Driving around Vietnam by motorbike is one of the most meaningful experiences that put you in front of many challenges. The adventure you’ll experience is merely the thing you’re going to talk about for years and remember the moments with the smile on your face for a whole life. Once you’ve got your motorbike ready to hit the road, got all the accessories and things you might need, it’s time to talk about the laws and police in Vietnam. There are many talks on different groups between backpackers and locals about the traffic police in Vietnam.
It’s a significant topic to cover since there is a possibility that the traffic police will pull you over at some point of your trip.
Find a comfortable place, and read carefully as this guide will help you to avoid unwanted trouble or if inevitable, pay the ‘fine’ that is close to nothing.
Traffic police wear yellow uniforms, and you can see 'CSGT' on their vehicles, helmets, and uniforms.
The most straightforward description of traffic police is yellow uniforms. Usually, you will see many police stops and controls in the big cities. They ensure that the traffic is flowing without interruptions. Sometimes they are staying in the middle of busy intersections and helping with the flow of traffic. The acronym for traffic police in Vietnam is CSGT. You can see that sign on their vehicles, helmets and checkpoint houses.
In the cities, there are many checkpoints where officers usually stay, checking the documents and pull over people. Their job is to enforce the traffic law and ensure proper traffic flow. Except for these duties, they can’t do anything more since the other responsibilities are delegated to another type of police. Every police officer should have a blue ID card visible on the right part of the chest showing their name, rank, number, and department. Like in every country, if the police stop you, don’t forget to take a photo or write down details from their ID.
Most Usual Cases Why People Get Pulled Over
Don't forget to wear a helmet, and avoid alcohol on the road!
There are many cases why the police pull over people in Vietnam and one of the most common are:
Not complying with the traffic rules - it usually includes driving through the red light, driving in the wrong direction, failure to use signals when taking a turn or speeding over the limit. Check out the list of fines for failing to follow the traffic rules.
Regular traffic checks - police usually perform their checks in the big cities during the rush hours as there are many people in the traffic. Police randomly stop people to check the motorbike papers and licenses. You need to be sure that you have a valid Blue Card and international (Vietnamese) driving license! If you fail to show one of these, you will probably need to pay a fine, or a bribe or they can even confiscate your motorbike!
Tourist traps - there are few tourist traps where police aim tourists to get the juicy bribes from them. We will talk about these places later in the article, and these are easy to avoid, so don’t worry so much!
No reason at all - yeah, that’s Vietnam, and it is usually the most common case! Police will stop you claiming you did something that you didn’t and try to get money from your pocket.
These four cases are the most common, and usually, you will experience one or more of these during your time driving around Vietnam. Maybe it sounds like a horror story to you now, but don’t worry, you can avoid many of them or get out of the situation without much hustle!
What to Do If You Get Pulled Over?
During our trip, Lovel was the only one who’s got pulled over by police. They let him go without any complications. We can say he was a lucky guy!
So, what happens and what’s the process for not so lucky travelers? Well, based on many stories and experiences from other travelers, no matter what’s the case police pulled you over, there are few possible scenarios.
When police pull you over, they will usually ask you for the documentation including a blue card and driving license. In the countryside, when the police see a foreigner, they will just wave you to go since the language barrier is real and it will take a lot of time to get some money from foreigners, so they usually don’t mind.
If you don’t have proper documents, they will ask you to pay the fine (without a ticket), and usually, they start with the price set on 1 mil. VND, but they settle for 200k or even less. This is the bribe, and it’s the easiest way to get away from the police since paying the ticket is the whole process, and you need to go to the station, fill the documents, and in the end pay much more money and lose so much time. If you can’t avoid spending the money while encountering the police, the best way may be paying the bribe.
When you settle everything with the officer, they will let you continue your trip!
The process is really that straightforward, and it won’t last for a long if police randomly stop you. If you’ve got stopped by a police trap, then expect to pay much more without bargaining for the price. Also, in police traps, there is a huge possibility that they will confiscate your motorbike.
How to Deal with Police Traps
Prepare Dongs to settle the situation with the police. The bribes usually start from 200k VND!
Simply avoid them! There is always an alternative route for police traps! They may be a bit longer, but ultimately it will save you time and money. What happens if you get stopped by a police trap? Well, you’re not lucky since these police officers are basically there to make a lot of money through bribes. There is a huge possibility that you will only get out of the situation by paying the tremendous bribe. Don’t lose your hope immediately as there are ways to get outside with paying a bit or paying no money at all.
First of all, be sure that you have a proper driving license and a valid and matching blue card in possession. Be sure that you comply with all the traffic rules, e.g. don’t speed, wear a helmet, use signals if turning, etc.
If you know that you didn’t do anything wrong and you have all the proper documentation with you that enables you to drive legally in Vietnam, then don’t worry…
At first, try to bargain. If it’s not going in the direction you’d like to, then simply ask for the ticket. The police will hesitate to give it to you at first as it takes time. They could earn much more money at that time, so they will usually let you go. If they write a ticket, don’t forget to write down all the information from their uniforms! Especially if you know that you didn’t do anything wrong.
Also, during the whole time don’t speak English (it’s helpful if you’re not a native English speaker). Or simply, use the accent and give them "I don't understand!" on everything they say! They will usually try to scare you down with tickets and talk.
If they see you’re confident and you know what are you doing with their info, they will just let you go. It always works!
Tips to Successfully Dealing with Vietnamese Police
Don't panic and be calm when dealing with Vietnamese police. Everything is going to be fine!
Getting pulled over by the police isn’t the thing you can control. You can always live with the fact that one day you might get pulled over. It’s nothing special, but having some tactics at hand will help you tremendously. You will definitely save you time and money in return. Here are some tips we learned from our trip:
Have two wallets. Hide the main wallet and have another wallet with 200k - 500k on you. The best is to buy the gas or other things with the money from that wallet, so you break the bills in smaller bills. That will look more realistic than if you just have one bill note in your wallet. In case police pull you over, you just say it’s all the money you have, and police will usually accept it and leave you.
Always bargain for the price since they will give you a huge price at the beginning, but they usually settle for around 200k VND.
Always avoid tickets if you don’t have all the valid documents! That way, you’re 100% sure that you didn’t do anything wrong in the traffic.
When pulled over, speak broken English or even better, speak some other language. Also, you can act dumb if they speak English and they will probably leave you since they don’t have time to hustle with a foreigner.
Wear tourist clothes, so even if they notice you, they won’t mind stopping you. Majority of people in the traffic are wearing long sleeves to protect their skin from the sun, dust, and dirt. We advise to put a sunscreen and just wear a T-shirt, and other tourist clothes and police will recognize you as a tourist.
Just drive away if they wave their bat at you. If they start chasing you, simply stop and tell them you didn’t see or notice they are stopping you since in your country this is a different process. Act dumb again!
That’s it! Follow these tips and your dealings with police will mostly end up successfully!
Believe us; it’s not a horror story to deal with traffic police. They won’t bother so much with foreign backpackers. If they pull you over though, just use the strategies from the article and you will be more than fine.
Do you have any experiences with Vietnamese police? What happened and how did you get outside a tricky situation?
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.