Vietnam Driving Advice and Car Hire Info
Getting a Vietnamese Driving Licence
The first problem you’ll encounter in trying to drive yourself in Vietnam is that the country doesn’t recognise an International Driving Permit. You need a Vietnamese licence to rent the car. Theres a lot of contradictory info on the web on getting a Vietnamese licence.
However the following info seems correct –
Most foreigners who have a driver’s license issued in their home countries simply have to register for a license here,’says Lam Thanh Trung, vice-chief of the Agency for Granting Driving Licenses.
The agency processes over 100 licenses for foreigners every month,’ says Trung. ‘With the required documents, one can have their license registered within seven days.’ Now that statement has been greeted with some scepticism by Nam regulars on some internet forums. ‘More like seven weeks’ was one comment i got.
Who can get a driver’s license in Vietnam:
According to a 2006 mandate by the Ministry of Transportation, all foreigners can register for a license in Vietnam if they had a valid one issued to them in their home countries.
Each city or province’s Department of Transportation is in charge of granting driver’s licenses for foreigners with licenses issued in their home countries.
However, licenses are only granted to those who have valid travel visas for a period of at least three months in Vietnam (though the actual length of the visit does not have to be that long).
Many tourists make the mistake that it’s legal to drive here with an international driver’s licence. But they also have to register,’ Trung says. ‘The period for which a [registered] license remains valid is based on the expiry date of one’s original license from home,’
Standard driver’s licenses in Vietnam last for five years. Motorbike licenses, on the other hand, have no expiry date.’An important point to note, how-ever, is that the type of license issued in Vietnam will only be equivalent to the type granted in one’s home country. For instance, ‘A four-wheel driver’s license can-not be registered to ride a motorcycle,’ Trung stresses. Those who have a four-wheel license but want to ride a motorcycle will have to pass an exam on riding techniques, but won’t have to take a written exam on traffic laws.
To begin, a form requesting a license must be obtained (see below) and filled out by any one of the following: the Vietnamese Embassy, the Consulate General, the Representative Office of International Organization in Vietnam, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (I believe the Embassy of most countries will also help get a licence for their citizens)
WHAT’S REQUIRED: The following submissions are required for a foreigner to get a driver’s license in Vietnam:
A valid passport with 3 month Visa
1 petition (issued form) requesting driver’s license
1 copy (notarized duplicate) of original driver’s license
1 Vietnamese-translated copy (notarized duplicate) of driver’s license
1 copy (duplicate) of passport 3 passport-sized photos
Original copies of passport and driver’s license must be shown when submitting all documents
Forms to request a driver’s license can be obtained at the Agency for Granting Driver’s Licenses or sgtcc.hochiminhcity.gov.vn
In Ho Chi Minh City, all documents must be submitted to the authorities for driver’s license registration, located at: 252 Ly Chinh Thang Street, District 3, 8 Nguyen Anh Thu Street, District 12.
Open weekdays only.The fee is VND30,000 (US$2) for one license.
THE IMPORTANT PARTS: Only good for the same as your countries license, takes 7 days to get it and you have to get a 3 month visa.
Therefore it seems that you need to be in the country to apply for a licence which is obviously a problem if you’re only on a trip for a couple of weeks. I have made enquiries to see if I can locate anyone who can help get a licence before you arrive in Vietnam but have drawn a blank unfortunately so it looks like you will need to attend in person.
There are also a few online resources available detailing how to get a licence whilst in the country such as the links below-
Driving in Vietnam
To say the traffic in Vietnamese Cities is chaotic is an understatement. Roads are a seething mass of traffic, mainly motorbikes, with the occasional stranded pedestrian ducking and diving trying to avoid being hit. Motor bikes and cars seldom obey any rules of the road and it often seems amazing that only 30 people per day die on Vietnams roads. Hanoi is marginally more chaotic than HCMC. Driving in a City in Vietnam is likely to be one of the most challenging experiences a self drive traveller faces anywhere in the world. Once out of Cities, traffic is generally lighter but roads are in worse condition and the fact that traffic is lighter gives buses and lorries the opportunity to speed and overtake on blind bends and hills. Roads won’t have street lights and there are likely to be unlit vehicles and animals wandering in the road- you should avoid driving at night. Police are likely to stop foreigners driving cars and if you don’t have the correct documentation, particularly a valid Vietnamese licence as stated above, you will be in serious trouble.
In summary, driving abroad in Vietnam is not easy – theres a lot of red tape to cut through and when you get a car you will face some of the most challenging driving in the world. If anyone manages to rent a car in Vietnam, please let me know how you got on.
Vietnam Car Rental -
Budget have a branch in Ho Chi Min City. In Summer 2011 their website stated that they offered self drive to foreigners and would quote rates if requested via email to – firstname.lastname@example.org. However, in Feb 2012 they informed me that they no longer offer self drive at all. In Hanoi and the North, I was never able to locate a company offering self drive to foreigners.There is anecdotal evidence that you may be able to find someone willing to rent you a car and the site below is a good source of local info.
Vietnam Self Drive Rules-
If you manage to obtain a Vietnamese licence and find a company willing to rent you a car its highly unlikely you’ll be able to take it out of the country. Unfortunately, though touring SE Asia by self drive car sounds a great idea, it doesn’t seem possible at the current time.Budget didn’t allow cars to be taken out of Vietnam when they offered self drive.