What’s the first image popping up in your mind when visiting Vietnam? Probably the countless number of motorbikes “weaving” through the crazily dense traffic!
Motorbikes are the most commonly used transport in every corner of Vietnam due to its affordability and convenience, especially for commuting purposes. This beautiful S-shaped country is “notorious” for numerous breathtaking natural sceneries that can only be reached by motorbikes.
You are not really fond of the idea of driving up narrow mountainous roads in a car or walking for hundreds of miles till you are drained of energy, do you? I don’t say it’s impossible, but are you willing to put up with all that hassle that is likely to ruin your wonderful trip? You know I’m damn right!
So let’s hop on your shiny “warhorse” and start the adventures!
Well, not so fast!
Things are a little bit more complicated than that! In order to drive legally around the country, you need to own a valid Vietnam driver license. That’s right! The only thing stands out between you and your lifetime journey is a driver license.
Let’s start our lesson of why and how a license is required for driving!
First And Foremost Question: Is It Safe To Drive In Vietnam?
Well, as you can guess from those pictures on the Internet of the “bumper to bumper” traffic and endless congestions, riding a bike in Vietnam can pose some risks to drivers. Let’s make a simple comparison: the number of traffic accidents in Vietnam is doubled, even tripled, compared to the death tolls caused by Coronavirus!
Sometimes it does scare me out when taking my bike out on the streets because I don’t know when I may crash into someone or be crashed back!
Thus, one big advice for all those first-time motorcyclists out there: follow traffic rules obediently and beware of the surroundings. Please don’t learn the bad habit of running the red light from the locals! Do you wanna live to see your kids grow up or rest in peace with only a few seconds of impatience, and dumbness also?!
Is It Illegal To Drive In Vietnam Without A Driver’s License?
Definitely YES! Just like any other countries in the world, motorcyclists are required to possess a valid Vietnam motorbike license to be able to engage in traffic here.
Even if you are issued with a driving license from your home country, it isn’t enough to save you from trouble with Vietnamese authorities or police.
For motorbikes under 50cc, a license is not compulsory. Meanwhile, all other types require a local or international driving permit vietnam no matter for which purpose you come to Vietnam.
What Are The Scenarios If I Get Caught Driving Illegally By The Police?
Prepare to get heavy fines, approximately 5 or 10 times higher than a Vietnamese doing the same thing! The amount of a fine ranges from $20 – $30, maybe more or less depending on how well your negotiation skill is! You heard me right! The police here in Vietnam are open for “bargaining”.
Some useful tips to “win” the battle:
- Always bring some cash in case you’re pulled over. Not many Vietnamese police officers have card readers with them you know!
- Stash away your $200 unless you are generous enough to “donate” all of that to them.
- Don’t try to be a hero and argue your heart out with the police or have a “friendly” match with them. Without a driver license, you’re totally wrong! So don’t try anything stupid or you may see yourself locked up in a jail somewhere!
- Pay the least amount of money and go! You have to pay something anyway so don’t waste time explaining with those who don’t speak the same language.
What Is My Current Situation?
To obtain a Vietnam driver license, you need to figure out what kind of situation you’re in.
Make sure you prepare all the necessary documents: an international or Vietnamese driver license, a valid passport, and Vietnam visa.
You are qualified to drive both cars and motorbikes with your home country’s license. Thus, a Vietnam equivalent driver’s license is obtainable without sitting a test. All you need is to convert your driving documents.
You only own a license for cars. If that’s the case, a driving test is mandatory but not the theory test.
You have no licenses in your possession whatsoever! Then, you need to pass both driving and theory tests. Unfortunately, the theory test is performed in Vietnamese. Unless you are able to communicate like a native, you are in need of tons of luck to get as many right answers as possible!
You are so confident with all these official documents: a home country’s license and an International Driving Permit (IDP) from the 1949 Convention.
Sadly, Vietnam doesn’t accept any of these!
The same with Situation 4 but you can breathe a sigh of relief if owning an IDP from the 1968 Convention, meaning you are allowed to drive legally in Vietnam without a Vietnam driver license. Nevertheless, be ready for some limitations regarding your traveling.
How To Acquire An Appropriate Driving License In Vietnam?
Convert your driver license without the need for taking tests
Basically, you only need to convert your valid home country’s licenses into a Vietnam one without taking both driving and theory tests.
- Home country’s driver license
All are notarized in any notarizing authorities in Vietnam. Wait for 3- 5 days to obtain a Vietnam motorbike license.
If you are in Situation 2 and a driving test is requested, the waiting time may be a while longer, up to 1 week.
Register for a Vietnamese Driving License
This works for Situation 3, 4, and 5 and both driving and theory tests are needed to be taken.
- A Vietnamese residence permit or Work Permit
- A business visa/ registration valid at least for 3 months
- Notarizing copies of passport and visa
After submitting all these above documents to the City Department of Transport, wait for your turn to take the tests which may last for a month.
Go for a third-party agency
There are companies providing services regarding converting and applying for a Vietnam license. Although those services may cause you an arm and a leg with very high prices, all of the annoying and complicated paperwork will be taken care of and the waiting time is shortened considerably.
Remember to put your faith as well as money in a reputable third agency to avoid frauds and scams. If you need a reliable place, we suggest you come to BM Travel Adventure – a Vietnam motorbike tour operator specialized in offering off-road Vietnam motorbike tours and motorcycle rental services. They will help you get an International Driving License if you rent their services. Must say that the services here are second to none!
That’s All About It!
Taking the advice and tips above are the shortest and fastest way to obtain a Vietnam driver license. You’d better not mess around with this issue since it may become your “lifesaver” in a totally strange country!
Good luck with the process and kick start your amazing motorbike journey as soon as possible!