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  1. #1
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    We took big bikes into Vietnam - Legally!

    We took big bikes into Vietnam - Legally!

    Not only did we enter Vietnam on a Thai licensed Suzuki 250 Djebel and a Cambo licensed Suzuki DR 650, John and I didn't have to pay for a visa to enter Vietnam!

    Now you, too, can easily visit a part of Vietnam without the normal regulations which forbid entry to all foreign licensed bikes.

    Our story with directions, hints and suggested places to stay, though there are many options for rooms/hotels.

    I'd phoned John, in Australia, and he said he and his wife would be in Cambo to celebrate their daughter's 2nd birthday...and that there's a new way to get bikes into Vietnam. I'd last seen seen John early last year when we rode the Cardamom mountains from Battanbang to Koh Kong. "Great", I said, "I'll join you in Sihanoukville", and on April 22nd I did the easy 580km ride from Pattaya to Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

    Entered Cambo, at Koh Kong, paid only the normal $20-US for a tourist visa, had breakfast at The Dugout then continued onto Sihanoukville. From Koh Kong it's 138km of few vehicles, on paved Hwy-48 and then onto Hwy-4 and south another 75km to Sihanoukville. Good roads, but be alert for the erratic Khmer drivers especially on Hwy-4. For those who have never ridden into Cambodia, you need a bike registered in your name, the bike's green book and your passport to check out of Thailand. It's easy, no fees are involved, and the procedure is discussed elsewhere on GT-Rider.com

    I normally stay at the Boston Inn, near the CalTex gas station, in downtown Sihanoukville: A/C, refrig, TV (w/ UBC), doublebed, no HW for $10-US. Non 'Cheap Charlies' should consider either the Small Hotel (around the corner from the Boston Inn), with A/C, HW, TV, wifi, an excellent restaurant and attentive staff for $25 [www.smallhotel.info], or the Beach Club (located on the inland side of the 2nd street back from Ochheuteal Beach), with A/C HW, TV, wifi, safe a large pool, and attentive staff. It offers a nice breakfast buffet for $5-US/150-Bt.
    [www.beachclubcambodia.com]. The latter is highly recommended!

    The well attended birthday party over and after a few days of beer, food and verbal BS, on April 27th we rode to Vietnam. From Sihanoukville, its about 48km north on Hwy-4, to Veal Renh and the road which goes 105km east through Kampot, Kep and Kampong Trach to the dirt road to the Cambo/Vietnam border. In Kampong Trach there a large (black) overhead road sign...on the right of the sign it indicates the road to Prek Chek (Cambo Immigration) is ahead. Turn right on this 2-lane dirt road which is about 70-yards after the sign, then it's about 17-km to the border.

    Map of the route from Sihanoukville to Ha Tien:


    Pictures of the turn off from Hwy-4, at Veal Renh, which goes west to the border:

    At Prek Chek Immigration, check out of Cambodia. Cross into Vietnam. At the large monument you must _dismount_ your bike and _walk_ it to the Viet Immigration building. Tell the Viet immigration official that you want to go to Ha Tien, which has been established as an economic zone, and the 15-day visa is _free_, though they will likely hit you for a $5 scam tip, as they did to us.
    DO NOT mention that you want to go to Phu Quoc Island, even though it is legal. After you've obtained your visa, then _walk_ your bike to the immigration check out station which is 50-yards on the other side of the Viet Immigration building. Then, it's about an 8km ride to the outskirts of Ha Tien.


    Above pix of where you check out of Cambodia at Prek Chek, then into Vietnam



    Walking to Viet Immigration, get visa, walk to checkpoint, then ride to Ha Tien

    NOTE: Unlike Cambo & Thailand, Vietnam stringently _enforces_ wearing a helmet when riding! Also, unlike Thailand, you drive on the right side of the road in both Cambodia and Vietnam. For those who have never been to Cambodia, you should know that your headlight must be _off_ during daylight hours, yet ironically, it doesn't matter if they are also off a night. The latter adds to the hazards of driving in Cambodia. Farangs who frequently visit Cambo have installed a switch to the headlight circuit, allowing it to be turned off/on as needed; alternately you could cover your headlight with some paper & tape during daylight hours, but such would be a hassle!

    In Ha Tien, we located the only western owned bar, The Oasis, which is located near the waterfront. The night market is held on the same street. No food served at the Oasis, but many Viet restaurants are nearby. It was at the Oasis where we were suggested places to exchange $-US for Viet Dong, as the rate does vary at different places. Note: $50-US equals about 1-million Dong, so 100,000-Dong is about $5.00-cents US or 150-Baht. No parking is allowed on the street other than in marked parking areas. For accommodations a local suggested we stay at the Nha Nghi Phao Dai hotel, which is atop the hill near where the bridge crosses over the bay. Cost was 200,000-Dong ($10 or 300-Bt), with A/C, HW. TV (Viet), large bed and a secure bike parking section. The hotel keeps your passport until checkout. From the hotel we could see the area, on the far side of the bay bridge, where the car ferry docks.

    Oasis Bar

    Hilltop Hotel

    Checking out the next morning we crossed over the bay bridge and about 100-yards after the bridge ends, there is a dirt road (on the left) which leads back to the car ferry which goes to Phu Quoc. The ferry is new, having been launched in January 2011, and is capable of seating over 300 passengers and carrying trucks and buses, as well as bikes. At the landing, you purchase your tickets: 165,000-Dong per passenger plus 80,000-Dong for a moto or motorcycle. Equivalent to 12.50-US or 375-Baht. They will briefly inspect visa and return your passport. There was no concern that we were on bikes bigger than a moto! The ferry departs at 9-AM, so try to arrive about 45-minutes prior to departure. Take some snacks as food is not available on the ferry. It's a 2 1/2-hour trip to Cape Da Chong, a new landing at Phu Quoc. Cape Da Chong is further north than the landings for the two other passenger boats, which originate from Ha Tien and Rach Gia.
    Below pix of ticket booth, boat, bikes and Phu Quoc MAP:





    From Cape Da Chong, they are building a 2-lane each way divided highway which goes to north then south to the island's main city, Duong Dong. As of our visit in April 2011, the road is only partially paved, with many graded dirt and muddy sections. The map (photo) shows a road going south from Cape Da Chong. This is an abandoned road which can be navigated by dirt bikes, but it is not suitable for road bikes. Duong Dong has paved roads. It attracts most of the tourists, including a few westerners and backpacking visitors. We opted to avoid the riff-raff and stayed at An Thoi at the south end of the island. We were the only westerners in An Thoi. The road south from Duong Dong, on the west side of the island, is a wide graded dirt road all the way to An Thoi. Just south of Duong Dong is the Long Beach area, which has many hotels, some very up$cale, and south of that are pristine beaches void of any people. The island has many beautiful beaches, some deserted and some have resorts.

    This represents the worst section of the dual carriageway yet not a problem for even road bikes...or cars.

    This is the wide graded road on the west side of the island, south of Duong Dong. Easy traveling!

    No, the roads do not have sharp 90-degree bends at curves!
    Beach south of the Long Beach hotels...nice and nobody using them for many kms.


    We stayed at Huynh Tram (Kymdan sign), in An Thoi, for 600,000-Dong (300-Bt), which has A/C, TV, no HW and the staff provided secure bike parking for us in another building. At the end of the road is a fishing boat dock.


    While there are a few massage parlors, however we usually amused ourselves here. We're easily amused.

    Sights: There's not much to do on the island, which is less than 45km long and 20km wide! You can go swimming, there's diving available and at adjacent islands, drink beer, tour the area streets/shops, chat with the curious locals, or see the few landmarks. We found two western bars/restaurants in Duong Dong. The Buddy ice cream parlor, where we had decent breakfasts ($5/150-Bt), and The Dog Bar which was closed each time we stopped by. Other than breakfast, we had meals and snacks available at the various Vietnamese street markets.


    Just north of An Thai, on the westside, there's a monument and just north of it on the opposite side of the road is the Coconut Prison, where an estimated 40,000 North Viet soldiers were held and tortured under the auspices of the US Army. You can tour the compound and see the displays in the buildings for free. North of the Prison is the Tranh Stream Waterfall. It was devoid of water when we were there, but the area is defiinitely worth a stop and a few photos. Other than that, there's the various harbors, the island's two lighthouses, and beer...

    Below is entrance to the Prison Camp and some pix of the camp:





    More pleasant sights can be found at the waterfall, though the first pix shows the waterless fall as it is now the dry season:





    Also on the west side, north of An Thoi, the docks for the passenger boats from Ha Tien and Rach Giacan be seen:


    "Superdong"? no comment.

    We departing Phu Quoc on April 30th, at Cape Da Chong. Ferry prices for the return trip to Ha Tien are the same as the voyage from Ha Tien to the island. We found that the 2pm car ferry was late. It arrived at 4:30pm, meaning it was nightfall before we arrived at Ha Tien. That was the start of our troubles! We spent the next few hours looking, as well as with some locals helping us, to find a place to stay the night. Every hotel and guesthouse in the town was full!! We couldn't find a room at any price and wondered what the consequences would be if the police found us sleeping on the street!
    At wits end, we encountered a Viet local and explained our predicament. She said her bar has an extra bedroom, but she must gain clearance from the police before a foreigner can stay in a non-registered hotel or guesthouse, or they and the owner would be in big trouble! She went to the police returning with a form which we each filled out then returned to the cops with the completed forms and our passports. She returned with our passports and permission for us to stay the night. The police charged her a modest 2.50-US to process each of the forms. Without her asking for any money, the following morning we generously reimbursed her for her kindness.
    That morning we learned why Ha Tien had so many visitors last night...April 30th is a major holiday in this Communist country. It is Liberation Day; i.e. the day the VC liberated Saigon!
    We loaded our bikes and headed west, checking out at Vietnam Immigration, acquiring a new visa at Cambodia Immigration, and rode back to Sihanoukville.

    The three days we spent on Phu Quoc was more than enough time to ride every road, visit every community, see the sights, and have locals gawk at the two westerners riding bikes larger and more powerful than a moto. Back in Sihanoukville, some local barangs we know were astonished that we were able to take foreign registered big bikes to Ha Tien and onto the Island. We may have been trailblazers...or maybe not?

    So, this is an easy and inexpensive way to visit a small part Vietnam. We were never questioned about having larger bikes. Everyone we encountered was pleasant and curious; English speaking Viets engaged us in conversation. Some wanted photos of themselves with us, standing by the bikes. It was a pleasant yet brief visit with another culture.

    Just don't go there anytime near April 30th.

    ***We later found that Phu Quoc is the economic zone, so it's apparently not a problem to tell those at Vietnamese Immigration that the island is your destination.
    Also, it's just a full days travel from BKK to Ha Tien by car...and the roads are not bad. It's an easy way for anyone to visit part of Vietnam and legally avoid all the normal regulations.
    Last edited by LukDod; 31-05-2011 at 11:01 AM.
    pattaya local

  2. #2
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    Both are Special Economic Zones. You can take a taxi from Sihanoukville right accross the border to Ha Tien.

    And yes, great thread (as Sir W has mentioned below), good pics and info! Thanks
    Last edited by Pol the Pot; 31-05-2011 at 05:07 PM.

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    great thread. a good way to see a place too.

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    When i was in Vietnam, i kindly said to the hotel owners that i'll keep my passport thanks. Give it to me later in the evening after you've been to the cop shop. All have obliged.

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    Don't mind leaving it with the hotel, at least I know where it is and it can't be stolen.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by LukDod View Post

    I remember this well at the juction for Kampot. We couldn't find a decent map anywhere and a real lack of road signs so asking directions from Sihanoukville was answered by everyone as a vague distance and 'turn right at big tree with buffalo'
    We took it on faith and didn't know what to expect, but realised this was the big tree when we saw it... it has some concrete buffalo underneath.

    Cheers, great thread.. you got a lot further down the road than us.
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    Member keekwai's Avatar
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    Great report! What about the driving/riding license situation through the 3 countries? Any hassles with cops?

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    Quote Originally Posted by keekwai View Post
    Great report! What about the driving/riding license situation through the 3 countries? Any hassles with cops?
    If you don't have a Thai DL (which per the ASEAN agreement is valid in SEA countries)...then an International Driver's Permit, to be perfectly legal.
    However, many in Thailand and elsewhere still drive (cars & bikes) using only their home country driver's license, which is a potential problem if stopped or in an accident. If stopped you will pay for any traffic infraction if asked for and they see your license.
    If in an accident then technically you are an unlicensed motorist...and regardless of fault you will likely pay. OTOH, regardless of the license you have (Thai or other), often farangs are guilty regardless ;-)

    Cambo police are poorly paid and always on the lookout to make a few $$. In Vietnam, we were surely conspicuous to the police being on big bikes, yet
    were never stopped nor questioned.
    Last edited by LukDod; 06-06-2011 at 11:57 PM. Reason: typoss

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    Quote Originally Posted by LukDod
    If you don't have a Thai DL (which per the ASEAN agreement is valid in SEA countries)
    Really! I'll have to check up on this. I a have a Thai Lic but stopped short at Koh Kong and explored further by bus because of all the horror stories of Cambo Cops extorting money out of farangs/Barangs without Cambo Licenses.

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    OK .. I believe it! That's good to know.

    ASEANWEB - Agreement on the Recognition of Domestic Driving Licences Issued by ASEAN Countries (1985)

    I'll have to print a copy of it for the next trip ... to flash at cops.

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    Hang on! .. I just saw the fine print ..

    The Governments of Brunei Darussalam, the Republic of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Republic of the Philippines, the Republic of Singapore and the Kingdom of Thailand (hereinafter referred to, as "The Contracting Parties");
    Cambodia and Vietnam did not participate. Bugger.

    EDIT. Further investigation reveals what I discovered last year. Thai and International licenses are NOT recognised in Cambo.

    However. You can get an International one in Thailand .. then change it to a Cambo one for $25.
    Alternatively ... just keep plenty of one dollar notes for the cops.

    Maybe this thread's title could be edited from "Legally" to "Semi Legally"
    Last edited by keekwai; 07-06-2011 at 08:37 AM.
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    UPDATE: More research reveals this .. http://www.adb.org/Documents/Others/...nt/annex16.pdf.

    Last updated in 2004. Says you CAN use a Thai license in Cambo. Unless it's been updated and changed AGAIN!

    Bugger .. it. I'll still keep the dollar bills handy.

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    Great thread, great pictures, thanks a bunch for sharing the info.
    I just have a couple of questions; how long was the visa on entry for and can it be extended?
    And do you think this entry point into Vietnam would work as gateway into the rest of the country if you showed up with a tourist visa in hand issued by the embassy in Bangkok?
    Thanks a bunch?

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    You can drive in Cambodia for a month on foreign/ international license. Then it needs to be transferred into a Cambodian one for 45- 50USD.

    Vietnam does not recognize the international licenses.

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    Member keekwai's Avatar
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    ^ ... but what about ASEAN licences? Has Cambo signed that agreement yet?

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    Not as far as I know. But I don't have an ASEAN license.

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    What do you have? A Cambodian one? That's an ASEAN licence. Same as my Thai one.

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    No, I've a Euro license and haven't bothered to transfer it.

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    Juts curious I have taken my Thai registered car into Cambodia many times and would like to know if i can take it into Vietnam? I have a 5 year thai license and a us license. I have heard to drive in Vietnam u need a Vietnamese license which is easy to get IF u have a business visa.

    Has anyoe taken a car into Vietnam.

    Also is it possible to drvie via Cambodia into Laos with a thai car??
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    I think you need to be a legal resident in VN to get a VN license.

    From Cambodia to Laos with a Thai car and Thai ownership/ registration papers is possible.

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    It is a pain in the arse to get any type of Vietnamese Licence if you're not Vietnamese They are part of ASEAN but refuse to honour the International/ASEAN driving licences, maybe because it would cut in to the under the counter christmas fund of the Police!

    To get a licence you need a copy of your home countrys' one (notorised by the Embassy of course$$$$), then you have to have it translated in to Vietnamese ($$$$$) then you have to do the written test (with a translator there for you, or pay $$$$$$. Either way it will cost you $$$$) then you have to do the driving test (not difficult, or pay $$$$$) and then pay the Government worker behind the counter your $$$$$ to get your Licence.

    It is just so much easier to keep some $$$$ in your pocket, generally around 200 000 vnd (about US$10), to hand to the Police if they ever pull you over. This rarely happens as there is a dirrective that they aren't allowed to pull you over unless they speak English themselves, which very few do. There is also another dirrective that any Police found to be "shaking down" a tourist will be automatically dismissed from the Force and charged, and most end up in jail. The Government doesn't want anyone messing with the tourist income it gets

    As for bringing cars across : I don't know the exact rules but in the past 12 months I have seen a hell of a lot of Thai/Cambodian/Lao cars and bikes on the street of Ha Noi. There must be some sort of easy way to do it because before this we saw very few. I do know that they won't let other nations bikes or cars in though as they use the excuse of right-hand drive cars being dangerous (even though Thai's are right-hand). Plus, if you have ever seen a Vietnamese person drive a car or ride a bike then you know what a load of crap this is.....they make Thai drivers look good.

    But as they say, with the right amount of $$$$$$ anything can be done in Viet Nam!

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    Great postings and pictures, thanks for sharing.

    I am about to embark on a convoy trip with 13 other cars driving from Kuala Lumpur Malaysia to Ho Chi Minh via Bangkok, Kompot, Koh Khong and Ha tien in Dec. Your story and tips are extremely useful.

    Just wondering if you could advice if I can take just 1 car and drive on my own from Malaysia to Vietnam. Thailand is no problem but Cambodia and Vietnam are question marks...If to Ho Chi Minh could be a problem, what about just to Ha Tien and Phu Quoc as you mentioned?

    Thanks

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    Cambodia's no problem either.

    Ha Tien and Phy Quoc are SEZs, I wouldn't enter there unless you have proper papers for going to Saigon too.

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