You may have never heard of Ho Chi Minh City, but remember Saigon? Same city, different name to honor Ho Chi Minh. The bustling city is the home to 8 million people, all of whom seem to drive scooters.
My husband and I walked many places in the city during our stay and always felt safe…after we learned how to cross the streets. In fact, walking around is one of the bravest things a tourist can do. Lines and sidewalks mean nothing. We quickly became familiar with the basic traffic rules: 1.) Green light—you can go; Yellow light—you can go; Red light—you can still go.
Traffic is not a hindrance to the motorcyclists. If traffic on the road is stopped, motorcycles just drive on the sidewalk. (Cars can also follow this rule if the sidewalks are wide enough and the wait on the street is too long.)
There are more laws for motorcycles that we saw. Motorcycle drivers should wear helmets as should their adult passengers. The 1-2 children also on the motorcycle are not required to wear helmets as they will be squished and killed immediately by the adults in case of an accident. Drivers and passengers should also remember that they spend a great deal of time each day commuting so this time should be used wisely by texting, reading, playing video games, or doing the hair of the person in front of you.
One of our tour guides shared this story, “A foreigner carefully observed traffic in an attempt to decide when to cross the road. After many hours, he gave up and remarked to a Vietnamese that the drivers were horrible. The Vietnamese gentleman correct him by saying that Vietnamese drivers are very good. The bad drivers had already died!”
Obviously, we see the world through our perspective where everything is regulated by law, but somehow the people of Ho Chi Minh City survive, and by the end of the first day we found ourselves able to cross the street in the middle of the block, in the midst of all the motorcycles, buses, cars, and wagons going in more directions than I could count. (The final traffic rule? Don’t make eye contact with a driver. If this happens, everyone stops in confusion and you look like a deer in the headlights!)
Ho Chi Minh City is worth the danger to experience the food, history, and bragging rights about surviving the traffic.
Have you been to Ho Chi Minh City or another city that has equally daunting traffic? If so, please share in the comment section below.