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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.

45 comments

  • Grancy

    Maybe I was a little bit hasty to conclude.For my age,I haven’t been awear of everything overall…But anyway I still believe in a bright future…Thanks for the theses and ideas of you both!

  • Doug Greene

    Hello Friends. I love this topic because I have been traveling to Vietnam since 1990. I just returned from my 29th trip and am planning my 30th trip. I am married to a wonderful Vietnamese woman and I love Vietnam and its culture. Many of you who are responding to this blog were raised in another country besides Vietnam and though you are Vietnamese, you probably did not grow up in Vietnam. I recently did something in Vietnam I am not proud of. I got my first traffic ticket there last December 30th in 2008. Vietnam has \radar\ detectors now and I was going 15 km over the speed limit. I should have slowed down when traveling through a small village, but I didn’t. About 15 km after the radar picked me up; I was signaled to pull over by a police car with three officers. I was disgusted with myself. The older police officer in his 40’s told my wife and I and her sister to get out of our car. We did so and a young good looking officer walked towards me and saluted me with his right hand as he gave me a warm smile. I saluted him back. The older officer was gruffer. I am a white Irish American and I think the young officer was a bit shy as he approached me. I was surprised at how polite he was and I marveled at his grace. I could see he was new at writing out tickets, but the older and heavier police officer was giving him tips on how to act. I was fortunate that I got pulled over in my own province of Binh Thuan because the nice young officer had to take my car’s title with him and I needed to appear in traffic court the next day. Had I been pulled over in a province farther away, it would have bee more difficult for me to appear and get my title back. My fine was about $60.00 U.S. I tell you all this because I was a visitor to Vietnam and I broke a traffic law. The fine I received was legitimate. I have no one to blame but myself. I have a Vietnamese language blog about my life in Vietnam. If you are interested you are welcome to visit at: http://360.yahoo.com/bohaicuacon – No country is perfect and of course Vietnam is no exception. Vietnam is changing for the better however and I want to do all I can to help Vietnam succeed. My wife and I are Christians and we daily pray for Vietnam and the people there, i.e. Nguoi Kinh, Cham, Dao, Ea De, v…v…v…. When we visit our families in Vietnam we can be an ambassador for change by providing a good example. Change comes slowly step by step. I will try and do my part to be a good example and I hope you will not get tired of traveling to VN and becoming a good example too by following their helmet laws and being a Viet Kieu that Vietnam will be proud to have come and visit.

  • Hi all,
    Thanks for commenting on this article which I wrote in 2006. I was very surprised about receiving so many comments. I appreciate that very much but I think some of your comments were quite negative. I have been living in Hanoi for over 7 years and I am seeing the improvement so much. Different countries have different ways to lead their countries and Viet Nam too. I am quite happy with our government’s leadership at the moment. They also are trying very hard to keep up with the fast development.
    If you haven’t been in Viet Nam since the war then it’s difficult to make an objective judgement about what Viet Nam is like now.
    I think Singapore is vey clean and organized but it lacks character. I don’t think Vietnamese wanna be another Singapore. We are improving but we still want to maintain our culture. Hope you guys understand my point.

  • phuong

    I used to live in Hanoi when a student. I found Hanoi’s traffic very terrible. Too many mean of transportation on the street all days, longer and longer rush hours, people not obeying the laws. I was afraid of traffic in Hanoi.

  • Doug Greene has mentioned how polite the young policeman was…The thing bout policemen in Vietnam is that somehow they are afraid of the foreigners..I dont mean in everyway. Like 2 of my friends, they came back to Hanoi to visit…both of they were born and raised in Vietnam, they got caught by the police not once but few times…instead of speak Vietnamese, they speak English and act like foreigners and both got away without payin any fines for broke the law. Wat Im trying to say is sumhow because of lacking education for example dont noe English…it can make ppl feel less confident and insecure and afraid.

  • Grancy

    So sad that it’s true!…

  • Recent turist in Saigon

    Why you Vietnam people don’t try to build a metro and use buses? You, sure are good in building tunnels…the traffic is horible and the bil(buses, minibuses) drivers are even worse!!

    • Jennie Dinh

      To “recent Turist in Saigon”

      First, dont u ever use that “you Vietnam people” with us okey?…we aint welcomin that kind of talk here, so cut it out!!! Second, if we r rich enough like the American or the Japanese dont u think we would have metro everywhere in our country by now?! Seriously, I dont noe wat planet ur comin from. Not like every country becomes so rich after a night

  • hanauchi

    would you mind if I want to know your age? If you are over 18 I would like you know that I think of you with a feeling of pity! You don’t understand nothing at all, at least about my country Việt Nam. I’m wondering why you have such an one-sided argument! Calm down and learn how to think, ok?

    • Jennie Dinh

      Hanauchi, s that for me or for the “recent turist in saigon”???

  • hanauchi

    why , why and why. how great and how ugly! why don’t we try to build metro…? I’m wondering if you have returned from Mar or somewhere there all peoples don’t have history like USA? Nonsense! What an innocent you are! I’m proud that I’m a Việt Nam people by original! You have no sympathy for my country, maybe. I hope you’ll understand that We new generation don’t try in vain.

  • Peter F

    I think the government can fix for a big part the traffic problem. If they increase the tickets for the drivers what are making and extra lane which is ussually causing the big screwup and also for the drivers driving through red. The police can earn more during traffic, which is ussually coffee or dinner time for them.

    • Jennie Dinh

      Peter, that will jus create more corruptions

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