The End of the Vietnamese Driver License Saga

My last post was about motorbiking the beautiful northwest region of Vietnam.  While this was going on, I was driving sans a passport and driver’s license as one was at the bike rental office and the other at the Hanoi Department of Transportation.

After three weeks of trying, and my friend getting denied, we have just about given up on doing it the legal way and rode to Sapa anyways.  The Vietnamese Department of Transportation decided that an “M” on your license doesn’t mean anything because it didn’t state an explicit engine size you are licensed for.  My California license says I’m licensed for “2 wheel m/c, scooters and motorbikes” which they took to mean only scooters and motorbikes.  Good thing the California DMV site had a picture of a hefty motorcycle next to the description of M1 licenses.  The best option seems to be to get an International Driving Permit translated.  Unless you’re me, and AAA screwed it up and forgot that you ride motorcycles.

This is what your license application looks like after a month. The green thing is a receipt and the orange thing is my new license!

So finally, after a week of riding motorbikes, the roads dissuaded my friend who joined me from America to no longer want to ride the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  The good news though is that I got my license!  So after a month it took a mere 30,000 dong (about $1.5) and a 5 minute office visit for me to escape grouch town!  Not that things that should’ve taken a week should take a month.  It wouldn’t be a long term stay in Southeast Asia unless i dealt with some nonsensical bureaucracy.  I hope this is the last I’ll deal with.  My next few posts will be coming from the road again.


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