Surviving Vietnamese Traffic Chaos!
The worst thing for most visitors to Vietnam is the traffic in this country, which seems to be totally chaotic and dangerous. Being actually this, it is not surprising that most visitors are scared a lot to participate in the traffic. The streets of Ha Noi and Sai Gon are crowded, motorbikes are everywhere and it seems that there is a sheer endless support of motorbikes and bikes. But there are some rules you should know, so going through the streets of Sai Gon will be fun.
Some rules for the traffic
First of all, you should know there is real survival of the fittest here. The stronger you are, the more rights you have. A bus can drive nearly without any limit through the streets of the big cities, whereas you as a pedestrian don’t have any rights. Most tourists will be pedestrians, so you should take great care: Even bicycles have more rights than you! But this is not all. Everybody can, at least when there is no police, drive as they want. Factually, there will be motorbikes driving on the pavement, driving through by a red crossing-lights and so on. But luckily, there exists also the rule, that you drive like you want but you cannot endanger others too much. A bus driver will drive fast and dangerously through the streets, but actually he also must take care not to create an accident with someone else. However, it seems not to be very fortunate to have a meeting with such a bus on the street. As a pedestrian you always should be aware of who is approaching you.
Stay calm and don’t panic!
So, how do you cross the street? It is very easy: You just go! This seems not to be a good idea with billions of bikes and motorbikes coming along, but the traffic in Vietnam behaves like a school of fishes: the traffic will flow around you. You must ALWAYS go predictably. You must go slowly and keep eye-contact with the drivers. You must go predictably. Do not stop by going over the street and don’t turn around. The motorbike drivers always must know where you are now and will be in some seconds, so they can flow around you. Traffic now only gets more dangerous, because more and more cars join the traffic and also destroy the harmonic flow of the endless motorbike stream. When you come to a crossing, or you have to cross over the street, you go to the edge and look to the left and right (motorbikes can come from all directions). Then you start walking. You never should change your velocity, so I suggest you start slowly. If you hear some horns this means someone attracts your attention and shows you. During your walk, you will have to adapt a little to the traffic, but never stop, turn back or change your direction. If you see a motorbike coming too close, surely, you have to stop a little, but then go on.
Practice makes perfect
After your arrival in Vietnam, the best is to study how the Vietnamese themselves do cross streets and try to do the same. If you worry about going, you should try to find a Vietnamese who also wants cross the street and go with him. The biggest problem is the misunderstanding between foreign and Vietnamese prediction, so you really should imitate the Vietnamese way of walking. I am always amazed how Vietnamese seem to understand what others will do, because their behaviour is for me in most cases not predictable. For sure, keeping these rules in mind, does not excuse you from paying attention. When you cross a street and see hundreds of motorbikes coming to you, it is not easy to stay calm. It will maybe take some time until you get acquainted with this situation and eventually you will cross streets and participate in the traffic like the indigenous Vietnamese.