04 Apr How to Cross the Street in Hanoi Traffic
We are by no means the first to post on the internet about crossing through street traffic in Hanoi (or any other cities in Vietnam), and that’s because it is an unforgettable cultural adventure.
For the first half of this month (April), we are staying with friends who are one year into a five year term of service in Hanoi. Since the moment we arrived – 11pm on a Sunday evening – it was already apparent that Hanoi is a busy, bustling city. The streets are renowned for their apparent chaos, mostly due to the prevalence of motorbikes.
One of the first things our friends taught us in Hanoi was how to cross the busy streets of the city. The following entertaining video is from our second big street crossing:
To the untrained eye, this kind of traffic might appear to be pure chaos. But, just like any other society and culture, there are unspoken rules about how to behave that guide peoples’ interactions with each other. Once you know the rules, you can start to participate in a harmony with those around you.
Tips for safe passage on the streets of Hanoi
These are some of the things we learned from our friends who have been living here:
- Slow and steady wins the race. The number one mistake you can make is to try to run across the street. It’s more important to be predictable. Oncoming drivers will watch you and adjust their approach based on your pace. Any sudden movements throw the whole thing off. If you advance slowly and at an even pace, you can trust the system.
- Buses > Cars > Motorbikes. It’s important to remember that the bigger the vehicle, the more difficult it is to maneuver around a pedestrian. For this reason, you should yield to buses and cars with a small adjustment of your pace. Although counterintuitive, you’re much safer walking in front of a swarm of motorbikes than a single bus.
- Be alert on and off the street. Traffic is not limited to the actual roadways. You may encounter vehicles driving on the sidewalks. And vehicles do sometimes go against the flow of traffic. So pay attention wherever you’re walking, and look in all directions before (and while) crossing the street. Also, if you hear someone honking their horn, they’re probably not expressing anger (like we do in the States), they’re just telling you that they’re coming, in case you don’t see them.
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