Biking in Vietnam – Can it be covered by travel insurance

Posted on April 9, 2016 | in Travellers Questions | by


Its a dream of mine to undertake the adventure of buying a cheap motorbike in Vietnam and riding from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi (or vice versa) before reselling the bike and flying home. I know that thousands of travellers have done this and from those people I only hear things like "It was the best background of my life" and "If you dont do it youll always regret it".

However, from what I gather, many/most/all of these people werent insured to be doing the trip, which is not really an option in my mind. I know of people that have crashed bikes in SE Asia and had to resort to begging for donations on crowdfunding sites to pay for their medical bills, further proving to me the importance of being insured. Research

Researching travel insurance policies has so far been disheartening. Im Australian and the companies Ive looked at have requirements for riding a motorbike such as having an Australian motorbike license and wearing a helmet, which is no problem at all. This page has an overview of those requirements for a bunch of companies.

The biggest problem is that every insurance company Ive looked at so far has under general exclusions a statement to the effect of "We will not pay if your claim arises out of you breaking any laws or government regulations".

As an Australian tourist it seems to be impossible to not be breaking the law by riding in Vietnam (regardless of the fact that its hardly enforced and the police are very tolerant of tourists). As of October 2015, Vietnam does recognise International Driving Permits, but only if your license is from a Signatory to the Vienna Convention which Australia is not (and nor is the US or Canada). Source

And even if I could get a valid license to drive in Vietnam, the bike Id buy wouldnt be officially registered in my name and therefore Im probably breaking another law there anyway.

Ive seen someone claim that because Vietnam is a signatory to the 1949 Geneva road traffic convention, they are supposed to recognise overseas licenses. And the fact that they dont actually, doesnt matter to many travel insurers because they just recognise what the Vietnamese "are supposed to do, on an international level, not what the national Vietnamese police or even government licensing departments make up because they feel like it". This could be total nonsense. Does anyone know?

This Vietnam motorbike rental place says that "you can buy this personal medical insurance policy from companies like Allianz, CHI or World Nomads…or on Lonely Planet website. They only request your country or international motorbike driving license. In this case yourself will be fully covered if something happens." Id like to believe that, but I dont see how its true unless youre managing to not break any laws (i.e. you have a license issued from a signatory to the vienna convention, and an IDP, and youre renting rather than buying a bike that isnt registered to you).

tl;dr – Doing the trip = breaking laws = no insurance (?)

If anyone has any knowledge about insurance or the trip or any advice at all to give me, your help would be much appreciated. I really really love the idea of this trip, but insurance is important to me.

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