VietnamTransportationMotorbike, Scooter, and Vespa Differences

Motorbike, Scooter, and Vespa Differences

No doubt, motorized vehicles have been an essential means of transportation for many decades. The motorbike is one of Vietnam’s most convenient and popular means of transportation. In many big cities like Ho Chi Minh City, you can find various brands of two-wheelers, such as Honda, Piaggio, Yamaha, Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki, Triumph, and Ducati. But many foreigners, and sometimes even locals, don’t know the differences used to address the types of 2-wheel automobiles: motorbikes, scooters, and Vespa. In this guide, you will learn how to distinguish them in Vietnam.

The Differences of Motorbike, Scooter and Vespa (in Vietnam)


motorbike scooter vespa differences motorbike

You can easily find many different motorbikes on Vietnam streets: xe so (manual transmission motorbike), xe tay ga (auto-transmission motorbike), xe phan khoi lon – a motorcycle with a large engine. The motorbike has pros and cons, but it is the most suitable to explore the streets in Vietnam.

See Our Guide to Riding a Motorbike in Vietnam

In Vietnam, the motorbike is generally known as “xe gan may” (literally means bikes with engines). However, some locals may call motorbikes “Honda” because this is the most popular brand with Vietnamese. It is common to see the “Sua Honda” board along the streets where you can repair your motorcycles. On the parking fee boards at some parking lots, you may also see people translate “xe so” as “motorbike” in English, to distinguish with “xe tay ga” or “scooter”.


motorbike scooter vespa differences scooter

The scooter in Vietnam is commonly known as xe tay ga (auto transmission motorbike). One thing Vietnamese people usually prefer “xe so” motorbikes to “xe tay ga” scooters is the price. Most scooters are more expensive than motorbikes. The price difference could be as large as a double amount.

Thanks to its accessibility and affordable price, both the motorbike and scooter are now available almost everywhere in Vietnam and Asia.


motorbike scooter vespa differences classic vespa

Being a cultural icon in motorcycle history, Vespa – a product of Piaggio brand – always maintains its reputation. Vespa was an evolution of scooters during the World Wars in Italy.

Check out these travelers’ recommended helmets

The very first Vespa appeared in Vietnam when the French occupied this country. Just a few years later, it was widespread on Saigon’s streets. Nowadays, the classic Vespa is not very widespread in Vietnam, but groups of people love to collect these old samples. Meanwhile, modern Piaggio are still popular and trusted by the Vietnamese, making Vietnam a good market for Piaggio’s to release their latest Vespa with elegant style and affordable price.

Vespa is sometimes used as a common noun to address motorbikes in some countries (like how Vietnam associates Honda with motorbikes). Meanwhile, in Vietnam, the distinction is quite clear; Vespa is just another motorcycle brand.

Summary of Motorbikes, Scooter, and Vespa Differences

To every traveler coming to Vietnam, you see the unique point of this country is the diversity in transportation, especially the two-wheeled vehicles on the street. The motorbike is considered a manual transmission motorbike (xe so) and the scooter is known as an auto transmission motorbike (xe tay ga). So, why not ride with us to experience this riding culture.

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