Vietnam at a Glance
Driving in VietnamiStockphoto
Scenes like these are common on the streets of Vietnam.
Vietnam is a breathtaking country with loads to offer its visitors and inhabitants. It will probably not take you long to adjust to the balanced life of a Vietnamese resident. However, if you are planning on driving in Vietnam, you should be aware of several local driving habits, which may perhaps seem a bit erratic.
Driving in Vietnam: Road Safety
The preferred means of driving in Vietnam are motorcycles or bicycles. Some expatriates might be a bit surprised or even intimidated by the seeming lack of rules in using those. Those sticking to cars when driving in Vietnam, and there are quite a few, tend to adapt their motorcycle driving skills and interpretation of traffic rules and apply them to their car. This means that driving in Vietnam is often an incredibly chaotic affair, and accidents happen quite frequently. So frequently in fact, that Vietnam is one of the countries with the highest car accident death rates in the world, close behind India and Thailand. It is said that the local style of driving in Vietnam claims at least 30 lives per day. Most accidents are caused by car drivers and often result in lethal head injuries for cyclists or motorcyclists.
Although, in this case, it may seem that using a car when driving in Vietnam is safer than being on the receiving end of an accident, it can also be quite frustrating. It can take vehicles ages to get through the traffic congestion in cities, which can take the speed of driving in Vietnam down to the level of wading through molasses.
There are quite a few other reasons why it may be more intelligent to scratch the idea of driving in Vietnam completely and learn how to rely on the bus schedule. Alternatively, you could learn to ride a motorbike so as to be able to maneuver around the heavily clogged streets. Either way, it cannot be stressed enough that you need to take extreme caution when driving in Vietnam, no matter the vehicle. Many expats even advise hiring a driver along with a car in order to avoid operating in the dangerous traffic yourself.
Driving in Vietnam: Road Infrastructure
The country has over 171,000 kilometers of roadways, most of which are in rather poor shape. This makes driving in Vietnam even more risky than the driving style prevalent among locals. The state of the roads varies by region: In the north many roads are inaccessible during the rainy season, as they usually collapse or overflow. Highways are especially prevalent in southern Vietnam and traffic moves relatively swiftly. You should not have a problem getting to your destination.
When driving in Vietnam’s rural countryside, you should be aware that sharing the road with bicycles, farm animals, and machinery is not uncommon. Vietnam also does not have any toll roads, as the highway system has only recently begun to be used more frequently and on a regular basis.
Driving in Vietnam has seen a sharp increase in popularity over the past few years, with an annual growth of 8-12% of cars and motorcycles on Vietnamese roads. This has, of course, further exacerbated the high rate of mortality among those driving in Vietnam.