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Helmet buying in Vietnam and what to consider before spending money

How to buy helmets in Vietnam
buying a helmet in vietnam, motorcycle helmets, what to know when buying a motorcycle helmet, ECE accreditation, DOT, SNELL, SHARP

Do you need to wear a helmet in Vietnam?

Short answer – Yes you have to wear a helmet.

Long answer – legally in Vietnam you have to wear a helmet when riding a scooter/motorbike. If caught riding without one, you are liable for a fine of ~VND 100,000 – 200,000 / USD 4.40 – 8.80. Or jail depending on the circumstances. That may sound like a small price to pay for those outside of southeast Asia, but we assure you, it’s not worth the hassle.

 

Don’t run

Running when the red light is swinging at you, could be tempting but in reality, it’s a bad idea. They will take chase. As a result, you can cop a hefty fine and they will impound the bike. Probably not worth it.

Fun fact – traffic police are by law obligated to salute you when they stop you. Found that bit of info on the RentabikeVN website. Great reads on their blog, go check it out.

 

Fines and bribes

Going back for a minute to fines (or bribes for that matter). You’ve most likely heard or read plenty about pretending to be stupid so you don’t have to pay the fine or get off. That may have worked in the past, but things are changing and not in the favour of stupid.

Thai traffic police for instance, have learnt how to read English international licenses. They now understand how the classes/restrictions should apply to foreign licenses.No more pretending your home license allows you to ride a scooter lol.

We learnt this from a man who completed an advanced motorcycle training course with us last year. He’d been to Thailand many times, riding a 110cc scooter on his Australian car license without incident.

Not to say that it will happen in Vietnam, but in reality, what’s to stop it from happening here in the future?

(FYI you can only ride a 50cc scooter on your car license in Australia and NZ. Anything bigger and you need a proper motorcycle license. Same goes for Vietnam.)

That all changed once he got wind of the new methods adopted by the local police force. He weighed up his options and figured it wasn’t worth the drama of getting caught. Hence why he opted for the course of getting a proper motorcycle license.

 

Speaking of valid licenses

Vietnam will only accept an international license issued by a competent authority of a member state of Convention on Road Traffic 1968. Do your research on that before you come to Vietnam, because most countries in the world won’t comply with that little requirement. And no, you can’t just roll around on your normal license, it doesn’t work that way lol.

But back to the topic at hand. We wouldn’t advise negotiating or engaging in bribery. Avoid if you can, it’s not worth it.

Ensure you have the correct paperwork on you at all times. That includes a valid license, vehicle registration, insurance and passport. It’s not fail safe but those are the minimum requirements as set out by official government law.

 

Also consider

Another thing to think about is Vietnam has southeast Asia’s second highest fatality rate. You don’t hear or see much of it on international news but it’s a stark reality once you’re here and experience the chaos for yourself.

In all fairness, they have improved vastly in the last decade but have yet to introduce a minimum safety standard for motorcycle helmets. That basically means you can wear anything on your head that resembles a helmet and it’s fine. Hell, we’ve seen cats here on 1,000cc street bikes wearing what looked like bicycle helmets.

There is a silver lining to that dark cloud. Since introducing the compulsory helmet law, 15,000 individuals can thank their lids for saving their lives. Progress, not perfection. But it is a good reason to cover your head, yeah?

 

Which helmet is best

We can’t tell you which helmet is best for you, but what we can do is give you the info you need to start your own research.

 

Types of helmets

Vietnam offers a plethora of helmet options including;

  • Half helmets – covers the top of the head only and most popular in Vietnam
  • Open faced helmet – covers three quarters of the head and second most popular option.
  • Full faced helmet – covers the whole head plus chin (least favorable option).

So, let’s see what the types of helmets are about.

 

Half Helmets

Half helmets or brain buckets, are the most popular option in Vietnam. Not because they are safe, but rather they are a cheap option to avoid copping a fine from traffic police.

A run of the mill brain bucket will set you back anywhere from USD2.00 to USD6.00 and at that price you can imagine the level of safety on offer. Oh, yes safety standards. There are none for this type of helmet.

By all mean if you have a $10 brain, buy a $10 helmet.

** UPDATE **: Something I didn’t consider when I first wrote this article was the integrity of used helmets.  As frequent travelers to Vietnam well know, motorbikes are bought and sold at an astronomical rate in Vietnam and most of them are second hand.  If are are buying a secondhand bike and the deal comes with a brain bucket (half helmet) we highly recommend you toss it and buy a brand new one!

One, they are cheap and readily available and it is totally worth it.  Two, you have no idea what kinds of knocks and hits that helmet has already had and have no idea of its integrity.   Would you rather have an inherited helmet and cracked head or a new helmet and a better chance at surviving?

At the end of the day it’s your choice, we just you to make an informed one.

 

Open faced helmets

Awareness of safety is filtering through to Vietnamese motorcycle riders. Offering more protection than a brain bucket, the open faced helmet is becoming more popular. To be fair, they do offer more protection than the brain bucket.

While they are a better option, they are not ideal as the chin is still exposed to injury. Sounds minor I know, but all you have to do is look at online pictures of these injuries to know how painful that experience is going to be (shudder).

Good news is, a few big brands make this type of helmet but it comes at a price. It’s still a better option as you now have peace of mind with minimum safety standards. Do your research first before you rush out and buy one. (We’ll cover those standards soon.)

 

Full faced helmets

If you want protection for your whole head, then you’ll want to consider a full faced helmet.

Do be careful as full face doesn’t automatically equate to safe. We found full faced helmets at Lottemart (Vietnamese version of Target) for USD 20.00 and they were nothing but a shell with some Styrofoam looking lining. Not saying it won’t do the job, but again a $10 brain = a $10 helmet.

 

Safety Standards

If you definitely want a helmet you can depend on then look into the following safety standards.

 

Snell

This is the king of helmet safety testing. Snell standards pertain mainly to the racing industry and for this reason considered the king of helmet testing standards. The testing process is both vigorous and detailed and the reason top manufacturers line up for Snell’s accreditation.

This however, is not a money-making racket either. The Snell Memorial Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation focusing their testing on high level safety standards.
You can read more about them and their work here.

 

DOT

DOT is the American crash helmet safety standard and stands for Department of Transport FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard) No. 218. This standard applies to helmets sold and used in the U.S. only.

The test covers a few things, but most notable is their testing for high speed and multiple angle impacts. The high speed is self-explanatory. What makes the multiple angle impact interesting is that there is no way to predict the direction and force of an impact on a helmet in an accident. So, these guys test the sides, top and back of the helmet to gain clearer insights. And that’s great!

Now while your helmet may have a DOT sticker on it, doesn’t mean the model was actually tested. Here’s the deal.

Manufacturers don’t DOT test all their models. They will get approval for some but not all. If they get audited and hit one that hasn’t gone through testing, well, we’re not sure what the penalty is for that.

Something to think about and you can read more on that here.

 

ECE 22-05

This is the European minimum safety standard. Also known as the Economic Commission of Europe Regulation No. 22 (05 is a specific amendment number).

ECE testing includes low speed and angle impacts as well as subjecting the helmets to environmental conditions, high and low heat, solvents, ultraviolet, humidity and moisture. It’s a comprehensive level of testing and why it’s popular worldwide.

Unlike DOT, if a manufacturer wants an ECE accreditation then testing must be across the entire range. So when you see an ECE sticker, you know the model has the appropriate level of protection for its specifications.

Knowledge is power right?

 

SHARP

SHARP is an online tool that takes ECE one step further. Here you’ll find the safety data from ECE complimented by test results for comfort and proper fit. at your fingertips for direct comparisons.

Basically, they have all the info you need on most helmets in one place so you can compare say, a Shoei to an LS2 and see which one offers what you’re looking for. When it comes to picking helmets, SHARP is your friend.

 

Where can I find a helmet in Vietnam?

Simple answer, almost anywhere.

Long answer, research is your friend. If you know what type of helmet you want and what level of safety you need, then a simple online search can point you in the right direction.

Vietnam has a big motorcycle culture and there are many shops that will have what you want.

Our advice is, always try before you buy! Just because it looks good on paper doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. Find a shop that knows what they are talking about. Ask them about the safety features. If they can’t tell you the basics (which you already know), then keep going until you find one that takes your safety as serious as you do.

Plus, it’s a good way to meet like minded riders.

 

How much does a helmet cost?

Again, this will depend on your chosen options, but think about the following;

  • How often and how long will you be wearing the helmet for?
  • Type of conditions you expect to ride in?
  • Have a budget and make sure it covers at least your minimum requirements for safety and comfort.

At the end of the day, it’s your brain and your life. What’s it worth to you?

 

Summary

We went through this experience here in Da Nang not so long ago, hence why we’re sharing what we’ve learnt with you.

Back home it’s easy, you rock up to a bike shop and you know you’re getting the right advice and the right product.

We’ll be honest and say the no minimum safety requirement for a helmet here in Vietnam threw us. Motorbikes make up over 90% of registered vehicles on the road and accidents happen. You can’t have that many vehicles on the road and expect it to be all honky dory.

We knew we wanted full faced helmets. Apart from being a smart choice, it’s also the only choice back home.

We knew about the different safety standards and decided on a make and model that complies with the ECE standard. (Nothing wrong with the others, this one is just our preference).

 

What we wanted

We were happy to find a motorcycle accessory shop in Da Nang that stocked what we wanted and they delivered a great service. In fact, X135 went above and beyond to help us out and for that we thank them. If you are looking for riding gear or motorcycle accessories, they are the peeps to contact. You can find them on their website or Facebook.

(This is in no way a paid or beneficial piece, we really think these guys are genuine and great to deal with and we’re happy to recommend them.)

The only option available within our minimum criteria was the LS2 Stream EVO helmet .  It has the ECE standard, is rated 3/5 for comfort and fit on SHARP and it’s in our budget at VND 2,300,000 (USD100 give or take).  That is not much by western standards but here in Vietnam that is considered and expensive helmet.  Still we’re happy with our purchase as it delivers what we want.

We had a more important reason for spending dollars on full faced helmets, but more on that in coming weeks, hehe.

Sources

We also did a fair bit of reading on Billy’s Crash Helmets for info on EU standards. They have some great reads to, go check it out.

We hope this helps you find your perfect lid but if you have a question, feel free to leave a comment and we’ll help where we can.

Here is a link to a fun little vlog we made on buying our helmets and you get to see X135 in action if you are curious.

If this is your first visit to our site, then welcome!  Head on over to our Things to do in Vietnam Page where we tell you about more things you should add to your Vietnam itinerary.

Don’t forget to subscribe and join our Tribe!  You’ll find us on TwitterFacebook , Insta  and YouTube too!

Thanks for reading guys and we’ll see you in the next post…

Free walking tour intro to Da Nang

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Da Nang's Free Walking tour and why it's the best way to get to know the city!

One of our favorite things to do when we land in a new city is to go on a free walking tour. It’s the best way to get the lay of the land if you are short on time or you just want a quick intro into your destination. The best part is the guide is usually a passionate local, with an astonishing network. They can tell you where to find all the other goodies too like good food, coffee and attractions to mention a few.

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The free walking tour platform is used worldwide with great effect. Each city has it’s own unique way of delivering a stellar experience. Each experience giving you something completely different . We’ve also introduced a few of our travel Tribe to these tours and we can all agree that we are totally hooked.

While you don’t pay to go on a free walking tour, you have the option of giving a tip. If you feel the guide has delivered a good service or you’ve had a satisfactory experience, it’s the right thing to do. But again, not compulsory.

In saying that though, we’ve never come across a free walking tour we didn’t tip for. In fact, we’ve had amazing experiences and met some amazing individuals on all our walking tours so far.

How to find the Da Nang Free walking tour

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We were pleasantly surprised to find a free walking tour in our new home of Da Nang. See, on our previous trip to Vietnam, we knew nothing of Da Nang other than it was the best way to get to Hoi An. Like everybody else, we flew into Da Nang, drove straight to Hoi An and we were back three days later only to leave again.

We spent one day and night in Da Nang and it was a pleasant surprise. But it did make us question why we hadn’t heard much about this city and why there wasn’t much to find. Had we found more, we probably would have stayed longer.

See, even as little as two years ago, this city was pretty quiet. It was only known for a handful of resorts and a small number of attractions. Not enough to make you look at it twice. The city however, has changed a lot since then and this free walking tour is one of many initiatives to put Da Nang on the travel map.

This quiet city with humble fishing origins, has bloomed into a top southeast Asia holiday destination. More and more people are flocking to her shores to enjoy her spectacular offerings. It’s easier to find the abundance in choices of international-class resorts and hotels. Not to mention attractions. All in all, she is becoming a destination superstar.

But what do we really know about Da Nang? As it turns out, not much. But Mai and Vy from Da Nang Free Walking Tours changed all that.

What does the free walking tour cover?

The girls met us at the Da Nang Visitors Center at 9AM sharp and we set off not long after that. This tour covered five stops, three of which we hadn’t been to before. (Anybody that has traveled with us will know we go almost EVERYWHERE by foot. It’s one of the best ways to experience a place on a whole different level, plus it’s easier on the planet and pocket.)

 

Stop 1 – HAN MARKET

Our first stop was Han Market. This market sits on the main road next to, you guessed it, the Han River. Established in 1902 and it was only accessible to the wealthy at the time. This could explain its small size, but you will still find a lot of great stuff crammed into this tiny space. (Han has a bigger brother called the Con Market which is almost quadruple the size but you need a ton of patience to traverse that beauty.)

Today it is a bustling market for all to enjoy. Here you can find anything from fresh fish, veg and fruit to dried goods. And if you in the market for clothing or shoes, then this is your spot. The second floor is jam-packed with clothing and shoe stalls as well as fabric stalls. Girls, you can even have a traditional Vietnamese long dress made here and for VD500,000 (~USD22.00 / ~AUD30.00). Not bad for a tailor made outfit.

Update: Since writing this post I had a dress made here and it ended up being more than I expected to spend because of the language barrier.  In all fairness though, it was a nice dress and I do love wearing it.

Also, after our last visit to Da Nang in January (2019) I spotted plenty of places on the beach side of the city that offer to make the long dress for much cheaper than the price mentioned above.  Definitely shop around before you hand over cash!

Travel Tip!: If you do buy something here, be prepared to be a bullet proof haggle master. Never accept the price they give you. We were told to half the original price and haggle from there. Best advice we can give you is work out what you are prepared to pay for that item in your own currency first. Then convert it to Vietnamese Dong and go from there. Also, it is their livelihood, so please be respectful. If you stick to a realistic price, then everybody wins. Also, wear closed in shoes. There is a lot of water on the floor in the fresh section  of Han Market and it gets slippery.

Stop 2 – DA NANG CATHEDRAL

The next stop was the Chicken Church. Silly name I know, I’ll get to that in a minute.

I was so excited about this one. As the appointed photographer of our little team, I’m constantly looking to improve my skills. One of the best ways to do that is to look at other photographers work and learn from them. One of the subjects that always pops up in photos of Vietnam is this gorgeous pink cathedral. When I found out  it was in Da Nang and on this tour, I did a little happy dance. This was finally my chance to see it in person!

The Da Nang Cathedral is the largest place of worship in the city. Construction started in 1923 and completed in 1924 and it is still in use today.

Nobody can tell us why it’s painted pink. We think it has something to do with the original French influence but feel free to comment if you know the answer. We do however, know why it’s called the chicken church lol.

After construction was completed, the builders added a wind vane to the tip of the bell tower. At the time weather vanes with a rooster on top were all the rage in Europe but not so much here in Vietnam. The locals, gave it one look and dubbed it Con Ga Church (or Chicken church).

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Stop 3 – THE CHAM MUSEUM

This one was more of a walk-by due to the admission price. The Cham museum we hear is a fascinating look at the Cham people and their influences on Vietnamese history. We understand that the Cham kingdom use to stretch from central Vietnam as far down as the Mekong Delta.  They eventually became part of Vietnam and why you can see so much of their ancient relics in this area.

Stop 3 – DRAGON BRIDGE

We didn’t have to go far to get to our next stop. The famous Dragon Bridge, one of the four most famous bridges in the city. This large, bright yellow scaled creature stretches across the Han River and is hard to miss.

The girls asked us if we knew what shape the eyes of the dragon was. (Bit of a trick question on their part because we were standing at the tail end, lol). We knew the eyes were the shape of a heart, but we couldn’t tell them why.

Turns out the head purposely faces the beach rather than the city (the latter made more sense to us). This position is intentional so the head can welcome visitors into the city of Da Nang. The heart shaped eyes, make it look friendly and welcoming. Upon closer inspection, we realized the creator had hidden hearts all along the body of the beast. 

We also learnt that in Eastern mythology, dragons are good omens. Whereas everybody else tends to see them as scary or a threat. This was the other reason the eyes are the shape of hearts. They represent love and friendship.

That’s not the only cool thing about this dragon. It comes alive too! Yup you read that right. Every Saturday and Sunday night at 9PM, it spits fire for two minutes, then water for three minutes. It’s so much fun to watch.

Stop 4 – HAN BRIDGE

Our last stop was the Han Bridge. The first of the famous four built in Da Nang. Construction started in 1997 and finished in 1998. While it doesn’t look like much in comparison to the others, it does have its own cool factor.

Every Friday through to Sunday night between 11PM and 12AM this bridge does a dance. She swings on her axis to allow vessels to sail from the ocean into the Han River and vice versa.

Leon and Tash Vlog

Come for walk with us and see what you've been reading about!

After an hour and a half we were sad to say goodbye to the girls. We had such a great time getting to know them and their beautiful city better.

All the guides are uni students who are passionate about the city they life in. They enthusiastically share that passion far and wide. It’s also an opportunity for them to practice their English skills, so don’t be shy. If you take part in this free walking tour, get into it, talk to them, engage them. You will not regret it.

We had a great time and great conversations with the girls! (I have to admit too that there were three other girls, but I don’t have their names unfortunately. I suffer from goldfish memory a lot lol)

Travel Tip!: Take plenty of drinking water if you go. We had our trusty 1lt bottles with us and we sucked it dry in no time. 

Tipping Guide

While you don’t pay to participate in the tour, you are welcome to give your guides a tip and we encourage people to consider doing this. Why do we do this?

First off, they don’t get paid to do the tour, they volunteer their time so as to meet new people and hopefully get to practice their English skills.  Our guides certainly didn’t give us the impression that a tip or any compensation was expected.  That made us relax a bit more and we enjoyed the experience more as a result.

We made an effort to speak to them as much as possible, which we knew they appreciated.  (Update: we actually caught up with one of our guides on a social get together months later and we had a blast hanging out with them.  They really are amazing people!)

At the end of the tour we weren’t ready for it to end. We were having too much fun and enjoying the company tremendously.  We walked away just as passionate about Da Nang as our guides and we couldn’t wait to explore it more.  Plus, we were armed with locations for good local food and coffee to fuel our future explorations. Bonus!

We were more than happy to give the girls VND100,000 (~USD 4.30 / ~AUD6.00) each as we felt they delivered beyond expectation.  And really for that price you couldn’t get a tour that great at that price if you tried!

One thing to note, the guides work in pairs for safety reason, hence why we tipped twice.  Both were instrumental in delivering a top notch experience and we had no qualms about tipping them both.

This was a great way to get know the city and give a little back to those who are passionate about it. 

If this is your first visit to our site, then welcome!  Head on over to our Things to do in Vietnam Page where we tell you about more things you should add to your Vietnam itinerary.

Don’t forget to subscribe and join our Tribe!  You’ll find us on TwitterFacebook , Insta  and YouTube too!

Thanks for reading guys and we’ll see you in the next post…


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