Is travel insurance for Vietnam important to take out?
Yes. There are public, private and international hospitals in Central Vietnam. The public hospitals can be challenging. Hospital rooms are crowded, beds are without linen and overall patient care is at a minimum. The private/international hospitals are better and doctors usually speak English. However, in the event of an emergency you would want to get back home as soon as possible. With this in mind, we advise you include ’emergency evacuation’ in your insurance cover. Sure, you are most likely not going to need it – but if you did and weren’t covered, you could be facing a big, fat, astronomical debt that could have you in a state of remorse (not to mention poverty) for the rest of your rather sad, and possibly ruined life.
Travel Insurance Companies
There are many companies that offer travel insurance. These ones have been recommended. Hoi An Now has no affiliate deal with any of these companies and information has been provided by other tourists and long-term expats.
What To Look Out For
Check the Product Disclosure Statement (not all companies insure you for the same thing).
Check that your policy covers an emergency evacuation in the event of serious injury.
If your insurance company says you are covered to ride a motorbike, in many instances you are not!
Motorbike Insurance - Are You Covered?
Police in Vietnam don’t normally check licenses. If you are stopped, paying a small ‘fine’ will normally do the trick.
Wearing a helmet is compulsory but judging by the types of helmets worn, sticking a saucepan on your head would probably suffice.
The only time it will matter whether you are properly insured to drive a motorbike or not will be in the case of an accident claim. As Vietnam has a frighteningly high percentage of motorbike accidents we urge you to think long and hard about taking the risk.
Am I legal to drive a motorbike in Vietnam?
There are two ways for foreigners/tourists to legally drive a motorbike in Vietnam
1: Hold a valid motorbike license from your home country and have a Vietnam-recognized IDP (International Drivers Permit)
2: Apply successfully for a Vietnamese license
How do I apply for a Vietnamese motorbike license?
In order to apply for a Vietnamese motorbike licence you must:
- Have a valid motorbike license from your home country
- Be on a different visa to a tourist visa (either a Business Visa or Temporary Resident Card)
- Have been in Vietnam for 3 months or longer
If you fit these requirements then you can apply for a Vietnamese motorbike license. You can also get a Vietnamese motorbike license if you have a valid car license from your home country. You must comply with all the above points but also pass a practical motorbike driving test.
So, just to be clear: if I come to Vietnam on a 3 week tourist visa and come from Australia there’s no way I can legally drive in Vietnam?
Even though our country is not on the IDP list, my insurance company says I am covered to drive motorbikes because I hold a motorbike license from Australia.
Great! Get them to put it in writing and also to put in the clause that you do not hold a valid IDP and are not legally able to drive in Vietnam in terms of the country’s requirements. Insurance companies will say all sorts of things but getting them to pay up in the event of an accident will be the test.
While you’re at it, check out the fine print for going pillion on a bike (if you intend to do this). Does the driver need to have a valid Vietnamese motorbike license in order for you to claim in the event of an accident? Many Vietnamese don’t have valid motorbike licenses.
But it makes no sense. All I’ve ever heard about is tourists driving motorbikes in Vietnam. Are you saying most of them are not insured?
Yes. We are hoping this law will change soon.
I am from Australia and I don’t seem to be on the IDP eligibility list but I have a motor bike license from Australia.
It doesn’t matter, you are not legal to drive in Vietnam no matter if you have a motorbike license from back home and have been driving for years.
I am from the UK and people have assured me I am NOT on the IDP list but it says I am!
The UK government signed an agreement in September 2018 with Vietnam which allows the IDP to be recognised. Prior to that it was not.
International Drivers Permit (IDP)
Within Vietnam both the government and police still have no idea what is going on and most police ‘on the ground’ wouldn’t have a clue what an IDP is. This is mainly due to Vietnam only recently becoming a signatory of countries who recognise the International Drivers Permit (IDP).
So I guess I will just go pillion instead
Sure, but make sure the driver has a valid driver’s license otherwise your insurance company will not pay in the event of an accident.
So What Can I do?
If you’re a short-term tourist AND want to ride a scooter in Vietnam AND be covered by travel insurance, generally the only way out is to ride a bike with a capacity under 50cc. The other option is an e-bike (electric motorbike/ bicycle). But, while you may be legal under Vietnamese law your own country may have different requirements. For instance, some states in Australia require you to hold a motorbike license for e-bikes. Check the fine print on your insurance policy.
I’m an expert motorbike driver, I will be okay
And you probably will be. You just won’t be insured if you are not holding a legal license. Remember also, Vietnam’s roads are very different to driving in a Western country.
To start, hardly anyone obeys the rules because they don’t know them and the police don’t enforce them.
Next people just don’t look where they are going. It is usual for someone to come skidding into your path from a laneway. They haven’t checked because they mostly don’t. Vietnam drivers are very skilled. They have been on a motorbike since they were a baby (as you will have noticed). They can avoid a collision but can you? And, if the motorbike drivers don’t get you then flying debris out of nowhere might. Also, be aware of the holes in the road that can upend you and send you into intensive care. See Road Rules.
You can drive (whether you hold a motorbike license from back home or not)
The police won’t stop you and if they do, a small fine will see it through
If you are not on the eligibility list for an IDP then you are not legally able to drive. If your insurance company will write you a letter to state they will insure you anyway – great!
If you want to be sure you can claim in the event of an accident and decide to go pillion, make sure your driver has a driver’s license.
Hundreds of tourists drive motorbikes in Vietnam without incident
Many tourists die in Vietnam from motorbike accidents
Go Slow! Expect the Unexpected! Read Hoi An Now’s Road Rules.