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Old 11 May 2023
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International Driving Permit (IDP) Geneva Convention 1949 recognition in Vietnam

Hello everyone,

I have been on a few tours in South East Asia where I fly and rent bikes.

I have a Malaysian driving license and also an IDP issued by the Malaysian government Road Transport department which follows the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic 1949.

I recently found out that there is the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic 1968 and some countries like Vietnam do not recognize the Geneva 1949 IDP.

And if my IDP 1949 Geneva Convention is not recognized in Vietnam, then I would have issues with my travel insurance as it would not cover me in an accident while driving/riding.
The insurance company says that I must be legal while driving/riding in a foreign country.

While doing research on this I discovered that IDP's from Australia,New Zealand, USA, Japan, Canada, India also have the same predicament as they also follow the Geneva 1949 Convention only.

Could you share your thoughts on this?
Attached Files
File Type: pdf geneva 1949 convention.pdf (173.2 KB, 189 views)
File Type: pdf vienna 1968 convention.pdf (177.5 KB, 95 views)

Last edited by 9w6vx; 11 May 2023 at 10:50.
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Old 11 May 2023
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OK an idp isn't a driving licence that's my first thought . It basically has a number if translations on it for countries you may visit . If you hold a driving licence for a class of vehicle then you should be covered by your travel insurance........read the small print .
I have to have one here in the UK if i travel abroad as I have the old paper style licence.....one type for Spain which lasts a year and one for the rest of europe which last three years......obviously both cover other countries as well .
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Old 11 May 2023
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Like Chris said above, an IDP is not a "driver licence". It's just a standardized form of TRANSLATION of your home driver licence into multiple languages. Your driving privileges come from your underlying home driver licence, which you must keep with you at all times and be prepared to present with the IDP if you are asked for it.

Vietnamese is not one of the languages found on the IDP (the format of the IDP is universal, the same everywhere, because the format was established by the 1949 & 1968 conventions you refer to).

I suggest you contact a Vietnamese embassy in or nearby your home country and ask them for advice. Although Vietnam may not formally recognize the IDP as an acceptable translation, it is entirely possible that they would be fully satisfied with your underlying Malaysian licence - especially if you obtained a notarized translation of the details of the Malaysian licence into the Vietnamese language.
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Old 11 May 2023
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Originally Posted by PanEuropean View Post
....the format of the IDP is universal, the same everywhere....
There is actually a variation which is necessary for driving in parts of South America. It's called the Inter-American Driving Permit.

Originally Posted by PanEuropean View Post
Although Vietnam may not formally recognize the IDP as an acceptable translation, it is entirely possible that they would be fully satisfied with your underlying Malaysian licence - especially if you obtained a notarized translation of the details of the Malaysian licence into the Vietnamese language.
Although Vietnam is listed by the AAA as honoring the IDP, the US State Department says that Vietnam does not honor foreign drivers' licenses, and that you should apply for a Vietnamese license before driving there. They also state that licenses from other ASEAN countries "may be recognized in certain circumstances as valid in Vietnam," but that you should get a Vietnamese license anyway. Clear as mud?

I didn't meet anyone who'd actually done this, whether buying or renting in Vietnam, and I certainly didn't bother doing it myself. I can't remember whether anyone checked my documents--I was usually waved thru police checkpoints once they saw I was an obvious foreigner.

I have no idea whether this would invalidate your travel insurance, but based on what you say it does sound possible. Please post again if you come up with any solid answers.

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Old 11 May 2023
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I had an IDP with me when I went to Vietnam. The rental agency could not give less of a damn.

I have also heard anecdotally (not had the opportunity to experience personally) that Vietnamese traffic police, which are very rare and a distinct branch from regular police, with different uniforms, are highly disinclined to deal with foreigners at all.
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Old 12 May 2023
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Thanks for the replies and your thoughts guys.

I did actually email to the Vietnamese department of transport seeking clarification on the recognition of IDP's in Vietnam.
I explained that there was the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic and the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. And asked if the 1949 Geneva convention was recognized in Vietnam.
Never got a reply.

I then emailed my Malaysian department of transport seeking clarification if the IDP issued by the government was recognized in Vietnam.
Never got a reply too.

Now here comes the interesting/confusing part.
My IDP issued by the Malaysian department of transport (equivalent to the DMV in the states) has a page of contracting states. And on this page it states Vietnam is a contracting state.

If you check the document that I attached earlier, the UN document for the Geneva Convention 1949 shows Vietnam ratified the 1949 Geneva convention on 2nd November 1953. (I would assume that it is South Vietnam officially known as the Republic of Vietnam which was Western friendly that ratified the Geneva 1949 Convention on Road Traffic in 1953. North Vietnam was officially known as Democratic Republic of Vietnam was communist).

Then the Vietnam war erupted from 1955 until the fall of Saigon in 1975 and North & South Vietnam unified in July 1976 as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Till today Socialist Republic of Vietnam remains the official name.
Vietnam ratified the Vienna 1968 Convention on 20th August 2014.

So, from what I have been told, the 1953 ratification of the 1949 Geneva convention is not valid as this country (South Vietnam or Republic of Vietnam does not exist after 1976).

I also checked with the travel insurance provider and asked if I was covered by their travel policy while driving/riding in Vietnam. The insurance company just replied as long as I am legal to drive/ride in Vietnam I would be covered. I asked for the definition of legal and this was what they replied in an email:
"With regards to your email, we wish to make it clear to you that XXXX as an insurance provider will only provide coverage if the International Driving License validity is fully recognized/approved by Malaysia and Vietnam. Please note that license validity is only authorized by the license owner (JPJ).
Hence, you are advised to address any enquiries related to license validity directly to the JPJ."

FYI - JPJ is the Malaysian government department of Road Transport.

So in summary I am still not sure if driving/riding in Vietnam is legal if your IDP follows the Geneva 1949 convention.
However if your IDP follows the Vienna 1968 convention on road traffic, then you would be legal according to your domestic driving license class.

I did a month of motorcycle touring Vietnam in November 2022 and the bike rental companies do not ask if you have IDP or a motorcycle driving license.

As far as to the cops in Vietnam, some say the local cops do not know the different type of IDP and you would be good if your IDP allows you to ride motorcycle. And some say the cops know that foreigners are not legal to ride motorcycles in Vietnam even with a IDP (whether it is a 1949 Geneva or 1968 Vienna convention). All they want is some $$$/VND Dong.

My only concern is that if I get into an accident while riding a motorcycle in Vietnam, will my travel insurance cover me?
Vietnam is such a beautiful country to do motorcycle touring.
In fact I am going back to Hanoi end of May 2023 for another month of motorcycle touring. I will be doing the North West of Vietnam starting from Lao Cai and skirting the Chinese border and ending at Dien Bien Phu before heading back to Hanoi.

Last edited by 9w6vx; 12 May 2023 at 07:48. Reason: grammar
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Old 12 May 2023
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And just to add on I did wonder if I could get a Vietnamese driving license but the answer is a NO if you enter Vietnam as a tourist.
If you are staying in Vietnam long term with a work permit etc then you can get a Vietnamese driving license.

I am going to renew my Malaysian IDP next week at the department of transport. I will try to check with the officers on this.
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Old 20 May 2023
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Another piece of info that I gleaned is if you hold an ASEAN driving license your national driving license is accepted in the ASEAN member countries without the need for an IDP.

ASEAN member countries are Mynamar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Philippines.

Confusing eh??

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