” for the other 3 countries.
Remember to have at least 8 empty pages in your passport for the stamp while going in and coming out of the country. Documents that you need to carry are:
- Travel insurance papers
There has been no legal requirement for insurance in Vietnam but having insurance always adds to your benefits. We can try and remain safe as much as we want but we cannot control the others who are going to drive/ride as well. To be on the safer side all you have to do is find the right company which can insure you in all the possible circumstances. Additionally, India is not a part of the International Driving Permit convention signed in 1968, so insurance is not covered as you will be riding illegally in the country. It is important to know that some insurance companies may exclude “motorbike touring” for policyholders from particular countries of residence. However, you can get covered for incidental use of a motorcycle
- Passport and printed copy of E-visa
- License & International Driving Permit
It is shocking that not every country’s IDP is valid in Vietnam. Only the countries who signed the 1968 convention are permitted to ride if they have their home country’s valid license card with the IDP. Furthermore, you have the option of getting your home country’s license transferred to a Vietnamese license (Here’s how: https://www.facebook.com/vnlicense/)
- Complete documents of your bike including Registration card, Insurance and Pollution Under Control card (P.U.C. Card)
- Inner Line Permit for Nagaland from Nagaland House
- Visa application form for Myanmar: https://www.myanmarvisa.com/
- Visa application form for Thailand: https://www.thailandvisa.net/
- Visa application form for Cambodia: https://www.tourismcambodia.com/tripplanner/essential-information/visa-passport.htm
- Visa application form for Vietnam: https://vietnamvisa.govt.vn/requirements/vietnam-visa-for-citizens-of-india/
- Carnet Details: https://www.atacarnet.in/how-get-carnet.html
- Carnet De Passage Details: https://www.carnetdepassage.org/country/india/
- IDP Details: http://www.wiaaindia.com/International_driving_license_permit
How much money do you need
A budget is very important to execute any travel plan until and unless you plan to hitchhike and travel with no money on you. Assuming that you’re not planning to do that, let’s go into more detail in the segregation of your requirements.
- Visa for Myanmar: 70$ (Rs.5250)
- Visa for Thailand: 35$ (Rs. 2500)
- Visa for Cambodia: 30$ (Rs. 23000)
- Visa for Vietnam: 45$ (Rs. 3500)
- Carnet: Rs. 50,000 for Myanmar refundable once the vehicle reaches back to the country of origin
- Carnet de passage: 2 to 3 times the invoice value of the vehicle, which is refundable (minus some fee) once the vehicle reaches back to the country of origin
- Accommodation: Hoping you will take standard accommodation throughout your trip, you will spend around Rs.1800/night, it will sum up to around Rs. 50,000 for a total of 4 weeks
- Food: Assuming a daily expenditure of around Rs. 1200/day on food will make it Rs. 33,600
- Fuel: Assuming your bike will give average of 25km/h to 35km/h, you are likely to spend Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 30,000 as you will cover a total distance of around 9000km
- Escort Vehicle in Myanmar: Approx Rs. 65,000. You can divide this cost amongst the number of riders. The bigger the number, the lesser the cost
- Escort Vehicle in Thailand: Approx Rs. 130,000. This cost can be divided equally for all riders
- Shipping Amount: After reaching Vietnam you will have two choices, either to return all the way back by road or to get your vehicle back to the country via a shipment for an approximate amount of Rs. 65,000. It’s highly advisable not to ride back, if you can afford it, as riding on the same road is never exciting
- Flight back to India: A direct flight from Vietnam to India costs approx. Rs. 25,000
Tips for riding in Vietnam
- If you are going to rent a bike, try getting a Vietnamese bike as you may face difficulties in entering the country from Cambodia. Try to opt for known brands like Honda or Yamaha.
- There is a high possibility of you getting targeted by the police as they are aware of the fact that most foreign motorcyclists don’t have valid licenses. Avoid this by not advertising your nationality. Do so by blending in, try and wear full-sleeved shirts and full-length trousers.
- While refueling your bike, always pay attention to the attendant for setting the gauge to zero (0) before filling fuel.
- If in case you have any face any problems in your bike that you can’t fix on your own, try going to reputable stores as it is probable to get scammed in the local garages.
- Thieving is a big problem you might face in Vietnam. Do not leave any of your riding gear on the bike. Don’t leave your bike unattended for long and lock your motorbike at all times when you need to go away from it even if it is for a few minutes.
- Rains are very sudden, make sure to have rain gear on you.
- Ride defensively in this country, as there is less traffic control.
- There are some best motorcycling routes that you should definitely cover such as Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi Route that starts outside the Ho Chi Minh City and connects to all the main cities like Hue, Hoi An and Da Nang and Ha Giang Loop which is in the North of Vietnam with all the beautiful scenery to view alongside.
Ready to Go
No plan is completed if it is not executed. Once you’ve got everything ready in terms of planning the trip, make a checklist of the things you need to do/carry when you leave your home because you really don’t want to kill all the fun and return back for the necessary documents. Keep everything ready beforehand.
Things that you might want to mention in the checklist:
- We all know that one of the major disadvantages of motorbikes is the absence of a trunk. However, it is obvious that we need to carry lots of things when embarking on a long journey. Backpacks are the most convenient options for this purpose. The variety available in the market with their different advantages are endless, so see which one suits your needs best. One advice would be to let a backpack with a charging wire and earphone plug
- Booking confirmation/receipts of hotels as camping is not allowed in Myanmar. We are used to carrying all our documents in our phones, but we need to keep in mind that there are a thousand and one possibilities of phones becoming unavailable, whether it’s as simple as a discharged battery, or a theft. Make sure you have paper copies of all your bookings to use in case of emergence
- The minimum balance in your bank account needs to be Rs. 100,000. There are travelers who dare to hit the road with absolutely empty pockets hoping for the kindness of other people, or maybe relying on some talents they have that might help them earn on the way. This is not a good option for bike travelers, though, as you might need to travel for hundreds of kilometers on highways away from cities, with only available close by stops at petrol stations. Make sure to have enough money on your bank account before embarking on the journey. It is also a good idea to have online payment methods activated and linked to your bank account
- Following up from the previous point, and given that your road will lie through some scarcely inhabited settlements, make sure you have Enough Cash with you, as you might find yourself without means of payment in places where there are no ATM machines or card payment machines. Besides, paying with your card abroad will incur fees from your bank, as well as currency conversion rates that might not be the best possible option. So, once you cross the border, try to pay with cash more than with your card, for which you need to have a decent amount of cash in your hands. Also, remember not to keep all the cash in one place, but rather divide into different amounts and keep it in different places. In this way, if a mishap happens, like losing your wallet or someone stealing it, you know that you still have money. Try carrying some amount in dollars as it is easier to get local currency in exchange of dollars
- Riding Gear –Armoured jacket is even a better idea. It might not seem very appealing to wear these during hot weather, but keep in mind that you are likely to ride at high speeds on highways, and whatever the outside temperature, the flow of air might definitely get your nose runny. You don’t want to risk and spoil your adventure because of sickness, so better safe than sorry
- Helmet and protective armor– It is obvious why these are essential during any kind of trip, whether short or long. Consider getting a helmet with either D.O.T / SNELL safety rating and riding gear which has sufficient armor to be able to protect your self.
- If you are a person who likes to keep a clean-shaven face, remember to carry a trimmer or a shaving kit of your own. – Again, you can’t predict all the circumstances and availabilities of the places you are going to ride through. Consider carrying a razor rather than an electric shaving kit, as you can’t know if there will be electricity available whenever you need it. Alternatively, get an adaptor to charge your kit from your bike’s battery
- Carry a Travel Guide for all the four countries, not to be dependent on the phone’s internet as the network is not available in all parts of the world. That guide will help you overcome the barrier of language to have a basic conversation and will also provide with a road map of the national highways connecting the two countries
- Carry a Lighter or few boxes of Matches as you might need to set up camps at night and lighting a fire next to your camp sounds like a good idea
- Carry a Camera, in case you like filming with professional cameras. We would suggest a GoPro camera, as it provides great output quality, is water-resistant and easy to handle
- Ensure that you buy a branded Power-bank of at least 6000 mAh so that can charge most phones twice. Losing connectivity is the last thing you want when you need some help! And it’s always good if you are always reachable when your family calls you
- Mention all the important details in a Diary and jot down phone numbers of all the group members and the people you would call in an emergency (in case the phone stops working)
- Every company hands out a Tool kit and a Bike manual in order to provide all the information of the bike that can come in handy in case of problems
Get your bike checked a week before the trip
Below mentioned are the parts that you definitely need to remember when you go to your mechanic for testing:
- Begin with inspecting the basics of your motorbike such as if the headlight works fine and high beam light is on, both the rear and front indicators are working, the mirrors are clean without any cracks in them, the throttle, clutch, and brake lever, and gear shift lever are working properly and they don’t have any bends or cracks in them, look for all the visible cables that they don’t have any cuts or bends, the handle grip is in place and the handlebar is straight and do not obstruct movement in turning from side to side
- Check all the essential fluids such as engine oil and other fluids like coolant and hydraulic fluid and transmission fluid which help run your motorbike’s engine smoother
- Making sure that both the tyres are in good condition and have a good grip without any punctures or bulges. The wheel is not bent from any side and the air nozzle of tyre does not leak is must check
- Chassis is the part that holds the body of your motorbike in a good condition. Also, check the chain for additional slag and if needs a regular service or replacement if they need any lubrication
- Apply and check the brakes, adjust it to your recent requirement, and see if the brake lights are working fine. More essential is to check the life remaining in your brake shoes and get its mount cleaned nicely in case you are not changing them
- The battery is very crucial to start your bike in order to ride. Check if the electrolyte levels are correct and remember to clean the battery terminals
Now, that you’ve come this far and read everything about planning the trip, what are you waiting for? Get up and get your notebook to make the checklist and get started. If you are stuck anywhere in between and your queries are still unanswered, we are here to help you out, click on the below-given link.
WE WISH YOU A GREAT TIME ON THE ROAD LESSER TRAVELED
By Chirag Saluja