Driving in Vietnam

Driving in Vietnam is a hot topic. A person can read all about the dangers of driving in Vietnam and I tend to agree with most people. I drive here daily but must admit that it took a very long time before I had a grasp of the rules and how to survive on the street. I see and hear quite often of some tourist getting injured driving here. It is mainly because they do not understand how traffic works and they make critical mistakes. Driving in Vietnam is like nothing you have ever experienced.

 They use rules here that are totally in conflict with what we are taught in a driving school. In fact, some of the rules are dangerously ridiculous. At the moment, my friend’s girlfriend is getting driving lessons. Some of the rules being taught to here are just out right dangerous. Here is one of the rules that you must be aware of and be on guard for!!

Cars, busses, trucks and other large vehicles are required to use the inside lane at all times. Motorcycles are in the outside lanes. Here is where it gets dangerous!! Motorcycles are required to turn left from the outside, or right lane (north America style) and the cars are required to turn right from the inside lane. I was bemused when I asked about this rule and it was confirmed by my friend taking the driving lesson. Just imagine in our country a person passing in either lane at a high speed just to have somebody turn directly in front of you…. Madness!! Add the drunken people (even in rush hour) to the equation and it is mayhem. I have seen many people hurt and killed since I have been here because of this STUPID rule. So…. Here are some basic rules if you decide to go against the good advice of the people that know, and decide to rent a motorcycle in Vietnam.

  1. Always assume that the person coming from any direction is impaired and will make some very silly decisions. You never know which way a person will swerve.
  2. Anything bigger than you have the right of way whether it is in front or behind. You have to constantly monitor your mirror if you have one at what is speeding up from the rear, as well as all around. Their 150 db horns will assure they are noticed, if they do not cause you to veer into head on traffic because of the shock.
  3. Traffic here flows at a constant 30 kph. Do not try to drive faster… just flow.. Speed dictates control, and you never want to lose control here. There is almost no yielding. The trick is timing and being able to flow into traffic. If you cannot flow with them, you become the hazard.
  4. When trying to turn across a busy road…. A person will turn against head on traffic in the outside n coming lane. You will then proceed against the head on traffic until you see an opening to swing across the head on traffic to merge with the flow of traffic…. Remember though!! If there is a car or bus there, they will not yield, so you have to time it correctly otherwise you will be stuck in head on traffic.
  5. Always assume that the person next to you is drunk. And always beware the random maneuvers of kids on bicycles… They are a menace. They have no sense of mortality and will swerve into our path regularly.
  6. Always remember that the bike is insured but you are not!! Any scrapes bumps, or broken limbs will be at your expense and you will also have to pay for the damage to the bike, even though it is insured.
  7. Always try to stay on the right rear of a vehicle when going through intersections. They will clear traffic for you.
  8. Traffic merging into your lane do not look before proceeding. It is up to you to be aware and evade the entering traffic. If you hit them you will be at fault.
  9. Always drive on the shoulder of the highway and be prepared to evade vehicles, pedestrians, and obstacles. If you get tired, pull into a hammock café and nap. DO NOT try t drive if your attention cannot be 100 % on the road.

It is better just not to drive at all, but there are bold ones out there so please be aware of these basic rules. It took years before I understood the rules and was reluctant to drive, but it is required in my business, so therefore I do.

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Tour designer and Guide specializing in off the beaten track tours of Vietnam

6 thoughts on “Driving in Vietnam

  1. A few more:
    10. Never use your turn signals, it will only confuse someone.

    11. Drive faster when it’s raining, that way you won’t get as wet.

    12. If 4 teenagers will fit on a motorbike so will 5 or 6.

    13. On weekends helmet laws are suspended.

    14. When the traffic light is ‘red’ you must (sometimes) look one way before accelerating blindly through the intersection.

    15. In the event of an accident yell and scream the loudest (even if it’s your fault)– blame everyone and everything else.

  2. Maz… Had I more notice, I would have delivered the egg sandwhich personally to you in Saigon (but it would have been cold)
    Drifter… I have found out the 24 hour rule is false. A person is to remain on scene. There may be a cultural thing about the 24 hour thing, but I do not know yet. I am still working on the marked crosswalk question.
    Darktree 😉

  3. My comment about the 24 hr rule is in relation to an incident that happened recently. My Viet Kieu friend’s brother lives in HCMC, he was killed in a car accident but the family didn’t get any details because the driver didn’t stop. I was informed the driver has 24 hrs to turn himself in because sometimes the family may go hostile and harm the driver. I haven’t had confirmation on this yet but my Viet Kieu friend says this is common because the families get upset, rightfully so, and this gives everyone time to calm down.

  4. thanks for posting the youtube owee- omg- i think the traffic looks even worse than last time i was in hcmc (2 year’s ago) -will be seeing it for real in a couple of day’s time. I wish I was coming to meet you but, hopefully next year for sure.

  5. ahhhhh the joys of driving in Vn. Did you get a confromation on the 24hr rule yet? I’m very interested to know if it is true and I have a feeling that it is given the frequency of accidents here.

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