Everything you need to know about the Bluecard in Vietnam
The motorcycle Bluecard in Vietnam is the ownership papers of the motorbike. The information on the Bluecard identifies the bikes engine number, frame number, license plate number, and owner of the motorbike. There are real blue cards, fake blue cards and everything in between.
In Vietnam, there is a “scale of legitimacy” where the value of the motorbike directly impacts the importance of “how by the book” your papers need to be. We’ll explain everything below.
Can A Foreigner Buy A Motorbike In Vietnam?
Foreigners, tourists, expats, travelers, whatever category you fall into, all of them can buy a motorbike in Vietnam. When buying and selling a motorbike in Vietnam you must be absolutely sure to have the Bluecard for it. The Bluecard represents roughly 50% of the value of the bike and you can’t resell a motorcycle without it. Services such as transporting the motorbike by train or bus will also require a bluecard to presented.
The Scale Of Legitimacy
When purchasing a motorcycle the scale of legitimacy looks like this;
- Level 1. $500 and under. The Bluecard could be a paper copy or even a fake. Basically your bike isn’t worth anything and no one cares about the paperwork.
- Level 2.$1000-$2000. The Bluecard needs to be real and the bikes identification numbers need to match what’s on your Bluecard. The name registered on the bluecard isn’t that important and generally, even the locals won’t bother to go through the process of transferring the names on the paperwork.
- Level 3.$2000+. All the bikes paperwork needs to be real with matching bike identification numbers and the owner’s name correctly on the document.
- Level 4. Unobtainable – Strict import control, limits what motorbikes are sold legally in Vietnam. Huge markets and niches of popular models that were never legally sold in Vietnam, are all illegally imported with fake papers. For example, nearly all dirt bikes were never officially sold in Vietnam, and so, are all fake. If the bike of your dreams was never officially sold in Vietnam. Then you have no choice but to get fake papers.
Renting a motorcycle.
- For traveling within Vietnam the original Bluecard isn’t required. Instead, you’ll be given a copy.
- For border crossing between Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, you’ll require the Bluecard. In this case, a rental company would typically charge you a deposit for the value of the motorcycle. When you bring the bike back, you’ll get your deposit back.
What to watch out for.
- MBC and GTHL. These are code words for fake Bluecard you’ll see listed with online advertisements.
- Non-transferable. This happens when a motorcycle changed owners many times and the paperwork was lost along the way. On a cheap bike, no problem. On a bike worth $2000+, you need to consider the very mild risk and the slight bending of the rules with ownership.
- Bikes over 175cc. Anything above 175cc requires the driver to have a valid A2 license Vietnam and an international driver’s permit.
Lost My Bluecard in Vietnam
Dealing with parking lot staff and the police will be problematic if you lose your Bluecard, but it can generally be fixed. If your name is not the one on the Bluecard and you lose the original Bluecard the only option is to acquire a fake replacement. These fakes are as cheap as a few hundred thousand Dong. This does not replace the original and you’ll need to understand your motorcycle is now illegal. If it’s a rental, often the rental company can help you out for a replacement fee.
Overall, most drivers in Vietnam will be driving around on motorcycles worth less than $2000 with only some of the correct paperwork. The people, police and parking lot attendants are used to this and life goes on without much concern about the documents. However, as the value of your motorcycle goes up the scrutiny of officials goes up too.
Who Can Help if You lost it?
- Parking lot attendants. Security personal are obliged to make sure that whatever bikes come into their lot leave with the owner. The parking lot is assuming the risk when they let you go with a Bluecard that is not in your name. They are prepared to do this up to around $2000, but as the number gets bigger their processes get stronger. If you hold onto your parking ticket then you can pass freely. If you lose your ticket you’ll need to prove you are the owner of the motorcycle. Without the Bluecard or the parking ticket, you’re going to have problems.
- Police. Equally the Police are obligated to ensure that the owner of a motorcycle is the person who has possession of it. A cheap old bike, they probably won’t care. A newer motorcycle with unmatching documents, you may need to give them some “coffee money” to continue on your way. A brand new motorcycle with the wrong documents, the bike will likely be confiscated.
Who is Responsible for Replacing the Bluecard?
- Rentals.You’ll need to contact your rental company and they’ll usually provide you with a solution. Replacing the bluecard is a long laborious task, and the rental company is going to charge heavily for the time wasted.
- Owner. You’ll need to get a fake replacement made. In major cities, this is fairly easy and the service is even advertised on Facebook. Ask a local or long term expat to help you with this. You might want to have a copy made just incase.
Police Confiscating Bikes
Parking Lot Security
Fake Bluecards in Vietnam
When you initially deal with motorbike registration Vietnam, a Bluecard is created with numbers matching both the VIN and chassis of the motorbike. This information is then added to the police database and can be referenced later for ownership transfer or to deal with illegitimate motorcycles. It seems like they have everything covered, however, it is easy to illegally change the bike’s information or the Bluecards information.
VIN/chassis numbers and engine numbers can be removed and changed, Bluecards forged, and there is no public access to registered motorcycle information. The reality is that it’s very difficult to know if a motorcycle is legitimate or not.
Fake Bluecards might exist for the following reasons
- Stolen motorcycles. Motorcycles are often stolen without a Bluecard. A Bluecard is created, the bike is sold onto an unsuspecting buyer and the thief makes his money. If you are caught with a stolen bike it will be confiscated.
- Illegally imported motorcycles. Imported manual motorbikes are considered luxury goods in Vietnam and come with significant import taxes. To avoid this they are sometimes illegally imported then a fake Bluecard is created to legitimize the motorcycle and its value.
- Unresolvable problems. Old motorcycles, motorcycles who’s original owner can’t be contacted or has passed away, and motorcycles without an original Bluecard will all be forced to have a fake Bluecard.
- Custom motorcycles. Combining chassis and engines from different motorcycles to make a custom bike creates an unusable Bluecard. These bikes often have fake Bluecards made to compensate for the creation.
Fake Vin number on a Suzuki GN engine
Fake paper services on Facebook
Bike Insurance in Vietnam
In Vietnam, you are required to have “Yellow Paper Insurance” and when buying a new motorcycle in Vietnam this insurance will come with the bike. This paper is supposed to represent coverage for your motorcycle in the event of an accident. In reality, this paper has no value and you aren’t likely to be able to cash in on any insurance money for any reason.
If you own a motorcycle you might consider carrying this piece of paper around with you, it can be purchased from any mechanic for around 60-80,000vnd a year. For rental motorbikes, the rental company usually retains the yellow paper. You aren’t likely to need it, but they should have a copy if you do for some reason.
What really happens in the event of an accident goes something like this; The police arrive and investigate the severity of the accident. They are generally helpful and try to be fair with both parties. They will check your documents, such as your Vietnam motorbike license and Bluecard. If the incident can’t be resolved on the spot, then the police confiscate the motorcycles of each person and hold them as ransom until fault is decided and any money owed is paid out.
If you own the bike then you will need to deal with this directly. If the motorcycle is a rental, the rental company will eventually get the motorcycle back but any money required to do so will come out of the rental deposit.