I have searched and read as much as I can on the subject, but still have a few questions to see if a cross-country motorcycle tour would be feasible.
We (me and two travel buddies) would like to spend around a month in Vietnam and rent/buy scooters to travel from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi. When I was in Vietnam two years ago I did not bother with a license, but I only drove scooters in and around Hoi An. We all have valid US licenses and will be getting international licenses before departure.
My question is in regards to waiting time, I've heard that it can take a week to get your license translated, another week to wait for the driving test and 3-4 weeks to actually get your license. With all that time waiting we wouldn't even have time left to explore!
1) Can I translate the license my self? I used Google translate and translated my whole license, but it seems you need the translation to be notarized. Would the 'authorized government office' at 47 Ly Tu Trong St notarize my translation if it was accurate?
2) Your visa must be for at least 3 months to get a license. Does that mean I can just apply for a 3 month tourist visa and be fine?
3) A medical exam is required. Can any one comment on how difficult or how much time it takes to get the exam?
4) Once you are authorized to take the driving test how long does it take to get an appoitnment to actually take the test? Is it same day?
5) Once all steps are passed and you can get your license, how long does it take to process? I've read 10 days, but also 3-4 weeks.
I'd like to know if the process of getting a license takes more than ~12 days. If so I don't think it will be very feasible for us.
#1 tightmopedman9 has been a member since 1/4/2013. Posts: 3
Confusing isn't it? Each region has a different process. It would be worth dropping into the transport department when you arrive in Saigon and see what they say, sometimes it is possible to get it done quickly (especially if your international license is for a motorbike). The translation is the fastest bit, so don't try to do that yourself - its never accurate and will lead to more time spent trying to sort it out.
The most important reason to have your license is if you have an accident, apparently there are travel insurance companies out there that will insure you to ride on an International license in VN (can't remember which ones), then at least if the worst happens you'll be in good hands.
In Da Nang you can get your motorbike license in a day..
#2 LolaNguyen has been a member since 28/8/2012. Posts: 94
It is quite confusing! Only one day in Da Nang to get a license sounds interesting, but since Da Nang is in the middle of the country it doesn't make much sense to start our travels there.
I found a service which can get a license for you online. I emailed them and they said with a copy of a passport and visa they could have a license within 7 days for $75 without having to be in the country or taking the driving test. I'm not sure how legitimate the source is however. Is there a possibility it could be a fake license, or could this person actually be getting a legitimate license for us?
Their information, for anyone curious, is:
AN KHANG COMPANY-INTERNATIONAL-VIETNAMESE DRIVING LICENSE CHANGING SERVICE
Head Office : 85- Dien Bien Phu-Da Kao Ward-District 1-HCM City-Viet Nam
#3 tightmopedman9 has been a member since 1/4/2013. Posts: 3
Hmm. I just had a look at their website (blog) and it looks like it might be worth a try as no money changes hands until you have the license. This is standard practice in Vietnam, the licensing fee is around $10, so they make a decent profit for doing all the running around for you. $75 is a good price, I've heard of people paying up to $200 for the same thing. Did you get a B3 visa (3 month business)? I think that is the one that makes things more straightforward. Also in regards to you ending up with a fake license - I've not heard of it happening. Do research the company as much as you can - you will be handing over a copy of your passport and visa to them after all.
If all else fails, you can get return flights between HCMC and Da Nang for $50.
#4 LolaNguyen has been a member since 28/8/2012. Posts: 94
As LolaNguyen says, the process and timings differ across the country (and I'd bet even within provinces...). But you say you have a US license and will have an international license - are these motorbike licenses? If so then you don't need to take the driving test anyway, so that cuts time down a bit, but if you do it in country you would still need a notarized copy and translation of your license and would need to take that to the issuing office with a completed form, photos, copy of passport and visa... so it's still going to take a while (outside of Danang anyway - I got mine in Hanoi, the bureaucratic capital).
The service you found may well be valid but the licenses here have photos on - and they're very fussy about the photos - so I'm not sure how they handle that, and I'm surprised they don't need a copy of your license... or did you just not mention that?
As a final note, I think you'll be covered on insurance with an international license even if you won't be driving legally ... but don't take my word for that.
I believe that payment is not necessary until the license is received. I wouldn't send any money before hand.
I will be applying for a 3 month tourist visa, I hope it is enough to qualify to receive a license...
We do not have motorcycle licenses in the states. I didn't mention all the documents he required, they were:
Original Driver's License
3 color 3x4cm photos
I'll report back when I try the service, so should be sometime in late June.
#6 tightmopedman9 has been a member since 1/4/2013. Posts: 3
Please do. It would be good to know. Though as you don't have a motorbike license I'm very surprised (and a little worried) that they can get you a motorbike license for Vietnam. The motorbike test may not be the most sophisticated but at least it shows you can stay upright. But hey, that's Vietnam for you.
Or you could do the ride on a 50cc which you don't need a license for. I picked up a Honda Super Cub for $100 with a top speed of 70kms per hour which you will very rarely need to exceed. Its a bit crap going up mountains, but on the plus side you see more at 2kmph. And if they breakdown there is always someone who knows how to fix a cub. Quite tempted to do it myself!
#8 LolaNguyen has been a member since 28/8/2012. Posts: 94
You can find travel insurance which WILL cover you riding, even illegally, subject to certain limits, usually no more than 125cc or no more than the limit of the motorcycle license from your home country.
Won't cover third party damage.
Worth checking very carefully. I'm sure that some people ride behind a xe om thinking they're covered, when many travel policies EXCLUDE both riding and pillion...