Flying Our Tandem by Air to HCMC

We started planning early how to get the bike out to Asia. It had to be a direct flight to reduce any chance of it getting lost in transit and we had to find an airline with a clear policy on taking bikes.

Vietnam Airlines was our choice, their website stipulated that the bike be in a box less than 203cm in length and weigh less than 32kg. We got in touch and they explained that once we booked a ticket they would be able to enter the package on their system and confirm it – but that it should be ok. Not taking any chances we only purchased Paddy’s ticket in case there was a problem and we needed Annie to try with another airline.

In the end they did confirm, and issued a new ticket which included the agreed dimensions. No extra baggage cost – Great!

200 x 50 x 120 cm

Now the fun part: building the box.

You can pick up old bike boxes in shops or buy expensive ones online, but not for a tandem. So a plan was formed to build a box:

1. Measure up – by taking the wheels and racks off, and breaking the bike down it would just fit in the length and other dimensions.

The bike laid out ready for packing. Just under 2m lenght

2. Purchase a stack of Styrofoam insulation boards from Wickes. I used a selection of 25mm and 50mm. I would only use 50mm if doing it again.

3. Wait for Annie to go to Berlin for a girls holiday, then clear the living room and get out the jigsaw, stanley blade, Hoover. (I was meant to do it outside but it was November…).

Stacking it up

4. Then put the first 2 board down, lay out the bike, in parts, on top and ‘trace’ around it onto the second board. Then cut out that layer.

5. Be amazed at the volume of Styrofoam floating around your living room in tiny fluff and balls. Then attack it with the Hoover.

Penultimate layer

6. Eventually you get a bike sandwich which gets taped up with a lot of duct tape.

7. Try to get rid of all Styrofoam balls before Annie returns, alternatively, make best efforts to achieve this and pick balls out of couch for weeks.

8. Purchase a few rolls of commercial clingfilm and wrap it all up.

Ready to go at Heathrow - before having to re-open

Matt very kindly drove us to the airport at 6am with the package and at check in they knew we were coming. We were 3 hours before the flight but needed it!

Next up we tried to get the box through oversize baggage – too big. This means that the box can’t be x-rayed and has to go down stairs to be checked manually; That means opening it up and swabbing for Semtex. Luckily we had bought along more tape and cling film just in case.

The Heathrow staff were great and very interested in our plans. We said goodbye to the box and headed for the gate absolutely exhausted by the packing up, moving out of our flat, Christmas festivities and associated travel all over the place… We were off!

Ho Chi Minh city airport is a much swisher affair than Hanoi, the city really is a modern metropolis compared to the Vietnam we visited last year. We had decided in advance that we’d figure out how to get the bike to our Warm Showers host when we arrived and sure enough it was fine. The box was stuffed in the top of a modern minivan and we were away.

Safely arrived in HCMC

No hassle. Even the ‘use only once’ nature of the box was improved – the security guys at our host’s house took it away to re-use, probably as fishing floats.

All up in cost about £100 to make the box. About £70 for the insulation sheets and the rest on tape, cling film and new Hoover filters!

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