There are many questions when it comes to driving motorbike legally in Vietnam. What kind of driving-license you should have, is an international license valid and recognized in Vietnam, how to use your insurance in case of the accident?
Many questions, but lack of clear answers since the information can be very misleading because of constant changes in policies and laws related to the legality of foreigners driving in Vietnam.
Don’t worry, we did research before starting our epic motorbike trip around the country, talked with a dozen travelers from different countries, and checked the updated information from the Vietnamese Department of Transport!
The whole process is much easier if you have a Vietnamese friend, but you can do it yourself as all the papers are translated into English, and officers (some) know to speak English.
I Don’t Have Any Kind of Driving Permit. Can I Drive Legally in Vietnam?
Driving without a license and prior experience can be very dangerous. We don't recommend it! If you experience an accident, the insurance won't cover you if you don't have a proper license.
If you’re one of the travelers who doesn’t have any kind of driving permit but still wants to be safe and play by the rules, there is the option for you to take a theory and driving test in Vietnam and get a valid Vietnamese license! It’s advisable to have a driving license, not only because your and other people's safety, but also your insurance won’t cover you in case you had the accident. So think twice before sitting on the motorbike without valid papers! If you ever got stopped by the Vietnamese police it's very important to know how to deal with them!
A good thing to know is that driving a 50cc scooter in Vietnam is legal and you don't need to have a special driving license to operate in Vietnam!
So, let’s say you decided to get a valid Vietnamese driving license, what’s the process? You need to apply and fill the form for a driving license from the Department of Transportation, either in Hanoi or Saigon.
You can also do it in the other areas in Vietnam, but remember that most of the documents required for the application need to be verified by your embassy.
If you're located in the other provinces, we advise you to find a local friend who can help you talk with Local Police in the province/district you're in. Every province has quite different requirements and process when it comes to getting a new driving permit or converting your IDP.
Once you’re done with your application, you need to verify and translate it. That can be only done by your embassy.
Here’s the list of embassies and the addresses in Vietnam. A fee of application vary depending on your nationality, but the cost won’t be higher than 500,000 VND. Once you have the application form signed, translated, and verified, it’s time to collect all the documents to proceed further.
Vietnam visa or residency permit that is valid for at least 3 months
4 passport size photos (Call the local department of transportation since the rules are different in every province)
Health and eye test can be done in the majority of hospitals around Vietnam. The test with the documents costs 200,000 VND
Once you obtained all the documents and got a verified application form, it’s time to continue the process and go to the office where you’ve got your application from. Don’t forget to take all the documents with you. They will process everything and after a short process, you will be able to continue with driving and theory test.
The theory test is a bit complicated since it’s on Vietnamese and you need to learn up to 150 questions. The test has only 20 from 150 questions and everything is on Vietnamese, so it can be a bit tricky for foreigners to pass it! Theory test costs 400,000 VND. If you manage to pass a theory test, it’s time to do a practical test.
You go to the driving testing center and practice a bit. The test costs 70,000 VND and it’s so easy to pass. Once you pass both tests, the process to obtain the license will take up to three months!
Not to forget, the total cost of getting a driving license in Vietnam is around 1 million VND. That’s it!
Congratulations as you just obtained your Vietnamese driving license and you’re officially legal motorbike driver on Vietnamese roads!
Converting IDP to Vietnamese Driving License
Converting your IDP to a local Vietnamese driving license isn't a hard process, but requires some time.
If you already have a driving permit from your home country, it’s smart to make an international driving permit since you never know when you’re going to travel and drive abroad. In many countries around the world, IDP is recognized and you can operate vehicles, but in Vietnam is a bit more complicated! The IDP is sometimes accepted by Vietnamese police, but in the majority of cases, they won’t care.
It’s best if you have an IDP combined with a local Vietnamese driving license. In that case, you’re totally safe when it comes to health and motorbike insurance, but also police checkouts.
Once you have an IDP, you can easily convert it to a Vietnamese driving license without much hustle.
Here’s the whole process:
Get all the documents: 3 photos that are 3x4 cm, translated and verified copy of your IDP, a verified copy of your passport, original passport, original driving license, original residence card, a filled form of Transit Authority
Once you collected all the documents, you should go to the Department of Transportation in Hanoi or Saigon
Give all the documents to the officer and take another photo for their database. Officers will make the copies and scans of all documents and will return the originals to you.
After that, you need to fill a postal form and pay 30,000 VND for the service. Your driving license card will arrive at the stated address. You will get a receipt which you need to present to the courier. You will get all the information about the status of your driving license on your phone.
Wait up to 10 days and you’ll get a driving license on the address you stated in a postal form.
A Vietnamese driving license will enable you to operate the vehicles that are stated on your original driving license. It means if you have a license only for a car, you need to pass a practical test for a motorbike in Vietnam in order to drive motorbike legally. You are exempted from taking a theory test in this case!
The practical test is very easy and it takes about 15 minutes to pass it. You’ll drive a route at the driving center that covers roundabouts, driving through narrow paths and bumps.)
The process might look very long, but it is very straightforward to get a Vietnamese driving permit in your hands and drive legally around the country. Just be sure that you’ve collected all the documents before getting started with the process. For any assistance, just call your embassy and they will help you a lot. Also, if you have a Vietnamese friend, it can help a lot, especially through the process of applying and filling the forms.
If you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment below!
Wish you a safe trip filled with many crazy adventures!
Antonio is a long-term traveler with a deep passion in exploring off-the-beaten-paths around the world. Currently, he’s living in Da Nang city and when he’s not busy pushing the new content, he enjoys taking his motorbike around Vietnam or Laos. Some of the most remarkable experiences were teaching English in a remote village located in central Laos countryside, Nakai town. Or, living in a rural Nghe An Province while helping a local community with their English. Or, driving with the worst ‘Honda’ Win around the country experiencing daily breakdowns. Or, just read a few stories on our blog to get more information about our journey and adventures.