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If you are planning to rent or buy a car or a motorcycle in Vietnam, you must be in possession of a valid Vietnamese driver's license. You are not allowed to drive with an international driver's license.

The consular authorities of your country in Vietnam do not issue driver's licenses. You must apply for it directly with the Vietnamese authorities.

Good to know:

It is against the law to drive any vehicle in Vietnam as a tourist. You may only apply for a Vietnamese drivers license if you have a residence permit, or at least a 3 months business visa, or company sponsorship.

Procedures

To obtain a Vietnamese driver's license, you must write to the Traffic Department of Ho Chi Minh City. You must apply for a change of license and make a translation request. You also need to produce your passport as well as two passport-size photos. You may also have to produce an employment certificate or a copy of your residence permit. The driver's license is generally delivered within one or two weeks.

A Note on Motorbikes

Many tourists and expats rent motorbikes to get around. In order to hire a motorbike with 50cc power or above, it is critical that you have a valid motorcycle licence. Unfortunately, it is easy to hire without being in possession of one, and local authorities often look the other way. However, your insurance is unlikely to cover you (or anyone else involved) in the case of an accident. Time and again travelers ignore this fact and end up forking out, which is the last thing one should have to worry about after a traumatic experience.

This said, if you do have a licence, renting a motorbike is a fast and cost-effective way to get around, especially in the cities. You will find that driving in Vietnam is very different to driving in your home country. The traffic can take some getting used to but ultimately is a very pleasant experience. Do note that in Vietnam you drive in the right-hand lane.

Tip

If you are driving a motorbike and you are not yet familiar with the roads, load your local SIM card with data and enter your destination on your preferred maps app. Put your phone in a sling bag and plug in your earphones when you drive. You'll have the navigation voice direct you in your ears without having to look at the screen.

Useful addresses:

License issuing office in Hanoi

Transportation and Public Works Department
Address: 16 Cao Ba Quat, Dist. Ba Dinh
Tel: (04) 845.37.40

License issuing office in Ho Chi Minh

Transportation and Public Works Department
Address: 252 Ly Chinh Thang, Dist. 3
Tel: ( 08) 935.05.51 or 935.05.17

Useful link:

Ministry of Transport of Vietnam

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