Driving in Vietnam
If you are planning to rent or buy a car or a motorcycle in Vietnam, you must be in possession of an International Driving Permit (IDP). This must, of course, be valid for your duration in the country.
The consular authorities of your country in Vietnam do not issue driver’s licenses. If you wish to acquire a local driver’s license, you must apply for it directly with the Vietnamese authorities.
Good to know:
As long as you have the proper documentation, it is legal to drive 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.
To obtain a Vietnamese driver’s license, you must write to the Department of Transportation of Ho Chi Minh City or the Centre for Automotive Training and Mechanism in Hanoi. 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 in Vietnam
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 travellers 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 on the right-hand side.
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.
Unlike many western countries, when Vietnamese drivers flash their lights at night, it is not an invitation to go first, it is a warning to stay put!
License issuing office in Hanoi
Ministry of Transport of Vietnam
Address: 80 Tran Hung Dao Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Tel: (04) 39422079
License issuing office in Ho Chi Minh
Office of Transportation
Address: 63 Ly Tu Trong Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: ( 08) 38223760