Motorbikes for foreigners in Ho Chi Minh City
Foreigners can easily find places to rent a motorbike in HCMC’s District 1 Saigonese people have become quite familiar with foreigners on motorbikes. And it's easy for visitors to rent some two wheeled transportation, but it is not always a simple business for the owners.
“Motorbike for Rent” signs are lined up all along Pham Ngu Lao, De Tham, and Bui Vien streets.
These are not big shops, but they provide a good service to motorbike renters.
Their businesses have been growing since Vietnam became more open to the world in the early 1990s.
The open period
The cigarette stand at 217 Pham Ngu Lao Street, which belongs to a local woman, Ms.
Mai, is pretty busy and quite impressive with a Motorbike-for-Rent sign right above it.
Mai has been selling cigarettes here since Doi Moi, when Vietnam opened up, when there were still very few foreigners in Vietnam.
Pham Ngu Lao Street was very quiet, not as bustling with foreigners as it is now.
Foreigners then could rent bicycles for VND5,000 per day (about half a dollar in those days).
Mai bought some bicycles for rent, as a way to meet the demand.
And the trade of renting out bikes began as a result.
However, most foreigners were bigger than the average local and they were harder on the pedals and the brakes.
So the maintenance cost a lot.
After a while bicycles became unpopular and foreigner customers preferred motorbikes to bicycles.
Mai started by renting out the motorbike her family was using.
Later, she bought some more and now she has seven motorbikes for rent.
Her motorbikes are mostly Honda Dreams and Waves.
The customers include Vietnamese expatriates, foreign tourists and foreign businesspeople living in Vietnam.
Her motorbike rental business has run for 15 years now and Mai, 50, said: “The popular motorbikes for rent were cheap ones like Honda 1978 and Sanyang. Now it is Dreams and Waves. But some customers want to rent expensive motorbikes like an Attila, a Spacy, SH or Dylan. Different customers want different things! Foreigners can easily rent the kind of motorbike they want, on the condition that they leave a passport. They will get the passport back when they return the vehicle and pay the rent.”
The prices vary, depending on how long you want to rent and the kind of motorbike.
A few years back, the business was more popular and the average rent for a Dream or Wave was US$5 a day.
Now it is just VND50,000 (just over US$3).
More expensive motorbikes cost more to rent.
They range from US$17-20 per motorbike per day.
It costs less to rent a motorbike for a month, from VND1.2 million to 1.5 (US$75-94).
“However foreigners bargain too. So sometimes I rent out motorbikes for VND30,000-40,000 (US$1.8-2.5).” Mai said.
When customers want to rent expensive bikes like Honda Dylan or SH, they are told to go to Ms. Trinh at 207 Pham Ngu Lao Street, District 1.
She has about 20 motorbikes of different kinds for rent.
To rent an expensive one, they need to leave a passport and sign a contract.
They must pay for the repair if any damage is done to the vehicle.
Trinh said expensive motorbikes were only available for rent short term because they were more valuable.
“And,” she said, “motorbike owners must be very careful when renting a motor-bike to a Vietnamese expat.”
Not enough profits to attract fierce competition
Both Trinh and Mai claimed: “There are lots of places with motor-bikes for rent in the western back-packers area, but it is not fiercely competitive.”
When asked if she is afraid of other people being more competitive, Trinh laughed and said, “This trade isn't lucrative enough to be fiercely competitive!”
Actually, “this business is not a good piece of meat,” Mai insisted.
Once she had to pay US$150 compensation for a victim who was hit by a customer of hers.
The French customer hit a girl when he was using the rented motorbike.
He managed to have a Vietnamese pay for him to be free, and he fled with-out paying the rent.
Mai couldn't get the rent and she had to pay compensation to the victim so that she could get her bike back.
Mai had another misfortune in early 2007.
A regular African customer rented her motorbike, and then she got woken by a phone call from the city department of foreign affairs.
The customer had used her motorbike to fraudulently exchange dollars, and her motorbike was detained by the police for two months.
It was a great loss for her right before the Tet Festival of the Year of the Pig.
Foreign customers, though, are better in Mai's eyes than Vietnamese expats, because once she had a Vietnamese expat swap all the good parts on her motorbike.
She had to take him to the police before she could have them changed again.
Trinh even lost her motorbike after renting it to a Vietnamese expat.
That's why motorbike owners always check their property carefully when they're returned and maintained to rent again.
Trinh said: “It is most troublesome when customers have accidents. We must have the vehicles repaired and we must pay compensation to the victims.”
But Mai and Trinh feel happy and proud when they can help foreigners get used to the way of life here, traveling by motorbike.
Also, it helps the people in the backpackers' area make a living.
Perhaps it's all thanks to the open policies of the Vietnamese government that the backpacker area is more exciting and the motorbike rental trade is vibrant.
Reported by Ngoc Hau, Duong Thanh Trung
Source : thanhniennews.com
Other news posted on Vietnam festival :
Domestic tour discounts draw more tourists
Scenic resort town gears up for cultural fest
Cashed-up Aussies eye Vietnam as a destination
Discounts to attract visitors to ancient town
Carnival atmosphere in northern bay
Italy, Ireland named as potential tourist markets
Vietnamese tourists undeterred by Thai chaos
Airline to offer extra flights for public holidays
Italian cruise company recruits in Vietnam
Tour company launches discount package tours