There’s a lot of incorrect, and/or incomplete information out there, and it’s difficult to determine what is true and what is just faulty data. We’re not claiming to be experts on the subject here, but we’ve done this ourselves and think that the information we’re going to list below would be very helpful. It’s going to address a few things, but it’s not going to be 100% complete. Few things are ever really “complete” when it comes to Vietnam. Check out our short guide on how to get a Vietnam driver’s license – this will be specifically through the “conversion process” for those who already hold an A1 from their home country.
Get another take on how to process a Vietnam Driver’s LicenseHow To Get a Vietnam Drivers License – A Step by Step Guide by Matt K
Disclaimer: information in this article is based on personal experience and should not be taken as official or legal advice. It’s just how we went about with doing the process ourselves. Everyone is responsible to follow and keep themselves up to date on the VN government’s traffic laws and regulations. If you don’t have first hand experience yet on how to ride the mean streets, check out how to drive in Vietnam with Sam Morgan.
Why Get a Vietnam Driver’s License
There are several key reasons to get a local license, and these include:
- Being able to legally drive a bike that’s bigger than 50cc
- Ensuring that your health insurance will actually work, in case of a driving accident
- Preventing arrest and imprisonment (let alone getting your bike impounded) in case of a traffic violation, or accident involving another party
It has to be underlined that the NONE of the local insurance policies will cover you for driving related injuries if you do not have a valid local license. And suffice to say, from a practical perspective, bribery is never a good idea no matter what they say on the Facebook Groups. Good luck trying to get away with it if you’ve injured a local, or damaged their property.
A Note on the International Driver’s License/Permit/IDP
International driver’s license is a buzzword often misunderstood. It is just a translation of your country’s driver’s license. It is NOT a replacement of the drivers license, it is just an attachment with translation, so an international drivers permit has to always be accompanied by your original driver’s license.
There are two international agreements:
An IDP is probably going to be available in your home country – most probably through the same office as where you got your original driver’s license. But it can vary country by country.
Even though VIetnam is a signatory of the 1968 Vienna convention, there is mixed information and experiences on actually using an international drivers license. According to some sources, including the US embassy in Vietnam, IDPs won’t be accepted:
“Foreign driver licenses, even when accompanied by an international driving permit, are not valid in Vietnam. Even though a driver’s license from an ASEAN country may be recognized in certain circumstances as valid in Vietnam, it is still advised to obtain a local Vietnamese driver’s license if you wish to drive legally in Vietnam.”
IDP Scam Alert
There are some advertisements -online from people offering IDPs issued by organizations like the IAA (iaalicense.com), who are probably trying to mimic the AAA (American Automobile Association). The AAA is the issuer of IDPs in the USA. Based on this author’s individual research and efforts to drive legally in Vietnam, we unfortunately do not recommend spending money on these organizations. They are most probably scams, and provide misleading information.
The IAA “licenses” have been designed to look very similar to the ones issued by the AAA. For your reference, the genuine IDP issued by the AAA looks like that photo above.
Not surprisingly the comments section can be turned on for advertising on these other permits. Do not get scammed.
What You Should Do To Drive Legally in Vietnam
The safest way is to get a VN drivers license. You need to have a valid visa (or TRC, or other legal residency status) with validity of at least 3 months, as well as a valid driver’s license from your home country. Your VN license cannot have validity longer than your visa expiration date.
If you have at least A1 motorbike permit from your country, you will be in a very good position. If you have only a car license, then you first have to convert your driver’s license for car only first. And then pass a practical driving test to get A1 license. The test itself should be quite easy, but the author does not have experience with applying for the test as I am holder of A1 from my home country.
Step 1: License Translation Process
1) Prepare your documents (no authorisation)
- Passport page (2 copies)
- Vietnamese Visa page or TRC (2 copies)
These first 2 docs does not require any authorisation (simply make a from your printer, or any photocopy place)
- Application form
Can get it at the drivers permit office and fill in with pen on the spot. Or can already prepare at home, download and fill in this form.
Click here for the printable, high-resolution version.
Step 2: Get a Translation of Your Home Country Drivers License
This is often the most confusing step for most applicants.
You need to get an official translation of your drivers license from your home country. The place where you can do this depends on your home country. At least for EU drivers licenses it can be done at People’s Committee in D3:
- There is motorbike parking
- You must wear long pants as it is a government building, t-shirt is fine. They won’t let you in if you come in shorts.
- After entry find a photocopy service (there are a few near the exit) and ask them to make a copy of your license – they will know what to do and will cost you +/- 5k
- Then enter a big office as in the picture below and queue up at the counter. They will need to see your original license and will keep a photocopy.
- They will also collect payment (for me it was 310k)
- You can come usually next day to collect the translation – 2 copies
Each visit took about 10 minutes – staff there was always helpful.
Step 3: Go to the Office of Traffic and Public Works to Apply for the Actual License
The location of the office to apply for your new drivers permit is a short 5 minute drive from the People’s committee in D3. To save time, it is good to plan your timeline to go there directly after picking up your translation. There is a motorbike parking area.
Once you arrive you will submit all completed documents (insert in a box or the teller on the right – tag number 1 on picture):
- Notarized photocopies of a foreign driving license (from people’s committee) (2 copies)
- Passport page (2 copies)
- Vietnamese Visa page or TRC (2 copies)
- Filled out application form
Then you wait for a moment and the same teller will call you to give them:
- Drivers license (show original)
- Passport + visa / TRC (show original)
- Fee of 135k
Then they let you wait (usually around 1 hour, but it depends on how many people are there). Once they call your name, you go to the teller on the left (number 2) – who takes the photo. Then wait 5 more mins to receive back original of your passport and license together with a confirmation slip validating your successful application.
Step 4: Collection of Your Driver’s License
It takes around 10 days to issue it. Then you can either come to collect it in the same office in person. But more convenient is to get it send by VN post.
More Convenient Option: Mail Your New License to Yourself
- Once you are done with the application, get the confirmation slip you received and go outside of the office. Right next to the office is the table of VNPost.
- Get an envelope and write down our address and phone number – where the license should be mailed
- Give the envelope together with the confirmation slip to the post worker. They will input your data into their system, collect payment (cost +/- 20k) and will give you the delivery slip.
Total Cost to Get a Vietnam Driver’s License via Conversion
- Photocopies – 10k
- Official translation – 310k
- Application fee – 135k
- VN Post – 20k
- Total +/- 475k
- Visit People’s Committee (submit translation) – 10 minutes
- Visit People’s Committee (collect translation) – 5 minutes
- Submit for the the license – 10 minutes drive + 1 hour waiting
- Total 1.5 hours + driving from your home/office 🙂
Just to go through the key details of this article:
- A VN driver’s license is required in order to have your insurance policy cover driving accidents
- International driver’s permits (IDP) from the internet are most probably a scam
- It’s not difficult to get your license converted
Now that you’ve got your local license, go out and enjoy the open roads of Vietnam, and take part in some adventure!
Would love to get your thoughts and feedback on this. It is certainly going to help everyone if correct information is made freely available. Let’s help the community not get scammed!
[…] cover you for driving related injuries. Either get a good international insurance policy, or try to process a VN license before going on a long trip. Play it safe, and enjoy the […]
[…] for driving related injuries. Either get a good international insurance policy, or try to process a VN license before going on a trip. Play it safe, and enjoy the […]
[…] Note: We’ve previously written about ways to get a motorbike license on your own, but in the spirit of getting more on-the-ground information for things relevant to day to day live […]