Riding a bike in Vietnam – A survival guide

Its no secret that Vietnam’s roads are chaotic at best and down right dangerous the rest of the time, claiming 11,000 lives a year. So what does one need to know to successfully navigate these roads? To survive the ride home? And to avoid the inevitable road rage?

Here are a list of things you should know, the locals already know and what you need to survive.

FOCUS ON THE THINGS IN FRONT OF YOU – Let behind you take care of itself.

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Taking your eyes of the road in front of you, especially while you’re moving could be lights out in this sort of traffic. It seems to be the unwritten rule in the country that you should worry about whats ahead. The rest of the riders, in theory at least, will look after everything behind you.

BEWARE OF SIDE STREETS/T JUNCTIONS

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People don’t look when coming from side streets, they simply merge without being aware of their surroundings and they do this at a sometimes frightening speed. I have seen people badly hurt and killed doing this but it doesn’t stop people, THEY ALL DO IT. Just be aware and make sure if you’re driving straight down a road to steer clear of the edge of the road, you may well get clipped.

BEWARE THE (NINJAS) HEAVILY COVERED WOMEN

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I affectionately refer to them as ‘ninjas’. They are the women dressed in coats, with face masks, glasses, hood tops AND helmets. They wear all of this for a valid reason, to protect themselves from the sun. The result however, means they have a limited field of vision and are seemingly oblivious to what is happening around them as a result. Almost all of the accidents I have seen have been caused by or involved these people. Keep alert when around them.

BE ASSERTIVE WHEN AT A MAJOR CROSSING OR INTERSECTION

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If you hesitate or wait, you will either be there for a long time or end up in an accident, which is much worse. Be assertive but alert and drive with enough pace to say ‘I’M COMING THROUGH’ but yet slow enough to stop suddenly if need be. Traffic will work its way around you if you are moving.

INDICATORS ARE A NOVELTY ITEM ON BIKES

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Indicators mean little to nothing. You may be a law abiding commuter and use yours all the time, but others don’t. Even worse however, most of the riders leave theirs on from a previous turn. Hundreds of drivers on main roads will have their indicators on and there is clearly nowhere to turn, so be careful and pay attention.

If you stay alert, drive safely, and worry whats in front of you, driving in this wonderful country can be a great and sometimes fun adventure. Be safe and enjoy

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