For those of you who hesitate to ride a bike or haven’t before, for the love of god you must do it in Laos. It will provide you with the greatest experiences of your holiday. Without question, motorbiking around the caves of Vang Vieng was the best way to spend a day ever. Heaps of hippy types rented bikes for half the price and probably had half the fun.
For 40,000 Lao Kip (approximately $8 Australian, $5 USD) we got a bike for the day in Van Vieng. Cheaper for a few days at a time. Probably more in Luang Prabang or Vientiane. You’d probably pay another 35,000 Kip to fill up the tank.
Scared of riding? I’d never ridden a manual bike before, but it was easy enough. If you have a decent sense of balance and can drive a manual car, then you’ll be fine.
What sort of bikes are they? Well in Vang Vieng, they were mostly fairly new Chinese ‘postie bikes’. A derivative of your standard, old school Asian Honda motorbike. They look dead average but they can really take a beating on the atrocious, badly rutted dirt and pebble roads.
Some are fully automatic but the majority are four speed manuals no hand clutch – basically an auto clutch. Bear in mind, these are definitely not performance bikes. You could probably ride around in fourth all day if you want! The one we had had a replacement value of about $700. So that’s the worse-case scenario!
Most bike rental places will get you to do a quick lap up and down the street to ensure you can ride. Make sure your gauges and your brakes work. Don’t take anything for granted here! Our bike was in great working order but we saw plenty that day that weren’t!
Finally even Vientiane just isn’t busy enough (at least by Vietnamese standards) to be what you’d call shit scary on two wheels. If you can find a Lao who’s gone over 100 kliks in a car or bike, they’re a rarefied individual. 40 kilometres an hour can feel excessive. Especially when you’re overtaking locals.
P.S. Laos is US style left hand drive.