Crossing Borders with a Motorbike in Indo-china

Southeast Asia countries are becoming a tourism paradise for backpackers, especially those who love to enjoy their adventures on a motorbike – “motopackers”. With Thailand is one of the top destinations and Vietnam also is also getting attention for its beauties and distinctiveness along with peaceful Laos and Cambodia full of wonders to discover, Indo-china is the best choice for budget travel. This article will show you how to travel around the Indo-china on a motorbike without any trouble.

Border-crossing with a motorbike is legally possible. In recent years, the laws have been loosening for tourists to go back and forth between Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia; especially when visa on arrival into Cambodia or Laos is available and very easy to obtain at the border checkpoints. Crossing from Vietnam into Thailand or from Cambodia to Laos is possible but difficult to do so.

Things to know:

  • Visa on arrival into Laos or Cambodia from Vietnam and Thailand is available at the border crossings. However, travelers crossing from Laos, Cambodia and Thailand into Vietnam are required to obtain a visa in advance; there is no VOA at Vietnamese border checkpoints.
  • It is best to arrive at Vietnam first, and you buy a Vietnamese registered bike. You can cross into Laos and Cambodia with a Vietnamese bike and back. Laos-plated bikes are only allowed into Vietnam if you are the registered owner of the bike. With a Cambodian bike it’s not guaranteed if it can be crossed into Vietnam; please update us if you have real experience on this.
  • Prior to 01/01/2015, you can only be allowed to drive/ride legally in Vietnam if you have a Vietnamese driving license. The law now accepts IDL (International Driving License). So technically you can drive/ride in Vietnam when you have IDL and your driving license issued at your home country. If you don’t have the DL, your IDL is in no use.
  • At the crossings, in easy cases, they might not even ask for the blue card, you just need then fill customs papers, pay for the bike, and visa on arrival. However, the crossing procedure’s result depends very much on the officials and their mood, so in some cases it might be more hassle. And it would be ultimately impossible if they ask for carnet de passage – a document that is not normally required – or they ask you to go back to capital to have “permission”. We suggest you to call your embassy in the country to ask them for help.

Crossing procedure:

  • First do Immigration, then Customs (mostly filling forms)
  • You can skip the health check
  • The price for visa on arrival for Laos and Cambodia varies for each national and at each border crossing. Officially, it’s mostly $30 or $35. They might inflate it to $45, but you can pull some trick to haggle it down
  • $20 for the bike
  • There is stamp fee at the both sides which will cost you $1-$2. This fee is unofficial but very hard to not pay. You can challenge them by requiring for a receipt. They might waive the fee or, if you are unlucky, tell you to go back
  • The whole process normally takes you about 1 hour

Required Documents:

  • International Driving License (IDL): this document which is issued by your National Automobile Association allows the holder to drive a private motor vehicle in any country that recognises IDLs. To be valid, the IDL must be accompanied by a valid driving licence.
  • Driving License: an official document or card which shows that you have the legal right to drive a vehicle
  • Blue Vietnamese Registration Card: this is the registration card of the bike and proof of ownership. This is the most important document of the bike. Technically, when you buy the motorbike from a local, you have to show up with the person at an authorized office to change the name on the card into your name. Practically, names aren’t really important as long as you have the card matching the license plate and identification numbers on the bike. Except for some countries that require you to be the real owner of the bike, like Thailand.
    blue-card-motorbike
    This blue card is the proof of registration and ownership

Vietnam has 19 official international border crossings, about half of which are crossable with a Vietnamese motorbike.

X: impossible to cross

<–>: crossable with Vietnamese motorbike

?: unclear information

From Vietnam Crossing with motorbike To Province in Vietnam Nations
Mong Cai X DongHung/DongXing QuangNinh Vietnam/China
Huu Nghi X BangTuong/Ping Xian Lang Son Vietnam/China
Lao Cai X Ha Khau/Hekou Lao Cai Vietnam/China
Tay Trang ? Pang Hok Dien Bien Vietnam/Laos
Na Meo <–> Nam Xoi ThanhHoa Vietnam/Laos
Nam Can <–> Nam Khan Nghe An Vietnam/Laos
Cau Treo ? Nam Phao Ha Tinh Vietnam/Laos
Cha Lo ? Na Phao QuangBinh Vietnam/Laos
Lao Bao <–> DanSavanh Quang Tri Vietnam/Laos
Bo Y <–> PhouKeua Kon Tum Vietnam/Laos
Le Thanh <–> AndongPech Gia Lai Vietnam/Cambodia
Hoa Lu <–> TrapeangSre BinhPhuoc Vietnam/Cambodia
Xa Mat ? TrapeangPhlongPir Tay Ninh Vietnam/Cambodia
MocBai <–> Bavet Tay Ninh Vietnam/Cambodia
Dinh Ba ? Bon Tia Chak Cray Dong Thap Vietnam/Cambodia
ThuongPhuoc ? Kaoh Roka Dong Thap Vietnam/Cambodia
VinhXuong ? KhaormSamnor An Giang Vietnam/Cambodia
Tinh Bien <–> Phnom Den An Giang Vietnam/Cambodia
Ha Tien <–> PrekChak KienGiang Vietnam/Cambodia

VIETNAM/LAOS CROSSINGS

Two countries share 6 international border crossings in total. You are allowed to take a Vietnamese-plated motorbike into Laos and back. You can also take Lao-plated bike into Vietnam only if you are the registered owner of the bike. Do not forget the BLUE REGISTRATION CARD because you will need to show it to the officers.

Na Meo/Nam Xoi

na-meo-crossing

This crossing has the fastest and the most convenient procedure. You can easily bring your motorbike into Laos and back without any problem. At the crossing, Vietnamese officers will have you pay them $20 for an “import form”. You will have to hand this paper back when you leave Laos with your bike.The price for a Laos visa on arrival is inflated to $45 (while it’s officially $30) but we aren’t recommending you to try haggling on that. Be careful of the roads.

Nam Can/Nam Khan

Located near Phonsavan in Laos and Vinh in Vietnam, the two crossings are open to tourists. There shouldn’t be any problem with crossing with your motorbike as well.

Cau Treo/Nam Phao

Cau Treo and Nam Phao are quite near to Vinh, Nghe An and Lax Xao in Laos. There are reports that Laos side no longer take in Vietnamese-plated motorbikes.

Lao Bao/Dansavanh

lao-bao-crossing-gate

Lao Bao is definitely crossable with your bike. This crossing is not to far from Hue city and the roads are in good condition and convenient for travelling.

Bo Y/PhouKeua

Located between Attapeu, Laos and Kontum, Vietnam. Thereare no issues at these two crossings.The border officials in Laos and Vietnam did not ask for any bribes, fees or extra money to cross. Absolutely hassle-free.

Tay Trang/Pang Hok

We have conflicted reports on this border post. It’s hard to cross with a motorbike at Tay Trang border gate, Dien Bien Phu province. Until 2016, only the motorbikes with local plate number (27) are allowed to cross here. If you rent a local motorbike with a blue card, you might have a chance (rental motorbike from other provinces just don’t work).

VIETNAM/CAMBODIA CROSSINGS

Taking Vietnamese-plated motorbikes into Vietnam is possible but there isn’t credible information on the other way. Vietnam and Cambodia share 4 international crossings now which are crossable with bike out of the total 9.

MocBai/Bavet

moc-bai-crossing

This is probably the busiest crossing between Vietnam and Cambodia. Buses running through from Vietnam to Cambodia regularly choose this border gate. MocBai is the best choice if you start at HCMC wanting to go to Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh. Bringing bikes into Cambodia is possible although you might be asked for bribe or extra fees.

Le Thanh/AndongPech

The two gates link Banlung, Cambodia and Pleiku, Vietnam. The crossing with motorbike should be expected to be easy with no problem. Especially, the officials don’t overcharge you the visa on arrival fee, fixed $30.

Tinh Bien/Phnom Den

Tinh Bien gate is close to the famous tourist town Chau Doc while Phnom Den is next to Kep and Kampot. No problem with crossing border with the bike.

Ha Tien/Pre Chak

ha-tien-crossing

The Ha Tien crossing is not located in a remote region and there are signs to guide you to the gate. The roads are also in a very good condition. The procedure takes you about one hour, no hassle at all.

Hoa Lu/TrapeangSre

Thank to Jeol’s information (comment section), now we know Hoa Lu border crossing at Binh Phuoc is an easy one. The visa on arrival into Cambodia is charged at $30 and the motorbike was free.

Of other Vietnam/Cambodia crossings, we don’t have the official information or real experience on the possibility of crossing with motorbike. If you have any credible information or stories with these crossings, please update us at the comment section.

Laos/Cambodia Crossings

According to the laws, no statement is found on crossing Laos/Cambodia borders with a motorbike is illegal. Recently, it’s has been more difficult for foreign travelers due to the corruption. The only legal border crossings between 2 countries are Veun Kham/Dom Kralor. However, nothing very nice is going on here. There are stories about if you cross one country into the other, they let you cross Laos or Cam but stop you at the other country’s border checkpoint. There they say you can’t cross the border with a foreign motorbike, making it harder by asking you for carnet de passage document. Eventually they will advise you to sell your bike at the other side and catch bus to continue or accept to let your bike through but with a very high charge.

Crossing border into Thailand with a motorbike

It’s hard but it’s possible. You are allowed to cross into Thailand with a Cambodian or Vietnamese motorbikes. Unlike crossing with a Vietnamese bike into Laos or Cam, Thailand requires you to be the correct registered owner of the bike which means your name has to be on the blue card. Documents that need to be filled:

  • Immigration: Information of Conveyance, Crew List, Passenger List if you have a pillion
  • Customs: Temporary Import / Export Form

You have 30 days to exit and you have to inform which border you will exit at.

Note:

  • Do not attempt to hide your motorbike, or cross the border illegally (hiring locals transferring your bike through another way, etc.)
  • HOWEVER, you shouldn’t mention your motorbike first unless the officials ask you

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41 comments

  1. Can you take a british registered bike across borders in the area? I was hoping to ride most of the way & finish in either Japan or China before shipping the bike to Hanoi to continue to ride the area. I know that you can ride in China but you require a guide etc so I am looking to skirt around but is it only worth it if I can take the bike through Vietnamese / Thai / Cambodian / Laos borders.

    Would I need to change the rego to a local rego?

    • Dear Fiona,

      Technically you don’t have to change your bike’s registration into a local one. This is what is said about how you can enter a foreign vehicle across a Vietnamese border according to this link http://www.customs.gov.vn/Lists/EnglishSupports/Details.aspx?ID=2156&language=en-US:

      For foreign motorbikes and mopeds on entry (temporary import), customs declarants shall submit or produce the following papers:
      – A competent agency’s written permission (except temporary admission of motorbikes and mopeds for sale at border gates): to submit a copy;
      – The motor vehicle registration paper: to produce the original;
      – The declaration of road motor vehicles temporarily imported for reexport (made according to form No. 51/PTVTDB/TX-TN/2013, Appendix III to Circular 128/2013/TT-BTC), printed by the customs office.
      * For foreign motorbikes and mopeds on exit (re-export), customs declarants shall submit and produce the following papers:
      – The declaration of road motor vehicles temporarily imported for reexport, with temporary admission certified by the border-gate customs office carrying out temporary admission procedures: to submit the original;
      – The document on temporary admission extension (if any): to submit a copy and produce the original.
      You can enter without a tour guide.

      Please contact to Vietnam Customs for help and more information.

  2. Hello @ all,

    is it also possible to cross the borders between Vietnam Laos with a rental motorbike if i get the Blue card from the rental company?
    Trip planned is Hanoi-Sapa-North Laos-Pakse-Dong-Hoi-Hanoi.
    As far as i can read the border Crossing in the north (near Sapa) isnt possible with motorbike, is this still latest information?

    Thanks
    Marius

    • Nguyen Mĩ Ngọc

      Dear Marius,

      It is possible to cross a RENTAL Vietnamese-plated motorbike into Laos with a blue card at Na Meo border crossing. NOT possible at Tay Trang (Dien Bien Phu). To make sure, you should cross through Na Meo gate only so we recommend you to change your plan.

      Good luck with your trip and if you want, please share your experience with us here!

      Ngoc

  3. Hi
    just wanted to let you know we crossed at trapeang srea, Vietnam to Cambodia with a Vietnamese plated bike. All they charged was the $30 for the visa and the bike was free. They didn’t ask for the blue card or any other documents. . They were very helpful and even asked us about our travels ( I don’t think they get many tourist that way)

    • Dear Joel,

      Thank you so much for the information. And we are glad you had a great experience crossing from Vietnam to Cambodia.

      Stay safe and enjoy!

      Ngoc

  4. I have heard that Chiềng Khơưng in Sơn La Province is now an International Border Post. Do you know if this is true?

    • Dear Martin,

      This is true. Chiềng Khương border crossing at Sơn La province is now an international border post, linking with Ban Dan border post of Houaphan, Laos.

      Ngọc

  5. Hi

    I’m planning on going to Laos from Vietnam at Na Meo. I read about the import/export papers. Do you have to write any personal info on the papers? I want to go to Laos with my Vietnamese bike and sell it in Laos, and then taking a plane to Bangkok. Is this possible or do I have to take the bike back to Vietnam first (I bought it in Vietnam)?

    Thanks

    Martijn

    • Nguyen Mĩ Ngọc

      Dear Martijn,

      The import/export papers are something like entry-exit form NA1 and there may be some paperwork for the bike. You can sell your bike in Laos no problem, no need to take it back to VN, though.

      Ngọc

  6. Actually, it is possible to cross Tay Trang. We did it in 2012 without a single problem. The officials were friendly and welcomed us. The bike was not registered under our names.

    • Nguyen Mĩ Ngọc

      Dear Anhzan,

      Thank you for sharing, it’s much appreciated. Sorry for the misinformation.

      Tay Trang post is not impossible but it’s so difficult to cross with a motorbike. Your name isn’t necessary on the blue card but I heard the bike must be plated with DBP’s number (27) to cross. Rental motorbikes or big motorbikes are also very hard to get through. May be there were some lucky stories or the policy back then was different. To not waste time, we think this border post should be avoided.

      Ngoc

      • It is not a story nor information. It is a fact. We crossed the border ourselves. Do you want me to send a picture?

        • Also, the bike had a Saigon license plate. In 2012 we crossed it with our bike to Laos and then back to Vietnam. 2014 we rented a car and drove across the border ourselves too. It is easy to cross that border.

          • Nguyen Mĩ Ngọc

            Dear Anhzan,

            Thank you again for your comments, we appreciate it so much. However, we have come across many accounts of travelers trying to cross Tay Trang and were denied starting from 2014/2015. It is a high chance that before that time, the policy of Tay Trang post related to border crossing with a motorbike was still easy then they changed few years later.

            Accord to this link http://wikitravel.org/en/Laos and this link https://nomadasaurus.com/crossing-the-border-motorbike-southeast-asia/, you can see border crossing at Tay Trang was “easy and straight forward” before 2014 but there were issues reported by travelers who were denied after that time. In 2015, many said it was “impossible”.

            Due to the corruption of the officers, the procedure at border crossings can be very different to different travelers, even at crossings which are supposed to be “easy”.

            Best Regards

            Ngọc

  7. Just like any other border crossings, some people aren’t able to cross with their motorbikes while others are able to cross. It’s hit or miss at all the border crossings. From the nomadasaurus, there were 5 people commented on their experience crossing the border and 3 of them were able to cross successfully. Since they were able to cross successfully, in past recent months if I may add, it does not make the border crossing impossible. Just because a few weren’t able to cross while others are able, it does not make the crossing impossible.

    Corruption happens everywhere in Asia. Like I said, everything is a dice roll Asia, but it does not mean impossible.

  8. One other thing I noticed incorrect on this page is that you don’t need to be the registered owner for the bike you are crossing with. I was able to cross into Thailand on two different occasions and two different bikes. I was not the registered owner on neither of the bikes. On both occasions, the border I crossed was near Vientiane, which is a major crossing between Laos/Thailand. No problems in both occasions. Leaving Thailand was also not a problem as well. I left Thailand at Nakhon Phanom to Laos on my first trip and Krong Poi Pet to Cambodia on the other trip.

  9. You have stated crossing the boarder from ho chi minh through to phnom penh is no problem but what about getting back across the boarder. I plan to start in hochi minh and head to phnom penh to visit a friend. Id then like to get back into vietnam and head up to hanoi.
    Will it be just as easy?

    • Nguyen Mĩ Ngọc

      Dear Brenton,

      On the way to Phnom Penh, you can apply for a visa on arrival at the border post in Cambodian side. If your Vietnam visa is multiple entry and still valid, you have no problem getting back. However, if your visa is single entry, you will have to come to Vietnam embassy at 436 Preah Monivong Blvd (93), Phnom Penh to apply anew, no Vietnam visa on arrival at Vietnam border posts.

      Ngọc

      • Hey, today (sunday 30-04/2017) we crossed the trapaing srae border to go to Cambodia with our Vietnamese motorbikes without any problems. We parked the bikes in the front of the office, only had to pay the visa ($30 each) and fill in the forms with a really nice policeman helping us. Walked over the border and then we drove on to Kratie. Didn’t have to pay for the bikes or anything. So to everyone planning this: happy travels and the Cambodia roads are nice to roadtrip so far!

  10. Hi,
    do they ask for the drivers license at the border crossing from laos to vietnam in Nam Can? Vietnamese bike, but only have the bluecard as document. Cheers

    • Nguyen Mĩ Ngọc

      Hi Valentin,

      The answer is yes, you do need to have DL and ILD to drive and cross borders between Vietnam and Laos. Please read more on the required documents part of this article.

      Ngoc

      • Hello,
        the answer is NO, crossed the border today and not only did they not care about any sort of drivers license, they barely even looked at the bluecard. I am glad I didn’t listen to you and just tried for myself ;-D
        Cheers

        • Nguyen Mĩ Ngọc

          Hi Valentin,

          I’m glad you crossed the border successfully. However, crossing and driving motorbike without any sort of driving license is illegal. Anyway, please stay safe and enjoy your trip.

          Ngoc

        • As Ngọc has a business here, so he’s obliged to tell the official rules. In my experience, application of rules in developing countries is haphazard.

  11. Hi,
    I’m planning a motorcycle trip across Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Could you tell me in which of the four countries it is best to rent a bike ? My original plan was to rent a bike in Thailand and then go to Laos, then from Laos to Vietnam, then from Vietnam to Cambodia and finally back to Thailand. Could you tell me if this is possible, because it seems rather difficult after reading a lot of articles on the internet.
    Thanks in advance for an answer :) !

    • Nguyen Mĩ Ngọc

      Hi Roy,

      Thai and Vietnam are the easiest to rent a motorbike. But to be able to travel and cross border from/to Thailand, you are required to be the owner of the bike or have bike’s owner permission. If you start from Vietnam, it’s easier with a rent motorbike at some border crossings as long as you have the blue card. Vietnamese bikes have no problem crossing into Laos and Cambodia.

      Ngoc

  12. Xin chào. I am in Điện Biên. I spoke to some people yesterday about the crossing nearby.

    One person had tried to cross into Laos. She confirmed that it’s only possible with a #27 numberplate. A couple came from Laos on a 🇻🇳 moto with a #86 plate. No problem.

    Chúc may mắn!

    • Nguyen Mĩ Ngọc

      Hi Dave,

      Thank you so much for your very valuable insight. We wish you a safe and interesting trip in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.

      Ngoc

  13. Hey,
    2 questions:
    1) Is it possible to take the motorbike from Vietnam to Laos at Lao Bao border crossing point?
    2) Can I leave Vietnam at Lao Bao with my evisa?

    Thanks!

    • Nguyen Mĩ Ngọc

      Hi Timur,

      1. You can cross border with a motorbike through Lao Bao, please check the table above
      2. If you want to enter Laos, you’ll have to apply for a visa on arrival at the crossing point on the Laos side.

      Ngoc

  14. Hi
    Im trying to plan a motorbike trip starting in Thailand, through Laos, into Vietnam, back through Laos then into Thailand. How can i make this possible if i have a Thai plated motorbike. Reading other articles and forums it sounds very difficult/impossible. Most recommend having a vietnamese plated bike as its the easiest but it would be preferred to start and finish in Thailand if possible. Would having the bike registered in my name help? Any other recommendations would be appreciated.
    Cheers

    • Nguyen Mĩ Ngọc

      Hi Gordon,

      Thai Land has just enforced new rules on crossing borders. Bikes registered in Thailand try to enter Vietnam might need to be pre-approved via a travel company (we are not very sure about this). Thai bike into Laos has no problem.

      You should be the owner of the bike for convenience by that I mean you will have to obtain the green book to show your ownership. If you drive a bike that is not yours (not recommended), you will need to show a written permit from the owner. With your plan, the only tricky part is when you cross border from Laos into Vietnam with a Thai bike. Pls notice that you have to obtain visa grant at a Vietnam embassy in the country you are in before heading to the border. Meanwhile VOA is available at Laos and Thailand border crossings.

      To save time and effort, only choose the easiest border crossings into Vietnam (check article above). More info here: http://www.gt-rider.com/touring-information-overview/s-e-asian-border-crossings

      Ngoc

  15. I crossed today with a bike at the most southern point (pre chak) it was called. My bike was in plain view and they did not ask for any card or info from me. On the entrance slip I wrote the vehicle registration number and all was well. I tried to pay in dong, and one official told me to go get American money. As I was leaving I asked another official and he said they would accept it. So if one seems to be grumpy talk to another they were quite nice actually

  16. Hi,
    Is it possible to cross a Vietnamese bike with a fake blue card from Vietnam to Cambodia ? I mean that the bike is mine I bought it in Vietnam but the blue card is not genuine . Will they check or just glance at the blue card ?

    • Hi Francis,

      We’re not encouraging you to cross the border with fake documents. You can come to police station to get the card in your name.

      Ngoc

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