Traffic, Ho Chi Minh City
They say a picture speaks a thousand words so here it is. Now, imagine me trying to cross this road. I've been told countless of times to walk slowly and carefully and let those vehicles avoid me but my shaky nerves just couldn't get used to it.
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You will need to take a step back at a busy intersection and watch for a while. Although it seems that there is no order here, everyone just seems to launch themselves straight into the flow. The best tip is just to walk at a steady, even pace, don't stop or jump if you think that someone is going to hit you. They will weave around you. It will seem pretty scary on your first day, but it is surprising how fast you get used to it!
If you are really afraid. you might find that a policeman or even a Saigon native will stop and help you!
Traffic is really bad in Ho Chi Min, in particular there are zillions of motorbikes on the road, and no road rules. Put the three together and you'll realize that road crossing can become quite an adventure. Af first, at least...
The best way to cross a busy road is to remember the followings:
- cars do not stop (never) for pedestrians
- motorbikes do not stop for pedestrians
- bicycles do not stop for pedestrians
However you can try the following: if there are no cars in sight (quite often), walk very slowly across the road... always at the same pace, and don't stop for any reason: motorbikes and bicycles will miraculously avoid you.
I have been riding a bike here for over twelve years, only two accidents so far, and both my fault. Here's some advice for travelers renting a bike in Saigon:
1. When you pick up the bike make sure both brakes work, including the front one
2. If you have not driven a motorbike in urban area this is not a good place to learn....get a xe om
3. Drink driving laws overseas were made for a purpose, too many mates have come a cropper forgetting that one.
4. If you do have an accident and it's deffinatley not your fault (i.e. you sober, you weren't breaking "normal" taffic laws and no one seriously injured or dead) get on your bike as soon as possible and get out of there, otherwise it will be your fault.
5. If you get stopped in accident or for any reason, first thing remove the keys from your bike and put them in your pocket
6. Don't drive through puddles, there is a good chance that it might be hiding a big hole.
7. Traffic lights are used as a rough indication of when to stop and start, so if you don't want to get t-boned by obey them.
With thousands of motorbikes, cyclos and bicyles, one wonders how does pedestrians cross the road. From the attached photo, the man will have a troubled time crossing the road in other countries but in HCMC, you do the following:
(1) Look Right and Left First
Usual practice before crossing any road and find a "break" in the traffic
(UK and Commonwealth countries tourists- please take note that cars/vehicles/bikes travel on the RIGHT side of the road. We almost got run down by a car as we looked on the "wrong side" of the road)
(2) Cross slowly
We cross slowly as the motorbikes/cyclos will try to avoid you.
I say "try" as this does not apply if there is whole bunch of taxis/cars coming your way. They will run you down as in any other country. If you see a bunch of cars, best to wait in the middle of the road. its "safer"
Wave you hand to indicate to these "drivers" to slow down, and buy you time as you cross
(4) By the time your heart beats above 200 beats per minute,
You have crossed the road
BTW, there are dedicated zebra crossings in the main city centre and it is advisable to use them. And the traffic lights do assist the tourist crossing the street.
However the above instructions still apply.
Like everywhere else in the world, teenagers will be teenagers. When you are in the city of Saigon(HCMC) be aware of the street racing. The locals call it "Bao" meaning "Storm". These events usually occurs in the late night hours. The scene is worthy of its name because having a bunch of motor scooters rushing your way does sound like a storm. The danger in this? Well, imagine a bunch of motorcycle closely following each other, going as fast as they can....if one falls, the rest goes too. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to be caught in the middle of that. So if you hear a "Bao" or "Storm" coming your way, stay clear of the road.
Crossing streets in Saigon can be very dangerous at times. Surprisingly, it's actually safer to cross the streets when traffic is congested. But when it's not, it's kinda tricky. The trick is to pretend that you are playing leap frog. Don't ever try to just run across quickly. You just gotta move slowly across, take a couple of steps and then stop. The people on the scooter will definitely maneuver around you. Don't rely on crosswalks and crosslights either. Unless there is a traffic cop at that corner, some people won't even stop.
HCM traffic is just a constant flow of motorcycles with few traffic lights. Those that are there are mostly ignored. Do you remember the eighties video game Frogger? The only way to cross a street is to wade out into the sea of motorcycles and hope they miss you. Walk slow and deliberate and they will try to avoid you. However, don't try this advice in other cities as you will get run over.
This sounds risky,but locals say that you just step out,make eye contact with the nearest approaching vehicle and keep walking.The first few times it took some nerve,but after a few attempt's found that it did work ,and the traffic went around you.However,if your lucky you won't have to wait long before one of the city's tourist police will come to your aid,with traffic whistle and upheld palm.
Personally, the traffic in Saigon leaves little to be desired. Motorcycles are the kings of roads and you will see hundreds of them at one time. When the traffic lights go red, some motorcyclists will even go on the pedestrian walkway just to get through!!
Crossing the roads is also a big challenge because the traffic will keep going but somehow they sort of manage to avoid the pedestrians.
Well, yes, in our short visit to this city we couldn't encounter any threats or danger here with the exception of the very crowded crazy traffic. But well, those are in every large city and also here the scooters drive like crazy.
HMC is definitely motorbike city which means that it can be quite hairy trying to cross roads. Basically, you walk without panicking and stopping- the motorbike riders will adjust so long as you walk predicatably.
I had never seen so many motorbikes in my life. I learned that you just start walking across the street and don't look. If you do then you'll stop, try to go around them and most likely get hit. If you just walk like nobody's business they will go around you. And they come from all angles. And we truly never got the photo to capture what we saw everyday with this mode of transportation.
Before I left for Ho Chi Minh City, I was told by one of my relative that one should just walk across the street without making eye contact with the motorists. Taaa!!! Wrong! That would be the fastest way to kill yourself.
Crossing the road can be quite simple with practice. Do not run, and do not be indecisive in the way you cross. Motorists read your body language, so don't confuse them by moving forward suddenly, then back.
One good thing is that the vehicles are not moving too fast, and the motorcycles will usually go around you.
But if you're not sure how to cross the road, get the security people to guide you across, and no, they will not extort you of any money.
Okay, the crazy traffic in HCMC really drove me MAD...
You should really be careful when crossing the road, because thousands of motorbikes comes like flood, you never know how to hide. However, the best way to cross the road is to find a local, walking next to him, as your reference. Magically, you will find the local are good at doing this thing!
Also, if you walk in the sidewalk, always pay special attention since motorbike can come close to you when there is no warning before you found out.