The Many Faces of Vietnam’s Scooter Riders

Our drive from Hué to Hôì An via the Hai Van Pass and the My Son temple was short but very slow: 8 hours to cover 165 kms.  We went through numerous villages and small towns along the way and the scooter riders’ face masks and outfits provided me with great entertainment.  

When we were last in Vietnam, in 2003, there were bicycles everywhere – carrying families, bicycles being pushed overloaded with mattresses, furniture or live animals.  Now, it seems most of the Vietnamese population, of which the median age is 30,  is riding scooters.  There are more cars now than back in 2003 and very few bicycles in cities, although kids and older folk in the country still ride them.  

Cyclist in Thùy Thanh

According to figures by the Ministry of Transport, there are 45 million registered motorcycles. For a country with a population of 96 million, the 15th most populous nation on the planet, that’s close to one bike for every two people and 25% more than was forecast back in 2013. Also, 95% of householders own at least one scooter and interestingly, there are as many female as male riders,  a lot more equal than in our society.

Scooters in Hanoi

No room for pedestrians in Hué, Vietnam

Cars on the left, 2 or 3 wheels on the right

I love how how relaxed the passengers are, and elegant too when riding side saddle.

Scooter riders in Da Nang, Vietnam

Elegant scooter riders in Da Nang, Vietnam

So many Vietnamese wear face masks, not just scooter riders.  Apparently, it is not only for the pollution or to protect others from their germs as they do in Japan, but to protect and keep their skin pale.  Many ladies also wear elbow length gloves, hats and goggles. Masks seem to have become a bit of a fashion statement with the young ladies – some even have ponytail helmets! While helmets are required by law, not all wear them.  Being ATGATT proponents, “All The Gear All The Time”, it doesn’t make sense to us when we sometimes see just one rider wearing a helmet and not the other passengers.  Maybe it is because they get in the way when there are more than 2 passengers.   

He’s safe but she’s stylish

Smiley face mask

Another smiley 🙂

Hi there little guy!

Ponytail helmet!

Helmets designed to allow for ponytails, Vietnam

Vietnam has the same addiction with mobile phones as everywhere else it seems as another common sight is scooters riders concentrating on texting, even through intersections…

Texting addiction in Vietnam too

And of course, one can carry just about anything on scooters.

Space for a second cylinder anyone?

Hang onto that mirror lady!

There is no limit to what one carry

How can she carry all this let alone see where she’s going?

Scooter in Hué

Baby carrier built into scooter

It would be really enjoyable to ride around Vietnam on one of those scooters one day.  In 2014, we couldn’t take Streak and Storm due to the 175cc restriction, and the laws have changed numerous times since so I am not sure of the latest regulations.  At the speed at which most traffic moves at, 175cc is plenty and motorcycle rental is dirt cheap, so who knows, maybe one day??

– Anne

8 comments on “The Many Faces of Vietnam’s Scooter Riders

  1. Really enjoyed this! Happy memories of riding around Bien Hoa last summer, including texting from the back of the scooter and carrying an enormous suitcase that acted like a bulky sail!! Hope you get to ride these scooters there sometime. It felt very safe despite chaotic traffic, thanks to the discipline of the riders and slow speeds (30-40kmph) around town.


  2. Slow speeds for the 2 Slow Speeds, what are you waiting for? You need to go back and hire a scooter for a new experience! Love all your photos 🙂


  3. so, perhaps not the safest place in the world to travel on two wheels? But then, I have discovered it can be just as dangerous here in supposedly civilised Western Europe.


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