Our Little Cub 50cc Motorbike

Driving (Il)legally in Vietnam

There’s one thing I definitely won’t miss when we leave Vietnam: the traffic. There’s no way I’m brave enough to drive through these hectic streets myself but Andrew tackles them daily and he has plenty of terrifying stories to show for it. Just the other day we were driving innocently over a crossroad when we almost collided with a crazy Vietnamese man who was speeding through a red light – did he even slow down when he saw us? No, Andrew had to give way to him! It often feels like the Wild West on the roads out here.

Andrew ready to go on the 125cc motorbike

Ready to ride but not insured

If you’re heading to Vietnam then you’ll probably need an invitation letter for your Visa On Arrival, we recommend Vietnam Visa as they provide a professional, efficient and transparent service.

How to Drive Legally in Vietnam

Even more terrifyingly, when renewing our travel insurance a few weeks ago we discovered we weren’t even insured to ride our motorbike because we didn’t have a Vietnamese licence – oops. Yes, I know this all sounds crazy by Western standards but actually, it’s common to ride without a licence here. It’s a well-known fact that the Vietnamese traffic police rarely stop Tays (foreigners) and our language centre recommended hiring a bike with no mention of having a licence; most of the other teachers do the same because the process of getting one is so long-winded and expensive.

Us on Our Motorbike Trip to Kim Boi, Vietnam

Winding our way to Kim Boi (illegaly)

Still, we decided it was pretty pointless to pay out for travel insurance which didn’t cover the most dangerous thing we do every day so we figured out a solution. In Vietnam you don’t need a licence to drive a 50cc bike, so we traded in our more powerful 125cc model for a Little Cub which means we’re now driving legally and are insured. This doesn’t make driving here any more sane, but having insurance, moving slowly and wearing sturdy helmets gives us some peace of mind.

Our Little Cub 50cc Motorbike

We downgraded to this groovy little motorbike; our Little Cub

Our American Road Trip

After two years of travelling through Asia it will certainly be a relief to hang up our helmets and head back to the relatively calm British roads in the summer. We’re also looking forward to our American road-trip this autumn; our flights to and from New York are booked and we’ve got a two-month hire car reserved so that we can follow the spectacular fall foliage through New England.

Amy driving in New Zealand

We’re looking forward to getting around New England in comfort this autumn

If our experience of driving in Hanoi has taught us anything, it’s that we need to thoroughly research driving regulations and insurance options before we get to America. With that in mind we’ll be researching insurance and renewing our International Driving Licences in the coming months.

Driving illegally in Vietnam

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Spoiler alert: we’re tentatively concocting a new travel plan for next year that involves buying a car and driving through Europe to find teaching work in Spain – what do you think, good idea?

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15 Comments
  • Kendra Granniss
    Posted at 14:11h, 21 February Reply

    The Thai streets are crazy enough for me! I fell off my bike the first time I rode it. I’ve been improved ever since though. Even so, I think I’ll skip driving in Vietnam!

    • Amy
      Posted at 06:41h, 22 February Reply

      Ha! Yes, it’s hard to say which are crazier – Thai or Vietnamese streets!

  • Patti
    Posted at 05:52h, 22 February Reply

    Traveling throughout Europe and teaching in Spain sounds like a great plan! I try very hard not to drive in other countries, but I did drive in New Zealand because I wanted to try driving on the “wrong” side of the road and because I could read the signage. I don’t think I would ever attempt to drive in a country where I could not read the signage – that’s way too far out of my comfort zone. The two of you have done great taking on the traffic of Vietnam. You’re trip to the U.S. to see the fall foliage sounds great and you’ll get to drive on the “right” side of the road. 😉

    • Amy
      Posted at 06:42h, 22 February Reply

      I also drove in New Zealand Patti, that’s about as much as I can handle though 🙂 Driving in the US will seem so relaxing in comparison to Hanoi!

  • Maddie
    Posted at 22:24h, 22 February Reply

    One tip I can give you for the U.S is don’t take the insurance from the rental car company – it’s ridiculously expensive. You do need liability insurance but you can get great policies from British companies that cover you in the States but for a fraction of the cost – learned this lesson the hard way!

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:30h, 23 February Reply

      Thanks for the tip Maddie, we are looking into cheaper policies now 🙂

  • Emily
    Posted at 23:15h, 25 February Reply

    Well done to Andrew for braving the chaos! There are many places that I would consider driving, but probably just as many that I would rather not!!

    • Amy
      Posted at 03:49h, 26 February Reply

      Me too Emily 🙂 New Zealand is the only country I’ve actually driven in besides the UK and some of those windy roads were scary enough for me!

  • Jenia from HTL
    Posted at 16:31h, 26 February Reply

    American road trip is going to be fantastic – we did one last fall, when we came back stateside, and it was tons of fun! If you are renting a car you might want to look into several different airports from where to rent – prices are often different. And on a side note, Philly, DC, and Boston are all easily accessibly by very cheap bus rides from NYC.

    • Amy
      Posted at 05:30h, 28 February Reply

      Thanks for the advice Jenia, we’re flying into NY but it seems cheaper to pick up and drop off a car from Boston so we’ll do that and catch a bus to Boston. At the end of our trip we’re considering going to DC and Philadelphia so we’ll look into buses for that too.

  • Mark
    Posted at 15:22h, 17 April Reply

    “Speeding through a red light…” What are you talking about? We didn’t see any lights at all there. 😉 My wife’s family had me following them through Ho Chi Minh on a scooter–which was scary enough. Then they started loading me up with groceries and coconuts, all with my wife balanced on the back… and it was only my second time riding. 🙁

    • Amy
      Posted at 16:47h, 17 April Reply

      Ha! Yes, there are red lights here in Hanoi but you wouldn’t think it considering how often people totally ignore them! HCMC would be even crazier to drive in I imagine, well done for getting through that unscathed 🙂

  • Pingback:2015 Travel Round-up - Our Big Fat Travel Adventure
    Posted at 11:53h, 17 December Reply

    […] Crashing our motorbike and scarring my knee in Vietnam My traumatising first teaching experience Finding out we’d been driving illegally in Hanoi […]

  • Cannon Law
    Posted at 22:35h, 08 December Reply

    I heard drivers are crazy in Vietnam! Is that true?

    • Amy
      Posted at 12:04h, 09 December Reply

      Driving there is certainly a hair-raising experience!

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