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Old 7 Dec 2006
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Thumbs up Vietnam: "doing legally illegal things"

A true story for what it's worth, and for fun

I thought some fellow riders here might be interested in the following story about getting your own bike into Vietnam (well, actually, I guess the right term is "importing"). It involves a lot of hassle (red-tape), and unless you have the right connections and some time ahead, you might get into trouble.

As you know, in Vietnam, maximum legal size for a motorbike is 175 cc, and perusing the HUBB, it appears that it is impossible to enter Vietnam with your own big motorbike.

In November, I did a 3 week 2-up ride, from north to south, on a Minsk 125 cc I bought in Hanoi at famous Cuong's Motorcycle.

In Saigon, upon flying back home, I tried to resell the bike, but no one seemed to be interested in the bike (which is in great condition). Partly because of a lack of time - we arrived late in Saigon, 2 days before the flight schedule, partly because mid-november seems to be a low season for adventurers (and even lower season for adventure riders).

I also contacted the "Saigon Scooter Center" to check if they would be interested in buying my Minsk. Their primary business is about scooters (renting and parts selling worldwide), but they also rent motorbikes, among them some Minsk. The boss (a nice englishman) made me an offer of 100 bucks (!), saying that they had already 15 Minsk in the garage, besides, in the south, a Minsk values nearly nothing except among foreigners who want to do the great South-to-North trip. I bought the Minsk 400 $, plus had 50 $ worth of spare parts I carried all the way down.

Having some vietnamese friends in Saigon, I ended up in asking them if there were willing to store the bike for me, until 1st semester 2007 when I'll be back to take the bike to visit the Mekong Delta and Cambodia. They were okay for that.


While waiting at the Saigon Scooter Center, I chatted with a canadian expat (friend of the boss). This guy rode a 1000 cc Honda CBF, and to my surprise, he explained me how he succeeded in importing this bike from Singapore. "doing legally illegal things" were his words.

To summarize, he had just played the game and followed the rules, all "legally". The bike (2nd hand) was shipped from Singapore to some port I do not remember the name, seized by the VN customs (which was expected).

Then, next step is quite straightforward: every seized merchandise is placed for auction. And of course, at the auction, there is just ONE bidder, the canadian guy himself (of course !). All in all, it took him a week to have the business dealed and get the bike legally and fully registered in Vietnam, up and running in the streets of Saigon.

Points to note are:

- he is an expat, thus has a valid address and resident visa in VN, hence this allow him the right to acquire legally vehicle. This might not be true for "simple" tourists.
- he speaks quite good vietnamese, but most importantly, must have had good connections to be able to deal with the VN bureaucracy successfully.
- He did not mention how much bribes he paid, but I guess, he must have used the service of some local private law office to manage the whole case.

PS: this my first post on a great forum
Thank you to Grant and Susan ! And see you soon on the roads !
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Old 18 Dec 2006
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I heard that after VN entered WTO recently, the ban on over-175cc was removed. Can anybody confirm this?
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Old 18 Dec 2006
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looks like they'll do it, but how long before it is going to take effect.

Some announcements made on the internet:

Motorcycles: Vietnam eliminated its ban on imports of large motorcycles (i.e., those with engines with capacities greater than 175cc’s). Within a year, Vietnam will establish a non-discriminatory and transparent system for the importation, distribution, and use of large motorcycles by individuals and firms that meet agreed criteria

from that page:

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Old 27 Dec 2006
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I think it becomes effective as of spring if I remember rightly.
I'm head ing out there in a few weeks, after a stint in Cambodia
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