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Traffic Rules and Admin Issues in Vietnam

Expats with experience in driving in Vietnam all paint a similar picture: It is a rather risky and nerve-wracking experience. However, if you have no other alternative than driving, better go prepared. Our expat guide offers comprehensive info on driving styles, traffic rules, and roadways.
The mandatory use of helmets is one of the few Vietnamese traffic rules that is thoroughly enforced.

Traffic Rules Are Being Enforced More and More Regularly

You must be at least 18 to drive a motor vehicle in Vietnam, including motorcycles with a capacity of over 50cc. The speed limits in Vietnam are 30–40 km/h in cities, and 40–60 km/h on rural roads. Despite the fact that many Vietnamese drivers tend to disobey these routinely, you should try to keep your speed under the limit unless you hold up traffic significantly. Blend in with the traffic around you and pay close attention to your surroundings.

To name a few other traffic rules:

  • There is a zero tolerance of alcohol for car drivers (0.5‰ for motorcyclists).
  • Seatbelts are mandatory in the front seat only.
  • Child restraints are not readily available in Vietnam and are thus rarely used.
  • Motorcyclists are required to wear a helmet at all times.

Although there are not all that many regulations, disobeying traffic rules can lead to serious penalties. It is also quite easy to get thrown in jail as an expat for breaking a rule in Vietnam. Keep in mind that your home country can do nothing to get you out until a verdict has been made.

Getting a Vietnamese Driver’s License

Since January 2015, Vietnam recognizes international driving permits, which means you can now rent a car in the country. It is however compulsory to have a Vietnamese license if you work in the country for more than three months. To apply for your Vietnamese license you must contact the local office of the Provincial Public Transportation Service of the Vietnamese Department of Communications and Transport. In order to be eligible for a Vietnamese driver’s license, you need to be in possession of a residence permit which is valid for at least three months. The process usually takes five to seven days. Documents needed include:

  • your original passport and a notarized translation and copy
  • your residency card
  • your original driver’s license and a notarized translation and copy (for licenses from Russia, Cambodia, and Laos the translation must be notarized by a consulate) the application form (click on [Tải đơn])
  • three passport-sized photos
  • an application fee of 1.50 USD

You are not required to take a written or practical test when applying for a Vietnamese driver’s license.

Driving without a valid Vietnamese driver’s license (or an International License if you stay less than three months) can result in hefty fines. Prison sentences are common if you cause a traffic accident which results in serious injury or death.

Importing a Car Is Too Expensive to Be Worth It

Importing your car into Vietnam is not an easy feat. It is probably more cost-efficient to purchase one directly in Vietnam once you have settled, as Vietnamese import duty is 83% of the vehicle’s value for new cars and 150% for used ones. In addition to the import duty, you will also be charged various taxes (excise tax, VAT) which can quickly add up to double or even triple the original value of the car.

It is also extremely expensive to ship your car to Vietnam due to the whole entry process and what the shipping company must provide before docking in Vietnam’s harbor. If you wish to do so anyway, then be sure that you have all relevant and required paperwork at hand before you arrive at the port in Vietnam. The Vietnam Customs authority has a comprehensive list on their website.

Full Comprehensive Insurance Is a Must

You need third party liability insurance for your vehicle in order to drive legally on Vietnamese roads. It is highly recommended to get insurance from your home country if the provider covers Vietnam as well. This may be a bit more expensive than the local Vietnamese auto insurance, but it will be more certain to cover you and all accidents you may be involved in. It has been some expats’ experience that when involved in an accident, they were made to pay preposterous fines even though they may not have been at fault. This is why having full comprehensive insurance from an international broker is often helpful.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Alain Nguyen

"The business contacts I made through InterNations, especially with other expats in Vietnam, proved to be invaluable."

Sneha Gupta

"Absolutely recommendable: Not only did we find the best places to go out in HCMC, but also great people and expats to meet up with. "

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