Travelling by motorbikes can be the greatest way to see REAL Vietnam. Unfortunately, this way is far from the safest mode of transport. If you are going to ride a motorbike in Vietnam, it is vital that you have Vietnam travel insurance
Make sure two things. Firstly, you need to be properly licensed. Secondly, you need to wear a helmet, follow local road laws and stay sober. Without both of these things, your travel insurance most likely will not cover you.
Insurance requirements for motorbiking in Southeast Asia
Specific motorbike riding package varies upon a lot of factors, consisting of the country you are from and the country you are riding in. You’ll need to read the relevant policy to you to get the exact details, but general speaking, travel insurers will insist on one (or a combination) of the following:
1) A valid riding license in the country you’re riding in;
2) A valid riding license in your home country;
3) A valid riding license for the type of bike you are riding.
Remember that if you have no license, you don’t have any insurance either.
The most straightforward approach to ensure you are covered is to take two steps. Firstly, get a motorbike license in your home country. After that, get an International Driving Permit (IDP) endorsed for motorbike ride. Vietnam has an exception (more on there below). Having done these two things, you will ride legally in Southeast Asia.
A second approach is to get a license in the country you are riding in but this isn’t convenient for short-term visitors. It depends, but you may need to sit a written test (in the local language) and supply supporting documentation with your local address. This will be a similar process to your home country, but it will all be in a language that you almost do not speak, for road rules you may not be familiar with, and it will waste your precious holiday time. So get the license at home.
As Phil Sylvester at World Nomads says:
“Getting a license isn’t just about avoiding a fine. From an insurance perspective it tells us you have been properly trained to use a motorcycle, that you understand how to make them go, and stop, and that you’ve been made aware of how to ride to avoid injury. For undergoing that training and passing to a satisfactory level, authorities will ‘license’ you to ride. You do not magically acquire this knowledge and training because you have flown to Southeast Asia on a plane.”
Insurance requirements for motorbiking in Vietnam
Vietnam is a complicated case. Although motorbike touring has been being enormously popular, Vietnam does not recognize foreign licenses. The British Foreign Office says that UK IDPs are not accepted in Vietnam, and the Australian government notices Australian-issued IDPs are not recognised in Vietnam. Vietnam lets a foreigner get a Vietnamese license and a Vietnamese riding license if he possesses a Vietnamese valid visa for 3 months or more.
The Australian embassy in Hanoi says: “Vietnamese driving licenses are mandatory for all drivers of motor vehicles as well as for riders of motorcycles 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.” Unfortunately, getting a temporary license is nearly impossible for short-term tourists because foreigners need visas for a stay of longer than three months in Vietnam so as to apply for a local license. Hence, ride at your own risk!”
This means millions of travelers are riding around Vietnam illegally and uninsured (we have also been them at times).
If you’re a short-term tourist and want to ride a scooter in Vietnam and be covered by Vietnam travel insurance, the only way is to ride a bike under 50cc capacity.
How to be fully covered with Vietnam travel insurance
If you want to be fully covered with Vietnam travel insurance while motorbiking in Vietnam, you need to follow these below insurance policies:
1) personal medical insurance
2) third party liability insurance
3) bike insurance
Personal Medical Insurance
Personal medical insurance is the most important insurance that we strongly recommend all bikers to Vietnam to purchase. It covers you when you have accidents and get injured.
You can’t get a local license with your short term tourist visas. Even if you have business visas, you need a sponsoring company and have to wait for 7-10 days after you arrive in Vietnam to do paperwork. This is nearly impossible to get a local license. Hence, you can’t buy any personal medical insurance in Vietnam companies.
Fortunately, you can buy this personal medical insurance from companies such as CHI, Allianz, or World Nomads or on Lonely Planet website. They just require your home country or international motorbike riding license. In this case, you will be fully covered if having unexpected incidents.
Third Party Insurance
This policy covers the third parties when accidents occur. It’s very cheap for you to buy in Vietnam, about 4$US per year!
You need to have a Vietnamese motorbike riding license but as explained above, it’s nearly impossible.
The best way is to ride on guided motorbike tours in which our guides will lead you safely and be on the best routes without police involvement. He finds out how much you have to pay if you hit somebody. In case you do a self-guided tour, call us right after you hit anyone. We can talk and help you to deal with the situation.
Even Vietnamese wouldn’t use this insurance policy because the coverage is very little (about 1,800$US). If accidents occur, we just talk and find out how much to pay. If the police come, they let the involved parties solve the incident before filing anything.
This term is not really necessary. Manual clutch touring bikes are not popular in Vietnam. Vietnamese prefer scooters (90% of bikes in Vietnam).
Please park in right places where you pay small fees (25-50 cents) to insure your rental bikes. Take the key with you and the bike will be safe.
You can buy bike insurance but it’s not cheap – around 50$US.
How to ride a motorbike safe
Keeping the followings in mind will help to keep you alive or protect you from an accident. Not following these below may invalidate your insurance, even if you do have a license.
Always wear a helmet
Helmets are useful for protecting your skull and its contents intact. A full-face helmet will help to keep your face far better than an open-faced helmet if you come off the bike and use your face to slow down. When you have an accident and the insurer knows you did not wear a helmet (this is often obvious from the injuries), your coverage would be avoided.
Always wear footwear
Heavy trekking boots are ideal, then runners, sandals, then, above all, flip-flops. Never ride a bike barefoot. If you ride with bare foot on the road at any speed, your foot may well be “de-gloved”. Shoes will help to protect you against it.
Always dress sensibly
If you come off the bike with a pair of shorts and T-shirts only, lose oodles of skin. Wear clothes. Jeans and a jacket are ideal, in the least cargo pants and a shirt.
Stay sober and straight
Being drunk will impair your driving skills, which puts not only you at risk but also others you’re sharing the road with. It will invalidate your insurance, too.
Feel free to contact us if you have more questions about motorbike tours in Vietnam.