I thought I would hold my Vietnamese drivers license in my hand today, bat as is usual… things can get very complicated in Vietnam. The procedure was as follows: Get 4 photo’s and attach one to a form with your personal information, and get a blue book establishing your residency status. Then get the paper stamped by a government official. Next take a copy of your marriage license, and passport/visa to a notary public and have it translated into English. The notary public will send you off to city hall to submit copies of passport, and confirmation of submitted papers to the notary public. You will receive another stamp. Next pickup the same papers later in the day. Do not forget that most businesses in Vietnam close for a siesta from 11:00 – 1:30 or 2 Next take the papers and pick up the papers from the notary public and deliver to the licensing bureau with another copy of passport and a pile of stamped and filled papers. I will return tomorrow to hopefully pick up my drivers license. This is the shortened version. To describe the run around and back tracking involved would take a chapter in a book. Now that we are on the topic about driving…….
As a tourist, getting around Nhatrang is quite easy. There are cyclo drivers with their bicycle rickshaws, Motorcycle taxi’s. Regular taxi’s and motorcycle rentals. I had intended not to drive here, and just bus it or walk. Since I decided to stay in the outskirts, I was forced to get a bike as taxis were getting expensive. Since I have been here a number of times, I have had a lot of time for the rules and nuances of the chaotic traffic to make sense, and it does. I was told by the licensing authority that many western visitors end up having accidents so be careful. I do personally know a number of people western and Vietnamese that have been involved in bone breaking incidents.
Let me start that saying it is dangerous to drive here. You have to be a good driver…. Not think you are, but really!! A good driver. You are constantly swerving in and out of traffic, avoiding head on collisions, watching for rear approaching trucks, avoiding j-walking pedestrians, animals, and lost items from vehicles. Worst of all is the kids on bicycles that swerve into middle lanes seemingly at random causing you to react. People who think they have nerves of steel cannot help but to jump, swerve, or have other adverse reactions to the loudness of the horns that come up from behind. Horns that are even more painful to the ears than a ships foghorn. Perhaps, what is even more dangerous than the traffic is what is being carried on the motorcycles. You do not want to be beside one if the plastic twine holding that full size refrigerator breaks, or passing in the opposite direction looking into the sun and not seeing the sheet metal protruding 4 feet of each side at neck level. Since I was here last year, they have started to install some traffic lights, and some people are even obeying them. But for the most part, picture the busiest intersection of your city at rush hour with no traffic lights….. That is almost every intersection here. Driving here is not defensive and not really driving at all. Driving here is simply avoiding collisions as you progress forward….. Nothing else. There is so much more I could say about the dangers, but I need to go on in order not to make this blog too long. I would suggest to most people that you remain safe and use a taxi or other local mode of travel, but if you really want to strike out on your own, here are the rules:
Size matters.. The larger and louder you are, the more right of way you have. A pedestrian is the smallest. Crossing the street, they will wait, yields and slowly proceed across the street ready to dive for it any second. The largest are military or commercial trucks that have horns that are ear-drum shattering loud. A pedestrian will yield way to a bike, a bike will yield to a motorcycle, a motorcycle to a car. A car to a bus, a bus to a semi. That includes if they approach from the rear!! If you see something bigger than you coming from behind, move to the right and let it pass. If you do not see it come from behind. It will be aggressive and scare the daylights out of you somehow, so eyes in the back of your head it is. The way to turn left into a busy intersection… and most of them are, is to turn tight against the curb lane and drive in the wrong direction against the curb. When the traffic avoiding you is thin enough, you can work your way against head on traffic until you are in your correct lane. After a bit of practice it is not too hard to do unless a car or truck happens to get involved… then it gets hairy. Every intersection is a game of chicken. Common sense should tell you who hits the brakes and who proceeds. A good tactic is to try to stay aside a taxi or any other lager vehicle. Just remember, They might turn in a random direction at any moment. Also, vehicles will turn left from the right lane and right from the left, so that can be an unexpected hazard also. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrl7eFsyln0
Yielding for another happens in Vietnam, but only if you are FORCED into it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA3xXWTfIio
I have made my own video’s but have been having trouble uploading them… These are Youtube links for now.