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Travel Tips

Culture shock in Vietnam - the traffic

One of the regular posters in this branch raised a question "What was your culture shock when you first came to Vietnam?", 80% of the answers were "The traffic".

Back to 20 years ago when Vietnam started opening to the world, a bicycle was an important asset in any Vietnamese family. In early 1990s, the second hand Japanese motorbikes were imported into Vietnam at cheap price, then both expensive and cheap motorbikes from different countries appeared. Most of people gave up riding bicycles and changed to use motorbikes, even for travelling a short distance. The road was not expanded while the number of people and vehicles increased rapidly. Air pollution, traffic congestion and fatal accidents became some major issues, not only in the large cities of Vietnam, I think, also in some countries of SEA during the development process.

From 15 December 2007, it was compulsory to wear a helmet when riding a motorbike in Vietnam. Awareness of traffic safety plays an important role, however many people ignore traffic rules, when there is no police. Sometimes they don't care red-blue lights, or turn left-right any time they want. You may be surprised at the noise and why Vietnamese use horn so often, but if they don't, it's very easy to hit the people in front of them. Horn also is important to warn, as someone may suddenly come from the alleys at a fast speed

An advice for you if you want to cross streets in Hanoi and in HCMC is you should walk slowly (don't run) and watch both sides. In most cases, the locals will know how to avoid you.

The highways in Vietnam actually are just "expanded and improved" road based on the old road, and some new routes were open, not really a high speed road for only car/bus/truck as there are other simple vehicles as well. The Highway No. 1 runs from China border to Nam Can in Ca Mau, and other highways connect major cities and remote provinces in Vietnam. Police are always there on some highways to measure speed of car/bus/truck. The fine is heavy and driving license may be withdrawn if there are some holes punched on the license, that is why car/bus/truck must travel at slow speed on the highways, and it takes quite much time to move from A to B.

I work in the construction industry and have participated in the tender for some large scaled projects in Vietnam. I also read the Master Plan for Development of Transport System in Vietnam up to 2010 - 2020 published by a Japanese organization. A lot of plans for the future transport system, for example, monorail, subway, pedestrian tunnels under railway, ring roads etc. All of them sound wonderful, but in fact, seeking for financial sources, signing of loan agreements then performance (site clearance, tender, progress schedule etc.) would take much time for a project to be feasible. For such a large scaled project like the 12-km subway in HCMC, an estimated budget has reached approx. US$ 2 billion. To save the costs, a combination of both on-ground and underground system has been considered. Last December, in Hanoi, the first item of the 12.7km railway project (Nhon - Ga Hanoi) which includes 9.8km on-ground and 2.9km underground railway, commenced and will be complete in October 2010, coinciding with the time when Hanoi people will celebrate the Thang Long - Hanoi 1,000 year establishment anniversary.

An American tourist asked me "If you had a wish for Hanoi, what would you want?". I answered "I wish there were not so many motorbikes and everyone would cycle same like 10-20 years ago." But until a future day when vehicles would be banned in the Old Quarter and everyone could walk freely, and when the subway system would be open, we still need to cross Hanoi streets watching motorbikes, buses, cyclos coming from every direction, and try to be an excellent driver and remember to wear a helmet (I do).

Hanoi Bus

Here is the link to website of Hanoi Bus: Hanoi Bus

Over the last few years, the bus system in Hanoi became a very comfortable means of transport for both locals and tourists. I recalled a TTer get together in Hanoi in April 2006, a Singaporean guy told me, he took Bus #7 from Noi Bai airport to Cau Giay and changed into Bus #9 from Cau Giay to Hoan Kiem lake (just a short walk to the Old Quarter). You also can take a public bus to Army Museum, Bat Trang ceramics village, Van Phuc silk village and Museum of Ethnology etc.

Other tips

Travel Tips
What to see in Vietnam
World Heritages
Vietnamese Food
Vegetarian Food
Border crossings Vietnam -Laos
1-2 days in Hanoi
Beer in Vietnam
Traffic Hanoi
Cycling Walking Tips
Cycling in Vietnam
Demilitarized Zone
Diving Clubs in Nha Trang
Fansipan Mountain
Hanoi Bat Trang Local Bus
Hue Vegetarian food
List VN Embassy in China
Ninh Binh
Quan Lan Island Hotels
Red River Cruise
Central Highland
North West Vietnam
To Learn Vietnamese
Travel Overland China Hanoi
Travelling Hue Hoi An
Travelling Vietnam Brunei Darussalam
Vietnamese Lunar Year
Vietnam visa in Nanning
Volunteer Hanoi
Western Medicine Hospita lClinic HCMC
Visit Vietnam 10 days
What to do in Hanoi
Border Crossing Vietnam Cambodia
Cu Lao Cham Island

Useful sites

1. Red Dragon Junk, Cruise Halong Bay: 5 cabin boat on Halong Bay All cruises on Halong Bay Online, Halong bay travel guide, Hanoi Halong Bay Tours, Maps to Halong,
2. Prince Cruise Halong Bay Vietnam: 4 cabin cruise on Halong Bay
3. Jayavarman Cruise on Mekong River Vietnam Cambodia: luxury cruise on the Mekong River
4. Hanoi Airlines: book flight tickets to Hanoi
5. Halong Bay Cruise: list all cruise boats on Halong Bay & Bai Tu Long Bay
6. Hotel Vietnam, Vietnam Hotels: book hotels and resorts in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia
7. Laos Travel Guide: book tours in Laos with the New Road Tour
8. Cambodia Travel: useful guides, hotels, flights, tours in Cambodia
9. Phu Quoc Travel Guide: useful information on Phu Quoc Island Vietnam
10. Travel Sapa Vietnam: tours, hotels, maps to Sapa Vietnam
11. Mekong Delta Tours: cruise, hotels, tours in Mekong, Saigon

Other new travel sites

1. Vietnam Travel Company: First Choice Tours in Vietnam
2. Hue Travel Guide: guide, maps, tours in Hue Vietnam
3. Sapa Travel Tips: Sapa guides, tourist information
4. Mekong River Tours, Mekong Amalotus Cruise, Amalotus Cruise, Amalotus Boat Mekong River
5.,, Amalotus Indochina Sails Mekong River
6. Mekong River Boats: Mekong Tours, Mekong River Tours
7. Hoi An Travel Guide: Tours, maps to Hoi An