Speak to independent travellers when travelling through SEA, and most of them mentioned how great it would be or is to be on the back of a bike when exploring the countries. It seems the freedom to see any places, being able to see more of the countries, waving at locals when passing villages makes motorbike such an interesting option.
As a result you find motorbike rentals in nearly every region. And you also find guides offering the chance to ride a bike pillion – interesting for those not brave enough to ride a bike.
However, it is important to mentioned something about legality. Unless you have a motorbike driving licence you ride illegal. In Vietnam you require an additional international permit from your home country to ride legally. If you have an accident and have no licence your insurance might be invalid. Some travel insurance exclude motorbikes completely, even if you have a licence. This can be a very expensive experience if you have to cover the medical costs for you – not even mentioning any damage you cause for others. So consider this before renting a bike, and check with your insurance.Be careful in Vietnam, if you injure a Vietnamese in a traffic accident you might face jail time – even if it is not your fault. Apparently it is always the fault of the foreigner.
Another issue of not having a licence are police control, be prepared to pay either an official fine or put money into the coffee jar.
If you decide to rent a bike – make sure you drive carefully, and pay even more attention to the traffic than back home. And learn a bit about some of the standard traffic rules in these countries – if you see the traffic in places like Hanoi or HCMC you understand what I mean. I have seen quite a few tourists with bandages on their legs and arms – the result of trying riding a bike for the very first time in a country like Vietnam.
If you are ready to ride a bike (legally) you will have a great experience, and being able to explore the countries in a much more enjoyable way than sitting in a car, bus, train or plane.