Vietnamese Traffic | Essential Things to Note for First Time Travelers

By Kayla LE - May 10, 2024
Vietnamese Traffic | Essential Things to Note for First Time Travelers

How to navigate Vietnam's traffic like a pro?  In this following article, you will get essential tips for pedestrians and drivers, from understanding 'flexible' rules to crossing the street safely.


Vietnam is a must-visit Southeast Asian country - there is nothing to question. However, this article is not about that beauty. Since every country has its own downside, in this article, we are going to share more about a practical situation which is somehow not really comfortable to many travelers (especially ones from Western countries) but you will mostly have to deal with it - Vietnamese traffic. We hope that with the guide we am providing, you are aware of Vietnam traffic and can successfully deal with it without irritation in your travel experience in Vietnam.

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1. Ugly truth about Vietnamese traffic

Vietnam is among the nations with the most motorbikes in the world

The main form of transportation in Vietnam is the motorbike. There are more than 45 million motorcycles in the nation, and about 86% of people possess one. Two-wheeler sales are still increasing even though the market is saturated. Vietnaminsider claims that as a result, Vietnam now ranks among the nations with the largest percentage of motorcycle riders worldwide.

vietnamese traffic saigon

Motorcycles are now appropriate and common in Vietnam due to their practicality and ease of usage on small roadways. Therefore, Vietnam owns one of the most distinctive traffic cultures, with a large number of motorbikes.

You can totally witness how dominant this vehicle is when traveling to this country in major cities. Large motorbike lineups will overwhelm you in metropolises like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, or Hai Phong. Motorcycles are driven on all types of roadways, both big and tiny. 

If you are unlucky enough to be stuck in that line of cars, you will have a thrilling time when the air is filled with the smell of dust, the sounds of engines and horns, and occasionally even unidentifiable furious noises.

The number of accidents in Vietnam is not small

In Vietnam, the topic of traffic accidents frequently comes up when talking about transportation. The Vietnam National Traffic Safety Committee and Statista estimate that out of 20,000 traffic accidents in Vietnam in 2017, up to 17,000 people were injured, and 8,000 people died.

vietnamese traffic police women

There are several reasons for these figures, such as the variety of traffic patterns, road networks, and driver awareness. Unclear signage or instructions tucked away in an awkward spot, a shortage of subway system, and only a small number of flyover bridges on a small number of highways also result in a sluggish and clogged transportation system with plenty of vehicles. Although the number of traffic accidents is on a gradual decrease as proper practices have been implemented, Vietnam has a lot to do to deal with traffic and the number of accidents.

Vietnam traffic during rush hour is crazy

Traffic in Vietnam becomes extremely busy during rush hour. Intersections and roundabout areas, in particular, are seen to be the hub for “the culture" of traffic in this nation.

vietnamese traffic jam

Any roundabout's intricate traffic flow may be observed by standing just in front of it and looking at it from above. However, the more you examine, the less you will be able to discern the primary guidelines that drivers follow when they are on the road. It causes vertigo, much like a hypnotic circle. Whether it's the sidewalk or the automobile lane during rush hour, a motorbike will naturally take up any available space right away.

In Vietnam, traffic rules are just relative

Vietnamese people are conscious of traffic rules and have their driving permits (or not), but when it comes to the traffic jam situation, they prefer to “go with the flow". Therefore, the Vietnam traffic jam from above looks like a maze with so many vehicles coming from different directions and trying to escape the crowd by their own ways. You are not likely to find a rule by watching it.

vietnamese traffic not follow rules

Crossing the streets is like a roller coaster ride

For residents, crossing the street looks effortless, but for visitors, it is a breathtaking task. When visiting Vietnam for the first time, a lot of foreign visitors test their bravery at pedestrian crossings.

vietnamese traffic crossing road

They ought to quickly return to the sidewalk the moment they attempt to step onto the road. A lot of visitors claim that walking the streets of Vietnam is like embarking on a free adventure tour. Yes, it is one of the adventurous things to do in Vietnam.

2. Useful guide to deal with Vietnamese traffic

Since Vietnam traffic is pretty difficult for first-timers in the country and other nations in the Southeast Asian region. 

If you are not driving...

In Vietnam, pedestrian street crossings might seem quite difficult because of the busy traffic and lack of safe crossing locations. To get to where you want to be, you might sometimes have to make your way through dense traffic. Nonetheless, by using the following advice, you may effectively find Vietnam's colorful streets and cross the street with assurance while putting your safety first.

hanoi old quarter vietnamese traffic

Tip 1: When crossing the street, keep your speed constant. This enables other drivers to predict your movements and modify their speed appropriately. Do not run since it might lead to accidents.

Tip 2: It's critical to give signs to vehicles while crossing in poorly lightened areas or during periods of high traffic. To indicate that you want to cross, raise your hand or make other motions. This makes you more noticeable to traffic and less likely for them to miss you.

Tip 3: Always cross the street at authorized pedestrian crossings or traffic lights. When the pedestrian light appears, don’t just go right away but wait for the opportunity to cross and take advantage of the moment when the traffic stops. Pay attention to the cues and adjust your movement accordingly.

Tip 4: Observing and imitating native pedestrians is a useful tactic for safely crossing roadways in Vietnam. Since they are better accustomed to handling traffic patterns, you should cross the road beside them and they may advise you on the best times to do so.

Tip 5: When heavy vehicles are around, wait for them to pass you before crossing the street. This applies to trucks and buses as well as other large vehicles. These cars have the potential to block other drivers' views, especially those of motorbikes and smaller cars. You may make yourself more apparent by waiting for them to go by or by looking for an open space.

hanoi vietnamese traffic

If you are driving...

Tip 1: Make sure you are familiar with the vehicles and pathways before entering the road 

Tip 2: Always have your helmet on and ride with maximum speed of 40km/h while in the city road

Tip 3: Avoid commuting during the rush hours from 7h00-8h00 AM and 5h00-6h30 PM. If you are caught in heavy traffic, make yourself relaxed and be patient with the situation.

Tip 4: When driving, keep your awareness level up. Always be aware of your surroundings, foresee any dangers, and be ready to respond appropriately. Reducing distractions like utilizing headphones or cell phones might affect your ability to concentrate and respond quickly.

We hope you had a great time learning more about Vietnam traffic. See you in the next article!

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