Once you have become confident and no longer scream whilst trying to cross the road then you will next have the process of parking your motorbike. This is quite straightforward but there are lots of useful tips to ensure that you do not lose your bike or come back to find your helmet has gone!
A few things to remember
Parking is a huge business in Vietnam and there is paid parking almost everywhere – however, it is important to figure out how this works.
Parking is available outside most shops in towns – however, do note that this is on the pavement. You simply park outside the shop making sure that your bike is not sticking out into the road, parking it sideways if necessary. Although there are slopes on the pavement to help you get your bike up these are only outside some shops and instead most of the time there is a huge step up to the pavement. Some shops help customers by putting a piece of wood or a couple of bricks in the step-up however often is nothing.
It is incredibly easy to skid whilst trying to negotiate the step so rather than run the risk and find that your bike topples over ( once a motorbike gets off balance and starts to fall it is almost impossible to stop it ! ) I get as close as I can and then turn the engine off. I then simply push the motorbike up the step – this gets easier with time. If you have problems, there is usually someone who help you. So, although it’s embarrassing to stop and push, it is a lot better and safer than having a collapsed motorbike on the ground!
Parking outside a shop
When parking outside a shop take a look and see what other people have done with their helmets. If everyone has left them hanging at the front then you can feel relatively safe that it is a good area and your helmet will be safe. However, if you notice that no one else has left their helmet then you should assume it is not safe to leave yours either.
The safest option is to take your helmet with you into the shop – however, if you do not want to then you can leave it with your bike. If you are lucky then your helmet will fit in your boot. However, often they do not and you may be someone else so there are two helmets.
In this scenario, the best thing to do is to leave your helmet with the security seal – you open up the boot and then put the helmet strap into the boot with the helmet hanging down outside ( you can use your knee to hold it up. ). You then carefully close the boot and you should find that the helmet hangs outside. Test it with a pull to make sure that it is safe and you will find that this is a simple safe way to make sure your helmet will be there when you get back again!
Parking your motorbike in a designated area
If you are going to be in an area for more than about thirty minutes then rather than simply parking outside a shop, you will want to park in a designated area. These vary tremendously in standard but a typical one in the street that you can find by long rows of motorbikes with a small tin shed next to it. And then, there is a person sitting outside next to a small table with a box on it.
To use the parking you simply park and then get a ticket from the ticket distributor – this may be in the form of a paper ticket or simply a piece of card with a number on it. Often the ticket distributor will use chalk to mark your motorbike with a corresponding number to your ticket (if they mark it on the seat do make sure that they wipe it off before you sit on it!).
It is a good idea to check the price of the parking – it is usually no more than 5,000 VND but some places do try and cheat ex-pats and try to pretend it is 10,000 or more. Try to look and see what other people are paying and make sure that you give the 5,000 VND note instead of trying to get change. It is essential that you do not lose the ticket /card – there are huge fines for losing these (often the fine rates are prominently displayed) so do make sure you keep them safe!
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Parking outside a shopping mall
If you are parking in a shopping mall, you will find that there are huge underground parking areas. To park you simply look for the entrances. Make sure that you go into the motorbike area (there are pictures of cars and motorbikes so simply follow the picture).
The underground car parks are incredibly deep underground thus the entrance/exit is amazingly steep. So make sure that you have your brakes on full when going down and go slowly.
At the entrance to the parking area, there will be counters – you need to stop ( but keep the engine running ). Then they will take a photograph of you and the bike before they give you an electronic parking card. Parking areas in shopping malls are absolutely huge and it is incredibly easy to lose your bike. Therefore, I would recommend taking a photograph of where you are.
On the pillars, there are large numbers and letters showing you where you are, so take a photo (and check it is clear) and then you will be able to find your bike later!
Parking in shopping malls ranges from about 5,000 VND. Some shopping malls charging a little more if you are there for a whole day e.g. 7,000 VND or 10,000 VND and some charging a little less 3.g. 3,000 VND.
You simply follow the signs to the exit counters and then stop at the counter and give in the card as well as the money. There will inevitably be a queue of traffic so it is important that you have the money ready.
In most shopping malls, there is a supermarket. If you shop there and spend a certain amount (e.g. 200,000 VND) then they will give you a motorbike parking paper ticket. You do have to ask for this and it will come in the form of a paper ticket and give back at the exit counter.
Vietnam has millions upon millions of motorbikes so there is always somewhere for parking your motorbike. However, do make sure that you think before you leave your bike. And once they have gone it is incredibly hard to get them back again!