Traffic chaos is norm on the streets of many Asian cities but nowhere more so than Hanoi and Saigon where madness and mayhem rule. Crossing the road is as much an art form as an everyday activity and can be a steep learning curve for the first time visitor. In order to remain uninjured, it is essential to master the basic skills immediately on arrival. It can seem daunting at first but all it takes is a little practice and you too will be striding confidently across the roads as busy as this:
Vietnam Traffic Survival Guide :
- The Vietnamese drive on the right, or the left, or on the sidewalk. In fact pretty much anywhere the mood takes them.
- Walk with purpose as though YOU own the road and have right of way (which of course you clearly don’t!)
- Look constantly around you, engage the eyes of the drivers around you – always nice to see those who are about to run you over! (N.B. This assumes that they are not texting at the time (see point 9 below)
- Never stop, hesitate or deviate from your chosen path under any circumstances – it will totally confuse people and add to the chaos.
- Sounding of horns means “I am coming through regardless”. It is also done because, well, just because they like sounding their horns.
- If you see a bus or truck coming towards you run like hell – they WILL run you down!
- Sidewalks are for parking motorbikes. Pedestrians should walk in the street with the rest of the traffic.
- Common-sense would dictate that you walk on the road facing the traffic? WRONG! The Vietnamese way is to walk on the same side as the flow of traffic. Probably so you cannot see what is about to hit you. i.e. fewer witnesses!
- Texting or smoking whilst riding a motorbike and carrying is compulsory.
- When turning at a crossroads bikes will simply cut the corner on the wrong side of the road or pavement. Obviously, this is the safest way as it cuts down the distance travelled.
- Driving or riding on the wrong side of the road is perfectly acceptable if you are only going a short distance (say less than 400m) or are in a hurry, or there is a lot of traffic on the correct side of the road.
- Keep calm. As a foreigner, if you get hit, don’t get angry. It is entirely your fault. If you had stayed in your own country, there would not have been an accident.
In Saigon the traffic seems heavier, bigger, faster and even less accommodating of tourists. The official advice from the Vietnamese Tourist Office, as printed on the back of a street map says:
“Crossing the street: motorbike are trying to anticipate your movements to avoid hitting you, so no suppries. Stay slow and steady with your head on swivel.”
Pretty much sums it up really….