Riding the Dragon

Travel time: May 2007  |  by Charlie Alexander

Saigon Charlie's Rules of the Road

The 25 Driving Rules of the Road in Vietnam

Rule 1: The girls totally wrapped up in head scarves, dark glasses, floppy hats and long opera gloves on motorbikes in Vietnam ARE NOT Osama Bin Laden's missing wives but instead trying to hide themselves from the sun. Unfortunately they can't see shit in all this garb covering their faces and are constantly running into things....including me while walking across the street!

Rule 2: DO NOT stop while crossing the street nor should you look to your right or left. Walk straight ahead at a SLOW, even pace as the on-rushing hundreds of motorbike bullets view you as a duck in a carnival shooting gallery in which the winner misses the ducks! (...but do you remember however how often you HIT the ducks when you aimed at them?)

Rule 3: Drivers in Vietnam view driving as a 'right of passage'. If you can 'pass', you are in the 'right'.

Rule 4: Pedestrian crosswalks are target areas for motorcyclist and other vehicles; or if you prefer tourist killing zones.

Rule 5: Red traffic lights or pedestrian crosswalk green lights are nothing more than advisories for sex crazed Vietnamese youth that foreign tourists might be present as they roar through the intersections chasing other sex crazed teenagers!

Rule 6: Honda Waves and better yet, a classic Vespa decked out in amazing chrome, are dating machines. No Honda, no girl!

Rule 7: Does anyone really believe that anyone of the 1,000s of raging hormones roaring through the intersection flirting with the others flirting through the intersection has a 'driver's license'!

Rule 8: Monsoon rains are nothing more than an excuse for drivers to drive on the less crowded sidewalks. Rains and flooding optional...

Rule 9: Always listen behind you when walking down the sidewalks and never, ever NOT walk in a straight-line (otherwise the bike coming up from behind you will hit you as he passes).

Rule 10: Vehicles DO NOT make turns at intersections but instead start their turns many meters ahead of the junction by going into the opposite directions lane. Applying breaks in Vietnam is an unheard of driving technique or god forbid; STOPPING!

Rule 11: Saigon's traffic lights, with their 'countdown' neon flash, are notices to gun the engine and leap out into the oncoming stream seconds before hundreds of others leap out into the oncoming traffic. He who can leap first... wins!

Rule 12: When riding in a taxi, read your newspaper and sit in the back seat because you DO NOT want to see what is going to hit you. If in an accident, run like hell if you are still capable because you are liable for the accident!

Rule 13: The tree branch lying on the street ahead of you does not mean that a storm has come and blown a limb to the ground, but instead is an indication of an accident ahead, a vehicle blocking the road or a hole in the road...usually however only a few meters before you hit the stalled vehicle or flip over in a meter deep sinkhole!

Rule 14: In Thailand and Vietnam, 3 lanes of traffic will have 5 lanes in it with 2 additional 'lanes' on each side coming from the opposite directions.

Rule 15: In Thailand traffic flows around obstructions where in Vietnam such things are used as something to play chicken with (e.g. pedestrians!).

Rule 15: Vietnam's population is about the same as both East and West Germany combined, with the vast majority concentrated in the urban centers of Saigon and Hanoi. I was told that there are 6.5 million motorbikes in Saigon with most if not all not having any driver's license or driver's training. Think about it.

Rule 16: Rear view mirrors are optional and are considered non-macho features as are seat belts in vehicles. Real men don't look back nor do they wear seat belts!

Rule 17: And Ohhh my Buddha! You sure as hell aren't going to wear a helmet as it might mess your hair that you just spent half a day getting styled and punked!

Rule 18: Automatic bikes with running boards are for sexy girls in very high heels! (...trust me on this one!)

Rule 19: Old bikes are never thrown away. They are converted into push carts of one form or another.

Rule 20: The bike intertube propped up on the side of the road is a motorbike repair shop. Usually required after you run into it because it is in the road...

Rule 21: A bottle of yellowish looking liquid in a whiskey bottle sitting on a chair that looks like it is for your 2 year old, is not an advertisement for an Irish Bar but actually a gas station sign.

Rule 22: To be cool, you only drive with one hand while the other is in your lap (Forget that the bike is almost uncontrollable because your shocks are long gone!)

Rule 23: A 'station wagon' or 'saloon car' in Vietnam is 6 members of a family crushed all together going to see grandmother on a 100cc Honda motorbike.

Rule 24: In Vietnam the license plate digits indicate where you are from. Saigon uses 50-59, Hanoi is 29, Da Nang is 29, etc. Beware of the numbers from the provinces in the city who have NO IDEA about the above rules!

Rule 25: If you can survive the above...you have passed your 'driving test'!

Good night Vietnam!
Saigon Charlie

You are here : Overview Asia Vietnam Saigon Charlie's Rules of the Road
The trip
40 hours by train down Vietnam's coast from Hanoi to Saigon.
Start of journey: May 22, 2007
Duration: 5 days
End of journey: May 26, 2007
Travelled countries: Vietnam
The Author
Charlie Alexander is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 13 years.
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