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What to DO and DON’T to survive Vietnam’s traffic

If you plan to visit Vietnam, prepare to forget everything you ever learned about crossing the street. Forget about waiting for the traffic to stop, forget about zebra crossings, and forget about traffic lights. Because in Vietnam, people cross the street by charging right ahead, weaving their way through moving traffic. It’s the only way to do it!

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It sounds dangerous, I agree, but it also seems kind of fun, in an adrenalin-pumping kind of way. Here is ten tips for crossing the street:

DON’T spend hours waiting to cross the street on foot: that constant tide of traffic won’t stop until late at night, so

DO as the Vietnamese do: take the plunge and inch slowly across. Observe the Miracle of the Red Sea, as the traffic parts like magic, flowing smoothly in front of you or behind, meeting up again on the other side.
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DON’T make any sudden or unpredictable movements: freeze if you have to, but never lunge forward or backward towards the safety of the sidewalk. In fact, you can do just about anything, but do it with conviction!

DON’T forget, if you’re riding or driving, to look where you’re going – all the time: if you hit anything in front of you, then it’s your fault.
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DO give way to any vehicle bigger and noisier than yours. Trucks and buses are particularly dangerous: often old, sometimes unsafe and usually all over the road.

DO watch out for unfamiliar obstacles: water buffaloes, rocks of various sizes, broken-down trucks…, people sitting in the road, missing bridges, girls in ao dai cycling five abreast, slow-moving mountains of farm produce, dog fights, impromptu football matches, piles of building materials – and almost no light on anything at night..

DON’T hesitate to take evasive action – even if this sometimes means leaving the tarmac or coming to a dead stop.

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DO try to avoid getting involved in one of the all-too-frequent minor accidents that plague Vietnam’s roads (and the major ones as well, of course), but if you are unlucky,

DON’T lose your cool, in spite of the interference of the large and vocal crowd that may gather: try to settle things amicably and swiftly. Sometimes, paying a reasonable amount of money will save you a lot of hassle.

DO remember that the only rule is: you’re not allowed to bump into anybody… irrespective of what they did or should have done, or of what the road signs or traffic lights were telling them to do. Some people still seem to think that anything red means forward, comrade

Crossing the street in Vietnam does sound dangerous, but it’s also a lot of fun once you get the hang of it. Since the roads are cramped, the traffic moves slowly. Signals and crossings are completely forgotten, but the drivers are quite mindful of pedestrians. It’s truly a wonder that no one gets hurt!

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