How do you get fuel in Vietnam? You may be used to purchasing fuel ( usually for your car ) in your home country so you may think that of course, you know what to do. However the first time you get to a fuel station you may be surprised at the Vietnamese rules and regulations. So this guide is to help work out the ins and outs and realise that things are different!
Where to get fuel in Vietnam
In the West, fuel stations are almost always very large affairs – consisting of a very large forecourt where you can drive up, a neat row ( or two ) of petrol dispensers and then a payment building.
In contrast, in Vietnam, although you can find larger petrol stations along main roads which are easy to spot, in smaller streets, they are often tucked into a line of shops and you are barely able to spot them. This means that petrol stations are much harder to find than in the West and it is recommended that you look on Google maps to find out where you can find fuel stations before you start so that at least you have some idea of the areas where you can find them.
When getting fuel in Vietnam, there are often signs before the fuel station to indicate that a petrol station is coming up. However, you do need to know what sign to be looking out for. Although there are a few petrol companies operating in Vietnam, the most popular by far is Petrolimex – which has over 14,000 petrol stations in Vietnam – with their logo being an orange letter “ p “ on a blue background.
The different types of fuel in Vietnam
When you do manage to find the petrol station then the next question is how to know what to buy? The different types of fuel are displayed either on top of the fuel pump or on a large sign above. For motorbikes there are three types of fuel :
E5 Ron 92 – this is the cheapest option
Ron 95 – 3 – the middle-priced option
Ron 95 – 4 – the more expensive option
Note that you never have to say which type of fuel you need – you simply go to the fuel station and try to park near the type of fuel you need!
How to purchase fuel
In the West the purchase of fuel is a very organised procedure. People often wait patiently in a line, then driving up, filling up themselves and then going to a separate shop ( which often has snacks etc ) to pay.
The way people get fuel in Vietnam is totally different! The idea of queuing in Vietnam is not very strong and thus there is a lot of pushing in. If you simply wait patiently and do not push forwards those 5 cm when the person in front moves, then someone else will go in front!
Things to remember when getting fuel in Vietnam
- There is usually a distinct way in and way out ( although this is not always adhered to ) but that is about it in relation to rules! The most important thing about getting fuel with your bike is to be quick. When you get to the line, you turn off your engine and get off your bike. You then unlock the fuel cap ( if you have a front tank ) or at least open up the seat ( if you have a back tank ) so that as soon as it is your turn you can be quick.
- Another thing to consider when getting fuel in Vietnam: you need to stay as close as possible to the bike in front. This is to ensure that you are served as soon as possible. Otherwise, someone else will push in ( there will not necessarily be only one line but several ! ). When you are as close as possible then you need to open up the fuel tank to be served. If the person to the side of you opens up more quickly then they will be served first ( even if you have been there before them)
It is important to note that the petrol attendant will put the fuel in for you – you don’t do it yourself! – instead, all you need to do is open the petrol cap and the rest will be done for you,
How much is the fuel in Vietnam?
When you are served ( after you have opened the petrol cap for the tank ) the petrol attendant will expect you to tell them how much fuel you need. There are two main choices – either to have your tank filled or to buy a certain amount.
In the towns and cities
It is ESSENTIAL to make sure that the dial on the fuel pump is on zero before you start. It is very common practice to trick people ( especially foreigners ) and not put the pump back to reset it to zero so that you start on e.g. 50,000 VND. If you see that this has happened, stop the petrol attendant immediately and make a huge fuss. Once they know that they have been found out then they will go back and replace the pump and it will go back to zero.
If you do decide to have a full tank then do not be surprised at the attendant shaking your bike so that even more can be fitted in. This is because you typically buy fuel in whole rounded-up numbers – e.g. you buy 50,000 VND / 100, 000 VND or if filling up then you buy 105,000 VND instead of 104,000 VND or 106,000 VND.
The reason for this is due to the fact that petrol stations only work with cash- there are no other types of payment. When the petrol attendant has finished they simply pay the amount to them. So be careful, as, with the resetting to zero scam, the petrol attendant often tries to give you the wrong change. As a result, it is better to have the exact money so no change is needed when getting fuel in Vietnam.
Although there are lots of fuel stations in towns and cities – as well as on major roads, in rural areas petrol stations are few and far between. As a result, you can buy fuel at the side of the road in bottles. This is clearly marked and although it costs more than the petrol station when you are in the middle of nowhere and your fuel is getting dangerously low you simply have no choice!
Overall, getting petrol for your motorbike in Vietnam is a totally different system, unlike the way you get fuel in the West. It is easy to get mad at the chaotic and crowded way people do things when getting fuel in Vietnam. However, approach it with a positive attitude – a sense of experience and fun – and you will soon be able to push your way in along with everyone else. Also, be able to jump off your bike and open the fuel cap in 3 seconds flat – and find it normal to assist with a little shaking of the bike!