How to ride a motorbike in Vietnam’s crazy traffic is always a regular question of all fellow travellers. Not only Vietnam’s traffic are crazy but traffic in Southeast Asia country are similar. Probably, Vietnam has the most crazy traffic of all therefore to anyone come to Vietnam will be a challenge to ride. So learn how to ride in Vietnam’s traffic is crazy but fun. With the following simple steps you can ride motorbike yourself easy after few time spend on the bike.
To most travellers, Vietnam’s traffic is so crazy and that will be the first impression when you arrive Vietnam. But its acttually not crazy as it looks like and you can answer that after spend time walking on the street seeing local people ride. So how could that work while it looks so crazy and seems magical trick
1-You growing up with it and understand it
First, because Vietnamese people growing up with bike riding everywhere so even you not ride but at least there will be no fear. So even get a ride on a bike with adult is very exciting to all the kids. So be yourself with no fear that will be the first lesson
2-The rule is not follow the rule, follow people instead
Is there a rule to ride in Vietnam ? That is a very good question and the answers is “yes, of course”. But in Vietnam people not follow the rule and its still work. Its not about break the rule but due to the amount of the bike are everywhere. And its easier than a car to move around therefore you need to move as possible as you can. Then people will follow you or get around you instead. You might get mad with some “insensitive” riding way Vietnamese do on the road
- Zebra cross road is not safety line: As people normally not stop for you walking cross so always have a look to make sure the road is empty and walk. If the road is busy most the time and no chance to wait, take a slowly walk and step by step cross the road. People will always make sure to ride around you then.
- Indicator is sometime not right: On the road you might see people riding with indicator signal for turning left or right but they will make it opposite way as the signal though. The reason that they forgot to turn it off after turned somewhere before. So you can recognise by their looking back on left side or right side that they will definitely turn.
- Encroach upon the roadline is very common for car or truck driver in Vietnam. So very careful when you see a truck or car in front ride opposite side coming, the best way is stay as closed to your right side as possible. As they might higher speed and try to pass another truck on the same way without notice or too closed to make a signal.
So what will happend if someone follow the rule likes waiting for other cross first or go in line. You can not imagine how it would be with an endless line and traffic jam. But remember its not about break the rule badly because the rule still right when you have a problem and need a proof. So always keep riding on the right so you will be right
3-Dont ride crazy as it looks like
The limited speed on road by law is from 40km-60km per hour and usually people ride 20km-50km per hour. But sometime you can see someone riding through faster and still looks safe. Just say no to that thought because there are a lot random stuff happen unusually such as pot hole, animal. Normally on the highway out side of the city there are less traffic but there are always hidden risks as everyone riding as fast as they can. And you would never know what will happend so ride slow and follow the flow of people.
So there are some crazy backpacker ride very crazy even without a helmet and they thought they are cool. That is extremly terrible experience and local people hate it too. Also some tourist thought Vietnamese police can not do anything as stop them if they are wrong, therefore they even not care about the rule anymore. I think they will be regret one day
4-Turn from this side to other side
Probably, you will stop and look both side before turning but its not really well work and sometime will make you in trouble. The better way is slowly down and turn step by step from your side, then people will stay away from you. Of course turn the indicator on is needed to make you right. But the trick is just keep riding and slow moving, not stop in middle of the road. Even if you cross pass where you want to turn in, keep moving till you get to the side and go back. That is much better and smart to keep you safe
5-The horn beep is not about angry
With the experience about the horn beep in Europe or western country will be annoying and rude. You should forget it when you ride in Vietnam because it is important. When someone beep the horn, its mean they are coming and need a lane to pass. Or sometime to let people know they are around or close behind in case you turn. So the horn beep is not about angry but about a signal more. You will get used to with that noise when ride in Vietnam
So what is the best way to travel on a motorbike in Vietnam ?
If you come to Vietnam, ride on a bike is must do to have fun and see the best. But to some people this is a crazy idea and scary. So there are many way to travel on a bike in Vietnam
Hire or rent a bike at a local place is become popular nowadays to backpackers who want to ride with adventure. So just make sure you get a good condition bike and helmet then you can make it. Of course, experience rider is safer to ride. Also you can ride your bike and follow a guide to see the best of Vietnam
Follow world nomads ” Motorbikes up to 50 cc can be ridden without a license in Vietnam, but this size of motorcycle is not suitable for extended travel throughout the country.
International Drivers Permits are currently legal IF your home country has signed under the 1968 convention (countries coloured green on this map). But you must hold a motorcycle license at home and have it registered on the IDP. Australia, UK, USA, and Canada have signed only the 1949 convention on IDPs, so they are not valid and you will be riding illegally.
A Vietnamese license is otherwise required. Whilst many travellers ride without one, and successfully bribe their way out of police stops, if you cause damage to yourself or others you will be held fully responsible and be at the mercy of Vietnamese justice.
You can have a valid license from home transferred to a Vietnamese license in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh with a bit of time and paperwork. And its only apply for at least 3 month visa in Vietnam
Be aware that without a valid IDP or Vietnamese license, your travel insurance will not be valid, even if you have a motorbike license in your home country. You are riding illegally.
Also note that some insurers may exclude “motorbike touring” for policyholders from particular countries of residence. This means you cannot travel where motorcycle is the primary means of transport, however you are covered for incidental use of a motorcycle. World Nomads policyholders from the UK are subject to this exclusion at this time. Always check the wording of your policy regardless of your country of residence”.
If you already have a motorbike in hand, follow this maintain step to help your trip safe and smooth:
- Check oil and change each 1000km ride
- Check tire, chain and gear change often
- The authentic motorbike is Honda or Yamaha ( Look the sculpted brand on engine cover, not on the plastic label)
If you are scary about the traffic, get a local easy rider and you sit behind the back to anywhere safer.