The Ins and Outs of NN License Plates

Hi gangs,

I am thinking about getting a new motorbike and, perhaps, bring my car here.  One of my local friends suggested that I ought to obtain the NN license plates for my future vehicles because, according to him, the local traffic cops will harrass me less.

In my dealings with the local traffic cops, I think that is an excellent point for very few of them speak English.  What do you think?  What are your experiences?

Also, how hard is it to get these NN plates?  What are the ins and outs of these plates?

Thanks in advance.


The first question would be: Why are you being hassled by police? Are you driving like a Vietnamese driver - this will get you stopped as the Traffic Police generally recognise Foreign drivers as far better than their ow.

Secondly, NN plates are determined by ownership, as are all non-standard number formats. You are not the determinant, the provincial plate issuer is.

I have driven both regular plates as well as NN designated and found, over 20 years, little difference except in Vinh  where a couple of cops charge $5 to go around their traffic circle (bribes).

Before you import your vehicle I suggest you visit VN Customs as some cars are subject to a 100% customs duty rate. Additionally, there are engine capacity limits on certain types of vehicles that can be driven by Foreigners.

Importing a non-ASEAN registered vehicle is an exercise in frustration. The vehicle is impounded on entry (even for those just passing through VN) and you have to travel to Ha Noi, Da Nang or HCMC with all your vehicle particulars and most importantly, insurance valid for VN, when, eventually, you might get a VN plate issued. ONLY at this point will Customs release the vehicle to you. (All your documentation for your imported vehicle has to be translated and affirmed by the OFFICIAL translators office which costs money!)

I thought you might be interested in knowing the number plate/tag codes.

List of Registration codes for the Provinces of VietNam

Code    Province
11    Cao Bang
12    Lang Son
14    Quang Ninh
15/16    Hai Phong
17    Thai Binh
18    Nam Dinh
19    Phu Tho
20    Thai Nguyen
21    Yen Bai
22    Tuyen Quang
23    Ha Giang
24    Lao Cai
25    Lai Chau
26    Son La
27    Dien Bien
28    Hoa Binh
29/33+40 Ha Noi
34    Hai Duong
35    Ninh Binh
36    Thanh Hoa
37    Nghe An
38    Ha Tinh
43    Da Nang
47    Dak Lak
48    Dak Nong
49    Lam Dong
50/59    Ho Chi Minh City
60/39    Dong Nai
61    Binh Duong
62    Long An
63    Tien Giang
64    Vinh Long
65    Can Tho
66    Dong Thap
67    An Giang
68    Kien Giang
69    Ca Mau
70    Tay Ninh
71    Ben Tre
72    Ba Ria-Vung Tau
73    Quang Binh
74    Quang Tri
75    Thua Thien Hue
76    Quang Ngai
77    Binh Dinh
78    Phu Yen
79    Khanh Hoa
80    Central Government and Ministry of Public Security**
81    Gia Lai
82    Kon Tum
83    Soc Trang
84    Tra Vinh
85    Ninh Thuan
86    Binh Thuan
88    Vinh Phuc
89    Hung Yen
90    Ha Nam
92    Quang Nam
93    Binh Phuoc
94    Bac Lieu
95    Hau Giang
97    Bac Kan
98    Bac Giang
99    Bac Ninh

The registration format is PP-NN-LLL for vehicles, and PP-NLNNN or where the sequence is exhausted PP-NLNNNNN. P is the province designator; N is numeric and L is letter.

Commencing  in 2012, blue strip with V will be added to left of the plate in compliance with the new ASEAN vehicle licencing agreement.

Code variations are used to differentiate between classes of ownership. AA,AB,AC,AD, etc., in lieu of provincial designators means Ministry of Defence (red plate); NN after provincial codes means ownership by foreign interests; NG after provincial code in RED means diplomatic/NGO plate; LD after province codes means companies with 100% foreign investment; A,B,C after province code means local governments (blue plate).

Red and Blue plates ignore most traffic rules, as do NG plates.

** Public Security also have many vehicles with regular numbers for their 'under cover' work.

Wild-1 looking at it from strictly a force protection issue I would keep the regular Vietnam plate. Along with the NN the next numbers identify your country of orgin:

Diplomatic organizations, diplomats: 80 NG xxx-yy. NG (NG = Ngoai Giao = Diplomacy) is red.
Heads of diplomatic organs/embassies, heads of representative offices of organs of United Union: 80 NG xxx-01. XXX has a red stripe through.
NN plates (NN=Nuoc Ngoai=Foreign) is distributed to foreigners. xx NN yyy-zz
xx: where the car was registered.
yyy: owner's nationality
zz: orderly number
A American register his car in Hanoi. The plate is 30 NN 297-zz
191( German )
206( Danish )
626( Swiss )
636( Korean)
296, 297( American )
011( English )
156?( Canadian)
166( Cambodian)
301( Dutch)
311( Italian)
456 ( New Zealand)
521( Finnish)
061 belgian
691 (Singapore)
888( Taiwanese)


Hello guys,

Thanks for the informative responses.  The main reason that I am looking into obtaining NN plates is to avoid undued harrassments at the hands of the local traffic cops.

No, Jaitch, I do not ride or drive like a maniac.  I just happen to be a middle-aged Vietnamese-America--the type that understands the Vietnamese language, typically cannot own a car or a motorbike, rarely carries a legitimate Vietnamese license, seldom wants to appear at the police station and often has lots of cash. 

Aside from understanding the Vietnamese language, I don't fit into any one of those categories.  Yet, every time that I bump into the traffic cops outside of Can Tho, I get pulled over.  They have never successful fined me nor did I ever had to bribe any them, I am just sick of getting my time wasted in such a silly manner.

I know that NN plates will cost more than the regular Vietnamese plates and the process will be more arduous, but I want to know how much more and how hard it is to obtain them.  I am planning on being here for awhile; therefore, I think it might worth the extra efforts.

Thanks again, guys.


As I said, the licensing authority determines your plate designators. I don't recall it costing me any additional amount unless you are referring to VAT. VAT is VAT, you pay what their guide book says (for some reason they never believe what your receipt says).

You can influence what plate they give you by having a VN wife/friend put their name on the registration. Then you need a letter saying they give you permission to drive it anywhere.

BTW, living in the Delta you might be tempted to pop across to Cambodia. First of all, unless you have a VN ID card you are unable to 'pop' across the border; secondly you have to convert your overseas drivers licence to a Cambodian one BEFORE driving.

For reasons that defy logic, driving with headlights on during daylight hours is illegal.

Happy, cop free, driving?

P.S. My wife got hit for a VND200,000 pension donation on the weekend in DakLak. She went to the traffic police office and complained. They doubted her claim so she pulled out the video of the cop taking the money. She got her refund.

I know this is an old thread, but just in case anyone have any updated information.

I am in the same boat as the OP, though not quite middle-aged yet :-).

Regarding the issue of having an "NN" license plate vs regular VN plate to avoid unnecessary police hassles:  my feeling is that it has more to do with your APPEARANCE (i.e. skin color and foreigner) than the actual license plate.  Once getting pulled over, I don't think having an "NN" plate will fare any better regular VN plate after the cops find out that you can speak Vietnamese (if anything, it will be worse since they know that you have money).  The only "protection" one may have against undue traffic police harassment for bribes is foreign-/white-looking due to the language barrier.

I have heard of many stories from the Vietnamese community alleging unnecessary traffic stops for bribery, but I have also seen many willful traffic violations, especially running red lights (and honking as they run the light :-).  So it may not be hard for the cops to actual find someone with a true traffic violation to stop.
  So I wonder what is the current thoughts are for foreigners of Vietnam origin riding in Vietnam, especially regarding "NN" vs regular plates.  By the way, I don't plan to violate traffic laws...just concerns about undue stops for bribery. 

Another issue is possible higher risk of being a robbery target with an "NN" plate, especially with night travel and/or long distance travel.  So my thought, as a foreigner of Vietnam origin, is that having a "NN" has more risks than benefits.  Any suggestion or insight from those with experience in Vietnam is appreciated.


According to my Vietnamese wife the NN plate is a PITA to acquire (paperwork) ad once the vehicle is registered with an NN plan it is another PITA if you want to sell it.

Then theres the issue of it being clearly identifiable as a foreign owned vehicle. Frankly I wouldn't bother. But thats just my personal opinion.

eodmatt wrote:

Then theres the issue of it being clearly identifiable as a foreign owned vehicle

Are you suggesting that when the CSGT see NN on your plates, they read it as $$?  :mad:

Of course not all are lucky enough to have a Vietnamese wife to hold the blue card for them.  Others that come to mind have Vietnamese wives but are not on speaking terms.  I know that many if not most, both Vietnamese and expats, never register their ownership but just keep the bill of sale.  However, if a single individual wants to make it legal doesn't he need NN plates?

It can go both ways. The CSGT might see the NN plate and decide that its not worth stopping you because you might be an argumentative foreigner who doesn't speak Vietnamese, so not worth the bother. However, the lure of a 500,000 dong note may prove irresistible to some.

On the other hand the NN plate clearly identifies your vehicle to everyone as being owned by a foreigner. And since foreigners are all axiomatically  rich and stupid, it makes the owner of such a car a target. So personally I wouldn't bother.

The amount of tax you have to pay when buying a car in Vn is eye watering and when my wife was nagging me to buy a car, I made a cost benefit analysis spread sheet to compare the costs and it is actually cheaper to "Grab an Uber" for shopping trips and so on than it is to have a heap of metal rusting away outside the house. No worries about parking in town either. For longer trips - to home town and so on - the votes are cheap and reasonably comfortable, as are the VIP busses, which are actually quite good these days.

You might, if you have a company in Vietnam, register the car with the business. And this has another advantage: You pay far less tax on the price of the car if it is registered to a business - provided that it is marked up with the company logo and name.

eodmatt wrote:

You might, if you have a company in Vietnam, register the car with the business. And this has another advantage: You pay far less tax on the price of the car if it is registered to a business - provided that it is marked up with the company logo and name.

My car is in the company name and no logos or name. ;)

Wald0 wrote:
eodmatt wrote:

You might, if you have a company in Vietnam, register the car with the business. And this has another advantage: You pay far less tax on the price of the car if it is registered to a business - provided that it is marked up with the company logo and name.

My car is in the company name and no logos or name. ;)

OK  ;)   Shhh