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Traffic In Viet Nam

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.

  • I have experienced being pillion rider on my friend scooter in HCMC. Yes, the traffic were completed chaotic, that’s one culture shock for me! :P

  • Al

    You didn’t mention about the traffic accidents: every day about 40 people are dying on the streets (see also Asia Injury website: http://www.asiainjury.org/home.asp) and there’s nothing that the goverment want to do. The policemen even are statisfied with the bribing of the population and so the thing are going on. I’m an expat living in Saigon, and people, it’s just terrible how less Vietnamese care about traffic safety. Be careful!!!!

  • Phan Lan Anh

    not absolutedly as you said. My country is trying to solve this problem. And my goverment always want to do somthing to make city’s face get better. If you re come back Hanoi 3 years later, I sure that yoou will not see this sight anymore

    • Nguyen Chi Cong

      I’ve been living in Hanoi since 2005, 1 year prior to this post, and the traffic gets worse and worse everyday. Believe or not, this is a typical case of a “paid web user” to go online finding whatever complaint about her dipshit government and say something completely opposite the real situation that happens in Vietnam, just because the government pays her to do so.

      • van anh

        you shouldnt have said that,

    • smiley

      Ho Chi Minh is still exactly the way it is. And although I’ve never been to Hanoi I am pretty sure not much has changed. Yeah sure the government has done something about it, but get serious, there’s nothing we can do. We’ve set up rules for only having two in a family, but we can’t just reduce the number of people. We can’t “shoo” people away from their houses and make the streets bigger. Vietnam is awesome. I would know because I’ve been here since I was born. I’m Vietnamese. The government isn’t the best in the world, but they’ve done something. We are the slowest developing country in the world, but we’ve done a great job.

      Shut up people. I’m a Vietnamese, and it’s awesome being it. There might be some issues. I know a lot of people die because of traffic, but that’s because those idiots on the roads didn’t know HOW to think. It’s not generally all Vietnamese.

      Adding to that, Vietnam isn’t the only country that has traffic problems.

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  • This Tết I saw 6 from one family on a motorcycle, and yes no helmets were being worn. Back in the 60’s when I was working on the roads in Vietnam, I saw 7 from one family on a 100 cc motorbike. Vietnamese people do what ever it takes to get the job done. If you know the traffic rules and what to expect from other drivers, pedestrians, and livestock, you will survive like I do. I drive a SUV in Vietnam and yes there are some close calls. I am glad the the Lord Jesus watches over me. Even though He watches over me, I still must use caution and allow for others to use the road the way they think fit. It is their country after all.

  • hi everyone, i’m a student and i’m doing an essay about my country’s traffic problem and how to solve it . It’s the fact that the traffic is terrible but we’re trying our best to make things better. Now, everyone must wear helmet when ride motorbike and if people break the rules , they ‘ll really get trouble with the police. We- the new generation will solve these traffic problem nicely.

    • Nguyen Chi Cong

      Your post shows that you’re very good at English, nothing else. Wanna have a chance to solve things in Vietnam, wait for 300 more years please, my dear.

  • Jennie Dinh

    To Le Anh:

    We already know that nothing will ever change in the way people think. I’m Vietnamese student and Im also doinmy thesis on the issues that vietnam is facin at the moment: traffic, pollution, drugs, prostitution…Trust me, every year I go back I see the same thing. The government set up the law, ppl take it serious for like max a year then everything go back to the old thing. They dont even care bout the law or their own safety and they take everything for granted. Plus there r way too many corruptions, there aint no such a thing called “law from the government” in Vietnam…its more like people make the law…So dont say “We- the new generation will solve these traffic problem nicely”.

  • violet

    I agree with Jennie Dinh.The problemof traffic in Vietnam will spend a lot of time to find out way of sloving.Because government set up law,but their police don’t do follow law.They are ready to get people’smoney who break the law and let they go easily.You also don’t hope anything from government.They won’t slove this problem better.Because now the most important thing of them is corruption.They try to get as much money as they possible,while they still hold authority.And you also shouldn’t think that the new generation will have chance to slove this problem until the government at the present time still exist.

    • Thanks Violet…

      I would like to add that I just went back to HAnoi 2 weeks ago…Looked at the city and I was wonderin “How long will it take for Hanoi atleast be like 1/3 of Singapore?? 10 years? 20years? or maybe even 100years…”…I saw many couples drove round Hoan Kiem Lake without wearin helmet…and those r the “NEW YOUNG GENERATION”…and the polices jus stood there like nothin happen. I mean where is the law, people??? I have seen a lot of VNese delegations (from the gov’t) came to Singapore to learn the Singaporean’s way of ruling the country, but what have they learnt from the trip? I’m telling u “They have learnt alot”…but as Violet said, they aint gonna do like the Singaporean because it means they wont get any money for themselves out of it…So they jus spent the gov’t’ money for trips from this country to that country for fun…Dont u jus feel so sad and sorry for that??

  • violet

    Traffic jam is a topic of seminar that I decide to choose after I read your ideas. I also wondered”how long will this problem be slolved?And I answered by myself that”It will be very long, long, and long time”.Because the government of Vietnam just care about their interest,not Vietnamese’s interest. Nocountries are like Vietnam, leaders are untalented,immoral.Not only traffic jam but also many other problems that they can’t solve.It doesn’t hope about beautiful,rich Vietnam in future.

    • seriously I see Vietnam has no future of bein a nice, clean country if this gov’t til exist…no woder why ppl jus move to oversea lookin for a better life

      • Grancy

        To Jennie Dinh:
        I’ve read your comments already.Certainly,our country has been facing with many social problems which haven’t been solved well as you mentioned,but also there are some points I don’t agree with you…
        First of all,you said:”Don’t say”We-the new generation will solve these traffic problems nicely””.I’m wondering why not?!Is it impossible if we think and do in another way,or you consider we can’t make it come true?Hah,is that the lifestyle of 8X,9x like you and me???…
        Second,at the last comment you included that Vietnam has no future of being a nice,clean country if this govement still exist…Once again I say”Why not?”,and what’s is”this gov’t”you supposed?You meant the leaders are untalented and immoral according to Violet’s idea,right? To this,please remember not disclaim completely what we got in the past…It proves that we can make everything possible as long as having enough time.Believe or not it’s up to you,but in my opinion,I can make sure that it’s true.Just wait!Vietnam surely becomes a nice country in the future.
        Finally,hope you always have hope in everything!!!

        • I didnt say its impossible…everythin is possible, however the people like me and you…we are jus the minority, we cant change a country, cant change the way people think….well if u again say WHY NOT, then I’ll say “We can, but in a 100 years”. First, tell me how many 8x, 9x u actually see wearin helmet wen they go out?! I’ve seen in the past 2 and half years (especially since the law of “MUST wear helmet” established), I see young ppl go out with the helmets but not actually wearin them…they worry more bout their hair style than their safety. See how many 8x and 9x are willin to change the country? Now, not only the 8x and 9x but the adults (like parents), they dont even wear helmet, throwin garbage everywher they can, urinatin wherever they feel like…I don think the younger generation is much better than us. Back then wen I was in 8grade, remember we were shy and even feel embarrassin wen the teacher taught us bout sex…Now u tell me how many 14, 15 years old can be that actually innocent…9x talk bout sex like its jus a normal thing, go to motels everyday after school. Again I’m not sayin talkin bout sex is bad, but they r only like 14…the innocent has become the minority. Second – I did not say the gov’t is untalented…they r talented, trust me they r. They jus dont bring or use wat they have seen or learnt from other developd countries, again they only worry bout themselves…the more money they get the better. Why did the Japanese stop investin in the Dong Tay Ave Project?? I, myself even feel ashamed for our country wen this kind of thing happens…We lose our face, our reputation w the neighbor country cuz of money…True we all love money, but COME ON, ITS OUR COUNTRY WE ARE TALKIN BOUT. I have talked to not one but many expats who have been workin in Vietnam in the past 20years, they have said things js get worst…everythin is bout money (but under the table), the old peaceful city get destroyed by tall buildings, hotels, offices..and it jus get more dusty, noisy every single day…I know every country has its cons and pros, but seriously how many PROS do we have? Sure sure everythin will change, it will…but til then, honey we all will b sumwhere else…Its true we have to have faith…but I dont think I will til hav dat faith in me in the next 50yrs. Sumtimes we jus have to accept that its REAL

  • violet

    To Grancy:
    After I read your comments,I think you are very confident about the new generation who can solve these important problem.I also believe the new generation is like us can do,if we are given chance. But the fact of the country proved everything, you try to count how many people who go abroad to study after finishing their study,they come back Vietnam?How many people who are given scholarship to go abroad to study by government,come back the country?I can make sure that the mount of student abroad come back, it is very small.Why?I think you know answer. We are the young generation, the future of the country, so we want to contribute our ability to make the country develop,but what can we do when the government don’t give us chance? Can you work in place that most of people are corruption?Are you sure that you can say your ideas or oppose when you see these wrong things or bad things that happen in Vietnam?

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