I know I recently wrote a blog on the 13 Stages of Driving in Vietnam, but it’s only taken a few weeks more to realise that I have so much more to learn. (So, so much more.) I’m sure I will be adding to this list as I learn even more… If I survive that long.
1. Traffic police are confusing.
They will wave you on and then a wave of large, fast cars will suddenly speed past. Follow their instructions at your own risk!
2. There are such a thing as ‘driving shoes’.
However, not in the way that we have a pair of comfortable loafers under the car seat at home. You will see women driving in the most giant, elaborate heels, but then never see them actually walking in them. It’s bizarre!
3. Stay away from the busses!
I heard a rumour that bus drivers have no responsibility if they kill anyone. I have a feeling this really is just a rumour, however, it certainly seems that way from the way they drive… Keep a safe distance.
4. The mask is a disguise.
People say the mouth mask is to protect against sun and pollution but it’s actually to hide your face when you do something super stupid on the road. That’s what I’m using it for, at least.
5. Police men don’t ask you to pay for their coffee.
Before came to Vietnam, I read pages of stuff saying that we would be pulled over and policemen would occassionally charge us a bit of money for a coffee. We still haven’t had this experience. Though, we did get a taxi driver who said he was an ‘under cover police officer’ trying to charge us. Same same but different?
6. Your driving skill will be judged.
It’s mainly determined by how long you can drive in slow traffic without your feet touching the ground.
7. People are very forgiving.
You can do some really stupid manoeuvres and no one bats an eye. Not one person has shouted at me, and they probably really should have.
8. No bike is perfect.
Or even close for at matter, everything is broken in some way! Wing mirror, petrol gage, brakes, gears, etc. No biggie – if it rolls, it works!
9. Your shoes are your third brake.
10. People carry some crazy stuff.
These range from doggie backpacks to a truck-load of merchandise on a tiny motorbike. It is both extremely impressive and quite unnerving.
11. People say the driving here is organised chaos.
I went through a period of beginning to see the organisation, then it passed, now I’m pretty sure it’s just plain chaos, again.
12. Taxis can stop anywhere.
This must be some kind of unwritten rule that I don’t know about. Literally, they will stop anywhere, at any time, whether they have passengers or not. Horizontally, in the middle of the road, during a traffic jam, whatever!
13. Moto-taxis are everywhere.
They will accost you even when you are turning the ignition in your own bike.
14. Do not stop!
I get the feeling that Vietnamese people would rather lose a toe in an accident than stop.
15. Watch out for alleyways.
If there is a small alleyway with no vision, something will come out of it.
16. Using mirrors isn’t smart.
I used to think people were crazy for not using their mirrors, then I realised, if you look away from the road for just a second then it can all go tits up. Keep your eyes on the road!
17. You can cross any junction at any time.
As long as you do it while beeping loudly, with a cavalier look on your face. (I have not perfected the art.)
18. The traffic light count downs stops at 10.
Then a cocktail of danger is formed within the crossroads.
19. It is ritual to make all phone calls while driving.
In fact, it’s rare that you see someone speaking on the phone who is not driving at the same time.
20. You’re not that fast.
In that moment, that you’re speeding along the highway, with the wind in your hair, thinking you’re the fastest person on earth… Someone will casually zoom buy, driving with one hand.
21. Overtake or go home.
Despite the mania of the roads in Vietnam, there are a surprising amount of people who drive at limping-pace, while taking up the whole road. You have to learn to overtake fast.
22. There are beepers and not beepers.
You fall into one of these two categories. Either you wil beep at every moving thing in your eye-line or you will try to squeeze past people without giving them a whisper of warning. I don’t know who’s worse.
23. Expats have all got the same bikes.
You’re going to have to accept that you’ll fall in love with a bike, only to realise a few days later that every other foreigner (and most locals) have the exact same one. It’ll be a Nouvo or a Honda, for sure.
24. No area is out of bounds.
It’s completely fine to drive on the pavements, through construction, under ladders, etc.