Although not always as safe as a car, a scooter or motorbike is the fastest way to get from A to B in Vientiane. Relatively small in size, scooters and motorbikes can weave through traffic and zip to a destination in half the time it takes a car; perfect for a trip to the minimart or delivering something across town in a hurry.
There are currently over 12 motorcycle assembly plants in the Lao PDR. Two are Japanese, one is Korean, and the rest are Chinese. With the entrance of Chinese manufacturers into the market, there have been more different types of bikes than ever to choose from and their cheap pricing has made them available to everyone.
The Chinese brands such as Yincin, YinXieng, Hojin and Zongshen manufacture the cheapest scooters and these retail for around $500 USD. These come in various makes and models, some clearly imitations of better brands. Chinese bikes have little or no after-sales service and parts are not always genuine. These must be repaired at ordinary, side-of-the-road motorbike repair stalls.
The middle ground are the the Korean bikes which are assembled in Laos at the Kolao assembly plant. These retail for around $800-1000 USD and come in various models including manual or automatic, with a full warranty. They are hardworking bikes and last a long time if well maintained. The Kolao and Kia Centre on T2 Road has trained professionals who can service your bike as often as you like. Parts are always genuine Kolao.
Japanese bikes are the top of the range. Right now the options are Suzuki with the Suzuki Smash model, and Honda with its Dream and Wave models and the ever popular Yamaha Fino. These are high quality bikes which should last a very long time. Both Suzuki and Honda have after-sales service centres which can repair any model using genuine parts. Suzuki and Honda bikes retail for anything up to $2000. Be aware, however, these scooters are the most valuable and most likely to be stolen.
There is a legal limit of 250 cc (?) on the engine capacity for bikes allowed on Lao roads. Most larger motorbikes in Laos are imported and you may find anything from old Russian bikes to Harley Davidson clones for sale second-hand. Many expats enjoy riding trail bikes around town and off-road on weekends. These bikes are usually found advertised on minimart windows (or in the J&C forum). You can also ask at Jules’s Classic Rentals (+856 20 77600813) or Ride Lara Laos.
There are also a few options for electric bikes available in Laos. The bestselling is a Chinese type which you’ll find for sale in and around the Chinese Market, or Nongduang Market on T2 Road. These will set you back roughly $500 USD and there is the choice of a 400watt or 800watt bike. There is a large battery in the ‘neck’ of the bike and this can be removed and charged. It takes around 5-6 hours for a full charge after which you can travel around 60-70 km at a maximum speed of 50km/hr.
Another option is an e-cycle, which is a type of electronic bicycle available from Sunlabob Renewable Energy. This is more or less an ordinary bicycle with an added battery. The charging time is 4 to 6 hours, depending on the state of exhaustion of the battery. Maximum speed is around 30 Km/hr and maximum driving distance on battery power is about 35Km. You can also pedal the bike like an ordinary bicycle. Contact Sunlabob on +856 21-313 874.
So there you have it; a plethora of two-wheeled options available to the Vientiane expat. Some Japanese, some Korean, some Chinese. Some big, some small, some environmentally friendly and some literally belching smoke. Whatever your needs on the open road, you’ll be sure to find a bike to suit you. Ride on!