There’s so much to love about travel in Vietnam. Visiting ancient temples, trying the incredible food – from roadside stalls to upmarket restaurants – and meeting the friendly people.
But there’s one thing about travel in Vietnam that can take some getting used to.
It can be daunting and overwhelming. It can quicken the heart rate. It makes some travellers want to hide away in their hotel rooms, or stick to the same four streets surrounding their accommodation.
It is, of course, crossing the road.
In many parts of the world, crossing the road is a relatively easy experience. You press the button at the traffic lights. You wait for the light to go red, the traffic to stop and the green person to illuminate. You cross.
But in Vietnam (and in many other parts of Asia), crossing the road can be a very different experience. For one, there aren’t many traffic lights with pedestrian crossings. When there are traffic lights, many cars, bikes, trucks and buses don’t pay much attention to them (I’ve stepped onto the road on a red light, with a green crossing signal – thinking I have right of way – and come very close to being side-swiped by a lorry).
Roads in Vietnam tend to be either multi-lane highways or single-lane streets, and drivers seemingly make their own rules. And then there’s the traffic. There’s a lot of it. Traffic in Vietnam drive on the right-hand side of the road; this is particularly important for travellers from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to remember.
When you’re in Vietnam, there are certain rules to follow when you’re crossing the road. Here’s how to do it safely, so you can get on with enjoying your adventures in Vietnam:
- Survey your surroundings and spend a moment or two gauging what the traffic is doing. How fast is it moving? How much traffic is on the road? Motorcycles can be quite erratic, so keep your eyes open for wayward bikes too.
- If you’re at a roundabout – a particularly difficult place for pedestrians – check who has right of way and which way the traffic is going; it’s not uncommon for traffic to go the wrong way around.
- When there’s a break in the traffic (remember, you will almost never see a road in Vietnam entirely free of cars, trucks and motorbikes), step out onto the road. Don’t alarmed if the traffic driving towards you doesn’t appear to be slowing down; when they get close enough, they’ll go around you. They will also honk their horns at you, but that’s more to let you know they’ve seen you.
- Keep walking, slowing down, if necessary. There’s a method to it; the cars and bikes will flow around you, like a school of fish.
- It’s OK to quicken your pace, but never run, stop, or step backwards.
- While it might be tempting to screw your eyes shut and plough ahead, it’s important to keep your head up and eyes open.
- If you feel nervous, it’s alright to hold up your hand to oncoming traffic (however, be aware that they won’t stop entirely). It’s also worth looking out for another person or group making the crossing, and going with them (particularly if they’re local).
- Before you know it, you’re at the other side!
While the first few crossings can be a bit intimidating, you’ll get more confident each time, making that excursion for a fresh banh mi, iced coffee, or cyclo ride all the more rewarding!
Vietnam is a wonderful destination to explore, especially on a small group adventure with Peregrine. View our range of tours now.
Feature photo by Na_To via Shutterstock.