How to drive in Vietnam?
Basic rules of the roads and driving requirements.
GENERAL TIPS AND ROAD INFORMATION
Traffic drives on the right, although drivers frequently cross to the left to pass or turn, and motorcycles and bicycles often travel (illegally) against the flow of traffic.
Traffic in Vietnam is chaotic. Streets are crowded in major cities and traffic rules are routinely ignored. Traffic accidents, mostly involving motorcycles and often resulting in traumatic head injury, are an increasingly serious hazard. Approximately 30 people day die from transportation-related injuries. Traffic injuries are the leading cause of death and severe injury, and are the greatest health risk foreigners face in Vietnam.
ROADS AND MOTORWAYS
There is a reasonable road network, however, in the north, roads are often in a bad state of repair and may be impassable during rainy season. Numerous tragic accidents have occurred due to poor road conditions resulting in landslides. Travelers should exercise extreme caution in the countryside, as road conditions are particularly poor in rural areas. Roads are poorly lit at night and there are few road signs. There is a good highway from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam currently recognizes two classes of expressways, both with a minimum of two lanes in each direction. Class A has grade separated interchanges, while Class B has at-grade intersections. Be aware that Highway 1, the backbone of the country, is a two-lane road, heavily populated with trucks.
Driving without a proper license may incur severe penalties, sometimes as much as a three year jail sentence for driving unlicensed, ten years for driving unlicensed and causing an accident, and up to twenty years for driving unlicensed and causing an accident resulting in death. Actual penalties are determined by the police and the courts.
Urban speed limit ranges from 30 to 40 km/h.
Rural speed limit ranges from 40 to 60 km/h.
The minimum age to drive in Vietnam is 18.
Vietnamese driving licenses are mandatory for all drivers of motor vehicles as well as motorcycle riders with a capacity of over 50cc. Non-Vietnamese citizens are only permitted to drive in Vietnam if they hold a temporary Vietnamese driver's license.
Be sure your insurance has appropriate coverage as riving in Vietnam can result in serious accidents with heavy compensation payments.
Passengers in cars or taxis should use seatbelts when available, however Vietnamese vehicles often are not equipped with working seatbelts.
Child car seats are not available in Vietnam.
Vietnamese law requires the use of crash helmets for motorbike riders on major highways; however, you are advised to wear a crash helmet at all times.
USEFUL TELEPHONE NUMBERS
Fire Brigade 114
Sources: Vietnam Tourism / Australian Embassy in Vietnam / U.S. Department of State / iExplore.com / British Embassy Travel Advice / Denmark Embassy in Vietnam / GuideVietnam.com / Wikipedia