Bicycle trips geared towards fit tourists

Bicycle trips geared towards fit tourists

Groups of foreign tourists wearing helmets and gloves and bent over bicycles on Viet Nam's country roads are now a common sight to local people.

Travelling by bicycle is becoming gradually popular in Viet Nam. Many tourists have abandoned their familiar habit of travelling by car and motorbike to start pedaling. Getting on a bike provides a more immediate experience than conventional types of tourism.

Besides organising traditional tours by train, automobile and motorcycle, many travel agencies now offer bicycle tourism to meet the increasing demands of visitors.

Hoang Quoc Viet, deputy director of Viet Nam Discovery Travel Agency in Nguyen Khuyen Street, Ha Noi, says: "Tourists, especially international visitors, are increasingly interested in bicycle tours to different regions of Viet Nam. We have nearly 200 bikes but we limit each tour group to 30 people to ensure a quality trip. So these days, a lot of people like to tour by bicycle, especially for short tours."

He says a bicycle tour can last from two or three days to more than a month. The best time to participate is between September and April, because these months lack the harsh summer sun.

A professional tour organiser with many years of experience, Nguyen Chi Thanh from Budget Tour Company in HCM City, says there are three types of tourists who travel by bicycle.

"The first group consists of foreign professional riders who bring along with them their bicycles. They travel like backpackers and do not need help from travel agencies.

"Travel agencies generally organise tours for the two other kinds of tourists: the more professional riders who are able to (and love to) ride on long trips, and amateurs who just ride short distances to relax ."

Thanh says travelling by bicycle requires a lot of exercise.

"Beside the need to have instructors with expertise and experience, tourists need to be trained on strength and given instructions on how to ride and how to breathe properly."

A tour by bicycle consists of a team of instructors, a truck carrying bicycles and a car to carry luggage for tourists. Therefore, tourists will not feel they are completely dependent on the bicycles, says Thanh.

"Some couples love travelling around the country. They employ a guide to travel with them, paying him between US$50-100 each day," says Thanh.

Equipment provided for the trips includes imported bicycles, helmets, shoes and glasses, some of which cost millions of dong.

Le Quang Dao, deputy director of Tam Nhin Viet Tourism Company in Van Mieu Street of Ha Noi, says: "This new kind of tourism has recently developed in Viet Nam. Currently many travel agencies organise tours using bicycles. Tam Nhin Viet organises tours to different regions of the country, passing through Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos by bicycle. Eighty per cent of our clients are international visitors. The rest are companies who want to organise this tour for their employees and their families. Nowadays, a lot of people are familiar with and participate in this type of tourism."

Many tourists are familiar with traveling by automobile and other means of transport, so they want a change. These tourists choose bicycles to explore the beautiful landscape slowly and appreciate it from a different perspective.

Le Anh Chien, director of Umove travel agency, says he believes in the future of bicycle tourism.

"Most tourists who register to tour by bicycle love the new feeling. Every week, we organise tours for domestic and foreign tourists and for schools, and on weekends we plan trips for groups of bicycle riders. We also have bicycles for rent for travel and picnics."

During the bicycle tours, visitors can explore attractive destinations that they could not reach by car.

"These tours help increase physical strength and endurance. Moreover, we can easily experience local people's lives, making for a more fun trip," says Mike Singleton from the US.

Nguyen Phi Long, who lives in Ha Noi and recently participated in a bicycle tour, says: "I have travelled to many places by car, but we could not see much. Travelling by bicycle is very pleasant as we can be active and we can feel free to stop at beautiful places to take photos. Moreover, this is a chance to get in better shape."

Recently, travel agencies have organised many bicycle tour groups to visit Duong Lam ancient villages in Son Tay Town on the outskirts of Ha Noi. They visited all the well-known places like Mong Phu Village's gate, Mia Pagoda and Tomb of King Ngo Quyen and stopped to take photos at each beautiful landscape. Visitors can experience the local culture and cuisine and enjoy all the natural scenery and atmosphere of the countryside.

Nguyen Thuy, a tour guide with many years of experience, says: "Travelling by bike is still new to many people. Before the tour, some guests felt afraid, unsure if they could participate. But after starting to pedal their bikes, all of them felt excited and completed the journey."

According to tour organiser Nguyen Chi Thanh, bicycle tours have only been on the market for five years, but they have already attracted many domestic and foreign tourists.

"Viet Nam has different natural, climate and topography conditions, as well as different residential communities and a rich cultural life. If travel agencies can fully develop the potential of bike tours, this can be an opportunity for the tourism industry to further develop, promoting the image of the country and people of Viet Nam to international friends," Thanh says. — VNS