Many people asked us about the licenses needed to ride in Vietnam and if they actually need this. They also want to know about the police, what to do if they stop you and what the chances are that they will stop you. Hopefully you will find the answer to these questions below.
Legally you need to either have a Vietnamese license or a valid international license which states Vietnam on it to ride a bike over 50cc. Under 50cc does not require a license.
If you already have a motorbike license in your own country, it is possible to have it converted into a Vietnamese license for a small fee but it takes time. If like most people who have 1 month or less in Vietnam, this process will cut into the time you have for travelling. If you do have longer in the country, this is an option. You can pay someone to help with the process because not understanding Vietnamese will be troublesome when dealing with paper work.
Unfortunately, if you don’t already have a motorbike license, you will not be able to get one in Vietnam if you are travelling on a tourist visa.
That being said, police in Vietnam generally do not stop foreigners and if they do, they rarely ask to see the driving license so lots of people have no problems riding bikes without one.
On the whole, the police in Vietnam tend to leave foreigners alone and don’t want to stop you but there are a few exceptions. The main issue is in Mui Ne, a city in the south of Vietnam, which will be mentioned later.
Traffic police in Vietnam wear a beige uniform and are the only police that will care about you when you are riding a bike.
Generally you will not see many police in the country side of Vietnam but in cities, you might see then on major intersections or waiting on major roads doing speed traps.
As most of the police do not speak English well, they will not want to stop foreigners in most of these places as it creates more work whilst it is much easier for them to stop and fine locals. The police around HCMC, however, can sometimes speak English. If you are unlucky, you might be stopped on your way out of the city.
When you do get stopped by the police, they are only looking for a bribe. Unfortunately the police here will always be able to find something that you have not done correctly and therefore it is easier to pay a small bribe and carry on your way.
It is important to just be friendly with the police and stay calm. Normally, they will ask for a large amount of money first or threaten to confiscate the bike. Bear in mind that this is a bluff as they only want a bribe from you. The accepted amount is 200k – 500k. When they ask for more than this, remain calm and say no, tell them you will pay 200k and take your time. You should be able to settle with this much so long as you are polite.
Mui Ne is a whole different story. The police are now very accustomed to stopping foreigners and unfortunately, some foreigners pay way more than the normal bribe so they expect more from others.
I have heard many reasons as to why Mui Ne police are different to other areas. The main one seems to be that some tourists were riding too fast posing danger to others on the street which resulted in too many accidents. Whatever the real reason is, the result is the same, the police here will always stop foreigners and will be expecting a bribe of 1mil – 2mil.
The police will be waiting on the road to the sand dunes and have a roadblock. It is almost impossible to get past them on the main road. They can easily chase you on their 250cc, so do not attempt to outrun them.
The stretch of road that they wait on also has a slow speed limit. Chances are they will fine you for speeding even if you have the international license.
While other police threaten to take your bikes as a bluff, in Mui Ne they will take the bike to the police station. If you do not pay the bribe, you will have to wait a few days to get your bike back after paying an additional fine.
We recommend avoiding Mui Ne as it will result in you having to deal with the police and we can’t help too much with the police here.
If you are involved in an accident, most of the time it is settled in cash between yourself and the other person. Police are only involved if both parties can’t agree to settle the matter and will be the one to decide the next course of action. It will take more time and be a bit more difficult to sort out.
If the accident is more serious, the police will take the matters into their own hands. They will impound vehicles involved until they can figure out what has happened, who is responsible and make sure that both parties are okay before deciding how to settle the matter.
In the event of a small accident, it is normally better to not have the police involved as they might make the settlement higher unless the price the other party is requesting is too much. If there is a big accident then it is good to have the police involved and they will make the situation easier for you.