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Although when you first step foot in the street in Vietnam you find it impossible to cross the road let alone imagine that one day you could be driving along it, you will find that slowly you start to feel ready to get off the back of a Grab bike and venture off on your own. Find out the steps to get your own driving licence below!
Traffic in Vietnam is hectic
The main reason why you are looking to get a driving license is primarily for the medical insurance. Many local Vietnamese do not have a driver’s license and deal with this if they get stopped by the traffic police by putting their hand in their pocket and paying. This is fine for the traffic police issue however if you are involved in an accident then the two main questions that the medical insurance place will ask are 1/. Is there any alcohol in your system? 2/. Do you have a driver’s license?
If you do not have a driver’s license, then your medical insurance is automatically void and suddenly you are in the precarious situation of having to cover your own costs – which can very quickly build up.
As a result, it is suggested that you either:
1/. Use an electric bike or 50 CC scooter
I used to have an electric bike however despite careful planning there were a number of times that it ran out of battery and I had to cycle home (slowly). As a result, although an electric bike is a good stepping-stone to a proper bike since you feel secure in the knowledge that you can simply manually pedal if you get scared, it is not a long-term option.
50 CC scooters can be quite hard to find second hand (as many schoolchildren use them to get to and from school) and cost quite a lot new. However if you are lucky enough to find one ( especially an automatic such as a Kymco Candy ) then this is a great option if you plan to predominantly just use your bike to travel to and from work.
Electric bikes and 50 CC scooters do not require a driver’s license
2/. Follow the steps to get a driver’s license
It is possible to simply pay and get a license without having to do any of the steps outlined below, however it is not guaranteed that this will work with the medical insurance so in my opinion it is an unnecessary risk.
So, if you do decide you want to get a driver’s license, the following outlines the steps to get the driver’s license based on information in 2021 and assuming that you have a driver’s license of some kind in your home country.
The first thing to do is to look closely at your own license from your home country – it should state the type of license that you are entitled to – a car, motorbike or both.
For most countries, unless you have specifically taken a motorbike license then when you took your standard car drivers license then you will only be permitted to drive a car.
If you have a license that covers both motorbike and car then you will only need to carry out step one. If not, then you will need to carry out both steps one and two.
STEP ONE – GET A VIETNAMESE LICENSE
The first thing you need to do is transfer your driving license. To do this you will need scanned copies of:
- driver’s license (both sides)
- passport personal information page
- passport page showing the latest entry into Vietnam
- temporary residence card (both sides)
You also need to provide your address in Vietnam
The fee for this process is 1,590,000 vnđ
It is suggested that you use an agency for this process, as they will sort out the notarization and the whole process for you (although of course it is possible to do it yourself but it is suggested that it is not really worth the time and stress)
To transfer your license:
- You find an agency e.g. https://hocbanglaixeotovn.com/ and send them the information as above
- They confirm that they can change the license and send you the information as to where to make an online transfer payment. It is important to use an agency that will check that the license can be transferred before taking the process any further. In addition, make sure that the agency confirm receipt of the payment.
- After about three days (on average), the agency should have completed the process and they should contact you to inform you that your application has been successful.
At this stage, they will inform you of the need to make an appointment for you to go to the transportation department to have your photograph taken. A Vietnamese speaker needs to call to make an appointment with the department at least the day ahead.
In Hanoi, you need to call 0962888229 and go to number 2 on Phung Hung – Ha Dong.
As with many Vietnamese government offices please note that there are limited opening times, for example, in Hanoi the transportation department is only open mornings from 8:00 – 10:00 am , afternoons from 14:00 – 15:00 pm (Monday – Friday) and on Saturdays 8 – 10 am only.
It is important to note that you need to take your original documents (driving license / passport / temporary residence card) as well as a Vietnamese speaker for translation.
When you get to the transport department the process is extremely quick, taking around only five minutes and consisting of you simply standing on the allocated spot to have your photograph taken and showing your documents
- Officially, it takes 7 working days (excluding weekends) for the license to be ready but in reality, it is about a week in total.
When ready you need to go to the office of the agency to collect your translated driver’s license.
Now if you are lucky enough to have had a car and motorbike license from your home country then your transferred driver’s license will enable you to use both of these and you can merrily drive off home on your bike.
However, if you only have a car license then you need to move forwards with:
STEP 2 – GET A MOTORBIKE LICENSE
This step is more complicated than step 1 as it contains two major parts:
- The medical
- The practical motorbike test
The cost for this process is approximately the same as for step 1. You need to send a copy of your driver’s license (Vietnamese) to the agency along with your passport copy.
They will then make an appointment for a medical, which takes place about a week before your practical test. There are only a few designated places where this medical can take place thus when you go for the medical you will find it absolutely packed.
All forms are typically in Vietnamese so you will need help in getting through the process. I was very surprised to find that the medical was quite extensive and the whole process took a couple of hours going from department to department (rather reminiscent of your medical for your work visa)
An appointment date for your practical test is then given. It is important to note that there is a very limited practise time on the day prior to the test itself and that this is very early (for example from 6 – 7 am) As a result it is suggested that you practise before hand at other sites so that you become accustomed to the general set up and are not so intimidated on the day itself.
When you arrive for the practical test, you need to look at the board at the back of the room for your number. You then join the long queue to tell your number and get the corresponding number tag that you wear.
Lines according to numbers e.g. 1 – 20 – are then made and in these lines you are taken to another room where photographs are taken and a form signed (for which there is a charge of approximately 20,000 VND) This process can take a very long time and it all depends on what your number is as to how many hours you need to wait for your turn.
Eventually you are taken outside to the testing area where you sit on a wooden bench until your number is called.
The testing circuit consists of a tight number 8 in which you drive in-between the lines followed by simpler straight lines, curves and bumps. The first part is the hardest and most people fail the first time the test is taken.
Manoeuvring the figure 8 is the hardest part of the test
At the end of the test the invigilator will either tell you “no – fail “and you need to repeat all of the step 2 process again or “yes – pass “in which case you go across to a kiosk where you will pay 50, 000 VND to get proof of passing which you can then take to the transportation office (as in step 1) for upgrading of the license.
3. The Vietnamese driving license
It is admittedly not a simple process and it is totally understandable that people put off going through all these stages, especially when you know that most of the people on the road don’t have a license of any kind, however always better to be safe than sorry – and at the end of the day, whether you pass or fail the test it is a unique experience and something to add to your pile of stories about life in Vietnam!