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Is it unwise to let foreigners drive right-hand cars in VN?

Update: August, 27/2009 - 00:00

Your Say


Is it unwise to let foreigners drive right-hand cars in VN?

Viet Nam News asked its readers about the Ministry of Transport’s proposal to allow foreigners to drive cars with steering wheels on the right-hand side in Viet Nam.

Last week we asked readers for their opinions about the Ministry of Transport’s proposal that would allow foreigners to drive cars with steering wheels on the right while they visit and stay in Viet Nam.

Anucha Kwantientong, Thailand, Bangkok

I like travelling to other countries in my own car. Many countries allow cars with the steering wheel on the right to use their roads. When I go to these countries, I practise for a short time in order to get used to their traffic signals and laws.

I have never had any trouble driving in foreign countries.

Fortunately, the procedures for taking my car to other countries are not complicated. All I need is to do is show a valid copy of my driving licence and car registration.

It would be really wonderful if Viet Nam allows foreign tourists to bring their own cars here. I like to visit out of the way places by myself in an independent and active way.

Surely, this will boost the country’s tourism industry as there are nearly 60 countries which drive on the left. The number of people who wish to bring their own cars to discover your beautiful land must be great.

However, most of the roads in Viet Nam are narrow and the two lanes are often not marked. The Ministry of Transport should make it clear who has right of way on these narrow roads to minimise traffic congestion and the number of accidents.

Nguyen Duc Thang, Vietnamese, Ha Noi

Tourism is necessary for the development of our nation’s economy. However, the Ministry of Transport’s proposal is not the best way to do this in terms of money.

Next week:
Have you ever endured a long queue to get your paperwork done in Viet Nam or been confounded by administrative requirements?
Viet Nam launched an ambitious project called "30", to simplify administrative procedures between State offices, business and the public since 2007. The goal was a reduction in red tape and time spent waiting in line at administrative offices, including customs and taxation departments.
Recently, the Government ordered ministries and sectors to work harder to reduce their procedures by a minimum of 30 per cent by the time the project wraps up next year. A national database of administrative procedures is expected to be posted online for public access by the end of next month (in Vietnamese only).
Administrative reform efforts are part of the World Trade Organisation membership requirements for the country.
Have you noted any differences since the implementation of the project? Can you share with us your experience in dealing with paperwork in Viet Nam and compare with that in your own country? What further changes do you think should be carried out to make the policy workable?

We welcome your opinions via e-mail to: – or by fax to 84 (0) 43 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 11 Tran Hung Dao Street, Ha Noi.

Replies to this week’s question must be received by Thursday morning, September 3.

First, not all foreigners can afford to bring their own cars overseas. Those that do will have to go through a number of complicated procedures to bring their cars to Viet Nam. Therefore, it will be time-consuming, and hardly worth it for just a short visit. They would also have to meet the extra cost of doing so.

Second, driving in Viet Nam will be a headache for most foreigners, who will have to acquaint themselves with new traffic regulations. There is also the problem of traffic jams and accidents.

Third, Viet Nam has a high population. The roads are often narrow – even in Ha Noi and HCM City. The shortage of parking areas is also a problem that has not been resolved. I doubt whether this proposal will boost visitor numbers.

In my opinion, we should focus on improving traffic flow, the environment and the quality of tourism services provided. We should upgrade our roads, and provide better and cheaper buses and taxis (and punish taxi drivers who clock their meters). Tourists will be far more satisfied if the environment is clean and their welcome is hospitable. That is the best way to boost tourist numbers.

Vu Duc Hieu, Vietnamese, Ha Noi

The Ministry of Transport’s proposal won’t work for a number of reasons.

First of all, our traffic system is not friendly. Traffic laws are not observed. There are too many motorbikes on the streets. Traffic congestion is a major problem in cities such as Ha Noi and HCM City.

There is a high chance that tourists with right-hand drive cars will get into a traffic accident. If that were to happen, it could be difficult to resolve legally. And of course, the rule that the "big vehicle pays the smaller one" would not make sense to foreigners.

Worse than that, the proposal may actually detrimentally affect the development of the tourism industry. After going through all the paper work to bring their cars to Viet Nam, what will the tourists’ reaction be, if they don’t have a good driving experience? They would probably opt for an alternative destination next time – and make sure their friends do likewise.

What the Ministry of Transport should do to boost tourism is improve the traffic system.

There are three things that the ministry should focus on. First and perhaps most important, the ministry needs to educate motorists about the traffic law: stop at a red light, drive in the correct lane, etc.

Second, the ministry should improve public transport to ease traffic congestion. At the same time, it should launch a marketing campaign to encourage people to use public transport.

Last, there should be better enforcement of the traffic laws.

Vu Trung, Vietnamese, Paris

In European countries, visiting motorists must obey local laws. For example, in Portugal, cars must carry fire extinguishers.

Cars also have to adjust their headlights so that they don’t blind oncoming vehicles.

However, there are better and easier ways to boost tourist numbers that the Ministry of Transport can do, such as re-routing traffic to minimise congestion and upgrading roads. Vehicles should also be regularly checked to ensure they are roadworthy.

Pham Phuong Thuy, Vietnamese, Da Nang

It is understandable that the Ministry of Transport wants right-hand drive cars to be allowed to travel in Viet Nam because many other countries do so.

It would make it easier for tourists to visit the country. However, the ministry should think carefully about the proposal.

It should ensure that the needs of right-hand drive cars are met, and foreign tourists should be advised on safety. The ministry also needs to tackle the legal issue of accidents involving foreign-registered cars.

Besides, the ministry needs to improve infrastructure to make it easier to get around by car.

Graham Bassett, British, London

In the UK we drive on the left-hand side of the road. Driving on mainland Europe (where they drive on the other side) is really no big deal.

Providing road signs and markings are standardised, the risk of collisions is minimal. Yes, it does make life a little bit more difficult when overtaking but not unduly so. It is more important to ensure that road users obey traffic laws, which should be strictly enforced. I assume this measure is aimed at drivers from Thailand where driving does seem to be a relatively relaxed and leisurely affair compared to that in Viet Nam.

I find driving in Viet Nam not too troublesome.

Looking further afield, to boost tourism, Viet Nam should make it easier to get a visa. It really is a pain having to apply for one before I travel. Instead of just coming to Viet Nam I have to plan my trips, even down to the day of arrival. If I go to Thailand, Singapore, etc., I can just hop on an aircraft and go. I then get my visa on arrival and more importantly, it’s free. — VNS

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