Vietnamese drive on the right side of the road --

that is to say, most of the time.

Traffic in Vietnam can be a nightmare for visitors. If you are here the first time you might not believe it but there are transport rules. As people don't seem really interested in following them is another consideration you will have to digest..


As everywhere traffic is at its worst during rush hours when everyone is attempting to get to work or home as quickly as possible. The pavement is used as the territory of motorbikes as well. They rather use this additional lanes than waiting in the traffic jam. So as a pedestrian walking here you are just as likely to get hit on the pavement as on crossing the roads at such times.


An average new motorbike costs the equivalent of $2,500, a large sum in a land where the average per capita income is low. But it seems the traffic increase by monthly, may be daily.  But even if the increase in bike and in the recent years car use and congestion are serious problems, the most annoying thing about the traffic in Hanoi is the way people use their horns.


This habit which most of the time serves no purpose is disturbing and led to the fashion of installing air horns on motorbikes. Of course this is not allowed but the police is so overwhelmed by the volume of traffic that nobody seems to care.


One other thing, which is remarkable, is not just the volume of traffic but the way it moves. Vietnamese drive on the right side of the road – YES – that’s the rule. But a lot of times, they cross over and drive on the opposite side of the road right into the face of oncoming traffic in order to pass people who are slower.


The drivers seem to possess a sixth sense that enables them to tuck back into the flow of vehicles at the last possible moment. And to get the attention – and that seems to be needed all the time – they make creative use of their horn, which don’t help at all as everyone is doing the same thing.


In my understanding it might be impossible to drive here without honking. Everyone does it constantly. The best way to speed up your road time is to come up right behind the person you wish to pass and start honking away until the other driver moves over.


I didn’t see a lot of horrendous accidents up to now but there are a lot. On the other hand the Gods of Traffic might think that Vietnam has suffered enough and its people deserve some luck.


For tourists and newcomers the feeling that you must be lucky to cross a street is imminent. For most of them it is a daunting experience. There are hundreds of motorcycles and other vehicles which stream past and in waiting for a break in the traffic your feeling of helplessness increases. Waiting for a break - the problem is most of the time there will be no real break.


There is only one solution. You have to launch yourself into the flow with slowly and predictable moves and trust that the motorcyclists navigate around you.  And than either by luck or good management, they safely pass you and you passed your street  --


West Lake (Ho Tay) - Hanoi

Triptych with the New Hanoian Photography Meetup