The traffic can be a nightmare for visitors to Viet Nam for the first time. Believe it or not, there are transport rules but people don't seem really interested in following them. Three or four people on one motor bike is a common sight, particularly with the young and young families.
The traffic is worst during the rush hour when everyone is attempting to get to work or get home quickly. Some people ride their motorbikes on the pavement rather than waiting in the a traffic jam. The people walking are just as likely to get hit on the pavement as they are crossing the roads at such times. It's crazy. Road users become very impatient, constantly using their horns when there's obviously nowhere to go, even shouting at others to get out of the way. You have to be quite aggressive or you get nowhere.
Another point which is concerning is the increase in the number of cars on the road. People may think that Vietnam is a poor developing country, but in Hanoi there is an incredible number of cars, a lot owned by the government but increasing numbers owned by private individuals. Recently, the government approved a policy to allow second hand cars to be imported, which is only going to add the the congestion in big cities like Hanoi and Saigon.
Food blogger Noodlepie down in Saigon mentions that “he gave up driving a motorbike in Vietnam about three or four years ago” because it gave him ” zero pleasure and mucho stresso”. To see what the driving conditions are like in Saigon, check out the short video on his post.
While the increase in car use and congestion are serious problems, the most annoying thing about the traffic in Hanoi is the way people use their horns. It's a habit which serves no purpose most of the time. A disturbing trend is the fashion for installing air horns on motorbikes. Of course this is not allowed in the city but the traffic police in Hanoi seem to be so overwhelmed by the volume of traffic that little can be done. This is really annoying for other people and sometimes it causes accidents. To avoid the horns, take Our Man in Hanoi's advice and get some driving music together for journeys on the back of a xe om(motorbike taxi).
Recently departed Hanoi blogger, Hanoi Mark, in a post about his “most vivid images and experiences” of living in Viet Nam, captures another unique side of the Hanoi traffic from “under his big plastic poncho raincoat”.
There is definitely something strangely addictive about the traffic experience in Viet Nam especially for foreigners. However, the traffic conditions are seem to be getting worse, not better. It is really worrying to think about what the situation will be like in the next five years or so.