All up I spent about four months in Vietnam – much of that time spent either on my bicycle or on a scooter. Arguably, compared to the tourists who pass through for just a handful of days and up to a month, you could say I’m a bit of an “expert” on the road rules of the country.
But lets just say I had enough exposure to understand the system a little more instead, yeah? Because the fact is, the following is just what I saw – my perceptions – and as for what is fact, I wouldn’t know. I could never ask (Vietnamese is insanely hard to learn).
I imagine if you’ve been to Vietnam, it’s likely you’ve heard a few complaints from fellow travellers that “Vietnam doesn’t have any road rules”. I certainly heard it a lot.
And every time I heard this, I would tell these travellers, just as I’m telling you now, they exist.
Vietnam has traffic rules!
Just don’t expect them to be the same as home.
So, be prepared for your opinions on road rules to be twisted and turned upside down, because here’s how to handle the roads of Vietnam.
Rule One: Bigger is Better
The one vital rule – the rule to rule them all – is this. The bigger you are, the more power you have on the road. Know this, and you’ll likely survive on the streets.
Basically, the order goes a little something like this.
Forget your opinions on “right of way” and waiting your turn. They no longer exist.
If there’s something bigger than you, and you’re in their way, you better get out of it.
Just look online for some videos of trucks hurtling towards a motorcyclist up the wrong lane (like the one below), and I’ll give you one guess who it is that moves out of the way. That’s right, it’s the motorcyclist. They’re smaller, so it’s their responsibility to move.
Move. Or face the deadly consequences. Got it?
Rule Two: Blind Spots and Turning Traffic – No Worries
This ones quite simple, but difficult to put into practice. Realistically, I still checked everything (being towards the smaller scale of things on my bicycle), but it’s important to keep in mind so you can predict what others are doing around you.
The simple rule is this – only care about what is in front of you.
Forget those rearview mirrors. Don’t bother with oncoming traffic when turning. Change lanes like you’re the only vehicle on the road.
None of that is your problem. If someone is behind you, they’ll deal with it. It’s their issue.
So look forward only, but do so at your own risk – it’s what’s done in Vietnam. It doesn’t mean you have to do it too.
While it does seem that traffic in Vietnam just magically seems to morph around you (I’m sure you’ve experienced this while crossing the street), I’d be hesitant to do this with anything larger than a motorbike (see rule one)… And just to be on the extra safe side, I’d still recommend doing your normal checks – just know that noone else will.
Rule Three: Anything Goes
There’s not much more to it than the two rules above.
But that’s not to say you shouldn’t consider anything else. Because the fact is, anything can happen on the roads in Vietnam, and you should be prepared for it.
You’ll find cars parked in the middle of the street, cows relaxing in your lane, or even a shop or a farmer taking up a lane for their personal use. It’s all fine, but it can be frustrating if you’re not prepared for it.
Take it in your stride and enjoy the craziness of the roads and the people while you’re visiting.
Ultimately, making your own way across Vietnam is played out a little like a comedy – but one in which you need to ensure you’re constantly alert and aware.
Be safe. Have fun. Enjoy the ride.
And let me know if you’ve experienced any other “road rules” for Vietnam.
Read More at: Vietnam Travel
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