How to Survive Crossing the Street in Vietnam

You can tell me about your bungee jumping or white water rafting experiences all day long, but nothing gets your heart pumping and your adrenaline rushing like trying to cross a busy street in Vietnam without getting squashed by a motorbike. When you arrive in this Southeast Asian county, you’ll soon discover that crossing the street in Vietnam should be considered an extreme sport.

Vietnam’s small villages and countryside are peaceful and relaxing, but the cities are bustling chaotic hives of activity. You’ve never seen traffic like this before – the roads are a congested snarl of motorbikes, mopeds, cars and trucks zooming along with no sense of order. They weave in and out like bees in a swarm, making the idea of “lanes” seem almost impossible. Stop lights are almost non-existent and any intersections are often ignored.

When you first show up in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, you will find yourself standing at the side of the road like the chicken in the classic joke – your only goal to get to the other side. However, the relentless flowing stream of beeping motorbikes and honking cars won’t stop for even a second. You could be standing there forever, with no break in the traffic so that you can dart across to your hotel or your favourite noodle restaurant.


How in the world are you supposed to cross the street? Here are some tips that will help you get used to crossing the street in Vietnam:

Tips for Crossing the Street in Vietnam

  • First of all, just give up on hoping that the traffic will ever stop for you. You will be standing there for hours – and that’s no way to spend your time when you could be eating Pho or drinking Vietnamese coffee at that great restaurant across the street.
  • Instead of waiting for the traffic to stop, you need to become “One with the Traffic”. Imagine yourself as a rock in a swiftly flowing river, the rock stays still while the river flows around it. If you a fixed object moving slowly across the road, the locals driving the motorbikes will weave around you.
  • Face the flow of traffic and make eye contact with the drivers. Step out into the road and start to make your way with steady, confident steps. Make it clear to which direction you are heading.
  • Walk across the road in a smooth, slow and confident way – making eye contact with drivers the entire way. In Vietnam, it is the driver’s responsibility to avoid pedestrians so you will find that the locals are adept at moving around you.
  • Whatever you do – DON’T hesitate, stop, or run backwards. These sudden movements make it more difficult for the approaching motorbike riders to weave around you and can actually make it more likely for you to get hit.
  • Be alert and pay attention, don’t be looking at your phone or talking to your friend.
  • You can practice this technique on some of the smaller roads, until you get comfortable with it. It’s really unnerving at first for most travellers in Vietnam to step out into rushing traffic.
  • If you are still unsure, spot a local who is also crossing the street and tail closely behind them. It might be a little creepy, but it’s a good way to practice.

If it all becomes too much for you, you can always take a break and head to one of the smaller towns and villages in Vietnam. They are much quieter and you won’t have to take your life in your own hands when simply crossing the street. For example, here is a street in Hoi An:


Much less intimidating, isn’t it?

Have you ever experienced crossing the street in Vietnam? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments. 


photo credit: Padmanaba01 via photopin cc

photo credit: United Nations Photo via photopin cc

Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word.

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  1. Ohh man, this was one of the most exciting parts of our trip to Vietnam! The intersection below the Rex hotel in HCMC is particularly hairy and just a giant ball of madness and exhaust haha. I always felt like I was playing frogger or trying to work my into a jump rope…. but was more dangerous!

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