Traffic in Hanoi: a survival guide

Traffic in Hanoi: a survival guide

Hanoi, Old Quarter

I started my trip to Vietnam in Hanoi – and I was genuinely surprised. I don’t know what exactly impressed me, maybe it was the smooth experience at the immigration at the airport (who knew that entering a communist country would be so easy) or the curious girl selling me my first SIM card at one of the tiny airport booths. She was so sweet and curious about my solo trip that I could have stand there for hours chatting with her about traveling solo as a woman. Or maybe it was just because I arrived in Hanoi’s Old Town at noon, when the whole city is almost asleep and the streets are empty.

Hanoi, Old Quarter

Hanoi, Old Quarter

Hanoi, Old Quarter

Traffic in Hanoi: Not so quiet

Two hours later, I thought I was in another place. The city woke up and suddenly, the Old Town was filled with people and scooters.

Hanoi, Old Quarter

Scooters all over

A huge avalanche of scooters tried to find its way through the narrow, tree-lined streets, disregarding any traffic regulations. And the noise!

Apparently, Vietnamese use their horns not only to warn other in dangerous situations in traffic, but also if they want to do a turn, or overtake, or just say in general: “Watch out, here I come!”

So basically, everyone on a scooter is constantly honking, and with thousands of scooters on the street you can’t escape the infernal noise. As a pedestrian, Vietnamese traffic is definitely a huge challenge. You will have to ignore any rules you ever learned and just trust in the people around you. No traffic lights or crosswalks – nothing to help you cross a street.

Hanoi, Old Quarter

Is it dangerous?

But what first seems as a chaotic agglomeration of scooters turn out to be a sophisticated choreography. And absolutely not dangerous. I took some courage and stepped into the street, one foot after the other. And magically, all scooters drove around me until I got to the other side of the road. Very impressive!

But don’t make the mistake to stop in the middle of the street! Then the whole thoughtful traffic choreography is destroyed, because everyone will be irritated and then you probably will be run over :)

So, just close your eyes, step in the street and enjoy the spectacular Vietnamese traffic!

Hanoi, Old Quarter


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19 Responses

  1. Oh. My. Gosh. The traffic in Bolivia is HORRENDOUS… but as you said, it has its complex choreography that somehow manages to ebb and flow without any major issues. It is just so frustrating sometimes, isn’t it?!

  2. Haha, when I was in Hanoi I was terrified of crossing the road! I soon learned that if you basically close your eyes and hope for the best, everyone just winds around you!

  3. This brought back so many memories of Hanoi. To be honest, the traffic is something I’ll never forget. It’s absolutely ridiculous to try to cross the road- I felt like such a tourist, all awkward and afraid, eyeing the next local and trying to keep up as they moved swiftly in and out of the way of the motorbikes. But I love Hanoi and would go back happily!

  4. Hanoi was probably my favorite place in Vietnam. Its hectic craziness is what made it so appealing.

  5. Hanoi was the first city I went to in Vietnam and I thought I did pretty well…until I went to HCMC of course.

  6. It was perfect timing that I stumbled across this post! We depart for Hanoi in just a couple of days, and it helps to know that the infamous Vietnamese traffic can be manageable. I think some liquid courage might be helpful the first time or two stepping out into that street, though. :)

  7. I loved Hanoi’s Old Town, and I remember the traffic (impossible to forget). I agree, once you figure out what’s going on and mold into the pattern you can walk across safely. I’m not sure I’d want to do it everyday for life!

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