Driving Guide

Vietnam Driving Guide

Vietnam is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit.

2021-08-06 · 9min read

One of the Southeast Asian countries worth visiting; Vietnam is known for its ancient history, religious and cultural sites, breath-taking natural landscapes, and diverse culture. This country has many must-sees architectural buildings and geological riches that vary from north to south, so you should not miss this country’s splendor. It’s worth a go, and you must include it in your travel list.

Vietnam is home to the 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites, pagodas, temples, and ancient towns. To explore this land of opportunities, be sure to have the convenience of driving around all the places you wish to visit. Driving in Vietnam on an international license is the best choice if you want to travel to areas that are not easily accessible by other transit. Having an International Driving Permit valid in Vietnam allows you to rent a car and explore this country’s wonders.

How Can This Guide Help You?

Before you travel to Vietnam, be sure that you know the essential information to help you make better travel decisions. This guide will help you apply for an International Driving Permit, renting a car, learning the driving etiquette and rules, and traveling to Vietnam’s top destinations. The guide also includes the things you can do in Vietnam for a long-term stay in the country.

General Information

Vietnam is a crossroads of multiple traditions, cultures, and civilizations as it shares borders with three countries: China to the North and Cambodia, and Laos to the West. Given its central location, it’s no wonder why Vietnam is a melting pot of beautiful sceneries, different cultures, and diverse people. Learn more about this beautiful country.

Geographic Location

Vietnam is a long and narrow nation shaped like an “S” on the east side of the Indochina Peninsula and bordered by China to the north, Laos, and Cambodia to the west, South China East and Gulf of Tonkin to the east, and the Gulf of Thailand to the south. The 1,600-kilometer coastline dominates the east side of the country, while the Annam Cordillera mountains rise most of Vietnam’s western side.

Vietnam is a country with tropical lowlands, forests, highlands, misty mountains, and hills. About 28% of Vietnam’s land has tropical forests, while 21% is suitable for agriculture. Vietnam’s largest rivers are the Mekong River and Red River, which provide fertile ground for rice and other crops. The vast majority of people live in lowland plains.

Languages Spoken

The official language of Vietnam is Vietnamese, but English comes as the second favored language. If you’re worried about how hard it is to go around many places without knowing the Vietnamese language, do not fret. Many people in tourist and business districts understand English. Vietnam welcomes millions of visitors each year, and the majority of them are not Vietnamese at all.

Land Area

Vietnam is the world’s 65th largest country with a land area, approximately 329,241 sq km, and a water area of over 21,140 square kilometers. Vietnam is slightly larger than Mexico. Its population reached 97.6 million, ranking 15th as the most populated country globally and the 8th populated country in Asia. It has 54 ethnic groups worldwide, which is arguably the most diverse country for ethnicity.

History

Vietnam has a long history of war. For over 2,000 years, China dominated Vietnam. Then, France colonized the country in 1883. Japan took control of the country briefly during World War II. The war ended in Japan’s defeat in 1945, so Ho Chi Minch, the leader of the Vietnamese Communist Party, fought the war of independence until the country declared independence in 1945. After the war, the government united both North and South Vietnam.

In the past, the government directly controlled Vietnam’s economy, which resulted in limited foreign trade. But economic reforms under the “Doi Moi” policy in 1986 resulted in economic growth and expansion. Vietnam’s economy is rapidly growing due to industrialization and urbanization.

Government

Vietnam, officially known as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is under the Vietnam Communist Party leadership. It has a reasonably authoritarian government as no other political parties are allowed. The Communist Party is the one that has control over the country. President Nguyen Phu Trong currently heads Vietnam. The president is the head of the state and the commander of the armed forces.

Tourism

In 2019, Vietnam welcomed a record-high 18 million tourists all over the world. It is a 16.2% increase compared to tourists’ visits in 2018, in which the top three foreign visitors came from Asia, Europe, and America. At the beginning of 2020, Vietnam witnessed an increasing growth in both domestic and international travelers. It was up by 33% compared to the same period of the previous year. The major tourist destinations in the country are Hanoi, Binh Duong, and Ho Chi Minh.

There is a wide selection of travel agencies that can help you with your itinerary, but it's still best to travel to a country on your own pace. Vietnam is a country of diversity where there are beautifully remote beaches, a landscape of flora and fauna, and cultural and religious sites that will bring you to different eras and times. Whether you’re looking for a place to simply rest and relax or to delve into history and culture, this is a place worth visiting.

IDP FAQs

Driving in Vietnam on an International License is one way to enjoy what the country has to offer. Plan your destination, and be sure to know the driving rules in Vietnam. You must go to the must-sees destinations in Vietnam, such as Ho Chi Minh, the country’s commercial center, and Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital. You can best explore all these historic landmarks if you can drive to these places.

An International Driving Permit is an official document that validates your driving license internationally. It is a valuable and legal document that identifies that you are a legally licensed driver. In short, having International Driver's Permit means that you can go driving a motorbike in Vietnam or renting a car. The first question to ask is: “how to get a driving license in Vietnam? Read more to know about International Driver's Permit.

Which Countries Allow International Driving License?

Sixty-seven countries are signatories of the 1968 Convention. Some countries are not signatories of the 1968 Convention but abide by the 1949 Geneva Convention, such as Australia, China, Japan, Malaysia, Canada, the USA, and the UK. Those citizens living in the countries not included in the 1968 Convention cannot drive in Vietnam even with IDP.

You can use your local driving license, but it depends on your home country. Foreign visitors can use an IDP if their home country is one of the signatories 1968 Convention on Road Traffic on IDPs. If you have a 1968 IDP, you can purchase an insurance policy that covers you when driving a car or motorbike. Just don’t forget to bring your local driving license with you. And congratulations, you are a legal driver in Vietnam!

Can You Drive in Vietnam With a US License?

Driving in Vietnam without a license and driving in the country with your US license is not permitted. You need to have an International Driving Permit to go anywhere in the country legally. If you want to know how to get a driving License in Vietnam, visit our application page and choose an IDP package that is fit for you. The International Driver's Permit application is simple and straightforward.

It is illegal to drive without a driver’s license in Vietnam. IDP is the internationally recognized translation of your driving license. It proves that you hold a valid driver’s license in your home country. You must have an international driver’s license to drive around the places in Vietnam legally. Just make sure that you have both your local permit and your IDP when you will not encounter any problems in your stay.

How to Get an International Driving License in Vietnam?

Foreign drivers of motor vehicles don't have to apply for Vietnamese driving licenses if they have an IDP. If you ask how to get an International Driving License in Vietnam in both digital and print copy, you may check our application page here. When you purchase your IDP, you can quickly get the digital copy after two hours. As for the printed copy, you may get your IDP after 15 days if you live within the US or after a month if you live outside the US.

In the amended 1968 Convention on Road Traffic, IDP should be valid for only three years or less. You can choose depending on your purpose and the length of your stay in Vietnam. If you plan to go to Vietnam again in the next three years, then the IDP application package fit for you is an IDP that’s valid for three years from the date of issuance. However, if you plan to go to Vietnam for only 90 days or less, it is a practical choice to pick the IDP valid for one year.

Renting a Car in Vietnam

Vietnam is a long and narrow country full of great landmarks. If you’re interested to see the colonial town, old temples, and Buddhist pagodas, it’s great to rent a car for convenience. Renting a car is a good way to explore the areas in Vietnam especially those places that are only accessible through group tours or those places that are inaccessible by public transport. Driving in Vietnam is a quicker and easier option than the overcrowded train service.

You’ll find car rental in Vietnam since many car rental agencies are located in commercial districts and populist tourist areas. But of course, you need to have an international driver’s license in Vietnam first before you can rent a car.

Car Rental Companies

If you’re planning on a road trip and get to as many places as possible, there are many car rental options, and most of the car rental companies are in busy and large cities such as Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, Da Nang, or Hai Phong. There are many popular car rental locations in Vietnam.

Here are some of the car rental companies:

  • Avis
  • Dolla
  • Hertz
  • GREEN WORLD
  • Hanoi Journey
  • VN Rent-A-Car
  • Vietnamdrive

If you already have your international driver’s license and passport, you can already rent a car in the country. Usually, the car-hire agency will ask for your IDP and local driving license. The agencies keep a copy of your permits for reference. If you have already chosen your car and car company, you need to sign a contract. Some agencies may require you to pay the deposit first. After that, you’re good to go.

Documents Required

To avoid unnecessary delays, you should bring your essential documents with you. The required documents to rent a car are just your passport and your IDP. The documents that are needed to apply for or to convert your existing local license are as follow:

  • A copy of your passport
  • A copy of your local driver's license with a notarized and translated version
  • 3 passport size photographs
  • Completed application form
  • Processing fee of approximately VND 100,000

You will show these documents to the car rental agency and after you have already chosen the car of your type, you can sign the document and complete the payment.

Age Requirements

The legal driving age in Vietnam is 18 years old. But you need to be at least 21 years old, and you already have your local driving license for a minimum of one year to rent a car. You must present your International Driver’s Permit alongside your local driver’s license. Some car rental companies even require an Underage Driver fee for drivers under 25 years old since statistics show that young drivers are usually involved in car accidents.

Vehicle Types

There are different types of vehicles that you can rent depending on your purpose and your budget. You can choose from various vehicle types that suit well with your solo trip, small group tour, family vacations, and even group travel.

  • Car / Sedan - This is the best choice if you’re looking for an affordable rate and excellent fuel economy. It is usually chosen for most tourist travels since the seat is up to 5 passengers. You can stow your luggage and still be at ease and comfortable during your journey from place to place.
  • SUV - If you’re looking for an ultimate outdoor adventure, then consider renting an SUV. This stylish vehicle, spacious interior, and smooth drivability of the SUV suit your next experience. SUV can take you to steep hills, and it is safe even with inclement weather. You can pick an SUV that can accommodate 7 to 8 passengers.
  • Van - Is a sedan too small for your group travel, and the seven-passenger space is not enough for you and your luggage? Then this twelve or fifteen-passenger van is perfect for you. You can travel without feeling too packed for the day.

Car Rental Cost

The legal driving age in Vietnam is 18 years old. But you need to be at least 21 years old, and you already have your local driving license for a minimum of one year to rent a car. You must present your International Driver’s Permit alongside your local driver’s license. Some car rental companies even require an Underage Driver fee for drivers under 25 years old since statistics show that young drivers are usually involved in car accidents.

Car Insurance Cost

The insurance fee depends on the coverage scope and the insurance benefits you avail when you rent a car. The minimum premium insurance fee covering the loss of life, bodily injury, or property damage for a vehicle with up to 9 seats must not be less than VND 5,000,000/vehicle/year. The maximum amount payable by the insurer in respect of the loss of life, bodily injury, or property damage is VND100,000,000/person/accident.

If you are driving a tourist car, the car company is the one who organizes the insurance. Many car rental companies will make you sign a contract agreement depending on the kind of insurance you wanted to have. Car insurance is essential, especially when you are new to the place. It will help you secure your life and your travel budget if any unfortunate events happen in your journey.

Car Insurance Policy

The car rental companies organize the insurance that comes along with renting a car. Travel insurance is essential as it is a way to be secure and be out of the risk of an accident. It will be much more costly when severe injuries and accidents happen along your journey. Some of the insurance you can avail of our comprehensive insurance, liability insurance, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, collision insurance, and personal injury protection.

Although foreign visitors are allowed to rent a car in Vietnam, most car rental agencies also give you an option to rent a car with a driver already. Also, anyone that is considering cross-border travel using a rental car is not allowed. However, you may cross neighboring countries like Laos and Cambodia if you rent a car with a driver.

Other Tips

Before you rent a car, know more about the essential things you need to consider. The first thing that you need to ensure is the vehicle’s quality that you wanted to rent. It is best if you rent a car from the top car rental companies in Vietnam. If you don’t feel confident in driving in Vietnam, you can always choose to rent a car with a driver already or go to a driving school in Vietnam. Check out some of the tips below.

Is It Safe to Rent a Car in Vietnam?

As per Vietnam’s law, you need to have car insurance before you drive in the country. The civil liability insurance policy is one of the requirements under Vietnam’s law. Local authorities will give penalties to uninsured drivers, and they will confiscate the cars. It is safe to rent a car and get car insurance to support you in losses and accidents. Just make sure that your local driving license and IDP are valid to qualify for the insurance you get.

Are Cars Expensive in Vietnam?

Many car rentals offer well-maintained and new cars at very affordable prices. Renting a car gives you the chance and freedom to choose all the places you want to go to in your own designated time. The rental vehicles’ cost depends on the car type and the length of the days you rent the car. Renting a car allows you to make stops before you go to another place. Go and find your vehicle and enjoy safe driving in Vietnam on an International License.

Vietnam Photo By: Georgios Domouchtsidis

Road Rules in Vietnam

You may ask: Is driving in Vietnam safe? In general, major roads and highways are well-paved and maintained. However, road safety is not one of the strong points of Vietnam. Many intercity road networks are dangerous. Head-on collisions are also standard on main roads. It is best to be aware of the road conditions and the driving and road rules in Vietnam. Be mindful of how different your home country rules from the regulations in Vietnam.

Important Regulations

In Vietnam, you need to follow driving laws and other necessary regulations to keep everyone safe on the road. Read more below to know the things you need to obey and follow while on the road.

  • Drunk-driving in Vietnam

Vietnam is stringent in enforcing drunk driving laws because over 40% of the road accidents throughout 2019 constitute drunk driving in Vietnam. In the recently passed law on Preventing Alcohol Harmful Effects, if local authorities caught you driving with the influence of alcohol and with a concentration of alcohol in a person’s blood or breath will face fines of $258-345 and $1,292-$1,723. They can also suspend your driver’s license for up to 2 years.

  • Prohibition of using phones and earphones while driving

You cannot use your cellphone while driving. If the police officer caught you, you’d face VND 600,000 - 800,000. Meanwhile, if they saw you using earphones while driving, you need to pay VND 1 to 2 million (about $45-90), and they will suspend your driving license in Vietnam for 1-3 months.

  • No horns at night

In Vietnam, you are not allowed to use your honk between 10 pm to 5 am. There might be people who just like to honk just for fun or for no reason, but honk has a particular purpose in Vietnam, which means staying put. A honk is a tool for communication. Honking, blowing the hoot and prohibiting driving lamps in that given time frame.

  • Parking

You cannot just leave your car unattended even if the streets are too crowded or narrowed. What you need to do is to park it in the guarded lots, driveways, or sidewalks. Some of the commercial cities in Vietnam, like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, have underground and elevated garages to park your car.

General Standards of Driving

It is essential to follow the driving rules in Vietnam to reduce accidents or any other unfortunate events. As a general rule, road users shall comply with road signal systems indications and adhere to the person’s instructions directing the traffic. The road signal systems include traffic light signals, road signs and markings, barriers, and even the traffic enforcer’s instruction.

  • Traffic Enforcer Instructions
  • When the traffic enforcer raised an arm upright, then it means that the road users approaching from any direction must stop
  • If the traffic enforcer outstretched his arms horizontally, then it is a sign that drivers in front of or behind the traffic enforcers must stop while drivers on the right and left of the person directing traffic may proceed
  • If the right arm of the traffic enforcer is outstretched to the front, then it means that the driver behind and on the right of the person directing traffic must stop but those who are in front of the person directing traffic may turn right. Those drivers on the left of the traffic enforcer may proceed in all directions

Traffic Road Signs

Vietnam’s traffic road signs are prohibition signs, danger warning signs, and signs. These traffic signs have square, rectangular, blue backgrounds to inform road users about the necessary information to keep the road safe.

Prohibition signs are in a circle shape to report restrictions or prohibitions drivers must adhere to when driving. Most have a white background, a red border, and a black background. Prohibition signs are:

  • No thoroughfare sign
  • No entry sign
  • No cars sign
  • No right turn for cars sign
  • No left turn for cars sign
  • No motorcycles sign
  • No trucks sign

Danger warning signs warn dangerous circumstances likely to occur. These signs are in an equilateral triangle with a yellow background and red border. Danger warning signs help road users to take precautions and manage. Some examples include:

  • Slippery Road sign
  • Falling Rocks sign
  • Pedestrian Crossing sign
  • Road Works sign
  • Intersection sign
  • Merging Traffic sign

Drivers must obey the instructions for the mandatory signs. Some examples of compulsory signs are:

  • Proceed straight ahead only sign
  • Turn right only sign
  • Turn left only sign
  • Turn left or right only sign
  • Keep right sign
  • Keep left sign
  • Minimum speed limit sign

Speed Limits

Drivers must comply with the regulations on the speed limit in Vietnam that is 40-60 km/h (25-37 mph) on rural roads and 30-40 km/h (19-25 mph) in urban areas. It is prohibited to go driving in range in Vietnam with a speed beyond this prescribed limit. Two vehicles should also keep at a safe distance from each other. At the pedestrian crossing, drivers must slow down and give way to the people crossing the road.

Driving in a range beyond the speed limit will cost you 200k-500k for overspeeding in Vietnam, depending on your negotiation skills. Always bear in mind the speed limit in Vietnam to avoid paying a higher fine.

Seatbelt Laws

To protect the people and promote a road safety culture, using a seatbelt while driving is mandatory to prevent any accident. Vietnam’s Law on Road Traffic requires drivers sitting in the front seat to wear safety belts. Also, under Government’s Decree 46/2016, passengers must put on their seat belts in a car’s back seats. Violators will face a fine of VND 100,000-200,000.

Driving Directions

There are many roundabouts all over Vietnam, especially in Ho Chi Minh City. There seem to be no rules about who gets the right of way when driving a roundabout in Vietnam. People on scooters are bumping into each other, and many cars struggle to navigate their way out. But always remember the general rule to drive at a slow speed when entering a roundabout in Vietnam.

To protect the people and to promote a culture of road safety, the use of seatbelt while driving is mandatory to prevent any accident. Vietnam’s Law on Road Traffic requires drivers sitting in the front seat to wear safety belts. Also, under Government’s Decree 46/2016, it is mandatory for passengers in the back seats of a car to put on their seat belts. Violators will be imposed a fine of VND 100,000-200,000.

Laws on Overtaking

If you need to overtake another vehicle, the driver must need to honk first or give a signal using light before making an overtake. The driver must only overtake another vehicle if there is no oncoming vehicle in the road section intended to surpass. The driver must do the overtaking on the left side of the road. Overtaking is prohibited when there is only a single lane of vehicular traffic or if the driver is at the intersection of the road.

Right of Way

One basic rule in the road survival hierarchy in most of the countries in Asia is that the bigger your vehicle is, the more priority you get. The right of way is dependent on the size of the vehicle. Who is the king of the road and who has the right of way? The order of the right of way of vehicles is from trucks, buses, vans, cars, motorbikes, scooters, bicycles, and lastly, the pedestrian. But don’t assume that having a larger vehicle will grant you more favor.

Driving a scooter or motorbike in Vietnam is possible for tourists. Provided that foreigners in Vietnam are carrying an International Driving License or Permit, they can drive around the country. This means that even a UK driving license in Vietnam is valid, as long as there is a presence of an IDP along with a valid native driver’s license.

Driving Side

You shall be wary of the driving lanes, as road users and drivers in Vietnam shall drive on the right-hand side of the road. The driving directions of all road users should always be on the right side. Do not be confused if you come from European countries or other left-hand driving countries. But don\t worry, it gets easier as you regularly navigate the roads in Vietnam.

It is essential to be mindful of Vietnam’s law on road and traffic to keep you safe and away from accidents. Neglecting driving rules in Vietnam is dangerous, and it can lead to damage to property, bodily injury, and even the loss of your own life. If you are not confident in your driving skills, you can always enroll in a driving school in Vietnam.

Legal age is the age where people have full legal rights, and they can already take full responsibility for their actions. The legal age for driving in Vietnam is 18 years old. You must be 18 years old to obtain a driving license and drive your car. However, as per Vietnam’s Traffic Law, it is legal to drive motorbikes under 50cc when you are 16 years old. Many students are using motorbikes to go to school. Follow the legal driving age in Vietnam.

Driving Etiquette in Vietnam

A good and responsible driver follows rules governing safety in driving. Practicing road and driving etiquette to lessen the rate of being involved in accidents and any delays. Practicing this etiquette will help you reach your destination safely. Driving in Vietnam can be fun and also stressful especially in traffic jams or rude encounters with other drivers.

Along the way, you may encounter different situations that may trigger a dangerous encounter but you should maintain a cool head in facing these things. There might be other circumstances that may happen to you along your journey but be mindful of the things you should do when you encounter those situations.

Car Breakdown

There might be instances that the car you rented is not in its well-maintained quality and the car just breaks down out of nowhere. When this happens, move your vehicle to the side of the road and make sure that it is not blocking any driving lanes. After that, ask for help from a reputable mechanic to check the car. There are mechanics in most of the blocks in the city. The car-hire agnecy should be the ones to shoulder the cost of the repair.

Police Stops

Assuming that there is no accident and no injuries that happen and you are not involved with any irregularities, it should not be a big deal when the police stop you. There’s nothing to be afraid of especially if you abide by the laws. Just stay calm, turn off your engine, and be courteous to the police officer. Always bring your legal documents to have some form of identification with you that you can communicate effectively with the police officer. You must also remember that traffic policemen are obliged by law to salute you when they stop you.

But if the police stop you because you violate the law, stay put and stay calm. Also remember that if you fail to show your legal documents, the police officer may either confiscate your license or you need to pay a fine. Usually, the fines are paid on the spot to the police officer issuing the citation. If you are required to pay, don’t forget to ask for the receipt. But if you have no idea what law you violated, kindly ask the police officer.

Asking Directions

If you are new to Vietnam and it’s your first time visiting the country, it is always useful to know some phrases to ask for directions. Being in an unknown city might be scary, especially if you do not speak the Vietnamese or English language, but knowing some phrases to ask for directions will help you find your right way to the beautiful places you wish to go. Here are some of the essential Vietnamese words that will help you to get the right directions.

  • Tôi muôn đi tơi… - I would like to go to…
  • Làm thế nào tôi có thể nhận được? - How can I get…?
  • Bạn có thể chỉ cho tôi trên bản đồ được không? - Can you show me on the map?
  • Chị ơi! Chị làm ơn cho hỏi dường nào đi ra sân bay? - Excuse me, could you please tell me the way to the airport?
  • Siêu thị ở đâu ạ? - Where is the supermarket?

Places of interest:

  • bệnh viện / nhà thương - hospital
  • sân bay - airport
  • nhà hàng - restaurant
  • bãi đỗ xe - parking
  • nhà thờ - church
  • viện bảo tàng - museum
  • Cầu - bridge

Checkpoints

Local police authorities stand guard at different checkpoints in the city. Do not fear if they stop you at a checkpoint. The policemen are just doing their duties to ensure the safety and security of all the people passing from place to place. Stop at the checkpoint and turn on your cabin lights when your car’s windows are tinted. Roll down your window as the police officer approaches and present your valid documents for driving.

  • What if I Get Involved in an Accident?

Vietnam’s law when traffic accidents occur is that the individuals directly involved with the accident shall immediately stop the vehicles and give first aid to the victims. People involved in an accident should remain on the scene until the police arrive. People present have the responsibilities to protect the scene and give immediate medical care to the injured. Immediately report to the nearest police office and provide factual information about the accident.

In case of emergency, please contact the following hotlines in Vietnam:

  • Police Department - 113
  • Fire Department - 114
  • Ambulance - 115
  • Traffic Police in Ho Chi Minh - 0693 187 521

No car or motoring organization assists and helps in case of emergency, but the police emergency number is 113. You can tell the police what the nature of your problem and crisis is. If you just rent a car, it is best to contact the car agency to respond immediately.

  • When Will You Only Use Honks?

In Vietnam, honks are a toll to communicate with other drivers. Drivers must use it correctly to convey the right message to other drivers. You must use your horns when rounding blind curves to alert others. A quick beep of the horn is a sign of courtesy which indicates that you are about to pass, approaching behind or nearby another car. Three beeps of the horn are a sign of urgency, and it’s a way of telling people to stay put.

  • What To Do If You Run Out of Gas?

If driving in Vietnam is new to you and you must know the location of the gasoline station. In Vietnam, you do not fill your tank. The attendants will do that for your car. Just simply tell them how many liters you want to fill your tank. The price of unleaded gasoline is approximately VND 20,000 per liter.

There will be many situations along your driving journey in Vietnam that might be new to you. Remember to be aware of different scenarios that might happen to you but be calm and always be courteous to the people you are talking in the road. You’ll not get in trouble if you drive safely and follow the road and driving rules in Vietnam.

Driving Conditions in Vietnam

Driving your car means convenience and flexibility as you can go anywhere you like. But before renting a car, you may wonder about the road conditions and traffic situations after all. In general, road conditions in Vietnam are poor. Vietnam is notorious for road accidents since it frequently occurs. Roads users do not follow traffic laws most of the time. The transport sector is investing in securing road traffic safety in the country.

Accident Statistics

If you ask the questions: Is driving in Vietnam safe? The statistics will show you those traffic accidents and drunk driving in Vietnam remains the number one cause of fatalities even though the government already initiated programs and initiatives to make local and national roads safer. Other causes of death are inadequate law enforcement, poor driving skills, traffic congestions, and low road and street conditions.

A 2019 report by the Vietnam Traffic Department reported 9,820 traffic accidents, leaving 4,467 people killed, 2,794 people severely injured, and 4,676 others slightly injured. The number of traffic accidents dropped by 5.1 percent compared to the statistics in 2018. The department is installing surveillance cameras in Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam’s capital Hanoi to ease traffic jams and accidents.

Vietnam and Thailand are the only two countries in Southeast Asia with “very high” road deaths based on the number of fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants per year, based on the study released by International SOS in 2019. According to the 2018 statistics report from the World Health Organization (WHO), road death rates in Thailand reached 32.4 percent per 100,000 inhabitants.

Common Vehicles

Motorcycles are the most common motor vehicle used in Vietnam, the world’s second-largest motorcycle ownership after Taiwan. Four-wheel-vehicle comes next as the standard vehicle used in driving in Vietnam on an international license. Many countries use mph as a measure for the speed limit. However, Vietnam is using km/h.

Toll Roads

There are road tolls on dual carriageways in Vietnam. There are tolls on Cai Lay Road in Southern Vietnam and Hanoi-Haiphong Expressway. The tolls’ cost varies for each carriageway, although most toll booths collect about VND 10,000 from drivers and slightly higher amounts for vans and buses. Motorcycles are exempt from paying a toll on most roads. Drivers do not have to pay for tolls on state-funded expressways as they need to pay road maintenance fees.

Road Situation

The standard of roads in Vietnam may vary from place to place, but generally, the roadways are not well-maintained, except for the major highways. Roads in remote areas have potholes the size of bomb craters due to frequent flooding and big typhoon. Traffic jams are usually heavy during working hours and peak hours on the weekend.

Road traffic is chaotic and intense in Vietnam, especially when you are in the business and commercial districts and even places for tourists. Traffic accidents occur frequently, and fatal injuries occur daily. Traffic-related injuries are the leading cause of death, severe injury, and emergencies. On average, at least 30 people die every day due to transport-related accidents.

Driving Culture

Vietnamese are not safe drivers. They do not often obey road and driving rules with little regard for traffic lights and signs. Vietnamese only follow road and driving rules in Vietnam when there is an authority or police officer in sight. You might be shocked by how the Vietnamese are not law-abiding citizens. Still, of course, with the stricter implementation of the laws and more government initiatives, Vietnamese behavior might change.

Other Tips

It’s essential to know other matters related to driving conditions in the country, such as the road conditions, unit of speed measurement, and even driving at night. Read below to know more details about other tips when traveling in Vietnam.

  • Are They Using Kph or Mph?

Different countries all over the world use one of the two units of measurement to set speed limits. There are over 9% which use Mph as the unit of measure, while the rest are using Kph. Before you hit the road, know that Vietnam uses Kph for its speed limits. Follow the speed limits so you can ensure the safety of everyone who’s using the road.

  • What Are the Road Conditions in Vietnam?

The main transportation route for cars is the highway and the main road. The majority of Vietnam’s roads are well-paved and maintained. You can expect those significant highways are well-paved, but typhoons and seasonal flooding may create pothole issues in the street. You'll also encounter rough roads of northern Vietnam.

Massive roundabouts are the norm in Vietnam when it comes to navigating different places in the cities. Most of the time, drivers do not observe lanes, and there are traffic jams of motorbikes near the roundabout. It is a must to be cautious when approaching the roundabout and be mindful of the right of way as larger vehicles have more priority on the road.

  • Is It Safe to Drive at Night?

As much as possible, do not drive at night in Vietnam as the roads are poorly maintained, especially in provincial areas. There are also aggressive drivers on the streets. If you have no urgent need to go out at night, just stay in your place and go out in the morning. Vietnam is a safe destination, but there are high risks to road safety. To be safe all the time, drivers must follow all road and driving rules.

Drivers should exercise extreme caution not to be involved with drink driving in Vietnam or any road-related accidents. Emergency roadside help is available nationwide. Just don’t forget these numbers you need to dial in emergencies, and drivers need to take precautions and care, especially in road situations.

Things to Do in Vietnam

Vietnam is a country that is rich and full of history, culture, and experience. You can pick a variety of things you will do since Vietnam has many things to offer. You may visit different cultural heritages, or you may take your food fantasy in the country and find the most delicious delicacies at a budget-friendly price. You may explore other places such as caves and dunes; you may take a trip to the beautiful architecture and historical ruins.

Drive as a Tourist

Non-Vietnamese citizens are permitted to drive in Vietnam. Just make sure you have an International Driving License (IDP) with you. IDP must be accompanied by your local driving license so that you can legally drive in Vietnam even as a tourist. Vietnam’s law indicated that a driver must have a driver’s license and be 18 years old to drive in every place in Vietnam. As long as you have proper and legal documentation, you’re good to go.

If you're planning to drive a motorcycle, you need a motorcycle license to legally drive in the country. Driving without a license in Vietnam is a law that applies to both tourists and locals. If you come upon an accident and don’t carry a driving license in Vietnam with you, your health insurance will not foot your bills.

Work as a Driver

You can get a Vietnam driving license as long as you submitted the required documents to the local Department of Transportations. Just be sure to check what local department you need to get in touch with because rules vary in different cities in Vietnam. The new law in 2020 indicates that to get a Vietnamese driver’s license, you need to have a minimum visa duration of 3 months.

Work as a Travel Guide

Tourists look for an authentic experience, and you may get that with an excellent tour guide. A good tour guide can help your vacation be more memorable and your experience more fun. Tour guides will be the ones to you the beauty and value of Vietnam’s heritage and history. You can work as a freelance tour guide in Vietnam, but you need to secure contracts with authorized travel agencies and join the Vietnam Association of Tour Guides.

Under the amended Law of Tourism, foreign tour guides are required to have a college degree or higher in tour guiding and have a good command of the Vietnamese language. These are required for foreigners as they might not be politically, culturally, historically, and linguistically competent to discuss Vietnam’s history and culture or they might provide inaccurate information about Vietnam.

Apply for Residency

You can get a temporary or permanent residence card in Vietnam if you want to stay for a more extended time. If you’re going to get a temporary residence, you must remain in the country for one year or more, and your passport is valid for at least 13 months. You just need to complete the documents required, submit the documents to the Ministry of Public Security’s Immigration Department, and get the results.

You can only get a Vietnam permanent residency card if you already have a temporary residence card or have Vietnamese parents or children living permanently in Vietnam. Once you have already completed and submitted the required documents, wait for the results. The result for the entry, exit, and residence administration will come out within four months. In case of additional verification, you need to wait for two months more. If you have an Australian driving licence, you can get a temporary Vietnamese driver's licence if you've held a Vietnamese residence permit for at least three months.

The Top Destinations in Vietnam

Vietnam is the home to 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, breathtaking landscape, and intricate architectural buildings and ruins. You will learn more about Vietnam’s long history is when you go to different places in the country. Driving to these sites is a great way to learn about history, culture, and architecture in Vietnam.

There are many untouched rural places and paradise in this country that must be discovered and explored. Create a memorable and fun trip to the lakes, parks, temples, and all the beautiful sceneries in Vietnam. Here is how you make your ultimate Vietnam road trip.

Vietnam Photo by: Hello Cotton

Hanoi

Hanoi is on the Red River banks, and it is one of the most ancient capitals in the world. You can see the well-preserved old buildings, pagodas, and museums in the city center. As a former French colony, you can also see the French’s influence on architecture, cuisine, tradition, and everyday activities. Vietnam’s capital is rich in history, seen in its Old Quarter dating back to the 14th century.

Driving Directions:

From Noi Bai International Airport, you’ll reach Imperial Citadel in about 40 minutes if you take the Võ Nguyên Giáp route.

  • Continue to Phú Cường
  • Head northwest toward Làn ưu tiên
  • Turn right at Bãi đỗ xe
  • Turn left at the 1st cross street
  • At Chuyển phát nhanh DHL, continue onto Võ Nguyên Giáp
  • At In khăn lạnh Bảo Phong, continue onto Cầu Nhật Tân/Võ Chí Công
  • At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Hướng đi An Dương Vương
  • At the roundabout, continue straight onto Nghi Tàm
  • Turn right onto Thụy Khuê
  • Turn left at Trung Tâm Văn Hóa Âu Cơ - Chu Văn An onto Mai Xuân Thưởng
  • Turn left at Hiệp Hội Doanh Nghiệp Công Nghiệp Vừa Và Nhỏ VASMIE onto Lê Hồng Phong
  • Turn right to reach the Imperial Citadel

Things to Do

If it is your first time visiting the capital city, Hanoi, here is the list of things you need to see to have a fulfilling vacation.

1. Go to the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long.

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is the must-see heritage site, architectural buildings, old palaces, and even ancient roads built many centuries ago. It has a cultural and historical significance because of the artifacts and relics that date back as early as the 6th century. It reflects the unique culture and remnant of people’s lives in the past living in the Red River Delta.

2. Try local beers and street food in the Old Quarter.

The Hoan Kiem Lake is one of the famous landmarks in the Old Quarter to relax in the public park. You can also see many locals jogging, practicing Tai Chi and line dancing, and enjoying a coffee. Again, you can try out the local cuisines, street food, and beers in different places surrounding the park. Try the Pho noodle soup and the irresistible scent of bun cha, a barbecued pork sizzle.

3. Buy local products in different markets in Hanoi.

There is a Hanoi Weekend Night Market every Friday to Sunday, where many people gather to buy different local products and food. It runs through Hang Dao Street in the Old Quarter district to the edge of Dong Xuan Market. In Hang Gai Street or Silk Street, you’ll find high-quality textiles and custom-made clothes. Go to French Quarter and check out different shopping malls. You can find local markets selling street food, handicrafts, and coffee beans in the Old Quarter.

4. Visit the Hanoi Opera House.

The Hanoi Opera House is a French neoclassical architecture built in 1911. It has gothic themes on its domes, balconies, glass room, door, and windows, which speaks volumes on french historical and cultural influence in the country. The Opera House is the biggest theater in Vietnam, and the actors, dancers, and musicians can deliver classical performances, local Vietnamese, traditional folk music, and ballets to a 600-audience.

5. Check out Hanoi’s art scene.

Hanoi has a long reputation as its art capital, being home to Vietnam’s elegant and foremost art and history collections. Visit the Fine Arts Museum to see the impressionist pieces and the Cham artifacts. You can also drop by Manzi or the Vietnam Art Gallery to take a glimpse of the city’s art scene. Explore different corners and even go to smaller gallery spaces like Nha San Collective.

Photo by:  Quang Nguyen Vinh

Quang Nam Province

Quang Nam is a province in Central Vietnam that borders Laos to the west. It is a home for the My Son, a Hindu temple complex dating back from the 4th to 13th century, and you can see the Cham Empire ruins. It is emerging as one of the popular destinations for foreign travelers who want to go to Hoi An Ancient Town, My Son Sanctuary, and Cu Lao Cham Biosphere Reserve.

Driving Directions:

If you want to go to the world cultural heritage My Son Sanctuary, you can take the QL1A route if you are coming from the Imperial Citadel. This fastest route will take you about three hours of driving. Check out the driving guide here:

  1. Drive from An Dương Vương and Nguyễn Tất Thành to Thị xã Hương Thủy
  2. Take QL1A and Cao tốc Đà Nẵng - Quảng Ngãi
  3. Go to TL609/Tỉnh lộ 609/ĐT609 in Điện Thọ.
  4. Exit from Cao tốc Đà Nẵng - Quảng Ngãi
  5. Continue on TL609/Tỉnh lộ 609/ĐT609
  6. Take Đỗ Đăng Tuyển and ĐT. 610 to Đường vào Mỹ Sơn in Duy Phú

Things to Do

Explore the province of Quang Nam and visit the top attractions in the area, such as the My Son Sanctuary and Hoi An Ancient Town.

1. Visit the My Son Sanctuary.

My Son Sanctuary is one of the world’s precious sites due to its cultural value and historical significance. The complex comprises ruined and abandoned Hindu temples that were the place to worship God Shiva. This place houses the lost kingdom’s ruins that will bring you to the long history of the war in Vietnam. You’ll see surviving structures and architectures that date back to the 7th to 13th centuries.

2. See one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Hoi An Ancient Town.

Hoi An is the home to 800 historic buildings preserved for many centuries, and its walled city is the home to one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. The intricate designs and architectures are very evident in the past and highly influenced by Japan, French, and China. Hoi An is the place to go if you’re looking into the history and ancient times. The townscape and architectural buildings have not changed in the area.

3. Swim in An Bang Beach.

The An Bang Beach is a tranquil, tree-lined beach with white sands, lounge chairs, palapas, and eateries, and nothing beats relaxing in this pristine and well-maintained beach. You can try out the seafood restaurants nearby, hippy bars, and beachfront resorts. You can enjoy various seaside activities such as swimming, surfing, and paddle-boarding.

4. Buy vegetables in Tra Que Vegetable Village.

If you want to go to a single place with a restaurant, a cooking school, and an organic garden, you must visit the Tra Que Vegetable Village along De Vong River and Tra Que Alga Pond. This village has a lush green farming area full of planted herbs, vegetables, and eateries. You can join the cooking classes that showcase the fresh produce grown in the village and learn about Vietnamese culture and food.

5. Check out the Fujian Assembly Hall.

The Fujian Assembly Hall (Phuc Kien) has the fundamental features of a Chinese Assembly Hall structure. It is a place created by the residents in China in 1690 to meet up and socialize while visiting or living in Hoi An. The assembly hall is a World Cultural Heritage Site containing the Jinshang Golden Mountain temple dedicated to Thien Hau and a fertility shrine.

Photo by: Joaquín

Ninh Binh Province

In the northwestern part of the country, you’ll find the Ninh Binh Province. You can find the Cuc Phuong National Park, known for its mountains, green valleys, and conservation centers. This province is full of natural beauty, diverse topography, and cultural sights, and it is where you can find UNESCO World heritage Trang An Grottoes. What are you waiting for now? Go and explore Ninh Binh Province and witness the beauty and wonders of nature.

Driving Directions:

It will take you less than two hours if you drive from Airport Hanoi to Tra An. Just take the ĐCT Hà Nội - Ninh Bình/ĐCT01 route to go to your destination faster.

  1. Take Võ Văn Kiệt
  2. Turn right at Thanh Phong Trading Development Co., Ltd onto Võ Văn Kiệt
  3. Continue straight past Cà Phê Giảm Cân to stay on Võ Văn Kiệt
  4. Continue onto Cầu Thăng Long
  5. Keep left to continue on ĐCT20
  6. Take the exit toward ĐCT Hà Nội - Ninh Bình/ĐCT01
  7. Keep right at the fork and merge onto ĐCT Hà Nội - Ninh Bình/ĐCT01
  8. At the interchange Liêm Tuyền, keep right and follow signs for Phủ Lý/Nam Định/Thái Bình
  9. Drive to your destination in Tràng An

Things to Do

You can find everything here, starting from cultural and religious sites, ancient buildings and ruins, beautiful landscapes, even white beaches, and mountain ranges. Look at the places you can go to if you rent a car and have the freedom to go to these places at your phase and time. It is effortless to rent a car to be able to do that.

1. See the wonders of nature in Trang An Landscape Complex.

Do you want to see one of the wonders of nature? This complex is the place to go if you’re going to find beautiful landscapes, and of course, the flora and fauna that we must protect. It is in the South of the Red River Delta, and you can view the limestone peaks, cliffs, and valleys. There are also pagodas, temples, and small villages that were evidence of early human activities.

2. Hike in Cuc Phuong National Park

Cuc Phuong National Park is Vietnam’s oldest national park and the largest nature reserve, which offers an excellent jungle trek and hike. The park peaks over 600 meters, and it is an essential reserve and ecosystem of the country with over 133 species of mammals, 307 species of bird, 122 species of reptile, and 2,000 species of plant. You can also rent a bike or bring your bike and explore the area.

3. Explore the Mua Caves.

Hang Mua reflects the Great Wall’s miniature in China with its 500 steps to the mountains. The entrance fee is VND 100 or the US $4, and you’ll catch a panoramic view of the rice fields.

4. Go to the Bich Dong Pagoda.

You can easily reach Bich Dong pagoda by boat. This ancient pagoda is near three natural caves, and you can see the looming statues inside each cave temple.

The pagoda includes three separate pagodas: the top, middle, and bottom pagodas, and they worship Buddha and the three masters: Chi Kien, Chi The, and Chi Tam, who built Bich Dong Pagoda.

5. Visit the Phat Diem Cathedral.

Discover Phat Diem Cathedral and this distinct church built from green stone. It is in the peaceful countryside of Vietnam, and you can row a boat near the area and visit many caves and ancient citadels.

Do you see how diverse and beautiful the top spots in Vietnam are? Just make sure you have an International Driver’s License in Vietnam and your local driving license to have a full experience ahead of you. I hope you enjoy your trip to Vietnam, and this guide helped you make your journey much more exciting, meaningful, and memorable. Until your next trip!

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