Vietnam has a traffic law? It has, but sights and sounds on the roads do not make this sense. A friend of mine who based in Vancouver who had traveled 3 weeks from North to South Vietnam commented: “Look like your traffic has a rule, joined by an un-ruled behavior in a ruled regulation”. Sounds complicated? In fact, the sense to obey the traffic law in Vietnam is very bad when compared to its neighbor ASEAN nations. Imagine, all kind of vehicles mingle in the streets, from the pedestrians, cars, cyclos, scooters, bicycles mixed together…all weaving around and keeps the flow run, mostly slow and sometime… deadlock. In that flow, there is no sacrifice offered or graced. Any single inch left on the road, there come a rush and a tyre of motorbike or car will be placed right then, including with the frustrating beep beep horns and the angry glance thrown to the one who won on that race of the empty space. Who care? Most of the people seem busy and going to the fire with various reasons to blame for or should Vietnamese locals be rated as the most try-to-save-time people on Earth?
“Your traffic law was reinforced only when they found the policeman in the intersection” said another customer of mine in the olden days after witnessing so many people crossed the red light at most of the X-ing in Hanoi. If one travel to Saigon and be around at some main roads in District 3, there might come up rampantly evasion of those locals with bikes from the road to the pavement (mostly from 5-6pm) will be too threaten a feeling and this bad memory can hardly be erased out of the tourists’ mind for quite a long time.
No doubt people who come from the West found it scary. I had a retired client who traveled with me 10 years past. The first 4 days of her stay in Saigon, she was always with pressure when we did the walking tours or when we ventured around local markets. I remembered to be the one she always grab my hand whenever we made the street cross. Who knows, after surviving the first timer experience in those 4 days, she was getting braved and excited and even came out of her way to help other bunch of travelers who were clumsily and unwillingly put their feet in to the dense non-stop traffic. She had them crossed with her safely to the other side and receiving with a big thank and admiring look from those travelers. Can you believe it? What a job!
– Don’t stay back, I hope my sharing on this blog will not hold you off. Watch it, see how locals do and just follow them. Take a deep breath and there you go to challenge it. Nice and memorable experiences are found only when you hands-in the work and getting familiar with the daily amazing traffic. Here are some tips that I want you to know or be aware of before your arrival in this beautiful Vietnam.
– Don’t wait for the traffic flow to stop (even if you are in a zebra crossing but without the traffic light – and a reinforcement of a policeman) because the locals don’t have a culture to stop. Just start crossing and then you will find a way in it. Then, seriously follow tip #2
– Steadily and slowly cross the street, use a slow pace as the people are going to watch you from a fair distance so they will gauge your pace and be around you. Never step back suddenly or try to run faster than your normal pace, you may be in a mess or being run over.
– When walking through the crowded and narrow streets in Hanoi and Saigon and you rarely found the available space to walk on the pavement due to local business settings or family shops, motorbike parking …etc then ALWAYS walks against the traffic flow. Single-lined walking in this case is recommended if you are a group of friends.
– Request a helmet if you are going to take a motorbike taxi and if the driver say no need to wear one. It is better safe than regret later.
– Lastly, if you are on a big tour coach, get your camera ready so you will not miss lot of beautiful Kodak moments when your bus moving around the crowded streets.
Happy and Safety Travelling!