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Traffic laws and road rules - driving in Vietnam 🇻🇳

Haiphong, Vietnam

Vietnam traffic is an adventure for tourists. The constant noise of the horns, the amount of scooters, the seemingly absence of laws and road rules makes the traffic in Vietnam a special experience. Driving in Vietnam - this is your guide.

For foreigners who mainly see "chaos" on the streets it seems far fetched but Vietnam has traffic laws and road rules. This is also true for the "simple" task of crossing the road. (you can read our guide "Crossing the street in Vietnam" here.)

Yes, Vietnam has traffic laws and road rules.

Many times you will see the rules and laws ignored by the locals when there is no traffic police in sight. So the most important rules are open eyes, adequate speed and respect the hierarchy.

Always be alert when you drive in Vietnamese roads. If you hit another vehicle in front of you, you will be held responsable. Watch out for bikes or cars that suddenly stop or turn in the middle of the flowing traffic. Potholes, dogs, drivers checking their facebook status on the phone, others chatting with each other while driving slowly side by side, drunk drivers and bikes that go in the wrong direction are common obstacles as are bikes without lights at night.

traffic in vietnam

Keep your eyes and ears open while driving in Vietnam

It can feel annoying and even threatening but the use of the claxon is simply to signal the presence of a driver to others. If you are going to overtake another vehicle press the horn so they know you are close. As vehicles just drive onto the main road coming from a side road they use the horn for the same reason as well as in situations where visibility is limited like in tight corners. So take it easy, the horn is not used to provoke you.

The use of the claxon is to signal the presence of the driver to others.

Be aware that there is no right of way in Vietnamese traffic, well apart from the hierarchy. Cars and bikes coming from side lanes or garages or parking spots will just hit the street. The same is true in roundabouts. Most of the times vehicles entering the roundabout will cut off the traffic moving inside. The flow of traffic inside the roundabout is non logical which means at any time a bike from the inside can cut suddenly to the outside to exit the roundabout and vice versa! Again, be alert all the time.

The main road rule is specified by the hierarchy. The simple rule is the bigger vehicle is boss. That means if you drive a motorbike you have to give way to cars, buses and trucks of any kind. Bicycles have to give way to motorbikes and pedestrians are the lowest ranking participants in Vietnamese traffic.

The law indicates that the drivers must signal if they are going to change direction or are to stop. Don't count on it, instead go with the flow and speed of the surrounding traffic. The average speed is around 20 to 40 km per hour depending on the situation. That should give you sufficient time to react to any incursion that may occur.

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Even though you'll see many drivers without a helmet you should always wear one. The use of a helmet is mandatory by law and needless to say you'll get fined when stopped without a helmet. For your safety you shouldn't settle for a cheap version. Get yourself a propper helmet!

By watching the traffic you may be mistaken because you see entire families riding together on a bike but no, this isn't allowed. If stopped by police and carrying more than maximum of two persons per bike you will have to open your wallet and pay a fine.

The most common offences for getting a fine in Vietnam in no particular order are: Not indicating the change of direction, Driving or swerving a Zig Zag course, No use of helmet, No driver license, No vehicle insurance, No vehicle registration documents, Drunk driving, More than 2 people on a bike, Trying to escape police. So just avoid these things and you should be fine while driving in Vietnam.

More Stories

"Crossing the street in Vietnam - how to get to the other side without getting lost." Read it here...

For other interesting stories check out our BLOG here...

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