Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The Motorbike Diaries – Vol. 5

4 Comments 14 March 2009

Bypassing the Government

Start from the Beginning – Motorbike Diaries Vol. 1

The motorbike has been rather stationary lately. Very stationary. Okay – I haven’t moved it for 5 days. How did a whole week go by and I haven’t touched the bike? Fear, laziness, excuses, tired; all of the above. I’ve been focused on other becoming legal instead.

License to drive; one would think that I would need one of these., but then again, this is Asia and there really are no rules. In fact, when Mr. Linh dropped by the motorbike he showed me how to start the bike and he showed me how to bribe policemen. I’m not embellishing this – I promise. He actually gave me guidance on how to bribe officers if I was pulled over. I was never taught this when I was 16 years old in drivers ed. In fact, all I can remember about drivers ed is my teacher making me drive to Mr. Donut so he could get a bear claw donut and coffee.

Apparently, all you need to drive in HCMC is a motorbike, and about 200,000 dong to slip into an officer’s hand in a inconspicuous manner. That’s good news because my American driver’s license had expired as of my birthday last month. However, considering the expiration date says 02/12/2009 the world actually sees this as December 2nd, not February 12th, so I have cultural differences on my side. Then again, an American drivers license really does me no good here as no one follows the driving rules I learned anyway. Whenever you are in semi-developed country you are better off forgetting everything you learned at home; life is just easier that way.

Regardless, I’m a law abiding citizen of the world, so I started to look into how to get a Vietnamese drivers license. Long story short, it’s not easy. My eyes started glazing over at the site of the 10 steps that it took which included things like having your old license translated, going to the ministry of ‘driving’ and waiting in line all day. I would bet $1000 that the DMV in the states would look like a cake walk compared to the licensing here.

Therefore when a friend at my school offered up a shortcut on how to get a drivers license I bit. She knew someone that knew someone that knew someone that would make a Vietnamese license for a small fee. All you needed was 6 passport pictures, a copy of your passport and 1.3 million Dong; corruption at it’s best. Considering it had been about 18 years since I had a fake license, it seemed like a good time to join the wrong side of the law again.

I paid my 1.3 million Dong, handed over my necessary pictures and papers and hoped that some Vietnamese government office worker wasn’t going to run away with my money. Granted, I wasn’t the only one who did this; twelve of us from my school decided to put our faith in corruption and try it. Apparently I will find out in about 3 weeks whether I was scammed or not. In the meantime, I simply have to continue dodging the law and hope that my fake Vietnamese license is as effective as my fake college license!

Get your own Vietnam Motorbike License and get out on the streets!

Like what you read?  Then keep reading!

The Motorbike Diaries – vol. 6

Your Comments

4 Comments so far

  1. Lynn says:


    What’s the exchange rate dong to USD? First you’re complaining about handing over $15,000 dong for a motor-taxi and then you’re blithely paying $1,3 million dong for a fake license! Inquiring minds need to know!

    Hugs, Lynn

    PS. Get on that bike – keep riding around the block maing right hand turns until it gets so boring that you have to try something else. That’s what I did to learn to drive in Hong Kong! I never DID drive into Central but who cares?

  2. Sherry says:

    It’s about 16,700 Dong to a 1 USD – So the motorbike taxi is about a buck and the bribe was about $75!
    I rode some more this weekend – so plenty to write about again…stay tuned!

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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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