Vietnam traffic rules

Note: probably the government of Vietnam has an official set of rules. These are to be considered as street customs, as experienced by us.

Maximum speed: not applicable

Signs: not certain, we cannot read Vietnamese and are uncertain if people follow the signs.

Lanes: People drive on the right lane. If there are multiple lanes in the same direction, cars drive as much as possible to the middle. Same for trucks and buses. Scooters and moter cycles drive more to the right. Cars, buses and trucks overtake right or left of other cars. Scooters and motor cycles overtake each other also on the right and left and cars mostly on the right, but sometimes on the left, if there is more space there. This all sounds a bit chaotic, and it is.  But it’s also quite easy to get used too, after a day or two we were driving also like this and that’s important, because road crossings also work in this chaotic style. Vietnamese tend to overtake whenever possible. Buses tend to overtake always, also when not possible. Other vehicles just have to move, and believe me, you will move for a bus, they will stop for nothing. That’s probably why the Lonely Planet is talking about the kamikaze bus fleet drivers.


Crossing a street in Vietnam

Priority: The bigger your vehicle, the more priority. So we always give way to cars and trucks.

Horns: Horns are used in Vietnam all the time. When taking over, when you see somebody drive in a spot you want to drive in, when you see 5 Dutch guys on scooters and some people just use the horn all the time to make sure they never forget to use is. Horns are a bit louder here than normal. Scooters and motor cycles have normal car horns. Cars have truck horns. Trucks and buses have ferry ship horns. If you here a ferry ship horn on the road, be sure to drive as far to the right as possible.

Busy traffic

Busy traffic

Traffic lights: The traffic lights in Vietnam have counters that count back until the next light switch. This is excellent! You always know how long to wait. OK, some Vietnamese don’t care about a red light and always continue driving, but most will actually wait. Green means go. Orange means go. The first seconds of red means go. Still red, but a couple of seconds before green means go.

Helmets: each and everyone driver a scooter or motor cycle is legally required to wear a helmet. A helmet can be any kind of helmet, including but not limited to construction helmet, mountainbike helmet (most safe I’ve seen here) or baseball cap helmet. The baseball cap helmet is nothing more than a hard plastic baseball cap and by far the most popular helmet, because of all the trendy designs and the fact it’s not looking like a helmet. Because my previous helmet broke, just by wearing it, I bought a baseball cap helmet, others don’t fit. A baseball cap helmet will set you back an incredible € 2.

We try to blend in the traffic as much as possible, but still try to drive as safe as possible. The way we drive here, if we continue like that at home, we would get fined (or worse) for  at least all of the following, on a daily basis:

  1. speeding
  2. driving without a drivers license
  3. overtaking on the right side
  4. overtaking in the same lane
  5. overtaking when forbidden
  6. driving next to each other in the same lane
  7. not using the indicators
  8. using the horn without any direct danger
  9. parking when forbidden
  10. driving on the emergency lane
  11. parking on the emergency lane
  12. ghost riding
  13. driving without an approved helmet
  14. driving on closed roads
  15. running a red light
  16. driving through road works
  17. driving without approved mirrors
  18. improper functioning lighting in the dark
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3 Responses

  1. Don’t you just love a developing country :) And about the horns, it means:

    Hey, I’m coming through!

    Missing the part of crossing over the streets as pedestrian.

    Nice article Tom!

  2. We didn’t cross the street as pedestrians, we just ran over them with our bikes ;)

  3. Nice article Tom. Thank for showing your experienced of driving in Vietnam

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