How to cross the road in Vietnam without losing your cool, or your head

Published January 4th, 2013

Marketing manager of Student Flights Caulfield Denise Pulis teaches us the tricks of the trade when it comes to crossing the chaotic roads of Vietnam. 


There is something you learn very quickly when you arrive in a big Vietnamese city like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi; Pedestrian crossings are merely there for ornamental purposes, and traffic lights might as well be Christmas decorations.


The streets of Vietnam The streets of Vietnam

Confronted by a seemingly endless ocean of buzzing motorbikes dotted with less frequent cars, trying to cross the road in Vietnam is all but daunting. But like many other things while travelling, the local way is usually the best way, and all you need to do is observe and learn. Here is a step by step guide to crossing even the widest and scariest roads without a scratch.


Step 1 -  Look both left and right before you step off the pavement, and only start walking when you see that there’s at least a few metres between you and the next motorbike.


Step 2 -  Don’t make a dash for it. No matter how terrifying it feels, start walking at a slow and consistent pace. Make sure you don’t stop suddenly or speed up unexpectedly. If you follow this rule you will find that motorbikes will swerve around you, miraculously managing not to collide with you or other motorbikes.


Step 4 - The above rule does not apply if you see a car coming. Cars can’t swerve in a sea of motorbikes, so you need to come to a gentle stop and let them pass. If a car flashes its lights at you, it doesn’t mean ‘please go ahead’, but rather ‘I can see you and you need to keep out of my way.’


Step 5 - Until you’re comfortable doing this on your own, you might want to shadow locals as they cross the street. If you do this with a fellow foreigner, make sure he or she knows what they’re doing.



Congratulations! You can now confidently go from admiring Hoan Kim Lake up close to getting across the busy road to that street vendor selling sausages on a stick without having a heart attack.


For more tips and travel inspiration from Denise, check out her blog The Art of Slow Travel or contact her on (03) 9032 6100 or via email. Denise works at Student Flights Caulfield, Shop 3 Caulfield Plaza Shopping Centre, 860 Dandenong Road.


Student Flights' Consultants

At Student Flights, our consultants have travelled along those well-worn routes before diverting from the beaten path to explore the real side of foreign countries. These blog posts shine a light on just some of the experiences our consultants have had on recent adventures. We hope you enjoy reading the blog articles written by the Student Flights' Consultants.