Riding a motorcycle in Vietnam 101
The first time you become a part of traffic in Vietnam, you will be very close to getting crazy, I promise. At first sight, it all seems like a big chaos − thousands of motorcycles riding next to each other with steering lights not having such an importance and sounds of horn coming from all sides…
My advise to all the first time motorcycle riders in Vietnam is based on three very important rules. Read them carefully and you will have much better time on the road.
People, as human beings, get often tricked at the first sight. Many things that get on your mind are very often found as misleading later. And that’s how it is with traffic in Vietnam too. You will quickly learn that traffic in Vietnam is not as chaotic as it seems, it is only based on different mindset. While western culture is based on individualistic attitude, traffic is mostly controlled by rules that remind people that other people might have different needs. The mindset of people in Vietnam is mostly collectivistic. A person is always a part of a group, first, no matter what.
This is something that you should think about since the very beginning when you become a part of local traffic. In Vietnam, when people get on their motorcycles they immediately become a part of a crowd. They all ride the same speed, they all steer at the same spots and they never make unexpected moves on their motorcycles. For this characteristics, the traffic in Vietnam cannot be described with better word than “fluent”. From the very beginning, as you get on your motorcycle, the first thing you should think about is to become a part of the crowd. Do not ride faster, do not ride slower and never ever ever make unexpected or even aggressive moves since it is the fastest way how to get into an accident.
#2 Being respectful
While roads in Europe are always controlled by rules and traffic signs, you will not find them in Vietnam. And still, millions of people transport themselves all together. This is mostly a matter of being respectful. People in Vietnam do not tend to overtake each other to prove themselves something. As Vietnamese society is very peaceful, the local traffic is very peaceful too.
When becoming a part of Vietnamese traffic think about how important it is to realize you are only a visitor in a foreign country and that local people respect each other on the road at all cost. Give them respect too!
#3 Always give way to trucks, buses, minibuses and cars
You will quickly learn that riding in Vietnam actually feels quite save. In my opinion, it is mostly because of the fact that car and motorcycle ratio is very different from what you might know from home. In Vietnam, majority of vehicles are two wheeled.
On the other hand, once you encounter a four wheeled vehicle the more careful you should be. In general, the bigger vehicle you meet the more you are required to give way to it. While in cities, you will mostly get “endangered” by buses and cabs, in the countryside, you will meet aggressive truck and bus drivers. It is not that bad, just do not expect them to care about you and once you see them, always give way to them.
To summarize this: Drive slow, do not race, wear a helmet, never make unexpected moves, give way to every four wheel vehicle that appears close and always respect other people on the road and you will come back home with memories of the best road trip you could have ever taken.